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Ordinary Greatness
15 people found this review helpful
Jun 14, 2022
38 of 38 episodes seen
Completed 4
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.5
Rewatch Value 9.5
This review may contain spoilers

An excellent slice of life in a Chinese grassroots police station

This is a slice of life in a Chinese suburban police station, with trainees who need to be enlightened, and public as well. Some things here are a bit old-fashioned, like everyone taking part in the cleaning of the premises, but people have been used to it from when they were school kids, in many mostly rural places, so it is not unlikely. The station functions as a complete work unit "danwei" which offers shelter and meals and more to the workers. It works together with the local community centers and governing bodies, to ensure peace and safety, i.e. "serving the people".

But like in every country, police is both looked up to and feared, sometimes hated, so they are now also under the scrutiny of the smartphone wielding public who will take pictures to be exposed in social media, despite it being forbidden. Many things here are rather realistic, and could be somewhat comparable to police work anywhere, but it is just a drama, not a documentary , so there is some humor too.

The earliest type of movie from China in that vein that I saw, was Ning Ying's 1995 民警故事 (On The Beat) where "Under the tutelage of a tough colleague, a rookie cop yearns for excitement on the streets of Beijing." A very good but dark movie too. At the time, pet dogs were banned because of risk of rabies, and petty criminals and pickpockets like Jia Zhangke's 1997 小武 (Xiao Wu) were the main fare of urban police work, outside the flashy kung fu fight epics like Hong Kong movies 1985 Police Story, or closer to our times Andy Lau's 2002 action thriller 無間道 (Infernal Affairs).

In this “Ordinary Greatness” drama, aspiring policeman Li Dawei (played by ML Zhang Ruoyun) must have been influenced by such thrillers to choose that line of work, where much of the work could now just be the boring community watching and resolving conflicts, preferably before they flare up, like the complaint about the noisy neighbors (something that is near universal).

Young female aspirant Xia Jie (played by Bai Lu) has been overprotected by her still PTSD suffering mom, since her father died a hero, knifed in action. She hoped to find a way to get independent after Police academy. But she was also being put aside from dangerous missions like arresting murderers, where her mentor, deputy chief Cheng Hao (played by Wang Tong Hui) continued the overprotection.

Rookie Zhao JiWei (played by Cao Lu) was chafing at the boredom of checking monitoring footage. Following his cheerful master Zhang Jijie (played by Li Xiao Chuan) did not bring much more than helping kids and pets, and interacting with residents of a new community of former rural villagers who had trouble adjusting to life in the city with its bans on using electric wires hanging from windows or setting up stalls to sell produce on the streets.

Polar opposite was Yang Shu (played by Xu KaiCheng) who was the odd one out of the four new recruits , with his Master's degree in law, from prestigious university Beida. He thought he was going to fit in when he saved a life together with his mentor Cao JianJun (played by Zhao Yang) but was disappointed when Chief Wang ShouYin (played by Wang JingChun) upbraided them for recklessly endangering their own lives.

Putting safety first is indeed a requisite : ordinary police are not armed forces in China. Except for special missions and special forces, which you'd rarely see on the streets, they are more like British "bobbies" who used to only wield a stick. Their principal "arm" used to be a talkie walkie, now it's a phone, and they wear a recording device if they are on medium risk missions. In fact, apart from traffic regulating police, and alcohol tests at certain well known road junctions, you don’t see many policemen patrolling in China. Maybe they are understaffed (because not the best income and prestige, so not a very attractive profession) like it’s hinted at, in the beginning of this drama ?

The drama does not showcase many flashy crime investigations, because that is not the domain of grassroots police like the ones staffing Balihe station, but that of criminal police under another station, with which they have occasional cooperation. The main fare is solving disputes and petty thefts, with the help of the public, in accordance to the policy of “Fengqiao experience for the New Era” (新时代”枫桥经验”)" i.e. "mobilizing the public – including through new digital tools. The Fengqiao experience is a system going back to 1960s Mao era "social and political governance that essentially directed the masses themselves at the local level to carry out the on-site “rectification” of so-called “reactionary elements” and ‘class enemies” in society, largely forgotten after 1980. It is named after Fengqiao Township (枫桥镇), which is today a part of the city of Zhuji in Zhejiang province. Although it seems unsuited to a contemporary China ostensibly ruled by law under the Constitution, the “Fengqiao experience” has made a prominent return under Xi Jinping in 2013, entering official language about rule of law and public security.

The use of such slogans as guidelines for work is showcased in the periodical meetings in the police station, with Chief Wang or Instructor Ye Wei (played by Qi Xiang aka Qi Huan). She is particularly subjected to stress, having to juggle her job and her duties as mom of an unruly kid with school summons to go discuss with the teachers, and elders with flagging health who sometimes need hospital care simultaneously. But she can count on the group's resilience and readiness to stand in for her in case of need.

The drama also focuses on the personal problems of the people working in the police Policemen need to take care of their children and of their elderly and ailing relatives too, and also pay special attention to former member’s families, like Xia Jie’s..

The four young recruits soon become friends and share an apartment found by Li Dawei’s mom, close to the station, despite Zhao JiWei’s stinginess, due to his poor rural upbringing. But this apartment also proves useful as a haven for troubled Jia, the daughter of Dawei’s mentor policeman Chen.

Li Dawei’s mom, an exceptionally cheerful and practical woman, with a healthy relation with her son, is not very rich, having had to bring up her son alone, because his father absconded for ten years; so his sudden reappearance cause Dawei to be extremely angry, until he finds out the real reason and accepts his father. Later, he shows his perseverance and astuteness in helping to solve two difficult cases, one about an internet scam targeting naïve persons to defraud them of their possessions, and another about a serial killer.

Controlling emotions is a necessity for policemen who are subjected to witnessing distressing situations and need to stay calm even when they are targeted by unreasonable citizens

Xia Jie is growing from a naïve and righteous person to a more careful officer, protecting her mom despite annoying interferences with her work, also by a crazy woman doctor who is suffocating her daughter a bit like Xia Jie was. She chafes at the idea of being relegated to Household Registration duty until she finds out that this sort of work is also quite interesting and can bring help to people.

We don’t get to know tall and handsome Yang Shu’s family : he stays discreet, but his mentor Cao JianJun has a troubled family, with a haughty and materialistic mother-in-law who keeps grating at his insignificance; this will eventually cause Cao JianJun to shine and to fall, after having reconciled with the young man whom he at first was jealous of. But he always strove to be a hero and will not disappoint.

Some episodes felt like a kaleidoscope and might get a bit tiresome for those tempted to binge watch the drama, It is better to watch this drama without too much haste. The story as a slice of life is interesting as it showcases the ebb and flow of work in the police station. My attention flagged a little in episode 23 after two days of almost nonstop watching. But episode 24 woke me up with the serious problems cropping up, and cheerful Chief Wang, the universal troubleshooter, losing his smile. And I stayed till the end, admiring the excellent acting and the variety of trouble they addressed, some serious ones too, that could be of concern for anyone anywhere, in our changing cities and internet age, while taking some notes about particular things of special interest.

Generally, the actors do an excellent job at showing their individuality, so we quickly get drawn into their family and work preoccupation : each one is different, and we soon feel drawn into this extended family of sorts that make the Balihe police station a “home” for the policemen. But even if Dawei seems more than just friendly with Xia Jie in the later episodes, they have no time for romance. The focus is on duty, and loyalty to the people they are serving, and the end of the drama shows satisfactorily the honors gained by each in the station.

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Hidden Love
23 people found this review helpful
Jul 7, 2023
25 of 25 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10

The perfect feel good summer romance of 2023 (and perhaps, beyond!)

Forget all that you watched before. Clear your mind from jaded gazing through heavily lead-tinted dark old-hand "grandma- who- knows- better" glasses of disbelief and suspicion. (Btw chuckle along when you get to the part with the monstrous and hilarious asymmetrical sunglasses presented to the big brother Sang Yan). Or nitpicking about colors, dress, or technicalities : these are anyway very good despite the short-changed budget it came from.
Even if this doesn't remind you of the crushes you might have had, all those treasured or awkward, sometimes suppressed and forgotten, childish memories, it could let you be moved or reminded of what it felt like to imagine love. You will thus get the added bonus of personal connection to the youth and coming-of-age story better than anything you watched before. Even those who had not so good experiences , even horrible ones, in love, recognized how wholesome this drama was and remains.

I suggest you watch on just as if you were admiring and expecting a small seedling break the soil and grow : first frail, then strong, until the rose bud flowers and engulfs you in its heavenly perfume : enjoy !

This drama is very special and we are many who knew it even from the beginning, with the young child actress Zhang XiWei who was not bad, ,but did not steal or represent the show. The continuity between her and older Sang Zhi (played by Zhao Lusi), was quite good : she was acting a role older than her real age, but represented well the difference between an overprotected and childish girl of 13-14, before the older actress took over to portray the evolution of the pampered 16-17 years old that suddenly broke the glass ceiling to experience her first real wound in love, and rebuilt herself into a more independent young lady of 19-20 in a different city. 20 is the minimum age for marriage in China btw. So, the dating had to take its time. And there were other smaller or bigger hurdles to overcome, that many watchers could relate to, one way or the other.

That's why it is on top of the wave of popularity in this summer season laden with blockbusters from Indiana Jones, Mission Impossible ... to long expected heavyweight c-dramas such as The Longest Promise : Hidden Love is not just a little appetizer story for fangirls of a manhua. Netflix does not look to China to purchase a drama idly.

Zhao Lusi ("ZhiZhi", Sang Zhi) and Chen Zheyuan (Duan Jiaxu) have elevated the "classical love story" from ordinary to work of art : it is that good!

The rest of the cast played along well or remarkably well :
- Sang Zhi's big brother was played by Chinese-American Victor Ma BoQian, who entered the world of Chinese entertainment by taking part in a song battle in 2017, where he was a strong competitor of Mao Buyi (who performed the famous "Drowning Sorrows" song that you can hear the tune of, when Duan Jiaxu went with colleagues to a karaoke where he bumped into Sang Zhi , now a freshman student at Yihe university.)
---- You will also find :
- an understanding and doting modern mom in Li Ping, Mrs Sang (played by Zeng Li, different from the at first traumatizing one she played in Love Like the Galaxy, but with whom Zhao Lusi had already many good memories of interacting on and off sets),
-a concerned but relatively generous dad in Sang Rong (played by Qiu XinZhi).
- faithful friends such as Qian Fei (played by "chubby" Hu YuXuan who has been remarked in many supporting roles since Ever Night), or a trio of sisterly university roommates, each with their own individuality :
- independent Yu Xin (played by Qi Tian Ting),
- bubbly Ning Wei (played by Smile Wei Xiao)
- and diffident Wang RuoLan (played by Wang YiLan) who has her own crush on
- a tall basket ball player university student, Jiang Ming (played by Lu DongXu) who himself had at first set his eyes on Sang Zhi.

There are understanding and supportive office superiors, such as :
- Li Xun (played by Guan JiTing) who is the director of a game design studio to which he invited Jiaxu when they were both interning in Nanwu in episode 4 (and no, this Li Xun is not related to the one in the drama Lighter and Princess, if you were wondering!) who is married to
-Jiang SiYun (played by Wang Yang), who is the motherly and big sisterly figure that makes the game designer studio a sort of home for the staff.

Since an antagonist of sorts is needed, we get the obsessive Jiang Ying (played by Xu ShiXin) who has a suspicious-minded friend in Shi XiaoYu (played by Shi XiYue) Xiaoyu also acts as superior to Sang Zhi during the student's internship in a design company in Yihe. But these two are barely a threat for the blossoming love story between main leads, so they are like the necessary mists and clouds that make the azure blue skies uplifting. That said, even rain on a day devoted for a project transforms the day into a very special camping opportunity, in the lovely story : it will remind some of the audience about the make-believe grand travels and explorings they did as kids on rainy days.

The background music and songs are sweet counterpoints to the moods and change in those.
Zhao Lusi sings two songs, the intro one, 只想把你偷偷藏好 (Just Want To Secretly Hide You), in duet with Silence Wang Sulong 汪苏泷 , and the solo song, 我有喜欢的人了 (I Have Someone I Like) -
Five other songs also contribute to make the OST pleasing and memorable :
- Be Your Light (sung by Victor Ma Boqian 马伯骞);
- You Are My Only Wish - 你是我此生唯一所愿 (sung by Diamond Zhang Bichen 张碧晨, famous singer and unconventional unwed mother of a daughter with ex-companion "Martian"musician Hua Chenyu 华晨宇),
- Forever Star - 张洢豪 (sung by Zhang Yihao 张洢豪),
- I Have You - 有你 (sung by Zhao Lei, but , not the Beijing born singer 赵雷 best known for his Chengdu song, but the Chengdu born younger 赵磊 who was a member of R1SE and X NINE), and
- Star Thief - 偷星星的人 (sung by yihuik 苡慧).
Some other tunes in addition to the Drowning Sorrows one (消愁) that I mentioned before, can be noticed. Such as a Zhao Lusi song from the Oh! My Emperor! drama (that also starred her), a snippet of a Coco Lee one (Di Da Di) sung by Sang Yan (The iconic Hong Kong singer passed away at 48 very recently on July 5, 2023. She is remembered for many songs such as “A Love Before Time,” from "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon that almost won an Academy Award in 2000. Also for the "Reflection" song and voicing Fa Mulan in the Mandarin-language version of "Mulan,")
Also, in Ep12, student Jiang Ming sang and played on the guitar the song " I've Liked You Since The First Day I Met You"遇见你的第一天起我就喜欢你 by Zhāng Yīháo (張洢豪), from the OST of the recent youth c-drama 《时光与他,恰是正好 》Time and Him are Just Right. The tune is repeated in background music in the last episode bar scene.

Hidden Love, despite all the complications it went through, in its making (that you can learn separately about it, in interviews, if you are curious), is already an international phenomenon, breaking many mental and geographical boundaries with its soft and refreshing, healing message, based on humanity's most powerful sentiments to change the world for the better : hope, confidence, benevolence, trust, courage, persistence, and love.

The drama has an "extra" episode 25.5 after the 25 scheduled ones. This extra one is, like for Lighter and Princess, a compilation of various footage such as jokes, humorous BTS and making of iconic scenes, fashion parade, interview, cut scenes, more, and ends on a wish that touches the audience too, written by Jiaxu on a strip of star paper : 只只的 所有的 愿望 成真 (Zhǐ zhǐ de suǒyǒu de yuànwàng chéng zhēn) : May ZhiZhi's wishes come true

Also, don't forget to play along with the episodes' end snippets to find clues about where they belong and why they were added.

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The Last Princess
12 people found this review helpful
Apr 23, 2023
35 of 35 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 6.5
This review may contain spoilers

Love story in warlords-time Manchuria

First, let's clear away some misunderstandings. The story is not about a "last princess" or even a "fallen" noblewoman. It is about a couple of characters who fight for their own visions and aspirations, and who are somewhat fated to be together, despite hurdles and threats to their life.

I was quite satisfied by this drama, despite the sometimes-abrupt editing, which makes suspect parts are missing. But this is understandable since the history of this drama also was not really smooth. As some previous commenters pointed out, it was an adaptation of a novel and in the very long time since it was shot, it got reduced from 50 to 38 episodes, more or less put aside for almost three years, and finally released with little fanfare. Original title is Bu Yun Qu , 步雲衢 (Bù yún qú, which may translate as Crossroads under piling clouds). The original novel was not available to me.

Warning: this is a long review, with History reminders for those unfamiliar with the period. Those who are may of course skip these details.

"The Last Princess" is a historical romance drama set around 1911-1932 from the fall of the Qing dynasty until the end of the warlords’ period and the establishment of the Manchukuo puppet regime in 1931. Despite the grittiness of that Republican era period, it is often the theater for “romantic” movies and dramas using the models of real historical figures, while depicting imaginary characters who might remind of the adventurous ones from Alexander Dumas novels of the 19th century. So, this one is also not a docu-drama, but an imaginary “romantic” story using impressions of some historical characters and events.
To start, some reminders about Chinese “Republican era “timeline and places may be useful:

* The Qing empire fell in October 1911. A provisional government was established in Nanjing the following year under Sun Yat-sen, who had returned from his long exile to lead the revolution. But the "southern" revolutionaries were not strong enough to defeat the Beiyang army of Yuan Shikai, in the north, who became the de facto dictator of China after the Xinhai Revolution established the Republic of China in 1912.
* The Warlord Era began in 1916 upon Yuan Shikai's death. It lasted until 1927.
* Two of the most powerful strongmen of the Warlord Era were the "Old Marshal" ZHANG ZUOLIN (warlord of Manchuria from 1916 to 1928) and WU PEIFU in Zhili, known as Hebei province, now. (Today, the C-shaped area of Hebei, surrounding Beijing and Tianjin municipalities, makes up the Jing-Jin-Ji megalopolis region bordering the Bohai sea, the Shandong peninsula to the south and the Dongbei north-east region to the north, which borders with the Changbai mountains and the Korean peninsula).
The drama focuses on the story of a couple, who struggle to fulfill their dreams despite many oppositions

FL character Yurong may appear cold in the beginning, but she does not waver in her sentimental attachment once it is formed, although at times to the point of unreasonable clinging, while also being at times too eager to distance herself from her dangerous warlord. She manages not to appear too unbelievable despite her ever-impeccable hairdo and manicured nails, But her sacrifices for the “public good” are exaggerated and make her stand out sometimes irritatingly as a rigid and stubborn would-be martyr. But not as whiny and childish as another female character (the very irritating Jiaojiao).
28-year-old Rain Wang Herun王鹤润 (who played Yurong) has been acting in many dramas since 2017, including as FL in one (2019 Yanxi Palace: Princess adventures, a Yanxi Palace spinoff)), where she portrayed a determined Qing dynasty princess contending with palace intrigue and a vendetta against her family, while navigating the treacherous terrain of romance. Her portrayal of the conflicted Yurong is adequate. The former princess attempts to become an independent modern woman putting action before passion, sometimes recklessly and clumsily, while she at first remains bound by remnants of old-time family loyalty.

ML character Zhao Zhengnan ( played by 38-year-old singer and actor Ryan Zhang He张赫, who seems blessed with never aging physique) is both handsome and determined: a soldier intent on putting the state before his personal feelings, but still doing his best to protect his love whom he puts before his own life. He manages to reel Yurong in and contain her excesses several times, despite many heartaches.
This was my first time watching a drama featuring this actor born 1984 in Shenyang. A graduate of Shenyang Conservatory of Music, majoring in opera, he is also a singer, but does not sing in this drama. He made his acting debut in the 2009 film “Perfect Bride” and has since taken part in 7 movies and 19 dramas, of which 2 are upcoming. Among these, he was playing, together with Hu Yitian, the role of a war pilot in “Defying the Storm” (a drama set in the period from 1937, when Chinese air force was still in its infancy and relying on foreign planes, sometimes complete with foreign pilots, such as the famous Flying Tigers, an U.S. volunteer squad which operated 1941-1942). I was favorably impressed by his Zhengnan and may look up more of his work.

Special mention to Tao Yi Xi who plays Yurong in the first half of the first episode. She often plays child or support roles since 2013, but we don't know much more about her. She does stand out here, with her kitten!

Each character in The Last Princess represents a part of the turbulent History.

As the descendants of prince Chun did in actual History, the child “gege” (title of a Manchu princess) Yurong decided to cast aside her Aisin-gioro name linking her to the imperial clan, adopting the name Jin (金)instead. (The real-life descendants of prince Chun did the same and lived to become valued professionals and even civil servants in the PRC). From childhood already Yurong set forth to fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor to “help people”. She thus represents the New Women in the beginning of the 20th century.

Yurong was an idealist and stubborn young lady. But at first, she was saddled with a cumbersome family member in the person of Guri Bude, a feckless Manchu cousin to whom she had been betrothed in infancy. She never agreed to fully accept the arranged marriage, living instead as a student housemate or sister, in their Tianjin house near the university where she studied medicine. She was concerned about his numerous weaknesses but without more than a sense of family loyalty to him.
He knew she had a crush on a boy briefly met in her childhood, who might be in Tianjin, but Guri Bude failed to evaluate the importance of this. Guri Bude (played by Zheng Xiaodong) represents the clueless and weak people of the previous regime, who could not defend their spouses, their country or themselves, dreamed of restoration of the Qing empire, but only failed miserably and fell prey to a greedy woman and to opium, the evil drug that led to the downfall of the Qing and invasion of China by foreign powers.

This greedy woman, Baoxi (played by Ke Nai Yu), belonged to the antagonist Wu warlord clan, vying for control of mines and land in Manchuria. The Wu family represents the factions who, in Zhili (present-day Hebei) sided with government only for their own gain, with no sense of honor or of country. Their son Wu Pei (played by "Sean Zhang"/Zhang Liang) was a vicious murderer, ready to kill even his helpers and sell-out to the Japanese who would soon launch a full-fledged invasion after killing the main opponent to their schemes: the Zhao warlord of Manchuria. These were the traitors to the country.

On the other hand, the Zhao warlord was, if not exemplary, at least more likeable, and patriotic. The old marshal cared enough for his son Zhao Zhengnan, main protagonist, that he accepted to cancel another infant betrothal, so Zhengnan might marry his one and only flame. This despite having to forego the direly needed money from the Sheng tycoon family, and make an enemy of Sheng JiaoJiao (played by Chen Meng Qin), the rejected bride-to-be. She would never accept the situation and go to extraordinary lengths to “re-capture” her obsessive life-long interest, Zhengnan.
Meanwhile, beset by lack of funds, the Zhao clan struggled to keep their hold on Fengtian and its rich mining resources. (Fengtian was the name at the time of present-day Shenyang city, and of the province, known today as Liaoning province); another important Manchu name for Shenyang was Mukden, but the drama avoids referring to the game changing Mukden incident of 18 September 1931. It features instead the assassination of the warlord of Manchuria (loosely modeled on real-life Zhang Zuolin, who was murdered by Japanese agents on June4, 1928).

In "The Last Princess", Ryan Zhang /Zhang He plays the role of “Young Marshal” Zhao Zhengnan, loosely based on the historical ZHANG XUELIANG (1901-2001), the so-called "Young Marshal" who became both warlord of Manchuria and head of the Beiyang Government after the death of his father.

The constant power struggle, sometimes armed, between factions in Beijing (Nanjing was official capital in that period) is depicted in this drama. The Beiyang government was changeable and unstable: it had seven different heads of state and more than two dozen different ministries between 1916 and 1928 when China was partly reunified under the Nationalist banner. Foreign influence was important, as despite the capital being in Nanjing, foreign countries also recognized the Beiyang government, pressing it for advantages such as land deals and railroad building and operating. In the decade following 1928, Japanese aggression increased on the coast of Manchuria, which was gradually abandoned by the Guomindang Nationalists. The GMD was more concerned about eliminating their political rivals : the Gongchandang Communist party, following the doctrine of先安内, 后攘外 "first internal pacification, then external resistance" (=getting rid of communists, before fighting the Japanese).

I did not skip any part and was not bored. I will not go into too many details, but here's a bird's view: Zooming to end after many twists and turns, after separations and reunions in cities, on railroads, in hospitals, and in the wild Changbai mountains close to Korea, with bandits! Happy end for the pair, although Jiaojiao got a frightful end, but she was so stupid anyway, that it was a wonder she still was around, and what did she mean, bragging to very end about all the dirt she had on people armed with guns? She really was asking for what she got.

Of course, Manchuria was not yet liberated at end of drama, but the survivors were envisioning peaceful futures. We were spared from gritty depictions of death camps; instead, the cell that held our GCD heroes was surprisingly airy and clean, and I was looking at those handcuffs which slender-wrist Yurong easily could have slid off, and her impeccable clean hairdo with the pearled hair tie... Mmmm looking good till the end! Fingernails always clean and well manicured. THE pin-up heroine! Only found in c-dramas.

Zhengnan also looked dashing in his military uniform, even grazed by bullets that mowed everyone except him. But of course, he still needed to be persuaded to join the Party since this was PRC produced.
(In reality, historical model Zhang Xueliang did not join it, just as he never married a Manchu princess of House Aisin-Gioro, nor a doctor or nurse, for that matter; his real-life personal story was quite eventful, but he was far from a romantic, very different from the Last Princess drama.)

All considered, it was a satisfying melodrama with a handsome cast and mostly OK acting, which I did not regret watching. Since it followed at least more or less the timeline and some features of the Zhang Xueliang historical model, it made me read more to accompany my watching, and I liked the incentive to dig deeper, including watching some documentaries and listening to some period songs, both famous romantic songs by singers like Li Xianglan, the “Liaoning nightingale” (1920-2014) and other ones. These are not featured in the drama, but the OST is soothing and pleasing, and the music is not overshadowing dialogues.
The most memorable song is the one featured on episode end credits: At a glance - 一眼之间 Yīyǎn zhī jiān (Zǐ Zhú 紫竹).
While looking at end credits, I also noticed that there was a musical cooperation with Thailand, including instrumental music directed by well-known Somtow Sucharitkul who is both a gifted writer of horror and science fiction, and a composer (he composed five symphonies and a ballet, a “Requiem: In Memoriam 9/11,” "commissioned by the government of Thailand and inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and T. S. Eliot. ").

You can watch the drama and listen to the complete OST on Youtube

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Only for Love
9 people found this review helpful
Nov 28, 2023
36 of 36 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 7.5

7 couples and phones, but still sweet

I came for Bai Lu, and despite the sometimes infuriating story with constant phone interruptions leading progression back to square one, and the plethora of couples to keep track of (almost like south American latin soap operas!) there were many nice moments, and a very sweet ending to this drama, especially for those who got to 36.5 to have the leads wedding ceremony and not only one of less colorful couples' one.

The story has no less than 7 couples :
1/ Shi Yan and Shuyi, of course (Wang Hedi and Bai Lu manage to make their contradictory characters keep interesting, even though detractors will have a ball that a successful capitalist is so little outspoken, and the successful reporter is so flirty, childish, and unable to escape the snares of her own deceptions. Before the satisfying owning up and getting to last episodes, with hearts, flowers, and everything romance audience wish for.) ;
2/ Yu You and Qin Shiyue (Miles Wei Zheming and Shen Yu Jie, very young woman and an older university professor, reluctant to accept her forthright requests);
3/ Guan Ji and Bi Ruoshan (Liu Dongqin and Jiang Peiyao ; one of the "three musketeers" of the company, wealthy heir, but profligate, and seemingly butterflying best friend of Shuyi despite working in a different news agency) ;
4/ Yue Xingzhou and Qin Lezhi (from the start, they are despicable and represent the worst of yuppies who rely on schemes and corruption to hide their lack of trustworthiness, of filial attitude, and of work ethics.)
5/ Guan XiangCheng and Tang Yi (Nie Yuan and Zeng Li, the father of Guan Ji and the editor of the financial news company, who have a hidden affair) ;
6/ Chen Sheng and "Nan Nan" Kong Nan (Liu Ming Hao and Vian Wang; Shi Yi's assistant and Shuyi's tablemate in the office, who strike up a sweet acquaintance in the first half of the drama, but don't hog much time) ;
7/ Shi Wenguang and "Song Le Lan" (Kou Zhenhai and Zhou Xuan who has sung a couple of well-received songs in the past, but is not really that well known a pop singer, more known as actress in support roles ; they play Shi Yan's dad and his idol singer mother, who are so discreet that Shuyi does not get to,know their identity until last episodes.)
To these 7 couples, we might add the mother of Shuyi who wants her to get married asap, perhaps wanting more security for her daughter Shuyi, who also has a stepdad (played by Shi Yu) This couple is not much shown together.
Yu You's dad and mom are also not much shown.

Some third wheels, either over confident or straight antagonists are :
Xu Yuling (played by An YueXi) who is the jealous colleague of Shuyi ;
Fiona (played by Tu Zhiying) a young student returnee who thought her familiarity with Shi Yi would help her romantically and professionally, but had to realize it was her wish thinking ;
Yi Yang (played by Daniel Zhou) a "dark horse" indeed who set his aim too high and ended up, as expected, beaten into toeing the line set by Shi Yi in love and business;
and the relentless phones!

The story was adapted from Qiao Yao 's novel " Wrong Flirting ", supposedly rather true to original. Despite a good start (albeit rather expected story line there in those beginning episodes) it became rather chaotic, even frustrating at times. But it also had some beautiful, cute, exciting, or fun moments : the visit to the temple, the quote of a line of poetry (Du Fu's famous poem 客至 ké zhì, that is attached to the landmark Du Fu thatched cottage in Chengdu, Sichuan), the climbing tree and fairy coaxing, the standing together for inspection of factory; the comforting Shi Yi in his "darkest moment" when Yi Yang snatched the lead in the tech companies ; the last episodes of Shi Yi and Shuyi's relationship, the "Call Me Uncle" quip (that embodied the complicated Chinese family ties hidden in the drama)..... These ending episodes made up for some frustration that could have accumulated on the way. I even found myself going back re-watching some of the cute and sweet moments, looking at the Beijing cityscape of the high tech district, the pictures of the temple (perhaps Zhizhe temple in Jinhua, Zhejiang) and other cityscapes : "jiang Cheng" city could be in Zhejiang, there is a brief glimpse of the Zhejiang water city of Wuzhen, and perhaps another city. Filming took place in Zhejiang according to Baidu, between November 22, 2022, and March 20, 2023, so it was remarkable that it took so little time to air 2023-Nov-03 to 2023-Nov-22, with the 36 episodes scheduled + the 36.5 additional one that shows the wedding of the leads.

The 11 song OST with theme song Passer by (sung by Zhou Shen) and episodes' ending theme song Lemon Soda (cute song, sung by Lai Meiyun) was quite nice. Full OST can be listened to on YouTube, and translation MVs of Only for Love songs lyrics have been posted there by Peachey Blossom. But I am not sure what were the titles of the snippets of songs Dong Xuan sang nicely, when she acted the singer on stage, in episode 10.

In a year when three dramas featuring Bai Lu were aired (Till The End of The Moon earlier, and Story of Kunning Palace, almost simultaneously to Only For Love) this drama of course elicited heated comparisons and even some controversies. To my mind, it is not really fair to compare such very different dramas. In my personal scale of Bai Lu dramas, it may remain among the "lesser ones", because TTEOTM and One and Only, even Arsenal Military Academy and SOKP are going to rank first in costume categories (ancient or Republican era) and OFL will also rank behind Love is Sweet in the modern office drama category, where Luo Yunxi proved a more versatile actor than Dylan Wang Hedi in this one. Nevertheless, although I had a bias about his acting too much with same expressions as his former Daoming Si (MG) and Devil (LBFAD) characters, I still think Wang Hedi did honorably well as Shi Yi in this drama enough that this drama will not be dismissed in his growing filmography.

Do I recommend Only For Love ? Yes, this drama is, despite its quirks and flaws, quite watchable for those who have time, don't mind the quirks mentioned, like either or both leads, and don't go fast forwarding at each secondary couple or phone alarm. But maybe it is not for everybody if the frustration level outweighs the rest. But it does not deserve the venom of a certain Youtuber lady (who never watches till end what she guns down, and is proud to spew what she read elsewhere after having "watched" trailers, or a couple episodes). Since I liked Only For Love nonetheless, I will not be stingy with rating, but it is my own rating for my own list. I totally understand others could disagree, or even rate it higher.

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Everyone Loves Me
6 people found this review helpful
28 days ago
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 4.0
Rewatch Value 2.0
This review may contain spoilers

Everyone Loves Me - Not

The end was mawkish and crap.
The turtle bit was not even half checked with Google and veterinary advise: anyway, the stray dog "shelter" bit, too, was half baked stupid. What sort of audience was targeted there
The love and hate in first episodes was best part, before it went dragging.

The script was not good and I can't stand Zhou Ye's nods in many episodes. as if she wanted to imitate old fashioned bobble-head staring dog dolls glued on car dashboards Her pouting and eating like she can't put food into her mouth without half of it popping out, and then adding mewling sounds in lieu of answers to table companions (such as in ep6 22:02). Can't she shake out of those nasty habits, which mar much of her "romantic" acting parts?

Lin Yi was average here: must have grown tired by the repetitiousness and drag. His best looks : in black and leather in episode 9, and in the FPS combat gaming parts.
I think all "chemistry" was on him, not on Zhou Ye who did her parts as if they were a chore.

Kissing and sweet scenes : forget it! Even the silk nightgown moment was quickly "covered" and put away. When "Gu Xun" wanted to explain his mistake while cornering "Qianling" against a wall in the office -!!!- (same ep.9), she looked mildly puzzled (when she should have been reacting with a slap and a sharp lash of outspokenness). That scene was quickly toned down by "Jiang Junnan" dismissing it all with the technical Japanese term : "kabedon" (sighing) as if that was just goofy and acceptable behavior on the office floor...

Anyway this is a forgettable item; nothing to learn from it, except patience faced with lackluster script, subpar acting, and time loss.
7 from me, because I still like Lin Yi and thought Melody Tang was cute and playing well in character for her part, and I don't like to rate below 5.

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Oh No! Here Comes Trouble
8 people found this review helpful
May 13, 2023
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 10

Existence as theater doubling as a puzzle

There's so much good to say for this so unusual drama. It balances between various types of relationships, friendships, surrogate sibling love, parental and filial love, but the characters are often making it unexpected, and it could take rewatches to extract the complete flavor of 不良执念清除师 ( Bu Liang Zhi Nian Qing Chu Shi = Unhealthy obsessions clearers).

There are strange happenings and tendrils of heart blood snaking around the wrist that wields the brush as a tool to give closure to ancient but lingering grief. Reminding sometimes of the Zhang Xiaogang "Bloodlines" paintings. But the grief is not grounded in recent History, but in stories that could be ordinary if they did not gain added significance through the excellent acting of the protagonists. The beauty is also that all these stories are connected, through the investigation of course, but also through the relevance they have to young Yiyong's own obsessions. He acts as a magnet drawing to him spirits that are yearning for help, and acquaintances that become friends or assistants. He quickly becomes the center of a trio, with a former classmate and a young woman police officer, who quickly finds that she could consider the young men as her own assistants in the investigation of unsolved cases. The three although almost opposed from circumstances of their past and present, become sort of friends, close enough to be a sort of brother-sisterhood that can share views (literally seeing what others can't! ), food, drinks, even a bedside to ward away fears of the unknown. They are friends after a while, although they can be stinging and wound the pride of each other with carelessly flung utterances (especially the policewoman).

They are like pieces of a puzzle, much like the scraps of charred paper that Yiyong collects after his "missions", which connect together to reveal a benevolent meaning. From the start, their names show how much they are fated together like the four "treasures" of the literary Chinese: 《笔、墨、纸、砚》, bǐ, mò, zhǐ, yàn. (brush, ink, paper and stone)

* Pu Yiyong 蒲一永(played by Tseng Jing-hua 曾敬驊 born 1997)
His family name 蒲 immediately reminds of literary connections with ghost story writer Pú Sōnglíng (蒲松齡 1640-1715),
"yi" is "one" as in "the first" and the most important
and "Yǒng" 永 is the well-known "eternity" calligraphic character;
of course Pu Yiyong is a calligrapher, as well as a budding manhua artist, wielding the 笔 bǐ brush (or pen, when used in drawing or ordinary modern writing).

* Chen Chuying 陈楮 楮(played by Vivian Sung Yunhua 宋芸樺 born 1992)
Her name Chén 陈 is shared with Chen Zhonglin also known as Xu Zhonglin ( 陈/许仲琳; 1567 -1620 ) a famous Ming novelist who wrote the fantasy novel Investiture of the Gods , as well as being the birth name Chén Yi 陳禕 of the famous monk Xuanzang玄奘 (so perhaps a roundabout hint to another super-famous trio of quasi supernatural literary characters: monkey king Sun Wukong 孙悟空 ; pig Zhu Bajie 猪八戒; and sand demon Sha Wujing 沙悟淨 who accompany Tang Sanzang 唐三藏/ex Xuanzang Dharma name in the epic Journey To The West)
"Chǔ"楮 is the paper mulberry variety that produces 宣纸 "xuānzhǐ "paper (rice, bamboo have also been used to produce it) used for traditional Chinese calligraphy
"ying" 英 means "heroic", "brave", "brilliant" combined with other Chinese characters: (英雄 yingxiong = hero), (英明 yingming = wise, brilliant)

* Cao GuangYan 曹光研 (played by Peng Cian You 彭千祐 born 1993)
His surname "Cáo" 曹, shared with the famous statesman and general CaoCao (曹操 155-220) can also be found in "yincao" 阴曹= the Netherworld, Hell, Hades;
"guāng"光 means "bright" showing his qualities of clearing up the esoteric murk through a sunny disposition and a rational outlook,
"yàn" 研 is the character in the "yàn tái" 研 台 ink stone on which the ink stick made of ashes is ground in water to make the 墨 mò ink. The character also appears in "Yánjiū yuán" 研究员 ="researcher", or "Yányou" 研 友 other word for classmate (making me chuckle about the memory of the name of the Zodiac snake in the xianxia drama "Ashes of love", but that's an unrelated one).

So, tied together with all these heavily laden symbolic names, the puzzling trio can't help "writing reports" and being instrumental in Pu Yiyong's writing of the magic eulogies that will help seekers find solace and closure for their yearning.

The three young Taiwanese actors, as well as their supporting cast, are excellent in their roles, which are non romantic. One key character in the end of the drama is Chanon Santinatornkul, nicknamed Nonkul or Non, born 1996 in Thailand, who has attained fame in China since 2017.

The CGI is well used and the smokey ghost (seemingly bound by destiny to the Pu family) seen shimmering at the bedside of the granddad, is rather striking, as well as the disintegration and flaking off of some ghostly characters.
The urban landscape is quite typically Taiwanese, and the low furniture, as well as the pronunciation in mandarin (with accent, absence of rolling "erhua" -r finals that are typical of northern and Beijing speech, and shift from zh/ch/sh to z/c/s sounds, influence of the 7 tones Taiwanese, where northern mandarin has only 4 tones ) show the differences with mainland styles.

The drama gives at times the feeling of a stage theater play, with the insistence of the protagonists, the staged appearance of the Doll, the Chinese opera quality of the Tatoo... Is it a tragedy? Is it a comedy? Is it a mystery? All of that, of course: living and dying is putting on a show permanently! First : delineate (make a drawing) of the new characters, next, assemble the clues to recreate the puzzle that they represent...

Music: The opening theme music creates a mysterious and obsessive atmosphere. The end credit song : Painful Hug (痛苦擁抱) by Ozone can be found with subtitles here :
The insert song: Extraordinary (不凡) by Chang Ruo Fan (張若凡) can be listened to here:

Will I re-watch ? Most probably, to better appreciate some dialogues and jokes, since there is also a lot of humor in these "distressing" cases of abandonment, harassment and even murder! I am already appreciating the circular movement of time with the first images and the last event.

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5 people found this review helpful
Sep 24, 2023
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 8.5

What are dreams and what is reality ?

I binge watched the 20 short episodes series, and came back to watch the movie edition of this nice story about the possible interaction of a real life gamer and an AI character she feels more than protective of.

The story is very logical, should appeal to those who like science fiction and thinking, beyond looking only for love and kisses romance (not that this one does not have any: it does) and "hunting for plot holes" to kill it (not that you'll find so many in this one.)
It has not got high traffic cast and went relatively unnoticed when it aired, most c-drama watchers being more interested in more hyped ones, following their own fandom favorites, so it did not benefit from a Bai Jinting who drew many to watch the excellent Reset, back in beginning 2022. As a "new story", Reset stays as the most remarkable science fiction c-drama recently, with the exception of The Three Body Problem in 2023 (which was long anticipated after the success of the Liu Cixin novel). Other ones were less successful although not bad : the Chinese remake of a Korean time-loop story, 2022 Love In Time, or a comedic and somewhat mock syrupy time loop like Secretary Ba wants to Resign every single day, both a nice watch.
There are not many science fiction C-dramas now: many are closer to "fantasy" than to speculative fiction and often presented only as fantasy even when there are "aliens" in them : 2022 My Girlfriend is an Alien series, Thousand years For You, 2023 The Parallel World... Or they just are drawing on "dreams" after an accident like in Legally Romance, dreams also being the beginning of full fledged fantasy c-dramas like Eternal Love 1-2-3 and Oh!My Emperor! or of the stories where authors find themselves part of their own novels. But some new and upcoming ones look more related to science fiction genre : 2023 I am Nobody (still trending) and upcoming Bionic (12 episodes about a murder investigation with robots in 2035!).

Metaverse here is available as 《跨越世界来见你 Falling to Your World》 on the YoYo channel of YouTube, which has both the 20 episodes and the "movie edition" that glues them together, without repeating the beginning and end credits.
It is called Metaverse on the original platform We Tv which broadcast it in August 2023, and it is included in the binge watch challenge of September on the platform until Sept.29 to try to win VIP access for a year or 3 months on the app.
Original title 跨越世界来见你 [Kua Yue Shi Jie Lai Jian Ni] Across The World To See You.
From a story titled 《元宇宙·恋语》/Yuan Universe Love Language, by Yang Zitong 杨紫彤 , who was also screenwriter here.
The drama is directed by Peng Ke 彭柯 (no further information available on Baidu).

The characters are:
- An Mei 安美 (gamer and art designer in a game company),
- Lu Ting 陆汀, an NPC (non playing character) who is deemed not popular enough to be kept in the game.
- Director Fang (played by Chang Haoyuan) is an ambitious decision maker who hates employees to challenge her authority.
- Director Zhu Zhenjun (played by Daniel Zhu XinZong 朱信宗, 34 years old Taiwanese model and sometime actor) is the company leader, who tries to balance company interests, employees well being, and his own interests in AI development.
- A private assistant to Lu Ting, called NaiNai, in the game (played by Na FeiSha 娜菲莎),
- Huang Baoqiang coder friend of An Mei who follows instructions,
- and a meddling but well meaning younger brother of An Mei are the main other supporting cast.
An Mei is played by Guan Xin 关芯 who, at 28, has been playing in 16 other dramas, mostly in supporting roles including in big productions such as Love O2O and Legend of Fuyao), but also as main in lesser remarked dramas. Lu Ting is played by Yang Hao Ming 杨昊铭, who, at 23 years old, has already played in 7 other dramas since 2018) .

The opening sequence shows a character in the game who is being shot. That would not raise the eyebrows of the RPG First Shooter gamers, who are used to see characters offed casually, winning points with each kill. But this game is different, since it is supposed to be a dating one, where gamers fulfill their unrealized yearnings for perfect love or at least friendship with characters who look almost real. Lu Ting is among those, and the twist is, that he has been both designed and cared for as almost brain child of game art designer An Mei, who can't bear to see him eliminated because of a drop in popularity. As both a designer with a dream and a sadness that has been alleviated by her co-creation, and a fan, she will try her utmost to keep him in the game, although she has little power, being neither a coder nor a decision maker in the company.

This is a story of an AI and a real world person who fixates her love on a character, but it can also have us think about the destiny of entertainment stars and their anonymous fans. Some great actors fall from grace spectacularly because of personal mistakes.But many, especially lesser known ones, fade away and see their posters disappear and at best, serve as table cloth to janitors, while their fans are left out cold, the entertainment companies having only interest in what drives in revenue.

At personal level some of the questions raised are: can beautiful dreams of other worlds help or not to better adjust to reality? Will AI characters replace real actors to serve as magnet for real world audiences likes and yearnings? Are dreams necessary to keep up hope for a better future or just a sign of an addiction? Is love really "all we need", as a Madonna song claimed ("Nothing Really Matters")?

The production was low budget, so there are not many remarkable features, and the OST is pleasant and not to obtrusive, but not very memorable. Nevertheless, it was an interesting, quick watch (about 2hrs in the "movie edition".) It deserves more watches, so I deliberately gave it a higher rating, since 7.5 is too low in my opinion. In its modest category, it is not bad at all.

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Assistant of Superstar
5 people found this review helpful
Mar 7, 2022
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
This review may contain spoilers

Unpretentious comedy

Just what is needed to relax and laugh at the antics of the "superstar" actor YouXi (Kele Sun) and the "assistant" Yuchi YaoYao (Hanna/Lu YangYang) he roped in. It often feels like parody, clichés and tropes are gleefully taken on by the actors.
There is a complicated word (enoclophobia) for the mental discomfort suffered by the FL character.
The first part was just fun, the second part of the drama got more serious, touching on actor cancellation and their fighting for professional survival, while the FL, after sweetly hinting she would be taking up sewing to make ends meet, evolved into more of an actress herself in helping her boyfriend prepare for roles and meetings, perhaps taking her cue from Pandora, who performed every moment of her "life" as if it was a script to be filmed. YouXi played childish tricks to the shy student he fell for almost at first sight, but stood firmly by her to defend her when it mattered.
The music is a simple song that feels endearingly childish. I found myself smilingly humming the tune while preparing food and thinking about the funnily voracious Pandora (LQ Wang /Wang Lu Qing) and YouXi !
It may annoy some watchers, but I had a good time watching this rather short one, as c-dramas go.
I rewatched some episodes, and was not bored at all. It is not a masterpiece, but quite okay.
I recommend it for those who are not too fussy and just want to spend a few hours with a generally unpretentious comedy.

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Love Like the Galaxy: Part 2
12 people found this review helpful
Aug 20, 2022
29 of 29 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

Award deserving drama; both addictive and extremely satisfying

So many have written extensively about the overwhelming qualities of this drama that I will try not to repeat here what has been well stated before.

I love everything about LLTG, it was so enthralling that I was rewatching while it progressed with what felt like snail pace because of the excruciating four days lull between new episodes release. So I could only go back and rewatch, or go to watch BTS scenes, interviews, read what came up in the discussion sites, rejoice with all lovers of LLTG when it went beyond the 6 billion views mark and check with satisfaction when it reached five weeks running topping charts. Going on to probably an additional 6 weeks rule there.

I have no understanding and little tolerance for those who attempt to bring it down. What evil pleasure do they derive from their sneers? Most of those dropped off, say they, in the first episodes. How that qualifies to give a review is beyond me : my view is, if I am not satisfied with a drama, then I move on and won't attempt to review it, or stick with it to the bitter end and try to analyze logically what put me off for the entire length or majority (like Love in flames of war, which I positively detest after a growing discontent during and after watching it, no matter how talented the ML is, there, which I admit). Do the detractors belong to a specific hate group targeting the FL ? Who can hate Zhao Lusi ?

Zhao Lusi has a very special voice, not lovely but memorable : she can sing as she demonstrated in other dramas and on stage for other songs, although here, she only did so in BTS scenes, when relaxing with the crew. Her instrument is the guzheng, but the flute theme that she acts in, for a couple of scenes, is really lovely. She is small, but can appear towering, a seasoned actress who brings humor to most of the roles she performed in, here as well although through flashes since the character she plays is not supposed to be funny, but growing through pain and hurdles and overcoming desperation. Shaoshang is now accepting to put her intelligence not only to design machines and traps, but also to study more attentively the "books", culture and behavior expected at court. To me, she has grown into one of the best actresses in C dramaland, and this role is her best to date, as witness her lovely interaction with the impressive Wu Lei, who I now view as a new god of the screen.

He can ride, do swordplay, do stunts and martial arts (I'm sure Jackie Chan approves of him), he studied seriously to do some scenes requiring for instance convincing plucking on the guqin, instead of the haphazard dusting off the strings that most other actors resort to, he can swim, he can dance tango (there's a wonderfully surprising and endearing scene when he mixes dance with self defense), his shy kisses are perhaps few and not the open mouth tongue-devouring Hollywood style that some romance addicts crave, but since this is set in ancient dynasty, around a courtship between a girl who's had little education and feels defensive and self conscious, and a ruthless young man who is shouldering a crushing secret, the sizzling gazes he bestows on her are largely sufficient for the romance. He can look seductive and amorous with smooth movements and sizzling eye contact with his intended to which he restrains kisses that "should be reserved for after the marriage", rigid and daunting like a warrior prince, inscrutable like a seasoned court official used to not disclosing his plans, or mad with hatred and bulging veins, or crushed by the realization that whatever he does he will experience loss,.. Even if I have not heard him sing, Wu Lei's mellow voice (nobody is dubbed in this drama) is honey to my ears.

And the hugs. Oh the recurring ones with the "bie pa wo lai le" (don't be afraid, I'm here) that peppered the first part. Which cannot be separated from the "second part" : this is a continuous story, and the artificial division should be done away with.
This second part deals with the court drama and the revenge. It is darker than the beginning, but tension never lets off, and what had felt like a drama ever climbing new heights in every new episode continues here, exploring the hidden sides of the hero and his to-be bride. Now it is her who appears as the warrior, with him resting his head on her shoulder while they are hunted to perhaps doom and death. It is a rollercoaster of emotions and scenes, with subplots that tie in seamlessly within the greater one : the exchange of the tiger seals and the murder mystery are schemes within schemes. Yet the action is still peppered with the signature comedic moments that relieve stress. The humor is manifold, there is some for every taste, from almost slapstick with the grandma who still clings to "her dowries" when led to prison, to more subtle moments between the different characters, such as the mirror behavior scenes played at times by general Cheng and his wife, or other ones. Every member of the cast is memorable and has put thought into their acting, with excellent guiding from director Fei.

The cinematography is still off the charts, with stunning views of the galaxy, of the blood painted paper windows etc.

Well, I thought I had nothing to add, but here I am, humming the theme songs, eager to finish this review to go rewatch for umpteenth time. Yes, this one is on my best of list for 2022 and perhaps more. I thought I would not rave more than I did for the one that also stands out as number one for me, but in a different genre : RESET. But I did, and LLTG qualifies in several genres to boot, so really if it does not get one or several awards, I'll be disappointed.
I wonder if I'll be thrilled as much as I still am by this one, when I eventually move on to other dramas that are promised in the near future or be carried away by the CGI in one that lis currently vaunted... But artistically, can CGI be compared to the genuine cinematographic skills demonstrated in LLTG? Here I go again, wondering how long I will time loop with LLTG ! XD lol

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The Legend of Shen Li
6 people found this review helpful
6 days ago
39 of 39 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

Gods and the Natural Law

I enjoyed this xianxia very much, thrilled to see that it got over 100 million views lately, to share in the excitement.

There was a sprawling cast, with over 70 characters that played a large or tiny but always significant role. Realms and Beasts composed a variegated tapestry that the ancient god, left lonely after the departure of his former many friends, still added to with his magic brush. The core was important, but not so much that it couldn't be lived without. Finally, the time of the gods ended but not our favorites', to enjoy peace and love, and mischief, that added spice, after the worlds shattering events they'd gone through.

The division of that world in Three Realms was explained in a fun "puppet theater" moment, to the Mortal assembly at the marketplace.

There were a lot of endearing and funny moments, some amusing birds, a Cluck Cluck (Kekeda) ; a mischievous Shush (Xuxu) parrot; grand phoenixes ; some fearful monsters ; an awful wizard and his ghostly but murderous ilk. There was banter and wars. Correcting a school of shape shifting Koi fry. Taming a lion. Playing leaf music.

That piece had many look for it : it was the tune, played on the Chinese flute "dizi",of one of the main songs: 不知返 (Bu Zhi Fan, No Turning Back) sung by Wang Heye ; the music, main songs and background music, was beautiful, composed by Yang Bingyin for whom this drama will become a signature work. The opening theme : 碧苍战歌 (Bi Cang Battle song) even got played on a televised full orchestra concert. Among the most remarked pieces of instrumental bgm were : See Vastness (见苍茫) , Invoke the River of Oblivion (引忘川) , and the clucking and mischievous Person Selling Three Things (卖叁之人) that accompanied Furong Jun's pranks.

Almost never a dull moment, despite the flashbacks to remind of key points or offer revelations.

The main cast was excellent:
Lin Gengxin at his best as full and manly, but considerate, God Xing Zhi,
Zhao Liying as an almost Goddess Athena-like immortal wielding her spear,
Xin Yunlai as Mo Fang, the ambiguous subordinate of Shen Li with a hidden past,
He Yu, as the ebullient "playboy" Furong Jun who grew out of his youthful pranks such as hiding a full armory in a Qiankun bag.
Zeng Li as Shen Muyue, the Master of the Immortal tribe and surrogate mother of Shen Li,
Liu Guanlin as the comically feckless Emperor of the Divine Realm, whose indecision triggered the events,
Li Jiaqi as the "Goddess of the highest Daoist Heaven" (Luotian) leader of the fangirls of Xing Zhi in Divine Realm, with blunt methods to get info, was grown enough to consider his personal as well as the Three Realms best interests.

I was puzzled that Huang ChengCheng was included in main cast, although his role as Wang Bao was the least significant.
Qiu Xinzhi as Liu Ming was also less impressive than his main cast status announced, and did not get much screen time.
Wei Zixin as Fu Sheng was not included in main cast, although his fear-inducing scenes were essential in many episodes.
Others not in main cast were remarkable :
Xuan Lu as Liu Yu, and Xu Haiqiao as Fenglai , played as secondary but essential couple,
Wang Yiyao and Zhou Junwei, as the Golden Lady and "cultivator", played another type of couple.
Dong Jie and Song Ningfeng, as Yun Niang and Zhou San Liang, announced one painful way to ascend to immortality,
Li Zifeng, Hu Dandan and Huang Yi played the recurring love triangle that was a cursed cycle, yearning for a choice and end.
Zhou Xiaochuan as Shun Bei ; Chen Zhen as Zhu Fei ; Yang He as Chi Rong ; Liu Yu as Qing Yan were some of the generals that served as necessary personnel for the military parts
Chen Lu as Rou Ya, Shen Li's maid, was lively and fun to watch.

Sometimes, deep reflections and thoughts were proffered : are gods still needed in our new age ? Do they need to be violently killed or cremated, or can they just retire and live for themselves ? Can those who have been put into power and accepted the duties, always be up to their tasks ?

I liked that the drama was a soft romance too, satisfying if not of the steamy sort, and that the marriage question was shown as not that necessary, as a political or society requirement, but just as a cherry on top of the cake, sealing the union in less flamboyant way as sealing an Abyss, but leaving room for sparks and continued slow burn but long lasting fire. This viral message to those who still see marriage as needed at a certain age, with desirable or not age gap, and body appearance in terms of height, roundness of face or filling the clothes as well as the shoes.

The God walking bare feet on the shards was one striking moment to show how despair and depression can hit even those that are relied on, taking them for granted, watching their moves and judging behaviors from below.

This drama actually went further than only pure entertainment.

I added as a companion piece a series of interlinked posts, that offer information about the drama, thoughts about xianxia realms and the abyss, an illustrated and complete characters' gallery with an alphabetical key to the 63+ portrayed.

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Mr. Insomnia Waiting for Love
6 people found this review helpful
Jun 17, 2023
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 5.0

Fluffy fairy tale to dream away time when the world is chaotic

Don't hesitate to dive in: the actors are quite seasoned and the pair of dolls' live action makes the drama fluffy and wholesome.

This small unpretentious and sweet drama has gone through a variety of names and translations of name that it is fun in itself : 最美时光遇见你 Zui Mei Shi Guang Yu Jian Ni (Meet You at the Most Beautiful Time) 你是我戒不掉的甜 Ni Shi Wo Jie Bu Diao De Tian (You are the Sweetness I Can't Give Up), finally 香蕉先生不睡觉 Xiang Jiao Xian Sheng Bu Shui Jiao (Mr. Banana doesn't sleep) ; Good Timers, and definitive English titled Mr. Insomnia Waiting For Love. Although this is not so unusual with C-dramas. It was directed by Yang Shitao 杨世韬 and first slated to be released in December 2022, but finally aired on Youku on May 30,2023 under the title Mr Insomnia Waiting For Love /香蕉先生不睡觉 . It was filmed in Ningbo, Zhejiang.

The characters are so young, 20 year old or so, that the story can't be anything else than a fairy tale. But don't we love those doll-like adorable types : diffident but sharp bespectacled young CEO who looks like he was still in high school but presides calmly board meetings, cute girl with "obedient child" big bow in her hair who is fated to be back together with her long forgotten childhood playmate? The story is also a sweet mutual healing one.

It is a relatively short but an authentic idol drama too : both leads are established idols as singers and entertainers, besides acting in dramas. They also contribute two sweet OST songs Kong Xue (Snow Kong) sings :《爱的冒险》 (Adventure of Love/Love's Risk); her co-star Wu Yu Heng sings : 表带 (Watchband/Strap). Both songs can be found with pinyin and subtitles on YouTube. Wu Yu Heng sings another song 《停不下》too. The episode end theme 《触不到的爱》(Untouchable Love) is sung by young singer and network anchor Yang Yige 杨一歌 but it is a reprise from 2021 iQiyi costume drama Honey "Don't Run Away 2" OST. (pinyin and English translated MV can also be found on YouTube).

27 year old Kong XueEr : 孔雪儿 (Stage Name: Snow Kong) is a well known singer beauty who started in the competitive stage trainee circuit more than ten years ago. This drama is her 5th since debuting as Du XinYue FL in The Wood in 2020.
She plays Lu Entong, better known as Tongtong whose dream is to become a cello player in a symphonic band, but whose bouts of insomnia thwarts her taking part in competitions. She therefore looks for a cure and turns to a company that offers a trial of meds in a resort...

Almost her age (on September 11) Wu YuHeng 吴宇恒 is a also a Chinese actor and singer, who took part in music survival shows. This is his 8th drama since 2020, and he has several movies and drama upcoming too.
He plays young CEO Song Yanxu who needs to hide his own insomnia in a company that researches meds and cures for that condition. But there is a mystery that is of course accidentally discovered : he can fall asleep and rest soundly if FL touches him! Nevertheless, tying her to him through a contract, does not in itself constitute a cure. The insomnia is one of the consequences of a past trauma.

Literally rocking the boat despite helping Yanxu steer his company is "uncle-brother" Song Chen.
He is played by 31 year old actor and model Du YaFei 杜亚飞 ; this drama is his 8th since debuting as support in 2018 Sweet Dreams. He recently played the briefly appearing idol actor Duan Chao in eps 14-15, 17 of 2022 Flight To You (which starred Seven Tan and Wang Kai) ; and was Lu Yun Qi ML of 2021 Jun Jiu Ling (alongside Peng Xiaoran, Jin Han and Zhou Ran).

Completing the main cast are a few other secondary characters, Song Yanxu's aide (Li Che), his dad, Tongtong's parents, Tongtong's female friend Rao, a carrot haired café owner and company shareholder friend of hers who hesitates between wooing the doll or Yanxu's self proclaimed fiancée Mansu.
Pan LuYu 潘麓宇 (SML friend Chi Zuo) has played in 9 dramas since 2019 ; two more are upcoming.
Yu Cong 郁葱 (SFL Xu Mansu, annoyingly hung-up on ML, until she, of course ends up, very late with SML) has played in 12 dramas since 2018.

The story is formulaic with a selection of usual C-drama tropes (accidental kiss, rain and umbrella, jealous third wheeler, over eager second suitor, false accusation, meddling parents, etc) but it is well acted and the pictures are pretty, and there's actually not much hate at work. Most secondary characters are reasonable and even supportive once they admit the true love they can see, despite some past jealousy and some fear of exposing a past wrong, that could have triggered a catastrophe. There is not too much heavy drinking (CEO usually is a teetotaller, although Mansu and Chi Zuo are not), no drug use, no foul language or violence. There are some misunderstandings, but the parents, despite opposition based on a past event, end up happily meeting (after several false starts) and blessing the happy end. The possibly jinxed romance caused by the "Go slumbering touch" is of course "scientifically" resolved by a sympathetic doctor who uses an advanced tool to uncover the triggers to the dolls' disorder, and get them the "appropriate" cure protocol. There is little CGI in this drama, except for underlining cutely and funnily but not too often, some situations.

Values that are shown are love and forgiving, future oriented pragmatist mind that will cure all past wrongs, the serious ones and the peccadilloes: to reform and to be faithful after having been exposed is what matters. How pleasant, not to insist on public apologies and losing-face humiliations for the money grubbers, liars and power seekers. And yes, reminding that trials and challenges are also opportunities, so a game that seems lost is not always a defeat, and No is not always a final answer.

Other takeout : the threat of Go feed mosquitoes in Africa, how dire a curse! (Oh, I do hate tiger mosquitoes that are now everywhere, not only in China, causing very painful allergy reactions to some. But on the other hand, mosquitoes are really the worst creatures on this planet, with all the diseases they can bring; not only causing insomnia with their bzz around ears while out camping).

This drama with relatively medium length 20 minutes x 24 episodes is a nice vacation from the turbulent world. It could even be rewatched for part or whole, if visual fluff is still needed, either on Youku original platform, or on YouTube, or elsewhere. Subtitling is quite adequate so this one does not bring headaches trying to figure out dialogues for the non original language proficient.

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Ongoing 36/36
Thousand Years for You
10 people found this review helpful
Sep 29, 2022
36 of 36 episodes seen
Ongoing 0
Overall 8.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 7.0
This review may contain spoilers

Many interesting things in this alternate world drama

Min guo seems heavily leaning towards Chinese fantasy wuxia or related style, these years, with the "Candle in the Tomb" series, and "Thousand of Years for You" + "Lost in Kunlun mountains". The ones that did not rely on fantasy were either ok for me despite being in no way historical ("City of Streamer": I loved the tango and arrow shooting scenes, among other ones like the Nanjing room scene) or huge disappointment ("Love in Flames of War", where I ended up positively hating the female protagonist embodied by Chen Duling's excruciatingly cold act. The only thing I saved from that one were the references to classic Tang poetry which I brushed up on, along the way in the first part, and re reading Tagore's beautiful auto translations of his Stray Birds that so influenced the Chinese intellectuals of that time period.)

I am still watching “Thousand of Years for You”, but same way as I also watch “A Romance of the Little Forest”: both have fine actors that are not used to their best potential. AROLF is the one that grates more on my nerves and the one I don't find much to reflect on. I'm Ok with Allen's voice and cool stance as a general not completely sure of how to fit in 3000 years later and how to recover his lost lover-who-acts-weird : DengDeng (Li Qin) was bizarrely thick-headed, stubborn and bossy.

I also love Ren Jialun's voice in the theme song (and many other songs unrelated to this drama, , such as his first concept music album " Thirty-two Li" (三十二·立 or 32 Stand, in reference to his birthday) of April 11, 2021 - yes he's 33 now, happily married with a growing family that he takes good care of: I like that sort of persons). For the curious minded and Hanyu students there is an interesting video called “Learn Chinese with Allen Ren (任嘉伦 Ren Jialun)” on the EverydayChinese YouTube channel, posted in May this year by teacher … Deng Deng! (using recorded interview snippets that date back to 2017).

(Spoilers ahead for those who have not reached episode 26 of 36, but if you can bear them, my findings may add some interest to watching the drama for you)

The republican era style has nothing to do with realism: the story is set in an alternate world of "nine continents" which were invaded 3000 years earlier by a spirit tribe fleeing desolation in their home world and set on conquering a new one, like space travelers who would conquer new lands on a faraway planet. After long battles between humans and spirit clansmen, a general who was the champion of the humans accepted the peace offerings of the spirit clan's Saintess. They became lovers and she sacrificed her inner energy core to save his life. But her spirit was saved in a golden crow feather, and the general, having new magic powers, rested inside a mural painted in a sealed tomb, for 3000 years, waiting until she would totally recover in transmigration; DengDeng's intrusion in the tomb, Lara Croft-style, woke him up.

The “marriage” of DengDeng with her rooster had me wondering when we would watch the poor hungry denizens of her Qingquan Stronghold partake in a symbolic cannibal feast of gongbao ji ding (宫保鸡丁 – literally 'The Palace Guardian's Diced Chicken' : Look up the easy recipe to make the dish yourself, or purchase a portion at your local take-out, if you are not a vegetarian Buddhist who cringes at the idea of taking a life to sustain your own). Of course it served as a reason to have Master Lu be nicknamed funnily ‘concubine Lu”. In episode 17, Lu Yan mock seriously criticized DengDeng for not having respected his “honor and chastity” when she brought him to the stronghold as “heroic husband”. But DengDeng insisted to use those jokes to introduce Lu Yan in strange places, after the clownish gender swap method by which he was "acquired. (gender swaps seems to be trending in c-dramas since 2021 "Eternal Love III" with Xing Zhaolin and Liang Jie and other ones, including the literal "The Day of Becoming You" with Liang Jie and Steven Zhang). Btw DengDeng later told Lu Yan she had eaten the golden crow when she was sick in childhood and this had healed her : but this looked like a tall tale devised by her father, as we still later found out when the real origins of DengDeng were revealed.

The journey from fort to city and visits to Mysterious Market and the lingering hostility towards pointy-ear alien spirit people "monsters" evidently mirrored the deplorable discriminations that are found in many human societies : caste system, scorn of immigrants or bumpkins or "other races" or lesser able bodied people, fear of witches. Lu Yan’s heartbreak and his shedding a tear in episode 14 at his failure to convince DengDeng that she was his true love, the transmigrated Saintess Yunxi from spirit tribe, was quite moving -the prior story of Lu Yan and Yun Xi was told in episodes 12-13.

Next the angelic transformation was very dreamy and heroic to look at, but the ensuing episodes left me perplexed that DengDeng could so easily become prey to the demonic antagonist Zhu Rong (Leon Lai) when almost omnipotent general Lu Yan with magic powers was watching over her. Yes I know, the antagonist was siphoning their magic qi, but still, Lu Yan did win battles against Zhu Rong in the past, and valiant DengDeng seemed undeterred and quite recovered from her magic core depletion, after a short rest while traveling to "ancient Shu". After being separated from the general who seemed strangely trusting in the loyalty of his treacherous former second in command who's become immortal, she was undeterred by the prospect of exploring yet another Tomb-like underground palace with a small tinder (for which I found an interesting recipe * based on a mix of white phosphorus, pine resin and sulphur which when put inside a bamboo tube can indeed ignite when blown upon). What Zhu Rong was doing meanwhile is not clear: waiting to be beaten again?

The supporting cast has indeed some annoying characters and filler feeling side plots. But Deng Deng’s trusted Peng Dahai (Chang Long) who becomes a pretty girl when he drinks alcohol, is often quite funny.

The appearance of the kun-peng magic whale in the sky had me number the instances I've noticed it in recent dramas since ‘Time Flies and You are Here” (end of episode 21). At least three times now until here in the beginning of episode 12. The reason for this recurrent motif had me puzzled. Digging further, I found that it ties in with ZhuangZi stories and it is a complicated symbol of the aspiration to go beyond the ordinary, or even for absolute freedom, from what I found in a Chinese Journal of Social Sciences which examined the myth of the kun giant fish from the northern deeps that shapeshifts into an enormous peng bird the wingspan of which covers the sky! "Many Zhuangzi scholars have debated the Peng story. Lian Xinda calls it "arguably the most controversial image in the text, which has been inviting conflicting interpretations for the past seventeen centuries." The character for peng (鵬) was anciently a variant Chinese character for feng (鳳) in fenghuang (鳳凰 "Chinese phoenix"); Kun 鯤 originally meant "fish roe; fry; spawn": both the mythic Chinese Peng and Kun names thus involve word play. Lian concludes the Peng is "An inspiring example of soaring up and going beyond, the image is used to broaden the outlook of the small mind". But the whale in the sky of our dramas is somewhat puny for a full-fledged peng and even for a kun that should reside in the northern deeps until it shapeshifts to fly to the southern deeps, and its role as auspicious omen is perhaps much reduced, although reminding us that indeed, we should look beyond the electric shadows.

I expect to continue watching this drama to completion, as there are ten episodes remaining, but I probably will leave this 3/4 review as is. I like this drama, although it seems to polarize watchers between those who can't stomach Li Qin and Allen's often clashing interaction. Allen's special tone of voice does not agree with all (I even heard an unkind comment that he delivers like reading from a teleprompter with no emotion! I don't agree with that: he pronounces clearly but is more composed, while portraying a timeless general, than the over-enthusiastic Li Qin.) The chemistry is certainly more discreet than in Allen Ren's One&Only/Forever&Ever duology, but the script is weird in slicing away at situations where the couple might be united in peace away from interruptions. Nevertheless, the CGI and cinematography is nice and I'm still interested in the story. It can be watched by everybody younger or older who has a liking for adventure stories.

*) Chinese Fire Sticks (from URL:
"China saw the invention of the first matches in 577. Northern Qi court ladies needed to start a fire for cooking and heating. They were unable to gather tinder, due to enemy troops blockading their city. So, they used pine tree needles coated with sulfur. They used embers to ignite the coated needles which in turn were used to start a fire.

These were so essential that in 950 AD Tao Gu, a poet and official from the Song court, described the technique for making these sulfur-coated pine needles and called them light-bringing slaves. Later these early matches were commonly known as fire-inch sticks.
~~~ Skipping in time. Here is my take on the fire stick that ignites when you blow on it.
1) Collect pine resin, melt it and mix it with sulfur.
2) Collect urine, then let it sit in an open container for a week. Add some finely-powdered charcoal, then boil until a white waxy substance is produced (white phosphorus).
3) QUICKLY, pour the liquid pine resin and sulfur mix into the white phosphorus and charcoal. Mix well.
4) Put into a reed/bamboo tube and cap tightly.
When needed, blowing on it will cause the white phosphorus to burn. This will ignite the charcoal and sulfur. They will ignite the pine tree resin which will burn for quite a while."
Post scriptum. Now that I completely watched this drama, I must admit some of the later episodes were a bit draggy. The ancient Shu part was too predictable, and yes, the antagonist was just waiting to be beaten again, leaving another antagonist in his wake to finish the drama with some sacrifices. Since this was an adventure and humans were to be the winners over evil, some happy ending was introduced with the reunion of Gu and Bai Shiqi, although kiss and flowers romance was not there either. Shiqi, athough still swearing her love for Gu remained whole, looked more attracted to her new chosen profession. Likewise, despite the pretty red-dress formal marriage between DengDeng and Lu Yan, there was still not to be much touchy lovey-dovey tenderness, since a more important task needed to be tackled. Thereafter there was "a year" during which the bespectacled Lu Yan aide A'Xin disappeared together with the general. Had he also sacrificed for his master?
In the last pictures from the drama, DengDeng's worried face changes to a smile when she spots someone wearing the boots and the face of Lu Yan (is it him, a look-alike or...?) adjusting a pair of spectacles to his breast pocket . This LuYan has a more relaxed expression in the fleeting appearance before end credits than in his previous ones as stern general.... The ending thus leaves an opening that can either be filled by the audience's own imagination that Lu Yan finally became more ordinarily human, or who knows, there were plans for more episodes or a season 2? But I prefer the first solution.

Given the draggy part, the sometimes annoying features of the script, that had the leads stay almost polar opposites in rashness and restraint, the still annoying side characters (Gu improved somewhat but Dahai suddenly was cured of his alcohol induced shapeshifting and DD's stepfather remained over-the-top meddling) ,and some only parly resolved situations, I will change my overall rating to 8.5 I still found some parts interesting to rewatch and can still recommend it to those who do not crave for chemistry and romance but like mysteries . But Thousand Years For You will not remain for me among the most satisfying dramas that I watched in 2022, only one that I found entertaining while also making me dig for information.

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The Maid Ballad
5 people found this review helpful
May 25, 2023
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 6.0

Dessert candy costume short drama

As of May 26, this drama was fully subbed until Ep 15 on WeTV, but I watched the rest in original on another platform instead of waiting since it trickled out at the snail pace of 10 mins daily, so I got impatient. It is also being released without subtitles at the moment on YouTube.
The story seemed to promise events and there were lots of turnabout moments, some demoniac magic, some treason, a heartless and treacherous crown prince, an illegitimate other prince, some foreign princely "Kun" state that has perhaps an axe to grind with the rigid "Wei" king, some undead people... and a pretty girl who does not know who to trust and who to love.
It translates into live action a popular manhua, "Shang Guo Fu Zhi Qian Dui Xue" (上国赋之千堆雪) by Ga Cha Shang Hua (呷茶赏花), with a cast of pleasant-looking actors in costumes, and colorful and clean decors, just like in the very pretty posters.
ML Chen Tongxue is maybe not the most handsome of the princes (at first, he is not even a prince, but being the illegitimate son of the Wei king , he has been accepted to join the palace, despite the covert enmity from the legitimate Crown prince). He is not bad looking either. Chen Tongxuan is played by Hu Wenxuan (胡文煊 ) who was a K pop idol and a dancer, signed under Yuehua (the Beijing based music company where Cheng Xiao and her sister also are signed) together with four others who formed the group D5 in 2019. He notably appeared as Fu Yi Zhuo, the latin dancer friend of Li Xun in the drama "Lighter and Princess" (2022) and in a support role in "Wenderella's Diary" (2023).
Antagonist Crown Prince is played by Zhou Chuan Jun (周川珺), who already appeared in a handful of other dramas, mostly fluff youth ones, since 2019. He is quite good looking, but obvious as a scheming, treacherous, evil minded prince. His good looks would have made the Maid choose him if she had a choice, not seeing through his "benign" appearance, for a good part of the drama.
FL, Xuan Qiancao is from a fallen military family and reduced to become the maid of a prince, if he so chooses her. She has a magic mark on her nape that could give power to her lover, so Chen Tongxue sought to secure her as his maid from the start. Qiancao is played by more experienced actress Han Le Yao (韩乐瑶). I remembered her from a small support role as the cousin of the protagonist in "Arsenal Military Academy," and more recently as Secretary Bai lead in last year's funny time loop short episodes drama "I want to resign every single day".
There's also Yue Shuye Second prince of Kun State, a foreign country that has an exchange of gifts with Wei kingdom. He is played by Guo Xiao ( (郭祥) (no further info about this actor, at the moment) and sports a very shiny outfit with braided hair, and despite a straight forward way of looking directly at people, he is just as inscrutable as the Crown prince.
The Kun state seems to be a sort of Khanate, where coral and lapîs lazuli beads are used in hair decoration. It once won a battle against Wei state, so they are equally matched in the drama, and the Second prince is a sort of ambassador.
There are also other secondary characters which don't stand out as much:
Lu Qinghui, a faithful aide to Chen Tongxue (played by Li Jia Yang (李嘉祥), a Chinese singer and actor),
Lin Yi, another trusted aide in charge of relief planning (played by Tao Hao Nan (谭浩楠) )
Lan Yao, Qiancao's friend at the Academy who becomes the Maid and spy of the Crown Prince, and seems to become possessed with evil magic at his contact. She is played by Gao Tao Tai (高乙冉)
The king of Wei, the mother of Qiancao, and the mother of the Crown Prince, the Crown Prince's reluctant fiancée He Lingying (who has set her sights on Chen Tongxue and also seems to wear a magic mark, but does not use it herself; she is played by Li Yang (李阳) ), make up the rest of the cast, apart from the palace staff and soldiers.
The drama is not boring. It's a romance, so there's the usual tropes and kisses. Some parts are puzzling, there are mysteries and a "grand design" linked to the magic mark.
The episodes are short (10 mins x 24), so it is binge-watchable as "dessert candy".
The music is pleasing, with a nice song at the end of episodes. The theme song is called 《故人山河》Old Friends Mountains and Rivers, sung by 二两车厘子. Another song is 《恩宠》 "Grace" sung by Hu Wenxuan 胡文煊 (who acts in the drama).
Presumably, The Maid Ballad will be released as a "movie-edition", sometime after finale of today, or after the translations are completed in about a week's time.

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The Story of Xing Fu
4 people found this review helpful
Aug 20, 2022
40 of 40 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.5
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 10
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 9.0

Recommended for those who appreciate slice of life and don't crave romance

This is one of the genres that I really like, using drama as a mirror to show real life in a country.

Watching the Story of Xingfu was like a memory trip to me, back to the early or mid 2010s, when I witnessed such changes in China. But I will let the dust settle its veil on my extensive jianghu roaming throughout the vast country which I visited or lived in for several decades.
The vibe of change has not let down as China, despite still having a vast agricultural part, has now for years slid into a majority urban mode of life. Poverty has been more or less uprooted, as the allocations to the neediest gave a leg up for many to gain access to better opportunities. Chinese people are industrious, and this drama shows some ways they put this attitude to work.

My opinion is that this drama portrays very well the lingering rural / urban divide, together with the opportunities for everyone to change their destiny through education or venturing into business. China's rapidly evolving landscapes and mindscapes are the subject of this drama, as well as the disappearance of utter poverty as was documented by the likes of Wang Bing in movies such as TieXiQu and San ZiMei. This is only hinted to in the wistful reminiscences of the Wan village leader, in the drama, but it is ever present in the memories of all those who lived in the decades leading to the 21st century, and it is useful to understand that China has an increasing part of people reaching retirement : they are living memory but can also be a burden with their different mindset from the new generations who feel shackled by the outdated ways and values such older generations family members still accept.
Old ways must sometimes be firmly opposed, forcing new ways to replace backwards customs, like outlawing the wedding hazing or boorish behavior in the drama, or fighting attacks on women in real life, like the Tangshan, Hebei, BBQ restaurant incident in June, that had the Chinese social media aflame, triggering crackdowns on emerging gang style groups.
Yes, there are still remnants of old ways of doing things, like the relying on family and friends networks for favors or needed support by public like Xingfu seeking approval from village leader Wan, the red envelopes, etc. Village life is often a sort of extended family life in which special rules may apply; the village head is considered as a revered father figure.
With modernity, new challenges appear : environmental concerns, new ways of marketing the products of the land, quality control, especially since the melamine laced milk scandal of 2008 that has left deep scars on the Chinese public's confidence in food and beverages : can mountain streams water be drunk safely ? can fish and produce be free of toxic pollutants?
The regulatory frame is hinted to : today it is so much more aligned with those in developed countries. New laws and regulations have addressed how to tackle the people responsible, with less influence from adverse lobbying than in many other countries. Part of the drama takes place in a law firm, and we see court at work.
But a generation's booming almost lawless development has left traces in groundwater and soils. Shifting from coal based to other energy (wind, solar, nuclear, or imported fuel) is not really seen in this drama that tackles other subjects for concern. Such as hacking and theft of identity. And also the threat of being targeted by the social media rumor mongers, the fearsome 'Water Army' that can orchestrate smear campaigns, difficult to get to the root of and to rectify.
Rumor mongering is severely punished when it is possible to find the authors. Therefore it is especially important that the discontented follow the rules that have been established to get attention from authorities, in order to find solutions. The drama takes the Chinese view on treating problems within the bounds of the tradition that view mediation as often preferable to fighting and going to court ; when it gets there, the sentence can be harsh if there is bloodshed or treason, otherwise the culprit will be sentenced to time that can be spent usefully to redeem and improve themselves through studying. Reform is the objective if the guilty party must return to society. It was already so in 1992 with Qiu Ju and it remains in part true in 2015-2022 with Xingfu.

Actors perform quite well in their sometimes unappealing roles as proposed archetypes or role models. Zhao Liying is a much more beautiful countryside Xingfu than Gong Li's Qiu Ju, and her cheerfulness and courage faced with problems that exceed the family frame, is meant as a good role model for many, but may feel a tad too flawless (ZLY will be again in a leadership role in upcoming Wild Bloom drama next year after two other dramas). Her husband Qinglai, played by Tang Zen, is the epitome of country bumpkins that are the burden which needs to be carried and educated. His sister Xiuyu, played by Lin Siyi, is the model of the downtrodden who must find a way to swallow the heartache and move their destiny upwards nonetheless (She is now playing in a more lighthearted youth romance, Dear Little Mermaid) , Xingfu's sister Xingyun, played by Zhang Keying, is the model of the women who let their profession dampen their moral aspirations, Wan Chuanjia, played by Cao Zeng, has the role of a villain, not the worst, but driven by a weakness of moral character, opposite to his father Wan Shantang, played by Liu Wei, who represents the older, idealistic, generation, who fought to make positive changes around them. The most awaited star (except for Zhao Liying) : LuoJin , appears mostly in the "Xingfu in the city" first part episodes. He plays a pivotal role as Guan Tao the lawyer, and represents what China strives to achieve in law and order.

It is not really useful to dwell on the music. The orchestral theme for the opening of episodes is adequately pleasing to listen to while pictures and sketches roll by. The background music is unobtrusive. The end episode theme song "Happy Flowers" 幸福花朵 sung by Tan/Qin Kexin (覃可心) is a slow ballad.

Despite some expected twists and lengths, it is in my opinion, a very good drama, that presents an interesting image of how China is evolving, centered on domestic country problems, still hoping for a brighter future through the efforts of all.
Would I rewatch ? I have, once, on and off, while being in the thrall of a beautiful ancient History costume drama starring the other Zhao actress and the impressive Wu Lei, so still somewhat distracted from gathering my thoughts about this radically different Story of Xingfu. As in many dramas, the end can feel slightly disappointing or satisfactory, depending on mood and pov.. Overall, I still rate this as excellent in its subgenre.

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Hello, the Sharpshooter
4 people found this review helpful
Apr 1, 2022
40 of 40 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
This review may contain spoilers

Less romance than healing drama about rather serious issues

I liked that drama for its tackling a lot of serious issues such as PTSD, OCD, harassment, behavioral issues, and ways of healing.
It had some good conversations between the quartet of FL, ML, SFL and SML, that shed light on how young people can be triggered into reacting positively as well as negatively to some traumatizing situations, with some suggestions for coping and healing those traumas.
Many on that sharpshooting team, and other ones, seemed to have serious issues, which made me wonder if the management and recruiting of athletes there could avoid spotting some personal traits potentially negative to be included in a team. Even if the bullets were not deadly, it was shown that they could hurt, and the requirement of a necessary stable psychological conditions to allow these young people to wield arms was tackled. First through the routines to disregard sudden noise or taunts, later in the coach having doubts about the champion, because of his lingering amnesia and the moments when he isolated himself. But I had the feeling that this stability requirement was put on the same level as their just following rules (such as forbidding athletes to leave the training camp).
Could being (apparently) a high functioning Asperger's slightly sociopathic loner and a mild obsessive (like the weird sleeping under beds) be tolerated and diregarded if the athlete kept peforming to an impressive points result?
Could the almost manic smile of the hyperactive livestreamer be viewed as an asset for her profession? Her coping mechanism of singing/rapping to overcome stuttering is not as outlandish as it could seem: singing has indeed been included in some recognized ways of calming stressed people. Running is another one.
Some of these attempts were funny, but the humor was not frequent in this drama. One of the more funny moments was when SML cross dressed in skirts to seek forgiveness from his love interest.
The psychologist herself was not very credible to me, with her own set of problems that dragged on through the drama.
I suppose the co-cure she advocated was more for the dramatic effect of having the two leads get closer on screen (with some of the more humorous effects), instead of an actual realistic way of healing. So o this was a stretch that may annoy those who work in the field of clinical psychology. But it was interesting to see that psychological support was highlighted together with the athletic skills, as necessary to prepare a competition. The importance of courteous, rational and calm communication was also something that was emphasized, which is not so frequent in romance dramas I' have watched.
Using a pet for emotional focus has indeed been advocated from what I read and saw about autism or PTSD sufferers. That they chose a hedgehog was cute. Was it the same one as in Lie to Love? C dramas seem to like to repeat some scenes from other ones, like carrying the female on the back of the taller lead: such cross references or tropes becomes almost expected. The physical touching scenes were limited. The point seemed to be that some behavior that is usually common in older dramas, like grabbing females to forcibly kiss them "romantically" is, in fact, questionable. Such resraint in the script certainly left the actors with less leeway to express a tender budding romance.
Nevertheless, my opinion is that they performed quite well to handle both romance, healing and healthy reaction to new potential traumas encountered by their characters.
Not knowing anything about this sport, I found the technical details woven in quite interesting. It was a bonus point for novelty for me and I was pleased to be introduced to it this way. There was a moment when the livestreamer was assigned to try shooting in a friendly pairing, which puzzled me, but maybe it was only exceptional, to give some variety to the shooting sessions and make the sport look less removed from audience. Does it happen realistically in this sport is another question.
But watching dramas is an exercise in suspension of disbelief to find entertainment or food for thought. This was done thanks to the good to excellent quartet of actors (Xing Fei, Hu Yitian, Kido Ma and Wenfy Luo) who carried the drama. Therefore, despite the objections raised before, I still decided not to rate this one as harshly as some did.
I also liked the songs from the OST some of which had tunes that I found different from run of the mill romance dramas.

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