'Bpoop Phaeh Saniwaat' is a wonderful light-hearted romantic-comedy lakorn which feature underlying themes of history, karmic retribution and fate.
STORY (No spoilers)
Time-travelling dramas are not new, even amongst lakorns, but I think that this show is a bit more inspired because it certainly knows how to make use of this premise and give us a lovely light-hearted walk through 17th-century Ayutthaya without making either the history-bits or the political-bits too heavy and overwhelming. On the contrary, from the title of the show itself - ‘Love Destiny’ - it makes it pretty clear that this show is primarily a romance show, which it fulfils to a tee.
It was very clever of this show to transport a budding archeologist back into ancient history because the show gives us a natural teacher in her. As she gradually meets one historical figure after another, we get wonderful internal monologues about the various characters’ positions and their impact on history. And when she gets all excited over ancient historical sites, we get lovely little expositions of the significance of those sites. And through her fish-out-of-water personality and conversations, we are seamlessly introduced to the culture and customs of the times, as well as their hilarious reactions to her modernisms. History becomes so much more accessible and digestible as we follow Kadesurang/Karakade through some of the definitive times in King Narai’s reign in history. It’s a brilliant piece of writing and a brilliant way of introducing a slice of Thai history to viewers without making it too heavy or boring.
One would think that with so much historical setting, background, characters and events, the romance would be short-changed to accommodate it all. Wrong! Very wrong! As a romance tale of hate-to-love, and of fated love, this show not only provides generous amounts of time to introduce our main leads and develop their relationship, it actually also spoils us with plenty of fan-service and squeal-worthy scenes. If you’re a romance-junkie like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how much fixes you’ll get.
This show does many things well but one of the best things about it is the character and personality of our main leads, particularly our main female lead.
Suddenly transported from the 21st-century into the 17th-century, she is very much a fish-out-of-water and it doesn’t help either that the body she inhabits is one which has a reputation of being a rather evil witch. Having to not only adjust to her new environment, but to also redeem Karakade’s reputation amongst the community, is a tall undertaking but Kadesurang rises to the occasion magnificently. To see her slowly but surely win person after person around to her side is a lesson in human gentleness, kindness, patience and poise which has personally inspired me to try and do the same. She is resilient, resourceful and empathic, and she takes every hit she receives in her stride but without losing a shred of her dignity or determination. She is beautiful and amazing.
Our main male lead is very much a product of his status and his time but his evolution from him despising the woman he is affianced to, to learning to see her for who she is in her new personality, and then to be curious about her, and then to accept her (quirks and all), and then to love her - deeply love her - is both funny and very heart-warming.
They also make a pretty compatible couple. They don’t dwell on their fights for long; they take pains to listen, understand and learn about each other; and they learn how to accommodate, give-and-take, and be flexible with one another. Theirs is no childish playground-bickering juvenile romance, nor is it those demanding, personality-clash, dramatic ones. It’s quite wonderfully mature and steadfast, but losing none of its charm or warmth. I love it!
Before I say a few words about our supporting cast (because they are deserving of their own little section), I would like to say that another good thing about this lakorn is its great absence of your typical thai lakorn tropes.
No evil nangrais (aka second female leads)? Check.
No love triangles? Check.
No mad antagonist/ crazy villain? Check.
No plot-filler? Check.
No long-drawn-out misunderstandings? Check.
No lack-of-communication angst? Check.
No revenge plots? Check.
No slap-kiss? Check.
No cartoon/ cardboard characters? Check.
No inconsistent or irrational character portrayals? Check.
Wow, too good to be true? Yes.
There is, however, one - ONE - lakorn cliche that does feature itself heavily in this show and I would be remiss in not pointing it out. It’s your ‘tripping-and-falling-into-arms-followed-by-long-stares’ trope. Not gonna lie, this one gets quite a bit of air-time but they’re all variations of the trope so it might be interesting to see just how much they can stretch it, lol. They do water it down to just ‘turning-and-staring’ as the show progresses, and perhaps it may be a matter of taste but I personally thought the show did okay in giving this particular trope quite a bit of spice through its variations.
Finally, a word about the supporting cast. SOLID is the word that comes to mind. This show’s supporting cast have added extra layers of life, depth and breadth to the show. They sparkle and shine in their own different capacities, and while some might be a little more intense and heavy in terms of presence and personality, the show also gives us little insights and glimpses into their thought-process which makes them all comes across believably real and human. The scintillating supporting cast is truly a massive plus.
POPE THANAWAT - as Thun Muen Suntorndewa/ Por Date. I’ve seen Pope before in the 'Suparburoot Juthathep' series as the 2nd brother and I knew he had it in him to give his character an aura of gentlemanly dignity and authority where needed. And I also knew he could act and pull out the emotions and the tears if required. He did not disappoint. Our main male lead did a great job in taking us through his emotional journey from start to finish, and if he has not won for himself new fans after this show, I would be very much surprised. His eyes and his smiles are his best assets here as they are beautifully expressive.
BELLA RANEE - as Kadesurang/ Mae Ying Karakade. I’ve always liked Bella from her 'Padiwaradda' and 'Khun Chai Puttipat' days, but she blew me away here with her incredibly versatile portrayal of Kadesurang/ Karakade. I think this show/ script is also great as it allows her to really expand her acting ability and show us just how versatile and capable she is as an actress. I am so glad that she took the script by the horns and threw herself into it with gusto. She really is the main character and the lynchpin to the entire show and she shone brilliantly all the way through. Wonderful performance.
Best of all, the chemistry between these two in this show is on fire! No words - It has to be seen to be believed and after you’re done curling your fingers and toes, squealing into your pillow and rolling all over the floor in romantic ecstasy, you’ll get up and want more. For a show that doesn’t have many skinship scenes, this is a masterclass on how to do restrained romance in dramas. Goodness.
The supporting casts of actors and actresses are all stellar. Standout performances for me were:-
Nirut Sirichanya as our dear old Khun Loong/ Ork Ya Hor Thibadi (Por Date’s dad) was absolutely lovable.
The girls playing Karakade’s personal maids P’Pim and P’Yam killed every single one of their scenes - they are a dynamic duo and such an example of sisterhood girl-power.
Ampha Phoosit as Nang Prik, and Chamaiporn Jaturaput as Khun Ying Jumpa (Por Date’s mom), were an unforgettable double-combo act.
Punjan Kawin was charming as Khun Reung, and Chartchai Ngamsan had that on-screen gravitas as Kosa Ban.
Louis Scott added vulnerable dimensions to a power-hungry Constantine Phaulkon, while Got Jirayu stole all his scenes as a charismatic and hot-looking Luang Surasak.
And the actor playing Joi? Adorable.
Really, the supporting cast all outdid themselves here and I’m so glad this show’s hit-status has brought them into the limelight.
The OST for this show has apparently been outselling itself so it can't be bad. Holistically, taking into account everything from the soundtrack, the background music and the sound effects, I thought this show did very well in incorporating the various elements of it into the scenes. I particularly enjoyed the way they employed their sound effects - it definitely added pep and pop to the scenes!
This show has so many things going for it - sweeping romance, liberal sprinklings of humour, good introduction into Thailand’s ancient history, beautiful sets and costumes, a memorable set of cast of characters, and a storyline which doesn’t spin itself into unnecessary knots or is packed with fillers.
One of the best light-hearted romance dramas I’ve seen to date. Definitely re-watchable.
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STORY (No spoilers)
For me, the idea of a couple gradually growing to love each other through an arranged marriage is an appealing concept because I am someone who carries the belief that while passion and romantic love is great for its drama and high tension, it doesn't stand the test of time. What stands the test of time is the love and devotion that comes from slowly knowing a person for who he/ she is, faults and all, and still choosing to forgive and accept the person into your heart, and to strive to make things work. Warm, gentle love vs explosive passion = warm gentle love wins for me. So, the fact that this is not your average dramatic, explosive slap/ kiss Thai lakorn, already makes this a very different beast.
The story is set in a sort of 1950s setting - love the period feel of it with the fashion and the sets. The pace might be a bit slow for those who are used to fast-paced, snappy, dramatics. By contrast, it has a relaxed, dreamy feel here. The show takes it sweet time in showing us the background of the main characters, and bulk of it is focused on your everyday living during that era.
However, this show is not exempt from the some of the usual drama tropes of bitchy second female lead. I am honestly shocked at her outrageous and ridiculous behaviour. And I am not sure if it is dramatic license or not, but some of the scenes with her come across incredibly unrealistic to me. There is also a running plot through the series of a criminal group which the main male lead is supposed to apprehend. The leader of the group, the White Tiger, practices black magic and uses it for nefarious purposes. Some of this will probably seem rather far-fetched to a viewer who does not subscribe or believe in this sort of thing, but as I come from an Asian/ Oriental culture myself, I do know that some people really do believe in this sort of thing. So, if this aspect of the show does not float your boat, feel free to ignore or fast-forward those scenes. I certainly did that myself and found that it did not detract much from the main storyline which was about how the two main leads fall for each other gradually through living with each other and discovering more about one another.
There are other secondary couplings (the 2 sisters of the female lead), but I freely confess that they did not really catch my attention because my main focus throughout this series was on the 2 main leads. But these events certainly lend some drama and also break what some people might deem as monotonous from watching the 2 main leads interact.
I personally did not find the slowness and the gradual budding love and understanding between the main leads to be monotonous or boring in the slightest. In fact this was really the sole reason I kept watching this series to the end because, as I mentioned earlier, I am a sucker for gradual building of love and trust, and for gentle and warm love.
I also particularly liked the sort of themes the show explored, about the type and kind of person one looks for in a life partner, and the kind of flexing and compromising one has to make in a relationship in order to make things work. Because life can be long and paths can be difficult, and it is good for the characters to examine what sort of life partner they would want to have with them as they make this sort of journey. Not many lakorns explore such wide, over-arching concepts and values, so this lakorn has more depth and dimension in itself, compared to loads of others out there.
PS: The editing can also be rather choppy - one of the negative things about this show. Scenes are abruptly cut with the accompanying background music also suddenly ceasing and before you know it, a completely new scene and background music jumps in. This makes for a jarring watch, especially when it happens at particularly emotional/ poignant scenes. The editing could definitely do with more work.
PPS: On hindsight, those sudden breaks of scene could very likely be due to advertisement breaks during the show's airing.
As I was mainly fixated on the 2 main leads, this will be my main review point.
BELLA RANEE - who plays Rin aka Brulalee, did well in portraying her to be the sort of noble gentlewoman of high society. Generally restrained, gentle and refined, I enjoyed her character and personality very much. I also like that she comes across very hands-on with the housework (though who really cooks in the kitchen with those outfits?), and is not a wilting wallflower when she feels strongly about something. Rin is not a one-dimensional character, and I like that she is relatable and realistic (unlike the caricaturish second female lead).
JAMES JIRAYU - who plays Saran, looks rather young to be a Deputy Sheriff and the male lead, but I warmed up to him because unlike your alpha-male dominant character, Saran comes across confident but not too aggressive or over-bearing. He is also humanly flawed. What I do like about this lakorn is that Saran rather quickly warms up to Rin and is willing to give her a chance and make things work out with her early in the show. James makes it easier to like his Saran character and understand his conflicts. He has a sweet smile and can carry the occasional cheeky look, which makes his character rather cute at times.
Also, I thought that the 2 main leads looked good together and there is a comfortable natural-ness to their acting which makes their love and warmth believable. It is on the strength of this great chemistry that I enjoyed the series as much as I did, so well done to both James and Bella for their portrayal of their characters in making me like them and root for their happy ending.
I actually like the soundtrack and thought that it suited the mood and the pace of the show very well. There is this slow, dreamy mellow feel to the music which is very reminiscent of the period itself. However, towards the later half, I thought the theme songs for Rin and Saran were starting to get over-played. it would have been nice if they had changed the songs from the second half of the show onwards to prevent song-fatigue.
I probably would not re-watch the entire show again but I may re-watch certain bits of it for the Saran/Rin interactions because they were lovely and sweet. Overall, it is a lovely, sweet, warm and slow-build little show. If you like this sort of style and premise, then you really should consider giving this a try - it certainly won't disappoint you on that front.
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STORY (No spoilers)
As a stand-alone movie, the way the story was told was choppy and incoherent - there was often little connection from one scene to the next, and from one character's actions to the next - so the viewer is often left confused and disoriented with what is happening and why the characters are behaving the way they do. Therefore, in terms of story-telling, this movie falls down pretty hard. For those who don't know the story behind the movie beforehand, the film would come across not making much sense, which, I can imagine, would be a pretty disturbing and disappointing watch.
Those who do know the story beforehand are generally able to fill in the blanks and insert all the backstory in between scenes but even speaking as someone who knew the backstory beforehand, I still found myself trying to figure out what was happening on screen and where the scene fitted in within the whole. It was terrible because your mind is having to adjust and place the characters and circumstances in the right place as each scene flashed by so you're always playing catch-up and whatever emotional connection you had with the characters ends up getting lost. You're no longer feeling the story or the characters any longer, you're playing catch up to what's going on.
It is worth noting that as the movie attempts to condense and reduce a very lengthy story into a 2-hour telling, the production team naturally had to make some changes to some characters and events which will inevitably differ from the original source material. While this is entirely understandable, it can also hamper the watch experience because in addition to the 'playing catch-up' process, the viewer is then also having to make sense of the changes within the movie-context in itself.
I personally found some changed plot-lines and new scenes baffling and bizarre, and to this day, still have no real idea why certain things happened, or what the director was trying to tell. A good example was the way the movie ended - haphazard, chaotic, baffling and bizarre.
In terms of pacing, the film was rather inconsistent. Some scenes were given plenty of space and air-time while other scenes flashed by so quickly that just before the viewer had time to absorb who was on screen and what was happening (especially for those having to read subtitles), it has ended and you're confronted with a completely different and new scene and your mind is having to adjust from the whiplash.
It made for a very scattered and disconnected viewing experience and I can't help but think that if the director or editor had spent less time dwelling on certain scenes (e,g, the long pan and introduction into Qing Qiu being one of them), there might have been more time to allow other scenes to breathe better.
I also found myself wondering why the director chose to use or dwell on certain scenes which do not really add value in advancing an already fast-moving plot e.g. there was an extended sequence of Ye Hua cooking for Bai Qian (let's not even go into how that scene was depicted). Precious minutes spent on a cooking class when there is still so much ground to cover.
The choppy incoherent story-telling and inconsistent patchy pacing issues probably did not help (maybe even compounded to) the perception of underwhelming acting from the cast. Characters were not given enough time to establish their roles and personalities what more for them to show us their evolution throughout the movie. As a result, it made it difficult for the viewer to understand their motives and their actions as the movie progressed. With the lost emotional connection, it is easy to pan the actors/ actresses for bad portrayals of their characters. Perhaps some of it can be put down to lacklustre acting ability, but I do also believe that another part of it was down to poor scripting of the characters, and to poor directing and editing of the movie.
Yang Yang and Crystal Liu were suitable for their roles - looks-wise.
I thought Crystal was serviceable as Bai Qian but some key scenes which required her to exercise her haughty authority as the Queen of Qing Qiu did not have as much impact as I would have hoped for.
Yang Yang portrayed a rather different Ye Hua from the original source material in terms of personality and attitude. Some viewers might enjoy this fresh take on Ye Hua's character, while others like myself might have found it off-putting and borderline disturbing.
The rest of the supporting cast had too little airtime to really provide them with proper personalities therefore a lot of them came across as one-dimensional, one-note characters with a very set purpose to fulfil in advancing the plot along. They were there to do this, or do that, or say this, or say that, and their job was essentially done.
As I was too focused on trying to follow the plot and the happenings on-screen, I had very little time to appreciate the music score, except during that long pan of Qing Qiu.
Unfortunately, all things considered, I have to say that it was an unpleasant watch for me. There was very little I enjoyed or liked about this movie, therefore a re-watch is not even a consideration.
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Screwed-up adults living in a screwed-up houseI'm probably going to get a lot of stick and downvotes on this review but I still want to share my dissatisfaction with this show.
STORY (No spoilers)
This show is about 4 adults with various emotional and psychological problems living together and, as a result, messing each other up with their screwed-up-ness. And fair warning: there is sexual content in this show with issues of a sexual nature raised. If you're in the mood for a rather disturbing, ambiguous show with heavy sexual content but with no proper character progression or story development then this show is for you.
With 10 episodes at around 30 minutes each, this show has very limited time to address any of the deep, fractured emotional problems and psychology the characters have. Unfortunately, this ambitious undertaking falls far short of its mark because seriously, nothing really gets addressed. The show never really delved deep into the psychology of our screwed up characters, nor into their healing process. It's a glorified 'slice of life' show about dysfunctional people being dysfunctional with a sexual twist embedded, period.
I personally thought that this show could be really intriguing and even ground-breaking with the kind of issues it raised in the early episodes but was sorely disappointed with the lack of development, growth and progression of the characters as episode after episode went by. There was no effort made by the show to address any of the problems the characters were facing in a healthy and considerate way. These people need help - serious help - but the show doesn't tell you how to get it. This drama came across pointless and aimless and I have no idea what sort of message this show wanted to send but I was certainly getting nothing positive from it.
Serviceable. Nothing particularly outstanding because each character seemed to represent an extreme end of the spectrum of dysfunctionality.
I have to hand it to Masaki Nakao who plays the withdrawn and socially inept Hongyo though - the ability to deadpan some of what would be the most embarrassing lines under some of the craziest situations is noteworthy.
Nothing particularly outstanding or memorable.
I personally disliked the show. I have no problem with shows that introduce dysfunctional people who suffer from emotional, psychological and sexual problems but I do have an issue when a show does that without really addressing the problems it raised and simply lets its characters mess about with one another, stirring up pools of muddy water for the sake of entertainment.
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STORY (No spoilers)
In the 'Fated To Love You' style cliche of having main leads being thrown together through an intoxicated 'one-night-stand' which leads to pregnancy and all the resulting drama that comes with two unprepared parents-to-be, this show can be quite dramatically funny with occasional touches of poignancy.
There were comedic situations for our main leads but that was mainly during the first one-third of the show. The remaining two-thirds were surprisingly rather grounded and warmly heart-tugging as our main leads settled into an agreement to see through the pregnancy process together. This show is more involved in showing viewers the changes and stages a mother goes through during a pregnancy, more than any other show I've seen which involves this trope. I don't know about you, but this was really one of the best parts of the drama, for me.
I absolutely loved seeing how Rachen (Chen) quickly stuck right in and transformed from being an impulsive man-child into a dedicated, caring and responsible man through it all. He embodied your modern metrosexual man in that he not only didn't mind, but actually wanted to know all about what a woman goes through during pregnancy. He took pains to read, learn and get as involved in the process as he possibly could, and nothing was too squeamish or personal for him - from breast pains to morning sickness to foot massages and ante-natal classes. This guy is just such a precious sweetheart from start to finish!
On the other side though, you have the aggressive and hot-tempered Napat's detached and annoyed reaction at the whole pregnancy thing. She didn't want the baby, knew it would hamper her modelling and acting career, and she behaved exactly as someone who didn't want to get pregnant but had little choice but to suck it up and see the whole thing through - ill-tempered, quarrelsome, reckless and uncaring.
The difference in attitudes and in the characters between the would-be parents, and to have the male/ father being by far the more dedicated one of the pair, is a surprising but interesting twist to your average pregnancy trope. I liked this change in dynamic and I loved how this show so excellently depicts it. I'm glad to say that Napat eventually grows more emotionally engaged as her pregnancy advances, and with that comes another change in the relationship dynamic, which was another compelling watch.
What I thought was another good thing about this show is that a lot of the emotional heft and moments come from the agreement and arrangement which the main leads have settled amongst themselves. What was thought of as a good and suitable arrangement slowly grew fangs and they were gradually feeling the bite of it as time passed. For me, some of the best emotional moments in the show was when both leads were individually feeling that bite themselves. How nice is it that bulk of the conflict and issue within the drama was one of the main leads' own making, rather than a third-party interference?
And on that note, yes, of course this is a tv drama, so you will always have interfering third-parties, but for me, their interference was really of the pot-stirring kind, rather than the bomb-chucking sort. There were no real villains here - just interested parties trying to stir up an already rather finely-balanced situation. But those pot-stirrings didn't really last that long (another great thing about this show). The main leads generally know where their priorities should be and they are rather good at keeping their focus on the right ball. Seriously, how many shows are like this? Love it!
We do have a couple of other side stories running alongside the main couple. Both are secondary couples also trying to have a baby and finding it a lot harder than our main couple (who basically just hit the jackpot in one sitting). Both couples have very different dynamics in dealing with this, and I also liked seeing this difference. One is there for comic relief/ humour, while the other is more heart-wrenching. I thought both were lovely complements to the main coupling, even if the comedic couple were often a bit over-board in their characterisations.
The supporting cast and the secondary couplings were generally solid. Aside from the two second leads who were pretty one-note i.e. Mark (who is interested in Napat) and Jasmine (who is interested in Rachen), the other supporting characters and secondary couples had distinct personalities and motivations which made them more emotionally relatable, at least for me. I particularly liked Rachen's family unit and their portrayal through the show.
JAYME BOOHER as Anna, Napat's best friend (whom I also recognised as playing the rather annoying second lead female in 'Neung Nai Suang'), was great in her portrayal of Napat's BFF. She is what every BFF should be like - entirely supportive through thick and thin from buying pregnancy test kits to arranging doctor visits to lending a listening ear and offering sound advice. She was a huge advocate of Rachen having rights as the baby's father too, and made every effort to keep our main leads together - something I whole-heartedly supported. Her portrayal here is very different from that in 'Neung Nai Suang', but she pulls both off well.
ANNE THONGPRASOM as Napat (Pat). She did not impress me that much in the first few episodes - partially due to her character's arrogant and abrasive personality, and partially due to her looks which were not to my personal taste.
But she grew on me as an actress, especially when her character started to take her pregnancy more seriously and when she also started to reflect on her relationships and her future with her baby. Anne was able to show a lot more range and emotions when the show progressed, which was really wonderful to see. It is not an easy task to show conflicted internal turmoil (the hallmark of any good actor/ actress is whether they can pull this off well, for me), and Anne nailed her scenes here. She was able to show Napat slowly evolve and mature from your selfish and prideful woman into one who has learned to love and to seriously consider how to balance her future of career vs baby. She had her insecurities, hang-ups and doubts too which played a part in her making some of the decisions she chose to make, but there is no denying that her character had evolved through the show, and that Anne was able to show that progression all the way.
KEN THEERADETH as Rachen (Chen). What can I say? I was amazed and impressed by his portrayal of Anawat in 'Neung Nai Suang', and here he plays a very different character in Rachen and he nailed it once again. This guy has officially won me over for his stellar acting prowess and for his charming smile.
Rachen is a very different character from Anawat. While Anawat was in essence a gentleman of his time, Rachen is your modern day cocky and temperamental man. He is impulsive, loud and emotionally driven.
Unlike Anne's Napat, Rachen's emotional outbursts come across more childish than annoyingly offensive, and I think this is something only Ken can pull off. He can make a dislikable character, or dislikable character traits, less dislikable for some reason. I think it is a combination of his looks (yes, being that handsome helps a great deal), and his ability to imbue subtle nuances to his character's looks and actions.
Ken has great expressive ability and this show gives him lots of opportunity to showcase it. There is a lot of playfulness and cheekiness on show here (which is just great because Ken's smiles are so lovely, and his comic expressions hilarious), but there is also plenty of internal doubts and disappointments too. His character's earnestness in wanting to be involved in every aspect of the pregnancy process is also just too adorable and sweet for words.
Best of all, Rachen, like Napat, grows and matures throughout the series and from the man-child he was at the start, he slowly grows to be a man who takes his responsibilities seriously and carries them as best as he possibly can. This evolution was also wonderfully portrayed here.
In short, Ken plays every aspect of Rachen like a maestro and best of all, he makes it all look so effortless and natural.
This is my first time seeing Ken/Anne and I can't deny that Ken's chemistry here with Anne is a lot better than that with Janie in 'Neung Nai Suang'. Perhaps it is also Anne's acting ability (she is head and shoulders above Janie from what I've seen so far) because Anne is able to emote a lot better and so perhaps Ken is able to capitalise on that and also bring out more ability from his side. Or maybe they are really comfortable with each other from the start.
Whatever it is, I can see why they make a great on-screen couple. Their acting is very balanced between them - when one is being over-the-top, the other is equally over-the-top, but when one is being quietly emotional, the other can also be equally quietly emotional. There is a very good and equal balance when they both interact on-screen so both characters develop memorable and individual personalities that play off each other well and none are really completely overshadowed by the other.
I loved the background music and the sound effects on this show. I thought it really added to the tone and mood of each scene, and even though I don't understand Thai and the meaning behind the vocals of the songs, the melody is still a nice scene and mood setter.
Yes, definitely re-watchable, even if it is just for Ken's cute smiles and adorable sweetheart actions. A brilliant romantic comedy - it brings on the laughs but it also brings along the feels. Honestly, it has been a long time since my heart was so emotionally touched during some of the poignant and emotionally-driven scenes, and 'Oum Rak' has now become one of my favourite romantic-comedies.
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Well, in the end, I decided to take a chance and plunge straight into Brother #3 and see if I can somehow find my way and make sense of the situation. And I'm glad I did because I did not get too lost after all and was able to enjoy this show on its own - yippee! So, for those who are thinking of watching this without the benefit of watching the earlier 2 shows of the series, IT IS POSSIBLE. Just do a bit of reading of the synopsis of the first 2 brothers (so that you roughly know their names and their partners), and you'll be all ready to go!
What I'm going to say here are NOT spoilers at all (because they are background info and also relate to the first 2 brother's stories and so if you've come after watching those, you won't be spoiled in the slightest), but for those jumping into this show without watching the first 2, this will help give some context.
Set in the 1950s, the 'Suparburoot Juthathep' ('Gentlemen of Juthathep') series comprises of 5 separate dramas (each about 10 or 11 episodes long), with each drama focusing on the romance of one out of the 5 brothers of the Juthatep family. Born into the title of 'Mom Ratchawongse', the 5 brothers are not only blue-bloods of their society but they are also blessed with good-looks, success in their individual careers, and an immense reservoir of funds (i.e. very very rich) courtesy of their prestigious lineage.
All 5 brothers lost their parents rather early in their lives and were brought up by their grandmothers. Grandma Aied is the matriarch of the family while Grandma Oon is her younger sister. Before their father had died, he had promised to have one of his sons marry one of the daughters of another noble family - the Taewaproms (3 daughters). Cue massive familial pressure on the 5 brothers! As of timeframe of this show, the first 2 brothers (Chai Yai, the eldest; and Chai Ruj, the second eldest) are already either engaged or married - but none of them to any of the Taewaprom girls. So, here is Khun Chai Puttipat (Chai Pat), son #3, under immense pressure from his grandmothers to fulfil his late father's promise.
This show, of course, showcases Chai Pat's own romance story and it comes as no surprise that it was going to be an interesting ride when his love interest is also not a Taewaprom girl, but actually a girl belonging to a lower class of society. The familial conflicts and class divide issues arising from this is probably already enough to fill the show but there is an added layer of drama because the girl - Krongkaew (aka Kaew) - had won the Miss Thailand beauty contest. This incites the interest of an old and lecherous but wealthy and powerful man who then tries to purchase her as a mistress. So, there is a morass of all sorts of issues and situations which the couple must navigate before they can get their happy ending.
Like any typical thai lakorn, this show is peppered with your typical nasty second female lead, vile antagonist and an assortment of over-the-top portrayal of side characters. However, I'm glad to say that despite all the complicated issues arising, the show doesn't really allow those issues to side-track our attention on the main couple too much. There are, in my opinion, a sufficiently good number of scenes of the couple, from their first meeting to their subsequent interactions which build on their budding interest in each other, which then blossom into love.
As with most Thai lakorns, the second female lead and the main antagonist will probably come across as pretty one-note i.e. hateful, annoying, despicable. You have to get used to it (if you're not), and move swiftly along. Having said that though, I do confess that they are not as overdone as some others which I've seen. Yes, they are pretty over-the-top, but I've seen a lot worse.
The 4 brothers of Chai Pat did have some screen-time, especially the 2 youngest and unmarried ones (Chai Lek and Chai Pee). I really liked the fact that the family dynamic amongst the 5 brothers were not ones full of envy, jealousy or dislike, but was in fact very warm, loving, supportive and even playful at times. So nice to see the brotherly camaraderie and unity on show here.
The 2 grandmothers: Grandma Aied was the epitome of a matriarch of a royal and noble family. She exuded class, poise and authority befitting her status. I liked that while she was keen to advance and fulfil the promise made by her late son, she was also the more reasonable and open-minded of the two. Grandma Oon, on the other hand, is one who is quick to judge, quick to be prejudiced, and quick to disdain, which at times really makes her quite dislikable.
Onto the main leads:-
BELLA RANEE as Krongkaew, daughter of a janitor and a Miss Sri Siam. Good casting choice, in my opinion, because Bella is really believeable in her portrayal as a poor, humble but hard-working and principled person who is also beautiful enough to win a beauty pageant. There is an elegant nobleness in her posture and in her mien which lends much to the personality of her character here. Her smiles come across warm, and her dark doe-eyes are able to convey the feelings of sadness, anxiety, care and love wonderfully. There are quite a few key scenes where Kaew had to express her feelings with her eyes alone, and I thought Bella rose to the occasion incredibly.
JAMES JIRAYU as Khun Chai Puttipat, from the house of Juthatep and a brain surgeon. James looked a little bit too youthful here to be such an established brain surgeon but I suppose his spectacles helped to give him a more serious and professional look. But his youthful look has some advantages - they give him a more friendly and softer look so his scenes as a stern and strict doctor did not come across as too cold or unapproachable (which good doctors should not be). And they also made his loving gazes and warm smiles so much more mesmerising. James' eyes, are, to me, his greatest asset, really, because they are not only large enough that even the viewer feels as though they could drown in them, but they are also able to bring out some of his emotions and feelings onto the screen. For a debut series, I have to admit that I am pretty impressed with James' acting here.
Most importantly for me, James and Bella had good chemistry together which makes this couple come across as compatible and believable. I also felt that their on-screen characters as Chai Pat and Kaew matched each other well, personality and character-wise. They each complete one another in different ways. As a Chai Pat & Kaew couple, they both complement each other by filling a void, or adding colour to each other's lives, or teaching each other to grow and change for the better, through their different personalities. It does come across as a match between equals here - love it!
I love the 'Suparburoot Juthathep' theme song: "Rak Tae Yoo Neua Gaan Wayla". Each brother has a different version of it and I like all 5 different renditions.
Other than that, the theme songs for each of the leads are lovely - well, at least I liked it. I thought it told of the couple's situation and feelings, particularly Chai Pat's, spot on. Lends more depth to some of the scenes. Background music is rather old-school and fitting for the time period in which this series is set, so I thought it very appropriate and sets the mood and style of the show.
Since I like this couple and their interactions and development, this show is naturally re-watchable. But will probably skip on the extraneous scenes where neither are present. Overall, a true Cinderella-style romance with your sprinkling of drama.
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STORY (No spoilers)
Actually, I read the manga (also helpfully entitled "Seven Days") on which this short 2 episode series is based on, long before I realised that they actually made a live-action version of it. Having enjoyed the short but sweet manga itself and having never seen a proper live-action Boy's Love series prior this one, I was curious enough to check it out.
I will get into the acting for this series in another section but story-wise, both episodes were amazingly faithful and accurate to the manga itself. Here is a short list of just how accurate it was:-
a) The manga itself consists of 2 volumes. The 1st volume being the Monday to Thursday sections, and the second volume having the remaining Friday to Sunday sections. The way the series is split is exactly the same way.
b) Dialogues from the characters are almost word-for-word from the manga.
c) Scenes and events that happen also mirror very closely to those in the manga.
d) What impressed me the most was that even the styling - from the hair, to the way they wear their school uniforms, to even their school bags and the way they carry them, mirrors that in the manga.
It was really as though the manga itself came to life - there were hardly any deviations of it in the live-action series. So, for those who read the manga and enjoyed the story, you would be surprisingly satisfied with this production.
Story-wise, the synopsis is a pretty good summary so I am not sure if I have anything further to add. It really is a simple premise of what started out as a high-school tease between 2 boys to date for a week (seven days), ended up creating feelings which neither were prepared for, and their various insecurities and misunderstandings arising from that. Like the sound of it? Then do watch. If not, then feel free to give this a pass.
Another thing to note is that the pacing of this live-action short series is rather deliberately slow. I believe that the production team and the director had in mind a pace that was meant to deliberately focus and pause onto the main characters, either to emphasise a scene or an emotion, because this is done consistently throughout the show. It's almost manga-like: you know, that scene where the 2 main leads stare at each other and the wind and leaves just keep blowing by... yeah, that kind of manga-like feel. If you're not prepared for it, it may sometimes appear as those the scene is being paused, but it's actually a deliberate drawing out of the scene. Some people might find this draggy or boring or weird, but I personally see it as an artistic approach and directorial style, and quite enjoy the slow, deliberate pacing of the show. Most Japanese series tend to be rather snappy and excitable so a mellow, calm-almost-to-stillness show is rather interesting and refreshing as a change.
I've mentioned how the whole setting, down to the styling and the outfits, were practically a mirror to that of the manga. Now how about the actual portrayal of the characters?
JAMES TAKESHI YAMADA as Shino Yuzuru - the senior whose cool looks apparently seem at odds with his playful and unpredictable personality. Looks-wise, I think James does have that cool look befitting the character but I had hoped that he could have acted a bit more "fly-away" or ditzy just to emphasise the dichotomy between his looks and his personality which many people around Shino keep banging on about. It would have made some of the comments from supporting characters a bit more believable and understandable. As it stood, I felt that we had to just accept what we are being told i.e. that Shino's personality is very different from the way he looks. More tell, rather than show, in this aspect, for me. Having said that, I thought the rest of how James portrayed Shino was well done. The curiosity, the internal dialogues, the progression of feelings and its by-products of uncertainty and jealousy - I thought these were all expressed pretty well by James in his role.
PS: I also liked the way he holds his bow and arrow, and his shooting stance. It did look very cool and natural.
TOMOKI HIROSE as Touji Seryou - the good-looking junior whose inner desire to find The One has led to an appearance of being indiscriminate when it comes to dating and partners. Looks-wise, I personally found Tomoki to look too old for the junior he should be portraying - and not a little older, but quite a lot older, which was was initially rather jarring when I first started watching. Looks aside, Tomoki did not do too bad a job in bringing out the emotions and the feelings of Touji onto the screen. His acting did not come across as natural or as at ease as James playing Shino, but neither was it so bad that it was too awkward to watch, so I would consider his portrayal to be serviceable for the role.
PS: Tomoki's shooting stance looked awkward, stiff and unnatural to me, compared to James and the supporting cast. Pity because he was supposed to be rather effortlessly good at shooting and it does not really come across in this live-action adaptation. But this is a minor quibble.
Befitting the deliberately slow pace of this show, the background music is instrumental, mellow and rather poignant in tone. I thought it matched the mood and the pacing of the series well and personally found it to be a good enhancement to the scenes in bringing out the moment or the mood. Nice.
Seeing as it is a very short show of only 2 episodes or parts, this is easily re-watchable. Overall, it is quite a well done series, barring my minor quibbles outlined above. I can see myself viewing it again.
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STORY (No spoilers)
It was only after I had completed watching this show that I later discovered that this was a re-make of an older and, at that time popular, Taiwanese show titled "Prince Turns Into A Frog". Having never seen that older show but afterwards read about its content, it would appear that the overall storyline for both shows essentially remains the same. So, for those of you who have seen "Prince Turns Into A Frog" and loved it, you might want to consider giving this re-make a try.
For those of you, like me, who have not seen its predecessor show, well, here is a good outline of what this show is about (because the MyDramaList synopsis of this show is actually a little inaccurate):-
This show is about a poor but effervescent and energetic girl (Liu Xiao Bei) who is trying to make some money for her family (which consists of a step-mom who actually cares for her as her own, and a half-brother). Circumstances allow her to cross-paths with a cold, rich, genius CEO of a hotel chain (Xiang Tian Qi) who, in a series of unfortunate events, meets with an accident and loses his memory entirely.
Not really knowing that Xiang Tian Qi is a rich genius CEO, Liu Xiao Bei and her family eventually take him under their wing and integrate him into their little village life, giving him a new name (Liu Xiao Yu) and a new life.
Meanwhile, Xiang Tian Qi's family, fiancee (Mu Zhi Qing) and best friend (Ji Ru Feng) continue to tirelessly search for him as well as attempt to maintain his hotel business in his absence.
Feelings between the amnesiac Xiang Tian Qi and Liu Xiao Bei begin to grow as they live together and share the burdens of the family and assist with the troubles of the poor little village in which they live.
All seems to be going well until Xiang Tian Qi's best friend and fiancee re-discover him living his new life simply in the village and, in another series of unfortunate events, Xiang Tian Qi gets into another accident and, while he regains the memory of his old life, loses the memories of his life as Liu Xiao Yu.
Cue messy relationship issues, conflicts, misunderstandings and tension. Do watch to see how things eventually turn out.
Storyline aside, I think it is also worth mentioning that the overall vibe of this show is that of a cheesy, light-hearted, funny and rather silly show. This show does not take itself seriously at all and has a lot of cartoonish, slapstick funny moments liberally sprinkled with your over-the-top dramatic scenes which, in another show, would probably make you roll your eyes. Since this show doesn't take itself seriously, viewers intending to watch this should also leave your brain at the door and just sit back and enjoy this crazy ride.
If you enjoy a bit of fun and silliness, as well as willing to suspend belief and swallow the cheese as well as the salt as this show turns on the drama, this show is a great one to watch.
LIU XIAO BEI - Tiffany Tang plays the loud, cheeky and bubbly Liu Xiao Bei really well here. While the vibe of the show promotes cartoonish actions and caricature personalities, Tiffany gives Liu Xiao Bei enough of a personality to make her a bit more than just a one-dimensional character. I found her character to be actually cute and likeable in this show, despite its inherent silliness, and that speaks of Tiffany's ability to breathe more life into her. She also enjoys good chemistry with her co-actors, especially with the main male lead (no surprise as they were actually dating in real life at time of filming).
XIANG TIAN QI - Roy Qiu plays this cold, rich, genius CEO as well as can be, given the craziness of the show and what the character himself has to go through. The first round of memory loss brought an almost complete change of character personality to Xiang Tian Qi, and Roy did a good job in making that difference palpable, believable and utterly charming to boot. I thought he portrayed the various personalities and emotions of his character pretty well, especially considering the playful nature of this show.
The second leads, as well as the supporting characters in this show, were played by actors who didn't mind looking a little silly or participating in scenes that were extremely cheesy and almost cringe-worthy. Not all characters were one-dimensional or one-note all the time in this show. There were moments of poignancy and feeling which added depth to certain key scenes and moments in the show, but on the flip side, there were also moments where suspension of belief was required and you'd need to roll with the punches.
It is difficult to therefore rate the quality of acting in this show, simply because of its rather quirky and erratic nature.
In line with its let's-not-take-ourselves-seriously vibe, the music in this show varies from hip-hop and rap, to pop and rock, to love ballads. A truly eclectic mix of genres rolled into a show, but you know what, it works. I actually enjoyed the music a lot (if you are a fan of JJ Lin, a lot of his tracks are played on this show), and thought it added life and beat to the series.
I guess this is a love-it or hate-it kind of show so if you liked it, you probably would not mind re-watching some of the scenes over and over again, even if it was just for kicks, giggles and laughs.
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This review may contain spoilersSince the synopsis didn't really tell us that there are 3 lifetimes/ reincarnations of our main leads, I thought it might be useful to let those who are potentially interested in watching this lakorn have a rough overview of how the lakorn panned out.
STORY (mild spoilers)
1st Lifetime (Episodes 1 - 8):-
The first lifetime, set in the 1900s (King Rama V reign), takes up bulk of the lakorn airtime. I guess this shouldn't be a surprise because the 1st lifetime has a lot of groundwork to cover. It has to introduce the background of our main characters (our male lead is of noble blood, while our female lead is essentially from the servant class), set up the groundwork for how they met and fell in love, drip through ingredients that make the situation ripe for all sorts of misunderstandings and conflict, put our main characters through this recipe of a wringer and then spit them out bloody and broken at the end.
Typical lakorn formulas abound like flies in this section.
One of my pet peeves - screaming characters - was out in full force here. It wasn't only the females that were guilty of this offence, even the males here were screamers and shouters. Considering the fact that one of the reasons I prefer to watch period lakorns was due to the fact that most period lakorn characters tend to be more soft-spoken and dignified in their speech and demeanour, the number of screamers in this show was an unpleasant surprise.
You also have your famously evil 2nd female lead, all decked out in her signature bright red lipstick and flaunting her two-faced personality with impunity. Thankfully, our male lead has got her number and never really falls for her tricks or for her. It's one of the saving graces in this show - our male lead stays faithful and single-minded on our female lead all the way to the end.
This lakorn also has your honorary villains and bad characters seeking to stir up trouble or increase their powerbase. Irritating, over-exaggerated side characters with their bulging eyes and twisted smirks are not exempt from this lakorn too, and strange leaps of logic or missing pieces in the plot puzzle are not uncommon. Convenient plot devices are regularly used (I can't count the number of times a character 'conveniently' leaves behind or forgets a significant item), and illogical reactions or situations can also feature in this show.
In short, this is your cookie-cutter Thai lakorn.
The pacing in this section can be inconsistent too with some parts or scenes being very long drawn or dragged out with lots of slo-mos, while others skip abruptly onwards to the next.
2nd Lifetime (Episodes 9 - first half of 12):-
This section of the show is set 50 years later after the 1st lifetime and had a lot of supernatural elements with ghosts being the main feature. Our main female lead is a vengeful spirit here and she has plenty of company with her too.
Some of our reincarnated characters undergo quite significant character changes too which can be a nice relief, and the plot starts to come together, or at least head towards a resolution. This section has more unpleasant and scary scenes with vengeful ghosts and weird CGI so viewers with a more squeamish heart might want to be aware and prepare themselves accordingly.
The interesting thing about this section? Our male lead falls in love with a ghost. Welcome to the world of 'Pee Mak'!
3rd Lifetime (last 30 minutes of Episode 12):-
The calm after the storm as our main leads get reborn in modern day time and meet again without all that crazy baggage and issues that featured in the first 11 and a half episodes.
While I have always liked Bella as an actress and thought she did not disappoint here, it was really the 2nd female lead actress (Kao) who played the more interesting and multi-layered character. Bella's character in the 1st lifetime was very subdued and her 2nd lifetime was full of resentment and anger so I found her characters to be quite fixed and almost stereotyped, rather than complexly nuanced.
Grate was very handsome and very fine in this lakorn in all his incarnations/ lifetimes, and his character stayed very much consistent all the way through but again, it was the 2nd male lead actor (Alex) who played the more interesting role.
The side and supporting characters were pretty much forgettable, really, except for our female lead's father's moustache which was terribly distracting in its monstrosity and degree of inconsistency. It made him look ridiculous but certainly very memorable.
Very heavy-handedly done. The music score literally bludgeoned you over the head with its 'mood' music and it is SO OBVIOUS what the show is trying to tell you within the scene simply by its background score. I found it clumsy, in-your-face, distracting and uninspiring. One of the worst music scores in a drama, for me.
I watched this through all the way to the end because I was intrigued with how our main leads' lives get so complicated that it needed 3 lifetimes to unravel the problem (it's definitely an interesting story, lakorn formulas aside). It's an interesting plot and story but I personally wouldn't be interested in re-watching it again after knowing what happened plus it had too many lakorn formulas for my liking.
The romantic scenes were softly sweet and even sometimes sexy. I would only re-watch this if I wanted to see more of Grate's beautiful and warm smiles and hear him say some of the cheesiest love lines, or to see him in his shirtless glory (because there's quite a lot of that to be had in this lakorn).
It is not a bad watch if you're interested in plots involving star-crossed lovers and re-incarnations and ghosts.
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A hidden gem!STORY (No spoilers)
It was by sheer luck that I came across a random recommendation for this seriously overlooked show and since the title intrigued me (it had 'Kyoto Love Story' in it, how could I NOT check it out, lol), I decided to check out the synopsis and when I read that the show was about a traditional Japanese confectionery shop in Kyoto, I excitedly decided to watch it because I've always had a soft spot for shows which depict age-old traditions and cultures - there is just so much rich history and traditional customs embedded within them that really fascinate me.
Well, this show did not let me down or disappoint me, both from a traditional and cultural standpoint but also from its cinematic and absolutely breathtaking shots of historic Kyoto. This show is a marvellous showcase of the city, of its famous cultural landmarks and of the lives of the people who descend from established traditional families with the grand weight of history and legacy supporting them. While the show does centre around the 3 daughters of a traditional Japanese confectionery and the interesting workings and operations behind it, there are also brief introductions to other age-old Japanese cultural aspects such as kabuki, tea ceremony, ikebana, geikos, etc. And characters all speak with a delightful Kyoto accent. For me, to be able to see all this come alive on-screen was one of the absolute best things about this show.
Within such a rich cultural context are our 3 leading ladies - the daughters of an old established Japanese confectionery shop, the 450-year-old 'Fukuyado Honpo'. The show depicts their budding love lives and it's quite interesting to see how each girl grows into her own skin through their different characters and personalities. Their own love interests present different challenges to them and it's quite the ride to see how each couple work through their own issues and their own imperfections.
There is one thing worth mentioning though - a lot of the characters have one thing in common which is being TIGHT-LIPPED. Perhaps this is a natural result of living in a city so steeped in ancient culture and traditions but our characters all tend to hide away their thoughts, feelings and their emotions, maintaining a strict sense of decorum and propriety as far as they are able. This problem seems to be prevalent in almost all our characters and is the source of bulk of the conflicts within the show. It can be a source of frustration for viewers but patience is a virtue because thankfully our characters learn to work through their weaknesses and grow into better understanding of themselves and their partners. The ride can occasionally be rough but there are rainbows after the storm!
The OST for this show consists mainly of our opening and closing songs which are lively and catchy and very memorable. I particularly LOVED the closing song - the way it comes in at the end of the episode always lands with impact and gives additional oomph to the drama.
This was one rich, meaningful, breathtakingly beautiful and heart-warming show. I loved the setting, I loved the characters and I loved being able to join them on a journey as they discover love and also more about themselves! Totally worth re-watching.
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STORY (No spoilers)
For the C-novel readers:
To manage expectations, I'd like to take a short section to address those who've read the C-novel on which this drama is based and are thinking of watching this show. Firstly and most importantly, please kindly put aside your preconceptions because while this show does follow the novel, it does it in very broad strokes. Key events and key character actions are retained but the journey/ route to those events and actions can be very different. This might disappoint some of you if you're going into the show thinking that it will be a completely faithful reproduction of the novel. In order to help you enjoy this show, I'd like to encourage you to watch it with an open mind. If it helps, I personally found that by doing so and by following the story the drama itself is trying to tell, the plot-threads and character portrayals all hold together very well and this show becomes a more substantial adaptation and, I'd even venture to say, a more glorious homage to its original source material.
For non-novel readers & newcomers:
This show is more than just a pure xianxia romance. I was pleasantly surprised with how meaty and more substantial this show was, and how multi-faceted it can be. It will surprise you with its twists and turns, and with the evolution of our main characters as it progresses. Love (particularly star-crossed love or ill-fated love) and obsession are key themes but they are not the only ones. Themes of filial piety, integrity, loyalty, ambition, vengeance/ revenge, sacrifice, atonement and redemption are also wonderfully built into this show. This is a dish of many flavours. It's not pure sugar though it may start off on the sweet side. It will surprise you with its turns of fiery spice, bitterness and sweet-and-sour, with a touch of savoury thrown in.
Also, to help you understand a bit of what the show is like so that you're prepared, here's a broad outline:
The first half is full of sweetness and comedy, light-hearted and fluffy with some small build-up of plot threads. The romance development here is eminently ML-focused (he falls in love first and fast) and it runs the gamut of playful to moving as it progresses.
The 2nd half will start to bring together several plot threads introduced in the 1st half and so side characters have more screen-time as the show fleshes their story arcs and motivations. The main couple will also encounter love trials along the line of star-crossed love/ ill-fated love (hence the Romeo & Juliet premise). The trials have sound basis and foundation though, so it's not stupid misunderstandings and noble idiocy type issues. But the trials eventually prove and confirm their love and in the end, they overcome them for a suitable end.
I'd really like to encourage you to watch this show as it is quite amazingly crafted and if you like romance shows with a bit more complexity to it and to have more substance to it, this will suit you very well.
With over 60 episodes, this show's cast is not small. Screen-time for our characters will fluctuate depending on the plot thread in focus at the time so please don't expect our main characters or main couple to continuously dominate the screen. The show takes some pains to explore and flesh out some of its key side characters too, which is really great because it makes the show less riddled with one-dimensional/ cardboard cut-out characters. Even our 'stock villains' are given realistic internal motivations and drivers, and the 'comic relief' characters surprisingly have a core of values in them too. I personally found myself growing fond of many side characters (e.g. Yuanji Immortal, Moon Immortal, Yan You, Water Immortal and Lian Yuan) which makes this show extra enjoyable/ watchable to me. Love them!
Spotlight on our main leads:
DENG LUN as Xu Feng (aka Phoenix), the Fire Immortal. C-novel readers will probably be a bit surprised at Deng Lun's portrayal and take as our God of War, but I liked this different characterisation of our main male lead in this drama. He's not your perfect male lead, not by any means, but he has a strongly loyal, warm and loving heart. This central and core aspect of his character is wonderfully and consistently portrayed throughout the show and Deng Lun's less imposing physic and his warm voice (I just loved the fact that he voice-dubbed his own character!) makes him a more approachable and less dominating character than his C-novel counterpart.
Acting-wise, I think Deng Lun did well in portraying Xu Feng's emotional and character development. I think he does his character justice and that's good enough for me.
YANG ZI as Jin Mi, our Little Grape and Flower Immortal. I personally think that this is not an easy role for any actress to portray as her character undergoes a lot of ups-and-downs, internal conflicts and changes in this show, but kudos to Yang Zi for being able to make her a naively cheerful Little Grape at the start, and to showcase her evolution as the show progresses. She had me invested in her character and in her character's story and progress throughout the show.
LEO LUO YUNXI as Run Yu, the Night Immortal. Like Jin Mi, his character also undergoes a lot of ups-and-downs, internal conflicts and changes in this show and I have to also hand it to this actor, he rose to the occasion in this drama. As one of the 3 main leads in this show, he certainly has not been overshadowed by his fellow co-stars on the acting-front and some of his key scenes really brought the emotions out through the screen.
I personally think that our 3 main leads were well-balanced on the acting-front. No one consistently overshadowed or out-acted the other, everyone was on more or less equal footing in terms of screen-presence and screen-impact, to me. The well-balanced nature of it made the show good, because there is nothing worse than to have a co-star consistently overshadowing or out-acting you in front of the screen, making the scene imbalanced and making the actor and character being overshadowed to be out of place.
There appears to be 3 theme songs for this show (male and female version of the opening, and the ending theme song), and while they are lovely and beautiful in their own right, and when well-employed in a scene they really elevate the moment, I personally felt that the limitation of songs later on became a bit of liability to the show as, with over 60 episodes, there is going to be inevitable song-fatigue. I personally think that this is one area in the show which could really do with additional work and improvement to make it truly great, but well, it is what it is.
I personally loved the first half of the show to bits and can see myself re-playing a lot of it in future. The second half where the real business end of the show starts picking up steam is compelling and addicting to watch for the first time because of the breathless anticipation of wanting to know what happens next. I am not sure how re-watchable this section will be in future once the suspense and excitement is over but it doesn't make this show any less impressive on its own merits.
EDIT: Since writing this review, I've re-watched almost the entire show twice more so clearly my fears about the watchability of the 2nd half was unfounded. In fact, a lot of the emotional scenes in the 2nd half were some of the best scenes in this show.
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STORY (No spoilers)
I have to say, I was rather pleasantly surprised with this show. The show starts off with a dramatic cold open where we are placed right in a scene rife with emotional and dramatic tension - and BANG! we're off. I thought it was a very effective and quick way of introducing the characters of our main leads, alongside potential complications which you know will inevitably arise in the future. That was nice directing and story-telling there.
What I also thought was pretty good for this show is that for almost its entire run, it managed to maintain a well-tuned balance of action, plot-movement, romance, and character-building. The action/ fight scenes were generally pretty high-quality for a lakorn (yes you have the occasional unrealistic bit here and there but overall it was quite slick, smooth and edgy) and there was little stagnation in terms of storylines unfolding and revelation of plots/ backstories. Yet, in the midst of all that, there was also generous amounts of time spent to establish the characters and personalities of our key characters, as well as in building the relationships within the show. Aside from the rushed and rather abrupt ending (I understand that the production team had to cut the show by 2 episodes, which was probably the main culprit for why the ending was below-par), I enjoyed the drama.
You get a sense that there was a pretty firm directorial hand behind the entire show as scenes move coherently and seamlessly from one action/ story to another, and as characters quite consistently maintain their personalities and main characteristics throughout the run of the show. I was also pleasantly surprised that there were no over-the-top psychotic, insane second leads/ antagonists here. The main cast driving the show were all quite well-rounded in their character portrayals and are realistically flawed people which made them relatable and real. There were sufficient revelations of backstories and enough screen-time for us to get to know them and understand their personalities and motivations behind their actions and so we could emotionally connect with them - even if we sometimes disagreed or were frustrated with their course of action.
I liked a lot of the supporting characters here, flawed and human as they were. Standouts for me were: Fahsai's parents, Chen Biao and Ah Jo of the Golden Dragon gang, Fai and Nuch from LOLA Magazine, even Chen Ming's mentally challenged elder brother.
From a pacing, story-telling, directing and editing perspective, this has been one of the better lakorns I've had the pleasure to watch.
As in any mafia drama, of course there will be lots of shady, imbalanced, cold-blooded, ruthless and seedy people. There is a bit more depth and complexity to quite a few of the characters in this show, which makes it interesting and compelling to watch because you're often trying to fathom what their true motives and intentions are behind some of the smiles or stoic faces.
PIMPRAPA/ PIMMY - as Botan/ Fahsai. As Botan, she was serviceable because really, Botan hardly had much screen-time for me to really connect with her character, but as Fahsai, she was wonderful. This is a personal opinion, of course, but I actually really liked Fahsai in this show. From the start where she first finds out about her boyfriend of 10-year's betrayal, to her rather assertive and gutsy reactions when she meets Daniel, she really won me over from the first episode onwards. A lot of her reactions and responses were those which I could identify with. For majority of the show, the things she said and did were things I probably would have done too, if I were in her shoes, so she was eminently relatable to me right from the get-go. Yes, there were some occasions where I found myself disagreeing with her course of action, but I could understand her motive and reasoning behind them and so could not really fault her too much for some of the things she did. Her character did devolve a little towards the end of the show but as Fahsai had amassed a lot of goodwill from me by then, I was a lot more willing to find excuses for her weepy and rather passive behaviour by then. When one has gone through the amount of hard knocks this girl has gone through, I guess she is entitled to her moment of weakness and inertia and I can't blame her if she wanted to crawl under her blanket and stay there until the next century rolled around.
MICK TONGRAYA - as Daniel Wong. Mr Giant James Dean! Goodness but he had me at hello with that poufy gelled-up hairdo and stoic, brooding demeanour. For a huge chunk and run of the show, he was brilliant as the head of the Golden Dragon gang. Generally calm, confident, unflappable and a very able fighter, it is easy to see why he was made a leader at such a young age. He came across very capable, strong and assured, and he was not one who was easily fooled or taken in. He was intelligent and sharp, and the way he deals with his underlings and entourage was the kind of assured authority I myself wished to see in my own boss at work. It is very understandable why his own subordinates were so loyal and respectful of him. Mick did a fantastic job in bringing all these aspects of Daniel to life - a great performance for me.
Some viewers appeared to be a little unhappy with some of Daniel's actions (from some of the comments here), and I can understand where they were coming from, especially towards the end of the show, but at the same time, I could also understand the character motivation and rationale behind the actions too because the show took pains to show it to us. I think a lot of people forget that the Daniel at the start of the show is no longer the same Daniel towards the end of the show. A pity but it is what it is.
And can I just say that I love the height difference between our main leads? Mick is so tall (190cm apparently), and Pimmy looks so petite and small beside him, it makes her look so cute when she keeps looking up at him during their interactions. They had good chemistry too, and some of their scenes came across downright adorable, especially when they're smiling at each other. I thought it was a good pairing here.
BOOM PIYAPHUN - As Chen Ming, was also great. I really liked to see his evolution throughout the series, even if I am sometimes frustrated and angry with him for being so blinkered and blind, and rather naive or stupid (his own words!). I liked that you get to see the difference between him and Daniel as gang leaders. One is a natural leader who governs with a very self-assured hand, while the other is rather lost and confused at having the leadership position suddenly and traumatically thrusted upon him. It's great to be able to see the dichotomy in leadership skills and personalities, and how they affect the rest of the group.
Special mention to MEK JUTI as Chen Biao, my favourite right-hand man. What a character! Another great evolution as the series progresses. I loved his relationship dynamic with Daniel - there is a lot of trust and respect between them - and am so glad we got given a backstory to him too. His appearances on-screen added a lot of sparkle and pop to the show, especially when things got a bit melodramatic from our main leads. And can I just say that I love his voice? There is something in that rather low timbre that really appeals to my aural senses which no other male character (Mick included) had.
I thought the music and background score was a great supplement to the show. The theme song is easy on the ears and quite melodic.
RE -WATCH VALUE
I thought that the whole show (rushed ending notwithstanding) was quite well-done. If the ending had finished as strongly as the beginning and middle bits, this show would have been great.
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STORY (No spoilers)
Aside from an initial round of confusion when watching your first run of the first 3-4 episodes, there is nothing further I can think of that really mars the perfection that exists for this drama - storywise.
And may I just say that even the initial confusion of the first 3-4 episodes which is mainly due to the large number of characters being introduced, and the fact that you are thrown literally right into the show without any prior setup of what's going on, no longer exists upon re-watching.
In fact, you will actually realise and appreciate just how intricate and how detailed the writer has been because lots of foreshadowing and information actually exists within the first 3-4 episodes which would have flown by your head upon a first watch, but which makes complete sense upon re-watching.
It really gives you a sense of respect for the writer who has clearly and thoroughly thought through how her story would flow, and has been diligent in embedding subtle but key information throughout the episodes so that as the series progresses towards the mid-way mark, those individual and seemingly disparate threads then come together to form a brilliant picture which then takes your breath away.
The story appears simple - a man who survived a tragedy returns to the capital 12 years later under a new identity to re-dress the horrific wrongs committed.
The execution of the story, however, is FAR from simple.
Like a grandmaster, this man kick-starts things into motion which will change and transform everything, and the way he does it is simply masterful and marvellous to watch.
The pacing of this show is neither fast nor agonisingly slow. The show takes its time to dwell on certain threads longer than others, which may come across slow and a little boring for some viewers, but patience is a virtue with this series and if you patiently keep on watching, it will become evident that the time spent on those disparate and seemingly unconnected threads will bear much fruit when things come together. You will find yourself marvelling at the level of care and craft that has gone into the storytelling, I promise you.
The best analogy I can give is that of a master sculptor working with a block of wood or ice. At first, all you see is a block. Then, he starts hewing and hacking at certain parts of the block and slowly, a rather vague shape is being formed. As you keep watching the sculptor at work, seeing how he starts to focus on first this section, then that section, the vague shape becomes more discernible and you're able to get a glimpse of the art he is producing. Keep watching and observing and you will see that what was once a block is starting to be transformed into a beautiful piece of artwork and at the end of it, as he puts on the finishing touches, the little carvings here and there, you then marvel to yourself at how amazing it is that he is able to visualise and produce such an outstanding piece of work from just a block of wood or ice.
Since there isn't a section that talks about the cinematography or the sets or the camera-work, I will mention it here.
The cinematography, the scale of the sets and the camera-work is just beautiful. I was informed by friends conversant with the chinese netizen community that some of the directors for the show were art/photography directors, which explains why almost each shot being framed can be screenshotted into a piece of art in itself with its colours and its composition. This makes the show an incredibly beautiful one to watch with every frame and shot a feast for the eyes.
The costumes and the sets were apparently incredibly faithful to the time period in which the show is set, down to the bronze teapots and hand warmers. Court etiquette and forms of greeting and respect were appropriate and in-line with the time period too and apparently the actors had been rigorously trained by experts so that their carriage, their conversation and their movements all conformed accurately and naturally.
A great deal of care and diligence had been put into producing the series and it shows.
The show being so large and sprawling with its cast of characters, there is insufficient time to dwell on the merits of each one of them. Suffice to say that each supporting character played their parts to perfection, nary a redundant character or scene in this series. Every conversation bears some significance or the other.
Another marvel is that, in most drama series, supporting characters, even those that pitch up for maybe just an episode or two, tend to been given short-shrift in terms of their characters or personalities. Not so here. There is hardly a one-dimensional or caricature personality here. All come across real and believably alive in this series whether they be a passing character, or an antagonist, or a protagonist.
This show is alive and full of layered, nuanced and complex characters whose motivations, goals and actions are believably real and understandable, if not sympathetic. You understand where they are coming from and why they behave the way they do as more about them gets unveiled. This is a brilliance of not only the writing, but also the acting of actors playing those characters, in being able to bring them so wonderfully alive and to come across amazingly real.
Spotlight on the main lead.
HU GE, playing the main protagonist of the series is simply outstanding in his subtle, layered and nuanced portrayal of his character, Lin Shu/ Mei Changsu/ Su Zhe - why does he have so many names? Please do watch to find out, and no, it is not confusing in the slightest. Powerhouse performance from Hu Ge who has to play a sickly, restrained and controlled man who, for good reasons, have to hide his true self and keep many secrets and cards close to his chest. His quiet and subtle responses to events and news which directly affect him but which he cannot allow to give him away is mesmerising to watch, and utterly heart-breaking to see. Simply stellar stuff which I've not been able to see the equal of since.
There is not a lot of soundtrack for this series. 3 songs with vocals, and all employed sparingly but impactfully throughout the series. Most of the series is carried by brilliant moments of silence and traditional chinese instrumentals which heighten the tension where it needs to be heightened, and gives poignancy to the scenes which require poignancy. Another masterpiece in music direction as nothing detracts from the scenes but only enhances. Beautiful.
Can i just say that this show is an absolute MUST for re-watching. Not only because it is just THAT GOOD, but also because of the level of intricate detail and storytelling that goes in it. A first watch will never really allow you to fully unpack and appreciate the masterpiece that you have just seen. Scenes, conversations, camera close-ups on objects that seem inconsequential, all of these which did not make too much sense upon a first watch will make complete sense upon a re-watch, causing you to marvel even more at this show.
Seriously, if you have time to watch episode after episode of some sub-par K, C or J-drama, why not spend that time re-watching Nirvana in Fire instead?
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STORY (No spoilers)
The synopsis is a good summary of the overarching plot-line of the show. However, it is best to adjust your expectations accordingly if you were expecting a realistic depiction of military manoeuvres or setting, or of proper medical procedures or protocol. I mean, I won't say I'm an expert of both but even I could see how contrived, artificial and 'convenient' certain actions and scenes are played out. Logic or sense or the natural laws of physics, hygiene or danger should be conveniently shelved if you want to enjoy this drama.
Having established that this is a show that likes to bend its settings and circumstances for its own convenience to the plot or to the development of the relationship between characters, you can make lemonade out of lemons by inferring that common sense notwithstanding, everything that later happens on-screen is there to drive the story in a particular direction i.e. to add to the main leads' relationship building. This may cause some loss of tension during some dramatic scenes but I don't think this show is trying to sell itself as a slick military show, but instead is a romance that happens to be in a military and medical setting.
The pacing of the show is not bad, really. There is a lot of forward movement in plot and in action. The romance is actually rather cute for the first half of the show when the main male lead is on a mission to rescue the main female lead. However, once the rescue mission is over, probably in order to create some conflict so that there is some drama over the second half of the show, the romance starts entering the territory of misunderstandings, missteps, anger, unforgiveness and grovelling. Throw in some additional issues such as terrorist groups, weapons brokering, resistance movements, other love-interests plotting to separate the two, and you have quite an interesting recipe of a show (perhaps to your taste, or perhaps not?).
I personally felt that some of the charm from the initial romance fizzled out towards the second half. And that unrequited love angst and internal conflict which I was so looking forward to from the main male lead was... pretty short-lived and stunted.
I liked the panoramic pans of the mountain scenes and the jungles though! Lovely scenery in this show, where you have them.
WEIR SUKOLLAWAT - first time seeing him act in a lakorn for me and it took me a while to warm up to him because I'm a little bit of a superficial person and moustaches are not really my thing so that took some adjusting and getting used to. He is not a stiff actor though, and has a knack for carrying off cocky and cheeky personalities. I'm not quite convinced of his ability to carry the internal conflict and angst scenes though, so it was probably just as well that they were not too prolonged. He was a good enough leading man for me in this show, but not really a standout performance.
PEAK PATTARASAYA - was also serviceable enough as our main female lead. Perhaps it is the character script but I quite liked her for the first half of the show as a rather assertive but kind volunteer doctor out in the jungle but once the romance hit the rocks after the rescue mission, her character sort of went into a bit of a tailspin, which was a pity.
I quite like the supporting casts though! The Krating team members, the various key people in the resistance groups, especially Chayin, were nice additions to the drama. I also liked seeing how the second female doctor evolved through the series.
On the whole, this lakorn was not sticky or absorbing enough for me to consider re-watching it again.
However, overall, it is not a bad romance drama placed within a military and medical setting. Don't expect any 'Descendents of the Sun' production slickness or any proper realism from a military or medical perspective and you're good to go!
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STORY (No spoilers)
Set in a fictional time with three fictional kingdoms just barely maintaining a fine balance amongst each other, this lakorn nicely sets the scene by immediately introducing a key circumstance which threatens to throw this fine balance off-course. The King of Kasik has engaged himself to the Princess of Danta in what looks to be a win-win situation for both countries. Bandurath, stuck in the middle between these two countries, nervously observes in anxious anticipation. On the day when Kasik was to receive the Princess of Danta at the tri-point - the place where all three of the countries were connected - things took an exciting turn when said Princess fled into Bandurath soil to escape from the marriage. Clearly a diplomatic faux pas on epic proportions, this event sets off a whole series of future events and circumstance which would impact all three royal families like never before.
Does this premise sound intriguing? If it does, then you should really consider watching this lakorn despite its 1996-age tag. Yes, the video quality is not as sharp nor as bright and pleasing to the eyes as the newer HD lakorns these days, but I have to admit that considering its over-20 year age tag, it was not a completely fuzzy blur either. The outdoor open-air scenes were more than serviceable in quality with the indoor and night-time scenes being a little more patchy. It was still a decent watch, so if this is a sticking point, be encouraged to give this show a try because it is the story that will pull you in.
Being a romance-junkie, I am naturally a sucker for fairytale romances, especially of fairytale romances done right. This one charmed me off my feet with its delightful characters and simple but nicely-developed story. The romance between our main leads was this slow simmering bubbling burn with the intensity ratcheting up a little more episode by episode, and I don't know about you but I found myself getting goosebumps from it despite its restrained and conservative nature. So delicious!
Our main leads weren't the only ones to have a love story too - there are two other secondary couples also slowly being created alongside our main one. Each couple has its own very different dynamic from the others which can make for a refreshing change to the tempo, if you like that sort of thing. I, for one, was heartily absorbed in our main leads' romance, but I did appreciate the change of scene and intensity whenever it was these couples' turn on-screen. I think I might have slowly self-combusted under the main male lead's smouldering gazes if there was not a change of scene, lol.
And on that note, it is worth mentioning that the pacing in this lakorn is one that is measured and sedate - there are quite a few scenes where the camera takes its time to pan on the scenery or on the characters, which allows the scene to sink in and sit with you. This heightens and draws out the emotional scenes but some people might also find it to be too slow and too draggy. It is definitely a directorial style and dramatic license employed by the production team but I personally think that it adds and builds on the fairytale nature of the show, and therefore appropriate.
The kingdom politics does feature itself fairly regularly in between - inevitable considering the whole setup and premise of the show. It is not too over-powering though, and not too complicated to have lost you either. While some may be tempted to fast-forward through these scenes, I would like to encourage you to try and sit through them because they're not too heavily political but it does lend the show a more weighty and rounded dimension and it gives you added insights into the internal motivations of our characters too. And some of the banter between the ministers of each of the three countries can be rather amusing too.
Which brings me to one of the best parts of the show, in my opinion: the dialogue. I love the dialogue. It's not face-value words but, like your old classic literature, there are implied things and under-tones hidden amongst what is being said, and the repartee between our main leads, or those between the King of Kasik and his two loyal bodyguards (Benli and Rajik), are full of humour and hidden, implied statements. Such witty and clever banter is such a rarity in shows these days that I particularly appreciated and enjoyed it here. And the King of Kasik's romantic lines? Goosebumps-inducing stuff.
Final word on the production value. Not very high but I personally think it was decent considering its time and the scale of the story's setting. I surprisingly liked the unpretentious nature of this show but I also acknowledge that there are weaknesses in some of its sets. Minor issue for me, but I know this is a subjective opinion.
While the show does provide generous amounts of screen-time for our main leads, it didn't forget to also allow its supporting and side characters to shine by giving them space to grow too. There are plenty of different personalities in this show, which is one of the things which make it charming for me because they add a lot of variety and spice. No real cardboard cut-out characters or crazy antagonists here. Another refreshing change from your modern-day lakorns. Each character down to the ministers, the bodyguards and the ladies-in-waiting were nicely and humanly portrayed, which helps to make this show come alive.
Spotlight on the main leads:
NAT MYRIA BENEDETTI as Darshika, Princess of Bandurath, was a good casting choice. She was beautiful and carried herself regally throughout the show, befitting her character as the intelligent, noble and strong-willed princess who captured the heart of a King. I loved her character in this show, and I loved how Nat portrayed her throughout. She was entirely believable as someone born into royalty from birth and given all the education and teaching in kingdom politics and operations so that she would be an able support and helper to her brother, the Crown Prince of Bandurath. She had the haughty dignity of her station, but could also be warm and kind to those serving around and under her. In short, she was royalty personified. Well done to Nat here.
NUM SORNRAM TAPPITUK as Rangsimant, King of Kasik, was also great casting choice. His complexion, his hair and his looks which gave him a tribal, warrior-type vibe was very appropriate for the savage reputation of Kasikans. Especially when you contrast him with the Crown Prince of Bandurath who had a very european look (the Bandurathian royal family have very european looks in this show - nice consistent casting call here).
I liked how Num was able to show so many sides to this initially enigmatic and mysterious King. There were so many rumours about him, and his reputation as a savage had definitely preceded him, so it was interesting to see whether he would live up to them or not. Num did have this aura of command, and his serious, stern facade added weight to his kingly character. But it was his ability to show how differently Rangsimant's approach to Darshika was (which was very sweet) that sold his character for me. You could see his passionate, tender and caring side through his interactions with her. The soulful, smouldering looks he gives her, coupled with his romantic lines, can genuinely incur goosebumps. His King of Kasik was my favourite character in this lakorn - many thanks to Num for bringing him to life here!
I liked the music in this show. The background score reminds me very much of the old epic HK dramas I used to watch - very much a product of its time but one which I enjoyed. I also liked the songs in this show - those with vocals or their instrumental versions. I thought the background music and score were generally very well-employed throughout the show and there were some scenes which were made a lot more impactful because of them. Nicely done.
I don't have many Asian fairytale romance dramas in my database to enjoy so this show has entered my store of shows with a very high re-watch value as a result. Dated production value aside, this show has been enthralling, captivating and charming. I wished I had more episodes of it to watch, gah.
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