Checkmate (2022) 民国大侦探

Summary:  Set in Republican Era (民国) China between 1911-1949, we follow the lawyer turned detective Si Tu Yan (ft Hu Yi Tian 胡一天) and his wealthy police best friend Lu Shao Chuan (ft Zhang Yun Long 张云龙) solve mysterious murders and crimes in the northeast city of Harbin 哈尔滨. They, along with an insightful young woman Zhou Mo Wan (ft Zhang Xin Yu 张馨予) and local reporter Jin Qi Ming (ft Xuan Yan 宣言), comprise of a motley crew to solve some of the trickiest murders in the city. Checkmate is billed as the first Chinese adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple stories.  

 

Total Episode Count: 24

Initial Airing Date: Aug 10, 2022

 

Initial Rating: 7.5/10

Initial thoughts [12 episodes]: This is a pretty serviceable adaptation of the adventures of Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple. It reunites Hu Yi Tian (胡一天) and Zhang Yun Long (张云龙) back together again after their surprising 2020 hit My Roommate is a Detective (民国奇探). They bring back they easy bromance and partnership back in this drama which makes it easy to draw the viewer in. The show will cover 8 “murders” or mysteries, which is quite brisk for a 24 episode show. That averages to around 3 episodes per mystery. The first mystery is an adaptation of perhaps one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mystery, Murder on the Orient Express. I won’t spoil the rest of the mysteries but it’s fun to guess which of the stories ties to the corresponding Agatha Christie mystery. 

The setting of Harbin 哈尔滨 during the Republican Era 民国时期 adds a lot of unique flavor to the drama.  Being in the northeast part of China, Harbin had a mélange of Manchu, Han and European influences. The Russian influences are especially obvious in the city’s architecture.  This backdrop allows for some of the more “Western” mysteries to unfold in this multicultural city.  

So far, it’s a fun breezy watch. The acting is good, the stories are gripping (I mean, it’s Agatha Christie so I don’t think they will be too bad), and the fashion is gorgeous. Check it out if you enjoy some murder mysteries!

 

Full review after the full drama airs

Cathy

 

 

Love Between Fairy and Devil (2022) 苍兰诀

Summary:  Set in a fantasy land, Xiao Lan Hua (ft Esther Yu) as a kind-hearted young orchid fairy with limited powers and no real name. (Xiao Lan Hua literally just means little orchid). She watches over the written fates of all beings. One day, she accidentally realized that her secret love, the powerful Chang Heng (ft Zhang Ling He) will be in danger and rushes over to protect him. This results in her a life changing encounter with Dong Fang Qing Cang (ft Dylan Wang), the powerful leader of the Yue (Moon) clan who had been locked away for 30,000 years.  This interaction changes the fates of all three individuals. 

 

Total Episode Count: 36

Initial Airing Date: Aug 7, 2022

 

Initial Rating: 7.5/10

Initial thoughts [18 episodes]:  This is a romance fantasy drama that is exceedingly cute. It’s actually quite popular right now only 6 days after airing and is pushing Love Like the Galaxy and Immortal Samsara onto the backburner for many viewers, myself included.  The relationship between Xiao Lan Hua and Dong Fang Qing Cang is quite natural and Dylan Wang does a pretty good job portraying the unemotional yet powerful leader of the Moon Clan who struggles with his budding emotions for Xiao Lan Hua. It’s not like this drama doesn’t fall into tropes but the first couple of episodes are hilarious because this weak orchid fairy swaps bodies with the all powerful Moon Clan leader and after the switch back, Dong Fang Qing Can realizes that every injury and emotion Xiao Lan Hua feels, he feels himself. Thus starting an amusing series of events where Dong Fang Qing Cang has to protect Xiao Lan Hua from herself while Dong Fang Qing Cang has to supress his frustration at being tied to someone as weak as Xiao Lan Hua.  Luckily, she’s super sweet and treats him as an equal.

I realized that I need to brush up on my Chinese fantasy translations. Cathy and I have no issues translating historical dramas but these fantasy dramas are hard!!!

Full review after the full drama airs

Karen

 

 

Love Like The Galaxy (2022) 星汉灿烂

Summary: Cheng Shao Shang (ft Zhao Lu Si), daughter of brave generals, was left at home to be raised (neglected) by her grandmother and aunt while her parents fought on the battlefield. The result is that despite Shao Shang’s natural intelligence, she was not raised as a “proper” young girl – one who can read and write or knows proper etiquette. Ling Bu Yi ft Wu Lei, is a hardened young general raised in the Imperial Family but bears a terrible burden. The two paths cross multiple times and a romance emerges.

 

Initial Rating: 6.8/10

Initial thoughts [after 30 episodes]: The drama is… just fine.  I binged the first 18 episodes over a weekend which tells me it’s at least palatable.  The older cast is more enjoyable to watch than the younger ones particularly those outside of the main pair of Zhao Lu Si and Wu Lei.  Perhaps my view is colored by the more muted tones and grayer skies of the production after enjoying the brighter hues in A Dream of Splendor.  Zhao Lu Si is fine in her role as Cheng Shao Shang but it seems like she plays similar characters in other dramas. Wu Lei as the handsome general is far more intriguing though his screen time in the first half of the drama was rather limited. There are some genuinely funny moments in the drama yet also a number of unreasonable scenes which I did not know needed to be there. I do think part 2 of the drama is picking up to be more intriguing than part 1.

Full review after the full drama airs

Karen

 

 

A Dream of Splendor (2022) 梦华录

Summary: Set in the Song dynasty, the story follows the lives of three women ,each with unique skillsets, who head to the capital following personal troubles and create a thriving restaurant business. The drama stars Liu Yi Fei, Liu Yan, Lin Yun Er and Chen Xiao.

 

Overall rating: 8.5/10

Initial thoughts [after 14 episodes]: The drama just aired on June 2nd and I am absolutely obsessed. It is without a doubt my favorite drama this year and that is high praise. It is the first time in 16 years that Liu Yi Fei has acted in a historical Chinese drama and the only way to describe her is stunning. Her chemistry in the drama with Chen Xiao is one to reminisce about and her storyline with her two close sisters are heartwarming as well. The costume and set design truly bring you to the colorful world of the Song Dynasty capital. It is NOT a drama to miss! There are certainly small issues here and there with pacing but overall, a captivating and engaging drama. 

Overall thoughts [after watching the full drama]:  This drama deserves a solid 7.5 and then I’m adding a full 1 point just because I am in awe at just how beautiful Liu Yi Fei is. (For this review I cannot help but post a bunch of drama photo of her and the rest of the cast). I seriously cannot describe how much of a treat this drama was just for the elegance and grace exhibited on screen by Liu Yi Fei.  This is certainly by no means a perfect drama nor do I think it will be a classic compared to the likes of Nirvana in Fire or Empresses in the Palace. I would even rank this below Ode To Joy in terms of drama quality but that does not mean I did not thoroughly enjoy this drama. For me, it was a light hearted, sickeningly sweet and surprisingly serious story of young women hoping to change the world’s view of themselves in the capital during the Northern Song dynasty.

《梦华录》主演是谁?

Story: The drama is loosely based on the story Zhao Pan’Er Feng Yue Jiu Feng Chen 赵盼儿风月救风尘  written by Guan Han Qing 关汉卿during the 17th century. The story tells of Zhao Pan’er 赵盼儿 saving her friend, Song Yin Zhang(宋引章), from her abusive and philandering husband Zhou She, 周舍,using her wiles as a woman to save her friend.  The drama name in Chinese, 梦华录, A Dream of Splendor, comes from 东京梦华录, Eastern Capital: A Dream of Splendor written during the Song dynasty that is a memoir about the lives and wonders of people during that time. (We talked about this quite a bit in our podcast series on the Story of Ming Lan).

Set during the Northern Song Dynasty, the story follows the lives of three women (shown below) and their trials and tribulations in ultimately running Yong An Lou, one of the largest restaurants in Kai Feng. 

 

Zhao Pan’er 赵盼儿 ft. Liu Yi Fei 刘亦菲


A young woman with many talents and the owner of a small tea parlor. She heads to Kai Feng, the capital of the Song dynasty to speak to her betrothed after learning he had passed the imperial entrance exam and wants to take her in as a concubine rather than wife.  She was the daughter of a general who’s father committed a crime that resulted in her status as a citizen fall from daughter of an official to the lowest aka Jian Ji 贱籍. The drama’s youtube english version translates this to Pariah status which I don’t think is strictly right. Think of them almost as slaves. Women in particular in this class were seen essentially as prostitutes and had very little rights or ownership of themselves. Luckily, Pan’Er was “removed” from this class with the help of her father’s old subordinates and she is now a shop owner. Her background of having been in the lowest class is an extremely important point of contention in the drama.

Sun San Niang 孙三娘 ft Liu Yan 柳岩


A 30 year old woman who has the strength of an ox and the incredible cooking abilities. Sun San Niang was heartlessly divorced by her husband whom she worked tirelessly to save money for to start his business and was ditched by her teenage son. Left without a hope in the world and nothing left to lose, she accompanies her good friend, Zhao Pan’Er to the capital to start a new life. 

Song Yin Zhang 宋引章 ft Lin Yun 林允


One of the best pi pa artists out there, Yin Zhang struggles with her identity due to her class. She desperately wishes for someone to help her out of her status in jian ji and is whisked away by Zhou She who subsequently abused her. After being rescued by Pan’Er, she also joins the ladies to start a new life in the Capital where she dazzles listeners high and low with her impeccable pi pa skills. 

What I liked: 
A feast for the eyes: Have I gushed enough about how beautiful this drama is? In my mind, its beauty does not lie in the dazzling gleams of jewels and extravagant clothing we’ve grown accustomed to in palace dramas. Instead, it seeks to have a more understated and elegant air. The director in behind-the-scenes clips stated they wanted to film in locations with plenty of water which is evident throughout the drama with small little boats that people used everywhere. It added a sense of calm and serenity that also showcased the charm of historical China. The costume were also explicitly designed to be as floaty as possible which came into great effect whenever Liu Yi Fei (Zhao Pan’er) danced (as you see below). 

That brings me to my next point. Liu Yi Fei. I have watched Liu Yi Fei growing up. She hasn’t starred in many dramas but the ones she did film definitely made an impact – Chinese Paladin 仙剑奇侠传 and Return of the Condor Heroes 神雕侠侣. In China, she has the moniker of 神仙姐姐 or Goddess Sister for how stunningly beautiful she is. Her poise and composure is rarely matched in the Chinese entertainment industry and I just could not tear my eyes away from her in this drama. Her dancing doesn’t seem forced but actually as if a goddess has come to earth to dance. 

History lover: The drama does try in several episodes to show off important elements of Chinese history. In episode 16, we are treated to an entire episode dedicated the art of tea making during the Song dynasty. We actually already touched on this in our podcast series for The Story of Ming Lan but it even more beautifully brought to life. Fun fact, the dancing that Pan’Er does was improved by Liu Yi Fei which I thought added a lot to the scene.  There are many other examples in drama where the director clearly wanted to share the vast wealth of culture and history that China has to offer. 

Various facets of Women: The drama’s key theme is that just because you’re born of a certain status does not mean you are not able to make a name for yourself. This is evident in the journeys of the three women, Pan’Er, San Niang and Yin Zhang.  Each woman has their strengths and weaknesses which ultimately makes them human. Often times dramas want perfect humans but that’s not realistic. While certain scenes were frustrating, it did make the journey for these women seem more deserved. 

What I particularly enjoyed about this drama is that it once again emphasized that women are appreciated by having their own skills. Women should not simply rely on men resolve their issues. Pan’Er could dance, could make tea, could play soccer, could gamble, could run a restaurant. That did not make her overbearing but instead, only more impressive. San Niang may not have been educated, but she had her strength and cooking skills that no one can take away from her. Similarly, Yin Zhang’s pi pa skills were enough for her to actually be quite wealthy despite what it meant to be a musician.  The key takeaway for me is that women should strive to be the best for themselves and not just for others. 

The drama also did not push the same beats we’ve seen where women turned behind each other’s back. Take Zhang Hao Hao over here. One could expect that she feels threatened by Song Yin Zhang as the new belle of the capital but no, she took one look at Yin Zhang and decided to partner with her. 

 

Mature Relationships: The romance of this drama is also quite relaxed. How Zhao Pan’er and Gu Qian Fan interact is so natural that you truly believe they’re in a relationship. There’s no slow, drawn out takes for kissing scenes which is so cliche.  I could have a whole 20 more episodes of just their day to day. Once they solidified their relationship, the only word to describe them is “sweet”.  What people say about their relationship is that it is very “adult” which makes sense since their portraying older individuals and it shows. 

The drama also highlights the abuse and neglect women undergo in relationships. All three of these women, San Niang, Yin Zhang and Pan’er endured hardships in their relationships before settling into who they truly are. 

Fantastic supporting cast: I cannot say enough about how adorable the supporting cast are especially Chi Ya Nei and He Si. They provided literal tears of laughter in certain scenes. They are legitimately adorable and hilarious which makes this drama all the more fun. 

 

What I didn’t like:

The OST: Ok, I thought the soundtrack was just FINE. The thing is, the soundtrack is sung by Jane Zhang and Liu Yu Ning, two of the most popular artists today for singing soundtracks. I think I just had higher hopes for this drama to have an exquisite soundtrack but unfortunately that is not the case.

Middle of the drama dragged on a bit: Yin Zhang’s arc or storyline of growing a second time I thought wasn’t wholly necessary. Indeed, fans of the show piled on their criticism for the days those episodes aired. While I really appreciated the end version of Yin Zhang we got afterwards, I wish we didn’t have to endure the second growth arc. While that was happening, Gu Qian Fan underwent his own cowardly struggle which in my view was not needed. I understand the director wanted there to be payoff between Pan’Er and Gu Qian Fan afterwards but still. 

 

 Let us know what you think! 

-Karen

 

 

The Autumn Ballad (2022) 嫣语赋

Summary: Qiu Yan ft Qiao Xin (Bridgette Qiao) is the unloved daughter in Qiu household who goes toe-to-toe with the cold faced duke, Liang Yi ft Xu Zheng Xi (Jeremy Xu) as she fights for her life and happiness using her own wit in the face of antiquated views of society. 

 

 

Overall rating: 6.5/10

Overall thoughts: This is one of those rare dramas where the plot/screenplay outshines the production and acting. While I don’t mind Qiao Xin who tries her best in this drama, I feel like this drama would have been even more popular with someone better suited to historical dramas.  I thought Jeremy Xu’s Liang Yi was quite handsome and the scenes between him and Qiao Xin were cute enough.  For this drama, the plot and interesting values espoused for women were the highlights rather than the acting. 

Story: The drama opens with our main female lead, Qiu Yan, getting married. She is off to her husband, the He family’s house, decked out in red. But just as they’re about to be announced husband and wife, her soon-to-be but not yet husband falls to the ground, dead. Qiu Yan and the family are shocked. The thing is, Qiu Yan didn’t even know who she was marrying as her family arranged this marriage for her but the husband’s side of the family is furious and determined to have her killed to join her husband in the afterlife! Qiu Yan does not want to (I mean, who would) and in the chaos, escapes the He family’s home. Out in the streets, she bumps into Liang Yi, Duke of Wei Yuan and head of a department called Pi Chai Chu (kind of like an internal investigation department for the Emperor). She begs him for help but he refuses and sees straight through her lies as to why she’s running. Regardless, Qiu Yan manages to escape home and through a series of events that depended on her wit, superior deduction capabilities and with the begrudging help of Liang Yi, is able to discover why her groom-to-be ended up dead, thus saving her life.  After this initial case is settled, Qiu Yan and Liang Yi continue to cross paths as they work to solve a number of mysteries that escalate up to the safety of the Empire. 

嫣语赋

What I liked:  This is a drama with a rather fast paced plot. Case-in-point, Qiu Yan’s supposed husband dies within the first 15 minutes of the first episode to kick off her sad state of affairs and then the drama goes head first into seeing how she resolves her issues. There are only 34 episodes which makes it a relative breeze to get through compared to some of the other 40+ episode ones and when there are plot holes, you don’t really have too much time to think about it because the drama forces you to focus on the next mystery or case. 

In this drama, the story doesn’t shy away from the fact that being an unloved shu chu daughter of a scholar family is difficult. Qiu Yan’s own mother doesn’t care much for her which seriously damages Qiu Yan’s relationship with her birth mother. Her birth mother, a concubine, only cares that her son, Qiu Yan’s brother, is given opportunities. This then created an environment where Qiu Yan had to learn to be very attentive and watchful of the tiniest details in order to survive at home. Through these challenges growing up, she learned to be independent and also quite aggressive in getting what she wants. In a rare twist, Qiu Yan actually has a great relationship with the main wife of the house. The main wife raised Qiu Yan as if she was her own and dotes upon Qiu Yan. We’ve seen too often where the main wife of the house dislikes any shu chu children so this was quite the breath of fresh air.

Through this drama, Qiu Yan is adamant about the inequities the she as a woman faced at her time which obviously can be translated to today. She questions why women have to serve their husbands, fathers, brothers and children. Why can’t they live for themselves for once? She questions why when a man plans for his career and future, it’s seen as natural but when a woman does the same, she’s being difficult? One scene that stuck out to me was when she used a few tactics to help create some affection between her and Qin Xuan, an initial love interest, she is admonished by the male lead, Liang Yi. He is disgusted that she would manufacture affection in order to get what she wants. But she retorts that just because there was some help in creating the affection, does it mean that it’s not real? That made me pause because it really reflected what it meant for a woman to know who she wants and to work towards it. If the guy ends up interested, is it necessarily a bad thing that she created the environment for him to notice her?  It’s these questions and scenes that actually make one think about where one wants to be in our own lives today. 

The relationship between Qiu Yan and Liang  Yi developed in quite a hilarious way as well. At first there were no sparks whatsoever and they even tried damaging the other’s relationship conquests: Qiu Yan was interested in Qin Xuan while Liang Yi was interested in Qiu Min (Qiu Yan’s sister). Through their repeated interactions however and the fact that Liang Yi saved Qiu Yan several years before which prompted her to learn to read and become the person she is today, the two ultimately get together. Their scenes together as a couple are sickeningly sweet and made me swoon for Jeremy Xu. 

嫣语赋

What suffered:

I’ve seen Qiao Xin (Bridgette Qiao) in a number of dramas throughout the years (Nirvana in Fire, Ode To Joy amongst many others). When this drama came out, one of the biggest criticisms from viewers was that her oration needed improvement as well as her posture. It just seemed like she was a modern woman who was placed in costume and that really brought viewers out of story. You couldn’t hear her well because now the trend in dramas is to not use as much voice dubbing and her composure was just odd for a historical drama (which is not usually the case in modern day dramas). Her acting as well was fine in delivering lines but to bring someone into the historical setting, her acting needed to get to the next level. In general, I thought she was acceptable whereas I much preferred her counterpart, Xu Zheng Xi.  

It just seemed like the drama was of a lower quality in terms of costumes and production which is regrettable because I think many of the views from the drama were quite refreshing as I described above. But alas, what can you do. I picked up this drama during a period when there really wasn’t much interesting airing so it sufficed for the time being but it was not a drama I chased too seriously. 

 

-Karen

 

 

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City of Streamer (2022) 流光之城

Summary: Feng Shi Zhen, starring Jing Tian, takes up the guise of a private tutor to the Rong family children on her quest for revenge against the Rong family for burning down her home. There, she meets the handsome Rong Jia Shang ft Xu Wei Zhou. 

She uses spy craft learned from the mysterious Meng Xu An ft Jing Chao at the Rong family mansion to uncover the truth about the fire that changed her life. 

As the mysteries unfold, Feng Shi Zhen finds the secrets of her past that come to a head in her feelings with Rong Jia Shang. 

 

 

 

Drama rating: 7/10

Overall thoughts:  An adequate romance drama based off a novel of the same name. Jing Tian’s Feng Shi Zhen is a well thought out, independent and capable woman that stands her ground in the face her handsome and wealthy student, Rong Jia Shang. The drama shines in its intriguing plot that twists and turns. It doesn’t shy away from many realities of women at that time, some hard hitting subjects while also espousing key ethical values. The drama suffers from a somewhat slow pace, its voice dubbing and wooden acting, particularly from side characters.

 

I’m very biased now when it comes to Jing Tian after her renaissance in Rattan last year which I adored. After she changed how she drew her eyebrows, her beauty shot through the roof so I immediately decided I should chase this drama.  The reality is that City of Streamer flew under the radar while it was airing back in February but I think it deserves some more recognition. There was not much promotion for Liu Guang Zhi Cheng 流光之城  though I consider it a sleeper drama of modest success. While everyone was blasting Mirror: A Tale of Twin Cities, 镜*双城 which was an elaborate production by Tengxun, City of Streamer ended up with overall more online viewership even though it’s obvious it was a smaller production. The reason being is the overall better story and refreshing characters. 

I binged the first 12 episodes over a weekend and then binged the book in like 2 days. The drama follows the book rather closely which is to its benefit because the conflict in the book is well thought out and the characters contained refreshing personalities. However, this does mean I didn’t feel there was as much “acting” for many of the side characters because dialogue carried much of the story in the show.  The voice dubbing also made the characters rather wooden which was my primary gripe. 

 

Story

Jing Tian 景甜 plays Feng Shi Zhen 冯世真, a 23 year old woman from Shang Hai during the Republic of China era (think 1920s/30s). She is a brilliant woman with many skills including English and Math. She is hired by the Rong family, the wealthiest family in Shanghai at the time, to tutor the three Rong family children. They include the 20 yr old Rong Jia Shang 容嘉上 played by the handsome 许魏洲 and his two younger sisters, Rong Fang Hua and Rong Fang Hua. 

While seemingly a simple tutor of no background, Feng Shi Zhen’s real motive in going to the Rong household is to uncover the truth about why her home was burned to the ground. Evidence of the fire points to the head of the Rong family, Rong Ding Kun.  Helping her on this endeavor to seek revenge is a mysterious man named Meng Xu An (ft Jing Chao) who trained Feng Shi Zhen in spy craft and manipulation after the fire. 

Feng Shi Zhen’s task is to make Rong Jia Sheng develop feelings for her to better help her gather intel while living in the Rong family mansion. While she is successful in securing his attention, she is also surprised by his earnestness and good heart. Even though he comes from a wealthy family, his aspirations are in the sky and to be a pilot. Unfortunately, despite his feelings for Feng Shi Zhen, he is caught between his feelings for her while faced with an engagement to a powerful woman and a relentless ex-girlfriend. 

Meanwhile, the closer Feng Shi Zhen gets to understanding why Rong Ding Kun caused the fire in her neighborhood, the more she realizes that Rong Ding Kun’s past is interconnected with hers. This connection was known by Meng Xu An who had been using Feng Shi Zhen to enact his own revenge. As the story unfolds, the relationship between Feng Shi Zhen and Rong Jia Shang also go for a turbulent ride as they are faced with possibly irreparable differences. 

 

 

 

What I liked: First of all, in this drama (and in real life), the woman is older than the man. Woooo. I feel like that’s been a trend gaining steam in Chinese media right now but a thoroughly enjoyed the relationship that unfolded where Rong Jia Shang was the one who was acting impulsively and primarily by emotions vs Feng Shi Zhen who was calculating pretty much each step of their initial interactions. This is such a difference from any number of romance dramas we’ve seen where it’s the opposite. 

Furthering this thought, while Feng Shi Zhen ultimately did start developing feelings for Rong Jia Shang, she was very clear headed in not accepting his feelings for very practical reasons. He’s the eldest son of the lavishly wealthy Rong family; he cannot decide who he chooses to marry because his marriage is a business contract. And indeed, just as he is declaring his love to Feng Shi Zhen, in the next beat, he’s getting engaged to the wealthy Du Lan Xin.  Feng Shi Zhen knows what she wants in a relationship which is not to be someone’s interest for a fleeting moment but since Rong Jia Shang cannot give her that, she rejects him numerous times.  Every time she does, I’m like YAS, make him work for it! 

What I also appreciated was why the feelings between the two main characters started developing, especially on Feng Shi Zhen’s side. It’s clear that even though Rong Jia Shang is wealthy and could have anything he wanted in the world, he has a ethical boundary that he will not cross. After he discovers that his father crossed many boundaries to amass the wealth they’ve enjoyed, he actively works to undo all of it even at the cost of his money and status in Shanghai. Why wouldn’t someone like Feng Shi Zhen be attracted to a man with that sense of justice. Both of these characters are family oriented and capable in their own right and as the story progresses, why their paths crossed became clear. 

 

The character that I enjoyed the most though in this drama is Meng Xu An who is played by Jing Chao. All I can say is, damn Jing Chao. He is HOT in this drama. He plays a more mature and calculating man who is also fabulously wealthy but tortured by the trauma his sister endured at the hands of Rong Ding Kun (Rong Jia Shang’s father). Because of the hardships he suffered growing up, he became this manipulative person who used Feng Shi Zhen from the beginning to get back at Rong Ding Kun. The book made it more clear that the way he used Feng Shi Zhen was rather despicable -he thought Feng Shi Zhen and Rong Jia Shang were siblings and wanted them to have an incestuous relationship as revenge. In the drama, they cut that knowledge from him to make him not as bad. 

In the drama, whenever Meng Xu An walks into the room, he has this level of swagger and confidence about him that you cannot help but draw your eyes to him. While I do think Xu Wei Zhou is handsome, it’s a matter of taste. It’s almost as if you’re comparing Tom Holland and George Clooney. Both handsome men but have different styles. 

In any case, a number of fans are sad that Feng Shi Zhen didn’t end up with Meng Xu An, and just by looks and stature alone I completely see why, but Feng Shi Zhen and Rong Jia Shang both have ethical boundaries they will not cross which make them a better match based on values. Meng Xu An does not have those ethical boundaries which means that no matter how attracted he is towards Feng Shi Zhen, she will not give him that kind of reciprocation. 

 

What I didn’t like: Maybe because the drama followed the book so closely so that after I read the book I didn’t feel as much intrigue or suspense for the drama but the drama definitely felt contained. It’s not a drama where you need to go back to watch it multiple times like we have done for The Story of Ming Lan or Empresses in the Palace to understand the underlying plots that unfolded. Instead, the book and the drama does a great job in uncovering everything that is needed so I don’t feel like I need to go back to rewatch it. 

I do attribute some of that to the wooden acting of many of the side characters and also Xu Wei Zhou, the male lead. I think he’s very attractive no doubt, but when compared to Meng Xu An, there’s just not as much depth. I also don’t think Feng Shi Zhen as a character had much to “act” especially when compared to say Rattan. Most of these characters were just “there”, moving along with the plot.

Some of the woodenness actually came from the voice dubbing. Usually, voice dubbing is there to evoke more emotion but I for some reason often felt like I was just listening to someone read a script so it did take me out of the drama quite a bit.  

 

Ultimately, I liked the drama for what it was. It was a fun and fair romance drama to watch. I was not rolling my eyes at what the female lead was doing for the lead as I did in Novoland Pearl Eclipse and also some other dramas we’ll talk about which is already a low bar. Thus I give this drama a 7.

 

-Karen

Rev

 

雪中悍刀行》新剧照:张若昀变俊美,“姜泥”为“李淳罡”撑伞- 时尚资讯(娱乐新闻网)

Sword Snow Stride (2021) 雪中悍刀行

Summary: Xu Feng Nian 徐凤年 (starring Zhang Ruo Yun 张若昀) has the reputation of being a playboy and the humiliation of Northern Liang as he does not know martial arts and is thought of as an idiot. However, in reality, he is extremely intelligent and understands the burdens he has as the eldest son of the Prince of Bei Liang.  

 

The drama follows Xu Feng Nian’s journey across the empire to protect is family and his territory as he combats threats from all sides. Based on a book of the same name, this drama introduces a new and interesting world of mythical creatures, political intrigue and masterclass fighters.

 

 

 

Overall rating: 8/10

Overall Thoughts One of the most enjoyable dramas and possibly the highest viewed drama on Tencent of 2021, breaking 60 0million views. I do not think it AS good as Joy of Life (Qing Yu Nian) from 2019, but it is still a fun binge. Zhang Ruo Yun does a stellar job of portraying Xu Feng Nian in all of his facets – the homeless wanderer, the playboy and the heir apparent to the territory of Liang. The large cast of characters that Xu Feng Nian meets on his journey also add various shades of color to this interesting trip. The biggest gripes have been the martial arts sequences which is laughable compared to its older contemporaries and also the main female lead, but on the whole, this is a wonderful drama that combines intrigue, heart, comedy, sadness all into one compelling story

雪中悍刀行》收官,张若昀发长文告别,并透露第二季播出时间(长篇)

Story: The drama starts with Xu Feng Nian and his good friend, Old Huang, who manages horses, trying to head home after 3 years out in the world.  Though Xu Feng Nian is the son of the Prince of Liang, he is currently impoverished and dressed as a hobo. Because he doesn’t know martial arts, his travels have largely relied on his intellect, thick skin and kindness of others. On the way back, he meets the beautiful and powerful Nan Gong Pu Ye (ft Zhang Tian Ai) who helps them return back to Northern Liang borders.

Once home, he is reunited with his kind hearted but strategic father, his loving younger brother and his myriad of maids. Initially, Xu Feng Nian is reluctant to take up the mantle as the next Prince of Liang but his father, the current Prince, Xu Xiao (ft Hu Jun) explains to him the burdens that must be placed on Xu Feng Nian because he is the only one capable of protecting his loved ones and ensuring the peace that Liang soldiers fought for with their lives remains in place.

Thus begins Xu Feng Nian’s journey across the mythical Li Yang empire to grow and develop as the next Prince of Liang. 

 

What I liked:

 

雪中悍刀行》大结局:徐凤年斩杀韩貂寺,赵楷身死,金甲最可怜_李淳罡_徐龙象_母亲

Family Dynamics: Xu Feng Nian is one of 4 Xu family children. He is the oldest son but has 2 older sisters and 1 younger brother. His father is the Prince of Liang, a seasoned veteran and skilled tactician.  He is also the only Prince in the Empire that is not of the Imperial Royal family. Thus, the precarious nature of maintaining his territory.  Xu Feng Nian’s mother was a formidable swordswoman in her own right before her passing. What is fantastic in this drama is that you can feel they truly love and care for each other all in their own way, despite not all being together.

When Xu Feng Nian finally arrives back home within the territory of Northern Liang, his younger brother, Xu Long Xiang, runs miles to greet him. When greeting Xu Feng Nian after several years apart, Xu Xiao allows his son to throw objects at him to let go of his anger. Honestly, episode 2 was so funny I watched it like 10 times because Xu Xiao made a decree that when Xu Xiao sees his son, if he is beaten to death, everyone has to pretend like nothing happened.  The staff are al like “WTF” but then indeed, Xu Feng Nian chases his father around trying to beat him because he knows his dad probably made his life hell while on his travels.  Hahahahaha

A key driver of why Xu Feng Nian agrees to finally take on the title of “Prince of Northern Liang” and rule his territory is because his father reveals to him that unseen forces that have infiltrated the kingdom are pushing Xu Feng Nian’s younger brother to the throne. While Xu Feng Nian doesn’t object, Xu Xiao explains that his younger brother, who has ungodly strength, is too naive and childish. He would easily be used by others and tricked into traps. Xu Feng Nian is the only person who is intelligent enough to withstand all of the threats and schemes that are headed their way. 

I would like to think that Chinese dramas are moving in a direction where family members and siblings no longer fight each other but are instead supportive of each other’s goals. In this drama, even though each family member is apart on their own paths, they are thinking of the rest of the family and how their paths will help the other.

雪中悍刀行》播出后口碑一路滑到谷底,网友惊呼天哪- 爆料台- 娱乐新闻_明星绯闻- 明星资讯

The Journey: The drama takes us throughout the Empire of Li Yang – from Northern Liang, to Wu Dang, to Jiang Nan, to Wu Di City among many others. Along the way at each stop, there are many interesting characters that Xu Feng Nian meets that help him grow but also challenges him on his journey. Each location has its purpose and you cannot help but want to follow Xu Feng Nian on his trip. 

Particularly important are the old men that he meets. It’s a joke online that every few episodes you meet a new “lao tou” or old dude who either helps Xu Feng Nian, tries to kill him or both. They all are somehow insanely powerful. In my view, they were the MVPs of the drama. Some of these actors/characters were only on screen for an episode or two but they are all very distinct characters and quite memorable. 

The original book, from my understanding, paired Xu Feng Nian with many women so I would be remiss to not mention all of the gorgeous ladies Xu Feng Nian meets as well.  Similar to the old men, each woman has her own distinct character and style. While some are more important than others, each character I thought took full advantage of the screen time they had and added color to the overall drama.  Please enjoy the beautiful and powerful Nan Gong Pu Ye by Zhang Tian Ai below 🙂

张天爱南宫仆射《雪中悍刀行》拍摄过程中的小故事- 爆料台- 娱乐新闻_明星绯闻- 明星资讯

Everyone’s Motivations Make Sense:  Throughout the drama, you don’t meet anyone who is obviously contributing to drama because they do something stupid. There’s no miscommunication that we see in rom com dramas. Xu Xiao and Xu Feng Nian are master tacticians and strategists. They know how to plan their next moves and think several steps ahead. It’s really quite satisfying to watch as pieces fall into place based on their plans. But what’s more important is that their adversaries and allies are not stupid either. Well, some are, but not all.  Each character has their own motivations for their actions that is dependent on his or her station in life, upbringing, background and capabilities. Very few people in this drama are inherently “evil” and are driven by reasons that from his or her particular standpoint, makes absolute sense. 

That’s why it’s interesting to see how Xu Feng Nian has to work with those he meets to get them to help him with his final goal.  Because his martial arts skill is still at a nascent stage, he has to rely on the help of others and showcase his upstanding character in order to win the loyalty of those traveling with hi. It makes his title of Prince seem deserved rather than something that is just given to him because he is the son of the current Prince. 

 

What I Didn’t Like:

Jiang Ni 姜泥 – the main female lead: Sigh – what can I say. She’s the one in the middle in the picture below. Her backstory is that she is the sole surviving princess from the Empire of Shu which was destroyed by Xu Xiao and the Li Yang Empire. Xu Xiao took pity on the young girl and took her in to be raised as a maid in his household as a means to protect her. She grew up aiding Xu Feng Nian. Such an interesting backstory right? But Li Geng Xi, and I shouldn’t be too harsh because she’s still rather young, just shows off a pouty and angry face. There’s no grace and poise of a former princess in sight anywhere.

Some pushback has been that she’s been raised as a maid so of course she doesn’t have the aura of a princess. Ok fine, but can she learn to smile? Almost every scene she’s in she is frowning, or glaring, or glowering, or pouting. She’s not unintelligent and if any other woman acted her I think I would feel differently but I honestly have no idea why Xu Feng Nian would like her. To me, they have no chemistry and their relationship is largely carried by his acting. I see more sibling chemistry between the two. I’m probably also biased because when you look at Li Geng Xi’s Jiang Ni and then above at Zhang Tian Ai’s Nan Gong Pu Ye, I just want to bop Xu Feng Nian on what he’s thinking. 

 

雪中悍刀行》10大美女!张天爱比李庚希美,除《如懿传》李纯,还有孟子义_徐凤年_姜泥_微博

 

-Karen

 

 

不讓王一博專美於前 《風起洛陽》由宋茜領軍的女角群也超圈粉!迷妹模式開啟,來看本劇對女性群像的魅力描寫! | Vogue Taiwan

LuoYang (2021) 风起洛阳

Summary: Under the reign of the only female emperor in Chinese history, individuals from various levels of society team up to investigate an ever expanding web of threats that threaten the safety of the Emperor and the regime. 

The drama stars: Huang Xuan 黄轩, Song Qian 宋茜 and Wang Yi Bo 王一博 as main leads with Song Yi 宋轶 rounding out the primary cast.

 

 

 

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Overall Thoughts: Out of all the dramas I watched in 2021, I can unequivocally say the production value of this drama is the best. The long takes and action shots throughout the show reflects how much care was put into creating a living, breathing world of Luo Yang during this period. The costumes and set pieces are some of the best in the year so that alone should be enough to push one to see the drama. I hold back on considering this a classic because the acting for at least 2 of the main characters could be improved and the storylines can sometimes be hard to follow. But that doesn’t mean this is not highly enjoyable.  

 

Story: The drama brings together 3 individuals from different echelons in society during the extravagant Zhou Dynasty under the rule of the only female emperor in Chinese history, Wu Ze Tian 武则天 to investigate and protect the peace of the Empire in the face of numerous threats.

 

Wu Si Yue 武思月 ft Song Qian 宋茜, is from the Wu clan and is a distant relative of the Emperor. She holds a prominent position in the Emperor’s imperial guard and represents the Emperor on important security matters

Gao Bing Zhu 高秉烛 ft Huang Xuan 黄轩 is a member of the lowest class of society, living in a place called Bu Liang Jing, which is an impoverished commune of people who were either banished for crimes or descendants of criminals. People from Bu Liang Jing are not allowed to leave their destitute home. Gao Bing Zhu was the leader or marshall of sorts for the people.

Bai Li Hong Yi 百里弘毅 ft Wang Yi Bo 王一博 – second son of an important court official, he is incredibly detail oriented, learned of various crafts and highly intelligent. He is also the premier food critic in the city but does not know martial arts. 

Liu Ran 柳然 ft Song Yi 宋轶 – The daughter of the prominent Liu Family from He Dong, she is close friends with Wu Si Yue and is well connected with the imperial family. Despite Bai Li Hong Yi’s initial objections, he and Liu Ran marry early on in the drama. 

 

风起洛阳》真正的粉黑大战!延迟播放,见证了两极分化-嘉

 

风起洛阳》剧情有bug,但总体说来,是部值得一看的好剧- 资讯咖

 

Reason to watch:

Costumes, Set Design and Cinematography -> World Building: This drama is incredibly fast paced as the three groups work together to figure out threats against the Emperor and the overall empire.  From the get go in the very first episode, you are on the edge of your seat following chase scenes through a breathtaking view of Luo Yang, the capital of the Tang/Zhou dynasty.  It’s evident that the show took great pains to choreograph incredible shots of chase and action scenes that takes the viewer through what was a Luo Yang that is full of life. People from all walks of life – merchants, peddlers, guards, scholars, socialites- are all depicted in the crowd. The early Tang dynasty is heralded as one of the wealthiest and most extravagant time periods in Chinese history and this drama certainly let me believe it. 

The drama reminds me a lot of The Longest Day in Chang’An or 长安十二时辰 from a set design and cinematography perspective though more richly colored and not as bleak as the former drama. Notably, both The Long Day in Chang’An and this drama, Luo Yang, were both based on books written by the same author, Ma Bo Yong. 

 

Additionally, I am absolutely in love with the costumes that everyone is wearing. It is time period accurate for both men and women but the women in particular are stunning. Just take a look at some of the photos I’ve put up in this post. The designs, fabrics, colors and jewelry are complicated and intricate. It exudes the wealth of the time but is not over the top and flashy as some other dramas show. You can tell there’s been a lot of care put into each individual’s costume design and I just cannot get enough of how beautiful the women look, particularly Liu Ran. 

Overall, if I could travel back in time or to a world in a drama, it would be this one just to see exactly how international and vogue the capital of the Tang/Zhou dynasty was. 

宋轶《风起洛阳》热播柳然灵动形象深入人心_天天新闻,甜甜新闻

Song Yi’s Liu Ran – Her relationship with the stoic Bai Li Hong Yi is really sweet. Bai Li Hong Yi pretty much has a heart of stone who reluctantly agreed to marry her at his father’s request. It’s not that he doesn’t like her necessarily, he just doesn’t want to get married. But, Liu Ran is just a very caring and rather naive socialite who only has eyes for Bai Li Hong Yi. After a period of time where Liu Ran is just circling around Bai Li Hong Yi and trying to help him in the sweetest way, she finally gets a response from her relationship investment. I can see why some people don’t like her but their relationship just speaks to a young heart. 

Song Yi is also probably the most relaxed actress in the drama. Like I look forward to watching her on screen. Her voice and poise just emanate the aura of a socialite during that time but someone who has been trained well from a young age on how to act and behave as woman from the Heng Dong Liu family. 

 

风起洛阳》百里弘毅的哥哥是谁? - 历史剧- 曾经史

 

What’s Preventing This From Being A Classic

Lead Acting: Out of the main trio, the only person who can actually act, and it’s painfully obvious, is Huang Xuan, who plays Gao Bing Zhu. He’s been in numerous dramas and movies over the years and you can tell he is acting circles around Song Qian and Wang Yi Bo, who were/still is an idol. Song Qian was part of the girl group F(X) in Korea and Wang Yi Bo, well, everyone knows he’s a singer and an even better dancer.

It’s a pity for Wang Yi Bo in particular because from behind the screen clips, he actually has put a lot of thought into his role and how he should act it. But what’s translated on screen is someone who doesn’t have much facial expression. His fans will say that that is what Bai Li Hong Yi is supposed to be like but I think at least a little change in expression is warranted. 

Song Qian at least is trying but I can barely hear her speak most of the time. Her enunciation isn’t the best. Though we should commend this cast for using their actual voices rather than being dubbed so there’s that. I think my biggest issue is that Song Qian’s acting leaves the trace that she is acting. It’s a little overdone especially when compared to Huang Xuan and Liu Ran.

 

Story Pacing in the Second Half: While the first 20 or so episodes were top notch, things started to get a little convoluted in the back half as threads start extending much farther out beyond the initial mysteries. It became confusing trying to follow the various threads and what each person or clan’s true motive was. While people on weibo certainly had a blast trying to figure out who exactly were the culprits behind the myriad of murders and plots, by the end of the drama, I almost didn’t care. The ending was also infuriating with many plot holes that could have easily been avoided so instead of a drama that I feel like I can rewatch consistently, it left a sour taste in my mouth. I will happily re-watch the first couple of episodes and leave it at that.  This drama almost could have been 10 episodes shorter or else made into a movie. As a movie it would have been a classic. 

 

-Karen

 

 

 

 

Novoland: Pearl Eclipse (2021) 斛珠夫人

Summary:  The young girl Hai Shi (Yang Mi) was set as bait to procure naga pearls which set off a chain of events that changed her life. 

Following the death of her father and her escape from soldiers threatening her family, she is taken by Fang Zhu (William Chan) to train in the capital as a man and his student. 

As Hai Shi grows up, she must balance her love for Fang Zhu and the threats to the Empire. 

 

 

Overall rating: 6.5/10

An engaging mystical setting, strong visual effects, high quality production value and a relatively strong secondary cast makes for a fun show that unfortunately is set back by a lackluster script and cliched, often forced conflict.

As a fan of Yang Mi for more than a decade, I gave this drama a shot immediately because, well, it’s Yang Mi. I’ve watched every historical drama of hers in the last 10 years and am always rooting for her to do well. This drama only has a 5.2 rating on DouBan which I personally think is a little low but that does not mean it is not popular. On Teng Xun or QQ which has sole airing rights to the drama, the show hit 300million+ hits by the series finale. On Weibo, every day the show aired and even in the days immediately after its finale, there were plenty of top posts trending from the drama. 

Yang Mi and Chen Wei Ting/William Chan participated in a couple rounds of marketing where they did photo shoots together and live streamed to promote the show which was fun to view as Yang Mi and William Chan worked together years before in Gu Jian Qi Tan (Sword of Legends).

The biggest surprise actually came in the relationship between secondary characters Emperor Xu and his concubine, Ti Lan. 

 

Story: Set in a mythical land, the young girl Ye Hai Shi (Yang Mi) was set as bait by her father to procure naga pearls, tears of Chinese mermaids. Young Hai Shi was saved by the mermaid after her father tried to kill her for those pearls which led to Hai Shi being bestowed a special connection to the mermaid. 

Upon returning to her village, she sees the village threatened by soldiers seeking the naga pearls. In trying to escape the attack, she is saved by a passing Fang Zhu who takes her to the capital. There, she grew up as a boy and trained with her adoptive brother, Fang Zhuo Ying, to become a bodyguard for the Emperor Xu. 

As Hai Shi and her brother grow up, they help their teacher, Fang Zhu, who in reality is Fang Jian Ming, the Duke of Qing Hai and the Emperor’s best friend, complete missions to protect the Emperor and the Zheng Empire. 

Main characters:

Fang Hai Shi (played by Yang Mi) – Originally from a pearl harvesting village, she became the student of Fang Zhu after her village was threatened by soldiers. In the capital, she trained to become an elite bodyguard for the Emperor as a man but also slowly developed feelings for Fang Zhu. 

Fang Zhu/Fang Jian Ming (played by William Chan) – The Emperor’s most trusted advisor and best friend, Fang Zhu is the Duke of Qing Hai and responsible for the safety of the Emperor. Due to previous tragedy, Fang Zhu and the Emperor are linked by an ancient bond to keep the Emperor’s line safe. 

Emperor Xu (played by Xu Kai Cheng) – The Emperor of the Zheng empire who lost his beloved wife, Zi Zan, during a coup that also killed two of his brothers. Post the tragedy, Emperor Xu became easy to angry as his grief could only manifest inwardly. 

Ti Lan (played by Chen Xiao Yun) – Princess from Zhu Nian sent to the Zheng Empire to marry, she is the spitting image of her sister Zi Zan. This triggered the Emperor’s grief and therefore suffered heavily at his hands.

Fang Zhuo Ying (played Wang Sen ) – Another student of Fang Zhu and adopted older brother to Fang Hai Shi, he also grew up in the Capital to serve the Emperor. In reality, he is royalty from a northern clan.

Zhi Liu (played by Yuan Yu Xuan) – A young woman in charge of palace embroidery, she and Fang Zhuo Ying developed feelings for each other. But before they could express their affections, Zhi Liu suffered a devastating blow due to an attack in the palace.

 

What I liked:

Emperor Xu’s realistic portrayal of inwardly manifested grief. 

Di Xu to me is one of the most interesting characters in the drama. He is the centerpiece which all of the other characters revolve around. As a young prince, he had a best friend in Fang Jian Ming and a doting wife in Zi Zan, a princess from the neighboring nation of Zhu Nian.  There was not a whole lot more he wanted. 

But all of that changed during the Coup of Prince Yi which caused the death of Fang Jian Ming’s entire family and the death of Zi Zan who was pregnant at the time. Emperor Xu was also gravely injured which forced Fang Jian Ming to enact the Bai Xi ritual in order to save his life, thereby connecting the two lives forever. 

Stricken with grief over the death of his beloved wife and unborn child, Di Xu, who ascended the throne after the death of his two brothers involved in the coup, became suicidal and explosive with anger. He was snide and condescending to pretty much everyone around him. In essence, he is a man who lost his entire family and is a burden to his best friend but must take on the role of Emperor. 

This all came to a head when Zhu Nian, the nation where Zi Zan came from, sent her younger sister to marry him to continue this alliance between the two empires. But, this younger sister, Ti Lan, is a spitting image of Zi Zan. 

In any other drama, I could see Di Xu suddenly fall in love with this sister, Ti Lan, simply because she looks like his lost love and then be manipulated because the nation of Zhu Nian must have known what the were doing sending Ti Lan. Instead, in Pearl Eclipse, the Emperor fully knows that the two are not the same. So instead, he is extremely explosive towards her and punishes her often times without her knowing why. It’s simply because she reminded him of his tortured past. 

Now, in absolutely NO WAY should any woman EVER accept a man who puts his hands on her so that portrayal by the Emperor is NOT to be condoned. A lot of what he did would be enough to put him in jail by today’s standards but I appreciate that the Emperor is extremely clear headed knowing these two are entirely different people. This is also a portrayal of a man who clearly never processed his grief and let it manifest inwardly which led to his explosiveness. This paved the way for the Emperor to develop his feelings for Ti Lan that may have been influenced by Zi Zan but is still independent of her. That’s actually more respectful of Ti Lan than if he pretended she was someone else.

The Emperor is further complicated by the fact that while he does want to die to be with his wife, he feels a sense of responsibility to his people to be at least, a decent Emperor who provides for the people.  It’s difficult to see at first because the earlier episodes are all about him being abusive towards Ti Lan but when it comes to court and his job, he takes it very seriously. 

After realizing that he’s grievously hurt Ti Lan as a direct result of his grief, he learns that his anger stems from wanting to feel again but also not wanting to feel because of memories of the past. Once he moves past his grief and accepts that he must walk out of the past, he becomes a doting and loving husband once more, this time to Ti Lan. 

Supportive Friendships – (1) Emperor Xu/Fang Jian Ming, (2) Fang Hai Shi and Fang Zhuo Ying, (3) Fang Hai Shi and Ti Lan

Fans and marketing focused too much on the couples of this drama but I don’t think emphasized the extremely supportive friendships showcased in Pearl Eclipse. And by friendships, I think they’re more like brotherhoods and sisterhoods. These relationships stayed true throughout the drama which was incredibly refreshing and heartfelt. 

Emperor and Fang Jian Ming – these two grew up together and went through hell and back. Sure, Fang Jian Ming always felt a level of guilt for his actions that led to Zi Zan’s death and therefore dedicated his life to the Emperor, but the two often only need a glance or a motion towards one another to signal that something is afoot and either action or inaction is needed. This level of understanding is what makes the Emperor so complicated. He needed anger management but trusted Fang Jian Ming with his life. 

Fang Hang Shi and Fang Zhuo Ying – These two were both adopted by Fang Jian Ming to train together as teens. I personally loved their sibling interactions with each other. Zhuo Ying always looked out for his younger sister who the world thought was a man but only he and Fang Jian Ming knew the truth. Their sibling banter were some of the funniest dialogue in the drama and it seemed so natural. Who doesn’t want to have a big brother like Zhuo Ying?

Ti Lan and Hai Shi – Ti Lan knew from the very beginning that Hai Shi was a woman after ill placed hands on Hai Shi during a harrowing escape revealed the truth to Ti Lan. Though their stations were quite different, Hai Shi tried to look out for Ti Lan while she could and Ti Lan did the same. When the two ended up in the imperial harem together, their open conversations as sisters were incredibly satisfying as there was no hidden agenda between the two of them, just sisters looking out for each other and wanting the best for each other. 

 

What I didn’t like:

Fang Hai Shi/Fang Jian Ming’s back-and-forth relationship

Ok. Yang Mi, I love you, but the chick you portrayed needs to just CHILL.  Hai Shi has the hots for her teacher, which fine, but she is refused by him multiple times and she STILL does not relent. Every time she DOES give up, Fang Jian Ming does something that makes her think he actually does have feelings for her and returns to him. This level of stubbornness is generally not attractive.

He also needs to be more heartless in his refusal of Fang Hai Shi. Maybe I paid too much attention to Di Xu and Ti Lan’s relationship that I never felt the love Fang Jian Ming felt for Hai Shi was as natural. Is it just because they spent a ton of time together?

 

In any case, I thought the relationship was rather forced, or at least the drama was rather forced. There have been plenty of dramas where communication was the antidote to all problems and so the miscommunication and secrets in this drama seemed like it was too cliche. 

It did seem like there was tension for tension’s sake because that’s what tugs at heartstrings. 

 Acting – 

I’m probably going to be pummeled over the head with this but I thought that out of everyone in the drama, Yang Mi’s acting was the most problematic. Perhaps it’s because she didn’t use a voice actress this time which is commendable but for most of the drama, I just felt that I was watching Yang Mi say her lines. There were several instances throughout the drama where this was abundantly clear and a perfect example is when Hai Shi has a conversation with Ti Lan towards the end of the drama. The two women are chatting as good friends but when Hai Shi gets up to leave, everything she says is like she’s saying memorized lines. There’s not a whole lot of emotion. 

I don’t know, I feel like everyone else’s acting I could get into but Yang Mi, for the most part, I just saw Yang Mi. Not Fang Hai Shi. Her previous roles were much better in this regard.

 

Summary: Overall, I at least “chased” this drama to the end and still watched the drama through its entirety. That’s more than can be said about a few other dramas this year where I tried to watch it and gave up. You can tell the cast and crew put effort into trying to make this drama look good and the script was also changed from the storylines from the book that this drama was based on to be more palatable to current audiences. However, I did still think this drama was lacking in perhaps heart, primarily from the main leads. I would say give this drama a go since it does feature Yang Mi whom I love though do not be hesitant to recognize that there are areas of improvement that would have made this drama into an even better one. 

 

 

 

 

 

你是我的荣耀》发海报,感谢潘粤明题字剧名_迪丽热巴

You Are My Glory (2021) 你是我的荣耀

Summary: A superstar celebrity Qiao Jing Jing (Dilraba Dilmurat) encounters her old high school crush Yu Tu (Yang Yang) while playing the mobile game Honor of Kings. What happens when they finally meet? 

Based on the book, You are my Glory from the author Gu Man (顾漫), the drama began airing in China on July 26, 2021. 

Let us know your thoughts!

-Cathy

 

Overall rating: ~ 9/10

If you want to enjoy a great rom-com drama without contrived plots, this the drama for you!

Key Highlights: 

  • A great and very faithful adaptation of the source material
  • Amazing chemistry between the two leads 迪丽热巴 (Dilraba Dilmurat) and 杨洋 (Yang Yang)
  • Great supporting cast with well known actors and actress from the Chinese entertainment industry
  • Healthy and cute love story that doesn’t shy away from adult responsibilities and personal goals
  • Unique inclusion of the Honor of Kings CGI
  • On location filming for the China’s Air and Space program in the Gobi Desert and Hai Nan

Spoilers below!

Story: Superstar celebrity Qiao Jing Jing 乔晶晶 is the brand spokesperson for the megahit game Honor of Kings. While practicing the game, she reconnects with her old high school crush and aerospace engineer Yu Tu (于途). The drama follows the two as they fall in love and overcome professional and personal struggles to finally become each other’s glory.

The drama begins with someone leaking a video of Qiao Jing Jing playing rather poorly in the game Hong of Glory. As the spokesperson, she needs to play the game during the Hong of Kings Awards Ceremony to redeem herself and keep the sponsorship. Unfortunately, Qiao Jing Jing is pretty bad at the game. While practicing at home, she is mistakenly added into a game by Yu Tu, her old high school crush, to play with his friends. 

Yu Tu doesn’t know it’s Qiao Jing Jing and the group continues to play a couple of matches together. Yu Tu is surprisingly very good at the game and Qiao Jing Jing decides to asks Yu Tu to become her personal coach for the game to prepare for the Awards Ceremony. Qiao Jing Jing invites Yu Tu to meet in person and the two begin a relatively professional coach / student relationship.

The story progresses as the two get to know each other better. Qiao Jing Jing’s feelings for Yu Tu resurface and Yu Tu, surprisingly, begins to have feelings towards Qiao Jing Jing too. 

During this time, Yu Tu is taking a break from his job as an aerospace engineer at China Aerospace Science and Technology. He’s reevaluating his professional aspirations as he has to face the reality that his career would not allow him to support his loved ones financially or even have time to spend with them. He turns his sights towards Investment Banking. 

Yu Tu decides to return to his job but in doing so, believes that he cannot take care of Jing Jing and rejects her. Shortly after, he regrets his decision and spends some time trying to win her back.  

The two finally decide to together and we see their cute and loving relationship blossom into one in which both Qiao Jing Jing and Yu Tu support each other to achieve their goals. Not gonna lie, I did tear up in certain parts of this drama. The drama ends with a very inspiring launch of the satellite that Yu Tu leads at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Hainan, China

Thoughts:

Pros: This is a great drama that gets a lot right!

Plot The drama rightfully focuses the attention to the two main leads Qiao Jing Jing and Yu Tu. Qiao Jing Jing is a superstar actress but she is willing to put in the hard work to prove to the naysayers and to her fans that she is deserving of their praise. She is extremely intelligent and has a very positive outlook on life. She is like a sun that shines brightly and gives warmth to those around her. Yu Tu is the brilliant ambitious aerospace engineer that is somehow good at everything but in the face of real life woes a.k.a. money, he still has to make difficult choices.

It’s refreshing to see a drama that doesn’t belittle anyone’s profession and actually shows that jobs require effort. Qiao Jing Jing is a professional actress and makes sure she is always ready for her roles. She also takes her sponsorships seriously. Yu Tu is an aerospace engineer that works overtime with his teammates to solve problems. How many dramas have I seen where the main leads are CEOs of a company but somehow are never in the office? I can actually clearly see that these two people got to where they are in life because they worked for it. There’s also no contrived plots with ex-boyfriends / girlfriends. Everyone behaves as adults and solves issues as adults. There are some really great friendships in the drama too and we see people actually supporting each other.

This is one of the first shows to really showcase China’s aerospace capabilities and it is clear that the drama did their research on the subject of aerospace. The author Gu Man is also the screenwriter of the drama. She made several trips on location and requested reviews of the script with senior aerospace engineers to make sure the story made sense. It’s rare that a show does this level of homework and I’m glad it did. 

  

Casting: This is probably one of the best casted Chinese dramas in years. Why do I say this?  The drama cast some very well known actors and actresses that are leads in their own respective dramas so the fact that Tencent was able to assemble this cast is very impressive! I don’t think there’s a bad apple of the bunch!

Let’s start with 乔晶晶 Qiao Jing Jing. When I read the book, the person in my head to play Qiao Jing Jing was Dilraba 迪丽热巴 and I was not the only one. She was by far and away the fan favorite to play this part when the book was completed. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it was announced that she would play this part! I’m very happy with her performance here as I believe she really brought the character of Qiao Jing Jing to life. I’m a huge fan of Dilraba and I’m grateful that she played this role. This is the 3rd time she played an actress in her career but it’s clear that Qiao Jing JIng is not like the other roles and indeed it’s not like her own self. Dilraba has really grown as an actress over the years and I’m excited to see her next roles.

Next up 于途 or Yu Tu. 杨洋 is a favored actor of from the author 顾漫 (Gu Man). He portrayed Xiao Nai in the megahit Love O2O back in 2016.  I initially was somewhat skeptical that he could separate this role from his role in Love O2O but he does a great job here. In the earlier episodes, he was able to portray the internal struggles that Yu Tu faced surrounding his job pretty well. Once the two characters get together, woo, Yu Tu turns up the notch and is a Grade A boyfriend! Overall the chemistry between the two is great! I mean two beautiful people acting as a couple? Sign me up please!

The rest of the cast includes a lot of very famous people that I actually watched dramas of growing up. Shout out to 高露, who plays the wife of Guan Zai, Yu Tu’s mentor. She is of course 林小娘 or Mistress Lin in The Story of Ming Lan. I’ve loved her work for ages and it was like a dream come true when her character and Qiao Jing Jing finally meet in the drama. 

CGI: Since this drama was produced by Tencent and Tencent also makes the Honor My Kings games, Tencent was willing to go all in on the CGI for this drama. The CGI renderings of the game characters are really good and I believe even game fans are quite happy with it. 

On Location Filming: I’m very happy that the drama decided to film on location in Shanghai, the Gobi Desert, and Hainan. These places are heavily implied in the book so it’s great to have these regions showcased in the drama. 

Faithfulness to Source Material: A+ here. Probably like 90% retention of the source material. This isn’t surprising as the author was the screenwriter for the drama. Keep this coming please!

Cons: No major cons! My main nitpick is that Yu Tu – you are an idiot for rejecting Qiao Jing Jing not once but TWICE! She should have made him work for their relationship a bit more.

Final Rambles:

I’m so happy that this drama came out this summer with the cast that it did. I’ve mentioned before but it definitely is a dream come true. It fulfilled all the requirements I had on the cast, the story, and faithfulness to the source material. I doubt we’ll actually see anything like this in the near future so enjoy this drama if you can!

Funnily enough, this whole entire drama is also quite meta. Dilraba and Yang Yang are actually the global spokespeople for WeTv and Tencent Video. Dilraba is the game spokesperson for 和平精英 or Game for Peace, another Tencent game. Dilraba is also a superstar celebrity in China with a growing name recognition worldwide. That’s partially why she was such a fan favorite. Who else should play Qiao Jing Jing other than an actual superstar actress? You’ll notice that a lot of the photos of Qiao Jing Jing in the drama are of Dilraba’s actual other media campaigns. 

I’ll be happy to ramble on about this drama for many many more posts. Until next time!

-Cathy