Liao Zhai 2014: Review

(image credit: as marked)

Story 1 – Judge Lu (陆判)

Probably the most anticipated for me because of Qiao Zhen Yu yet I felt disappointed in it. Not because of the other cast or anything. I surprisingly liked Alice Ko in here since she hasn’t really clicked for me in her past dramas. Then perhaps it was just the plot or strange characterization that made it hard to relate for me. In here, she was really cute and funny as Qi Ting and was cunning and creepy as Jing Lan. The same for Liu Dong, portraying two roles so seamlessly alongside Alice. However, the plot was just dragging on and on between the Zhu sisters fighting over Tao Yue Ming that it didn’t appeal to me as much. Well, Qi Ting wasn’t fighting with her sister, but it seemed to shuffle back and forth between the love story so I wasn’t as interested in it as I would have.

Story 2 – Heaven and Earth (乾坤)

Surprisingly good. I was having doubts about this pairing of Cecilia Han Xue and Chen Long. Yet their chemistry was quite good. I enjoyed their story more because of the combinations of the battle in the demon realm and how the story eventually played out. What was funny was how my mom (who is a major fan of Norman Chui) thought that he was just in here for some side, unimportant character that needed to be rescued. However, when the twist came around, it was indeed quite chilling. It was a nice twist though. He had to be the big, bad guy. How could he just stand aside and play some small role, right? Nice. Bittersweet ending, but it wasn’t too tragic. Well, it was when the ending was unknown. But once the last scene rolled around, it wasn’t too bad.

Story 3 – Heng Niang (恒娘)

The chemistry between Lin You Wei and Kimi Li was so cute. At least initially. Having done the translations for the plot summary, I had expected the inevitable. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying their cute moments. How she hugged him when she finally arrived at the town. He was so happy and hugged her back. Then there was also the part where she tried to act all civilized and polite with the courtesy, so of course, she didn’t eat as much. It was so funny watching her trying to find food and then finding food at last. I totally sympathize. How could anyone eat so little? The cutest part was how he placed a cup of water/tea on the table. It showed that the person who prepared the special midnight dinner for her was him. So she hugged him, so touched. Only he would understand her. It was really cute and nice. He told her not to hold back since it was her house after all, so she could eat all that she wanted. Indeed, so cute. It was hard to see how he could betray her later on. Yet when the scenes finally came around regarding the betrayal, I realized that it wasn’t what was let on in the summary. There were many factors to think about. So in the end, I sort of forgive them for the mess. I felt that after all that was said and done, Heng Niang and Tian Fu belonged together.

Poor James Wen, once again had to play the bad guy. Yet I think for this type of short story, it was all right. He didn’t disappoint. After all, they needed to cut Lin You Wei some slacks, considering how he had to play some not so likable characters in the past. It was about time he stepped out of the shadow, right? Somewhat dramatic but was entertaining enough with a mixture of fantasies and all. Not to mention how they got past the ‘time travel’ thing! LOL! If only it was that obvious to cut out, right? Nicely done.

Story 4 – Lian Suo (连琐)

Hilarious. At least at first. Because of how Royce Wong’s character, Yang Yu Wei, was so freaked out by the ghost haunting his new house. It was insane. He tried everything but it didn’t work. He tried to reassure his brother that he was fine, but of course, he was far from fine. The story was quite intriguing at various points, with both sweetness and bitterness. Plus other very terrifying aspects, once again visiting the theme of people sometimes are scarier than ghosts/demons.

Story 5 – Ye Sheng (叶生)

Sad, so sad. But it wasn’t too frustrating. Okay, it was in a way since there was a little more time before the ending yet the main guy died. But I think it wasn’t for nothing. The prince grew up still remembering him and still referred to him as his father. Talking about that, I especially like the relationship between Medic Ye and the young prince as father and son.

There were twists and turns about the plot and the unexpected thing led others to realize sometimes things weren’t what they were seen. Even if you think you got the story straight. A very touching story on many levels.

Story 6 – Kingdom of Female Demons (夜叉国)

*Can’t find it, will go back later since I am quite intrigued by this story after translating the summary.

Story 7 – The Flower Spirit (花姑子)

*Might go back later. (If I can find it.)

Story 8 – Maiden In Green (绿衣女)

Interestingly my favorite story among all. I was just curious about how Bianca would fend and how the story would be. I also have doubts about her pairing up with Calvin Li. Yet they were awesome. I loved them from the start. Their story was touching and quite real. I meant aside from the whole fantasy elements, lol. I know, sounds ironic. But their relationship with living in the mountains and taking care of his mom as a family was quite nice. Then the other elements made it quite tragic. What was nice about it was how the Taoist wasn’t such an uptight, not knowing the gray areas–like some other stories in the past had led on. He was quite cool and knew that there were actually good demons as well, not just outright lumping them all together. At least, it was when he realized what was going on after the initial disagreement. What was a bit ironic about the situation was how she was the demon at the beginning of the story yet in the end, he was the demon. How could they work it out? Well, I guess they waited for so long, they would find a way to get past that obstacle as well. Not to mention how they needed her father’s approval too.

So conclusion? I think it’s clear that story #8 is my ultimate favorite. Then story # 2, #5, #4, #3, and #1–in that order. It’s because I haven’t watched the other two yet so I couldn’t place them. But will go back for those later and possibly change my answer. Anyway, I would’ve placed #3 higher but I think because of some repeated stuff, I want to switch it out. Although #4 was quite frustrating at some points too, I think the overall sort of made it worthwhile. Even if it was really tragic. Number #3, only found Lin You Wei and Kimi Li cute. Although the story with the fox demons was intriguing but also frustrating so I didn’t care for it as much. And I already explained why #1 is so low on the list.

Liao Zhai 2014: Maiden In Green (绿衣女)

Praying Mantis Demon Lu Zhu (Bianca Bai), because of repaying the gratitude of saving her life, turned into a normal girl to marry ambitious hunter, plus hardworking scholar Yu Jing (Calvin Li). The pair of husband and wife resided on the mountain, experiencing a very blissful life. However, Scorpion Demon (Evans Wang), who was deeply in love with Lu Zhu, had been accumulating some schemes to harm Yu Jing. In addition, a powerful Taoist, Shen Guan (Yang Chen), who was in search of demons had also arrived. Not being able to distinguish between friends or foes, perils were everywhere.

On his way to the capital, Yu Jing unexpectedly ran into Princess Ru Ning (Bai Hui Zi). At the same time, Yu Jing accidentally found out about the king’s advisor’s treasonous plots. Two couple’s love, entangling with the country’s crucial matters, who isn’t just a piece of pawn within the king’s hands?

Đường Lang Tinh Lục Châu (Bạch Hâm Huệ) vì báo đáp cứu mạng chi ân nên hóa thân thành dân nữ để gã cho một người thợ săn lòng mang đại chí kim học hành khổ cực là Vu Cảnh (Lý Tông Hàn). Phu phụ hai người ở trên núi sống một cuộc sống thiệt hạnh phúc. Nhưng Hạt Tử Tinh Tạ Ngao (Vương Y), kẻ một mực yêu Lục Châu, đã tồn tâm gia hại Vu Cảnh. Thêm vào một người đạo sĩ đạo thuật cao là Thẩm Quán (Dương Thần), người chuyên môn bắt yêu, đã đuổi tới nơi. Nhứt thời, địch ta khó phân, nguy hiểm trùng trùng.

Trên đường tới kinh thành, Vu Cảnh bất ngờ gặp được Công Chúa Nhữ Ninh (Bạch Hủy Tử). Đồng thời, Vu Cảnh lại vô ý phát hiện ra được âm mưu phản của Quốc Sư. Tình duyên của hai cặp nam nữ, quấn quýt với đại cuộc của quốc gia đại sự, ai lại không phải chỉ là một con cờ trong tay hoàng đế thôi?

*All information was from Baidu, and all translations were by DTLCT.

*All images were collected around the net hence belonging to their rightful owners.

Liao Zhai 2

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Ending Theme Versions:

Featuring Luo Sha Hai Shi and Yan Zhi: Here

Featuring Yi Ning and Fen Die: Here

Featuring Lian Xiang and Yi Qian: Here

I said that I would do an overall analysis on this one so here goes. I thought this set of stories was quite lacking compared to part 1. Don’t say ‘Duh’ ’cause honestly, it wasn’t a whole story to be on the same scale with the whole ‘sequel’ thing. YES, it was a sequel, BUT because it was not just one story and then this was following it in that matter to be counted that way. It would be more accurate to say that this was another set of stories that followed the previous set of stories. I remember not watching only one story from the last one ’cause I already watched another adaptation elsewhere hence not watching it because it was basically the same with a different cast. However, this one was quite fresh with the set of stories but some of them seriously failed to capture the main points and let it drag on so it was quite disappointing. I will list the order of the stories to which I feel it deserved its place and then provide the reason as to why.

Yan Zhi – I can’t believe this had become my favorite and also earned the first spot. I was really, really surprised that the story was soooo good. Possibly because it stood out from the rest so it seemed really good to me in the end. Because I thought it was average at first but analyzing it more later, it was the only one that I seemed to write an in-depth summary about. It actually had a good theme, a solid story, and was not dragging at all. Things kept happening to drive the plot forward, not letting it dwell on one or another thing for too long. There were frustrating parts, but it soon passed and gave way for other things. It was also my first time watching Cecilia Han Xue and really liked her in here. My second time watching Yan Kuan and really liked his performance, feeling he deserved this lead role.

Lian Xiang – Though I felt the story was strange with them at times and I thought I wouldn’t like the way how things were with them but I finally understand why it must to be that way. One thing drove the other forward and many events were unavoidable. I actually felt that their chemistry wasn’t bad. I actually accepted the ending though it was not a happy one. It did not have to be that way. A possibly typical battle between good versus evil but it was all right. At least it did not drag out to the point of unbearable. There were also enough actions going on to drive the plot forward, keeping it mysterious with providing us with pieces of the puzzle slowly until the end.

Ying Ning – The story became somewhat dragging and repetitive toward the middle and somewhat in the ending parts but I forgave them because somehow the story still made sense. I actually liked the chemistry between June and Zhao Yi–like I said in the other review. It was really cute between them at first and then there was some bitterness. Not too bad at all.

Fen Die – What made this one standing fourth though it was supposed to be one of my most anticipated was its stupidity with dragging on and on about believing too much what the dreams were implying. YES, it could be true and could hint at the future. BUT I felt Fen Die relied so deeply on the dreams to tell her things or let her decide that it was way too pathetic for me to endure. Eddie and Esther still had great chemistry but the story was a bit weak to endure. Not to mention how the ending was a bit weak–to say the least. Though it was a happy ending and it did show how Wang Feng was able to see through their true love and let go but it was too much of a rush.

Yi Qian – Kind of refreshing idea like I said in the other review with the reversed role of letting the girl accepting the guy. However, the plot became sort of weak in the later parts. Though there were some comedic moments, it could not make up for the ending. Too fast and too ‘whatever’  to forgive.

Luo Sha Hai Shi – It was way too obvious from the individual review that I didn’t like it. Or more like I was really disappointed in it. Regardless of how it became so tragic (as most Liao Zhai stories should be) near the end, I could not make myself move it up from the list. It was too dragging to endure. Not to mention though it was a happy ending, it was just too much of a disappointment with the plot and characterization as I said before in the other review.

Just to end this on a positive note, I really liked the ending theme song used for this part. Does that even count? LOL! The song is called “White Fox“, which really suited this kind of theme with the mystical settings.

Seriously though, it would be nice to collect and watch and skip around and then snap some caps to do nice wallpapers or other types of graphics with since the costumes were nice–for the most part. And the scenery was equally mesmerizing. If only they had worked more on the plot development because like I said before, there were a lot of good ideas yet wasted with repetitive scenes or draggy formulas. So recommended or not? If you’re curious, go ahead and hunt for it to watch. Or you could be collecting because you like the artist mentioned. BUT I wouldn’t recommend it for the plot. The good thing is I saw on YesAsia you could buy the stories separately so you could try it out for yourself without having to buy the whole set of stories.

Liao Zhai 2: Ying Ning

(image credit: net)

For being just six episodes, this was like a never-ending story. Not that I didn’t like the chemistry between June and Zhao Yi. I found them really entertaining to watch–whether they were the bickering couple–or the cute one. Yet what made the story lacking was its repetitive formula with how Ying Ning just never learned. I did understand that she was kind and not scheming unlike various characters in here. But it was the trouble with her downfall. She created just too many opportunities for others to hurt her. I guess what made her a fairy was her kind heart and forgiving nature, etc BUT I just can’t stand it anymore. The formula was repetitive. Though Zi Fu was very intelligent in his own right, he was trapped within a group of people who were too wishy-washy. He was the only determined one yet others think he was cruel. I had to agree with him regarding some people’s deserved fate regardless of how cruel it seemed to be. They were the ones who acted out that way, so why should they be pitied? They did bring it upon themselves.

Just when I was clapping them on regarding how Zi Fu pretended to lose his memory again to expose his brother and step-mother, the others had to interfere AND create an opportunity for future troubles. It was just too repetitive and frustrating. That was the thing with trying to keep it lenient just because of family relations. It was just another excuse and like an immune spot SO the other party could hurt you even more.

What made it even more frustrating while watching was seeing the character Ji Lan stirring stuff up but kept being forgiven for what she’d done. IF Zi Fu had known, he wouldn’t be as lenient. But Ying Ning–like I said before–created the opportunity for her or something. Ji Lan was just so despicable, thinking that she was so good. Zi Fu never liked her regardless of whether Ying Ning appeared or not. It was a stupid excuse like any sore loser out there would make up regarding those situations, saying how “If so and so didn’t exist, I would have a chance.” Oh really? You had your chance ages ago AND nothing was moving either. She was just plain pathetic, to say the least. Why didn’t she just admit she was just plain jealous? She had to give all the stupid reasons and saying how Ying Ning did not deserve those things. Ridiculous!

Gordon Liu’s appearance was random all right. Not too random in the context of the plot. But still a bit random. He had to take on a badass role again. Oh well…

Aside from all those things, I thought Zhao Yi was really good in acting since he managed to convince while he was the clever and stern Zi Fu as well as the innocent and simple-minded A Fu when he lost his memory. June did a great job also, trying to exude her innocent side at first and then her serious manners later on as the story progressed. Though I said liked the chemistry between June and Zhao Yi, I must say that my favorite character must be the Lightning God portrayed by Zhou Hao. He was so strict and fierce at times but he was the only one who truly cared for Ying Ning and wanted to protect her from getting hurt, from getting punished, etc. He was like an older brother figure to her.

The ending? It was satisfying all right since it made up for everything that was ever so frustrating in the first place. Interesting how they made it so that it was fast YET satisfying. Kudos to Gu Ren (the old servant) and the Lightning God for wrapping it up so nicely! And the touching parting moment from Ying Ning and A Fu. Let’s just say that it had a good beginning and ending–for the most part.