(image credit: net)
I finally got around to watching this and it was indeed surprising in many ways. There were many things about this drama that made me watch it faster than usual, like the humor and the cast involved. The length of each episode helped drive it forward too. I liked it that some of the conflicts were quickly resolved, except for the main story arch, of course, since they needed that to retain the suspense. It was 48 episodes but I didn’t feel the drag at all. Probably because each episode was only about 30 minutes, except for the finale–which ran a little longer.
- Jacob Huang (黃仁德) as Zhuo Yuan Zhi (卓遠之). Animal Spirit: Fiery Tiger. The young master of Zhuo Guan Clan. Although his intro scene and his background indicated a violent nature, he was a calm person and the most reasonable among the guys. He was their balance. He was also their leader in most of the debates and fending off different parties. He had his weaknesses, but he wasn’t ashamed of them either. He appreciated his friends and even Mao Mao–whom he treated like his sister, not acting superior toward others at all. He could be a tease at times, like how he was with Tian Ya initially–with calling out the nickname “Xiao Gong Zhu” yet he stopped when Tian Ya was uncomfortable with it. My first time watching Jacob and he was cute and charming. He sure fitted his role and convinced me of his persona.
- Andy Chen Yi (陳奕) as Du Tian Ya (度天涯) / Augustus Christabel Abercrombie (奧古斯塔斯‧克里斯塔貝爾‧艾柏克隆比). Animal Spirit: Snow Panther. Nicknamed Little Princess / Xiao Gong Zhu (小公主) by Yuan Zhi when they were little. The prince of the Alastair Kingdom (阿拉斯特王國). Spoiled and hot-headed but tamed down his attitude along the way as he learned and grew. He was seriously too much at first and I felt so bad for Zhan Ye having to deal with his spoiled nature at times, but I was glad he later curved back his way and began thinking for others. Perhaps, it was one of the good things that his mother sent him to school. Well, she had alternative motives, but it was a good chance for him to learn to survive on his own and compromise with others. He wasn’t a lost cause, after all, finally overcoming his difficulties and weaknesses to become a better swordsman and also a better friend. Even if he was still hot-headed and spoiled in some sense, but he was already considerate when it came to things that mattered.
- Kris Shen (沈建宏) as Zhan Ye (戰野). Animal Spirit: Forest Green Hawk. He was inflicted with the inability to recognize people’s faces thus causing him many hardships and bullying since little. Although he tried to keep positive for the most part. Even with his own father, if he didn’t see the old man for a long time, he would forget–if not reminded. He finally found friends when he met Yuan Zhi and Tian Ya–after the initial disagreements and when the other two finally learned of his hardships. He cherished them very much and was very loyal to them despite their disagreements at times–and even forced them to battle it out. With their patience, he finally remembered their faces as well. The only person he didn’t have trouble remembering was interestingly Che Shen, which caused others to be surprised. First time watching Kris although I do follow AK (mostly because of Chen Yi). I found him very charming and lovable in this role. He was also quite convincing. He made me laugh so hard at times. Although he could be so stubborn at times too, it was part of him, a natural response. It was showing that he cared hence even being upset. I actually thought he was trolling Tian Ya when he didn’t recognize Tian Ya the second time they met and kept going on and on, causing Tian Ya to be annoyed. Yet it was soon revealed that he didn’t remember anyone’s faces.
- Yu Jin (余晉) as Yu Wen Si Ren (宇文寺人). Animal Spirit: Blue Thunder Dragon. Nicknamed Guan Cai Lian / Coffin Face (棺材臉) by Zhan Ye. At first, I found him hateful, probably bias because of how he treated Yuan Zhi. But I pitied him a lot upon learning how tragic his childhood was and even till the present time that his father was still really fierce with him. I knew they had to stay professional during school hours, but the man seemed to not care. But what I found out was it was hard to hate him–like many characters in here, even if there were times that he seemed to push the others over the edge. What was really admirable about his character was that he didn’t use despicable means to kick the other three out. He used his own methods and waited for them to break the rules. He wanted to get rid of them, but he also came to their aid when they were in trouble–like that one time Tian Ya was kidnapped. He stated that it was his duty–which was true, but that proved he didn’t take advantage of the situation and just let it be.
- Dou Hua Mei (豆花妹)/ Cai Huang Ru (蔡黃汝) as Xing Zhi Wu (幸之霧). A bar owner. What surprised me was she was my favorite character until near the end–although I know it wasn’t her fault but the damage was already done. My bias had to do with being a fan of her since Just Singing And Dancing and her other versatile roles thus far. At first, Zhi Wu was a mysterious character. Even if we learned she was a bar owner later and how Zhan Ye worked for her (as did Yuan Zhi later as well), but there were many things more to uncover about her. I got it that she was hurt and wanted revenge. The misunderstanding also made it tragic. However, it didn’t undo the damages she’d done (like stated above). Yes, the others were so forgiving and didn’t mention it anymore–after learning or guessing about it. What redeemed her character for me was she didn’t act pitiful after she’d revealed what she’d done (like she said that was the only way to seek revenge) and then just walked off. She wasn’t making excuses either when Mao Mao tried to kill her. Then when she finally learned she was wrong all along, she knew she had to return the map pieces yet didn’t expect to get an easy pass. Talking about the map, although I was mad at her, I was glad and somewhat held on to hope when I realized she didn’t give the other side the map yet. Once again, Dou Hua Mei did really well with her role. Her acting was solid, not flaky at all–whether it was the playful person at times at the bar or the serious person with baggage.
- Kirby Kuo (郭思辰) as Ke Ke (柯柯). Director of the school news coverage team. I didn’t like her at all until near the end. Sad, but I just didn’t like her style of writing or collecting news events via the paparazzi route. I got it that she was good at what she doing and had a knack for thinking of ways to draw in readers/viewers. Yet I just didn’t like that route. Of all the things that Zhi Wu did later, I think the only thing that was justified was embarrassing her. Yes, that was cruel for her since she was depressed because Si Ren didn’t care for her, etc. Yet she had grilled Zhi Wu during the events of the bar controversies. If she wasn’t placed into that situation, I didn’t think she would understand.
- Nana Lu (盧芃宇) as Che Shen (車神). Once again, I didn’t like her initially, considering how her crazy disciples were going around causing troubles and declaring war on different parties. Yet when I realized she didn’t know about it and even ended up teaching her disciples some valuable lessons, she gained my respect. She wasn’t like other masters who covered up for their disciples–even if after learning which party was at fault. She owned up to her mistakes and made amends with them. She could be so snappy at times, but she was also quite righteous and loyal to her friends. She became my favorite by the end–among the female leads.
- Luo Zhen Huan (羅震環) as Gong Zhu (公主). Nicknamed Guai Tai / Freak (怪胎) by Tian Ya. Although her name means “princess”, she wasn’t a real princess like how Tian Ya was a prince. But I swear she was out of touch when she said that what type of era were they living in regarding Tian Ya misunderstanding her for a princess. Seriously? They do have royalties now too. Just because it seemed outdated to some countries did not mean to others. And yes, I initially didn’t like her either since she seemed really snappy yet still wanted to tag Tian Ya so that he could teach her his swords techniques. However, as the story progressed with how she promised her friend that she would help, it made me less annoyed with her in regard to her persistence in learning the swords techniques and competing in the competition. However, what I was really annoyed with her for was her not telling Tian Ya about the bullying from his fans club. It was weird how they let her be a doormat for those crazy witches and then even came to those witches’ defense hence the witches finally accepting her. I got the result and in a way understood her way of not wanting to be a tatter-teller but it was really frustrating to watch. I was glad they didn’t drag it out any more than that. She was brave in many ways, to overcome the ultimate obstacle in order to fulfill her promise with her friend.
- Zhang Guo Zhu (張國柱) as Dong Fang Lie (東方烈) and Dong Fang Hao (東方豪). Twin past presidents of Roland Academy. One good, one evil. They were initially good, but after inheriting the power from a mysterious stone, it had fused Dong Fang Lie into more power lusting and insanity. Dong Fang Hao lost the mobility to his legs yet remained kindhearted, even studying the stone carefully and was trying to hide what was left from his brother. Not to mention trying to avoid future findings of it. He acted quite well, showing both kindness and evilness, depending on the role he had to take on.
- Edison Huang (黃懷晨) as Jun Lian Yi (君憐伊). A cowardly teacher at Roland Academy yet was later revealed to be one of Dong Fang Lie’s henchmen. He was just using that easygoing and easily bullied by others’ exterior to fool others. Ironically, he was crazier than Dong Fang Lie and ended up killing him to move forward with his final agenda in gaining power via the mysterious stones. I didn’t suspect him at first since I treated him as part of the comedy acts to enhance Zhan Ye’s forgetfulness. Yet I finally suspected him during the scene where Yuan Zhi chased him down and ended up in the bathroom. I had to slap myself for ignoring the signs of the “too innocent” looking dude. Yes, he was just disguising himself as a pathetic guy whom people either pitied or laughed at–not taking him seriously. He was indeed crazy.
- Liu Shang Qian (劉尚謙) as Zhuo Ying Guan (卓英冠). Yuan Zhi’s father, Zhuo Guan Clan’s leader. He finally appeared near the end to explain matters to the kids. He was indeed a mysterious being from the start, not appearing at all but only sent his son there to protect the other three guys. I thought that he would die from his injury because of the crazy dude’s sudden stab. Luckily, he didn’t.
- Debbie Chou (周丹薇) as Du Yi Ye (度一夜). Tian Ya’s mother, the queen of the Alastair Kingdom (阿拉斯特王國). She was seriously funny. Well, if the scene called for it. I was annoyed with her when she acted all arrogant toward Gong Zhu yet luckily it was just a little trick she pulled out to test Gong Zhu. Considering how she wasn’t royalty herself and married into royalty too, who was she to criticize Gong Zhu? Luckily, it wasn’t so.
- Maggie Wu ( 吳亞馨) as Young Du Yi Ye (度一夜). She only appeared in flashbacks (obviously). She was shown as an intelligent young woman at that time and was also quite cute in her own way. Her older self was more cunning or more mischievous in a sense. It was nice seeing Maggie again. I haven’t seen her in a while or perhaps I wasn’t watching the right dramas.
- Tai Bao (太保) as Zhan Chi (戰持). Zhan Ye’s father. A cop. He was funny and like the other elders said, a “loud-mouth.” No wonder they didn’t include him in on the schemes to fool Dong Fang Lie. Although I admired him for his bravery and righteousness and loyalty to his friends, I didn’t like it that he took it upon himself to help the robber’s family that one time. It was crazy. It wasn’t like he told the other dude to go rob people. It was an accident with the other incident. He was a cop, he chased a robber and that was his fault? Really? So yeah, really dumb move just because the other dude had a family. They acted all pitiful and made him feel guilty like he was in the wrong. It wasn’t like he was the robber and robbed and killed the other dude. Seriously. Anyway, back to Zhan Chi, I wasn’t sure if he died in the hospital or not. I was doing some other things and watching at the same time. Maybe I should go back and get an answer. But my guess was he did? Considering the amount of blood shown flowing down? That was just tragic.
- Guan Jin Zong (管謹宗) as Wu Wen Bo (宇文博). Si Ren’s father. The president of Roland Academy. Known to be in cahoot with Dong Fang Lie for the majority of the series and then it was revealed that he was their undercover agent all along. He sacrificed himself years ago in order to save Dong Fang Hao and also kept the secret of the stones a mystery. He had to hold up a front as in wanting to kick the kids of the other three friends out of the academy yet secretly rooted for their success. It wasn’t until near the end that Du Yi Ye and Zhuo Ying Guan revealed of their past plan. He ended up being taken hostage but was later rescued by Zhuo Guan Clan’s members. Although I understood his need to act fierce and strict in front of others, I never could forgive him for the way he treated his son when the kid was little. So I was glad Si Ren confronted him about that and somehow got it resolved.
- Li Jing Tian (李京恬) as Duo Mao Mao (朵貓貓). Yuan Zhi’s bodyguard, taken in and raised by Zhuo Ying Guan since little. She liked Yuan Zhi initially but Yuan Zhi only treated her like a sister. Later, it seemed like she finally accepted Hua Jing Tang? Regardless, she was really loyal to Yuan Zhi and his father–and she sure kicked ass.
- Qiu Mu Han (邱木翰) as Mei Ren Li (梅忍禮). Assistant Director of the news coverage team. I didn’t think much of him and wasn’t really interested in his storyline along with Ke Ke. He was just okay for me. It wasn’t like I was annoyed or was taking sides. But he was just one of those characters being there. I do pity him at times for getting yelled at, and on the other hand felt like he sort of walked into it with liking Ke Ke and sticking by her. It was his choice.
- ID Yu (游艾迪) as Huo Xi (火曦). A teacher at Roland Academy. I really liked her and was glad she participated in a battle that one time Tian Ya was kidnapped. She was indeed cool. I also liked her spunky nature and standing up for her students.
- Sean Hong (洪聆翔) as Hua Jing Tang (花景棠). Initially liked Gong Zhu (or at least tried to impress her at their first meeting) yet later tagged Mao Mao. He was seriously too much with bragging about his appearance and talent. At first, I thought he was a villain, but then realized he was just silly. Then I realized he was smart, considering how he tried to shut Tian Ya up when Tian Ya was exposing himself. He wasn’t bad so I accepted him more. I also enjoyed his crazy banter with Mao Mao.
- Tang Zhen Gang (唐振剛) as Fang Fei Dao (方飛刀). Vice President of the student body. Used to hate Si Ren because of Si Ren’s strict rules yet later ended up changing his mind since Si Ren’s attitude and behaviors had changed.
- Yako Chan (詹子晴) as Gao Mai Mai (高脉脉). Zhan Ye’s high school classmate. She was freaking annoying at first and also the writers used the scheme with Tian Ya trying to persuade Zhan Ye to remember him at first again but with Mai Mai when she kept appearing and reminding him. It was indeed frustrating because Zhan Ye didn’t remember or know anything yet was deceived. It was obvious she was lying from the start. Then later when she revealed her story, it was sad. I was just glad it didn’t drag on. I felt bad for her, but I hated that Zhan Ye was deceived when he seriously had a condition that couldn’t allow him to remember anyone. It wasn’t like he was lying to her so putting him through that was cruel.
- The cast. Although I might not like some characters or got disappointed here and there, I thought the cast worked well together. Not to mention the sacrifices they made and endured all the trials to make this drama happened. Most of the main cast were injured at one point or another. Or perhaps, more like anyone involved in fighting scenes or had a role that required fighting was injured at least once. It showed their efforts in making this drama happened. It also showed how this generation wasn’t so spoiled or acting like divas–like how others often talk about them like that.
- The music. Loved AK songs in here and also that one sub-theme. The songs were a wonderful companion to the drama.
- The mystery. Regardless of different events and how it turned out, I thought the mystery was interesting. They revealed different pieces of the puzzles throughout and then finally wrapped it up in the end. It seemed like a typical treasure hunt, but also different.
- The pace. Well, the mystery sort of helped with the pace. But overall, it was plot-driven and not too into letting some characters hog the scene so that made the drama as an overall even more appealing for me. I was glad they moved forward and allowed the plot details to show us who the characters were. Sure, there were nonsense comedic scenes (or so it appeared), but I thought they did it so it was actually funny.
- Couples. I meant to do a “Relationships” section, but I don’t feel like it anymore. Perhaps, I’ll go back to it later. Not sure. But I thought I put it here as well. I thought most of the couples matched up quite well. I felt Si Ren and Ke Ke were kind of forced since it was near the end. But it was all right. The other couples were hilarious in their own way. I used to like Yuan Zhi and Zhi Wu the most, but then that changed over time. I felt my favorite couple had to be Zhan Ye and Che Shen since they were so hilarious with their interactions throughout. It was so tragic to see the guys not making it and there would be no future for them.
- The Ending. What was that? I think my reaction was justified when I went full, “What the hell?” Because seriously, what was that? I wasn’t as mad but more shocked and felt reluctant. Like I know the final battle was supposed to be intense and all. But like all four of them died? Like for real? I didn’t read the novel or have access to it so I wouldn’t know. But seriously? The reason why I didn’t see it coming although I saw pictures of the guys bleeding was because for the most part, even if there were intense moments, the comedy always came back. It was like a light comedy for the most part–added in with the mysteries they had to solve. But to go full nuclear?
- Friendships among the four guys. Okay, mostly it was friendships among the three guys (Yuan Zhi, Tian Ya, and Zhan Ye) but near the end, Si Ren finally joined them. It was almost always three against one. Yet other times, Yuan Zhi took Si Ren’s side and tried to get the other two to help Si Ren. In a way, Yuan Zhi was the glue to the group. It wasn’t until it was revealed that Wu Wen Bo was a mole for the elders that Tian Ya and Zhan Ye finally accepted Si Ren. The relations among them mostly revolve around trust. Although Tian Ya and Zhan Ye didn’t trust Si Ren at first, because they trusted Yuan Zhi so they ended up helping Si Ren. At other times, they were forced to help one another because of circumstances as well. Because of Yuan Zhi’s persistence, Si Ren finally had the courage to confront his father (even if he–and the others) had thought wrongly of the man. One of the things that I found admirable was when Yuan Zhi met up with them and showed them the map pieces that Zhi Wu returned to him yet the others didn’t care to hear where it came from–even if they said it was better as a secret, but it was a way to say they supported Yuan Zhi so they didn’t need any sort of confrontation or explanation from him. What was funny was when they lined up in front of the 303 Dormitory and Si Ren showed up a little late that Zhan Ye was like,” Guan Tai Lian, you sure took forever.” Si Ren was surprised and looked at Zhan Ye, “You remember me?” Zhan Ye replied with, “Since your father’s friends with my father, of course we’re friends too.” That made one of Si Ren’s rare smiles appeared. Indeed, they finally accepted him as one of their own, even if Zhan Ye was still calling Si Ren “Guan Tai Lian” but he was saying it in a joking manner instead of in a mocking way like previously. Yup, Zhan Ye rarely recognized people and it took a lot of effort for him to remember so him remembering Si Ren without the others telling him beforehand meant that Si Ren was indeed important. In the end, they had formed a band of brothers for the final battle. It was indeed powerful, at times hilarious, and in the end touching and tragic.
Recommended? I would say it’s up to you. You have to like the cast to enjoy it. Or least give them a chance–like I did with the majority. It was worth it for me, even if the ending felt choking. Click here to watch on iQiyi if you want.