The story follows the brotherhood of a imprisoned half-human half-spirit prince, an abandoned son of a general, and the heir of a slaughtered tribe as they uncover the secrets of their past and seek both revenge and justice for the ones they love.
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OVERALL: I hate dramas like this. 75 hours of literally dragging and waffling around waiting for side characters to advance the plot or for "chance" and "destiny" to finally kick in. I watched this drama SO YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. A serious waste of time. Battle scenes and premise are good. Story and plot are not. The story itself is interesting but cut the number of episodes and random tension and speaking scenes in half and we might have a decent drama. I don't want to watch the 60 different side characters talking to each other about power and power struggles. If I was to count how many hours were wasted (I give a very specific and relatively old scene as a reference at the bottom) than I would be so frustrated. The only reason why I do not give the plot a 1 star is because I believe that the premise itself is interesting and would make a nice 200-300 page book. Drama, not so much.
WATCH TEN MILES PEACH BLOSSOMS IF YOU WANT A MUCH BETTER DRAMA.
Disclaimer 1: I would like to say that I am a very analytical reviewer and usually value plot and character development far more than any other aspects and I can often forgive minor plot holes or minor character flaws. However, when they affect the entire plot or are used by writers to further the plot. That is when I have a problem.
Disclaimer 2: I would also like to point out that I generally have no like/dislike towards actors/actresses, writers or directors and am not afraid to call a drama terrible even if a vast majority like it.
Plot: This is basically 3 main story lines about three main characters that are intricately interwoven with the normal troupes. Every single cliche troupe you can derive is included: power struggle in royalty, destined lovers, death of ridiculous parent figures, magical powers that are explained through fancy CGI and still make no sense, bromance yet not bromance, brotherhood yet not brotherhood, loving the same girl, star-crossed lovers, and finally fighting or fulfilling destiny. The plot as a whole is interesting enough but that has very little to do with the actual writing. How many times can you see a main character stand in front of who they love and do absolutely nothing except ignore her or say ridiculous lines... For example, "you'll be unhappy with me" says who and why does the main character believe it so easily? Ridiculous. How many times can we hear the word destiny or stars or fate or whatnot to explain the actions of characters? That is a gimmick in itself. Overall a plot that had potential but was weighed down by the need to include overarching themes and troupes such as destiny or forever star-crossed lovers.
EDIT 1: Absolutely terrible. I understand that this drama is based off of a book but how can a drama be 75 hours and get basically absolutely nothing done. The last few episodes are extremely rushed and don't resolve anything and are essentially just a cliffhanger that does not seem to be coming anytime soon given that there is only one book and there doesn't seem to be plans for a second book to be written due to conflict among the writers. This drama is a waste of time and unfortunately the pacing and the dragging and the lack of coherent character development and plot heavily weigh this drama down. If you were hoping for a huge battle scene with magic and 3 sides battling it out than you are dreaming.
Characters: Acting overall was superb by all the characters and you can feel the emotions that each character has. If the plot and writing were better to enhance the character development than the actors would have shined through more. Even the villains were generally acted well and dare I say better because they did not need as much character development. Let me explain: you can watch half of the drama and observe that the kid actors and the adult actors have portray basically the same characters. There is no character development in the first 30 something episodes of this drama. Everyone is still a kid that whines and cries and acts out for no logical reason. Theoretically the writers could be portraying that even as young adults they haven't learned the harshness of life but with the trials and love and etc. that the characters go through, how is there no character development? How long can we watch one character yell about being King of the world and doing nothing except rely on the prophecy and getting lucky? How long can we watch a character mope about the world being unfair and him not being loved by his parents (please keep running away and telling the people you love that they should pity you more for no reason)? How long can we watch one person not understand his situation and do absolutely nothing except walk into other people's traps. The writing is what makes 2/3 of the main characters honestly unbearable to watch. But their acting is overall very good.
EDIT 2: Acting remains consistently good all around for all actors. Problem is that the characters literally do not change or do much of anything. If you want to start off liking a character and than quickly hating him/her for their decisions than please go ahead and watch this. This drama is the definition of frustrating characters portrayed by good actors. I think that the Muyun Sheng might be one of my least favorite characters in the drama due to how consistently weak he is even when he is actually not that weak. "Careful, don't drink wine. Drinks wine and complains/rants. Points sword around for some reason... Disastrous results." Other characters are just equally frustrating and it doesn't get better. At least they are acted consistently because I ended up hating many characters in this drama for their one dimensional thinking. Even the "smart and complicated and evil" characters weren't that well written or "smart" in their actions. The main reason I am saying this is that when the entire drama consists of stupid main characters that never change or grow than the side characters also do not have to be that smart. Which makes every character look pretty dumb in the end.
Another problem is that if they want to make a season 2 of this drama than they will have to wait multiple years. And that means it will be hard to recast everyone again. Acting carried this drama because tension and feelings are very clear for all characters, however, the decisions the characters themselves made were hard to act out.
Music: Suitable but honestly not impactful or noticable. Can't name an OST or even place where is belongs if there is one. Average costume drama music.
EDIT 3: Music is slightly more memorable and I actually think it improved. However, this does not effect my rating overall since my view of music in dramas is an accessory.
Rewatch value: Right now? No. Some scenes are aesthetic and CGI is done well, but often those scenes don't really mean anything. The floating stars are significant? Nope.
EDIT 4: I watched it so you did not have to. Don't watch this.
******Here is the key example of why I dislike the writing and pacing of the drama (potential spoilers so I will keep my example relatively old for Dramafever viewers): It takes about 5-6 episodes for one main character to even get engaged to his perceived "empress." Not 2, 5. Because every character had to show up and give their opinion and do whatever they wanted. My first problem is that the motive for him being crown prince is a jumbled mess with his father's motive being very muddled and unclear but the writers push it as if it is for his safety? For what reason no one can truly explain. Why do the characters act in such a way such as the priest or whatever for randomly listening to someone that is not his superior and believing him enough to cut his arm and give up all the tenants of his tribe. Just because there was a possiblity? Nonsense. He performed black magic cause some random character gave him a book and told him its possible? Pfffftttt. Why does the dad let his brother go when he knows he's plotting to kill him? "He's trying to take the crown and kill my favorite son but since he confessed to spreading rumors about the crown and he's my brother I should just let him go. Brotherhood!" Nonsense. The character's actions just don't make sense and they are always drawn out in such tedious lengths. 5 episodes. Jesus. It all ends up the same in which he reveals that he has a Charmer near him. Did we need 5 episodes to build up to a reveal of Pan Xi to the world? I don't think so. Literally 5 episodes that ends in weird family tension all over and Pan Xi getting taken away. 5 episodes/5 hours for something that could have been done in 1 maybe 2 with other scenes.
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UPDATE/2ND HALF REVIEW: TROUNCES NIRVANA IN FIRE IN THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES (see below)
I'm writing this review after seeing up to EP38 (a little more than half of the show).
Where I am coming from, I have seen most of the popular C-dramas: Nirvana in Fire, Princess Agents, Three Lives Three Worlds, Fighter of the Destiny, Ice Fantasy, The Mystic Nine, Candle in the Tomb, etc.
Most above managed to slack off in quality about mid-way thru, I was surprised T&E remained consistent in quality like in the first Ep.
STORY: Well, what did ya expect? Novoland arose as a competitor to The Lord of the Rings. So any story set in Novoland is bound to resemble LotR. But since this is a Chinese work, it will also feature aspects from works of the revered Jin Yong mixed with a bit of Imperial Palace drama here and there. For example, I thought that MYS+Pan Xi looked very much like YG+XLN from ROCH. (I won't go into what happened to Pan Xi in Ep37, but she should return to MYS at some point later on, just like YG+XLN reunited after 16yrs separation..)
MUSIC: OMG, I put on my Sony headphone, and the soundtrack sounds just like in theater. One of few shows that actually does a high quality sound hardware justice.
REWATCH: Are you kiddin me? This is a 75epsx40min long movie (or pretends to be one). Even those lovely nature scenes are worth rewatching just for their sake...
This is my (updated) review after having seen all 75 pisodes.
TROUNCES NIRVANA IN FIRE IN THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES:
The time has come to give T&E an overall assessment.
1. THEY ALL <removed expletive language> WANT TO BECOME KING/EMPRESS (or prophesized to become one) EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM. In NiF, most main chars are satisfied with being nobodies with some rank.
2. FRIGGIN EPIC BOSS BATTLE AT THE END. The next most friggin awesome boss fight was between YG and GWM in RoCH '83.
3. SHOW DON'T TELL. I don't want to hear about how some guy marched alone straight into the enemies' camp and talked them into killing each other. Show me in gory details what really happened. Likewise, I don't want to hear about the Sovereignty Seal/Soarers/Oceanides/Giants, etc. Show me what they really look like.
4. GORGEOUS CGI. OMG, half-way thru NiF keeps replaying that zoomed out village shot with some CGI birds flying across the sky and it looked like it was done by kids.
5. LETS YOU EXPERIENCE IMPERIAL LIFE IN A REALISTIC WAY. This drama shows you what it's like to be General, Emperor's guard, etc. Their social standing, and the conflicting decisions they must make. I took away none of this from Nirvana in Fire. In the Forbidden City, there are these creatures that eat gold and are made emblems of. T&E even has this version as a golden beetle that eats gold nuggets.
T&E does contain a lot of flaws. It's great as a standalone work, but next to Novoland: Eagle Flag, probably won't have 50% of the latter's glory and execution. The flaws:
- Bad editting
- To explicit (sexual/gory)
- Annoying chars (too abundant)
- Could never understand why some women fell for SFHY
- Could never understand Nanku Yue Li's obsession with being Empress
- Too many flashbacks
- Too few high fantasy figures (Soarers/mermaids/giants)
- Some stuff don't make sense (how can anyone survive without Vitamin D [sunlight] for so long?)
- Some Mary Sue type superwoman chars (Helan Tie Duo)
- Cheap-looking CGI in certain parts (black Dragon in MYS's nightmare)
- Wizard's staff looks yucky (it's just a stick with mounted metallic head piece)
- Overused some Imperial cliches (bad Queen/Emperor always gets attacked on a hunting trip, etc.)
Overall rating: Sorry to disappoint the naysayers, but still a solid 9.0/10.0 despite those obvious flaws.
Overall rating (my scale)
23.0/10 - A great RoCH adaptation
18.0 - A good RoCH adaptation
18.0 - T&E
18.0 - Ode to Gallantry 2017
17.5 - Nirvana in Fire
16.0 - Fighter of the Destiny
14.0 - Princess Agents
12.0 - Three Lives, Three Worlds TV drama
12.0 - Dragon Nest: Warrior's Dawn movie in 3-D
9.0 - Candle in the Tomb
7.0 - Ice Fantasy
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