DIE NOW (2017) Review – Chose hope

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Titles: 端脑 (Duan Nao) / Die Now / Welcome To Die Now


Cast:

  • Zhu Yuan Bing as Xia Chi
  • Jiang Yi Yi as Qing Zhi
  • Yang Qi Yu as Meng Qin
  • Huang Yi Lin as Chu Xu Xiang
  • Xie Jia Jian (Melvin Sia) as Bo Bian
  • Zhao Yi Huan as I7

Directed by: Yu Zhong Zhong

Based on: Comic “Die Now” by Bi Shui Yu


Plot (from Wiki):

Die Now tells the story about a college student who becomes involved in a mysterious hunting game while trying to find his missing girlfriend.

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Review:

Die Now is the series adaptation of a very popular homonymous comic. I started watching the series without knowing anything, neither its plot nor its cast. It came like an impulse, in a moment when I didn’t know what to watch. Therefore, I had no expectations, but this wasn’t the reason why I immediately felt dazzled.

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The comic is very popular in China and it’s famous because its ending can be understood by very few people

(SPOILERS) Die Now (DN) has a very original premise: there’s a mysterious association that developed a spine-chilling game. This game, called Duan Nao (Die Now, in its english version), happens in a parallel world with its own rules. Players are faced to extreme situations in which their morals and limits are defied. We are talking about hunting, tricking and murdering games. In most cases, the only way to survive is to kill the other, who seconds before could have been your friend or comrade. In this kind of environment, it’s perfectly understandable why the main rule in DN world is to not trust anyone.

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Welcome to Die Now

Well, this is the world in which our main character, Xia Chi (Zhu Yuan Bing) is thrown after his girlfriend suddenly disappears. Xia Chi is an university student who joins the inference club in order to be in contact with a beautiful girl, Qing Zhi. Not long afterwards, he starts dating Qing Zhi, being naively but profoundly in love.

His best friend’s (Meng Qi) uncle is a police officer who once worked in a strange murder. The victim was a man called Ji Lu, a famous inference expert with an also celebrated inference novelist friend, Xue Xin. They would like to exchange correspondence, competing their inference and deduction skills. They were good friends, but without any warning, Xue Xin murdered Ji Lu. It would have been the perfect murder (without any incriminating evidence), if Xue Xin wouldn’t have received a new letter from Ji Lu after his death. He got caught when he returned to the crime scene, trying to find the truth about that letter. When asked about his motive, he said he just wanted to kill someone, to commit the perfect crime. Time later, Xue Xin could not remember any reason why he murdered his friend.

Qing Zhi disappears just after she calls Xia Chi for help, telling him that she had received a letter from Ji Lu. When Xia Chi and Meng Qi arrives to her room, they find out that not only Qing Zhi is missing, but also everything concerning to her existence. What’s more, anyone excepting them, could remember Qing Zhi, assuring that no one with that name ever existed. Uniquely a letter with strange numbers is left.

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One man, one mission: save Qing Zhi

Xia Chi is heartbroken, but he is determined to save Qing Zhi at any cost. The said letter is a coding to access to the DN world. Without any prior information or knowledge, Xia Chi and Meng Chi enters in Die Now. A creepy and robotic woman welcomes them, stating they must set up a player card to enter the game. They do as said but only Xia Chi goes in while Meng Qi waits for him.

Every game is different, based on different criterions: one vs. one, one vs. group, group vs. group. In some of them, there’s an undercover killer (one vs. group) whose mission is to kill the rest without being discovered. In others, everyone fights for his own interests. Alliances, treasons, tricking… For an extremely intelligent, but too innocent and good-hearted Xia Chi, it’s harsh at first to catch up with the rules.

What makes the games even more thrilling is how its rules changes in every match. The players must deduce and discover them. Sometimes alliance is essential, but for DN players, who are used to distrust and manipulation, human bounds and trust can be even more difficult than killing someone.

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Xia Chi is awesome at inference and problem resolution, but DN defies his limits

In this point, it’s important to talk about DN dying. Each time you win a game, you get points. These points can be exchanged in what’s called the “win-world” (the place where winners go) for huge amounts of money and time to rest (since the time between each game is too short to let players rest). When losing a game, DN takes off a specific amount of points. This has significant consequences. If your points decrease to 0, you can continue playing. However, if your points decrease under 0 (to any negative value), you will die in the real world under any circumstance (ding, ding, that’s what happened with Ji Lu, his DN points decreased to a negative value and he died without explanation…).  In addition to the points, after every game the system evaluates the player’s performance, ascribing a rank.

In short, Xia Chi must gain points and be promoted in rank, so he’s able to discover DN’s secrets. He needs to win, losing a game isn’t an option. Still, Xia Chi choses to trust. He believes in friendship but also wants to save Qing Zhi. He knows he must take bad decisions in which people can be hurt, but will always assure the damage is the least (that no one’s points decrease under 0).

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Detective Xia

I believe DN’s best part resides in its cases, so I won’t elaborate. Most of the times, you will feel like you are watching a detective show. I found particularly interesting how Xia Chi faced every obstacle, drawing up brilliant strategies without losing his morals. Okay, sometimes the resolution could feel rushed (especially how ideas seemed to sprout from nowhere), but we are talking about a 20 episodes series. On the whole, the games, their process and resolution were compelling enough. Also, regarding to special effects and scenography, they did an astonishing work. I was really surprised in this sense, because webdramas usually don’t have big budgets and its lack tend to be quite evident.

Talking about the games, I’m mentioning the ones in which Xia Chi takes part (without any elaboration):

  1. The introduction game
  2. The lying maze
  3. The outdoor survival
  4. The race
  5. The dinner of Agatha Christie
  6. The intelectual duel with Bo Bian
  7. The ring: the endless loop
  8. The last enigma
  9. The final challenge: Die Now (to be continued)
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My favourite ones may be the lying maze, the endless loop and the last enigma

As for Zhu Yuan Bing’s acting, I will highlight some aspects. The first is his voice (it’s not dubbed), it took me some time to get used to that tone. Not unpleasant but felt a little high-pitched in some cases. (Zhu Yuan Bing also appeared in a minor role in Promise of Migratory Birds, what surprised me because well, I can’t remember who or where he was… ●︿●) His performance here is good. He’s an adorable dorkie with lovely expressions. His interactions with the females are sweet, also poignant when it comes to Qing Zhi. The only lack I would point out are the crying scenes, but overall he was good enough.

In DN’s games, there’s also GM, the host (never seen, always heard). He immediately got on well with Xia Chi, because he could hear his thoughts and they could communicate telepathically. A significant fact is that singer Liu Wei is the one who gives GM voice. I instantly recognized that voice since the very first episode!

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Chu Xu Xiang becomes Xia Chi’s valued support and friend

Actress Huang Yi Lin plays the role of Chu Xu Xiang, a player Xia Chi meets in the second game (the lying maze). It’s interesting to see how their relationship progressed from complete mistrust to a very tender friendship. Chu Xu Xiang fell for Xia Chi, but knowing he already has a girlfriend, she decides to help him save Qing Zhi and later fight for him on equal terms with her.

She isn’t especially clever, often too impulsive and emotional, but she’s what can be considered a good actress. She acts like a naive and fearful girl who doesn’t know what to do, awaiting for a chance to get rid of her enemy. Deep down, she’s hurt due to the many times she was tricked by people in which she trusted. Something which eventually led her to mistrust everyone and pay them back in their own coin… Until she meets Xia Chi (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧

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Meng Qin’s actor sings the intro of DN

Meng Qi, Xia Chi’s best friend, is played by Yang Qi Yu. He’s just another big dorky who happens to also be quite intelligent. He joins the game later, unveiling along his friend more secrets about DN. He’s good-hearted and kind too, but unlike Xia Chi, doubts about how human’s heart can be twisted by extreme events.

(Note: Remember the win-world? That’s a place where only winners go. It’s a dreamy world where DN points can be exchange by literally everything. Something important here is how the win-world is recreated according to the real world and its information. For example, the real world Qing Zhi disappeared in DN’s game, but in Xia Chi’s win-world, there’s a false Qing Zhi, based on the real one).

Even before Meng Qi joins the game, in Xia Chi’s win-world he (the false Meng Qi) suddenly appeared with a girlfriend, a girl never known before. That’s very notable considering that a nonexistent element of the real world can’t appear in the win-world. This is the reason why Meng Qi discovered his supposed girlfriend was an impostor, although she was in fact Ji Lu’s nephew and only wanted to unmask and expose DN.

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Smiley

Bo Bian (Xie Jia Jian) is at first, Xia Chi’s biggest enemy. He is presented as a perversed and wicked man, strangely interested in Xia Chi, who he would call “Xiao Ke Ai” (literally meaning “little adorable”). He’s outrageous and ruthless, with the habit of taking photos of his victims. Yet, on the real world, he loves animals, especially dogs.

Since the beginning, he wants to fight Xia Chi, check who is the best. This doesn’t happen until Xia Chi needed his help to save Qing Zhi, something he only agreed by accepting a duel.

I thought some of his gestures were too much, but after some while, I end up thanking his presence and the somehow hilarious scenes he provokes.

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Qing Zhi’s disappearance motivated the whole story

About our female lead, Qing Zhi (Jiang Yi Yi). In contrast to what Xia Chi knew, she joins the inference club in order to approach him. Some years before, Qing Zhi had an inhibited and dull life. Although living in a very rich family, she wasn’t happy. Her father arranged a marriage with a guy she didn’t like, but accepted to date him. In one of these dates, at the cinema, the guy abandoned her after a fire started. Qing Zhi, trapped under a sign, became aware of her imminent death. Just then, a boy appeared and risked his life to save her, promising that nothing would happen to her as long he was alive. That boy was no one else but Xia Chi. His words deeply moved Qing Zhi, who changed her life, but the boy left the hospital before she could thank him. They meet again in university, ‘though Xia Chi didn’t recognize her.

When Qing Zhi received the letter from Ji Lu, there’s also a DN’s game card. Somehow, Qing Zhi is thrown into Ji Lu’s game. Notice here that Ji Lu was a veteran player and Qing Zhi knew nothing about DN. She is immediately trapped in the game, entering an endless loop in which a moving wall repeatedly crushes her to death. This game is the last enigma, the match Ji Lu couldn’t resolve, which ended up killing him.

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Everything was flawless with the false Qing Zhi, but Xia Chi knew everything was fake

While Qing Zhi is trapped in the last enigma, a false Qing Zhi is created in Xia Chi’s win-world. He doesn’t know she’s false at first, but after being aware of this, he isn’t able to reject a person looking the same as Qing Zhi. Eventually, they sincere. The false Qing Zhi knows Xia Chi will leave her to save the real one, which means she will disappear. But the false Qing Zhi has already fallen in love. She wants to protect Xia Chi, so she enters the game when he goes into the last enigma.

She pretends to be the real Qing Zhi, but after being discovered, helps Xia Chi to achieve his mission. In fact, the last enigma couldn’t be resolved without her help, and that’s the reason why the real Qing Zhi or Ji Lu couldn’t clear it up. I was moved by the concept: a group of codes falling in love and willing to sacrife for his lover. Maybe it’s due to the lack of scenes with the real Qing Zhi, but in the end I felt far more attached to the false one.

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Saving the person you love is a great purpose

Furthermore, Xia Chi and Qing Zhi’s romance is simple. That’s something I liked. It’s nothing pompous or intricated. They chose to center their attention in the games, and that was a wise decision. Through Xia Chi’s determination and gestures you could really see how much he loved Qing Zhi. For example, when they reunite in the last enigma (although it was the false Qing Zhi at that moment), Xia Chi used his own body to protect her when the wall moved forward.


Conclusion:

Die Now is a dark horse. Although being limited by the number of episodes, they did a stunning work with the special effects and the scenography. The games development were also magnetizing and original. Despite, the OST depended too much on its intro song, being basically the only one used throughout the episodes. In this sense, some scenes (like false Qing Zhi’s final one) would have been potentiated by an appropiate song.

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Die Now counted on with special guest appearances as well: singer Liu Wei, singer Wang Su Long (Silence Wang), actress Zhang Yu Xi… And even though its main cast wasn’t too famous, they made a good job and took advantage of this chance to shine.

Finally, I like the message Xia Chi’s character transmits. We have to survive, of course, but we should never betray our values. World can be a terrible place, but there are still many things to look forward and people we want to protect. As Xia Chi himself said, we must always chose hope.

All in all, as for me, I’m absolutely watching season 2!

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It took us four months to shoot the first season of 20 episodes, which includes 3.752 special effect shots and 86 actors involved as game players – Die Now’s producer.


  • Plot: 20/20
  • Cast: 19/20
  • OST: 8/10
  • Scenography: 10/10
  • Costume: 10/10
  • Overall: 9.6/10

 

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MEDICAL EXAMINER DR. QIN (2016) Review – The magic trio

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Titles: 法医秦明 (Fa Yi Qin Ming) / Medical Examiner Dr. Qin / Dr. Qin Medical Examiner


Cast:

  • Zhang Ruo Yun as Qin Ming
  • Jiao Jun Yan as Li Da Bao
  • Li Xian as Lin Tao
  • Qu Jing Jing as Chi Zi
  • Cheng Hao Feng as Wu Li Xue / Chen Biao
  • Deng Hao as Li Xu
  • Hou Ming Hao as Li Da Gou

Directed by: Xu Ang

Based on: “Di Shi Yi Geng Shou Zhi” (Translation: “The Eleventh Finger“) by Qin Ming


Plot (from Wiki):

Qin Ming’s assistant resigned because of his unbearable and quirky temper. Li Da Bao of the Department of Mark Inspection was ordered to join the working group. At the beginning, Qin Ming doesn’t trust the girl but he found later she has very good reasoning and observation capabilities. The critical Qin Ming decides to have her on the board. Later on, along with his detective friend Lin Tao and assistant Da Bao, Qin Ming uncovered a variety of bizarre cases.

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Review:

Medical Examiner Dr. Qin (MEDQ) is a 20 episodes web series based on “The Eleventh Finger“, a novel written by Qin Ming, real-life forensic doctor. Due to this, the procedure and investigation of the cases in MEDQ are pretty realistic and accurate.

Since MEDQ is getting a second season, with a whole new cast, I thought it was a good moment to write this review.

(SPOILERS) Throughout 20 episodes, we see our main characters resolve 9 different minor cases and 1 major case involving Qin Ming himself.

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I’ll first sum up the different cases of MEDQ and then talk about the characters as usual

CASE 1 (episodes 1-2): MEDQ starts its story with the macabre murder of a couple. Police arrest a guy who uses sewer oil to cook, but find what it seems to be human bones in the remains. The forensic doctor Qin Ming is called by Lin Tao, his police officer friend. His last assistant resigned as a result of Qin Ming’s bad temperament. The new assistant is Li Da Bao, a girl rejected at first by Qin Ming, but who soon proves to be a real gem (her name literally means “great treasure”).

Through investigation, the trio finds out a plumber who once went to the couple’s house. This plumber likes to steal women’s underwear. Deeply disturbed, he returns to the couple’s house in order to steal underwear of the woman, but is discovered by her. In that moment, he decides to kill both, the woman and her husband. He cut them into pieces, pulling off their skin, and cooking them.

The murder is powerful enough to catch viewers’ attention, but its settlement and the culprit’s motive felt too rushed and unclear. It was the trio’s first case and Da Bao’s chance to prove herself in front of a very critical Qin Ming.

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The development of MEDQ’s cases is fast but interesting enough

CASE 2 (episodes 3-4): Two swimmers find a beheaded body in the river. The body is full of stones and had been drown in water for several days, which make even more difficult his identification. The beheaded man is a compulsive gambler, well-known because of his bad temper and a controversial past. The trio follows the trails and meets his millionaire brother, fatally sick since childhood, and an hospitalized mother. The murderer is the brother himself, who took off his organs and heart to make a transplant. The millionaire brother was angry because he would always make their mother suffer, gambling and being a troublemaker; but in the end, he regretted after knowing his brother had already decided to stop betting, even cutting off his own finger.

CASE 3 (episodes 4-5): A dead woman is found in the woods, tied and without one back tooth. The investigation shows how she had a mysterious boyfriend but broke up due to his parents’ opposition. Later, she posted her profile in dating sites, emphasizing she’s a virgin. In one of these sites, she meets a so-called affluent 2nd generation guy. This man was obsessed with a virgin woman with whom he could achieve the purest love. When the woman broke up with him in order to get back with her ex-boyfriend, he found out she’d never loved him and how she lied about being a virgin.

The culprit confessed someone told him the truth of the woman in exchange of her back tooth. This is the first case where the “back tooth removal ritual” appears, a crucial detail in Qin Ming’s later major case.

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Alike every crime drama main character, Qin Ming has a dark past

CASE 4 (episodes 5-6-7): In an Halloween themed party, a woman collapses and dies in front of everyone. The woman was a paparazzi, fell out with many people as a consequence of bad practices and immoral acts. Although having lots of stabbing marks, Qin Ming and Da Bao concludes she died due to a terrible fright. In the past, the paparazzi once posted the photos of a schoolmate with and old man, standing in front of an hotel. She spread indecent rumors regarding to this photo, incitating her boyfriend to break up with her and to be criticized by everyone. The girl, incapable of bearing the pressure, eventually suicided. Later it was revealed that the girl was only accompanying her uncle to his hotel. The boy who broke up with her went to pieces and swore to avenge her at any cost.

Many years later, someone (supposedly the same someone as the previous case) found a girl almost identical to his dead girlfriend. He started dating with her and in that Halloween party, he convinced her to give the victim a scare. The paparazzi, diagnosed with a heart disease, was (literally) scared to death when she saw a person identical to the girl she killed.

CASE 5 (episodes 8-9): One night a couple calls the police after seeing a monstrous figure in the lake. A dying old man is found there, but it’s already too late to save him. The victim was diagnosed with a insanity disease and had one adopted son. At the beginning, the death seemed like an accident (or a suicide) so Qin Ming and Da Bao couldn’t make a forensic analysis, but after proving it was a murder, they conclude that the killer was his adopted son. He wanted to sell the old man’s company, but he wouldn’t accept. After an argument, he ended up killing his father.

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Someone seems to be very interested in Qin Ming’s cases

CASE 6 (episodes 9-10): A child’s corpse is found in a bin. His body is strangely covered with different wounds and marks. The victim’s best friend is called, he’s visibly nervous but the police doesn’t suspect him at first. Part of the victim’s wounds are consequence of a quarrel he had with a bully, and another part was caused by one of his friend’s beating (he would pay the victim in order to train his boxing abilities). Still, the magic trio can’t explain the origin of the rest of wounds. When new evidence is found, they discover that the victim died next to his best friend’s house. His best friend, after being arrested, confessed they had an argument in which he ended up smacking him. He’s convinced that he killed the victim and is deeply sorry, but Da Bao realized something after meeting the victim’s step-mother (who also had one child, therefore, his step-brother). The victim craved to leave the town in order to find her mother, who abandoned him many years ago. For this purpose, he tried to raise money at any cost, even letting that kid beat him. When he finally gathered enough money, he found out, much to his dismay, that his step-brother had took everything and tore it off (he took the money as something to play, didn’t mean it nastily). He started scolding and hitting him, just to be found by his step-mother, who separated them and angrily kicked him with her high-heeled shoes. Those final marks were precisely caused by these shoes. So, even ‘though the victim died after the quarrel with his best friend, the real murderer was no one but that abusive step-mother.

Personally, this case may be my favourite (along with case 8). I think they made a great job dealing with such a delicate subject. I was moved by how reality destroyed a child’s dreams, which consisted on finding her mother and a real home where he would be loved. Children should be protected and amassed. I’m happy that the magic trio could find the truth and do justice for him.

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The trio has a place near office where they like to spend time together and eat

CASE 7 (episodes 10-11): A corpse is found in a well, but the owner isn’t the culprit. The magic trio investigates in the surroundings. Da Bao realizes that the bag used by the killer is a characteristic bag used to wrap tofu. Meanwhile, Qin Ming concludes that the killer had a bicicle. For this reason, they start searching for someone with a bicicle who had bought tofu in the last days. An old man, who happened to be the victim’s brother, fit with these. Being arrested, he confess  he killed his brother because he had have an affair with his wife since before their marriage. The son who he has raised was also fruit of this affair.

CASE 8 (episodes 11-12): In a filming location, the props master is found dead with a fatal shot. While Qin Ming and Lin Tao investigate, Da Bao meets the victim’s wife. She realizes how frightened and nervous she seems. There’s enough evidence to presume she was suffering domestic abuse. She explains how his husband (the victim) would went crazy everytime he got drunk, beating her and her child. The night he died, he got drunk and returned home to take a rifle, ready to kill someone. The wife tried to stop him, but after the quarrel, she ended up shooting him. The victim’s mother, aware of his son’s wickedness, found them and took her away, telling her to calm down and pretend nothing happened.

As I mentioned, this case and case 6 were my favourite ones. I loved the moral dilemma they faced when realizing that even ‘though the wife killed her husband, she was the real victim. As a result, Qin Ming changed subtly his report, trying to help the woman. Although we know this shouldn’t be done, we can’t but sympathize her and support Qin Ming’s decision.

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Small details are the key

CASE 9 (episodes 12-13-14): a burning suitcase is found in an abandoned area. Inside, there’s a dead man. The trio finds out his identity through the suitcase’s brand and the missing people reports. The victim is a doctor of a small clinic. He had an affair with a married woman, who became along with his rich husband the main suspects. After discarting them through a DNA test, the evidence point at an ex-convict, but the police is unable to find him anywhere. Just then, Da Bao and Qin Ming realize some strange details in the rich husband’s appearance and behaviour. The first time they did the DNA test, his teeth were well-kept and white, but the second time they met (only one or two days later), his teeth seemed like the ones of a drug addict. Also, Qin Ming found how all his personal photos and mirrows had been removed from his house.

The truth is that the rich husband had a brother, identical to him, who happened to be the ex-convict. Many years before, the first hit-and-ran a person while driving, and his brother (the later ex-convict) accepted the blame in his place after his father promised he would receive half of the family wealth. His father died before he was released and after then, his brother turned against him, washing his hands. Being a ex-convict and a drug addict, he can barely survive. When the rich man discovers his wife’s affair, he hires his ex-convict brother to kill the doctor. He accepts but has other additional plans. After killing the doctor, he also murders his brother and takes his identity, making an almost tacit deal with the wife to keep her quiet.

I think this was the “big case” before the major one in which Qin Ming is personally implicated. The case was okay and the details that gave the culprit away were really interesting and intelligent.

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Now Qin Ming must face his past

From episode 14 to the end, we see Qin Ming’s major case. Qin Ming’s father was also a forensic doctor, but died in strange circumstances, accused of being related to a crime. Qin Ming always wanted to prove his innocence. When the mysterious person who had been taking part in his cases (the back tooth removal) sent him an human tooth and some documents relating to his father case, he starts investigating the truth.

I must say that, in comparison to the other 9 cases; this case, which was supposed to be the most imposing and important of the series, felt quite “poor” and unimpressive. Of course, we suffer when Qin Ming is unfairly accused and later arrested, and also admire Da Bao for finding the crucial evidence to prove his innocence, but the case itself wasn’t outstanding.

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Why is the forensic doctor, instead of the police, the target of Chi Zi’s revenge? Because he’s the main character… 

I believe this is mostly due to the villain: Chi Zi (Qu Jing Jing). She is the owner of the restaurant where the magic trio likes to hang around. Qin Ming found the evidence that made police to imprison his husband (a rapist), the day of their wedding. His father, unable to withstand it, died, leaving Chi Zi disheartened and eager for revenge.

 

Through unlikely scheming and planning, she spent years to set an enormous tramp for Qin Ming. She investigated the truth about his father’s death, took advantage of it, and used it as a bait to draw in his attention. Her story and motives were too forced. It’s just illogical how he hated Qin Ming for what happened, instead of the police or whoever in charge of that case. No reason could explain it apart from the fact that Qin Ming is the main character and they needed an evil villain obsessed with him. Moreover, it’s unlikely how Chi Zi knew so much details about the cases Qin Ming investigated.

In a final and desperate attempt, Chi Zi kidnapps Da Bao and threatens to kill her. Fortunately, we get a happy ending in which our magic trio continues doing justice.

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Following, I’m introducing them one by one

Lin Tao (Li Xian) is the police officer of the magic trio. His acting is accurate, charismatic and noble. He’s Qin Ming’s best friend and their interactions are some of the funniest parts of the show. In one of them, he tries to pair Qin Ming with Da Bao by getting them together in a date. He orders a bouquet of flowers for Da Bao, in Qin Ming’s name. Qin Ming takes the flowers before she find out, and later goes to return them to Lin Tao. Just then, Da Bao comes and sees Qin Ming offering flowers to Lin Tao, assuming they are lovers.

Another funny fact about Lin Tao is his girlfriend (Bao Bao). It’s said that MEDQ had such a reduced budget that they couldn’t hire an actress to perform Bao Bao’s role. Therefore, we never see Lin Tao’s girlfriend (neither Qin Ming or Da Bao had seen her), but there are many scenes in which Lin Tao phones her. Qin Ming and Da Bao teases him by saying that Bao Bao might be false or imaginary.

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Zhang Ruo Yun perfectly fits Qin Ming’s role

Qin Ming (Zhang Ruo Yun) is our main character, the forensic doctor or medical examiner of the group. He’s extremely talented and intelligent, but a traumatic past and a weird personality made him very inaccessible to people. Still, he’s kind and good-hearted. His interactions with Da Bao and Lin Tao are heart-warming and funny, showing that friendship (and love) bring out the best of him.

Some remarkable scenes: that one in which Qin Ming measures Da Bao to make her a dress, the one in which the magic trio eats “Xiao Long Xia” (photo above) and Qin Ming literally dissects the lobsters, and the one in which Qin Ming and Da Bao talks about virginity.

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A true treasure

Finally, Jiao Jun Yan made another great performance as Li Da Bao. This weird, but smart and good-natured woman is, as her name promises, “a big treasure”. I immediately fell for that haircut and those round glasses. Apart from her ability searching for tracks, Da Bao has a highly developed sense of smell, making her an human police dog.

I loved how confidence she is, constantly proving herself when anyone dared to underrate her (including Qin Ming). I was deeply hurt when she was rejected by her dating match for being a medical examiner, but also moved by her passion and determination to the profession.


Conclusion:

Medical Examiner Dr. Qin can be considered a pioneer in its genre. They depict ten cases in a very brief amount of time (20 episodes not exceeding 40 minutes). The minor cases were interesting enough, in contrast of the major case, which lacked of sense and appeal. Maybe, following more clichéd plots, they forced everything too much to create a traumatized hero with a terrible past. The writters seemed to have forgotten MEDQ already had its own charm with such a lovely trio.

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Another shortcoming it’s the OST, which was accurate but not memorable. The scenography was good and sober, impressive enough.

In short, MEDQ is, alike its main character, original and charismatic. For any fan of this genre (crime-detective-police), this is a must watch.

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  • Plot: 17/20
  • Cast: 17/20
  • OST: 6/10
  • Scenography: 9.5/10
  • Costume: 10/10
  • Overall: 8.5/10

THE ETERNAL LOVE (2017) Review – A very pleasant surprise

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Titles: 双世宠妃 (Shuang Shi Chong Fei) / The Eternal Love


Cast:

  • Liang Jie as Qu Tan Er / Qu Xiao Tan / Qu Xiang Tan
  • Xing Zhao Lin as Mo Lian Cheng (8th Prince) / Lian Cheng
  • Wang Rui Chang as Mo Yi Huai (Crown Prince) / Mo Yi Feng
  • Xin Rui Qi as Zhao Qing Yun
  • Sun Yi Ning as Jing Xin
  • Zhong Qi as Qu Pan Er
  • Wang Hao Ge as Mo Jing Xuan (14th Prince)
  • Hu Chun Yong as Yu Hao

Directed by: Yuan De

Based on: “Hilarious Pampered Consort: Lord I Will Wait for Your Divorce written” by Fan Que


Plot (from Wiki):

The Eternal Love is set in the fictional Dongyue country where the princes fight for the throne. Due to some mystical force, Qu Tan Er (Liang Jie) develops two different personalities: she occasionally switches from gentle and reserved to uncivilized and bold. She is being offered to the eight prince Mo Lian Cheng (Xing Zhao Lin) for marriage, but Lian Cheng is suspicious of Tan Er’s relationship with the crown prince for whom she once tried to commit suicide. Nonetheless, Tan Er slowly manages to gain his trust with her bold and bubbly personality and the two end up falling deeply in love. However, her other gentle personality is still yearning for the crown prince and wishes to help him become king…

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Review:

I thought I would never watch a series with such a premise. Studying psychology had made me quite critical towards things like “split personality”, so when I first read the synopsis I dismissed the show. However, maybe due to the endining of Princess Agents, I changed my mind and decided to give it a try.

The Eternal Love (TEL) is a webdrama with only 24 episodes (each one with less than 40 minutes). Therefore, you won’t regret losing precious time in case it doesn’t happen to be your cup of tea. Still, I think it’s almost impossible to not fall in love with the series. And here’s why:

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The story of how (Princess Agents’ character) Yue Qi became the 8th prince of Dongyue

(SPOILERS) Qu Tan Er (Liang Jie) is the illegitimate daughter of an important noble in Dongyue’s realm. She and her biological mother are constantly bullied by her stepsister (Qu Pan Er) and her mother. This situation gets worse after Tan Er met and fell in love with the Crown Prince, Mo Yi Huai. Sadly, the lovers are split when the Emperor orders the Crown Prince to marry Qu Pan Er and at the same time, arranges a marriage between Tan Er and 8th Prince, Mo Lian Cheng. Tan Er can’t accept this and tries to suicide.

Her suicide attempt doesn’t work out and Tan Er must face the truth of having lost Mo Yi Huai but also, some strange phenomenons start happening. Tan Er realizes her mind randomly goes blank and suffers memory lapses. Meanwhile, her maid (Jing Xin) assures she did and said a lot of crazy things, nothing typical of her. According to this, in those memory lapses, Tan Er seems to become an entirely different person: rude, daring and defiant. Besides, Jing Xin reveals her alter ego is, for some reason, obsessed with searching a “bed”. Tan Er concludes she may have been possessed by a spirit or got sick.

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Tan Er and Crown Prince, Mo Yi Huai, were deeply in love

The truth is that Qu Tan Er is now sharing the same body with a 21st century woman: Qu Xiao Tan. She doesn’t understand how she ended up in Dongyue and craves to return to her era. The unique clue she has is the vague memory of an exquisite bed engraved with strange words. She desesperatedly looks for this bed, sure that it will bring her home.

Xiao Tan is totally different from Tan Er. Whilst Tan Er was raised to be a lady, Xiao Tan is what we could call a “tough girl”. Unlike Tan Er, she doesn’t let anyone bully her and basically does and says whatever she wants, not fearing anyone or anything. Also, she loves to swear (it’s extremely funny to see how she insults Dong Yue’s people in a modern and incomprehensible language).

In this point, I must praise Liang Jie, this unknown actress I never met before, who considered every detail to portray such different personalities. Liang Jie paid great attention to the tone of voice, the gestures and the attitude towards every character. Through her acting, you could perfectly guess who is the one you are facing: if Tan Er or Xiao Tan.

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Am I the only one who thinks Liang Jie looks like “My Amazing Boyfriend” actress (Janice) Wu Qian?

After some time, Tan Er and Xiao Tan become aware of their problem and come up with a method to communicate: via Jing Xin, they exchange letters and somehow tries to keep the other self under control. Despite Mo Yi Huai is now married with Qu Pan Er, Tan Er still loves him and wants to help him to reach the throne. With this aim, she is decided to take advantage of her marriage with 8th Prince, spying on him and searching for useful information. The Qu family wants her to do this too, since Mo Yi Huai’s success would also guarantee Qu Pan Er’s position as the Empress.

Xiao Tan is not aware of Tan Er’s intentions. All she wants is going back to 21st century. When she discovers the bed she has been searching for in Mo Lian Cheng’s room, she starts approaching to him. At first, Mo Lian Cheng would always get on Xiao Tan’s wick, irritating and annoying her; but gradually, they fall in love. No need to say Mo Yi Huai and Mo Lian Cheng are brought into conflict due to the throne, so the fact that each of the personalities loves the enemy of the other puts those involved in a very complicated situation.

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My sassy sweethearts

Xing Zhao Lin plays the role of our male lead, Mo Lian Cheng, Dongyue’s 8th Prince. After Princess Agents‘ hit, he got the chance to star in his very first leading role. Note: One of the reasons why I went ahead with TEL were some awesome fan videos I saw on Youtube, in which fans mocked Princess Agents‘ Yu Wen Yue, comparing him with Mo Lian Cheng, who has been promoted from his subordinate to royalty. I highly recommend you to search for them if you liked both dramas.

Like Liang Jie, Xing Zhao Lin absolutely nailed his role. Charming, sassy and protector, Mo Lian Cheng has everything needed to win your heart. At first glance, he’s cold and quite arrogant. Intelligent and very talented, his qualities made him the perfect successor, but for some reason, the Emperor doesn’t seem to accept him. (Later, it is revealed that the previous Emperor, who was known to be incredibly wise and capable of foreseeing future events, stated Mo Lian Cheng would die young with 25 years old).

Mo Lian Cheng was first interested on Xiao Tan because of her strange behavioral changes. Knowing her past with Mo Yi Huai, he thought those changes were result of a pretense destined to obtain useful information from him. Tan Er’s behavior made him distrust, but before Tan Er could confirm his suspects, Xiao Tan appeared and dispelled these doubts.

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I laughed a lot with this scene, TEL is adorably hilarious

Mo Lian Cheng and Xiao Tan’s scenes are golden. The actors have great chemistry, their love is not only romantic but also adorable and hilarious. For this reason, nothing feels cheessy or mawkish. I loved how sweet he was towards Xiao Tan, almost spoiling her. And I adored how Xiao Tan was able to be her true self with him, because he would always accept him. Unfortunately, sharing the same body with Tan Er (the lover of his enemy) is meant to bring difficulties to their relationship.

Tricked by her family, Tan Er receives a canvas hiding a secret message in which Mo Yi Huai asks her to meet. Tan Er doesn’t doubt to keep the appointment and her family held her kneeled under the rain. At the same time, Mo Lian Chen is informed that her wife is in danger and loses his chance to become the crown prince in order to save her. When Xiao Tan knows this, she is terribly sorry and enraged. She is upset with Tan Er for acting behind her back, but is furious towards Mo Yi Huai for taking advantage of Tan Er’s feelings against Mo Lian Cheng. Thus, she decides to meet Mo Yi Huai and tell him off. Still, the person who comes is Mo Lian Cheng and not Mo Yi Huai. Heartbroken, Mo Lian Cheng thinks Xiao Tan never loved him and was using him since the beginning. This is the moment when Xiao Tan tries to tell him the truth, but Mo Lian Cheng can’t believe her anymore. Xing Zhao Lin’s tears were so painful in that scene… ಥ_ಥ

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I love how expressive Xing Zhao Lin’s eyes are, even when they are so almond-shaped!

However, after a murder attempt, Xiao Tan goes into a coma and Mo Lian Cheng can’t fight against his feelings. A flamboyant elderly man appears then and tells Mo Lian Cheng that Xiao Tan wasn’t lying. He achieves to save her by linking Mo Lian Cheng’s life with Xiao Tan’s (this means that if one of them dies, the other would also die).

At this point, I must say how weird all the “magical plot” felt. While the story develops, they introduced fantastic elements like a magical stone, previous lives storylines, an evil guy who seems to live in another world (and communicates with his minions through a third eye…), etc. ●︿● Everything felt too forced but I accepted it all because TEL was worth it. These fantastic elements showed the biggest limitation of most of the webdramas: its budget. TEL kinda sacrified scenography and costume’s quality to fulfill the project. Its special effects aren’t the best, the scenenary is restricted (but accurate) and some costumes can be very weird (*cough* what the hell does 14th Prince wear *cough*). In this sense, I didn’t like either the hairstyles and the complements of various characters.

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Poor 14th Prince…

Following these fantastic elements, Mo Lian Cheng was dying at 25 because in his past life (Medizinmann Lian Cheng) he was murdered by the woman he loved, and his friend (Mo Yi Feng, also Dongyue’s previous Emperor) saved him. His past life’s conscience was meant to return at 25 years, and that’s the reason why Mo Lian Cheng was “dying”, because he would not remember anything that happened while living as Dongyue’s 8th Prince.

Lian Cheng was member of a powerful clan who had been enemies with the Qu clan for years. He once saved the wounded heir of Qu clan, Qu Xiang Tan. They fell in love but their clans’ enmity ended up separating them. In the end, Xiang Tan (accidentaly) killed Lian Cheng. Afterwards, Mo Yi Feng created a whole new kingdom (Dongyue) and stayed by Mo Lian Cheng’s side as his grandfather and the realm’s first Emperor.

Qu Xiang Tan is of course, Xiao Tan’s previous life. Note: Notice that both Lian Cheng and Qu Xiang Tan have very similar or identical names with our main characteres (Mo Lian Cheng and Xiao Tan). TEL ends resolving everything by bringing Xiao Tan and Mo Lian Cheng to the 21st century, where they live happily forever. It’s not an incredible finale but at least, our characters get their happy ending.

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Try not to mistake the names because they are all very similar or identical

As for other characters, our second male is the said Crown Prince, Mo Yi Huai (Wang Rui Chang). He loves Tan Er but the couple is split when the Emperor orders their marriage with different people. Mo Yi Huai wants to be crowned in order to stay with Tan Er, but to achieve this, he makes some bad decisions and loses himself. Later, he is manipulated by the dark lord (TEL’s big bad boss, another character from all the crazy-magic-matter), who possesses his body.

The posssessed Mo Yi Huai stages a coup and overthrows the King, but the main characters end up stopping him. Mo Yi Huai recovers the control over his body when the dark lord hurts Tan Er, but it’s already too late. Tan Er and Xiao Tan are finally split, but both Tan Er and Mo Yi Huai die.

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Alike baby Xing Zhao Lin, Wang Rui Chang gained a lot of popularity with TEL

Apart from that crazy dark lord, TEL has other “bad guys”. Tan Er’s step-sister, Qu Pan Er (Zhong Qi), is one of them. She is easily the dumbest villain of the decade, with the dumbest “evil plan”. Married with Mo Yi Huai, who doesn’t love her, she decided to kill Tan Er by poisoning her drink in a royal meeting, in front of everyone. She went out of the meeting and asked a servant to leave the drinks and search something for her. The servant was visibly nervous and unconfident over her command, but she just ignored it. She placed the poison in the drink and then entered the meeting and proposed a toast with Xiao Tan. Incidentally, Zhao Qing Yun (Xin Rui Qi), a lady deeply in love with Mo Lian Cheng, thought it was a good idea to accept that toast for Xiao Tan, drinking the content of the poisoned glass. Zhao Qing Yun died and the Empress Dowager demanded an explanation.

The servant was called and she immediately told what happened with Qu Pan Er. In a matter of seconds, they found the poison’s wrapping in Qu Pan Er’s clothes, who wasn’t intelligent enough to get rid of her crime’s evidence… ◔_◔ Note: On second thought, I think they couldn’t orchestrate a better plan for TEL’s villains in 24 episodes. Also, I(everyone)’d rather more scenes involving my sweet lovebirds than a very intricate evil plan with an average villain, so it’s pretty understandable.

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And the award to the most stupid villain goes to…

One last note for Tan Er’s lovely maid, Jing Xin (Sun Yi Ning). She is the very first person to notice Tan Er’s changes and becomes her only confidant, exchanging letters between the two personalities in order to let them communicate. It was funny how confused she is at first, not knowing which personality she is facing every morning.

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The drama of serving a personality split lady

Conclusion:

The Eternal Love isn’t flawless, but its virtues highly exceed its drawbacks. The budget was its biggest limitation and still, they took precious advantage of everything they had. In addition to the cast’s awesome acting, TEL is blessed with one of the best soundtracks you will ever hear.

My complaints goes for some characters’ clothing (14th Prince is the best example) and the (maybe unnecessary) magical plotline, which felt sudden and quite out of place.

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A very unlikely and absurd plot turned out to be a superb love story between two adorable creatures. The show is the great introduction of a bunch of young and very talented actors, especially Xing Zhao Lin.

My recommendation is simple: If you want a very unusual but unforgettable love story, don’t miss this gem. Also, if you are doubting, it only has 24 episodes, not a big deal in comparison with ordinary chinese dramas’ length. There’s a reason why this show set the Internet on fire, dare to find it.

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  • Plot: 17/20
  • Cast: 20/20
  • OST: 10/10
  • Scenography: 9/10
  • Costume: 8/10
  • Overall: 9.1/10

Update: THE ETERNAL LOVE IS GETTING A SECOND SEASON WITH THE SAME CAST!

REMEMBERING LICHUAN (2016) Review – Seize the moment

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Titles: 遇见王沥川 (Yu Jian Wang Li Chuan) / Remembering Li Chuan’s Past / Encountering Lichuan


Cast:

  • Godfrey Gao as Wang Lichuan
  • Jiao Jun Yan as Xie Xiao Qiu (Annie)
  • Lin You Wei as Xiao Guan
  • Andrew Lien as Wang Ji Chuan
  • Wang Ruo Xin as Ye Jing Wen
  • Yumiko Cheng as Jeanette Sue
  • Mike Sui as René Dubois
  • Wang Yan Lin as Xie Xiao Dong
  • Xu Huan Shan as Wang Yu Hang (grandaddy Wang)
  • Du Yuan as Xie Zhi Hui (father Xie)
  • Huang Ai Ling as Xiao Qiu’s aunt
  • Joan Chen as Lisa Fong
  • Wu Di as Jack Lee
  • Dai Mo as Zhang Shao Hua
  • Annie Wu as Emma

Directed by: Chen Ming Zhang

Based on: Shi Ding Rou’s novel “Li Chuan Wang Shi” (“Li Chuan’s past“)

Written by: Shi Ding Rou


Plot (from Wiki):

Six years ago, her boyfriend Li Chuan left without saying goodbye, leaving Xiao Qiu bereft and at a loss as to how someone she loved so deeply could leave her so suddenly. Broken hearted, Xiao Qiu accidentally comes across Li Chuan later, at which time even she is no longer sure if she has the strength to approach him.

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Review:

I don’t really remember how I got to know Remembering Lichuan (RLC), but since I watched it, I want to make a (quick) review of it. The first (and last) time I saw Godfrey Gao was in The Queen of SOP, drama that, by the way, I ended up dropping. What I remember about Godfrey Gao’s work is how unbearable was his character and how his acting skills didn’t help at all.

Can RLC be considered Godfrey Gao’s chance to turn the tables? Here’s my review.

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The premise of Remembering Lichuan is the heartbreaking story between Wang Lichuan and Xie Xiaoqiu

(SPOILERS) Despite RLC is named after Godfrey Gao’s character (Wang Lichuan), I’m going to start my review talking about Xie Xiaoqiu (pretty sure Lichuan would agree with my decision ◔‿◔).

Jiao Jun Yan made a fantastic work as our female lead, Xie Xiaoqiu. Her mother died while giving birth to her little brother, something which added to a difficult economic situation, forced her to become extremely responsible and hard-working. While studying her degree (with outstanding marks), she also works in low-paying jobs (as an interpreter and as a waitress). Hard-working, faithful and stubborn, she is presented as an admirable woman. Xiaoqiu is kind but makes clear that bothering her isn’t a good idea. Jiao Jun Yan looks very nature and sweet, but can also perform beautifully bitter and sorrow. I love how daring she was when making funny faces, absolutely not caring about her image. Far from being something strange or childish, she seemed adorable and tender.

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I think Jiao Jun Yan’s marvelous nature acting helped Godfrey Gao in his own performance

That’s why there were some scenes in which Xiaoqiu disappointed me. For example, such a responsible woman shouldn’t have allowed another person (Xiao Guan) finish her work. Although it only happened once, I don’t think that really fit with her character. Due to personal reasons, her work was also affected (waking up late, being unable to work within time period…). Still, maybe these are the things that proved how human Xiaoqiu really is. Just like her alcoholism, RLC dares to show us the flaws of its characters.

I adored the things she did for Lichuan and how heartbreaking was her loyalty towards their love. I will always remember how terrible was seeing her searching for her ring in the snow, unable to believe that Lichuan didn’t love her anymore. She was so determined to take care of him that Lichuan should have known better that nothing could make her grow apart from him.

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Scenes like this one made me hate even more the decision Lichuan made

Godfrey Gao was unexpectedly good as Wang Lichuan. RLC proved to the world that Godfrey Gao isn’t just an eye candy anymore. Even ‘though I can’t still consider him an exceptional actor, he may continue improving his acting skills in the future.

Wang Lichuan is a talented architect. When he was a child, he suffered a car crash in which he lost both of his parents. Although he survived, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and as a result, they amputated one of his legs. The cancer was temporarily cured, but just when he was going to ask Xiaoqiu to marry him, it reappeared. Xiaoqiu once told him that she hated hospitals and couldn’t bear to see her beloved ones suffer, so he decided to leave Xiaoqiu without any explanation.

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Knowing how stubborn Xiaoqiu is, Lichuan should have foreseen everything 

And here comes what I hated the most about the series: the toing and froing between Xiaoqiu and Lichuan. They literally spent 30 episodes putting them together and separating them. A bunch of episodes in which Xiaoqiu slowly discovers the truth, and Lichuan, in order to hide it, mistreats her. I couldn’t empathize with Lichuan’s decision, because they could have stayed together all those years (and maybe he would have lived longer) ಠ_ಠ. Okay, he didn’t know he would be alive those years, but even so, he should have trusted in Xiaoqiu’s love and give her a chance to decide. The problem is that Lichuan pretended to be cruel and insensitive, but he couldn’t really treat Xiaoqiu in that way. That gave Xiaoqiu hope and made her question the reasons why he left. In the end, everything went wrong and both of them suffered unnecessarily for years.

I cried when they show an alternative ending in which Lichuan recovers from his illness and searches for Xiaoqiu. They start a life together and Lichuan proposes to her, just like he wanted to do when they met.

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What could have been and never was

Xiaoqiu has another suitor, Xiao Guan (Lin You Wei). He was kind and understanding towards Xiaoqiu, but her constant toing and froing with Lichuan possibly drive him crazy like it happened to me. He always claims he would wait for her until she gets over Lichuan, but throughout the episodes, he gets more and more forceful and impatient. I think he never meant it nastily, but he put a lot of pressure on Xiaoqiu and was often harsh with Lichuan. Having said that, if Lichuan could have been more determined or acted more logically, Xiao Guan may have had a chance with Xiaoqiu.

He also has his background story: when he was a child, her mother abandoned him with his father. He grew up with great ambitions and ends up establishing his own interpretation company. It’s in that moment when her mother (Lisa Fong), facing imminent death due to a cancer, tries to regain their bond. Lisa is now a very rich woman and wants him to inherit her company, but Xiao Guan refuses until the very last moment, when he forgives her. Even ‘though, Xiao Guan doesn’t take her money or inherit the company, decided to achieve everything with his own efforts.

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I liked Xiao Guan’s strength and determination, something Lichuan somehow lacked

Andrew Lien plays the role of Wang Jichuan, Lichuan’s big bro. He is in charge of their family’s company and always takes care of his brother. He often helps him when Lichuan’s ideas come into conflict with his grandfather’s decisions; Jichuan wants to respect his desires, whenever he is safe and sound.

Jichuan’s character usually eases RLC’s tension and dramatic background. He is sassy and a little capricious. On the surface, he’s unpleasant and relentless, but as the story progresses, we find how kind he really is.

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Jichuan’s character gave the show some very needed funny scenes

His interactions with Ye Jing Wen (Wang Ruo Xin) were one of the best things of the drama. They were sassy enough to make me laugh, and both were despotic in their own way. What began like a will struggle ended up becoming a really sweet love story. Even ‘though our main characters don’t get a happy ending, we are happy to know they got one.

Another likeable character is René Dubois (Mike Sui), Lichuan’s best friend. He somehow acts like a go-between for Lichuan and Xiaoqiu. As for Jeanette Sue (Yumiko Cheng), Lichuan’s ex-girlfriend, she didn’t like Xiaoqiu at first, but changed her mind when she saw how implicated she was.

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There were many times in which the couple saved the series

Conclusion:

I don’t regret watching Remembering Li Chuan, because Godfrey Gao and (especially) Jiao Jun Yan’s acting skills were absolutely worth it. Also, the rest of the cast did a very good work. However, I really thought I was wasting my time in some moments (Xiaoqiu’s motorbike crash was the last straw). The beginning was promising but I soon got tired of watching Lichuan and Xiaoqiu’s unnecessarily drama.

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On the other hand, the soundtrack didn’t leave any mark in me. It was accurate but not amazing or particularly touching. Still, the scenography was good and there were really beautiful scenes and details.

To put it bluntly, drama is served. If you have time and like this kind of tragic story, full of angst and sorrow, RLC is a good show to watch.

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  • Plot: 15/20
  • Cast: 19/20
  • OST: 5/10
  • Scenography: 10/10
  • Costume: 9/10
  • Overall: 8.3/10

SURGEONS (2017) Review – Stay hungry, stay foolish

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Titles: 外科风云 (Wai Ke Feng Yun) / Surgeons / Surgical Situation / The Surgeons


Cast:

  • Jin Dong as Zhuang Shu
  • Bai Bai He as Lu Chen Xi
  • Li Jia Hang as Chen Shao Cong
  • Lyric Lan as Yang Yu
  • Ma Shao Hua as Fu Bo Wen
  • He Du Juan as Chu Jun
  • Liu Yi Jun as Yang Fan
  • Yang Xin Ming as Zhong Xi Bei
  • Chin Shih Chieh as Xiu Min Qi
  • Gao Lu as Lin Huan
  • Geng Le as Xue Luan
  • Wilson Wang as Yang Zi Xuan
  • Jin Kim as Fang Zhi Wei
  • Wang Yong Quan as Lu Chen Xi’s stepfather
  • Xue Shu Jie as Cheng Lu (Lu Chen Xi’s mother)
  • Liu Lin as Zhang Shu Mei (Zhuang Shu’s mother)
  • Tan Xi He as Lin Hao (Lin Huan’s adoptive father)
  • Li Xiao Yan as Lin Huan’s adoptive mother
  • Wu Xiao Yu as Liu Ling (patient)
  • Xu Lu Yang as Lin Sen
  • Si Yuan as Lin Wei (Lin Sen’s father)
  • Mu Li Yan as Qiao He (Zhong Xi Bei’s wife)
  • Liang Shi Ran as Zhang Qian (Chen Shao Cong’s ex-girlfriend)
  • Hu Ge as Hu Ge

Directed by: Li Xue

Written by: Zhu Zhu


Plot (from Wiki):

The story originates from a medical malpractice many years ago that resulted in the death of a car accident victim; who has been successfully resuscitated but later died of drug allergy. Zhang Shumei, the nurse who was on duty that night, was forced to resign after being suspected of accidentally killing the patient. Her eight-year-old son, Zhuang Shu did not believe the accusation, and got into a fight at the hospital, causing him to be held up at the police station. Unable to pick up his four-year-old sister, Zhuang Shu later finds out that she was abducted while he was away. Traumatized by the false accusation and the abduction of her daughter, Zhang Shumei eventually committed suicide.

30 years later, Zhuang Shu returns to the hospital as a surgeon; intent on unraveling the secret behind his family’s misfortune while searching for his long-lost sister. He meets Lu Chenxi, a cardiac surgeon who is the daughter of the patient that died under Zhang Shumei’s care 30 years ago. Together, they investigate the mystery and fall in love in the process.

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Review:

After Nirvana in Fire and The Disguiser, director Li Xue won a lifetime place in my heart. Surgeons is his third work in collaboration with Jin Dong and Liu Yi Jun (also Hu Ge, who makes a very brief special appearance in the show). Under this premise, Surgeons promises to become another must watch.

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Don’t worry, the show is not as “creepy” as this still

(SPOILERS) 30 years ago, a nurse at Renhe Hospital is fired due to a medical negligence which ended up killing a patient. Zhang Shu Mei, the aforesaid nurse, denies to have mistaken the patient’s medication, but no one believes her. This event brought many complications to her life. Her eight-year-old son, Xiao Bing, starts a fight with another kid who was discussing her mother’s negligence, and forgets to pick up her four-year-old sister (Nan Nan) from nursery. Nan Nan is kidnapped by human traders and they can’t find her anywhere. Zhang Shu Mei, unable to prove her innocence and find her daughter, hung herself, leaving Xiao Bing on his own.

Xiao Bing is adopted by an american (overseas chinese) doctor and had the chance to grew up in a good environment. However, he never forgot his mother’s misfortune. Now, he is a brilliant doctor under the name of Zhuang Shu (Jin Dong) and returns to Renhe Hospital accepting the invitation of an old friend, Yang Fan. He joins the chest surgical department and tries to stay as a good doctor while gathering evidence to prove her mother’s innocence.

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Zhuang Shu knows the end doesn’t justify the means, but usually faces situations in which his morals are threatened by reality’s harshness

What I love about Surgeons is that it dared to question the ethics of every character. Each medical case offered different chances for our characters to improve, learn new lessons and eventually, grow up.

The scenery isn’t stunning (it’s an hospital after all), but they took care of every detail. In China, public hospitals are usually full of people, patients everywhere waiting for their turn. They accurately presented this problem many times (how resources are frequently insufficient and very expensive), and it was a central matter after the natural disaster happened.

This kind of issues contributed to create different dilemmas. Our doctors had to choose between saving all the people they could (in bad conditions, with limited resources) or saving just a few guaranteeing the minimum medical quality requirements. Zhuang Shu, who comes from America, doesn’t really understand the imbalance of chinese hospital resources. When facing the natural disaster’s consequences, the hospital can’t afford to accept any patient more, but there are still tons of people out asking for help. Zhuang Shu decides to deny the entrance of more patients, because more people would cause infections to spread. He stays adamant even when he sees his missing sister in the entrance, begging for her stepdad’s life.

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Renhe Hospital is the place where his childhood was ruined, but it’s also the place where he saves tons of lives and met his true love

He was mild-tempered and responsible with his patients, willing to give understandable explanations and ease their pain. Towards his students, he was kind but strict (especially with Chu Jun, because she reminded him of his lost sister). The misfortune of his childhood left terrible scars, but they weren’t enough to erase his kindness. In the final episodes, he faces the greatest dilemma: Xiu Min Qi (the man who falsely accused her mother and provoked their familiar disaster), asks him to operate on his dying daughter. Zhuang Shu says he won’t operate on his daughter unless he publicly admit the truth. Zhuang Shu is the only qualified doctor to operate on the case of his daughter, but Xiu Min Qi still clings to his reputation, unwilling to accept his mistakes.

Facing such a shameless and immoral person, Zhuang Shu seems to give up on his duty as a doctor. He can’t forgive Xiu Min Qi and all the things he did, and he can’t bear how innocent he pretends to be when his flaws are so evident now. However, when the surgeon has already started and everyone thinks Zhuang Shu left, he returns in his doctor outfit, proving his morals are far more important than thrist for vengeance. Still, Zhuang Shu is diagnosed with clinical depression after this and went back to America. He stayed there for a long time and only returned to Renhe when at the end of the series, a very contagious disease spread and everyone’s help is needed.

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Jin Dong and Bai Bai He made a fantastic couple on screen

Zhuang Shu’s experience in Renhe gave him a lot of things, but meeting Lu Chen Xi may be the most important one. Lu Chen Xi, portrayed by Bai Bai He, is a young and very talented doctor. Unlike Zhuang Shu, she is extremely impulsive, straightforward and quite hotheaded. This explosive personality often got her into trouble, receiving complaints from her patients and causing her to fall out with her superiors and students. When Fu Bo Wen (her mentor and Renhe’s director) retired, Lu Chen Xi was push from the chest surgical department into the casualty one.

Meanwhile, Zhuang Shu found a shared flat to live and by chance his partner and landlady is no one else but Lu Chen Xi. By the same time, Lu Chen Xi invites her longtime friend (doctor Chen Shao Cong) to also live there. Like that, Zhuang Shu, Lu Chen Xi and Chen Shao Cong start living together.

Just after Zhuang Shu and Lu Chen Xi understood their feelings for each other, Lu Chen Xi was told the truth of their family’s history: her biological father was the patient whose death was associated to Zhang Shu Mei’s medical negligence. Therefore, in theory it was Zhuang Shu’s mother who caused Lu Chen Xi’s father to die. This revelation changed everything in their relationship, because even if Lu Chen Xi believed in Zhuang Shu’s words, there was no evidence that could prove Zhang Shu Mei’s innocence.

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This is my first time watching Bai Bai He in the small screen and she was totally worth it

Fortunately, they overcame the bad patch and in the end, Zhuang Shu proposed to Lu Chen Xi, giving us a happy ending. Note: Hu Ge makes a very brief but funny appearance in this final, in which Zhuang Shu asks him to be called “big bro” (something which gives me lots of feels due to The Disguiser) (◡‿◡✿).

Lu Chen Xi’s mother and stepfather are two beautiful sunshines. Her mother had a terrible car crash, making her sank into a coma (it was Zhuang Shu who saved her life). Lu Chen Xi’s stepfather stayed by her mother’s side all the time, reading to her and being sweet and lovely. Every time they appeared on screen I thought how fortunate was Lu Chen Xi to have such adorable parents. In addition, they were literally their relationship’s go-between, creating chances for them and encouraging Lu Chen Xi to stay together.

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Chen Shao Cong’s humour reminded me of Li Jia Han’s character in iPartment, the very first role in which I saw him

In this sense, Zhuang Shu and Lu Chen Xi must also thank Chen Shao Cong (Li Jia Han). As I said before, he started living with them in Lu Chen Xi’s shared flat. He was the perfect mediator when they argued (something that, by the way, happened frequently) and acted like a go-between along with Lu Chen Xi’s parents. My favourite moment was when he impatiently interjected (they wouldn’t let him sleep) in one of their quarrels, telling Lu Chen Xi that Zhuang Shu was acting like that because he saw her with her ex-boyfriend and was jealous.

Chen Shao Cong is also Renhe’s doctor, working in the casualty department. Like Lu Chen Xi to Fu Bo Wen, Chen Shao Cong is Zhong Xi Bei’s (the casualty department director) most talented student. However, Chen Shao Cong isn’t motivated to improve his skills or become a distinguished expert. He is a good and responsible doctor but is often too lazy. Falling in love with his co-worker, nurse Yang Yu, made him want to improve himself and desire to be promoted. In her, he finally found a reason to be a better man.

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Yang Yu was possibly my favourite character in Surgeons

I think I loved Yang Yu‘s character since the very first moment. After finishing Surgeons, I loved her even more when I realized that her actress was no one else but Lyric Lan. Note: In this point, you must be asking yourself who the hell Lyric Lan is. If you had watched The Classic of Mountains and Seas, you may remember a very annoying and ridiculous girl who pretended to be a “bad guy” (Fu Er) ◔_◔. I didn’t recognize Lyric Lan in any moment of Surgeons, and later I was very surprised to discover she was the same actress who portrayed awful Fu Er. So, congrats to Lyric Lan for having found such a great role, allowing her to show her real skills.

Yang Yu is a strong female figure. She takes care of his mother, who is ill and can’t hardly move. They live in deprivation and Yang Yu must work really hard in order to bring through the situation. In the hospital, she is kind and efficient, willing to help everyone. I believe she had feelings towards Chen Shao Cong for a while, but it got more evident after he broke up with his last girlfriend. Nevertheless, and even when Chen Shao Cong began corresponding to his love, Yang Yu was insecure. She had to consider her mother’s situation and Chen Shao Cong’s lazy personality couldn’t assure a stable future for her. Knowing this, Chen Shao Cong starts working in a project to be promoted and that’s when Yang Yu finally accepts to be with him.

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Despite having supporting roles, Chen Shao Cong and Yang Yu absolutely achieved to won my heart

It tore me apart when Zhong Xi Bei died in an accident and Chen Shao Cong blamed himself, falling into depression. He acted like he didn’t care about anything, growing apart from Yang Yu, but she stayed adamant by his side. Deep down, Chen Shao Cong thought he didn’t deserve Yang Yu anymore. When he eventually suggest to break up, Lyric Lan and Li Jia Han portrayed one of my favourite scenes in the series: Yang Yu nods, visibly furious, and just when you think she is accepting Chen Shao Cong’s break up, she approachs and slaps him. Chen Shao Cong is too confused to react, but Yang Yu tells him that they are breaking up because they are marrying. When Chen Shao Cong tries to reject her, she slaps him again, making clear she would continue slapping him until he recover his common sense and be sincere. The whole scene was both funny and dramatic.

Another awesome scene was the arc of the woman who abandoned his newborn. Chen Shao Cong and Yang Yu ran through the whole city, searching in the public toilets for that baby. Yang Yu couldn’t run anymore and Chen Shao Cong was left alone looking for the newborn. She cried when after some time, she saw Chen Shao Cong running towards her carrying the baby. The same night, she confessed she was pregnant and before this happened, she doubted about having an abortion (because they were too young and their economic situation wasn’t the best). However, after seeing Chen Shao Cong saving the baby, she knew he would be an amazing father and decided to keep the child. Chen Shao Cong answered by only saying he couldn’t imagine that the child he saved was actually his ಥ_ಥ

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Gao Lu plays the role of Lin Huan, Zhuang Shu’s sister

As for Lin Huan (Gao Lu), Zhuang Shu’s sister, she was kidnapped and later abandoned after getting ill. A kind-hearted couple picked her up and took care of her. When she recovered, she couldn’t remember anything about her past and the couple made her believe she was their real daughter. Zhuang Shu actually found her many years ago, but didn’t want to ruin their life by telling her the truth. When Lin Huan’s stepfather went into Renhe, Zhuang Shu did the surgeon that saved his life. Still, her stepfather became infected and eventually died. Lin Huan is sure that his father died for being exposed to a HIV patient and denounces the hospital, starting a legal procedure against Renhe and Zhuang Shu.

She never gets to know her real relationship with Zhuang Shu, but her stepmother recognizes him as Lin Huan’s brother. Maybe since the beginning we were expecting her to find the truth, but Surgeons chooses to let her stay unaware of everything (perhaps ignorance is bliss).

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Character development here

Chu Jun (He Du Juan) was one of Lu Chen Xi’s practice students. She was said to have pulled the strings in order to enter Renhe, and so, Lu Chen Xi has some prejudices towards her. In addition to this, Chu Jun isn’t talented and usually questions her own capacity. Her real talent is drawing, something she uses to cheer up her patients and Zhuang Shu, who becomes her teacher after Lu Chen Xi. Zhuang Shu’s kindness and patience makes her fall in love, but she is rejected because he already fell for Lu Chen Xi. In the end, Chu Jun finds her real vocation: she wants to improve herself and be a good doctor, not to impress Zhuang Shu but to save lives and help people. It’s interesting and somehow poignant to see her character development and how she grew up with every experience and mistake.

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Liu Yi Jun’s roles in The Disguiser and Nirvana in Fire made him one of my favourite actors

The awesome Liu Yi Jun plays the role of Yang Fan, a very ambitious doctor who becomes Renhe’s new director after Fu Bo Wen’s retirement. His actions can be immoral (making deals with medical companies to sell products to his patients, threatening Fu Bo Wen and using Zhuang Shu’s past in his favor…) but we also see his good side when he protects his son (Yang Zi Xuan) and does his duty as a doctor.

Something similar happens with Xiu Min Qi (Chin Shih Chieh). He may be Surgeon’s antagonistic, but in spite of his mistakes and his refusal to admit the truth, he ended up dying in order to save a patient. If only he could have understood before that the end doesn’t justify the means…

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The end doesn’t justify the means

Conclusion:

Surgeons dares to show both sides of the coin: the best and the worst of all its characters. Throughout different medical cases, the moral and ethics are challenged. We know what’s right and what’s wrong, but when we get to know the reasons behind some character’s decisions, our judgment can be altered. In other words, not everything is black or white.

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I think the conclusion we take from the series is simple but difficult to accomplish: when facing temptations or doubting about your path, remain true to yourself; always stay hungry, stay foolish. The plot is brilliantly written and every actor did his part stunningly. Besides, the soundtrack and scenography reminds me of Li Xue’s previous works: sober, dramatic and intense.

All in all, as expected, director Li Xue never disappoints and Surgeons is surely another must watch.

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  • Plot: 20/20
  • Cast: 20/20
  • OST: 10/10
  • Scenography: 9/10
  • Costume: 9.5/10
  • Overall: 9.8/10

 

LEGEND OF THE DRAGON PEARL (2017) Review – Give back my time

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Titles: 龙珠传奇之无间道 / 龙珠传奇 (Long Zhu Chuan Qi) / Legend of the Dragon Pearl: The Indistinguishable Road


Cast:

  • Yang Zi as Zhu Yi Huan / Li Yi Huan
  • Qin Jun Jie as Kangxi
  • Mao Zi Jun as Zhu Ci Xuan/Li Jian Qing
  • (Jennifer) Shu Chang as Xue Qing Cheng / Shu Wan Xin
  • Zhang Wei Na as Empress
  • Si Qin Gao Wa as Empress Dowager
  • Han Cheng Yu as Ye Mo Sheng
  • He Zhong Hua as Li Ding Guo / Li De Fu
  • Sun Wei as Fan Qian Ying
  • Liu Xue Yi as Wu Ying Qi
  • Liu Li Wei as Wu San Gui
  • Lu Xing Yu as Suo E Tu
  • Xie Ning as Liu De Zhao
  • Xiao Rong Sheng as Ao Bai
  • Liu Xi Ming as Fan Li
  • Xiu Qing as Ye Ming Zhang
  • Tong Tong as Tang Yi Shou
  • Jiang Hong as Xue Yi Ju Shi
  • Dai Zai Xiang as Meng Xiang He
  • Wang Yi Chan as Qin’s consort

Directed by: Zhu Shao Jie and Zhou Yuan Zhou

Written by: Li Ya Ling


Plot (from Wiki):

The story of the ill-fated romance between Zhu Yi Huan, the last princess of the Ming Dynasty and Kangxi, the young emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

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Review:

Legend of the Dragon Pearl (LDP) is the first series featuring Yang Zi and Qin Jun Jie as a couple. Although I really like Yang Zi and both Qin Jun Jie and Mao Zi Jun won my heart in Singing All Along, I was adamant about not watching LDP at first. My idea of Kang Xi Emperor came into conflict with the one shown by the trailer. Also, the storyline didn’t seem appealing at all. But even ‘though I couldn’t find any reason to watch this show, I somehow gave it a try.

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Qin Jun Jie and Yang Zi announced their relationship as a couple a few months before LDP was released

(SPOILERS) Legend of the Dragon Pearl (LDP) tells the love story between Emperor Kang Xi and Zhu Yi Huan. The story is extended throughout 90 episodes. At first it was okay because the episodes were 30 to 40 minutes long, but you soon realize that even little doses of nonsense are equally frustrating.

I think this is Qin Jun Jie’s very first role as the male lead. Portraying the well-known Emperor Kang Xi (in his youth) must have been a great challenge. I’m happy that he’s getting big roles, but after watching LDP you can only ask yourself if having a bad role is better than not having any main role at all.

Although I really adore Qin Jun Jie, most of the time his baby face didn’t fit with his role. Being fair, the Emperor Kang Xi we are used to see on screen is usually portrayed in his middle-advanced age. Seeing a young (teenage) Kang Xi, just starting his reign as one of the most celebrated emperors in chinese history, feels quite odd.

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Baby faced Qin Jun Jie

Kang Xi’s parents died when he was very young, forcing him to ascend to throne at early age. As a result, the governing’s duties fell to a regent, Ao Bai (Xiao Rong Sheng). The Empress Dowager, his grandmother, also did part of the work as a regent. He was raised by his grandmother, and therefore they have a strong bond.

Ao Bai’s government became increasingly tyrannical, spying on every movement of Kang Xi and plotting in order to avoid him recover the power. As Kang Xi grew older, he developed his own ideas, usually conflicting with Ao Bai’s methods. It was just a matter of time that he decided to get rid off Ao Bai. Of course, Ao Bai did the same, although he tried at first not really hurting him.

In addition to Ao Bai and Kang Xi’s conflict, we have to add the previous Ming dynasty resistance group. Kang Xi’s grandfather overthrew the last Ming dynasty Emperor and established a new era, but there were still many supporters of the previous dynasty. Besides, Kang Xi has to face Wu San Gui’s forces (another old noble of the court).

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Kang Xi’s enemies come from three different fronts: Ao bai, the Ming resistance group and Wu San Gui

Despite his youth, Kang Xi is a fair emperor who loves his people. He has his own ideas about how to be a good ruler, but is often impeded by aristocratic and royal issues. He can’t depose many of the nobles who commit crimes, but swears to build in the future an empire corruption-free. Kang Xi is good at calligraphy and politics, but doesn’t know martial arts to defend himself.

Since he was a child he had to assume the duties of an emperor, and also, keep the distance with most of the people. Apart from her grandmother, he never experienced things as love or friendship. That’s why Yi Huan was a breath of fresh air to him. She was the only person to treat him as an equal, even daring to consider him her “little bro”.

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I could have enjoyed their romance if the plot made a little sense… Yang Zi and Qin Jun Jie have an adorable chemistry

What I liked about Qin Jun Jie’s Kang Xi was his behavior towards his people, his sense of justice, even when he was hindered by other elements. He is a proud emperor (as we are shown when he is offended or angry to hear someone questioning his power), but is willing to kneel before an anonymous woman, because he failed as a good emperor. I loved how Qin Jun Jie’s eyes burned when his character faced unfair situations (Liu De Zhao’s lengthy arc is full of these). Likewise, I enjoyed his decision making, especially when he confessed his admiration towards Zhu Ci Xuan. He really did a great job in spite of the deficiency of the plot and its characters. Besides, Kang Xi breathless kissing Yi Huan was amazing (¬‿¬)

On the other hand, the Ming resistance group has its secret main base in Long Zhu Gu (The Dragon Pearl Valley). This is the place where our female lead (Zhu Yi Huan) and our second male lead (Zhu Ci Xuan) grew up together.

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Long Zhu Gu’s (The Dragon Pearl Valley) members try to restore Ming dynasty

Yang Zi plays the role of Zhu Yi Huan (changed her name to Li Yi Huan at capital). She is the last princess of Ming dynasty, the unique surviving child of the last monarchs. A legend forecast that a princess would bring disaster to the Ming dynasty, so the royal doctor (Fan Li) switched her with Li Ding Guo’s newborn baby boy (Zhu Ci Xuan). After that, Zhu Yi Huan lived as Li Ding Guo’s daughter and Zhu Ci Xuan is considered by everyone Ming’s dynasty crown prince. In order to preserve the purity of royal bloodline, Li Ding Guo and Fan Li claimed that it was Ming’s Emperor last wish to pair off Yi Huan with Ci Xuan.

I’d love to say our female lead is awesome and praiseworthy, but she isn’t. At first, she seems carefree and straightforward, and although I didn’t dislike that, I really hoped there was something else. Quite another story…. Zhu Yi Huan didn’t think about anything she does or says, even when her behavior would harm and endanger the people she supposely cares. I tried to accept her and ignore everytime I pulled my hair out, but the last straw was the moment she decided to marry Ci Xuan and later left with Kang Xi ◔_◔

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Yang Zi’s character was too mindless for my liking

Yi Huan never cared about restoring Ming dynasty. She believes it’s okay as long as the current emperor is a fair and kind monarch. Regarding to this, she has an important sense of justice, but isn’t able to think beyond. Also, she is often too impulsive and quite capricious.

She met Kang Xi without knowing he’s her family’s biggest enemy. Even after being aware of this, she isn’t able to hate him or stay away. She is convinced that he’s and will become a good emperor, but also, she starts developing more complex feelings towards him. In the blink of an eye, she finds herself caught in a dilemma, forced to take sides between her family and the man she loves. Still, Yi Huan never seems to really take sides, she stays beside with big sad eyes, hoping to never be forced to make a decision.

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Some of the BTS were truly adorable and funny, if interested, you all should check it out

Yi Huan’s appearance is sweet and dorky. In general, I liked Yang Zi’s style in this drama. Her crying scenes were beautiful and enough touching. Alike the rest of the cast, her acting was flawless but LDP’s plot and character depiction was deficient enough to eclipse its strengths.

Even so, the worst thing about LDP is how after 90 episodes, we only get a even more senseless ending. (SPOILERS) It’s said that Yi Huan dies ◔_◔ but they don’t tell us how she dies or who kills her ◔_◔. We are just offered a very sad Kang Xi, who refuse to see anyone or do anything for many days… The drama came to an end when Kang Xi decides to bestir himself, possibly determined to avenge Yi Huan (but who cares after 90 episodes of continuous face palming…).

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A senseless drama in which we can’t even get a happy ending…

Zhu Ci Xuan (Mao Zi Jun) grew up taking on the responsabilities of an overthrown dynasty’s crown prince. Since he was a child, he was taught to be the best in both martial arts and culture knowledge. He is an extraordinary strategist, a spectacular plotter and a natural-born leader. Zhu Ci Xuan is so awesome that most of the time it overshadowed Kang Xi. Kang Xi himself admitted Zhu Ci Xuan would be an outstanding emperor.

The only thing in which Zhu Ci Xuan can’t surpass Kang Xi is the emotional field. He is willing to do everything for Yi Huan, but no matter what he does, she simply sees him as her brother. You will see throughout 90 episodes how Zhu Ci Xuan sacrifies everything (literally, everything) in order to protect and save Yi Huan. But all he gets is… nothing. In the end, to save Yi Huan, he sacrifies his force and skills, becoming a disabled person. He doesn’t let her know this, and Yi Huan (severe eye-rolling ◔_◔) stupidly believes he’s all okay (when it is obvious he was almost dying ಥ_ಥ). I couldn’t stop face palming the whole time…

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Another drama starring the trio: Qin Jun Jie, Yang Zi and Mao Zi Jun

Zhu Ci Xuan was brilliant in everything but flew off the handle each time Yi Huan was in danger. He immediately saw how she treated Kang Xi differently, caring about him more and more. Knowing that it would get worse, he tried to make her leave the court, but Yi Huan convinced him to stay by saying that they could spy on Kang Xi better. Soon after they arrived, he achieved Kang Xi’s trust and respect. It would have been a perfect disguise if he didn’t lose control everytime he saw Kang Xi and Yi Huan behave affectionately. Mainly for this reason, Kang Xi began suspecting their real identities. When the truth was finally revealed, Kang Xi still tried to keep him as an ally, but Ci Xuan refused.

In that moment, Yi Huan was more conscious than never about her feelings towards Kang Xi, but she had to leave him and return with her family. Li Ding Guo, knowing his daughter fell for their worst enemy, was enraged and even attempted to kill himself. Aiming to soothe him and make Yi Huan got over Kang Xi, they planned to immediately marry Ci Xuan with her. The same night of the wedding, Yi Huan ran away because she saw Kang Xi’s signal and even though she didn’t want to, she ended up leaving with him. A terribly affected Ci Xuan gets drunk and wanders through the streets. Qing Cheng is the one who finds him.

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Zhu Ci Xuan stayed in court disguised as Yi Huan’s brother, Li Jian Qing

Xue Qing Cheng (portrayed by actress Shu Chang), has secretly loved Ci Xuan since childhood. She knows him better than anyone and made a wonderful couple, but Ci Xuan didn’t correspond her feelings. Still, she never tried to hurt Yi Huan or trick her, even encouraging her to accept Ci Xuan and forget about Kang Xi.

Qing Cheng was raised in the dragon pearl valley by Xue Yi Ju Shi (Jiang Hong). She is one of the children, along with Yi Huan and Ci Xuan, whose purpose is restoring Ming dynasty. As a result, she was brought up to appear and act the same as Shu Wan Xin (also played by Shu Chang), the daughter of a noble family destined to become Kang Xi’s concubine. When the real Shu Wan Xin was entering palace, they kidnapped her and exchanged her for Qing Cheng. In that way, she became Kang Xi’s concubine (although they never consummated) and an useful spy for the Ming resistance group.

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She looked strangely “plastic” in some scenes

Nevertheless, it’s later revealed that Qing Cheng and Xue Yi Ju Shi were in fact Wu San Gui’s subordinates. Xue Yi Ju Shi’s clan was slaughtered by Ming dynasty. When Qing dynasty is established, she and a very young Qing Cheng stayed in the dragon pearl valley to spy and report everything about the Ming resistance group, in order to take revenge on them in the future. Xue Yi Ju Shi never forgot her original intentions, but Qing Cheng couldn’t help to develop feelings towards the resistance group (and fell for Ci Xuan). She could neither betray Wu San Gui because he had her little brother under his power.

As for her little brother, it’s said that Wu San Gui kept him as an hostage to maintain the control over Xue Yi Ju Shi and Qing Cheng. She chose to suicide when Wu San Gui ordered her to kill Yi Huan, but Yi Huan, already knowing her real identity, saved her. They investigate a way to rescue her brother from Wu San Gui, just to find out that he died many years ago. Now that she doesn’t need to worry about her brother, Qing Cheng, Ci Xuan and Yi Huan came up with a plan. Qing Cheng confessed to Kang Xi her identity as Wu San Gui’s spy, achiving in this way his trust and casting a bone between the emperor and Wu San Gui.

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If Yi Huan is supposed to be 17 years old, how old is Qing Cheng supposed to be…?

Before the marriage between Yi Huan and Ci Xuan was held, Qing Cheng left (wishing the best for them). But after Yi Huan disappeared with Kang Xi, she came back and took care of Ci Xuan. While Ci Xuan was extremely drunk (mistaking her for Yi Huan), Qing Cheng prepared their own wedding ceremony and got married with him.

She was heartbroken when the next morning Ci Xuan rejected her, again. Yi Huan abandoned him and they were already married, but Ci Xuan still couldn’t accept her. Hereupon, Qing Cheng swears to get over her feelings and forget him, a man who let her down after giving him everything. And this is the last thing we get to know about her character.

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If only Ci Xuan could have corresponded Qing Cheng’s feelings

There are other two children who grew up with them in the dragon pearl valley: Ye Mo Sheng and Fan Qian Ying. Ye Mo Sheng (Han Cheng Yu) is Ye Ming Zhang’s son and had loved Yi Huan since ever, but she was already paired off with Ci Xuan. Just as it happened with Xue Qing Cheng and Xue Yi Ju Shi, it’s revealed that both of them are in fact spies of Qing dynasty (and therefore, Kang Xi’s subordinates).

Ye Mo Sheng tried to elope with Yi Huan but she rejected him. After being unmasked, he returned to palace along with his father, assuming a charge in the court.

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Fan Qian Ying instatly fell in love with Wu San Gui’s youngest son, Wu Ying Qi

Fan Qian Ying (Sun Wei) is Fan Li’s daughter. In the past, she accompanied a very naughty Yi Huan to the mount but they were attacked by a beast. His father protected Yi Huan before her and the beast left a scar in Qian Ying’s face. Fan Li was the most renowned doctor of Ming dynasty but couldn’t heal her daughter’s scar because they didn’t have the necessary medicines. Excluding the scar and the insecurities this event caused, Qian Ying and his father’s relationship was also affected, ‘though she never blamed Yi Huan.

When in a mission she met Wu San Gui’s youngest son, Wu Ying Qi (Liu Xue Yi), they immediately fell in love. They preserved their love in spite of the opposition of their parents and ended up staying together (they may be the only couple in LDP with a happy ending).

Note: Concerning to Wu Ying Qi, I thought they were revealing an “unexpected” truth about him (since Li Ding Guo and Fan Li behaved weirdly beside him). Considering that the Qing Cheng’s brother’s thing was recent I thought he may actually be her brother. Still, the drama ended without explaining what the hell happens with Wu Ying Qi and why Li Ding Guo and Fan Li acted so strangely ●︿●

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Although being raised like warriors from different sides, I’m happy that they achieved to develop friendship bonds

One last mention for the Empress Dowager (Si Qin Gao Wa). She was always grumbling and afraid of Kang Xi remaking the same mistakes as his father and grandfather did for love, and that’s why she disliked Yi Huan, being sure that she would destroy her grandson. For this reason, the Empress Dowager tried (subtly) to separate them (and I believe she has something to do with Yi Huan’s alleged “death”).

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The Empress (Zhang Wei Na), without the Empress Dowager’s apparent support, would have been almost irrelevant

Conclusion:

I finished watching Legend of the Dragon Pearl thanks to my will power. I tried to ignore everything absurd or the details which didn’t make sense, but after 90 episodes, I was disappointed for wasting my time.

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Although the cast did a flawless work, it was not enough to redeem the plot and story’s deficiency. Yang Zi and Qin Jun Jie’s chemistry was good as expected, and they depicted some very funny scenes. Also, I’d like to see Mao Zi Jun in other series not involving Yang Qi, Qin Jun Jie or Ruby Lin.

If you are bored and have plenty of time, this could be a good choice to be played in the background, but as for me, LDP was not worthy of my time.

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  • Plot: 5/20
  • Cast: 20/20
  • OST: 6/10
  • Scenography: 10/10
  • Costume: 9.5/10
  • Overall: 7.2/10

PROMISE OF MIGRATORY BIRDS (2016) Review – The right person, the wrong time

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Titles: 十五年等待候鸟 (Shi Wu Nian Deng Dai Hou Niao) / Fifteen Years To Wait For Migratory Birds / Fifteen Years Of Waiting For Migratory Birds / Promise Of Migratory Birds


Cast:

  • Zhang Ruo Yun as Pei Shang Xuan
  • Sun Yi as Li Li
  • Deng Lun as Liu Qian Ren
  • Zhang Xue Ying as Han Yi Chen
  • Li Zong Lin as Daniel
  • Liu Mei Han as Li Jun
  • Zhu Yuan Bing as Sun Yu
  • Dai Chao as Qiu Zi An
  • Zheng He Hui Zi as Su Su

Directed by: Ke Han Chen

Based on: Fifteen Years Of Waiting For Migratory Birds by Ying Feng

Written by: Xu Lu Yan and Jin Guo Dong


Plot (from Wiki):

Li Li and Pei Shangxuan meet each other when they are fourteen and she has a crush on him for the longest time. However, she does not confess due to her unattractive looks leading to her low self-esteem. And just like, days become months, and months become years. She stays beside him as his best friend for fifteen long years. During those years, various challenges scar them, rendering them feeling unworthy for each other. Pei Shangxuan was fearful of pursuing her, afraid of losing her if their romance doesn’t work out. When he finally realizes he loves her, it’s too late.

Their promise of love is being likened to a pair of migratory birds – wherever they go, they will eventually return to each other.

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Review:

I decided to watch Promise of Migratory Birds (PMB) due to Zhang Ruo Yun, who did an awesome work in Medical Examiner Dr. Qin.

On the surface, PMB seems like the typical teenage drama, but Wikipedia dramatic synopsis kinda allured me.

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Another high school drama?

(SPOILERS) What I loved about PMB was its poetry, how the story was built over beautiful and heartbreaking metaphors. Our main characters, Pei Shang Xuan and Li Li met each other in high school. Although they initially had a terrible first impression, they develop a strong bond throughout years.

At first, Li Li (Sun Yi) thought that Pei Shang Xuan was an irresponsible boy who took football as an excuse to skip his duties. Little by little, she realized that Pei Shang Xuan loved sincerely playing football, and would do anything in order to achieve his dreams. Also, she found out that he’s a kindhearted boy who wouldn’t doubt to help others. Her concern and friendship towards Pei Shang Xuan eventually grew into love. A shy, silent and selfless love.

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Sun Yi plays the role of Li Li

She tried once to declare herself, but just before she could, Pei Shang Xuan started a relantionship with her cousin, Han Yi Chen. Every year Li Li would start a diary, writing in the very first page a promise: “This year I don’t want to love Pei Shang Xuan anymore“. This habit went on during fifteen years.

Despite she never admitted explicitly she felt unworthy of him, you can appreciate the times in which Li Li was tormented by her low-esteem. She is intelligent enough to not care about Han Yi Chen’s childhood bullying, but I believe that realizing Pei Shang Xuan chose her somehow hurt Li Li, leaving irreversible wounds.

She always stayed by Pei Shang Xuan’s side, willing to wait for him and love silently. Also, Li Li thinks that starting a relationship with Pei Shang Xuan would made her lose their friendship. She believes that having him as a friend is better than not having him at all.

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Li Li may seem like a sad and serious woman, but she loves life deeply and would do anything to protect the ones she care about

On the other hand, Zhang Ruo Yun plays the role of our male lead, Pei Shang Xuan. He loves football and is his school’s team captain. He doesn’t really care about studies so his tutor paired him with Li Li in a kind of “study group”, in which Pei Shang Xuan helps Li Li with sports and Li Li helps him with other subjects. At the beginning, they took advantage of this situation bothering each other, but it immediately became a chance to reinforce their friendship.

Pei Shang Xuan was extremely popular at school, being admired and loved by almost every girl.  Li Li was repudiated by her female schoolmates due to her initial bad relantionship with him. When this ended up affecting her best friend, Li Jun, she faced Pei Shang Xuan and critized him. That was the moment when Pei Shang Xuan changed his mind about Li Li, realizing that she was a very good friend.

When Li Li had to deal with his mother’s re-marriage, Pei Shang Xuan stayed by her side, encouraging her and protecting her from a (verbally) abusive step-brother (Deng Lun’s character, Liu Qian Ren).

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Even sunshine boys have their own scars

Pei Shang Xuan’s first love was Li Li’s cousin, Han Yi Chen. The year of their university entrance exams, he got really good marks, but in order to protect Han Yi Chen from a group of bullies, he was incarcerated. Han Yi Chen left the country without testifying and he stayed in jail for a whole year. Aside from the trauma itself, Pei Shang Xuan lost his faith in friendship and love. All his aspirations in life turned to ashes, since no university or job would admit a student with criminal record. He started working in a night bar, drinking alcohol and “meeting” girls. When Li Li and his friends tried to cheer him up, he pushed them aside. Deep down, he thought he didn’t deserve them anymore, especially Li Li, who had always been a brilliant student.

It was Li Li who finally stopped that spiral of self-destruction. One night, Pei Shang Xuan, trying to help a female workmate, began drinking a lot of alcohol with some customers. Li Li, who tried stopping him in vain, took an entire bottle and started drinking. Pei Shang Xuan stopped straightaway, promising her to find another job and overcome his pessimism. Later, Pei Shang Xuan would express his gratitude for those harsh times. In his words, they were critical for him to realize who were his true friends.

Pei Shang Xuan discovered his real feelings towards Li Li after seven years. He declared himself in a very romantic way and persuaded Li Li to overcome her fears. Everything seemed perfect but just then, Li Li is diagnosed with leukemia. My heart literally broke when that year she changed the words in her diary to “This year I won’t be able to love Pei Shang Xuan anymore“. Li Li chose to disappear and leave Pei Shang Xuan, because he was starting a decisive project and she didn’t want to become his burden.

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I like how their relationship evolved

Pei Shang Xuan searched and waited for Li Li eight years. Knowing Li Li, he was sure that only something terrible would made Li Li disappear without telling him anything. When they came across after so many years, Li Li convinced him that their time had already passed and that she started a new relationship with Liu Qian Ren. I felt awfully powerless when watching those final scenes, in which Pei Shang Xuan couldn’t understand (and believe) what happened but had to accept her decision.

They spent seven years to get together, seven years in which Pei Shang Xuan dated wrong women (Han Yi Chen, Su Su) and they both had to deal with their own fears. Li Li waited for Pei Shang Xuan seven years, and Pei Shang Xuan waited for her another eight years. In the end, Li Li loved Pei Shang Xuan for fifteen years.

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Fifteen years of devotion, loyalty and patience

The series is named after their promise. Li Li’s biological father was an ornithology lover and she inherited this interest. It got an even more special meaning  after her father’s death. Li Li and her dad would went every year to watch migratory birds return to the same place. Pei Shang Xuan promised that they would perpetuate this habit together.

The importance of migratory birds is possibly the detail that made the series so different. As I mentioned before, PMB is set over beautiful but heartbreaking metaphors. Each year, birds would fly thousands of miles in their migration, but no matter how long time or distance, they would always return to the same place. Hence, if you are willing to wait, they will eventually return. Both Li Li and Pei Shang Xuan were willing to wait for each other, because they believed she/he would “return”. I was moved each time Li Li talked about migratory birds and Sun Yi was flawless portraying her character’s devotion towards that ritual.

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If you are willing to wait…

Deng Lun plays the role of Liu Qian Ren, Li Li’s step-brother. At first he loathed Li Li and her mother, convinced that his parent’s divorce was Li Li’s mother’s fault. As a result, he behaved like a real dick, bullying Li Li and even throwing her things. However, Li Li’s kindness ended up softening his heart, making him fall in love. If Li Li loved Pei Shang Xuan for fifteen years, it’s accurate to say that Liu Qian Ren also loved Li Li for fifteen years. It’s pleasant to see his character development, how he remained indifferent and even nasty on the surface, but slowly began caring about Li Li and her mother like family.

Unexpectedly, I really liked his character (despite I always shipped Li Li with Pei Shang Xuan). I was very confused when halfway through the series he “disappeared” (he moved to work in another city). It was even worst because it happened right after a specific event. Remember when Li Li drank that whole bottle of alcohol? Pei Shang Xuan got her alone into a taxi and Liu Qian Ren found her when she arrived. A very drunk Li Li is brought to bed by Liu Qian Ren and seeing him as Pei Shang Xuan, she begged him not to leave her. That’s all Li Li remember the next morning but she automatically inferred something happened between them. I couldn’t believe that Liu Qian Ren took advantage of her while being drunk, but I was more and more confused because the show kept showing Li Li’s remorse towards that night (even considering herself now unworthy of any man, not to say her beloved Pei Shang Xuan). Her misunderstanding (because it was a misunderstanding) went on during a bunch of episodes, until Liu Qian Ren finally reappeared.

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Deng Lun is everywhere these days, I’m happy for his fast rise as a young actor

He came back with a new identity: Li Li’s boss in her new job. He looked the same as before: cold, distant and insensitive; but defended and watched over Li Li behind her back. His attitude seemed harsh and severe, but he always attempted to encourage and help Li Li. Liu Qian Ren stayed with her for eight years, supporting her during her own leukemia’s therapy and taking care of every single detail. When Li Li’s mother died (due to her ovarian cancer), he even promised that he would always look after Li Li.

Liu Qian Ren always knew Li Li loved Pei Shang Xuan (he was even rejected by her), it’s strange that Liu Qian Ren never tried to persuade Li Li to spend her last days with the one she really loved, but he was willing to stay by her side no matther what. In Li Li’s mother deathbed, she regretted not being able to see Li Li getting marry. Liu Qian Ren proposed to Li Li and she accepted in order to fulfill her mother’s last will.

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Bittersweetly, Li Li and Liu Qian Ren both waited fifteen years for the one they loved

The marriage never took place because Li Li escaped the same day, only leaving her diaries. When Pei Shang Xuan saw those diaries and read the words she wrote every year in the first page, he understood that he had to find Li Li and fight for their relantionship. Still, it was already too late. Li Li was gone and no one could find her. (SPOILER) The show chose to leave a an open ending: we never get to know if Li Li died. We just know that Pei Shang Xuan kept waiting for her, believing she would eventually return to him (the same as migratory birds).

Note: Referring to the ending, the last episode doesn’t make sense at all. It’s like a summary of the previous 23 episodes (literally), focusing on Li Li and Pei Shang Xuan’s relationship. I’ve even seen comments of people saying that you can watch the whole story by just watching episode 24 (which is somehow true).

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Li Jun is Li Li’s best friend since high school days

As for other supporting actors, we have Liu Mei Han, who portrays Li Jun (Li Li’s best friend). I think the show doesn’t really “take care” of the characters aside from Li Li, Pei Shang Xuan and Liu Qian Ren; but you can’t ask for more to such short series. Li Jun would chose her best friend over her idol (Pei Shang Xuan at that time). I was glad that they overcame her problems and remained friends. Still, I was disappointed when Li Li left without saying anything and she didn’t seem too affected (if my best friend went missing all of a sudden I’d go crazy looking for her). But okay, the series had to focus on Pei Shang Xuan and his sorrow, so perhaps they couldn’t waste any minute on Li Jun (something which bothers me because episode 24 is a nonsense). The same happens when Li Li reveals the truth to Li Jun, telling her she was diagnosed with leukemia and that was the reason why she left. Li Jun’s reaction isn’t the expected.

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Daniel turned into Li Li and Pei Shang Xuan’s best friend

Li Zong Lin plays the role of Daniel, a boy who was transferred to their school just after Li Jun moved to another city. He soon became an important part of the group. He was introduced to Li Jun later, at university. They eventually fell in love and it’s pleasing to see a couple with a happier ending. Nevertheless, things never seem to be so easy. Daniel dreams about becoming a singer, but to achieve this, he has to move to Korea. Not willing to leave Li Jun alone in China, waiting for him, he decided to break up with her.

No need to say that he fulfilled his dream, becoming a well-known and very popular asian singer. They met again after seven years, in Li Li’s wedding ceremony. While looking for Li Li, they are pursued by a group of paparazzi. Li Jun wants to escape and hide, but Daniel took advantage of the situation to confess that he keeps loving her. Unlike our main characters, Daniel and Li Jun got their happy ending (although the show finished with an open ending, you can just assume that Li Li died, because there’s no other reason why she wouldn’t come back to Pei Shang Xuan and leave him waiting).

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Han Yi Chen: the rich, spoiled and good-looking cousin of Li Li

One last section to talk about Pei Shang Xuan’s “not-meant-to-be-women”. Han Yi Chen (Zhang Xue Ying) is Li Li’s cousin, but different from her, she came from a wealthy family in which she had always been spoiled. Her mother told her to learn from Li Li, because she was a very good student with awesome marks, but Han Yi Chen always believed she could get whatever Li Li has (since she’s more beautiful and popular). Note: personally, I couldn’t consider Han Yi Chen any more good-looking than Li Li. I believe she “fall in love” with Pei Shang Xuan just because she saw that Li Li was interested on him. The group of bullies I quoted before recorded her while she was in the bathroom, and threatened to make it public if she testify for Pei Shang Xuan. That’s why she left the country, leaving Pei Shang Xuan to his fate.

Han Yi Chen returns many years later, working in Li Li’s company. While being abroad, she studied in the same university than Liu Qian Ren, becoming friends. Although she seemed to have changed, and kind of make up with Li Li, you immediately realize she’s remains the same. She reveals Pei Shang Xuan the reason why she didn’t testify and he forgave her, but she couldn’t accept he didn’t love her anymore (something which was obvious…). She blames Li Li and takes her resentment to their workplace. Fortunately (?), PMB couldn’t afford to waste more time in any supporting character, so her bitching lasted fairly.

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I was too lazy (and didn’t care) to look for more photos of our main’s exs, so I’m just putting another Pei Shang Xuan for you

The same goes for Su Su (Zheng He Hui Zi), Pei Shang Xuan’s second girlfriend. Regarding to her, I can only say how senseless was their relationship (because Pei Shang Xuan clearly didn’t love him). Also, Su Su had a serious problem of dependency towards Pei Shang Xuan.

I felt bad because I have nothing to say about Qiu Zi An (Dai Chao), Li Jun’s cousin who was also Li Li’s pretender. He tried really hard but finally gave up. After that he just disappeared so I hope he had an happy ending just like her cousin.

Final note (the last one, I swear): I read somewhere that they changed PMB’s ending from the book it’s based on. I think the original ending was far more better (NOVEL SPOILERS NEXT: Liu Qian Ren accepts that Li Li will never love him and ends up finding his own happy ending, Li Li dies but Pei Shang Xuan is by her side. He promises that in next life he would first fall in love with her, not making her wait for him again).


Conclusion:

As for me, Promise of Migratory Birds is not just another high school drama. The story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, built over intelligent metaphors which differentiates it from other similar dramas. Pei Shang Xuan and Li Li were the right person for each other, but they had the wrong timing. The same could be said about Liu Qian Ren. I think their story also warns its viewers about not wasting their time: overcome your fears, seize every chance you have and dare to love.

I personally liked the soundtrack, especially the song “Let You Go”. The scenography was accurate too, detailed and stunning when needed. Everything is pretty good excluding some little aspects about their side characters’ development (and their possible sudden disappearance), but it’s absolutely understandable for a 24 (23, in fact) episodes show. Its short length is also another appeal, even if you don’t like the story you can miss too much with it.

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Find that place (that person) to where you will always want to return

In conclusion, give a try to Promise of Migratory Birds. Sun Yi, Zhang Ruo Yun and Deng Lun (along with the rest of the cast) made a marvelous work portraying their characters and their story. It’s a beautiful (but sad) chance to get to know some very talented young actors.


  • Plot: 18/20
  • Cast: 19/20
  • OST: 9/10
  • Scenography: 10/10
  • Costume: 10/10
  • Overall: 9.4/10