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Completed
Don't Think Twice, Love's All Right
14 people found this review helpful
by E-925
Aug 3, 2020
40 of 40 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0

Don't Think Twice, Love's All Right is a good drama dragged down by the limitations of its industry

One only need to look at the comment section to see my commitment to this drama (/Shrug/ Li Yi Tong fan). Obviously, I had and have major incentives to declare this to be the best thing since grilled steaks. Alas!

I was minutes away from finding out if the site has a 'zero' rating. Thankfully, Chinese drama writers after their obligatory sacrifices to tragedy managed to guide my 'ship' to port. Now, instead of being angry, I am merely annoyed.

The show is set in a large town where everybody is one acquaintance away from knowing each other. Essentially, there are four stories within:

1. The titular romance between our leads. Call this Pretty Woman with Chinese Characteristics. Contra those who avoided it purely 'cause of the male lead, in its first half, it is by a far the best thing about the show. It is truly heartwarming. Watch to episode 19 and stop!

2. The second romance is between a Legalist (The Chinese political theory of governance) and a broken-hearted romantic. Their romance is the funniest part of the show. Now I would totally watch a time-travel drama where a love-lorn romantic finds themself in Qin China. I didn't quite agree with the ending, but it was not all bad. It is the second-best part of the show.

3. The show starts to get weighed down by the other arcs. The usual drama, typical of C-dramas, involving scorned lovers and orbiters was generally weak and, in my view, unnecessary. But the man who broke our romantic's heart was charismatic enough to be a stand-out.

4. The absolute worst part of the show is the arc between Chinese Chuck Bass (When you see it, you'll see it) and Blair Wenwen. It has to be industry malpractice that allowed it to survive the cutting room.

The show tries to execute a complicated pirouette after episode 19 when it seems that our leads are sailing into a life of domestic bliss. They try to pull back the curtain and show life after the initial romantic glow fades. In my opinion, everything after that ruins the show. Episodes 1-19 were riveting television for me. After, it became a chore. I disagreed with every decision and typical of C-Dramas, they introduced far too many moving parts, dumbed down characters and engaged in aggressive acts of 'filler'--long pans, multiple flashbacks. The works!

This drama has many truly astounding actors. Li Yi Tong puts in the most charismatic turn I've seen on screen all year. I've got no beef with them. The writers, the production crew, the director and needlessly long drama seasons ruined what would have been an excellent drama. What-ifs aside, I cannot in good conscience recommend that you put in 30 hours on this. You won't be bored. That much is true, but I doubt you'd love it.

P.S

1. C-Dramas need to bin the whole 'scorned second woman' trope. Guaranteed cringe every time.

2. If you watch this, then after episode 19, skip to the opening scene of episode 37. Li Yi Tong manages to be both very cute and incredibly beautiful (there should be a word for that) and I don't think that is very fair.

3. Apple and Lenovo seem to have been major sponsors of this show. As far as I'm concerned, they are to be blamed for the post ep-19 clusterfucks.

4. https://mydramalist.com/35155-nodoka-no-niwa is the show that many of MDL users thought this would be. I'm tempted to watch it too, but the Japanese dial things up to 11 and I think I need lighter fare now.

5. C-Drama writers, tragedy is overrated. Happy endings and many babies for everybody; it won't kill you, you know.

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Completed
The Best Partner
8 people found this review helpful
by E-925
Jan 31, 2020
42 of 42 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
This review may contain spoilers
This is my first time writing one of these, I apologise if it is rough.

The one thing I can promise you is that should you watch it, you'll find it hard to dislike any of the non-villainous characters. It is also important to note that there isn't an arc or end per se, the format is episodic and very 'plot-of-the week-y'. Your fondness for the characters is what is meant to keep you watching. As I am very fond of the characters, I did not mind this. So although the story isn't epic, it is not boring either. Certain aspects, especially the slow-motion cuts were, laugh out loud funny moments for me.

I can't praise the cast enough. They were all superb. Lyric Lan, in particular, shines as Dai Xi. I also appreciated certain character touches from the costumiers, for example, Dai Xi's fashion starts off urban casual: sneakers and blazers. But under the influence of her co-staff and an in-show use of her boss's credit card, she goes up-street over the course of the show. It was an attention to detail I appreciated.

I understand that the episodic format isn't for everyone, but honestly, this was one of the few Asian dramas where I did not tune off at some point due to heavy padding. Not that they were immune, as the season wound down, flashbacks galore ensued. Annoying.

All in all, this has my seal of approval. >>>Suits. Sue me!


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Bishoku Tantei Akechi Goro
4 people found this review helpful
by E-925
Dec 21, 2020
9 of 9 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0

Enjoyable; not mind-blowing.

What if Sherlock Holmes was a foodie, not a druggie? What if he and Moriarty (and Watson) had a thing? What if Sherlock Holmes was Japanese?

If you had ever been intrigued by any of those possibilities then Goro Akechi, The Gourmet Detective is a show that you will like. Even if none of the above interest you, but you're nonetheless interested in some light-fare to act as a palette cleanser for the tragic dramas of the A-Dramaverse than tuck right in. You will not regret giving this eight, or so, hours of your life.

Basically, you get to follow the adventures of an uber-smart detective and his cute, lovable assistant as they actually solve zero crimes. The positives of the drama are the acting, which is very strong, the characters, which are all likeable--even the villains-- and the cases which I think are meant to be taken more as social commentaries on contemporary Japanese society than as mysteries meant to have a resolution.

The negatives are the confused motivations of the main character and the rather OPness of the villain(s). Although, that is redeemed when their seeming immortality is played for laughs. I also feel that the villain is a character archetype in Japanese entertainment which might be lost to foreigners. I see her more as the fox-spirit trickster type than as a real, grounded character. I am not Japanese or even very literary, but I have watched my fair share of anime, and I am fairly sure I have encountered such characters before. That allowed me not to raise my eyebrows too high at some of the stuff she pulls.

Anyways, if you watch this, just bear in mind that this is a melodrama, a very melodramatic melodrama. Do not expect anything vaguely 'realistic' and you will have a blast.

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Completed
The Wandering Earth
4 people found this review helpful
by E-925
Aug 6, 2020
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 10
Acting/Cast 6.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 10

The Wandering Earth is less about what is on screen than what it makes you feel.

We are, I think, used to entertainment as Spectacle. With spectacle, the focus is on the screen itself: the explosions, the camera shots, the actors' craft. As a spectacle, The Wandering Earth falls short. The scenes are rushed, the environment is drab and the actors are not Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep. It is as a form of moral exhortation, a celebration of human genius and a reminder of how much we still have left to (and must) achieve that the film shines.

The film is set during a moment in a vast project to guarantee the continuation of human civilisation outside our solar system. The technology and level of organisation deployed, without explanation, at the start of the film are advanced enough to be indistinguishable from magic. But really, stranger, with whom I am communicating across oceans 'telepathically', why would that need explaining, hmm? The point is less the plausibility of the tech than the (human) genius behind it. It is less our technology than our social milieu and the bonds of fellowship shared with family, friends and humanity that pushes us and grants us our ability. Plus Ultra! As Charles V would say.

The underlying philosophy is certainly 'collectivist' (Classical Athenian, if you prefer). Individuals are (deliberately?) forgettable, but their actions are what matters and what will live on. Consider the fact that we have no idea who invented the 'earth engines' that, literally, drive the plot. The point that individual selfishness can threaten civilisation is made both over the course of the movie as the protagonist (on earth) experiences his bildungsroman and when it seems that all hope for humanity is lost. Archibald MacLeish wrote that 'to see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold.' And in the film's climactic moment, it is 'together' that salvation happens. Even if during the course of acting 'together', many individual sacrifices occur. It is sad but worthy.

I suppose this is a film that would appeal more to the sort who joke about being too early to explore the seas and too late to explore the stars. They might feel, as Cecil Rhodes did on his deathbed, that there is 'So little done. So much to do.' But such is life, we stand on the shoulders of giants and it is we who will decide if those who follow us stand on the shoulders of midgets. I am proud to say that from the hour-mark, I was pretty much in tears. From across the screen, you can feel Mr Liu Cixin's pen asking: Are you worthy; Will you be?

It goes without saying that I will be pushing everybody I know to watch this.

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Completed
Sword Dynasty
2 people found this review helpful
by E-925
Feb 2, 2020
34 of 34 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 6.5
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 4.0
There is the outline of a good, possibly great TV show in here. The primary problem in my view is that the writers were not ruthless enough. It has one character too many. In my opinion, Li Yi Tong's role could easily have been filled by a kindly old Oba-chan with limited screen-time, and nothing would have been lost.

The focus should have been on the duelling visions of 'just' between the Heng Emperor and Jingmen, with the romance focus on how torn the Empress is between the two men, and with a reflection on the age-old question of the merits of the logic of the 'greater good'. That would have made the ending sensible.

You'll probably skip parts, I did, but it isn't unwatchable. A little cheesy, but not TERRIBLE. I enjoyed the music in the opening segment, as well as Liu Yu Jun's Heng Emperor. Quite heavy shoulders he has from all the heavy lifting he had to do.

As I wrote, the character of Qian Xue was absolutely unnecessary. Also unnecessary was at least three companions the hero acquires along the way. The writers should have trimmed the fat!

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Palace of Desire
0 people found this review helpful
by E-925
2 days ago
40 of 40 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10

Love's Nadir

Is art meant to be good or memorable?

I don’t know.

But I kept returning to that question multiple times while watching *Palace of Desire, *alternatively known as *Auteur on Steroids*.

The (in)famous Wu Ze Tian had one daughter, Princess Taiping, who is this show’s protagonist. We follow her from her teenage years until her death in a lifetime characterised by four failed loves and an intimate understanding of the limits of power. Her life and this story are a tragedy. Happiness is hard-won and then fleeting.

As the final credits rolled, I wondered about the characters being little better than the shadow puppets they often manipulated for entertainment, and if we were any better. How much control do we really have? It’s a testament to the power of the tale that I feel a tad sullied in describing the tragedy portrayed as Shakespearian. Its achievement not only compares to such Shakespearian sagas as Titus Andronicus and The Dark Knight, but it might well surpass them.
https://youtu.be/qTfnJuE1l98?si=VsvJRkE9MPrvbkSAMy praise for the show as a work of art is fulsome. The soundtrack is haunting, the costumes superb, and the directing style—which takes some getting used to—fits the atmosphere like a glove. I dare say that Chinese has never sounded so mellifluous—the shadow puppet tales should be unescoed or something.

Yet.

I’m not certain if this show is good. I’ve never been bothered by that question for a show I rated so highly before. Consider the actor, Wen Hsuan Chao. He plays two characters whose resemblance is a key part of the plot and drives Taiping’s maturity. Yet, to my mind, his portrayal of the noble, tragic figure of Xue Shao was mediocre. To be fair, the role of a man driven by honour and desire to act in a contradictory fashion was always likely to be difficult. I’d dismissed him as only being cast because he’s one of the handsomest blokes I’d ever seen. And his characters looks are very much part of the story. Yet, the same guy becomes a world-beater in his interpretation of the Machiavellian Don Juan, Zhang Yi Zhi. And that’s pretty much how it goes with most of the cast except for Gui Ya Lei (Wu Ze Tian) and Zhou Xun (Young Princess Taiping).

Parts of the story struck me as needlessly contrived or handwavy too. And, yet, everything came together in a way that works! I might even rewatch it! And that’s rare for me.!

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Completed
My Name Is Zhao Wu Di
0 people found this review helpful
by E-925
21 days ago
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 6.0
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 5.0

Hottie on a Platter

My Name is Zhao Wudi is the story of the contract marriage between the eponymous hero and tech CEO, Sheng Xing Yu. She marries him to maintain control of her company, and he marries her as part of an inherited mission to protect her. The story unfolds as they fall in love and the broader mystery of the villains and their motivations emerge.

That tale is fairly straightforward and has been told multiple times in various forms. What helps the show stand out is a cast with great chemistry and above-average comedic timing. Although some characters like Ali, the femme-fatale. struck me as superfluous, none of them got intolerably annoying.

Mini-dramas aren't exactly where one looks for premium story-telling or acting. But the cast is pretty, the story unfolds at a rapid pace and Zhao Yao Ke has something about her that brings to mind the first rains after the dry season. In sum, the show does nothing particularly excellently. But short of the sequel-baiting convoluted ending, it rarely fumbles either. There are worse ways to waste time.

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Completed
Kirin ga Kuru
0 people found this review helpful
by E-925
Dec 1, 2023
44 of 44 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 7.0

How to lose friends and not influence people

The Kirin is a mythical beast that emerges in times of peace. A symbol of peace then. All Might, but even more mythical.

Peace is good. Therefore, summoning the Kirin must be too. But something is never given for nothing. Don't matter if you’re a Naruto or Full Metal Alchemist guy. The Japanese have taught you. Best of all, it's real!

The price of peace is violence and blood. All of them are consequences of the exertion of power. That changes people, and rarely for good. Weighty stuff for a drama to tackle. Kirin ga Kuru tries. That made it enjoyable enough. I’m more hesitant to conclude that it succeeded.

Kirin ga Kuru is a historical drama set during the Warring States era of Japan. Dai Nippon, the Weebs say. Sengoku Jidai to demonstrate your Total War: Shogun chops. Its central characters are Akechi Jubei Mitsuhide and Oda Nobunaga. Brutus and Caesar. They tried to summon the Kirin and died, friendless, for their trouble.

The narrative unfolds in three kinds of scenes. Cabinet scenes where the principals scheme, plan and monologue about their dreams. Truly top-notch and visceral battle scenes. I've come to appreciate the importance of excellently choreographed small-unit combat scenes. Troy is the standard, but the scenes here are the best I've seen since The Last Day in Changan. Finally, there are scenes that demonstrate the consequences of the cabinet scenes on the common folk—those fated to experience but rarely participate in history. I appreciated the touch. We commons rarely get shout-outs.

The battle scenes are its standout. Some of the monologues in the cabinet scenes could drag out, but I didn't mind much. I think the showrunners stuffed too many cameos from historical figures. Focusing on the machinations of the key players would have been preferable.

I also question the role of Doctor Toan, Koma and Kikimaru. They seem to act as the avatars of the audience and the common people. Yes, their presence often helps with plot exposition, but their role as main characters is awkward. I disagree with the director's choice to compress the narrative arc of multiple side characters into those three. Frankly, we spend too much time with characters who are unimportant in the story’s grand scheme.

I cannot fault professionals for their competence. Excellent acting is the baseline for any broadcast show, much like you expect basic spelling competence from me. That said, there are always levels to any craft. Sometani Shota as Oda and Sasaki Kiranosuke as Hideyoshi are particular standouts, immediately elevating all their scenes. The bad guys were cooler!

Kirin ga Kuru's is an artistic moving picture. Its cinematography is screensaver tier, and the musical team from John Graham down brings their orchestral and acoustic A-game! Haven't heard a soundtrack that good since Novoland: Pearl Eclipse.

Kirin ga Kuru doesn't drop the ball like Novoland did. But it, ultimately, isn't spectacular either. It's just there. It's The CW, not HBO, if you catch my drift. Interesting in patches but not something you'll be beating down doors to recommend.

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