Titles: 端脑 (Duan Nao) / Die Now / Welcome To Die Now
- 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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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).
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):
- The introduction game
- The lying maze
- The outdoor survival
- The race
- The dinner of Agatha Christie
- The intelectual duel with Bo Bian
- The ring: the endless loop
- The last enigma
- The final challenge: Die Now (to be continued)
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!
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✧
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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