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 Four Horsemen: Review

(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.

Main Cast:

  • 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.

Others:

  • 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.

Likes:

  • 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.

Discussions:

  • 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.