This article contains spoilers.
As I have written before, Eternal Love (aka Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms) is my favourite C-drama of ALL TIME and I binge-watched every episode (thank you Netflix) in less than a month. When I read about Ashes of Love, I knew this was a C-drama to watch. Eight months later (binge-watching - way too painful), I need a vacation or at the very least, a few good hours of hot yoga. I thought to write a review for the show, but my emotions continue to run so high about this frustrating and exhilarating C-drama that a review is not enough. Instead, I have divided my many… many… many thoughts into two parts encompassing episodes 1-33 and 34-63 (folks… one article is just not enough). Yes, this show almost killed me.
(Yang Zi rocks it playing sweet Jin Mi)
Let’s start with the main characters that I fell in love with before episode ten: Jin Mi (grape fairy), Xu Feng (fire immortal), Run Yu (night immortal), and Liu Ying (demon princess). Absolutely, all of these characters appear to be fun-loving people, loyal friends, and all (except for Jin Mi) fight with great skill with each other or the various bad guys that hover around. Who wouldn’t want to watch these incredible characters for 63 episodes? This is where Ashes of Love starts to get sneaky.
Poor unsuspecting viewers like me get sucked into these interesting people and start to love them. A LOT. Once you’re hooked watching the stories of Jin Mi, Xu Feng, Run Yu, and Liu Ying, there comes the conflict: Cue the next twenty-plus episodes, more agony and torment for all the characters with a conscience, including us poor souls watching the show.
The childlike unsuspecting female lead Jin Mi is played beautifully by Yang Zi. The whole thing starts with Jin Mi's dying mother cursing her never to feel love, thinking it is for her own good (poor judgement on mom’s part). Mother issues aside, all Jin Mi wants in life is to resurrect her dear friend Rou Rou (you go girl!). Instead, her friends lie and tell her if she works really hard, Rou Rou will come back. This inferior advice puts her smack dab in the crosshairs of the Empress. How many times does the Empress try to kill Jin Mi? Not sure on that one because I lost count after Episode 32. Just the whole assassination plot alone should be enough conflict for this show. Um… Sorry… there’s more.
Jinmi is the lone woman in the love triangle between brothers and she is unable to love either of them due to, well, mom’s little birthday curse. To make matters worse, she is forced into a mortal trial... the better to kill you with, my dear... in which she is reunited with Rou Rou, except Rou Rou? Not that good of a friend. Um… can you say poison? I’m already getting heart palpitations just thinking about the next thirty episodes.
(Beloved Run Yu... sigh… played by Leo Luo… sigh)
Yes. I have said it before, and I’ll repeat it. I AM ON TEAM RUN YU! Even when he makes poor choices, I still love... love... love Run Yu. Leo Luo has me hook, line and sinker with his characterization. With the Night Immortal’s parentage: an abusive mother, being driven insane by his step mother’s genocide, and a scheming philanderer and rapist father’s evil seduction, it’s a wonder Run Yu is not a psychopath. Frankly, he’s a poster boy for post-traumatic stress syndrome and a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize all at once. He took the torture for those nameless, faceless 30,000 people living in the lake and saved his precious new brothers as well as Xu Feng and Jin Mi more than once.
Runyu is constantly insulted and attacked by his evil stepmother, and his father is using him as a political pawn. Despite this, Run Yu remains, in his heart, a good person. It's not his fault his brother met the girl first! Can he be a more forgiving son, protective older brother, or a more understanding fiancé? Heck, I’ll marry him if he wants! (Please Run Yu, pick me).
Perhaps the Empress’ assassination attempts and Runyu’s parental issues would be enough…um no, there is more...
(We Love Our Loyal Xu Feng)
Poor Xu Feng (sigh… Deng Lun plays this part so well) starts episode 1 off with an assassination attempt, and it goes downhill from there. He finds his true love, then loses his true love, then thinks his true love is his sister only to find out she isn’t his sister but engaged to his brother. Then his true love doesn’t return his affection, or does she? It doesn’t matter because the Spirit Vanishing Arrow that can wipe Xu Feng from existence is hung by a hair, hovering over his head for days... no, weeks… well at least for 6 episodes. Never mind that some relative of his (Suihe) is obsessed with him in the immortal realm, then the mortal realm, and then back to the immortal realm again.
How is Xufeng such a good guy? Let’s not forget his unfortunate parentage as well. His father is that scheming philanderer rapist, and his mother is a maniacal, murderous megalomaniac and prone to commit genocide when she’s in a bad mood. Using the whole nature vs nurture argument, Xu Feng should be an evil guy, but instead, he is the hero. Also, how many episodes is he going to confess his love for Jin Mi and have her not respond appropriately? Too many to count by episode 33. At least in Eternal Love, there is a marriage and a brief mortal span where Ye Hua and Su Su are happy together, but not in Ashes of Love. The writer probably said, “How long can we keep the two lovebirds apart before this story is no longer interesting?”
(Strong Woman Liu Ying… played by Yukee Chen)
If the love triangle, child abuse (my poor Run Yu), and the assassination attempts aren’t enough conflict, let’s talk about the awesome Demon Princess Liu Ying whose first appearance in the show has her kicking butt and taking names. The only main character with decent parental guidance, Liu Ying is a loyal daughter, a strong fighter and an even better friend. She helps Xu Feng and the gang capture the bad guy in the demon realm, never asking for anything or falling in love with the wrong man. Instead, she finds Xu Feng and Jin Mi in the mortal world and decides to protect them from her true love, Muci, and Mr. Puchi and his machinations.
At least Muci and Liu Ying confess their feelings for each other even if they can’t be together. Poor Muci has got himself in a pickle as the Empress’ minion. It is obvious he loves Liu Ying because he keeps rescuing her again and again. Argh... that darn Empress and her evil autopsy silkworms (yes that’s what they are called). That nasty woman is responsible for ruining the lives of EVERYONE on the show. I will admit that I did yell at the television at least once a day to “Kill the Empress!” but none of the characters listened to me in episodes 1-33.
All this plus the crazy woman under the lake who adopts male fishes to make up for the loss of her biological son to his scheming philanderer rapist father, and his maniacal, murderous megalomaniac stepmother. Don’t forget the father who missed raising a daughter he never knew existed, Flower Immortals that aren’t bad but not quite doing good, and oh yeah, Mr. Puchi and the Moon Immortal, not sure what they are about, but I love the characters just the same.
(Moon Immortal and Snake Immortal…bad guys or good guys?)
All this DRAMA and I’ve only covered half of the story! Can these people be more tortured? I know I was tortured just watching it. But. I. Just. Couldn’t. Stop. Watching.
With all this agony and heartache in the first 30+ episodes… gasp, it's difficult to believe there are 30 more. However, my heart can’t take the anxiety, and I need time to recuperate. I plan on watching a few lighthearted K-dramas to detox, and then I’ll be able to express the remainder of my feelings for this exasperating yet compelling C-drama.
Meanwhile, I would suggest some sort of disclaimer for Ashes of Love before each episode.
Warning: Ashes of Love isn’t for consumption by those with weak constitutions.
Did you find this show as heart-wrenching as I did? Are you on Team Run Yu or team Xu Feng or perhaps Team Muci? Let me know your thoughts on the first half of this insanely sad/beautiful/frustrating show.