Since I was on a Liao Zhai binge, I had to hunt this one down and watch too. Too bad that other stuff got in the way so I was off track with this. Now back to watch properly.
Hua Bi (畫壁)
- Roy Qiu as Meng Long Tan (孟龍潭). First time watching Roy properly since other ones, I skipped around or gave up. But he wasn’t bad.
- Zhang Pei Ran (張沛然) as Zhu Xiao Lian (朱孝廉). Hilarious despite his playful nature. What made his character redeeming for me was his extreme loyalty to Long Tan. Yet I still didn’t think he deserved to be saved at all. Yes, cruel but seriously? I agreed with the monk how he revisited the snake demon time after time so it wasn’t anyone’s fault for lack of trying to tell him to stay away. (Especially how the monk had emphasized many times already.)
- Gong Mi (贡米) as Meng Fan (夢凡). A fox spirit. She was nice and kind and was one of the good demons within the portraits. She didn’t want to harm others but couldn’t do much because of that one powerful dark demon. Yet she tried to help many times.
- Ben Ng (吳毅將) as Qing Shui Ju Shi (清水居士). Long time haven’t seen him. But he was indeed quite awesome with his portrayal in here. His story was so shocking (but not unrealistic) and how he learned his lesson (after a tragedy) was really moving.
- Wang Yuan (汪芫) as Meng Su Niang (孟素娘). I didn’t think much of her from the start except that she was sure a doormat for her husband to do whatever. Taking in the fact that women back then didn’t have much say in anything at all, I didn’t care for her either. I just felt a bit sorry for her for having to marry such a person. It got even more annoying that she later kept chiding the monk about justice and righteousness when she wanted him to save her husband. However, in the end, I think I admired her determination the most. Regardless if Xiao Lian deserved such a wife or not.
- Zheng Yi Tong (鄭亦桐) as Meng Yan (夢艷). A snake demon.
- Wang Yan Su (王妍蘇) as Shen Yue Jiao (沈月嬌). Cruel all right. She defined the cruelty and despicable nature in here. At first, I thought it was the actress that couldn’t act hence the wandering eyes at times when she communicated with Long Tan. Yet it wasn’t so. Those were little traces telling the audience that she was up to something. She was a mastermind of it all. Even scaring her father with her thinking and scheming ways.
OMG, could this get any sadder? I watched the stories out of orders so this one was the third story that I watched. It was like sooooo sad. Although Zhu Xiao Lian finally learned his lesson and promised to listen to his wife from now on and protect his family YET the main couple? Okay, Long Tan had nothing else to live for in the real world and he rather stayed with Meng Fan yet it seemed endless with how they had to deal with the demon. The monk decided to go back in and help them but still. Not to mention how things weren’t really solved in the real world. Like how they weren’t able to expose the pair of cruel father and daughter and some other conspirators. Only some of them knew what was going on. Yeah, it was indeed true how it seemed impossible to go against some really strong forces within the royal courts and all. But this was Liao Zhai after all. There had to be at least a better explanation for it. Yeah, the injustice in life happened and it wasn’t new. But that was just too frustrating. Oh yeah, Long Tan’s father died for nothing!
Gongsun Jiu Niang (公孫九娘)
- Akina Hong as Gongsun Jiu Niang (公孫九娘). She had the right image to be the main lead. The background story aided her character greatly. She was gentle and graceful enough at times as well. However, I think the plot made her character fell short of being awesome for some reason.
- Tony Sun as Du Huai Sheng (杜懷生). He was too naive for his own good at times, thinking he could just use his power as an official to bring down Hu Xiao Tian. However, he did have the stubbornness to continue on with trying to bring the latter down.
- Doris Lai as Hu Cai Ling (胡采靈). Supposedly spoiled, rich girl. However, she was shown to have a good heart from the start. She was also quite mischievous in her ways yet she wasn’t too over with other people. Very cute in her own way. I really liked Wei Ru’s portrayal in here and one of her roles that I watch till the end to this day. I was actually quite impressed with her when she was possessed and acted quite strangely, looking all suspicious–not like the usual loud Cai Ling. What was more impressive was the moment when she found out she’d been used as an excuse so the others could enter her house and search for the other guy and then carrying out the rest of the revenge plot. It was indeed quite tragic and shocking for her. Her reactions were justified. Those moments made her performance even more brilliant. It really tugged at the heart with how much she had to endure just because her father was the big, bad dude.
- Zhang Dong Sheng (張東升) as Hu Xiao Tian (胡嘯天). Despicable scum. It was obvious to hate on him since he was the villain. But what was strange was how he caved into his daughter’s demands. Well, it was his daughter after all. But still. He did slap her that one time, which showed that he was just putting up an exterior or try to. Or he couldn’t believe his daughter would betray him. Regardless, he didn’t deserve an ounce of sympathy after what he did to many, not just Jiu Niang’s people.
- Du Yu Ming (杜玉明) as Ling Yang Zi (凌陽子). A Taoist who had gone haywire. He thought he was getting rid of ghosts and demons and putting balance to the world. But he was scarier than the ghosts and demons he tried to exterminate.
- Zhang Jin (張進) as Zhu Kang (朱康). Creepy. He was Huai Sheng’s friend and later got used by Ling Yang Zi to search for Jiu Niang’s corpse to perform the rituals.
What should I say about this? I swear this one was my third most anticipated story. However, it was disappointing on some levels. Maybe it was me being impatient but I felt the story was too slow. I didn’t mind that Akina looked sort of older than Tony in here since I still felt their chemistry was refreshing. However, it seemed anti-dramatic in many ways. The revenge plot was enough to drive many characters on. Yet it sort of stopped there after a while and then picked up again by the end of episode 4 and then going into episode 5. I felt that Wei Ru’s character, Cai Ling, was the saving point of the story. I was already prepared for her character to be bad or even aiding her father when she learned of the truth about him. Yet she wasn’t so. Yes, she was spoiled and loud, etc. However, she had a good heart, wanting to help others despite her constant tantrums toward her father at the beginning. I felt she was funny in many ways, not annoying like I would often think of overly loud characters. It would be interesting to see Tony and Wei Ru pair up in the future (if ever possible again). Anyway, back to this story, it was soooo sad to see how things turned out in the end yet it had to be that way in a sense. Many things had happened, so how could it turn back to a better time for them both? Even if the story let them both move on–or perhaps her, they still couldn’t be together. What happened to Cai Ling, in the end, could be said to be karma YET she was the one receiving it. It wasn’t her fault, so why did she have to go through so much? That guy sure knew how to pave the future for his daughter. Cutting all her paths and only caring for himself. Now that he was gone, there were too many backlashes to ever move on from that.
Mei Nu (梅女)
- Stephanie Hsiao (蕭薔) as Pan Xue Mei (潘雪梅). I can actually say that I watched her act growing up. LOL! Not trying to say she’s old, but it says something. She proved her strong acting in here with her various personalities. It was so convincing that when she was Xue Mei, I sympathized with her and felt she was a very cute, nice and gentle girl versus when she was Zhan Min later on with her attitude. It wasn’t Zhan Min’s fault, but the demon’s fault for being so convincing–and Yun Ting didn’t seem attentive enough to her. However, I felt like she was annoying in a way with her not being able to see past some stuff, just taking one person’s side just because he knew how to flatter her. What was even more convincing with Stephanie’s acting was the part where she was still the somewhat dumb Zhan Min, wanting to be a waiter.
- Frankie Lam as Feng Yun Ting (封雲亭). I also grew up watching Frankie, lol. Frankie once again proved his solid acting in here. There was a phase I will admit that he was going through (with TVB) that he seemed somewhat bland taking on repetitive roles (but it wasn’t his fault since TVB sort of wanted to recreate some sort of phenomenon but failed). He gained my attention again for delivering a solid performance in here. Many might think there wasn’t much. But there was this naturalness in his acting in here that I missed dearly during the last few years at TVB. (At least the years he was still active.) So yes, finally a role worth watching for.
- Siu Chuen Yung (邵傳勇) as Han Ji Zu (韓繼祖). He usually portrays jerks or on the side of villain roles. (Or whenever I saw him in some dramas.) He portrayed Yun Ting’s best friend in here. Convincing in a sense of being funny at times and being plain annoying when he was possessed (and did struggle to fight with the demon to regain his body).
- Cheng Yong (程雍) as Wang Zheng Xiong (汪正雄). Despicable slime. He and his goons were responsible for Xue Mei’s death–or part of it.
- Hou Jie (侯傑) as Ni Ren Nu Yao (泥人女妖). Ugh, it’s no surprise that he was the most hated one in here. Duh, right?
OMG, this story compensated for some of the other ones. Although there were some frustrating moments near the end, the ultimate ending compensated for it. The beginning was tragic and then the sweet moments between Yun Ting and Xue Mei (even if subtle at times since she had to focus on avenging her death as well as others). The ending got me laughing so hard I forgave them for the other stories’ bitter outcomes. Seeing how Ji Zu struggled to call Yun Ting ‘Father-in-Law’ was a riot. Funny how things turned out, right?
Jiang Cheng (江城)
- Jia Qing as Jiang Cheng (江城). Jia Qing’s acting in here was really top-notch. The quick switch in characters and how she was possessed from time to time showed her acting talent. She was very convincing.
- Li Wei as Gao Fan (高蕃)/ Lin Feng (林峰). There were mixed feelings throughout. However, I think he did enough for this one. He actually looked quite suitable in ancient attires.
- Victor Chen (陳司翰) as Wang Zi Ya (王子雅). At first, I didn’t like him at all. Especially disliked him even more after the meds in the wine incident. Although Xiang Lan was lucky enough not to drink it and all and the plan blew up in his face, but I still thought that was a despicable move. However, later, I was less against him. Mostly because of his loyalty to Gao Fan and didn’t get all jealous because Xiang Lan might have liked Gao Fan. He also was a scaredy-cat but had tried to help as best as he could. So in a way, he was a comedian for the story.
- Wang Gang as Priest Nie. Having seen him portrayed too many villainous roles, it was hard to get used to seeing him in this role. However, he didn’t appear much so that helped, lol. But indeed, he did show his capabilities throughout. Maybe he had underestimated the snake demon. In the end, he managed to put a stop to it all. He also wasn’t too arrogant about it but had advised others to do more good deeds, etc.
- Zhang Bo Jun (张柏俊) as Gao Fan’s father. I felt bad for him. At first, I wasn’t into it since I hated how he kept forcing Gao Fan to marry to forgo his connections, etc. However, when he finally caved in, he was indeed confused. Yes, the majority were confused and upset (rightly so) by Jiang Cheng’s behaviors. Yet he didn’t deserve all of those traumas. Luckily he–along with everyone else–learned the truth behind it and managed to move on. Unfortunately, Jiang Cheng’s father didn’t get to see how they’d finally figured everything out and their lives were back to normal.
I thought this story was decent. There were mixtures of romances and the conflicts with demons or the so-called fantasy world. Being six episodes helped the story along. Other characters worth mentioning were Xiang Lan and Judge Ma. I thought that Judge Ma (Zi Ya’s uncle) was a villain at first. Mostly because of his sneaky ways. But after seeing how the locals were so into burning Jiang Cheng and not really understanding the demon stuff and all, I totally got why he wanted to hide his practices from them. The hilarious scene must be how he tried to apply the supposedly ‘magic water’ to see demons and ghosts and all. He ended up as a joke to the whole town (or at least the ones who came to see the cases). Xiang Lan, I kept suspecting her mysterious ways at first. But when she let Gao Fan see the truth, it all made sense. Well, as much as it could in the nature of the story. She was cute and likable in her own way. And lastly, Li Wei and Jia Qing sure made a cute couple. I was surprised. Jia Qing had good chemistry with most of her co-stars and this one was quite refreshing. (Or at least I thought so.)
Geng Niang (庚娘)
- Jess Zhang as Geng Niang (庚娘). Loved her in here. She was not only kind and gentle but smart. She just seriously incurred such bad lucks.
- Ehlo Huang as Jin Da Yong (金大用). Um, I liked him with all the past lives and then the current one. Yet he sure moved on fast after Geng Niang’s death. Yeah, it was cruel to let him just live a miserable life always moping over Geng Niang yet seriously? He seemed to love her so much and had fought for their lives in the last few minutes, wanting her to run first. (Even if we take out the part where the dragon girl didn’t interfere, the majority was accurate.) So I was disappointed, but luckily Ehlo’s acting didn’t disappoint at all.
- Berg Ng as Wang Shi Ba (王十八). Haven’t seen him in ages and he sure still lived up in the acting department.
- Sun Jia (孫嘉) as Xiao Niang (肖娘). When she entered the scene, I suspected her immediately because of her wandering eyes. Yet she ended up being a victim as well. She decided to commit suicide later to end the cycle of having to keep witnessing different schemes of her husband, Wang Shi Ba.
- Du Jun Ze (杜俊泽) as Wang Shi Jiu (王十九) / Shang Zheng (尚正). At first, I was really annoyed with him. The righteous talk and all but it turned out he was avenging his brother. That sure changed things. The flashbacks didn’t help at all–although I knew he didn’t know what his brother had done to Geng Niang’s family. It wasn’t until he listened to the dragon girl’s story and then eventually realizing that people had also sacrificed in saving him that he understood. He blamed himself but also the fates for being so cruel. It wasn’t until Geng Niang chose to sacrifice herself to let their fates returned to its course that he began to see things differently. In a way, it was a relief that he remembered both versions of what happened, so he could really understand what was going on and appreciate what Geng Niang did. (Well, technically if the dragon girl hadn’t intervened, things wouldn’t turn out that way YET what was different was how it happened so he understood why his brother had reaped what he’d sown hence not blaming Da Yong.)
This story was one of the most anticipated for me. Mostly because I’m a major fan of Ehlo. It was interesting to see him collaborate with Jess. They were surprisingly compatible in here. Loved their relationships throughout and I so felt for the green dragon when she was upset over what had happened. So I didn’t blame her at all when she interrupted the flow of nature or whatever it was to help Geng Niang. It was so frustrating how such good people keep incurring such fates. I didn’t accept the ending for Geng Niang–even if that meant every other person’s fates were back to their original course. How could such a gentle and kind person have to go through so much? The fact that they ruined Da Yong’s character didn’t even justify the means. So yeah, he had to move on sooner or later. Yet he sure moved on fast after Geng Niang’s death. Seriously? The explanation was how Geng Niang had incurred bad karma in some other past life hence having to endure the three tragic lives (or something like that). Yet they don’t remember after reincarnation anyway, why continue to torture them like that? So did Geng Niang end up being a fairy or what? If yes, then okay, I could consider that ending. But again, seriously?
Bai Qiu Lian (白秋練)
- Fiona Sit as Bai Qiu Lian (白秋練). At first, I felt she was somewhat interesting and then it seemed to be kind of bland. But later, I quite liked her because of how she liked Mu Chan Gong but didn’t force her way into his heart. Sure, she was around, but she didn’t force it (despite her sister’s urging). She also tried to save Xiao Mei, which was admirable.
- Jin Jia (金珈) as Mu Chan Gong (慕蟾宮). At first, I didn’t really like him since he was too emotional and caused his lover, Xiao Mei, to suffer even more than before. Later, it was revealed he wasn’t that useless of a character. However, he still was not forgiven in my book since Xiao Mei had suffered so much.
- Mao Lin Lin (毛林林) as Bai Qiu Ju (白秋菊). Cute and funny. Lively and mischievous. There were many funny moments with her and Zhen Jun. I especially like those scenes of hers. Yet what I disliked about her was forcing Mu Chan Gong to acknowledge her sister. Yes, I know she was thinking for her sister, but wasn’t that like what the Dragon Prince did to her sister? Like forcing marriage upon Qiu Lian? What I also disagreed was how she dragged Mu Chan Gong to see her sister that one time, stating that he kept thinking of Xiao Mei and not caring about her sister. Seriously, Chan Gong and Xiao Mei knew each other since ages back, so how could she use such words? It wasn’t like Chan Gong had abandoned Qiu Lian or anything like that.
- Wang Xiang Hon (王翔宏) as Zhen Jun (真君). Funny! He was super hilarious. He kept misunderstanding the Bai sisters of doing evil yet later realized his mistake, seeing there were exceptions. His final determination in not lumping all demons together into the bad category was during the Bai sisters’ mother’s death. He tried to amend his actions.
- Zhang Ming Ming (張明明) as Crown Prince Long. Liked Bai Qiu Lian and used his father’s power to force her into marriage. Despicable like the other dude who forced Xiao Mei into marrying him.
How was this one? I say it was in the middle. There was a mixture of happiness and sadness. Yet what was most tragic was Xiao Mei’s fate. She suffered so much, more than anyone could see. Then she sacrificed herself for them all.
So wrapping up, what was the best story? I say it was Mei Nu for its story, pace, acting, and ending. Yes, that was how I rated ’em all. Jiang Cheng ranked second–despite the fact that her father died. It was a minor detail I was willing to forgive and I had to take what I could get. Not to mention, they already wrapped up quite well. Third was Geng Niang–after I calmed down and thought about it more. Then Bai Qiu Lian–although there were some parts I was frustrated with but thought the pace wasn’t bad. That left Gongsun Jiu Niang and Hua Bi, which Hua Bi had to be shoved to the last slot. Why? As said already, although I liked the chemistry between Roy and Gong Mi, the pace wasn’t too bad, and the story was unique enough YET what killed it was the ending. It got me choking and it just never recovered from there. I just felt so sad for Long Tan and Meng Fan. Gongsun Jiu Niang lost on pace major time, but the ending made up for it. Yes, it was tragic and very sad for Cai Ling BUT the others got their revenge. It wasn’t all for nothing like I felt with Hua Bi. (Although to be fair, Xiao Lian did learn his lesson and all, but what about the other two? Don’t they deserve better?)
I liked the majority of the pairing and how some were especially refreshing. One of the reasons why I like watching Liao Zhai saga because it created the opportunity for some stars from different regions to collaborate. My favorite pairing though had to be Frankie Lam and Stephanie Hsiao. At first, it was Ehlo and Jess, but they lost points with me because they didn’t end up together. Well, NOT at the last bit. Although after I calmed down, I accepted their ending more, I still felt so sad for them. Second favorite would be Ehlo and Jess. Yes, I decided to place them second after having watched all stories already. Third would be Jia Qing and Li Wei, loved their chemistry–as said before. I was surprised. My last favorite pairing would be Roy and Gong Mi. They were compatible and their story was touching–despite the tragic ending. Tony and Akina did have chemistry and I so felt for them, but they didn’t click for me as much. Just personal preference. And I didn’t feel anything for Fiona and Jin Jia–although I liked them individually.