Novoland: Pearl Eclipse (2021) poster
8.3
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 4,124 users
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Ranked #1212
Popularity #1366
Watchers 4,124

If one can make a Naga mermaid cry, the shed tears will turn into priceless luminous pearls. Hai Shi is a young girl living in a coastal village where people use the ruse of killing their children to make mermaids cry and gather the pearls to pay taxes. It was on such a fishing trip that Hai Shi's father was killed. Hai Shi's town was ransacked by soldiers, and she develops a grudge against the emperor whom she holds responsible for the tragic events and vows to seek revenge. She then meets Fang Zhu who is an official of the imperial court and the emperor's closest confidant. Fang Zhu offers to accept Hai Shi as a disciple on the condition that she hides her true identity and poses as a boy. She accepts the terms. The kingdom is in peril due to a self-indulgent and apathetic ruler, unrest in court, and constant conflict with neighbouring kingdoms, and only being held together by Fang Zhu's sheer determination. Years pass, and Hai Shi joins the royal military. Her feelings for her master and their opposing sentiments towards the emperor become a matter of conflict while secret plots and schemes threaten the very fabric of their kingdom. (Source: autumn carrot at MyDramaList) ~~ Adapted from the novel "Novoland: Madam Pearl Bead" ( 九州·斛珠夫人) by Xiao Ru Se (萧如瑟). Edit Translation

  • English
  • 한국어
  • 中文(简体)
  • ภาษาไทย
  • Country: China
  • Type: Drama
  • Episodes: 48
  • Aired: Nov 10, 2021 - Dec 5, 2021
  • Aired On: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Original Network: BTV Tencent Video ViuTV
  • Duration: 45 min.
  • Score: 8.3 (scored by 4,124 users)
  • Ranked: #1212
  • Popularity: #1366
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

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Cast & Credits

Reviews

Completed
PeachBlossomGoddess
77 people found this review helpful
Dec 6, 2021
48 of 48 episodes seen
Completed 24
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.5

Journeys end in lovers meeting.

Pearl Eclipse is adapted from a beautiful, dark and tragic novel Madame Huzhu 斛珠夫人 set in the Novoland universe. It is an unforgettable and heartbreaking story about guilt, obsession, love and the futile struggle against fate that inextricably entangles the three main protagonists Fang Jianming, Emperor Dixu and Fang Haishi. Although the plot and many characterisations deviate markedly from the novel, the core message that we can choose our destiny but cannot overcome fate remains. Although not quite as dark as the novel, this is an angst filled, tortured tale about tragically flawed characters that won't appeal to everyone.

The novel has heavy BL elements to it and the incredibly dark, complicated and almost parasitical relationship between Dixu and Jianming is quite well portrayed in the drama. It is by far the most uniquely fascinating relationship in this drama because they are so entangled neither has free will. Poor Haishi, hers was a lost cause from the start because Jianming already was inextricably bonded to Dixu by ties far more powerful than the baixi. Their depth of shared history and sorrow and Jianming's sense of guilt and his obsession with putting Humpty Dumpty together again are practically insurmountable challenges. And to Jianming's credit, while undoubtedly tempted, he avoids Haishi's many overtures because he already pledged himself to Dixu.

The drama seems slow to start because it took all three leads a surprisingly long time to get into character and to convey the many layers of their intertwined backstories. This is made more difficult because their backstories are told in flashbacks which works well in novels but is harder to do onscreen when the actors are not in character. I don't think it is particularly fair to pick on only one of them but they are all rather seasoned actors so it is disappointing. Xu Kai Cheng overacted in the beginning and he and Chen Weiting were not connecting. Their unspoken rapport only becomes evident later on and that is when the drama starts to get interesting. Even though I find Chen Weiting incredibly handsome despite the terrible wig and enjoyed his performance overall, I don't think he managed to convey the multifaceted, fascinatingly complex character that is Fang Jianming. While he nails it as the archetypal ice-block, noble idiot shifu, a more daring and intense portrayal should have delivered a better glimpse into the dark ruthlessness, frustration and temptation that torments the character.

Haishi of the drama is well fleshed out and far better dimensioned than the novel. It is refreshing to see a brave, capable female character that speaks her mind and goes after her man relentlessly. And her outraged and shocked reaction to rejection just cracked me up because I am sure it is something that a flawless beauty like Yang Mi is personally not accustomed to. While Haishi and Jianming make for a stunning couple, their chemistry emerges slowly and it does fall far short of the sizzle of TMOPB. This is partly because it is supposed to be a hidden, taboo romance; one that is so incredibly ill fated that knowing better, Jianming avoids; while true to her nature, Haishi rushes recklessly headlong into. As much as I applaud Yang Mi for doing her own voice work here, it is a mediocre performance that reflects years of neglect in this area on her part. She already naturally has a young and very feminine voice that should not have been made even younger and quite so girlish. It does not fit the role of a woman passing herself off as a man and it conjures up uncomfortable images with respect to this already forbidden romance. Although she improves towards the end, I can't help but think her usual voice dubber would have elevated her performance considerably.

While I do not like the way Tilan was written, she is the catalyst that enables the drama to take another path. But it is unfair to have practically all of Dixu's darkness heaped upon her and their relationship got so toxic I struggled with the turn around, in particular on her part. She also seemed a lot stronger and smarter in the beginning where she passively aggressively standsup to Dixu. Unfortunately her character was truly thrown under the bus to enable the end outcome. Zhuoying and Zheliu have the only non dysfunctional relationship in this drama that is s welcome relief but oddly boring at the same time.

What I like most about the adaptation is how it is faithful to the novel in terms of how it takes us down the path of the dark, hopeless entanglement between the three main protagonists and then turns it around. At the darkest moment, Haishi convinces Dixu to give himself a second chance which sets in motion an unwind of this vicious circle into a virtuous one. One change leads to another that reveals another layer of each character and get to see them change and grow into a formidable, united force against their enemies. It is a very strong message that we can choose our destiny, ie. how we live our lives and even though ultimately we may or may not be able to overcome fate, the journey is more important than the destination.

This is a very high value production with lavish costumes, sets and some intense and brilliantly choreographed action scenes, notably the epic battle reminiscent of Lord of the Rings at Hangguan Pass. Yet despite a few riveting action scenes, this is largely a character story with very little plot movement. Despite a few thrilling encounters especially in the early episodes, the various sub plots to overthrow the emperor Dixu are not properly fleshed out and don't tie well together. There are interesting villains in the book that get dumbed down to obvious cartoon characters with boring motives that can't even hide well in plain sight. The ending feels like it is missing scenes and beloved characters like Zhuoying and Zheliu's story is ended cursorily almost as an afterthought. The final plot is anti-climatic, predictable and completely premised on the stupidity of two characters. The plight of the mer-folk, their tears for pearls and how this fantasy story that begins and should end with them gets lost as a result of changes made to the character stories.

I have very mixed feelings about the ending. I think the most fitting way to end this is about 20 minutes into the penultimate episode (47) where journeys end in lovers meeting. The final episode and outcome for most of the couples are not deserved, made worse by a weak and rushed end plot that is not earned. They ought to have stopped while they were ahead. That said, Haishi and Jianming's final scene is both actors most moving and resonating performance in the entire drama. But while superficially the important aspects of the drama are faithful to the novel, the final product lacks the finesse, symmetry and haunting dark and cruel inevitably of the novel. The novel is fated and inexorable while the drama is fated and unnecessary. I rate this between 7.5-8.5; it will feel more like an 8.5 to those who stop ~20 minutes into episode 47.

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Completed
BingerWatcher
61 people found this review helpful
Nov 12, 2021
48 of 48 episodes seen
Completed 6
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 8.5

Top-notch production that leaves you craving for more!

The scenery in this drama is simply breathtaking, especially the Jifeng Pavillion with its elegant woodwork and raining white petals that look almost like snow. The costumes, action scenes and CGI are also on point. I'm genuinely impressed with the high-quality production.

It has a very similar feel to Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms and The Journey of Flower, which were also directed by Lin Yu Fen, perhaps a little darker and less fantasy-like. And just in case you're wondering, Pearl Eclipse is pretty much stand-alone so no need to watch the others in the Novoland series beforehand.

The drama starts off with a master-disciple relationship between Fang Jianming and Fang Haishi that would soon blossom into a bittersweet and forbidden romance, where they're destined to meet but still restrained in many ways. It's not supposed to be a straightforward love, but rather the slow-burn and somewhat tormenting type. Yet, this is what makes those rare moments of sweetness even more precious. Personally, I find that the real charm of this show lies in its maturity and character development. But do get prepared, because you'll be taken on one crazy rollercoaster ride!

Yang Mi is literally in her element here playing a strong, cross-dressing FL. Despite the age difference, she still pulls off the role of the playful yet smart and daring young master Haishi very naturally. I think having Yang Mi doing her own dubbing really helps as well, so all credits to her. And those intense fighting scenes radiate some serious badass FL energy. I nearly forgot to breathe watching her shoot archery while spinning 360 on horseback! As she becomes Madam Pearl, we get to see Haishi swapping her boyish charms for a more mature and elegant persona, highlighting the different phases of her life. I particularly love her sibling bickering with Zhouying, they're such a hilarious comedy duo. But as much as they would tease each other, you can also feel their deep sibling bond and how they always have each other's back, especially Zhouying being the caring big brother that he is.

I'm going to be honest here, it took me a couple of eps to warm up to William Chan as Fang Jianming. I found his hairstyle a bit flat and awkward at first but I've grown fond of it gradually. He's graceful and calm normally but also fierce and intimidating when the occasion calls for it. I love how he's so protective of his disciples despite the cold front and prefers to selflessly suffer in silence, like all our favourite C-drama kuuderes (ahem... Ye Hua, Bai Zi Hua, Zhou Sheng Chen just to name a few). However, he's way too loyal and devoted to the Emperor that it's almost to a fault. It makes me often wonder whether they should just marry each other... Oh wait, they kind of did with the Baixi oath, where Fang Jianmiang has to act as a body double and shoulder all the injuries that befall Emperor Xu. This is surely not the 'love triangle' I had quite expected. Poor Haishi, it looks like she'll have a very fierce rival to beat, the bromance.

We're also greeted with another 2 couples along the way: Emperor Xu and Tilan, Zhuoying and Zheliu. While the fates of all 6 characters are very much intertwined, each couple still has its own pace and storyline.

The Emperor... sometimes I just want to reach across the screen and slap him hard. The guy can be so exasperating at times. His attitude towards Tilan at the beginning is uncalled for, regardless of his past suffering. As a ruler, Emperor Xu is not greedy or evil but he's not exactly empathetic or prudent either. Fortunately, his temperament does get much better and I quite like his 'passionate' bromance with Fang Jianming, as complicated as it may be. On the other hand, Tilan is portrayed as kind and supportive but I do find her character a bit weak sometimes. I guess her being a "caged bird", restricted by her royal upbringing and female status, serves as a contrast to Haishi who's "free" like a falcon having been raised as a boy in the imperial secret force.

Zhuoying and Zheliu is that one couple that you can never get enough of. I love how sweet and innocent their love is. It's adorkable seeing Zhouying gets all shy and love-struck in front of Zheliu, and then getting teased by Haishi for it. I kind of wish this couple has more screen time because the other 2 couples can get a bit too heavy at times.

I don't think there's much to say for the OSTs. I mean you open with Zhang Bichen and end with Zhou Shen, 2 of the best historical OST singers out there, so nothing can't go wrong. And the lyrics are so poetic and fit the story really well. Overall, it's a solid show with great cinematography and many unpredictable twists and turns. If you enjoy a good historical drama and not afraid to put your heart on the line, then this gem is for you.

FAVOURITE QUOTES:

"In our line of duty, people could die any minute. Every time we parted, it could be forever. So, I’m not afraid of death. I’m afraid that [Master] push me away or let me go.” Fang Haishi

"I don’t want [Haishi] to follow in my footsteps or take my path. She can’t be another Fang Jianming because I know better than anyone how painful that is. I don’t regret living like this but I hope the one I love can lead a normal and happy life.” Fang Jiangming

"[Emperor Xu] is my best friend. He is more important than my life. I took an oath to be faithful to him." Fang Jiangming

“All these years, others all think I’ve been tolerating Xu or even indulging him, but the truth is, I just want to protect him. The tougher he looks on the outside, the softer he is on the inside… as an emperor, he couldn’t share his pain with anyone.” Fang Jiangming

“Jianming, I’ve never expected you to be a loyal official. All I want is for you to live a carefree and happy life.” Emperor Xu

"Jianming, don’t underestimate Fang Haishi's feelings for you. Even if I don’t tell her, she knows you’re in a tough spot and she will do everything to protect you.” Emperor Xu

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Details

  • Drama: Novoland: Pearl Eclipse
  • Country: China
  • Episodes: 48
  • Aired: Nov 10, 2021 - Dec 5, 2021
  • Aired On: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Original Network: BTV, Tencent Video, ViuTV
  • Duration: 45 min.
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

Statistics

  • Score: 8.3 (scored by 4,124 users)
  • Ranked: #1212
  • Popularity: #1366
  • Watchers: 11,745

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