A Traditional Story of Taiwan: Amitabha Buddha’s Gravestone

(image source: net)

I’ve been following this collection of stories more actively of recent. Many of the stories were touching and thought-provoking. However, this stood out for me although it seemed like an average story. The ending was brilliantly tragic. I think it was the twist that became more meaningful in the long run–even if it had to be so tragic. What stood out for me even more was James Chang’s performance. He was indeed a very good actor, who was obviously overshadowed by the current culture of idol dramas. He was a serious actor and deserved to shine in this collection of stories. Too bad he couldn’t shine outside of this, not for the lack of trying but because people rather promote some other actors. And when I say “serious actor”, I do not mean he couldn’t do comedy, because he was brilliantly awesome at those scenes too. What I meant was he was a true actor, not needing some “polished” role to make him shine but he was able to convince just by using his acting abilities. I had liked him since watching the Madame White Snake parody that he starred in with Ehlo, Athena, and Sunny.

TW TV Series Worth Watching

I actually started this list like 2 years ago but didn’t want to post it just yet. Now, I thought what in the world, just go ahead. AND this is not an attempt to convince or manipulate people into watching it. Just something to share and add to this random blog. Some of them I attached links because I’d actually done the reviews for them at one point. Some are actually under its own categories so I won’t link it. Others? Might do discussions in the future but not sure.

This is the Taiwanese drama list – as the title indicated. I will post up the Mainland China and Hong Kong ones separately.

Ancient Dramas:

Gu Jian En Chou Ji 1984 (孤劍恩仇記) – Many people might not remember this one, but it was really good–despite being one of those with ‘lame’ settings in the days when Taiwan productions weren’t that convincing yet. But they had a great cast and the plot was really good for this one.

Bao Qing Tian 1993 – Who could forget this one, right? It was quite popular during its run, and the episodes got extended. One of the few shows that got extended but wasn’t unreasonable.

Ji Gong 1995 – Really funny but had a lot of underlying messages. So zen, so witty yet could be so crazy too.

Madame White Snake 2013 (白蛇外傳) – 40 episodes, but each episode was only about half an hour or less. It was enjoyable and sort of a parody to the “Madame White Snake” stories.

Shi Gong Qi An 1997 – It was so addicting, following the success of the whole Bao Qing Tian sagas. This also retained a lot of comedic moments to aid the plot along, so it wasn’t as depressing, but it wasn’t corny either.

Modern Dramas:

Angel Lover – 40 episodes later and I was still wanting more. Kudos to the production team for that. There were a lot of meaningful messages placed in without making it too corny. The people in here experienced very real problems in life and needed some guidance to get through and start anew, etc. The soundtrack was awesome also.

Black & White – Though when it came down to it, it was a 50/50 toss since the ‘romance’ part bugged me to death, must admit it was a really big production and they honestly put a lot of effort in the cases AND action scenes. NOT to mention the whole ‘conspiracy’ and the huge cast involved–regardless of grand names or not.

Bump Off Lover – I was really surprised it was that serious and dark–and was actually that good. It made me changed my views regarding TW dramas of recent and also of Angela. (YES, I wasn’t that into Angela until after I watch this one.) Probably one of those close to realistic dramas of recent years. Some elements might seem so exaggerated, especially with the twins being so different–as some people pointed out. YET it wasn’t impossible because of the catalysts involved.

Endless Love (愛∞無限) – I was surprised since I was just watching out of curiosity and because I want to support Will.

Devil Beside You – YES, for one of those rare times, I actually agreed with the general public about it being good – AND it had to do with both the storyline and the actors/actresses who portrayed the roles. I never read the actual manga SO do not know how accurate it was but the drama was good enough for me.

Home Run – One of those short and nice dramas from PTS.

Hua Yang Shao Nian Shao Nu – Again, NOT because I’m following the crowd, but more like I really agreed with how the plot was. Didn’t read the manga either but found it pretty good for the most part. I really felt the whole school atmosphere and typical rivalry between dorms, etc. It was madness but also interesting and meaningful if the surface was stripped down.

I Do? – A surprisingly good one though it had some of the usual cliche plotlines. Interestingly enough, it was also an adaptation from a certain romance novel. From what I heard, it had strayed from the novel (as usual) but still retained some essence of the storyline, making it bearable.

Just Singing And Dancing (K歌·情人·夢) – Regardless of what happened with the ratings (which I didn’t get why but I reminded myself I no longer care to figure it out, except for daily dramas that made more sense), this was a really nice one. Focused mostly on music. Yeah, it did repeat the formula with different members of the band trying to conquer some inner demons, etc. But it wasn’t too soapy. It kept it real for the most part about family conflicts as well. The singing and dancing at random times didn’t seem to be realistic with life, etc BUT it put a lot of artistic elements into it. They used new and old songs and remixes to make it even more interesting.

Liu Mang Xiao Zhang – Many people will disagree with me since it seemed to be non-existence. YET I felt it was one of those really up there because it was really short and made its point. The characters were nicely written–though the plot could be silly at times. But it was a romantic comedy at heart, right? I’m not placing it in because two of my favorites are in it BUT because it really made an impact for me with the storyline. (Click here and here for more discussions regarding the drama.)

Love Together (愛讓我們在一起) – Despite some of its frustrating parts (and most dramas have those), I felt it was pretty good. Maybe what made it convincing was the maturity of the cast involved.

Mei Ren Long Tang (美人龍湯) – I was more than surprised. I meant I only wanted to watch because of not being able to get past a Mike drama for a while now. This seemed hopeful, but I wasn’t expecting much. Yet Mike really surprised me in this one with his really good acting (past the usual cool, handsome guy exterior). The rest of the cast were as convincing. The story wasn’t that unbearable either since some of the frustrating moments moved faster than usual, which was a good thing. I liked how the pieces of puzzles were placed in and then resolved along the way. It wasn’t too dramatic yet wasn’t too boring either.

Peak Times – A BIG surprise for me. I only wanted to check it out half because of curiosity and half because of Eric Huang and Cecilia Han Xue. But I found myself pulled in by the excitement at first. Then the suspense dragged me along for the rest of the time.

Rookies’ Diary – I didn’t put it in because many of my favorites are in here. BUT because I felt it was very informative regarding military procedures. I learned a lot. And I do know there were fictional elements in there (DUH, I know) and possibly added to accompany the plot. Yet it was really inspiring. AND what made me love this even more was seeing how they had continued with mentioning some characters from part 1 in the sequel without needing to ‘kill’ or ‘cut’ them off completely. Sure, they had to sever the ties for one of the main leads to explain why he wasn’t around anymore. BUT the rest of the relationships didn’t change, i.e. Wu Yong/Xia Zheng Feng didn’t end up with someone else just because Xiao Yan/Xiao Xiao Yu wasn’t around anymore.

Sisters (姊妹) – YES, it was 60 episodes long. Yet I felt it was worth it since they explored a lot of relationships throughout the drama and focused mostly on sisters’ relationships (obviously), but it was different in a way, especially the ending. I felt the ending had actually helped a lot with convincing us of real-life situations because not everything was about ‘happily ever after’ or ‘everything could be worked out so the main couple could reunite once again’. (Sorry, I’m rolling my eyes now.)

The Magicians of Love – Ignore the fact that it was a SETTV drama and that it had many silly attempts to extend the episodes for ratings (YEAH, typical SETTV move), it had some foundation. Not to mention how the message of breaking past obstacles to reach one’s goal at the end seemed quite addicting at times. The characters weren’t flawless because they were actually human beings so it was that spot that made it somewhat more realistic than seeing the typical heroes and heroines like in the other dramas.

The New World – Excellent planning and directing where puzzles were concerned and how the plot was crafted. However, what disappointed me was the ending. Some of the characterizations were nicely written and were worth it. However, the suspense that was built up since the beginning and along the way was all for nothing after all. Yes, it was that frustrating and I probably won’t ever get over it. Yet I must admit, they did a good job in some areas. The romance side, it was kind of messy and dragging in some areas and wasn’t enough balance for me. So what was the point of placing it in? I think considering how I placed in some other dramas that probably frustrated me too, I think this one was a push forward for suspense drama. It could have been short like Xiao Hai Da Ren with some cuts here and there, then it would be good. Yes, this was from the same team that made Xiao Hai Da Ren.

Wayward Kenting – This is truly a classic. YES, one of those rare times I actually use ‘classic’ since I’ve been so sick of people using it at every chance they get to mock other dramas. Director Niu really brought to life some of the daily problems the characters were experiencing and made it so mesmerizing and addicting to watch.

White Robe of Love – Not because I’m an Adylan fan. But because I found it interestingly addicting as well. It seemed somewhat silly at first but was real enough through its depiction and how it was laid out. It didn’t reek of the typical ‘idol dramas’ elements. (As interestingly most Dylan dramas aren’t.)

Xiao Hai Da Ren – OMG, surprisingly amazing. This is one of those reasons why I think dramas DO NOT even need to be dragged out to be good. The way it was presented was very convincing and restored my faith in TW dramas in general. NOT that I want to completely put other dramas down, but this one proved that if they wanted to do something serious without all the dramatic sequences added to just ‘entertain’, they could.

Yuan Lai Wo Bu Shuai – Some people must have dropped their jaws by now. BUT I have to say that this drama reminded me somewhat of the university days and just school days in general. Crazy conspiracy and wild theories students tossed around. Sometimes it wasn’t as dramatic as implied in the drama YET it made sense because if you’re in that particular group, you automatically focus on just that group only. School gossips and many more. Then it was also about friendships, etc. A typical comedy that needed to look beyond those obvious scenes to enjoy.

NOTE: This post will be updated from time to time. Therefore, it will be included in the ‘Helpful Posts’ section to make it easier to locate–IF anyone’s interested in following. Also, keep in mind that I back-watch from time to time, some might NOT be on the list yet. Others, call it a difference of opinions–IF I didn’t put it on there.

Madame White Snake: The Latest Time Traveling Skit

When I saw that Ehlo Huang finally made it up to the main lead guy (again), I just couldn’t resist. And because it’s an ancient drama too. Even if it’s SETTV doing it. (YES, I know it gets repetitive and super annoying that I kept implying I don’t like SETTV dramas YET kept diving in. I just couldn’t resist it when it’s one of my favorites and it’s a weak spot.) Anyway, I tried watching the first episode and cracked up so hard I couldn’t stop. It was sort of a parody to the White Snake legends more than an actual serious approach. Yet that was the purpose so I continued on.

For this post, I want to touch on some of the key characters first. Maybe I’ll backtrack and do some other types of topics later for future posts.

Athena Lee (李燕) as Bai Su Zhen (白素貞) aka the White Snake. I don’t remember watching her in any other series but she was really cute as Bai Su Zhen yet could also be quite scary at times too. It made sense because when she saw injustice matters, she would jump in to help others. She wasn’t a doormat in the sense of letting the evil demons from harming others, but I felt really bad for her and thought she should just leave at times when it was just too much. For once, I don’t blame her for being so naive or too trusting at times because people back then weren’t as complicated as now. Or more like the girl population got sheltered too much. Even if she was the snake demon who lived thousands of years already but she wasn’t as in touch with some of the human realm or would know of human nature as much as she would with demons in two shakes.

Ehlo Huang as Huang Yu Rong (黃玉榮) and Xu Xian (許仙). YES, he portrayed himself as an actor but it showed that he was a player in here hence getting some sort of ‘karma’ for his past misdeeds and ended up in the legendary Madame White Snake story. As the story progressed though, he had become more and more like Xu Xian (like how Fa Hai was saying that the longer they stay in the story, they would become more and more like their supposed identities that were given to them by the power of the book). Around the time that episode 28 rolled around, I practically just wanted to strangle him altogether. Okay, I got it that the whole ‘demon’ thing was really scary for a normal person like him, considering how he was already trapped in the ancient world and trying to survive. But confiding in Xiu Ying? And him confiding in Xiu Ying was why I mentioned about him becoming more and more like Xu Xian than before because he was so cunning and devious in a sense when he was Ehlo. Or what we would call modern-day sharpness since people back then weren’t that corrupted like him. Yet he was becoming more and more like Xu Xian with his dullness and trusting in others so easily versus others. Honestly. I seriously hope it would pass soon and I just finished episode 29 recently. Acting-wise, Ehlo didn’t disappoint at all. He was hilarious and natural, even if there were times that it required exaggeration. He still managed to pull it off.

Sunny Lee (李亮瑾) as Liu Xin Hui (柳心慧) and Xiao Qing (小青) aka the Green Snake. She portrayed two roles. In the modern part of the story, she was the director, Liu Xin Hui, of the Madame White Snake production that they were filming. Then when Ehlo got transferred into the story of Madame White Snake, he saw her as the Green Snake and thought she was playing a trick on him and ended up scolding her. It wasn’t until later that he realized she wasn’t Liu Xin Hui and was actually the Green Snake. I didn’t really pay attention to her when she was Liu Xin Hui since it was really strange at first and I didn’t even know where this was going, but when she was Xiao Qing, she was really cute and her character really grew on me. Regardless of how she was so mischievous at times, but I found her so lovable and loyal to the White Snake.

James Chang (張維錫) as Fa Hai (法海). He was someone from the modern time too yet got stuck in the Madame White Snake story for too long that he had forgotten his real name. However, he was still able to remember some of the events relating to the modern world so he ended up being buddies with Ehlo for most of the story while they tried to figure out a way to return to the modern world. For a character like Fa Hai, he was so lovable, considering how some past adaptations hadn’t really favored him as far as plots were concerned. (Yet I later realized how SETTV was breaking down the choice of characters. Ehlo was the arrogant main guy; Bai Su Zhen was the typical pitiful, naive girl; Xiao Qing being the supportive friend/loyal servant; Fa Hai was the 2nd main lead who would do anything to help the main girl but wouldn’t get anything. YES, I’m picking on SETTV again but I couldn’t help it. They had it made out with their past typical formula already. So it wasn’t like that was news.) I really want to hang on some more and hope that he wouldn’t turn against them for some final twist though. I meant I hope it would be different this time and continue to stay that way, even if that meant typical SETTV formula.

STACY as Shao Xiu Ying (邵秀英) and the Golden Frog Demon and Lisa. In the modern time, she was Ehlo’s supposedly girlfriend Lisa but wasn’t acknowledged and he sort of ignored her after several dates or something. Forgot since it was WAY in the first episode. But when he finally traveled to ancient times, she was the Golden Frog Demon who was disguising herself as Shao Xiu Ying. Perhaps, I shouldn’t blame Ehlo too much for trusting her at times since she was a look-alike comparing to his modern girlfriend so he felt the similarities? (Because even if he was the pervert before too, but he wasn’t that trusting with her. He would try to do whatever he needed to do with what the book was saying and get out of there.) And oh yeah, she completed the typical SETTV formula with being the wicked girl who made the main girl’s life miserable.

Li Fei (李飛) as Xu Guo Tou (許過頭) aka Ku Gua Tou (苦瓜頭). At first, I thought they were putting in some character with buckteeth to mock and make fun of people with buckteeth so it was a turn off for me. Yet I later learned to really like this character. Though he could get into crazy schemes with his young master at times, he was really lovable as a loyal servant. I must agree with Xiao Qing that he was the only one within the Xu family who really had a ‘heart’ regarding what happened as of recent episodes. He really cared for Bai Su Zhen as his ‘shao nai nai’ (少奶奶) and Xiao Qing as his master (師父).

So, as I said earlier, I managed to catch up on most of the episodes already. Though still wondering where this all was going, I managed to follow some of the cast on Facebook and saw both James and Sunny posted pictures with words that said they had wrapped up already. James even mentioned that it was 40 episodes. So it would be finish airing like next week? I’m glad since I don’t want it to drag out anymore. It’s not like it’s long since each episode is barely half an hour. But it’s supposedly a comedy after all so wrapping it up after some more trials would be appropriate instead of dragging it out like the daily or weekend soaps. Last, but not least, major kudos to the cast for remaining so pro and cheery when they have to shoot an ancient drama in the peak of summer!

*All images were captured by DTLCT