A Railway Life

image credit: Daai TV

I started watching it shortly after it aired. However, a lot of other things happened, so I had to put it aside. I went back to it several months ago and watched it slowly as I was between things. So, how was it? Like the majority of Daai series, it revolved around a real-life person and paved out a model family that encouraged others to work hard and also see the positive side of life. Because it was based on a real person, it wasn’t dramatic in a sense that drew in views like a typical idol drama or those daily soaps, lol. But I had shifted to watching Daai dramas more when it came to Taiwanese productions in recent years so I welcomed it. (Yes, I’m getting really tired of those dramatic antics and cliche formulas, so I rather watch something more realistic and actually learn some life lessons out of it too.) That didn’t mean that there was a lack of emotional element in the series itself. It just meant it wasn’t as artificial as the dramatic antics that were purposefully created just for the sake of drama.

Main Cast:

  • Ehlo Huang as Chen Qing Biao (陳清標). Initially, I was touched by how much he sacrificed for his family when little and eventually found his own path and was able to accomplish his goals along the way. He was finally to do all that and much more for his own family. However, I thought it was a bit ironic that he was harsh on his kids, even harsher than his father was on him and his brothers. Sure, the father at times wanted them to have a good life too, but he never forced them through things. If he wanted to, the father could have not allowed him to do a lot of things and just helped with the family business. If one argued that he had to be crazy to not agree with a much better life for his son via the educational path, I would say depends. Sure, he could allow Qing Biao to go to school but the clause was to go into farming and expand the family business only. See how that worked? So, I felt that was overboard that Qing Biao had forced Yi Jie and Qian Ping into pursuing his plans. Yes, his ultimate goal was for them to have a better life, not regress back to generations ago when they had to suffer through so many hardships. Yet he had to remember that his father took a leap of faith with him. How could he rob his kids of their decisions when his father gave him the freedom to pursue his dream? Sure, I got it once again that he was just overly worried and that worry blinded him. He did ease off later, but I thought it was ironic all the same that his mentality was more old-fashioned than his old man, lol. Not to mention how he said those words to his wife, “This generation, what are they thinking? All these independence and thoughts.” NOT the exact quote since I don’t remember exactly anymore, but in some ways, he was frustrated with being questioned when he knew what was good for them, etc. But he once again forgot that his father gave him and his brothers much more freedom than that because the old man truly loved them and respected them, wanting them to thrive–even if it wasn’t following in his own footsteps. So, I was rolling my eyes when he said that. Like that was supposed to be new with allowing your kids to thrive and grow just because, not turning them into a mini version of yourself. And if you’re saying the time was different back then, again, his father allowed them more freedom than that. Don’t bring the whole men versus women conversation in because of Qian Ping and Yu Ling. Because Yu Jie had to follow along too, not allowing any other opinions otherwise. Even if they got it and later apologized for some harsh words being exchanged, their frustrations were justified. (Cue back to how Qing Biao’s father had supported all of Shen Fu’s ventures too–even if he wasn’t 100% sure and yes, they had disagreements. But they buckled up and went through it together in the end. But he still didn’t regret it, because they were family and the old man continued to encourage his grandkids on, etc.) Once again, this was just some strange stuff I noticed while watching. NOT an attack on him or his family or anything. Outside of that, Ehlo did well portraying the emotions at those points. Granted, I haven’t seen the real person whom he portrayed, I just based it on what was happening and how he reacted to it, and if he was convincing in those scenes.
  • Lin Ke Wei (林可唯) as Jiang Yi (姜義). I haven’t watched her for the longest time. Possibly because she had shifted from idol dramas, which was a good idea actually. It wasn’t like she wasn’t in them anymore, but less. I thought she was more valued for her acting chops in real-life dramas than idol ones anyway. She had more to work with and wasn’t restricted in her characters. Of course, I didn’t have time to hunt down real-life interviews of the actual people being portrayed in here. However, I thought she did a wonderful job of showing the transition of her character throughout. She was a kind and gentle girl from little and then transformed into a very kind-hearted teacher. Although there were conflicts and hurdles she had to navigate through, it showed some depth with how she was able to steer through them–whether taking a brief break to rethink her strategy or having those who loved and supported her to encourage her on. Her character grew on me as the drama progressed. It showed her journey quite well–alongside her husband. I didn’t think the kids were just scoring points with her when they said she was the amazing woman behind her husband. She was indeed quite resilient. If it wasn’t for her, the family would have broken apart already. Considering how his job and all. (NOT blaming him here since he was building their life after all but it was tough on the kids too, trying to navigate the world and understand what was going on. They needed their mama as the glue to keep them all together.)
  • Long Tian Xiang (龍天翔) as Chen Qing Biao’s father. He was surprisingly easygoing as far as traditional people went. No, I’m serious. Maybe I was too used to strict parents and all, so I was surprised. Sure, he was seen as tough at times too, and had his principles yet he buckled up and led the way whenever obstacles came up. He did have some guidance from his mother while she was alive too, but had managed to keep to her words and heeded her advice to him throughout the years. I was also surprised that he didn’t care if his grandkids succeed educational-wise or not. Okay, I should dial back. It was more like he encouraged them and loved them regardless of their achievements and didn’t push them at all. He actually went all-in with supporting them–regardless of their decisions. It probably made sense because of how they came from a background of farming and it didn’t matter anyway as long as you were able to find work versus how his son, Qing Biao, wanted the absolute best path, etc. However, usually, the grandpa would take the dad’s side and say, “Your dad’s right, listen to him.” But in this case, his action eased the situation a bit more and he offered some insights and a different perspective. Well, he was quite experienced with life at that point and learned a lot already so he probably wanted to ease off the pressure with the grandkids. Or maybe it was just simply that he loved them because they were his grandkids. But it was just refreshing to see him laying it out so simply. Like how he said he had such kindhearted grandkids already, he didn’t need them to be overachievers or anything else. He was also very happy that they respected him and cherished their family. It was indeed very true. It was hard to come by with all family members getting along so well, etc. So, other factors could be solved regardless. Oh yeah, I would have loved it if he was around during the in-laws’ obstacle situation. He would have gone full grandpapa bear to protect his grandchild from the other woman’s attacks. Or was it because he had passed away at that point already so they didn’t mention him anymore? (They were clearer on his wife’s passing so I wasn’t sure. But I had to assume that he would have passed at that point already. Because it wouldn’t be right without him around in their new home–if they had transitioned to another path once again.) As for the actor, I watched him in so many old series back then with him portraying various villainous roles, so it was hilarious seeing him in this old wise man role. But he did well, obviously. No complaints there.
  • Zhang Qian (張倩) as Chen Qing Biao’s mother. It took me about halfway through the drama to realize she used to be in The Four Brothers of Peking, lol. Yes, it has been ages so I think it was understandable I didn’t make the connection. She was all right. I thought her conflict with Jiang Yi would be long and hard, but it wasn’t much, so that was good. (Jiang Yi was a super germaphobe so it was hard to see eye-to-eye at first. Both sides just needed to communicate and understand, that was all, not implying anything.) She was understanding in that she was able to see past what was more important at times of need–like how Jiang Yi helped with the family situations without putting it over their heads or something. So, in a way, it was just one of those clashes with personality and habits. They got along fine later on when things cooled down.
  • James Chang (張維錫) as Chen Shen Fu (陳神福). Qing Biao’s older brother. He was seriously unlucky. Or was he just naive? Harsh, but whenever he wanted to start some kind of business or an investment, he ended up getting conned or made the wrong call. It was really sad. I wanted him to catch a break, seriously. I actually wanted to know more about him in the later parts of the drama. But I guess he wasn’t the main focus so they didn’t mention him anymore or showed any traces of him after the mom passed away. I hope he caught a break and somehow managed to keep his family safe and healthy.
  • Bella Chang (張懷媗) as Ah Xue (阿雪). Chen Shen Fu’s wife. I felt bad for her. She had to hold down the fort as time went by and her mother-in-law was getting older. I initially bit down my teeth, wondering if she would cause trouble around the household with some conflicts going on. However, I was reassured nothing more progressed after some initial disagreements within the household. Then I reminded myself it wasn’t those typical soap but they were trying to portray some real issues in life and how people actually communicate within the household and not drag it out for dramatic purposes. (Sure, real-life could be messy too but I was glad it wasn’t so in this case.) I felt for her when everyone had to buckle up and endure it all with the debt issues and had to ration their food, etc. I wondered what happened to her kid but the child wasn’t shown again in the drama. Of course, the focus of the story wasn’t on her and her husband specifically, but it would have been nice to get a glimpse at least. Maybe it was mentioned but I have forgotten already because of the gap I watched some episodes, etc.
  • Rex Kao (高允漢) as Chen Shui Wu (陳水伍). Chen Qing Biao’s younger brother. He was shown initially with Qing Biao when they younger and somewhat when he grew up later. However, not much was mentioned anymore after their mother passed away. Once again, I know he wasn’t the focus of the story either but might be nice to get a little update.

Discussions:

  • Casting. I must say it was really good. Because I could see the resemblance of the chosen cast for the characters at various points of the drama. Especially the three kids through the years. I paid closer attention at that point, so I noticed it more than the first generation, so yeah.
  • Ehlo and Ke Wei. OMG, I had a major struggle getting used to them. Seriously, it wasn’t because of their acting. What I wanted to laugh about was about halfway through the series, I realized that they collaborated before. Nothing new with stars working together on more than one drama. But it was funny in the context that they were both in Heaven’s Wedding Gown together and then The Magicians of Love. Considering their characters in there, it was too hard trying to take them seriously as a couple, lol. So yeah. In case anyone forgot, in HWG, he was Ken and she was Ke Wei aka two-thirds of the office bullies who picked on Ai Qing (Cyndi Wang). Then in TMOL, he was Zhe Ming and she was Mango–who were initially rivals regarding the haircutting businesses before he joined Neo Image as well. Anyway, back to this one, they were all right. I thought it was mostly because they were portraying real-life characters, so the production team wanted to keep everything respectful and reserved. So, there wasn’t much of physical contact except somewhat initially. No big deal though. I enjoyed watching their collaboration. At first, I got this awkward vibe from them. But as the series progressed, it seemed like they were more comfortable portraying their roles or something. Or maybe it was my perception. But by the time they were dealing with their own family issues, i.e. their kids, I could imagine them more as a team and how they approached it. It was interesting to see who was calm versus panicked in each situation. I guess it was sending a message about how we all had our blind spots, so it helped to have one person being the calm one in matters, depending on circumstances.
  • The most relatable person was Chen Yu Ling (陳郁聆). Just personally, really. Because I’m also someone’s youngest sister. So I relate to her so hard. There were obvious differences between us, considering how she was tenfold cuter and positive about life throughout, the light in everyone’s world, which was indeed admirable. What I thought I could relate to her was in the sense that she faced the pressure of doing well just like her sister in school. Although her siblings weren’t keeping scores but being compared constantly (even if the parents didn’t do it intentionally) made her confidence sink. She, of course, had support and love thus overcoming the worst and finding her confidence again. It was indeed nice to see. Because I didn’t like how the parents accidentally started this vibe of siblings’ rivalry among them (as all parents at times did–whether they knew it or not). Interestingly, she got the ease off of not having to do as well as her older siblings and was glad about it later on as well. However, I thought it was like how Qian Ping said at one point, she didn’t have to face the pressure, etc. It wasn’t like she didn’t have to deal with it initially, because she had to at least meet certain goals and/or expectations too. It was just that her parents realized it sooner and ended up easing off on her–more Qing Biao–than Jiang Yi at first. I was just glad that she eventually found her own path and maintained a positive attitude throughout. Not to mention how her confidence shone through so brightly too. I was cheering for her.
  • The in-laws obstacles. This bit near the end with Qian Ping having to face her mother-in-law did dap into the dramatics slightly. However, I thought because it was a real-life topic, it was unavoidable. I actually agreed with Jiang Yi when she was shocked that Qian Ping didn’t even ask about Jun Ying’s family. Sure, she had a point that she wasn’t dating his family and didn’t care about his background (i.e. rich or poor). But realistically, you don’t know if he was the rooftop killer or not, hello. (It’s a You’ve Got Mail reference, look it up.) So yeah, I didn’t like that approach at all. It was more realistic that you would make sure to hit the major questions before diving in. Considering how they were planning to spend the rest of their lives together, after all, a thorough discussion of life goals and what it entailed and who it involved would be reasonable. I don’t know about the timeline of the story, but considering how Qian Ping was a courageous young woman out in the world on her own (for the most part) and leaned toward the independent, talented woman path, she could at least be more realistic. She lived a while in Taipei after all, and shouldn’t be too sheltered regarding common stuff like that. Also, considering how traditional the general vibe was, it was obvious they wanted grandkids regardless of the reasons. The mother-in-law especially mentioned that at the initial pre-marriage meetings between the two sides as well. What made her think that it would go away? And then she compromised because the old woman’s words got to her. Sure, compromises were unavoidable in any type of relationship, but to bring a child into this world because you wanted someone to get off your back? I wasn’t convinced she thought it through. The pressure was obvious. It was just too bad her son had the golden card, so it didn’t matter if he didn’t want kids, it would always be her fault because of that fragmented conversation the mother-in-law overheard. And then to top it off with another 8’oclock soap formula (but in this case, it was a real-life situation), she couldn’t get pregnant SO yeah, more ammunition for the mother-in-law. Just great. Yes, I’m bitter as hell. It is a serious matter and I’m upset for her. But I hated that the importance of her existence was reduced down to that moment (and for others to mock). The mother-in-law’s justification for pressuring them was because her tea buddies kept asking? Really? You’re a grown adult, you don’t have to listen to them or interact with them. Also, none of their business. (Yes, I get it, it’s really hard but I thought at a certain age you don’t care for that BS anymore. I’ve reached that age already hence some of my reviews getting braver in words lately. So, I find it hard to believe it was just that. In the end, it was just about “saving face”, etc. More like you wanted to show off to the world and parade your family around in other people’s faces.) I paused the episode to write the previous part, but I knew it! Other people’s opinions were just another excuse she conjured up. In the end, she wanted the grandkids. She just used the long way around to apply more pressure. Jun Ying did make a good case for his wife, too bad she used the ultimate parent card on him. (Typical mother-in-law passing on the generations of toxic idealogy that it was a woman’s duty to have kids. Not to mention how Qian Ping should just take it and accept it and be proud of her duty–and should be willing to sacrifice for “the cause” made it tenfold more frustrating. So the 8 o’clock soaps weren’t far from wrong after all. Of course, I know this stuff happened in real life, that was where the art drew it from. But I at least thought and became hopeful some things would be different. But I guess we can’t all evolve.) And if you want to say: “Stop applying those modernized Western views to the situation, you don’t understand the culture.” Some Westerners actually have those really old views too. I won’t get into it since that covers a whole new level of complication. I’m just saying some traditions and views shouldn’t be clung to. It’s just so toxic to reduce fellow human beings to only one sole purpose. That’s all. (It makes it tenfold worse when you’re also a woman and you tear another woman down just because they don’t want or can’t have kids. Then exude some high and mighty vibe because you did so and so things, etc.) Upside, at least Qian Ping got her parents in her court. I know, it sounds dumb that I should be surprised they supported her. They were her parents after all. But in the extremest circumstances, the wife’s parents’ side would agree with the other side with “continuing the family line” or along the same vibe. However, Qing Biao and Jiang Yi supported Qian Ping with her decision. Sure, they were worried at first and were protective of her (when they learned of the relationship), but actually quite liked Jun Ying and didn’t force him to jump through ten thousand hoops (just for kicks). They just wanted to meet him and get to know him (which was reasonable with some initial questions after all). The part where Jiang Yi accidentally (possibly) blurted out about “not caring about kids and as long as Qian Ping and Jun Ying were together, it was fine” was funny as hell. I had a kick out of it. Because Qing Biao had to clear his throat, reminding her they were at someone’s house and couldn’t say those things. (I’m with Jiang Yi all the way on the petty game she initially wanted to play because the other side wanted to torture her daughter.) I wasn’t mad at Qing Biao for stopping her though, because he had a point indeed. It would be harder on Qian Ping if they interfere even more. It showed he had learned from past overbearing situations with others, so I have to give him points for that. (Qian Ping did choose that path after all. Also, NOT to pile on, but seriously, she should have looked through all their family books before jumping into that marriage. NOT saying she should give up or people shouldn’t get married, but it was a really bad idea that they weren’t on the same page in the first place. I’m not feeling sorry for Jun Ying–even though I know we can’t choose family and what they think, he had more advantage in this situation and the fact that the controlling party was his mother. They had all the power here. If anyone wanted to say that I was petty for keeping scores. Um, the mother-in-law was being calculative first, only thinking for herself, not others. Or more like she only treated Qian Ping as an incubator, not a person. Why should I show mercy toward her? Besides, it’s not like I could do anything to her anyway. I’m just some random, irrelevant person on the Internet.) Totally random, but it was relevant and I don’t want to cut it and put it in their section. But Qing Biao totally took advantage of the situation and used it against Jiang Yi about how she was a teacher, after all, she should stay calm and the lesson she taught her students about thinking before you speak, lol. (Yup, regarding her mishaps in front of their in-law. She said that he was supposed to be on her side in those situations, lol.) I actually felt like they were indeed a couple at that point (more than some of the past serious scenes). It was one of those cute old couple light bickering moments you see at times. Anyway, back to the actual discussion. Regarding how strongly I feel toward the topic in general and possibly missing the point they’re sending–and yes, I shouldn’t meddle into their business (it’s not my place or choice to make anyway), I actually know all of that. But I’m just really upset that they were still sending and trying to normalize that was the correct choice aka to keep trying until some “miracle” happens. If it was Qian Ping’s choice truly, I would accept it more. But it was someone else’s influence, so the rest of whatever was going on was more than the word “infuriating” could be used to describe the situation as an overall. Also, Jiang Yi was seriously lucky as a daughter-in-law. Not to mention how Qing Biao had the gut to move out. I know their situation was totally different and at the time, it made sense that they moved out to fit the circumstances better. But if it was any other in-laws, they would have wanted her to quit and focus on the family. Yet, they weren’t so. They respected her for being such a talented person and accepted it. Even if they wanted the whole family together as much as anyone else. What was also different was that Jiang Yi had three kids, so no one complained and we didn’t see any drama regarding that. But I had a feeling Qing Biao’s parents would be more understanding and actually respect them as human beings rather than punish them (emotional torture and pressure, etc) just because. Oh yeah, did they change the ending to make the mother-in-law more likable? Because I swear it was too abrupt to see her grow a heart like that. It was a typical idol drama move where they changed stuff up for the last episode before wrap-up. I actually wanted to erase the previous parts to make the review less hectic. But decided against it in the end. Because those were my actual beliefs regarding the situation in general, I don’t want to erase that part. I was glad the mother-in-law changed her mind though. It was just that my faith in humanity had taken a downturn and had never recovered just based on personal experience that I wasn’t too hopeful for their ending–unless Qian Ping somehow succeeded. So, I was surprised they (the production team) wanted to send a message of acceptance (as per making the drama and putting the actual story in as well) instead of encouraging women to keep trying, no matter how it would affect their bodies. Again, I believe it’s always up to whoever is involved to make their choice. But I was just surprised Daai chose this story and sent out this message instead of the general procreation themes often splashed around. Because although many general popular cultures (regardless of region) at times wanted to send out the message of respecting others’ choices and empowering women, the ultimate choice they chose to portray–whether real-life stories or fictional productions–would always be procreation. The rest were just there for empty words. What topped the scenes for me was how the mother-in-law actually took an effort to subtly chide her nosy friend at the market when the latter brought up the topic of grandkids.
  • Jiang Yi is a germaphobe. OMG, seriously, they were addressing it at the last minute before wrap-up? I meant we got it initially and I first thought it was because she liked it clean. When it was the situation with the baby and all, I thought she was worried, being a new mother and all. That issue somewhat offended her mother-in-law since Mrs. Chen brought up three kids fine after all. Yet I was glad that was later solved and they didn’t keep that in mind. I must say once again Jiang Yi was seriously lucky to have such understanding in-laws. Because if it was others, they would have use that to their advantage to gain the upper hand later on. Somehow, the family just endured all through the years yet it finally caused major issues when she was already retired? Wow. She sure was lucky to not clash too much before. I guess people thought it would be normal for her to value cleanliness being a woman, a teacher, and other factors. The storyteller really buried the lede until the end all right. But it was indeed a time for Qing Biao to shine all right. She’d been the calm one in the past between his and Yi Jie’s situation. Now, it was his turn to try and resolve their conflicts. (I agree with him though. Each of us has our own habits and routines, but don’t try to influence others or it would cause them discomfort and/or feel more pressure.) Some comments missed the point when they criticized Yi Jie for not knowing how great he had it with his mom willing to clean the place or help and all. Yes, he had it great thus far. That was true that the mom’s intention was good. Yi Jie’s attitude had been a consistent thing throughout, so it wasn’t helping either. But it was a boundary issue in this case. It was nice and all having someone help you clean and stuff. However, how would they like it if their stuff got move around? Each of us has a system and comfort level. How do you like it if people come in and rearrange everything and claim they were helping? It didn’t matter whether it was family or not. In a way, Yi Jie understood well how there would be clashes hence moving out after his discharge from the army. He didn’t want to force his wife to change, knowing the situation at home and all. So, he was already approaching it with his own way. Once again, they shouldn’t use the parent card to force things through or guilty trip their children into changing. I was glad the issue was resolved and all, but I thought one shouldn’t be let off as easily with the parent card. Sure, Jiang Yi understood and thought it through afterward, wanting to call Yi Jie too. But somehow, she was saved from admitting that she was in the wrong too and should meet them halfway instead of going in there and demanding they changed according to her habits. Again, Yi Jie was wrong on the attitude, but he wasn’t wrong about the boundary situation. Considering Jiang Yi didn’t like it either that Mrs. Peng put her daughter in a hard spot. She shouldn’t do that to someone else’s daughter either.
  • Bonus. You get to see the real-life couple (Chen Qing Biao and Jiang Yi) at the end of the series on the train together. That was so cute.

Recommended? I thought it was worth it. I went in, just wanting to watch for Ehlo. Yet I learned a lot about the railway system and some other life lessons too. It might not be as fascinating to locals (or could be, I don’t know), but it was informative to me. Well, it wasn’t like it was focused 100% on the railway system and all. It was at heart trying to portray a typical model family. So it was worth watching see how they navigate through those life hurdles. Sure, I complained about some of the stuff too. However, I felt it was worth it in the end. I might not completely agree with some situations, but it was another perspective. Some things did make me think a little harder about it and it did change my mind about the situation. Others, take it as what it was.

The Legend of the Condor Heroes 2016: Review

(image credit: as marked)

Interestingly, I never reviewed this either. Or at least, I didn’t care to go back, lol. I just didn’t feel like doing that at that time. I don’t know. I guess I might as well since I had some notes and all. How was it? Mixed feelings throughout actually. I guess it was inevitable–due to the fact that this wasn’t the first version ever to be made. But there were some things that stuck out, which were hard to ignore. I’ll start with the usual, of course, before diving in deeper.

Main Cast:

  • Li Yi Tong (李一桐) as Huang Rong (黄蓉). She was adorable. If you could say that about Huang Rong, that was. She could be so mischievious at times too. If you read the novel or watched past adaptations, you get the idea. I don’t need to say it anymore. But what made her different and stood out for me was how the production team didn’t cut back on her martial arts scenes. I don’t know. In the past, only one person who portrayed Huang Rong made an impact for me during fight scenes and that was Athena Chu. (Yes, I loved Barbara Yung and she’s irreplacable and made an impact and was also my favorite Huang Rong but the production team cut back and downplayed her fight scenes so she didn’t shine in that area for me. There was a lot of awesomess about her, so that part could be overlooked.) Yes, I said it. But Athena’s fight scenes (especially the part they snuck into the enemy’s camp to investigate at the beginnning and she used various martial arts techniques to fend off her opponents. That was one of the scenes that defined her character but past adaptation had failed.) Anyway, back to Li Yi Tong’s scenes, I loved her martial arts scenes even more. Although, the production team did exaggerate at some parts, but it actually enhanced Huang Rong’s martial arts skills and made up for all the versions that downplayed her skills. I meant we heard from other characters about her background and having inherited all her father’s skills–and much more. Yet it was like she didn’t get the chance to demonstrate her skills. This one, it gave Huang Rong plenty of space for that and Li Yi Tong carried out her role wonderfully throughout. She was witty, she was intelligent and could be so cunning time called for it. Other times when she was with Guo Jing, she let her innocent and gentle side came out, which was a nice touch because it showed a different side of her when she was with the one she loved.
  • William Yang Xu Wen (杨旭文) as Guo Jing (郭靖). He was surprisingly impressive. Yes, it was mostly because he was brand new (or almost) at that time. No one really knew what to expect of him. Yet he delivered. He became my second favorite Guo Jing. Yes, I’m picky. Granted, Guo Jing is really hard to portary. He could be so noble and firm in his beliefs (mostly influenced by his upbringing) but could be so clueless about other stuff. It could be said that he was just simple-minded, uscheming and had a kind heart. William did really well potraying those characteristics. What made him a success for me was how he managed to portray the character in a normal sense, not slow his motor skills. What do I mean by that? Some of the past adaptations seemed to let on that just because Guo Jing was a toned down character and simple-minded (unscheming), he should be slow when it came to his motor skills too. (Well, unless it was during the fighting scenes, of course.) That was not the correct approach–just because some people thought that was how a simple character should be. William portrayed it in a way that was much more normal for Guo Jing’s age, considering how he was indeed exploring the various environments when the others led him back to the mainland. Then there were lots he had to learn about human mind, instead of his somehwat safe bubble since little. His reactions were normal and relatable, not just super slow and disorganized like some had portrayed previoulsy. So, yes, I credited him and the production for noticing those details and wanted to humanize his character even more instead of the robotic ways some had chosen to portray the character. Some ended up abandoning the approach halfway, which made the character even more contradictory thus failing. (That was why, aside from Felix, I hadn’t liked anyone who potrayed this character before.) The little details mattered. That was why William became my second favorite after watching.
  • Zoey Meng Zi Yi (孟子義) as Mu Nian Ci (穆念慈). Unfortunately, she was a major disappointment as Mu Nian Ci. I actually liked her style at first with her powerful moves and her vibrant appearance at times. I felt it was a different type of character since to be honest, I never thought Mu Nian Ci could be a sexy type of character before and she brought that forward. It was a different feeling and I won’t stomp on that bit. However, her lack of participation in the main plot made me frustrated. Not like I wanted her to steal everyone’s spotlight by appearing at the wrong time—unlike a certain adaptation, but she was so inactive with helping Huang Rong and Guo Jing that I wondered what her role was in there. That scene when Guo Jing was attacked in the palace? She ended up running away and committing suicide instead of confronting Yang Kang and helping the other two. Sure, it was devastating for her to find out the truth about the man she loved, but I felt her lack of reaction made it frustrating. What about her friendship with the other two? Not to mention Guo Jing was on the brink of death. They actually somewhat reinvented her character, I wished they had thought it through carefully, considering how well they did to uplift the other two with some details I had mentioned.
  • Chen Xing Xu (陈星旭) as Yang Kang (楊康). He wasn’t bad, but wasn’t the ultimate Yang Kang either. Yeah, I guess having Michael in the production made it a tad unease. I thought his best scenes were after he thought he lost Nian Ci and then eventually scheming against everyone, including Wanyan Honglie. He possibly gave his stepfather the creeps too sometimes because how the man stared at him from time to time, wondering what was going on in his head. It was near the end how he was going to go to the max with his evil plots. Because the rest didn’t make he feel he was Yang Kang. Just a casual villain. 

Supporting:

  • Five Invincible Beings
    • Michael Miu as Huang Yao Shi. LOL! When the news came out, I laughed for half an hour straight. Okay, exaggerating here BUT seriously! He was Yang Kang in the past, so it took a lot of convincing to see him in the role of Huang Yao Shi. (Initially, because I changed my mind when I finally watched.) If I had to admit, he was the handsomest Huang Yao Shi. (Yeah, I said what I said, NOT sorry.) Okay, for real, though, it wasn’t surprising that Michael pulled it through with his acting chops. He might not be your typical Huang Yao Shi that you had in mind, but he sure delivered with his own version and made it convincing. His attitude was sure stingy and could be arrogant at times, lol. But he delivered.
    • Hei Zi (黑子) as Ou Yang Feng (歐陽鋒). I thought he would have nailed this character without a doubt. But I was wrong. Considering how he had several similar roles where he was quite stingy and stubborn. Basically, hard to get along with and all. Perhaps, the scriptwriters wanted to dial it down a bit and make it different. Yet, it was the wrong call. Because he seemed much more reserved and polite that it made him less powerful in the grand scheme of things. Why would he be polite to those Jin royalties? He was a famous martial arts master after all. Wherever he went, he caused fear and havoc. He didn’t need all the decorum act. Yet those scenes where he was actaully polite to those people made me feel unease. It was so out of his character for someone like Ou Yang Feng. If he was being polite, it was just a facade. Like how he would do with the five invincible beings on the same level as him (because he was testing the water and didn’t want to rock the boat with them until he could beat them all). Yet this one showed genuine respect for some parties that made it hard to endure. To top it off, it seemed like he was getting chummy with the others whom the Jin royalties recruited to help their agenda. It was unbelivable. Seriously. (Yeung Chak Lam still the best, lol. Sorry, but he totally nailed the role.) But maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the actor himself here. It was possibly due to the fact that the scripwriters wanted him to be different yet missed the mark on their experiment.
    • Ray Lui as Reverend Yi Dang (一燈大師). After having seen him portrayed Bodhidharma, I had no doubt about it and he delivered. I know it has been a really long time since that past role. But this was considered a safe role for Ray. So, I didn’t think he needed a crash course or anything, lol.
    • Zhao Li Xin is portraying Hong Qi Gong (洪七公). I surprisingly liked him much more than I expected. Mostly, because I didn’t know what to expect with some pictures and initial trailers. I really liked his humor, his mischievousness but also his serious side. The actor did really well to make the character likable and lively all around.
    • Han Dong as Wang Chong Yang (王重陽). It was a brief and interesting appearance. He delivered. It wasn’t that hard, lol. But he made the character seemed serious and respectable enough for what was relevant to the story.
  • Seven Freaks of Jiangnan
    • Wang Kui Rong (王奎荣) as Ke Zhen E (柯鎮惡). The leader of the group.
    • Ji Chen Mu (姬晨牧) as Zhu Cong (朱聰). The brain of the group.
    • Wang Chun Yuan (王春元) as Han Bao Ju (韓寶駒).
    • Ma Jing Jing (马京京) as Nan Xi Ren (南希仁).
    • Xin Peng (信鹏) as Zhang A Sheng (張阿生).
    • Long De (龙德) as Quan Jin Fa (全金發).
    • Xiao Yin (肖茵) as Han Xiao Ying (韓小瑩). The only female member of the group.
  • Mi Lu as Mei Chao Feng. She delivered her character well. No doubt about it.
  • Zong Feng Yan (宗峰岩) is Wanyan Honglie (完颜洪烈). I thought he did a good job for his role. He was convincing.
  • Liu Zhi Yang (刘智扬) as Ou Yang Ke (歐陽克). I got used to his image as I watched further into the series. I realized that since he came from a different place, it made sense that he was dressed differently. However, his character, that was a different story. All right, the background story was the same for the most part. It was different in a sense that it allowed us to see more into his character than what was on the surface. We got to see his vulnerable side and his emotional state with his abandonment issues and his struggles growing up. I welcomed those different interpretations. It made sense, considering where he came from and how he must have suffered because of his uncle’s techniques, etc. Yet that sort of presented this tricky situation and became a double-edged sword in the grand picture. How? It became an excuse for his behaviors later and how it projected this rapists apologist vibe major time. How in the world did I jump to such a conclusion? Ou Yang Ke was a serial rapist. Yet having him so relateable distracted some viewers major time and sympathized with him, even siding with him in some situations. There were comments circulating about how Huang Rong was cruel to him. It was disturbing, to say that least. Once again, I need to clarify that I’m not picking on the actor. I felt he did a good job portraying this adaptation’s version of the character and I could feel his pain at times with being abandoned by his father when little and was forced to be tough. However, the scriptwriters glossed over the fact that all the women that he kidnapped and raped didn’t do a thing wrong. He was a dangerous person, why should Huang Rong show him mercy? If he captured her, she would be Victim # who knows what. (Which didn’t make sense during the ship explosion incident that she entrusted her master to him. It was a ridiculous bit. It showed Huang Rong’s vulnerability at that point and she wasn’t thinking straight but I didn’t like that bit.)
  • Ning Wen Tong as Zhou Bo Tong (周伯通). I thought he was funny at first and didn’t mind his over the top jokes. It was his own portrayal. However, I felt the script failed when he said that they might as well give the manual to Wanyan Honglie. Even that was a ridiculous comment no matter who said it, because although Zhou Bo Tong loved jokes and all, he was patriotic in his own way, knowing what was important and serious. He wouldn’t insist they hand the manual over. 
  • Zhang Kai Yi (张楷依) as Ying Gu (瑛姑). She was so beautiful and fitted the role so well. I actually really enjoyed watching her. Yeah, I know she went overboard with some stuff, but honestly, try to lose a kid and no one was on your side regarding situations, you would go psycho too. I seriously was floored that Huang Rong (regardless of versions) wasn’t on her side regarding what happened. Just because Yi Dang repented didn’t make things better (and possibly because he was her father’s friend). But seriously, Huang Rong was one of those characters that went against the general public’s opinions. Sure, it wasn’t Yi Dang’s fault technically because he didn’t attack the kid (and he indeed was in a hard situation, knowing possibly the enemy created a trap for him) BUT he didn’t save an innocent child when it called for it. He put his pride above all else. (So yeah, he was lost in my book anyway–regardless of version.) Anyway, back to Ying Gu, I felt she was once again blamed (just like Xi Ruo) because she was a beautiful woman. Sure, she committed infedility BUT it wasn’t like she could leave the royal palace and divorce the king and get out the relationship. (It was all right that the king had lots of wives though, let’s overlook that bit. Yeah, sarcasm here. I don’t care if they didn’t show every one of the king’s wives in here, you have to be crazy to think he was one loyal king to have only one wife.) You must be like, “But two wrongs don’t make a right.” If there weren’t so many double standards going on, I would have reconsider. But this? Also, Zhou Bo Tong was a coward and I hated him even more in this version than ever. He ran away and left her just like that because he couldn’t deal with his own problems. (Sure, it was fun watching him at times but to think about it more seriously, he wasn’t that likable either if considering all angles.)
  • Xia Zi Tong (夏梓桐) as Sha Gu (傻姑). The actress was convincing in her role. She was kind of adorable too.
  • Tay Ping Hui is Temujin (鐵木真) aka Genghis Khan (成吉思汗). No one could beat Paul Chun in the role, but Tay Ping Hui came to a close second with his portrayal.
  • Dai Wen Wen (代文雯) as Hua Zheng (華箏). It was really hard to like her, regardless. I did consider all that they’d been through. But seriously, not much difference. Technically, she was the legit wife and Huang Rong was the third-party. However, the fact that Guo Jing never liked her and treated her like his sister and only reconsidered because of his supposed duties and gratitude toward her father said it for me. Sure, it wasn’t her fault she liked him, but the advantage was in her court when her father was so powerful.
  • Fu Tian Jiao (傅天骄) as Jebe (哲別). Guo Jing’s archery master.

Others:

  • Shao Bing as Guo Xiao Tian. Guo Jing’s father. Not much to say really except he sure was unlucky, lol. Shao Bing portrayed him well as an honest and patriotic character though.
  • Zeng Li as Li Ping. Guo Jing’s mother. I like Zeng Li, really like her as actress and thought she did quite well in this role. However, character-wise? NOT really. Am I being petty because of how the plot favored her and paved her out to be an enduring mother, bringing up her son without needing to remarry? No, I just never liked her because of how hypocritcal her character turned out to be. Yes, I said it. I actually wrote the character analysis for Xi Ruo first before circling back to this one. Given the situation, do you think she wouldn’t choose the same thing as Xi Ruo? I swear! You’re all like, “But you don’t like what ifs and thought it was unfair if the plot picked on Xi Ruo.” Yes, I do. But there was a pattern to based it on. She didn’t have a problem with pushing her son to marry Hua Zheng. It was all right that she liked Hua Zheng as a person, but wanting to push her son just because she liked Hua Zheng? Was it to repay all those gratitude? But seriously, if given a chance and if Genghis Khan had picked her, would she turn him down? She might not love him, but she could have done it out of gratitude, just like how she pushed her son to do so. (Of course, things change later, but seriously.) Stop making it like the hero’s mom was all superior to the villain’s mom just because. AND I’m not trying to pit the two women (Li Ping and Xi Ruo) against one another by doing the comparison or getting into this ridiculous debate that probably no ones cares about (because it is all fictional), but the plot did that.
  • Li Zong Han as Yang Tie Xin. Yang Kang’s father. I never really liked him regardless, so not much to say really. It was interesting to see him portraying this character though.
  • Crystal Liu Qian Han as Bao Xi Ruo. Yang Kang’s mother. I surprisingly liked her a lot more in this version. I thought it was a matter of perspective and I welcomed it more, actually. Some of the past versions made her out to be the villain straight away, no thought process whatsoever just because she followed another man. Yet, this one allowed us more time to explore her character individually than was just the surface of the plot with laying out the sequence of events unfolding. I thought the scenes of how they gave equal time to both of the widows and to-be-mothers’ struggles and journey after the tragedies made it better. Yes, some of the past adaptations also did that, but they highlighted and elevated Li Ping more because she was the hero’s mother. However, this one showed us how vividly Xi Ruo felt after the tragedy and the hardships she went through. She didn’t ask for all of the tragedies either, how the world was she supposed to know she saved the wrong person and thus unleashed a chain of events unknowingly? They glossed over the fact that she was also a vulnerable, pregnant woman all alone as well, NOT just Li Ping. Just because one was considered stronger physically didn’t mean that the other deserved all the hate because she was less capable. So, she remarried, but her thought process at that point was to protect her child. The safety of the baby was her priority and she might or might not made the best choice by following that dude. But she was in a very vulnerable state. Also, other versions totally hating on her for being beautiful (thus causing tragedies like that stupid old saying I hate). It wasn’t her fault she was beautiful. Besides, her beauty wasn’t forever, she’ll grow old one day too. Oh yeah, anyone felt like they should blame the dude who couldn’t control himself thus causing all these tragedies? Or her husband for knowing she was beautiflu and married her? (If she was so much trouble, why don’t you pick someone you don’t consider “beautiful” then? Then no tragedies. Yes, I’m on a roll, I’m not letting anyone off. Also, I’m sorry you’re so perfect, you know exactly what to do at the exact moment if you were to be thrown into the exact obstacle as hers.) If you’re like, “But they did condemn Wanyan Honglie.” Um, they hated him because he was part of the Jin empire and wanted to take over the Song dynasty. They didn’t focus as much on how he should be blamed for lusting after Xi Ruo, not being able to control himself. Yes, they did acknowledge he caused the deaths of Guo Xiao Tian and Yang Tie Xin (initially), but still acted like Xi Ruo was “the beauty causing the tragedies.”

Relationships – Friendships, romances, etc.

  • William Yang/ Guo Jing and Li Yi Tong/ Huang Rong. They were so adorable and I loved them from the start. They were probably my favorite Guo Jing and Huang when focused on and I actually rooted for them throughout. (Once again, loved Felix and Barbara, but I actually loved watching Yang Kang and Nian Ci more in that version, lol. Don’t ask, blame Michael and Sharon.) Everything they went through–although the majority were almost the same because the creators of the series needed to stick with the original story, but some of their additional scenes were so cute. I could watch them forever, which is unrealstic, I know. But they were one of the rare few on screen couples of recent that made me feel excited to ship any pairing–for that matter, lol. Their chemistry were seriously off the charts for me. I looked forward to all their scenes together and hated that they had to be apart at any moment of the plot (didn’t matter if I knew that was how it was supposed to be). What was even more adorable? Not sure who posted it (possibly the production team or the actor/actress themselves), but there was there were several pictures floating around capturing a scene they were getting ready for the shoot. William helped Yi Tong combed her hair and all. It was so cute!
  • Chen Xing Xu/ Yang Kang and Zoey Meng/ Mu Nian Ci. I don’t know. I saw some off screen pictures of them at different promotional events and they looked quite compatible, but on screen, not so much. It was possibly because they made her look older or something. NOT saying she’s old, lol. The image for her in there made her much more mature than his image in there. When I brought it up, someone said it was possibly they showed how she had traveled far and wide with her godfather and had endured a lot hence showing her more matured and experinced versus his having been in a royal bubble for all his life. That made sense and gave me something to think about. Anyway, together? Sometimes, I was convinced. I don’t know. (Once again, blame Michael and Sharon, lol. They made a strong impression on me ages ago and even overrode my focus toward Felix and Barbara, so what made you think these two could convince me otherwise?) I thought their acting individually and how they showed they cared about one another was convincing. But together, it seemed only so and so. Maybe it would have nice to see them in a modern background? LOL! Just a thought.
  • The friendships between all the four major characters. I thought they had more foundation in here thus making the betrayals of later more heartbreaking. There were some scenes that was extended and showed us how the four of them shared a bond before things got even more serious with all the conflicts and complications that forced them all to pick sides. It was also interesting that they developed a separate friendship for Huang Rong and Nian Ci as well, not just somewhat interacting because their signicant others were sworn brothers. Well, they didn’t have a problem at all in some of the past adaptions. But sometimes the elders made it harder by pitching them against one another. Their genuine friendship in here made me felt their characters were also independent from their significant others as well, allowing them their own space. Like they weren’t mentioned just because of the other two characters. That was also one of the top reasons why I felt it was a joke regarding Nian Ci’s inactiveness in defense of Guo Jing and Huang Rong as said above. Perhaps, the writers gave up near the middle after they were done developing the initial scenes? I don’t know. I know, they had to make it different and gave us something else to think about. Yet it was hard to swallow.
  • Shao Bing/ Guo Xiao Tian and Zeng Li/ Li Ping. Despite my criticisms of her character and all, I loved them as a couple. They sure had chemistry and showed their bond well during their brief appearances together.
  • Li Zong Han/ Yang Tie Xin and Cyrstal Liu Qian Han/ Bao Xi Ruo. They matched and seemed like a model couple and all.

Discussions:

  • Tribute to TVB’s ’83 version? I’m guessing but it seems so. Because they used to the theme song for the other version as a basis. They made it a softer version with music only. It was suitable though and a nice touch. One of the rare remixes that I liked.
  • The parents’ stories were brief. Despite some extensions of scenes and exploration of characters added here and there, I felt it was nicely brief. Because TVB’s ’83 version sure dragged it out with the parents later on and the unnecessary back and forth. This being the umpteenth adaptation sort of helped pushing it forward and not dwell too long. But It was nice that they stuck through with making it brief instead of dragging it out on purpose so the actors and actresses had more scenes.
  • Guo Jing actually apologized to Huang Yao Shi after the misunderstandings were resolved. I don’t remmeber what happened in the old versions anymore. Possibly he did and Huang Yao Shi just brushed it off as one of those polite stuff that he rather do without. But this one made it tenfold more sincere when Guo Jing tried to apologize for all the terrible stuff he did during the misunderstandings.
  • Mu Nian Ci fallen down a cliff and still managed to NOT miscarry. Um, okay, I have to clarfiy, I have nothing against Little Yang Guo, okay? But that was one of the most unbelivable scenes ever. It was really hard to overlook. You know how high that cliff is? So yeah. That one dude fell off to his death while trying to grab onto Huang Rong’s condor. How could Nian Ci survived? You could say she fell where the trees were so she must have been saved by the branches versus the other dude falling down the rocky area. Even if she had fortunately survived, how could she not miscarry?
  • Comments. This was one of the sole reasons why it took me forever to watch this. I didn’t finish until two years actually, lol. Because it got locked and then I sort of came back when it was unlocked. When I watched it while it was airing, I couldn’t turn off the comments at all and it was flying across the screen. It was so annoying. But those comments are seriously ridiculous and a good reason as to why I stop searching around for discussions in recent years. Why? Um, an example would be people picking on Guo Jing and Huang Rong for holding hands all the time when they were together. (If it was up to me, I would have cut all scenes without them and have them hold hands all throughout, lol. So, who needs the haters? LOL!) The thing was the people who picked on Guo Jing and Huang Rong for holding hands were the same ones who cheered for Yang Kang to impregnate Nian Ci so Yang Guo could come into existence. NO, I’m not jealous with them for cheering for their favorites. BUT seriously, read the line carefully again. It’s WAY up there and much more intimate than the whole holding hands bit. Seriously. I initially didn’t want to put this in here but had to get that off my chest.

Recommended? I think it’s up to you. Considering how this is the umpteenth adaptation now, I think it’s reasonable to opt-out, lol. It actually rings true for other series as well, lol. It’s all up to preference. I would say there were ups and downs of this version, like others as well. But the most important thing is you have to like the cast to enjoy it. Or you can just skip around, lol.

The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber 2018: Review

I realized I never reviewed this, lol. It was like I updated once and never went back. The thing was, I wrote some notes down while watching and after watching yet just never returned to finish it up and post the review. So, here it is now, lol. I had to change some comments after having cooled down a bit. But the majority remained about the same. So, how was it? It was disappointing, to say the least. It started out quite promising actually. I loved every part leading up to where all the major characters finally appeared. Then it just went downhill from there. Okay, I know, I know. This is the umpteenth adaptation already, so they had to put some kind of twist into it to attract viewers. I get that. I read somewhere once (and had forgotten where actually so can’t name the source) that each adaptation represented that generation (aka what they could relate to, etc). That actually made a lot of sense because of how the stories and perspectives got changed and somewhat modernized over the years. Sometimes, it leaned more toward one side or another because of how the production team wanted to approach the story. So, yes, I learned to analyze it from different perspectives instead of just blindly following the original source like previously. But what dragged this version down to the point of frustration was that it seemed like the scriptwriters gave up and eventually just wanted to end the series. I’ll get into more details later. But the general low-energy feeling also made me want to give up on it as well. Except, I sort of wanted to see how it all turned out so I stuck around. In some ways, it was more realistic, but in other ways, it just made you want to scream because of the amount of frustration going on during the last fifteen or so episodes. Enough gloom and doom from me, right? LOL! Let’s get right into it.

Main Cast:

  • Joseph Zeng (曾舜晞) as Zhang Wu Ji (張無忌). Surprisingly passed all expectations. Not saying that I didn’t have faith in him. Yet I started watching him first in Fighter of Destiny and his role was extremely lively and bordering on obnoxiousness (initially until things got intense later on). So, I didn’t know what to expect–or if he could portray such a calm and toned down character. It wasn’t like Wu Ji didn’t have his mischievous moments, but there was an obvious constrast to that of Tang San Shi Liu. Anyway, as Wu Ji, Joseph brought out the character quite well and made it his own in this adaptation. I saw some criticism regarding how Wu Ji was crying too much or seemed weak. I didn’t think so. Because comparing all Jin Yong protagonist, Wu Ji was probably the kindest of them all, except for possibly Xu Zhu (because of his monk background). So it made sense that he was extra sensitive and all. I felt Joseph did really well in those scenes, bringing out all sorts of emotions that he went through or it highlighted the relations that he had with those characters.
  • Yukee Chen (陈钰琪) will be Zhao Min (趙敏). I was scared to death that I wouldn’t like her when she finally appeared. Serious. Because it just seemed too good to be true with me liking the casting for the majority of the characters thus far. She was the female lead yet was the last to appear–as it should be like how the story was told in the novel. Yet when she appeared, the scene just lit up tenfold more–if that was possible. She handled the character brilliantly and made it her own. I was amazed. She was gorgeous, almost fairylike yet also projected off this suspicious, cunning vibe as well. It was fascinating to watch what Yukee could do with the character. Her best scene was probably at the seaside when she told Wu Ji that one day she was more capable of cruel acts than him, which ironically caused her more trouble later.
  • Bambi Chu (祝绪丹) is Zhou Zhi Ruo (周芷若). I actually really liked her at first, which was really rare for someone portraying ZZR. I meant I know differences between actors and their roles. I know that, but I felt she was so suitable and her story made me actually like ZZR at first. I even liked her more than Sheren Tang’s version because she exuded the innocent and kind image better and how I was impressed with the way they made her skills improve bit by bit, showing us how she could become someone with such potential. What got me really upset was how she got away with everything. Sure, they exaggerated the bit about her wanting to be queen someday. BUT given all the crap she pulled, she sure got away with it so easily. I was siding with her regarding Song Qing Xu’s situation because he was an asshole to her when he was little YET only stalked her and demanded she was his because she grew up all beautiful? So I welcomed it when she used him since he totally deserved with all the suffering he caused her. But the turnaround was a joke regarding both characters anyway. It was a shame.
  • Kabby Hui (許雅婷) as Xiao Zhao (小昭). I also quite liked her. It was interesting to see that she could be kind and gentle yet also possessed this strength within her also. She was probably the one who understood Wu Ji the most (if this made Zhao Min fans sad, I’m sorry but that seemed consistent with some past adaptations too). She wanted to be by Wu Ji’s side and conceal herself, not caring if she was invisible. Yet she knew who he cared about the most hence having that talk with Zhao Min later. Although I knew others had the right to be upset with her, especially Wu Ji, for her deception at first, I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for her. It was mostly because she was always pushed forth by her mother to do all those schemes, not having a life of her own. She had to be the replacement for her mom in the end, needing to use herself to mend the gap and live a life where she couldn’t control either. People might think that she probably ascend to a role of power later, but seriously, it was all those people pulling the strings later on.
  • Cao Xi Yue (曹曦月) is Yin Li (殷離) aka Zhu Er (蛛兒). I really liked her in this version too. I felt that it was a shame they didn’t make her expose ZZR like other versions. She didn’t remember at first and then she banged her head on the pole and remembered. Yet, of course, it was too late with lots of stuff, so she chose to remain silent and be happy like how she was expected. It was indeed sad. Zhao Min knew later because she (Zhu Er) accidentally let it slip, but it was still so sad. The relationship between her and her father was mended again, because how she pretended to not remember YET I didn’t think the asshole deserved it. But I guess it was her choice. 

Supporting:

  • Lin Yu Shen (林雨申) as Yang Xiao (楊逍). I didn’t really feel his Yang Xiao vibe at first. But I wasn’t really against him either if looking at a different character. Because he was indeed enjoyable and exuded his power when needed. He was quite charming too. So I was more accepting of him later in regard to that. I guess what I was trying to say was he gave off the wanderer, vigliante vibe more than the leader of some cult. Yet I got used to him later and quite enjoyed his performance.
  • Zong Feng Yan (宗峰岩) as Fan Yao (范遙). I thought it was interesting that Fan Yao developed a real master and disciple relationship with Zhao Min in here. Especially the conflicting feelings he went through and ended up rescuing her from the execution site. However, it showed that he was using her to forgo his agenda in the end. It was indeed disappointing but not too out of character for Ming Cult. He was given more scenes near the end (versus how it was often seen that Yang Xiao appeared more in past versions) because they needed some change? I wasn’t totally against it but the asshole made me even more mad when he appeared more than when not. So yeah. Aside from that, I thought the actor did quite well with his portrayal.
  • Sun An Ke (孙安可) as Yang Bu Hui (楊不悔). And I just realized and discussed with various family members that Bu Hui would always be likable regardless of version. It was indeed true in here as well. She was so kind and lovable. Yes, she could be so stubborn and stuff too, but it was much-needed and it was who she was. But I loved her so much. She was one of the shining spots of the show. The more shame that she ended up with such an asshole. YES, they made the 6th dude even more annoying in here. He didn’t deserve her at all. So I welcomed Yang Xiao giving him a hard time at times, lol. 
  • Wang De Shun (王德顺) as Zhang San Feng (張三丰). Considering how fierce he looked in the production stills, I would expect him to uphold the sect’s rule much more. Yet it failed. The forgiveness route just didn’t jibe well with the situation. Especially it was a slap in the face and a joke to the 7th guy–who died so senselessly.
  • Kathy Chow as Abbess Mie Jue (滅絕師太). Zhu Zhi Ruo’s master. She was sure ten shades of disappointment for the role. Yes, I said it. I was actually looking forward to watching her because of old sentiments, lol. Even if she wasn’t my favorite back in the days either. The reason? The plot killed it. It wasn’t really her fault and I got it that the production team wanted to approach it a different way. Sure, Kathy’s acting wasn’t lacking. Yet the script made it really pitiful that she wasn’t as powerful as she seemed to let on. I don’t know if Jin Yong changed the third version, but I doubt it. But the first version had it that she was the one who went over to the Mongolian territority and snatched the Heavenly sword back thus earning her reptutation and ascending to power. Yet this version made it that Yang Xiao was the one doing that in order to fulfill Xiao Fu’s wish, lol. That made it a good detail for those into their romance, lol. YET it was really, really pathetic on Abbess Mie Jue’s part. The other despicable deeds she did to justify her “righteousness” and that she was from the “good side”? Yeah, that was already a given from the novel, so no surprise.
  • Louis Fan (樊少皇) as Cheng Kun (成昆) aka Yuan Zhen (圓真). Um, okay, I just wanted to laugh each time he appeared. I meant I think those days of Louis portraying serious roles are so over. I don’t know, he just looked to goofy nowadays. The details of the plot did make him dispicable. Yet that was just part of plot detail that needed to be there. That was all.
  • Zhao Chao Ren (张超人) as Song Qing Shu (宋青書). Song Yuan Qiao (宋遠橋)’s son. He got such a noble ending? OMG, anyone wanted to scream? I’m not against people redeeming themselves but I felt they were always lenient with him in here just because he was Song Yuan Qiao’s son. I was glad the scene were Wu Ji was framed was short and all. However, it was stupid to let him off so easily. It was strange that they got the manipulative bit of the other sects and cult down, but refused to commit with calling Song Qing Shu out on his misdeeds and wrongdoings. It was like they refused to condemn him for his attempted rape on ZZR, his disrespectfulness toward Zhang San Feng and the sect in general, and much, much more. It was so frustrating that you wondered if the writers were on something. It was like the 7th guy died for nothing. Anyone wanted to think about him anymore? Guess not.

Others:

  • Ethan Li (李东学) as Zhang Cui San (張翠山). I didn’t know what to make of him at first, was just going through the motion of watching the initial scenes that I’d witnessed many times before during past adaptations. But I actually enjoyed some of his performances and later grew to like him more as the character. He really lived up to the role. I really like somewhat of his mischiviousness as well. It was subtle at times but it was there.
  • Maggie Chen (陈欣予) as Yin Su Su (殷素素). I really liked her in this role. It was really surprising–yes, another surprise one. I thought she brought out the character quite well, making you think more about the character’s essence and who Yin Su Su was. She exuded the confident side very well at first and how ruthless she could be with her enemies as well. That was who she because of her father and her initial background. The things she grew up believing–or was taught. Then there was the scenes of later how she realized she didn’t want all of that, but just a normal famliy. She wasn’t naive to not understand the situation. But it indeed felt like a blessing that they were trapped at that one island. Because seriously, it was the only time they were able to live peacefully and away from all those dramas.
  • He Zi (黑子) as Xie Xun (謝遜) aka The Golden Haired Lion King (金毛獅王). Regardless how much I hated his hypocritical ass later too, the actor did quite well in his role. His fierceness was at the right touches. Then the gentle side when he was with Little Wu Ji at first was hilarious.
  • Yang Ming Na (杨明娜) as Dai Qi Si (黛綺絲) aka Purple Dress Dragon King (紫衫龍王) aka Golden Flower Granny (金花婆婆). She sure fitted the role quite well with the appearance the production laid out for her. Then her acting did the rest. I quite like Yu Ming Na, so I enjoyed her brief performance, even if I thought she was as psycho too, lol. Hey, she was from Ming sect after all. Couldn’t be too normal.
  • Ewen Sun (孙亦凡) as Wang Bao Bao (王保保). Zhao Min’s brother.

Relationships – romances, friendships, etc.

  • Joseph Zeng and Yukee Chen as Wu Ji and Zhao Min. I swear I loved their characters individually but together, they weren’t that compatible. Yes, their acting had me convince later that they indeed belonged together but if just looking at them at times, I wasn’t as convinced as some past pairings of Wu Ji and Zhao Min. 
  • Ethan Li and Maggie Chen as Zhang Cui San and Yin Su Su. They surprisingly shared great chemistry with one another. At least, I thought so. During their brief appearances at the beginning, they made a greater impact than the last third part of the series, which was sad–to say the least, lol. But I usually found myself enjoying Wu Ji’s parents’ story more–regardless of version. So, yes, it didn’t change for this one. Even if I liked some of the later parts too, but I felt their scenes together were the best part of the series itself. It led on a bittersweet feeling. Too bad, they had to return to reality and dealt with all of those stuff and then the inevitable happened. I could say that they were my second favorite pairing of Cui San and Su Su. Yes, over the years, only one couple made an impression on me regarding these two characters’ portrayals. Now, these two became my second favorite.
  • The friendship and trust developed between Zhao Min and several of the characters in here. What was interesting was seeing the friendship and trust that suddenly sparked between Zhao Min and Xiao Zhao. I didn’t expect some mushy talk between them before Xiao Zhao left for good. Yet it was an interesting and refreshing scene for me. Interesting how both Zhu Er and Xiao Zhao had this bond with Zhao Min that ZZR couldn’t. It was a riot for me in some ways and compensated for how terrible Zhao Min was treated somewhat. But yeah. 

Likes:

  • The majority of the main cast. I thought they matched really well with their characters.
  • Costumes. I was surprised they didn’t go for super weird combinatios and these actually looked like ancient wuxia type of costumes. It seemed like they did put in a lot of efforts with different sects and all. It wasn’t hard, but some of the past recent ones got me scratching my head for a bit. The only flaw I have to once again point out was regarding Wu Dang’s seven desciples. Thy weren’t Taoists exactly, but Zhang San Feng’s special desciples. Unlike the rest of the other Taoists, they were allowed to marry. SO, I didn’t like it that they kept repeating the same mistake for this version with dressing them in Taoist clothes.
  • Scenery. When all things failed, at least the beautiful sceneries made it worthwhile, right?
  • Xiao Wu Ji and Xie Xun were so cute. Xie Xun even forgot about his saber and went to play with Wu Ji, not caring about anything anymore. It made sense of how heart-broken Wu Ji was upon learning how blood thirsty his godfather was later on during that scene by the seaside when Xie Xun killed everyone of the Mongoalins who came to pick them up. Sure, he learned from different stories but thought the man had already redeemed himself after hearing that Xie Xun realized his mistakes of killing an innocent monk (who had been conned too to be in such a place). 
  • The humor at times between various Ming Cult members. Yang Xiao, Yi Yi Xiao and Zhou Dian were seen snapping at each other at times that it was funny. YET I couldn’t forgive of them for their asshole moves either. Too bad.

Dislikes:

  • Themesong. NOT saying I have a problem with Wakin Chou or the song. The song was a good one and suited the theme. Yet it was recycled and was a bit lazy, to say the least. The ending theme song was good though.
  • The ending, definitely the ending. NOT talking about the final scene where Wu Jji and Zhao Min reunited after so much went on. I was talking about the events leading up to it and all the wrap-ups. It was a mess and the writers definitely went all out on the killing, which made it tenfold more ridiculous than it should be. What was that word I was looking for? Overkilled. Yeah, that. It was so overkilled that I just rolled my eyes a lot while watching those parts. It wasn’t impossible because they were at war after all. But it never seemed like they wanted to stop. They just went and killed all the major characters like that. Also, I was told that there would be a heated confrontation between Wu Ji and Zhi Ruo regarding what happened to Zhu Er and how ZZR pulled all those schemes to frame Zhao Min. But I was so disappointed because it was brief and wasn’t like anyone else knew. Once again, ZZR got away with it. Even when such a misunderstanding occurred, Zhao Min got no justice. Xie Xun was an asshole for not clarifying stuff to the others either, not caring that the rest of Ming Cult hated Zhao Min even more. Thus making his becoming a monk a joke. He was still holding grudges or biases toward others. Zhao Min was right when she said Xie Xun was being really unfair to her. YES, even when he became a monk, he also wanted to force Zhao Min away. Even if it was the other Ming Cult members wanting him to do it and/or persuade him, it didn’t matter. He made his own decision in the end. Instead, he chose to be nice and gentle with ZZR and sacrificed himself for her. Yes, he was right that they were both similar in their blind hate BUT it was a joke to see him so invested in her. What made it a bigger joke was him liking ZZR so much because she was such a kiss-up to him previously. I swear, he hated those who were sweet talkers and ass kissers previously, BUT he was partial to her because she once treated him nice? Please. It made him another hypocrite among the seas of hypocrites. That brought me to my next point. This version sided with Zhou Zhi Ruo major time. It wasn’t like it was a bad thing to have another approach. But I felt like the stuff they let ZZR get away with made it frustrating to another level. Sure, she did a lot of awful stuff and was scheming YET she was from Zhong Yuan so they let her get away with stuff? This version was also very unfair to Zhao Min that made past versions so tamed down. In a way, it was more realistic, but I felt Ming Cult was really being hypocritical for treating Zhao Min like that. Yeah, they were bitter BUT so was all of ZZR’s actions toward them or Emei’s actions in general. Yet once again because Zhao Min was Mongolian and ZZR was still from their side, supposedly, so they let her off. The Ming Cult probably was more realistic in here that they showed their ruthless and scheming nature more. They used and disposed of people, especially Wu Ji in the end that made it all so frustrating that Wu Ji was that kind to them. Zhao Min was indeed right that they were just using Wu Ji’s reputation and the ability to gain trust toward the different sects already so they just let him be a puppet leader while they manipulated everything in the background. I think there were many things to consider and felt like it was more realistic in a sense rather seeing them all get along, BUT I felt they (the scriptwriters) sort of missed the mark about making everyone equally scheming one way or another. Because Jin Yong’s jianghu often implied that the supposed good side wasn’t all that good, just a front. YET in here, almost everyone had their own agenda. The first version of the novel, it was indeed revealed that Wu Ji left in the end because he overheard the Ming Cult members talking about getting rid of someone after using that person for some scheme. It was a misunderstanding, they were talking about someone in the cell next to Wu Ji, which Wu Ji was unable to see. That was why Wu Ji left. NOT sure if it was revise in the third version regarding that detail. But I felt it was too cruel to see how they  went all out with isolating Wu Ji and treating him like a puppet later on. Sure, it was more realistic, but I think it was overkilled with piling it on like that.

Recommended? I think you could watch it if you want, for the cast. It’s a different perspective for the current generation. If you like the cast, definitely check it out. It’s worth it for them. After all my ranting, you would think I don’t recommend it. But in actuality, if you don’t associate it with the original source and treat it like a standalone wuxia series, it was one of the decent ones in recent years.

Single Love Song by Terry Lin

(Uploaded by: TerryLinVEVO)

Song Title: Single Love Song (單身情歌)

Music by: Chen Yao Chuan (陳耀川)

Lyrics by: Yi Jia Yang (易家揚)

Key:
Bold = Original
Teal = Pin Yin
Tainted Blue = English
Muddled Green = Vietnamese

拉不住愛情的我
la bu zhu ai qing de wo
A person who is unable to keep love like me
Người giữ không được tình yêu như là tôi
總是眼睜睜看她溜走
zong shi yan zheng zheng kan ta liu zou
Could only stare helplessly as she walk away
Chỉ có thể trừng mắt nhìn cô ta bỏ đi
世界上幸福的人到處有
shi jie shang xing fu de ren dao chu you
There are many blissful people in this world
Thế giới có biết bao nhiêu người hạnh phúc
為何不能算我一個
wei he bu neng suan wo yi ge
Why can’t I be counted as one?
Tại sao không thể tính luôn tôi?

為了愛孤軍奮鬥
wei le ai gu jun fen dou
Fighting alone because of love
Vì tình yêu mà phấn đấu một mình
早就吃夠了愛情的苦
zao jiu chi gou le ai qing de ku
Having endured enough bitterness because of love
Sớm đã ném đủ đắng cay của tình yêu
在愛中失落的人到處有
zai ai zhong shi luo de ren dao chu you
There are many lost people within the world of relationships
Có biết bao nhiêu người bị thất lạc trong tình yêu
而我只是其中一個
er wo zhi shi qi zhong yi ge
That also includes me
Trong số đó cũng có luôn cả tôi

愛要越挫越勇
ai yao yue cuo yue yong
Love should be about resilience
Tình yêu phải càng xuống dốc thì càng dũng cảm hơn
愛要肯定執著
ai yao ken ding zhi zhe
Love should consist of certainty and stubbornness
Tình yêu phải quả quyết và cố chấp
每一個單身的人得看透
mei yi ge dan shen de ren de kan tou
Those who are single knows that fact
Mỗi một người độc thân đều nhìn rõ được
想愛就別怕傷痛
xiang ai jiu bie pa shang tong
If you want to love, don’t fear pain
Nếu muốn yêu thì đừng sợ bị tổn thương

找一個最愛的 深愛的 相愛的 親愛的人 來告別單身
zhao yi ge zui ai de   shen ai de   xiang ai de   qin ai de ren   lai gao bie dan shen
Searching for someone who loves as hard, as deep, as kind, as dearly so I could say farewell to bachelorhood
Tìm một người yêu hết mức, thâm tình nhứt, tương ái nhứt, thân ái nhứt để đến cáo biệt đơn thân
一個多情的 癡情的 絕情的 無情的人 來給我傷痕
yi ge duo qing de   chi qing de   wu qing de ren   lai gei wo shang hen
Someone who is passionate, infatuated, heartless, and ruthless that will give me all the wounds
Một người vừa đa tình, si tình, tuyệt tình và vô tính nhứt để tặng tôi những vết thương

孤單的人那麼多
gu dan de ren na me duo
There are many single people
Có biết bao nhiêu người cô đơn
快樂的沒有幾個
kuai le de mei you ji ge
There aren’t many of those who are happy
Vui vẻ chả có được bao nhiêu
不要愛過了 錯過了
bu yao ai guo le   cuo guo le
Don’t love and then regret
Đừng nên yêu rồi và lầm lỡ
留下了單身的我 獨自唱情歌
liu xia le dan shen de wo   du zi chang qing ge
Leaving me behind all alone, singing a love song
Để lại tôi cô đơn một mình hát bài tình ca

(music)

為了愛孤軍奮鬥
wei le ai gu jun fen dou
Fighting alone because of love
Vì tình yêu mà phấn đấu một mình
早就吃夠了愛情的苦
zao jiu chi gou le ai qing de ku
Having endured enough bitterness because of love
Sớm đã ném đủ đắng cay của tình yêu
在愛中失落的人到處有
zai ai zhong shi luo de ren dao chu you
There are many lost people within the world of relationships
Có biết bao nhiêu người bị thất lạc trong tình yêu
而我只是其中一個
er wo zhi shi qi zhong yi ge
That also includes me
Trong số đó cũng có luôn cả tôi

愛要越挫越勇
ai yao yue cuo yue yong
Love should be about resilience
Tình yêu phải càng xuống dốc thì càng dũng cảm hơn
愛要肯定執著
ai yao ken ding zhi zhe
Love should consist of certainty and stubbornness
Tình yêu phải quả quyết và cố chấp
每一個單身的人得看透
mei yi ge dan shen de ren de kan tou
Those who are single knows that fact
Mỗi một người độc thân đều nhìn rõ được
想愛就別怕傷痛
xiang ai jiu bie pa shang tong
If you want to love, don’t fear pain
Nếu muốn yêu thì đừng sợ bị tổn thương

找一個最愛的 深愛的 相愛的 親愛的人 來告別單身
zhao yi ge zui ai de   shen ai de   xiang ai de   qin ai de ren   lai gao bie dan shen
Searching for someone who loves as hard, as deep, as kind, as dearly so I could say farewell to bachelorhood
Tìm một người yêu hết mức, thâm tình nhứt, tương ái nhứt, thân ái nhứt để đến cáo biệt đơn thân
一個多情的 癡情的 絕情的 無情的人 來給我傷痕
yi ge duo qing de   chi qing de   wu qing de ren   lai gei wo shang hen
Someone who is passionate, infatuated, heartless, and ruthless that will give me all the wounds
Một người vừa đa tình, si tình, tuyệt tình và vô tính nhứt để tặng tôi những vết thương

孤單的人那麼多
gu dan de ren na me duo
There are many single people
Có biết bao nhiêu người cô đơn
快樂的沒有幾個
kuai le de mei you ji ge
There aren’t many of those who are happy
Vui vẻ chả có được bao nhiêu
不要愛過了 錯過了
bu yao ai guo le   cuo guo le
Don’t love and then regret
Đừng nên yêu rồi và lầm lỡ
留下了單身的我 獨自唱情歌
liu xia le dan shen de wo   du zi chang qing ge
Leaving me behind all alone, singing a love song
Để lại tôi cô đơn một mình hát bài tình ca

(music)

找一個最愛的 深愛的 相愛的 親愛的人 來告別單身
zhao yi ge zui ai de   shen ai de   xiang ai de   qin ai de ren   lai gao bie dan shen
Searching for someone who loves as hard, as deep, as kind, as dearly so I could say farewell to bachelorhood
Tìm một người yêu hết mức, thâm tình nhứt, tương ái nhứt, thân ái nhứt để đến cáo biệt đơn thân
一個多情的 癡情的 絕情的 無情的人 來給我傷痕
yi ge duo qing de   chi qing de   wu qing de ren   lai gei wo shang hen
Someone who is passionate, infatuated, heartless, and ruthless that will give me all the wounds
Một người vừa đa tình, si tình, tuyệt tình và vô tính nhứt để tặng tôi những vết thương

傷心的人那麼多
shang xin de ren na me duo
There are many people who have been hurt
Có biết nhiêu người bị tổn thương
我應該勇敢的過
wo ying gai yong gan de guo
Of course, I’m one of those who bravely forge through
Riêng tôi thì dũng cảm vượt qua
不要愛過了 錯過了
bu yao ai guo le   cuo guo le
Don’t love and then regret
Đừng nên yêu rồi và lầm lỡ
留下了單身的我 獨自唱情歌
liu xia le dan shen de wo   du zi chang qing ge
Leaving me behind all alone, singing a love song
Để lại tôi cô đơn một mình hát bài tình ca

這首真心的 痴心的 傷心的單身情歌 誰與我來和
zhe shou zhen xin de   chi xin de   shang xin de dan shen qing ge   shui yu wo lai he
This song which consists of ingenuity,  infatuation, and hurt, who will accompany me to sing it?
Bài tình ca vừa thành khẩn vừa si tình lại vừa thương tâm này, ai sẽ cùng tôi hát đây?

*All translations were done by DTLCT.

Douluo Continent

captured by DTLCT

I started this out of curiosity. Well, I somewhat wanted to watch it because of Xiao Zhan. However, that didn’t motivate me as much since I put it on my list and wanted to keep it there while I took a break from ancient series. However, seeing Calvin sort of sealed the deal for me, lol. Yes, it moved up from the list thanks to Calvin. And if you want to read my thread, go here. Anyway, I thought it was interesting at first and laughed so hard with the humor thrown in to move everything along. It was addicting in a sense. However, it went downhill somewhere along the way. I didn’t mind since some of the cast and characters made it worthwhile and the humor came back along the way to ease the tension a bit–if only temporarily. The main focus of finding out the mastermind behind all those schemes kept the story going. That was the main reason I ended up sticking around. I wanted to find out what was the story behind so many layers of deceit too. Yet, the ending killed it major time. I will save that for later as to why, because I’ll start with my usual characters’ discussions before diving into the other parts of the story itself.

Main Cast:

  • Xiao Zhan (肖戰) as Tang San (唐三). He showed another level of acting chops that made it addicting to see what else he was capable of as the story moved along. Tang San was in a way, a hot-headed person although he had a kind heart overall. He started out quite naive and inexperienced, considering how he lived in a secluded place since little. It made sense. When I say naive, I didn’t mean he wasn’t smart. He was seriously a smart person, but his thoughts were quite simple–once again, because of where he lived since little. As he traveled along and met others, he became more experienced and his thoughts sharpened–mostly thanks to his master. The journey he went through allowed him to deal with various situations. His emotional state at each part was depicted very nicely by XZ. One could feel for him each time he found out something or was trying to work through the obstacles. In other words, it was really convincing. His playful side? I had already seen that side of him in The Untamed, so it was really easy for him, no challenge there. It was just nice to see his character having a mixture of personality to it, not one-dimensional as the main lead, so that was good. Side note, anyone felt like XZ’s image as Tang San in here made him resemble Ekin Cheng? (It did to me at various points, especially Ekin’s image in The Zu Mountain Sagas.) The one downside of Tang San–aside from his hotheadedness at times–that I felt kind of a shame was how there was a lack of scenes where he was alone. What in the world do I mean? He barely had scenes alone because he was always with some of the other characters. I know the theme emphasized throughout was teamwork, etc., but a character had to grow on their own and being able to handle challenges by onself as well. So, I thought one of the rare scenes that defined his character was the part where he went against Shi Nian. That was seriously awesome because he managed to deduct from all the details to unveil the latter’s trap. Although he needed his mom’s help during the battle, that at its heart was a battle of the mind and he didn’t fall for it–nor gave up control. It showed he had traveled a long way and was able to stay calm and work his way out of that mind control scheme. Definitely signs of growth and strength and much more.
  • Wu Xuan Yi (吳宣儀) as Xiao Wu (小舞). At first, I thought she was really cute with her rabbit ear and how she seemed to have such a simple view of life. I guessed immediately that she was a soul beast. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard. They didn’t need to drag it out for me. It seemed like a liao zhai formula poking into this one. But in the context of the story, it was obviously different. The definite sign was how concerned she was for the soul beasts–even if it could be explained she had a kind and gentle heart, she reacted too strongly at times when it was mentioned about the soul beasts being slaughtered and how she was trying hard to find a way so both soul masters and soul beasts could co-exist. The even more obvious sign was how she could communicate and talk to the soul beasts and wasn’t the least bit scared of them. Once again, it could be explained she had some special abilities and/or skills to help in that area. However, why would the soul beasts trust a mere human like that? They had good reasons to be suspicious and defend themselves. So, it made a lot more sense that she was a soul beast hence both of the kings of the Star Forest trusted her and much more. Along the way, I just became annoyed with her to the point that I tuned her out mostly. Yeah, I’m heartless like that. But I felt it unnecessary that she kept engaging into all these side fights or seemed to crave for ’em whenever they were at a new place or something. Accepting challenges was one thing or if the other party initiated the fight, it was fair game. But that part where she just went and attack the Tian Dou Empire people like that? It was uncalled for. It showed her care for Tang San, but in the name of team spirit that they often chanted, she lost grounds major time. (So I didn’t like it that Tang San encouraged her on with his chant about how wrong Yu Tian Heng was to attack her. Hello, Yu Tian Heng warned her several times to leave and not cause trouble there. Yeah, I know, those kids were in love, so they threw reasons out the window, but still not cool.) Also, she never freaking listened or broke her promise each and every time. Yet it was dismissed and viewed as because she cared for Tang San so it was all right. It was getting ridiculous and I just didn’t want to bother anymore. It was explained in the brief parts of the ending by her that she was scared hence not telling Tang San stuff, but seriously, I thought it was still not right. Sure, it wasn’t like they could do anything at that point when they were restricted by Bi Bi Dong, etc. I got the fear and all. But it was Tang San, someone she claimed to care about and trust. She could lie to the world all she wanted–because they proved untrustworthy when it came to unknown variables within the soul masters stuff, but hiding stuff from Tang San? He never hid stuff from her. Trust is a two-way street. I thought her character reminded me madly of Ling Er in Chinese Paladin. Because the majority of the story tried to build a case for her character but she wasn’t special per say. Don’t talk about her abilities, the majority in here had their own strengths and weaknesses, so it was automatically viewed as awesome with all those skills they had regardless of other variables. So yeah, it didn’t impress me one way or another except boosting up her character as cute or should be important, etc. Once again, I don’t know why I need to clarify this, but this is NOT an attack on the actress. It’s just talking about her character here. If I was talking about the stars themselves, I would say so.

Supporting:

  • Calvin Chen as Yu Xiao Gang (玉小剛). I remember Calvin sharing pictures of him in costume. However, I never made the connection that it was for this one. I haven’t watched Calvin in ages, lol. Sorry, that made him sound old, lol. But more like I just lost track of his works and ended up writing more fanfics of him than actually watching. So yeah. His character in here was a nice change for me, comparing to his past idol dramas’ characters. It wasn’t like I disregard his efforts in those previous works. But I felt this was different in a sense that it challenged his acting even more. I often seen him in sunshine roles. If not those, at least, it aimed to be lighthearted. So this one, it transcended his acting to another level. After all, it was somewhat enlightened level master. He was still funny at times, but this role was considered to be of a more mature side. He was probably my favorite character in here. Yes, I said it. So, of course, there will definite be bias shift and I could go on for days in regard to his character. But I probably will not here, lol. It would be too long. But I loved the intelligence and wisdom his character brought forth in this one. Well, that had come from a lot of pain and suffering too. But he was seriously a genius. It ddin’t matter if he lacked the soul rings or whatever. He was the definition of working smarter and not harder. Because he could outwit people numerous times without needing to use his strength. What was more, he had such a cute Mutant Soul to help him. Luo San Pao was sooo cute yet appeared so little later that I miss that little dude. Poor him also, kept being called a “pig” when he was a dog, lol.
  • Qiu Xin Zhi (邱心志) as Lan De (蘭德). I haven’t seen him for a while now because I sort of gave up on some of his repetitive royal roles or maybe too glamorous ones. I felt this role was refreshing in a sense because he seemed not so stylish or polished anymore. It gave off a different vibe. He did brilliantly with depicting the humorous side of the character as well as the serious side as well. It was funny seeing him flipping out at times when it came to the finances, but he kept to his principle and didn’t join those big schools, etc. in their ways. So that was admirable all right. Oh yeah, he could just fly to any place he wishes so that was somethig.
  • Gao Tai Yu (高泰宇) as Dai Mu Bai (戴沐白). I didn’t like his arrogant ass at all at first. But when more details revealed itself, it made a lot of sense. So I cut him some slacks. He did learn to get along with the others eventually and opened up to them. It was hard, considering how he grew up with his psycho brother and had to watch his back constantly. He was taught at a young age to be independent and be the strongest. It was hard for him to adapt. It was also hard to let go of his pride. But he went a long way to undo those toxic mentality from his kingdom and managed to reach another level by trusting those around him.
  • Liu Mei Tong (刘美彤) as Zhu Zhu Qing (朱竹清). Dai Mu Bai’s fiancee. She projected some sort of mystery at first from her intro scenes, so I was looking forward to seeing more of her story development. I guessed she was somehow romantically linked to Dai Mu Bai yet didn’t get the context of the story. That was indeed different than the other stories in here. However, it was somehow hilarious to see Dai Mu Bai being troubled by her presence. It was later revealed that she had a similar background as Dai Mua Bai in that she also had a crazy sibling, trying to compete with her. Her sister was seriously crazy, masking the front with caring for her and wanting to protect her from Dai Mu Bai or others yet only wanted to spy on her and get the upperhand with different situations. It made sense she wanted to become tougher to face future obstacles. She also learned alongside the others as the journey continued on. It wasn’t like she was outright hostile toward others. She had an attitude, mostly toward Dai Mu Bai at first. Yet later, it gradually improved. She wasn’t stingy either because she was able to warm up to the ones who treated her nicely or kindly. She wasn’t arrogant in the sense that she thought she was better than everyone either. She knew she had skills yet also knew there were better soul masters out there. I guess, in short, she was a balance to some of the characters in here who belonged on one side or the other of the scale. She was also quite bright as well, figuring out the various techniques as she went through different trials.
  • Liu Run Nan (刘润南) as Ou Si Ke (歐思客). Lan De’s adopted son. He was hilarious from the start. I knew he was in cahoot with that first test, lol. He seemed like a silly, goofy type. Yet he could be so considerate toward others and had a kind heart. He was so passionate about his inventions and actually had a different life goals than others. At least, that was what he chanted at first. Later, it was revealed because he thought his talent wasn’t really a talent or seemed useless during challenges hence not wanting to pursue that path. He was happy to learn that he could be a great asset to the team hence continuing to train and accompany the others through the final competitions.
  • Ding Xiao Ying (丁笑瀅) as Ning Rong Rong (寧榮榮). I didn’t like her at all at first. Yes, surprising, but true. I just didn’t like her spoiled brat attitude-although the actress looked really cute when she showed up at their school. However, her character grew on me and somehow, her personal journey and growth was equally admirable as the others. Sure, she did side-step at times (along with the others) and had to be reminded to take it down as well with the confidence/arrogant boundary. However, she learned to get along with the others and treat them like a team as well. They had not only became friends but almost like family. She seemed fierce at times yet had a soft heart too when it came to caring for others. I thought the actress did a nice job in showing those various emotions and the character’s growth. You could see her arrogant side, her playful side, her cute side, etc. It was all different and addicting in a way to see what else she could do.
  • Ao Zi Yi (敖子逸) as Ma Hong Jun (馬紅俊). Lan De’s disciple. He had a tragic past and had to learn to live a normal life again after the others rescue him from himself and that one dude at his village. He was sheltered for most of his life and had difficult (for obvious reasons) to mingle with others at first. However, he had a chance to start over and ended up progressing much more than he could ever imagine. It was funny that Lan De accidentally overheard him discuss this whole business plan and ended up recruiting him as a disciple, lol. Even Ou Si Ke was shocked that he didn’t get special treatment, lol.
  • Huang Can Can (黃燦燦) as Hu Lie Na (胡列娜) / Qian Ren Xue (千仞雪). Bi Bi Dong’s daughter. She took on the identity of Hu Lie Na upon her mother’s request to conceal her real identity. For whatever reason, we do not know. But it could be said from her point of view (and probably true too, considering what we learned at the ending scene) that she was just another pawn to her mother’s grand scheme. At first, I did not like her at all. Dai Mu Bai’s words to Tang San described accurately how I felt about her. There was this creepy vibe about her that was nerve-racking. It was easy to tell that she wasn’t just there because she liked Dai Mu Bai and wanted to get to know him. Her actions were too suspicious already. One would have to be crazy to buy it. Then it was revealed later that she had the skills to morph into someone’s appearance and become them. It took all these magic madness to another level all right. I didn’t like her scheming ways regardless of her reasons or whatever she cooked up to convince others. However, upon learning how much she did in order to be acknowledged by her mother, it was heartbreaking. Sure, she did a lot of terrible stuff and hurt many people, but she was really pitiful. She did them randomly to seek approval from her mother. It reminded me of the Scorpion King from Word of Honor–even though the relationship dynamic was a little different. One couldn’t help but feel for them. Her character indeed was quite complex as the plot moved forward. I felt the actress did quite well at various points of the story. She showed the cunning, scheming nature quite convincingly. Also, the obvious contrast when she almost turned into a child again, just wanting the love of her mother–something she probably won’t ever have.

Others:

  • Kenny Bee as Tang Hao (唐昊). Tang San’s father. OMG, I totally didn’t recognize him although I felt he looked familiar. He appeared a little bit here and there. Then bam, he appeared to save the day just like that. It was like, hello, should have made him the main guy if it was that easy. Just saying? Yes, I’m still bitter about the ending being so anti-dramatic regarding the supposed important final battle, so yeah.
  • Zhu Zhu (朱珠) as Bi Bi Dong (比比東). Martial Soul Hall’s leader, Qian Xun Ji’s wife, Qian Ren Xue’s mother. She was ruthless and relentless in her ways yet acted like she was some victim in all of it and had no choice but to do such. I didn’t mind that she was ambitious and wanted to be a top soul master or whatever. That was most of the soul masters’ goals in here. However, she took it to another level, sacrificing the one she suppoedly love for power and then turned around to act like he was in the wrong to reject her proposal of turning him into a famous itellectual figure among the lands. Really? Then yeah, killing her husband and treating her daughter like trash. Yet somehow, she justified all of that behaviors because she said she wanted to become a powerful soul master. Really? Of course, the manipulation was top-notch too. How could anyone forget that anyway?
  • Wang Yi Fan (王亦凡) as Ye Zhi Qiu (葉知秋). Cang Hui Academy’s student. He was under Shi Nian’s mind control hence committing some of the cruelest act ever by carrying all the commands along the way.
  • Guo Zi Yu (郭子渝) as Gui Dou Luo (鬼鬥羅). The mastermind behind the schemes in order to assassinate Bi Bi Dong. He wanted to do all of that to avenge Qian Xun Ji’s death. He claimed his loyalty to the previous leader of the Martial Soul Hall only, considering how things turned out. However, Bi Bi Dong found out a long time ago and just wanted to use him to gather all her enemies up in one place to get rid of them once and for all. Too bad that everything he went through was all in vain. He wasted a lot of time and energy just to fall into Bi Bi Dong’s trap.
  • Ren Qing Na Mu (仁青娜姆) as Du Gu Yan (獨孤雁). She was soooo cute. At first, I didn’t think much of her except for a random character they encountered along the way. However, she played a larger part in the story. Well, not that large, but was tied to some of the grand scheme in that they wanted to use her grandfather’s power hence forcing his hands via poisoning her. I loved her feisty nature and her witty responses to her grandfather. It was hilarious to see how she used some crafty tricks to get him to save Tang San–or at least try to find him, etc. It was hilarious seeing that someone finally could get him to change his mind about matters. She said that she had someone in mind already and was teasing them about Tang San, so I was guessing Yu Tian Heng, lol. But of course, we didn’t get to see that either. It would have been fun to elaborate a little more.
  • Li De Xin (李德鑫) as Yu Tian Heng (玉天恆). Yu Xiao Gang’s nephew. I almost forgot his link to Master in here. However, I felt his character was someone whom I wanted to know more about. Of course, because of the relevancy of the story, time didn’t allow for that. I wonder if there was more info on him in the novel.
  • Wang Gen (汪亘) as Xue Beng (雪崩). Tian Dou Empire’s student, also a descendent of the royal family. His name meant avalanche (so yeah, his parents totally set him up for failure here). Anyway, not only was he arrogant but also a sore loser. He dared to challenge people yet couldn’t take the loss so he went into full tattle-teller mode and ruptured up the whole place just because. He was the only one that Xiao Wu fought that I didn’t have a problem with. ONLY because he was the one picking the fight with them all of a sudden.
  • Du Jun Ze (杜俊澤) as Dai Wei Shi (戴惟仕). Dai Mu Bai’s older brother. When he appeared in the story to cause trouble, I finally understood where Dai Mu Bai’s attitude and his overly condescencision came from. With a brother like this, it was a miracle he hadn’t gone insane. He had to watch his back at all time. Because this guy was the definition of arrogance in here. Like if you open up a dictionary, you see his face next to the word “arrogance” or something.
  • Wang Qiao (王俏) as Zhu Zhu Yun (朱竹雲). Zhu Zhu Qing’s older sister. Same vibe as Dai Wei Shi. I swear they were more like siblings than their siblings, lol. Or was that too much if they were under the same roof?
  • Bao Bo Yu (鮑柏宇) as Xue Qing He (雪清河). The crownd prince of Tian Dou Empire. He was quite bright for a young prince. He was probably trained by kingmakers, but he fitted with his role–unlike most spoiled royalties seen around. He knew what was happening all around him, not just taking in nice words from others only. The young actor was good in exuding those characteristics. And then the part where he was supposedly a fake. Nicely done.
  • Anthony Bao (包小松) as Prince Xue Xing (雪星親王). He was also quite arrogant. That was until he got brought down by Qian Ren Xue posing as the young prince. I guessed it was because he wasn’t completely dumb, so his trap was a little more elaborate than some of the others. Yet it was funny while it lasted, seeing him trying to throw his power around and then bam, he was gone. Just because of a misstep, that was.
  • Liu Jiao Xin (刘交心) as Du Gu Bo (獨孤博). Du Gu Yan’s grandfather. Where to begin? He came and went as he pleased. He lacked social skills and his attitude was terrible. His only weak spot was his precious grand-daughter–who knew that and took full advantage of him. In some ways, he deserved it, lol. He did break a bunch of promises to Tang San, so it was payback in some ways. He was hot-headed at times but not too unreasonable. He did learn to get along with others–somehow–and Tang San’s personality and patience helped. He was actually quite smart, considering how he helped Ye Zhi Qiu break the mind control thing and all.
  • Zhang Wen (张雯) as Liu Er Long (柳二龍). The third member of the old Golden Iron Triangle. She appeared almost toward the end of the series and helped them with some of the trials they went through. She was crazy obsessed for Yu Xiao Gang. Seriously, mixed feelings on that front. Because it could create humorous effect. But also somewhat awkward too. But her skills was undenialable though.
  • Shen Xiao Hai (沈曉海) as Ning Feng Zhi (寧風致). Rong Rong’s father.
  • Zhou Xiao Chuan (周小川) as Chen Xin (塵心) aka Grandpa Sword (劍爺爺). He was hilarious. I thought he would be some fierce force at first, but he created a hilarious atmosphere all around later on. The fact that he didn’t care for Rong Rong’s father’s BS stories about protecting her was equally hilarious as well. He was wise for his age as well, reminding the latter they used to be young once and wanted to travel the world and also becoming the best soul master, etc.
  • Guo Jia Nuo (郭家诺) as Shi Nian (時年). The leader of Cang Hui Academy. His special skills was mind control so he took full advantage of that to control his students and eventually all those around him to push forward the grand scheme of Guo Dou Luo. He finally met with his fate when his trap backfired.
  • Wang Lu (王露) as Huo Wu (火舞). Team member of the Flaming Fire Academy (熾火學院). She alerted Tang San about the missing teams, leading to their investigation into the situation. She was actually quite smart and reasonable. She trusted the Shi Lan Ke Academy because they weren’t controlled or influenced by the other powerful groups involved. It was a good call since that allowed the others to uncover more behind the schemes. Too bad, somehow, they didn’t show for sure if she and her teams and the rest of the other schools were actually safe or not. At least toward the end.
  • James Wen as Ju Dou Luo (菊鬥羅). I recognized him right away. Or at least made the connection. But I couldn’t be too sure because I had only seen James in an ancient setting like once before. So, I had to go look it up. But it was indeed him. It was kind of funny seeing him in here since I didn’t realize he was also part of the production. Anyway, how was his character? It was interesting at first. Then it died down. I meant, I didn’t expect him to hog the scenes and made it unbearable to watch. But as for his character, someone who recongized Dai Mu Bai’s talent, the least he could do was show some sense of integrity or a change of heart. Yet he remained disapointtingly dispecable even till the end. Like he was all right with the world falling apart and Bi Bi Dong controlling it. As long as he was comfortable in his position, that was it. Yes, selfish was all that he was. Okay, maybe I’ll give him arrogance too. But that was the majority of the soul masters in here–whether they were capable or not. But as for James, it was fun to watch him portray this role. A different side of him, kind of a laid-back character with a mixture of creepiness at times too.

Relationships – family, friends, romances, etc.:

  • Xiao Zhan/ Tang San and Wu Xian Yi/ Xiao Wu as a couple. They spent A LOT of time together in here, so I didn’t think anyone would think they got robbed of time spent together. Well, if you did, I don’t know what to say, lol. I usually don’t force couples–unless the storyline is unconvincing that I make jokes about it. So, this time, it’s no different. They weren’t my favorite couple in here. But as long as their feelings were mutual, good for them.
  • Xiao Zhan/ Tang San and Kenny Bee/ Tang Hao as father and son. There was no denying their bond. They were with one another since he was little. How could anyone deny that? Their strong bond was what made it all so confusing and heartbreaking when Tang San thought it could be his father who was responsible for all the pain and suffer. However, it also became a strong advantage for Tang San because that one guy tried to pose as his father and mind-trick him yet failed because of the special object that meant the world to them.
  • Xiao Zhan/ Tang San and Calvin Chen/ Yu Xiao Gang as master and disciple. I was a little surprised that Tang San chose Yu Xiao Gang as his ultimate master. I meant regarding the circumstances and all, I wouldn’t blame him if he had high ambition and wanted to pick someone else in the future. It was expected the way things were within the land. Yet Tang San was determined to stick with the person whom taught him many things along the way already. He didn’t care that people were making fun of his master or whatever. All he knew was that the person who had been by his side and helping him when his father was absent from the scene.
  • Calvin Chen/ Yu Xiao Gang and Qiu Xin Zhi/ Lan De. They were a riot. They were friends yet kept sabotaging one another through words or strange bets, lol. Lan De always gambled or made bets yet when he lost to Master, he went into a rant about setting good examples for the students, lol. It was like, “Dude, what are you talking about? You’re the definition of bad examples here.” But during serious times, they also joined forces to deal with those obstacles. They knew one another ages already, so it wasn’t going to affect them with a little joke here and there.
  • Xiao Zhan/ Tang San and Gao Tai Yu/ Dai Mu Bai. Perhaps, in those conventional wuxia, they could be considered as “knowing the hero, respecting the hero” type of relationship. Sure, they clashed somewhat at first yet learned to get along and eventually formed a bond–like how most of the team members did. Yet they were almost like brothers near the end, willing to trust one another and working together for the best of the team, not thinking with an individuality mindset anymore. Well, Tang San didn’t want to steal anyone’s limelight or anything. He was quite humble–for the most part. But he had to learn to rely on the others too, not just bearing it all by himself.
  • Gao Tai Yu/ Dai Mu Bai and Liu Mei Tong/ Zhu Zhu Qing as a couple. I felt they could be considered the model couple for the show. Serious, each show has one and they were it for this show. Because they started out really rough, not really getting along. Yet, they learned to trust and respect one another over time and had some proper dialogue as well. That built well into that one trial they had to go through near the end and merging their talents for the final battle. It wasn’t because they needed to win kind of thing. But it showed that they had gone a long way and had connected on a spiritual level as well.
  • Liu Run Nan/ Ou Si Ke and Ding Xiao Ying/ Ning Rong Rong as a couple. I would never thought of it in a serious manner, considering how it seemed so one-sided with Ou Si Ke waiting on her hand and feet at the beginning. Later, it just became a recurring comedic act and a consistency with how he often chased after her or tried to care for her, etc. Yet, it really showed during the part where they thought she got kidnapped by some mysterious force. It was hilarious yet also touching with him running in there, not caring if he got hurt, etc. She was able to see how serious he was too, not fearing death. Even if she knew Grandpa Sword well, but to think that Ou Si Ke went all out on tricks to save her was something quite risky. She took him more seriously after all. It wasn’t like they didn’t get along at that point of time already. But it was that moment she realized he meant it, not just the usual crazy, silly things he thought up to get her attention. Final answer? I swore they were the supposed cute couple in here. Completely unexpected, but they had taken that spot for me as major characters.

The ending? So, how did I feel after finishing it? Or should I say, “How many shades of disappointed was I after reaching the end?” Because seriously, I was disappointed–and temporarily somewhat shocked. I meant they built all this hype and intensity around it, hinting there was going to be some big reveal toward the so-called final battle YET it turned into a 2-second battle and that was it? Next time, something big happens, maybe they should just invite Kenny Bee to take care of it. Since he sure took care of it super fast and all. I didn’t want it to drag out anymore, but possibly they needed one or two more episodes to wrap everything up. Or were they planning to do a sequel? I know it was part of a saga, so it couldn’t cut into other works like that. However, if they weren’t planning on doing the sequel, maybe add a little more detail for people who never read the novels to swallow the ending better. Like after the battle, Tang Hao would just abandon everyone there and take care of Tang San and that was it? Yeah, I know that part was essential. But they needed to show how all the impacted parties fended afterward. It was explained or mentioned somewhat during the graduation ceremony what their future plans were. However, there were some additional variables that presented themselves after the battle, so it would make sense to focus on tying up those loose ends. Sure, we could guess for ourselves that they cleaned up, went home, and rest or recover until they were well enough to travel again. However, if anyone expected me to believe the other five wouldn’t go check on Tang San and Xiao Wu to make sure everything was indeed all right, they must be nuts. Sure, Tang Hao could have said something like, “I have to bring them somewhere, you guys clean up and rest first.” But that was a lot of assumptions on our part with all the details. How about Yu Xiao Gang’s reactions to what happened? He was still wounded from the past and as much as I don’t want to admit that he still cared for that evil witch, he still did. So, how could they just forget about it? There had to be some more aftermath as they go back to the lodging place and rest. Of course, there wasn’t much to do anyway since they couldn’t change the past, but there has to be some talk between him and Lan De or someone else to signify how they all felt about the craziness of the mystery that finally revealed itself. How about Bi Bi Dong’s daughter, Qiao Ren Xue? She just left? It wasn’t like she was going to kill her mama to avenge her papa. But maybe some type of closure for her and her future plans. And then what about what happened with Tian Dou Empire after she turned it upside down with her schemes previously? The most crucial thing that the production team completely forgot to cover too was the rest of the sects who disappeared. Yeah, Bi Bi Dong previously said she would release them after the mastermind dude revealed himself and they handle those stuff, but she couldn’t be trusted, hello. Was anyone checking on them? Were they dead for real this time? At least, give us a clue. That was one of the main focuses coming into the battles too. How could it be disregarded like that? Oh, what about the thing with Bi Bi Dong being able to force their martial souls out? No one explained that either. It was said vaguely by her that she had risen to another level hence knowing how to do it. But come on now! Again, we had to assume a lot with the other things in order for the ending to make sense. Well, it did make sense with Tang San and Xiao Wu. But regarding the rest of the characters, not so much. It was like “team spirit” and “go team” throughout and then bam, they just forgot to talk about the rest of the team when the ending rolled around? Fans of Tang San and Xiao Wu would have liked it too to see how it turned out and when the two would meet again, considering how she agreed with Tang Hao that she would leave him and learn to become stronger before returning to his side. So yeah, if there was an extra episode or two, it could show them meeting up in life again. Or was this all an attempt to direct everyone to read the author’s works to find the actual answers? Because that worked. I already placed it on my to-read list.

Recommended? I would say probably if you’re a fan of the cast or the novel. I don’t think anyone would be as stingy as me with picking on those details I mentioned so it might be even more enjoyable or lovable to you.