I recently stumbled upon this series from ATV so I ended up watching it. Of course, it took a while since I have lots of stuff to do. Anyway, it was an old series so there was a severe lack of information regarding the drama. From what I know, it was an adaptation from a Liang Yu Sheng novel of the same name. It was supposedly 70% accurate since like most adaptations, it was hard to keep to the novel. Some characters were merged and/or sacrificed along the way. I really want to look for it to read and compare, but no such luck. This seemed to not be as popular as Liang Yu Sheng’s other novels hence it being hard to find. The furthest I could go was reading the summary and/or character descriptions on Baidu. Nothing beats reading the novel itself. Although I do appreciate whoever created a page for it in the first place.
- Ban Ban (斑斑) as Liu Qing Yao (柳青瑶). She was awesome. I liked how she started out what seemed to be a rash, self-righteous person yet eventually turned into one of the leaders of the robbers. It was so amazing to see how her character evolved. I thought she was going to be a side protagonist that ended up making the leading guys look good by rescuing her or something. Yet she had her own story development and journey to leadership and all. She was raw at first with her experiences and martial arts skills. After having traveled the realms of jianghu for some time, she earned her reputation and respect from different groups as well as hatred from others. Regardless, most feared her wrath and took her seriously–even if some did not want to admit it. What I also liked was how she never lost her way despite having gained so much fame and support from others. Like how the previous leader of the robbers had used his own reputation of “going against the Jin people” so he could kidnap girls and do whatever he wanted. (That was why in the other section I mentioned how I didn’t like that to become a reason for immunity toward the characters.) She focused on her main goal, reuniting their country and made heroes among thieves (not discouraging them nor condemning them just because of their background) thus leading them to fight for a bigger cause. Aside from all of that, she also had her personal struggles and vulnerabilities. The actress sure brought out the many sides of Qing Yao. I didn’t realize that she portrayed Han Xiao Ying (韓小莹) in TVB’s 1983 adaptation of The Legend of the Condor Heroes, but I knew she looked familiar. It was refreshing to see her in a leading role and seeing how she got to show off her acting capabilities.
- Yu Tien Lung (游天龙) as Hua Gu Han (華谷涵). I didn’t know what to make of him at first, even if I knew he was one of the main characters. He sure lived up to his reputation with being an odd hero. I liked his carefree attitude (for the most part) and how he wasn’t a bragging type. However, what got me frustrated was his attempt to conceal the mystery that almost cost Qing Yao’s life and possibly his. I meant the part where Qing Yao’s uncle pretended to be her long-lost father and ended up poisoning her hence the fiasco of later. So aside from that, I thought he was fine for the most part.
- Lau Wan Fung (劉雲峰) as Tan Yu Chong (檀羽冲). For being a main character, he was sure detached from the main plot for the majority of the story. Sure, he was chased down from the Jin emperor and company since he went against the king’s tyranny. However, he wasn’t involved and I liked it that the other characters respected his boundary and didn’t force him into helping them as long as he wasn’t harming others. I just found it funny that he wasn’t involved until Long Yu scolded him for being a coward and not standing up to his king. It got him thinking and actually wanted to join forces with the others to help them. So that was how he was there during the final battle.
- Fred Carpio (弗烈) as Geng Zhao (耿照). I think Geng Zhao was more involved with the main plot than some people in here. It wasn’t because he had to deliver the secret documents from his father to the king either. That was mostly the reason. But it was because he was righteous and showed his patriotism from the start. Even before he learned about his father’s fake surrender to the Jin emperor. He had big plans and wanted to help his country. Then tragedy stroke and he was forced to flee his home and endured all the pain of having killed his uncle (or so he thought, not knowing of the schemes behind it all). His sense of responsibility was admirable on many levels. What made it bittersweet was that he finally achieved what his father sent him out to do and managed to overcome all his obstacles yet in the end, he couldn’t escape his fate. Not just the fact that he died at the end but how he lost all the ones whom he loved and also the ones who loved him. Again, I don’t know if he was supposed to survive in the novel or not, but that was surely choking. Even if he had sacrificed himself for the greater good. I’m not so sure their stupid king would appreciate it.
- Elaine Chow (周秀蘭) as He Lian Qing Yun (赫连清云) and He Lian Qing Bo (赫连清波). Impressed. Okay, I already loved Elaine since watching Duke of Mt. Deer and seeing her portray Shuang Er. I saw great potential with her during her earlier years. Yet every time I watched a series of hers, she was tossed some similar pitiful role. It happened a lot with some of the past stars of TVB too. I was glad she left TVB and joined ATV. Because this series proved that she was amazing. She was able to portray two roles seamlessly, making us think that she was indeed two persons. It was fascinating to watch her innocent and mischievous Qing Yun moments versus her cunning and deceptive Qing Bo scenes as well.
- Willie Lau (煒烈) as Gongsun Qi (公孙奇). I didn’t like him from the start. Not just because of how he was going against his father and entering the Sang resident. He was just so suspicious and full of jealousy of others. Although I got it that he was having trouble seeking love and attention from his father, I didn’t like it that he used it as an excuse to sacrifice everything in his path to gain achievements. I felt his ending was so weak. They just wanted to wrap it up so they made him apologize with some half-ass regrets and that was it. He was going to die anyway because Qing Hong already died so no one could help with curing him. No sympathy right from the start.
- Lee Ying Tung (李映彤) as Qin Long Yu (秦弄玉). I thought she wasn’t involved in the main plot since her association was with Geng Zhao at the beginning. Again, because I didn’t read the novels and didn’t know what to expect of the plot at that point. She was another brave character in sacrificing herself for the greater cause. It was really sad and tragic that she and Geng Zhao couldn’t be together after so much had happened.
- Kingdom Yuen (苑瓊丹) as Yu Shan Hu (玉珊瑚). I never thought there was a day when I use the word “cute” to describe Kingdom. But that was how it was with her character in here. I only watched her past series where she was blunt, cunning, hilarious, obnoxious or was at times involved in touching storylines but never as toned down. In here, she was actually calm and possibly on the bland side. Yet that wasn’t so. She brought out the many sides of her character that I thought wouldn’t be possible since she was continuously cast in similar roles by TVB in her later years. One of the other more toned down roles of hers that I had watched was actually The Blood Sword. Anyway, back to this one, I really loved her character because she was quite rash and hot-headed at the beginning (and rightly so since her whole family and sect were killed and burned down after all) and then later transitioned into a calmer and careful person. I hated it even more that she was raped. What the hell was that? I know that reflected reality like how no one could see that coming and tragedies happened yet I hated it that the scene was only used to make us hate Meng Zhao even more. I think the audience already got that part, no need to keep piling it on. I don’t know if she lived in the novel, but it was seriously messed up killing her like that before wrapping up the series after the final battle.
- Cho Tat Wah (曹達華) as Gongsun Yin (公孙隐). Mixed feelings. I know it was really hard for him to just accept it that his son was an evil person who would harm anyone and resort to anything to achieve his goals. It was his son after all, but I hated that he acted like Sang Qing Hong was an evil bitch because of how she implemented her revenge method. Seriously? He was the last one to speak. They already spared his feelings on a lot of things, just because they respected him.
- Tam Wing Kit (谭荣杰) as Meng Zhao (孟钊). I don’t know if he was trying to compete with Gongsun Qi to be the most hated character, but it felt that way for now. He was getting ridiculous as the series progressed. It was like endless with his unreasonableness. He claimed to love San Hu or cared for her yet didn’t believe her words against that one girl. They grew up together, seriously. I understood that he was forced to participate in the Sang family’s conflicts and there were many things he wasn’t able to control at the beginning. However, he just became worse and worse. Or more like his true character was coming out. I was hoping it was for dramatic purposes that they dragged out his misunderstandings at one point. Hell, I even made excuses (for San Hu’s sake) and hoped that he would see past all the ridiculous misunderstandings. However, he became unredeemable when he finally pushed past the barrier and raped her. I wanted to jump into the screen and strangle him by then. I felt his death was too fast–although I was glad San Hu was able to carry through–and wished he had suffered more.
- The cast. Some of them weren’t that famous–or considered big names, but they acted well. They weren’t trying and even if I haven’t read the novel, just analyzing with the stories given, I felt they were those characters.
- The music. The singers were lovely in their performance, and how it added to the series as an overall. The song represented the overall series quite well. It brought back feelings of old wuxia series for me.
- The female characters in here. Regardless if I liked them or not, I felt the story was dominated by strong female characters with mixed emotions and personalities, especially in a wuxia like this. They weren’t so one-dimensional like other stories. There were similar conflicts that the characters from other TV series and novels had to face, but I felt in this one, the storyline was much stronger in that it accepted how each of the female characters chose their paths or lack of one. They weren’t trying to be super perfect or chase after an unrealistic perfect image. I also like it that the female characters weren’t just there as the male leads’ love interests. They had romances and triangles or whatever else in here, but each female character had her own story and conflicts she had to face. I’m not sure how faithful of that aspect they stick to the novel. If I had known, I would’ve read Liang Yu Sheng’s novels ages ago. (Yes, sadly I’ve never completely read a Liang Yu Sheng novel to its full extent.) I’m also awed by the fact that Liao Qing Yao was part of the main leads in here. I meant other wuxia novels and/or TV series, they had strong female leads too and all, but like I said, I felt at times they didn’t focus on the female lead’s side of the journey. They just existed as a companion for the male leads and their characters were never explored so fully. This one, they followed Liao Qing Yao when she was a newbie in the jianghu realm and later established to be a leader that earned a lot of respect and led the fight in restoring her country (or attempted to).
- The jianghu feeling from a traditional wuxia. Usually, I’m very accepting of new ideas and genres. Hey, I still watch and like some ideas incorporated in some TV series of recent. However, at times, I really missed how old wuxia TV series were. Like now the majority of the dramas are character-driven. I get it, they’re trying to get your favorite stars (or at least the ones they’re promoting) more exposure and screen time. I like to see my favorites in more scenes too. Yet at times it could be so tiring with repetitive plots and endless unnecessary dramas. So this one sort of brought back old feelings for me. This was definitely plot-driven. Many of the characters were gone for a large portion of the story at one point or another. That didn’t mean they weren’t important. That made the story flowed well as an overall. I rather they appeared and actually contributed to the plot than just stood around and/or talked unnecessarily for how many episodes they (the creators of the show) could drag out. Then there was the whole feeling of how many of the heroes and/or heroines in here met and ended up being sworn siblings just because. Like how Hua Gu Han and Qing Yun were, and how Geng Zhao and San Hu also ended up becoming sworn siblings. Or how Hua Gu Han and Tan Yu Chong admired one another’s talents but didn’t force one or another to side with them at times. They helped each other when in need and respected the other’s views and/or decisions. Hua Gu Han and Tan Yu Chong’s meeting sort of reminded of how Qu Yang (曲洋) and Liu Zheng Feng (劉正風) from Xiao Ao Jiang Hu (笑傲江湖) met. Although they met through music, their admiration of one another was through righteousness. Not to mention this series’ focus wasn’t on music and/or the conflicts of jianghu but the main picture was that of their country and the patriotism involved.
- Definitely San Hu being raped by Meng Zhao. I hate all of those scenes regardless of TV series or novels. It doesn’t matter the number of details shown. I just hate it in general–even if I know that it is an ongoing issue and how people still refuse to acknowledge the damages of it. Anyway, I don’t know if this was part of the novel or not, but I felt the setup was terrible. Okay, poor choice of words, but I felt they could have prevented it. It sounds like victim-shaming, but San Hu was really sick at that time, it was hard to move her, but can’t the others pay some others to move her in a carriage back to the mountains so she could rest? At least have Qing Yao’s other good sister help take care of her at that time. Yet they just left her at the inn where everyone and their cousins could enter? They knew Meng Zhao was always up to no good, why take the chance? And I want to clarify that if it didn’t happen to San Hu but to someone else, I would be equally pissed. Again, hate those scenes.
- The Sang (桑) family in general. I didn’t care if they were against the Jin people (金国). That didn’t make up for all the harassment and suffering they caused toward the locals. Those endless scenes of their lackeys going into town and demanding money was beyond despicable and showed their true colors. Regarding Sang Qing Hong (桑青虹), mixed feelings throughout. I didn’t like that she forced Geng Zhao into learning her family’s skills, even if that was supposed to help him in the future. If it was some random person on the street, would she care? She sounded righteous but didn’t help much with the locals either. She was also in her own family’s bubbles. I felt bad for her regarding the revenge plot and all, and how brave she was to sacrifice so much. Yet I couldn’t really sympathize with her on a larger scale. She didn’t really contribute to the overall plot except for being responsible for Geng Zhao’s martial arts improvements.
After all that, do I recommend it? I definitely would. Or more like I would definitely recommend it for fans of the traditional wuxia. The actors and actresses in here did really good in bringing out the story and their characters. Sure, it was a bittersweet ending but I felt it was a worth it series for wuxia fans.