Side Story of Fox Volant (2022) poster
8.3
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 1,282 users
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Reviews: 28 users
Ranked #934
Popularity #3387
Watchers 1,282

In a realm dominated by martial arts experts, heroes, and villains, Hu Fei is a young, brave, justice-loving man on a quest for revenge. His father was killed, leaving him an orphan and thirsting for vengeance. During his quest, he encounters a tyrannical warlord who he believes has wronged him and others. But things get complicated when he then falls for that same warlord's daughter, the stunning Yuan Zi Yi. Hu Fei begins to mature and also becomes involved in a mission to find a medical cure that will help restore the vision of his sworn uncle, legendary hero Miao Ren Fang, who he has long believed was responsible for his father’s death. While he searches for this medicine, he meets the young female apprentice of the Poison Hand Medicine King, a woman named Cheng Ling Su. She develops feelings for him, too, complicating matters of the heart. As his journey leads him to meet more martial artists and learn from them, Hu Fei starts to suspect that his father's death did not quite happen in the way he originally believed. Will he ever learn the true identity of the killer? Where will his quest for justice ultimately lead? (Source: Viki; edited by MyDramaList) ~~ Adapted from the novel "The Young Flying Fox" (飛狐外傳) by Jin Yong (金庸). Edit Translation

  • English
  • 中文(简体)
  • Italiano
  • Deutsch
  • Country: China
  • Type: Drama
  • Episodes: 40
  • Aired: Aug 31, 2022 - Oct 6, 2022
  • Aired On: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Original Network: Tencent Video
  • Duration: 40 min.
  • Score: 8.3 (scored by 1,282 users)
  • Ranked: #934
  • Popularity: #3387
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

Where to Watch Side Story of Fox Volant

WeTV
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Viki
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iQIYI
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TencentVideo
Free (sub)

Cast & Credits

Reviews

Completed
PeachBlossomGoddess
56 people found this review helpful
Oct 7, 2022
40 of 40 episodes seen
Completed 16
Overall 8.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 9.0

You can't bring a sword to a gun fight.

Like many wuxia fans, I consider Jin Yong / Gum Yoong (Cantonese) the greatest wuxia writer of all time. Side Story of Fox Volant 飛狐外傳 is one of his early works. It was written shortly after The Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain 雪山飞狐, which is both a prequel and a sequel. Unlike many versions that combine both novels, Side Story of Fox Volant is adapted as a stand-alone story. Despite some meaningful changes, this adaptation captures the essence of the original story, the spirit of martial heroes or daxia/大侠 and the vagaries of jianghu/江湖.

The drama is action packed with fast paced, intense, starkly violent and brilliantly choreographed combat sequences that will satisfy any hard core wuxia buff. Slow motion is used sparingly for maximum brutal impact. No one has magic qigong or special powers. The main fighters - Hu Yidao, Miao Renfeng, Hu Fei and Tian Guinong are swordsman with distinct combat styles and battle advantages. When they clash it is very muscular and lethally up close. The nimble Yuan Ziyi's weapon of choice is a whip, which minimizes close encounters to compensate for the physical disadvantage of being a woman. With each episode I think the action has to be as good as it gets but to my surprise and delight, the production keeps delivering into the final wulin arc. The wulin arc in terms of both plot design and action is the best I have seen. While Miao Renfeng and Hu Fei's martial teamwork in episode 22 may be the best of the best, the ending battle encounters are inventive, exhilarating and savagely satisfying. The action scenes are this drama's strongest point and are worthy of multiple thrilling re-watches.

I am not a fan of the trend of whitewashing characters, especially Jin Yong's characters. Jin Yong is the master of multi-faceted characters. His heroes are flawed. His villains have redeeming features. Nobody is perfect in the Jin Yong universe. So when writers have the audacity to tweak his characters, they usually muck it up. When it comes to earlier, less refined works like this, I don't mind so much as there is room for improvement. While this version does a good job with Yuan Ziyi, Hu Fei is disappointingly adapted beyond recognition. The attempt to make Tian Guinong and Nan Lan empathetic is nauseating and boring. This is one of the four don'ts Jin Yong specifically warned against in the preface to the latest edition of the novel.

This is one of the author's darker, more cynical works. Most of the characters love too well but not wisely - Hu Fei, Miao Renfeng, Cheng Lingsu, Ma Chunhua, and Nan Lan. The heart wants what the heart wants, consequences be damned. Nan Lan and Ma Chunhua are selfish and don't care who they hurt in the process while Cheng Lingsu, Hu Fei and Miao Renfeng are noble idiots. They all pay a terrible price for following their hearts. Yuan Ziyi is the only exception; she dares only to hate but not to love.

Yuan Ziyi is one of Jin Yong's most under appreciated and saddest heroines. She is the only heroine who is not an extension of the hero; she is on her own independent path to salvation. Born from an act of violence, she is consumed by self loathing; doomed by unkind karma to seek justice and then live a life of atonement for the sins of her father. In the context of her beliefs, if she breaks her solemn oath she will only prolong her bad karma. In the novel, she acts out and does very controversial things. These actions drown out her piteous backstory and make her a widely disliked character. This adaptation deftly writes out those events, enabling us to see her in a more empathetic light. Her shifu should have been left offscreen as her pressure obscures Ziyi's own resolve to keep her vow. I always feel terribly sorry for Ziyi; she never had free will. She is alive but she does not live. I am not sure that chanting sutras into oblivion is a better fate than death, which is final liberation from all suffering. I don't love Liang Jie's acting but her Ziyi impressed me. The slightest shadow of regret in her eyes in a stone cold face and her ability to convey so much beyond her words moved me to tears several times.

Even though Cheng Lingsu is a clever character, I never found her relatable because her entire reason for existence is Hu Fei. But to my surprise, I like Xing Fei's warm and personable rendition of Lingsu. Her Lingsu is devoted to Hu Fei without coming across as a doormat and she gets him out of many tight spots with her quick thinking. The complex entanglement between the three of them is well portrayed. Hu Fei's chemistry with Ziyi is tangibly different from his dynamics with Lingsu, making it immediately obvious who he loves and who loves him. He is much more of one heart with Ziyi and they instinctively act in unison with little need for communication or explanation. Whereas Lingsu is constantly reining Hu Fei in and giving him instructions that are at odds with his natural instincts. When he can't help disobeying, he appears reckless and unintelligent. This character flaw arguably contributes to what happens to Lingsu at the end. There are better ways to show that Hu Fei is less in sync with Lingsu without throwing his character under the bus.

Lin Yushen's Miao Renfeng steals the show in this drama. Criticism that his Miao Renfeng is too much like his Yang Xiao in Heaven Sword is fair but he is so cool and he pulls off the character's inner conflicts and emotions so well that I don't mind. This performance anchors the drama for he is the martial hero of this story, His code of honor demands that he does the right thing even when it is the wrong thing for himself and those he loves. I wouldn't object if they call this the Legend of Miao Renfeng because of this compelling portrayal of what it means to be a daxia. Even though he is movingly handsome when he is suffering, the story wallows in Miao Renfeng's betrayal and loss for too long. The tawdry Nan Lan/Tian Guinong arc is a boring extended digression. The opportunity missed is that Hu Fei and Miao Renfeng do not get enough scenes together. They have remarkable combined chemistry and their joint fight scene is the one of the drama's best.

As for the titular character Hu Fei 胡斐, (which is a homonym for fox volant or flying fox), I always loved his character design. Far from being infallible, he is a work in progress - young and smart with tons of potential but a bit hot headed and too idealistic. He is the people's hero; the guy who demands justice for the underdog regardless of the cost to himself. His best traits, this strong sense of righteousneous and his willingness to fight the unfair fight is dumbed down to recklessness and even stupidity in this adaptation. He is written off as a bull in the China shop whose hot headedness could wreck the Red Flower Society's mission to save wulin. He doesn't accomplish much on his own and without Ziyi and Lingsu, he'd have died many times. It does not help that despite his phenomenal acting, Qin Junjie looks a bit too mature to play an 18 year old.

Despite good pacing, the plot digresses into too many dull sub-plots and arcs. This is an issue with the original work, which this adaptation already cleans up considerably. The Nan Lan and Poison Valley disciple arcs are the least interesting and Hu Fei deserves to be less peripheral in the reveal of the conspiracy behind Hu Yidao's death. The wulin arc brings the story to a climax, one that exceeds that of the novel on some fronts but is a let down in other aspects. Good characters die in wuxias, it is par for the course. But their deaths must be worthy and not gratuitous. What I dislike most about the ending is that it unnecessarily sacrifices a knight errant after they capture the king. It is a futile sacrifice because you can't bring a sword to a gun fight. Sadly, the advent of guns heralds the demise of jianghu and martial heroes.

This is a good adaptation overall that is limited by original works that lack the finesse of Jin Yong's subsequent masterpieces. The novel is already too dark and unbalanced. It is not necessary to outdo Jin Yong in how incredibly cruel he is to Hu Fei. Despite its darkness, the novel still ends on a note of optimism because Hu Fei's journey continues. But in the drama Hu Fei seems to be left to live largely in the past with two women, one too old and too icky for him and another so young it would be too icky. Thus to me this is at best an 8.0 in terms of storytelling that I bump up to an 8.5 for the not to be missed fight scenes. Nonetheless, this wuxia takes you on a stirring and addictive journey that is well worth it - as long as you do not need a Disney ending.

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Completed
Enigma05
26 people found this review helpful
Oct 7, 2022
40 of 40 episodes seen
Completed 12
Overall 9.5
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.5
Rewatch Value 9.0
This review may contain spoilers

Welcome to Thunderdome - Challenge Accepted!

Wuxia, wuxia, wuxia! Score! To be honest, I wasn't even going to pick it up originally because other then Xing Fei a bit, I didn't know anyone in the cast. But the fact that recommended sources told me that if I wanted a real wuxia that was written by someone well known for the genre, this was it. And I'm so glad I did. This was close to absolutely everything I had hoped this genre would be. Welcome to Thunderdome - challenge accepted!

Pros: Though I usually start this section with outlining my favorite characters, I have to begin by praising my favorite portion of the series; the martial arts! Absolutely fantastic and in just about every single episode or every other one. Every character performed very well when it came to those scenes, it made you just want to cheer for our heroes when they bagged another slime ball. I can't say enough about how much I personally loved the physicality of each sequence, each fight, each battle. I'd give those scenes 10s easily.

Favorite character was MRF; he was beautifully written and executed to perfection by his actor. This man was essentially living or existing in self-loathing and torture over the death of his sworn brother and wife. Running all over the world trying to find the truth of who the real killer was, was evident with every slump of his shoulders, every fruitless trip he made; seemed that with every betrayal, his eyes got gloomier and more despair filled. Only when he had his daughter did that ease a little bit but even until his dying breath he was protecting the ones he cared for and swore to protect and executing his revenge on the villain who sadly was right in front of him the entire time. A real man of honor. Didn't hurt that he looked like D'Artagnon from The 3 Musketeers with the long hair and goatee.

HF, our ML was also great especially as they showed him growing and maturing. Do wish he was less gullible sooner but those are small fries. As he traveled around and met more martial artists and just soaked up the knowledge and won each time he was put to the test, it was a cheerful moment, kind of like a goal at a soccer match. Probably the most touching moment for me in the entire series was when MRF knelt down and put his hand on HF's neck before he went to finish off TGN in episode 39. That real connection between sworn uncle and nephew, I wish it lasted forever. HF by that time knew MRF was innocent of his parents' deaths and MRF was finishing his vengeance and honoring the oath he made to HF's mother, to protect him. MRF's ultimate sacrifice to save HF and the others, I felt was a bit unnecessary as they could have escaped together as is. Though perhaps to him, death was actually more suitable to release him from all of the agony he'd lived with mentally and psychologically through the years knowing his daughter had her mother to take care of her. He could literally rest in eternal peace. So that one is a catch 22; what's better for the audience or the character.

Both of the female leads did very well. I really liked that though there were romantic feelings whirling around, romance wasn't forced into this series. It was a sad ending for all in that capacity but it did serve a purpose. I do wish things were written differently and that will be discussed below. If I had to choose, I do wish HF ended up with ZY as they had the most chemistry and there was no need to show sparks and whatnot; subtle love is fine too. Both women had their own strengths and helped HF grow while they were with him. Just like other people he met along the way, he became a hero in his own right because of the experiences ZY and CLS gave him.

Other favorite characters included official Zhou and his brothers; they were very smart when it came to their own self interests and when it was time to come and go; they were quite comical at times. The other sect leaders and brothers HF met along the way who taught him stuff and backed him up. I did like MCH but she really wasn't a smart person. In the absolute plethora of villains, the most convincing ones were vampire poison and TGN, though I do wish TGN had way less screen time.

Production was beautiful; from costumes, weapons, styling, sets and some of the OSTs. Very little to pick apart in this section.

Cons: This series nearly became the second costume drama to get a perfect score if it wasn't for the final episodes. This is where the really awesome pacing of the entire series became a runaway horse of we need to tie up every loose end somehow even if it looks completely bizarre. How did MCH know what was happening that she appeared on the gate tower to keep the gates open only to jump down and get shot with an arrow? They were so determined to kill her that this completely in-cohesive situation was created. Did she grow wings, learn telepathy, manifest a sword? It was so out of left field, one had no words. Also the swords vs rifles scenes just seemed very weird; bullets will kill a lot faster then a sword will unless you're a master martial artist or sacrificing yourself to protect others like MRF did.

Let's backtrack a bit to the idiot father-son duo whose arc took forever to end, the nun who essentially manipulated her disciple aka ZY into following her into becoming a nun too, instead of letting her follow her heart and be with HF. I hope the nun doesn't turn MCH's kids into monks but lets them choose their own paths as was decided by both their father and HF. There seemed too much heavy-handed approaches to situations that didn't need them. TGN and NL had way too much screen time and that was really the only time the drama got slightly boring; though she learned the truth in the end and chose the right path, she was too dumb for too long. Though TGN was one of the biggest villains, he was so annoying and childish, you wanted to shove him off a cliff the minute you met him. You knew immediately he was not a good person and that just snowballed from there.

Returning to the last episode, why couldn't CLS's death be written better? They literally waited until then to have her face off against vampire poison and his puny disciples; then when she starts to save HF who of course intervened to save her, she paralyzes him leaving him struggling, gaping like a fish out of water while she does her final monologue? It was all very inconsistent and haphazard. I think she deserved a better end since they decided on that. Killing vampire poison in a flashback HF has in the final maybe 5 minutes of the show was also very lackluster and unsatisfactory considering who he was and what he had done. Literally the last 1.5 episodes of this entire series botched what would have been a perfect score but otherwise the show was/is really great!

Would I recommend it? Absolutely, 100%! The last 1.5 episodes notwithstanding and a few parts in the middle, this series hit every aspect of a terrific wuxia. As far as I'm concerned, the challenge was met, accepted, and won!

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Recommendations

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Details

  • Drama: Side Story of Fox Volant
  • Country: China
  • Episodes: 40
  • Aired: Aug 31, 2022 - Oct 6, 2022
  • Aired On: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Original Network: Tencent Video
  • Duration: 40 min.
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

Statistics

  • Score: 8.3 (scored by 1,282 users)
  • Ranked: #934
  • Popularity: #3387
  • Watchers: 4,112

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