The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: Nirvana In Fire [Chinese Drama]

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You know how, when you stumble on something so exciting and amazing that you just can’t help but tell your friends about it, even if it means going off on a tangent? This is that time, you guys.

Basically, it doesn’t matter if you don’t usually watch dramas from China, or if you don’t usually watch period dramas, or if you don’t usually watch long dramas. This drama is, objectively speaking, so splendid and magnificent that if you don’t check it out, you’d be missing out. Big Time.

Not even exaggerating, by the way.

A TOUCH OF BACKGROUND

If you’ve known me for a while, or if you’ve poked around this blog a bit, you would probably know that I watch Korean dramas almost exclusively. It’s partly habit, partly soft spot, and partly the excellent production values that kdramas tend to serve up. Coz I do like pretty things, as you very likely know. 😉

Still, I like to keep an open mind, and when something that’s not within my usual wheelhouse gets a lot of buzz, the curious cat in me can’t help but want to see for myself what the fuss is about.

That’s what happened here. I first became intrigued when my Twitter feed began flooding with spazz over this show. And then my dear friend Eleanor (who loves this show with a passion) posted a few MVs that made me sit up and pay serious attention. Everything looked so gorgeous that I just had to check this out for myself. And boy, am I glad I did.

ON A META LEVEL: WHAT I LOVED

I consider Nirvana In Fire such a marvel in its construction that I just have to pause and give credit where it’s due, before talking about anything else.

1. The polish

The production values of this show are so high that it often feels more gloriously cinematic than modestly small screen.

Everything is carefully, lovingly, beautifully shot, and it is a literal feast for the senses. From the amazing landscapes, to the loving camera angles and every meticulously-framed shot, to every deliberate, painstaking detail in set, costume and background music, everything is precisely, just-so perfect.

Thanks to all of these elements coming together so flawlessly, this drama world feels immersively, wonderfully real. This, despite being set in a very different time and place than my drama sensibilities are used to. I consistently felt like I was transported into another world; a world that felt whole and complete in all of its magnificent, fine detail.

2. The acting

The cast is a sprawling one, as befits the scale of the story, and from the principal characters to the secondary characters, to even the small, incidental characters, every single one is well-acted.

Our principal cast does a tremendous job of bringing their characters to life, and even the baddies are excellently and believably portrayed. Layered and nuanced from the big moments to the quiet, subtle ones, every major character is delivered with an admirable level of mastery and commitment.

Additionally, I must give a shout-out to the casting. It’s spot on, in almost every instance. As a small example, among the secondary characters, I’m particularly taken with the casting for Marquis Yan. Wang Jin Song possesses a keenly shrewd and bright gaze befitting his character’s intelligence, and his lean, sprightly build is a perfect match for his character’s context of having spent years living simply and praying in the temple.

Really good, when you put it all together.

3. The writing

As excellent as the production values and acting are, the writing is truly the star of this entire show. Mad, mad props to Hai Yan, who not only wrote the original novel, but also penned the script for this show.

Scale & detail

The thing that stands out the most to me, writing-wise, is how much detail is maintained despite the immense scale of the story. There are multiple threads, big and small, that get introduced at various junctures of our story. As with many dramas of this scale, some of the smaller threads appear to fade out partway through the show.

Unlike many other dramas, however, here, the smaller threads are not forgotten, and are consistently brought back to the fore – sometimes much, much later – to add to the narrative in a meaningful way. That shows just how much thought and care was put into the construct of our story.

General brilliance

Another major stand-out, is just how brilliant the writing is. I have literally never been this engrossed by political intrigue, ever. Neither can I remember being this impressed by the intricate plotting that goes into creating narrative twists and turns that make total cohesive sense on hindsight, but which appear so impossible and baffling in the moment. There’s nothing quite like having complete trust that your writer knows exactly where she’s going and just buckling in for the ride, and Hai Yan had me edge-of-my-seat spellbound.

I love that almost all of our main characters are whip-smart, whether they’re male or female, good guys or bad guys. It makes for such sharp dialogue, and watching the characters outwit and out-maneuver one another in conversations was consistently like watching resolute flint meet unbending steel. I could almost literally see the sparks fly.

Language

On top of how clever and comprehensive the writing is, the language used is poetic and very beautiful.

A fair amount of the poetry is lost in translation, but even if you can’t understand Chinese, the subbers have done a really solid job of bringing forth as much of the original meaning as possible, without creating unwieldy lines and sentences.

This is one of those rare times when I find myself being grateful for all those years of Mandarin lessons that I suffered through. I realized that I was able to understand and appreciate a lot of the poetry in the dialogue, and – at the risk of sounding hokey – I must say it did stir in me a new-found appreciation for what is technically my motherland.

Themes

Despite its very specific context, Nirvana In Fire remains accessible because of its themes. Righteousness, justice, loyalty and love are universal values that we can all identify with, and these themes resonated with me all series long.

MINOR QUIBBLES

Truth be told, I had to really stop and think about it, when I asked myself what flaws this show has. In the grand scheme of things, these are itty-bitty minor quibbles in a literal ocean of goodies. Still, here they are, just for the record.

1. Episode cliffhangers

While Show did serve up some good cliffhangers, generally speaking, they mostly felt like non-cliffhangers, to be honest. Often, the episodes seemed to end while smack in the middle of a scene, and the so-called cliffhangers often felt random, as a result.

2. A small section of drag

Once Show settles into its rhythm, it feels engaging and quite gripping most of the way through. In fact, things get more and more exciting, the deeper we get into the show. However, I must admit that there is a small spot of drag at around episode 30, that lasts for a few episodes.  Happily, the drag is momentary, and Show picks up its pace in a brisk way right after.

3. Dubbing

Because China is a huge country, with each province often having its own accent, dubbing is used to achieve a consistently pure rendition of the Mandarin that is spoken.

While I must say that the result is very pleasing and melodious to the ears (Mandarin has never sounded more gorgeous to me than in this show, to be honest), I was rather distracted by how the characters’ lip movements sometimes didn’t sync with the sounds that were supposedly coming out of their mouths.

MY FAVORITE THINGS IN THE SHOW

There is so much to love in this show that it’s literally impossible to talk about everything and everyone. Here’s the loving spotlight on just my absolute favorites.

1. Hu Ge as Mei Changsu / Su Zhe / Lin Shu

Hu Ge is flat-out brilliant as our main character Mei Changsu (also known as Su Zhe, and who also harbors a secret identity as Lin Shu).

A character with multiple identities, Mei Changsu is a man with many secrets. Add on the fact that Mei Changu is also a very frail and sickly person, and it’s pretty much a given that Hu Ge had to play him fairly subdued all the way through. What blows me away, is that in spite of having to deliver Mei Changsu as a mysterious and unreadable character, Hu Ge manages to imbue Mei Changsu with subtle layers and nuances, amid the restraint.

Every shift in his gaze, and every minute inflection of his voice, takes on rich layers of meaning. Those deeper layers may or may not be accessible to the audience at the time, but the sense of depth and dimension is always present, and Mei Changsu very much feels like a real, living, breathing (and extraordinarily brilliant) person.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Much as I admire Mei Changsu for his laser-sharp insights and uncanny ability to analyze people and situations, sometimes with very little available information, and much as I love his playful side when he teases his friends (his cheeky smile is adorable!), I must say that the times I felt for him the most, were when he allowed his emotions to rise to the surface.

Like when Princess Nihuang (Liu Tao) recognizes him and cries in his arms, his tears flow so freely, and his delicately frail hands hold her so tentatively, that my heart ached for him, for having to suppress himself so much.

Or when Consort Jing (Liu Min Tao) confirms his identity and weeps for all that he’s suffered. Despite remaining mostly stoic, his emotional upheaval is clear to see in his gaze and slight twitches in his brow. The sadness in his gaze, mirrored only by the same sadness in his voice, coupled with his quiet, pleading, growing desperation for his aunt to keep his identity a secret, is altogether completely heartwrenching. That he has to conceal his true self and restrain his true feelings this much, while digging deep for more strength to gird those around him, broke my heart.

Restrained angst never looked more tragically beautiful than on Mei Changsu, truly.

[END SPOILER]

2. Wang Kai as Prince Jing / Jingyan

Wang Kai does an excellent delivery of the upright, courageous, strong and unrelentingly straightforward Jingyan, who is by design a much less complicated character compared to Mei Changsu, but no less important.

By turn a commanding warrior, a regal prince, a loving son, and a fiercely loyal friend, Wang Kai inhabits each facet of Jingyan’s character in a lovely, believable way. Whether he’s being determinedly stoic, or giving in to his hot-headed streak, or giving voice to his deepest emotions (and what a lovely voice he has), Wang Kai makes Jingyan an empathetic, relatable and likable character.

Major props to Wang Kai, for making it so easy to believe Jingyan, and root for him, from start to finish.

[SPOILER ALERT]

There are many things that I appreciate about Jingyan – his upright character, for one, and his strength and prowess on the battlefield, for another – but if I had to pick just one thing about him that I esteem the most, it’s his unhesitating, unwavering loyalty.

Consistently, we see that he deeply misses his friend Xiao Shu, and treasures every single item that he associates with Xiao Shu’s memory. When Mei Changsu ventures to touch Xiao Shu’s bow (which, really, is his own), Jingyan’s reaction is visceral and aggressively protective. No one can touch Xiao Shu’s bow, it’s that precious.

Later in the series, when Jingyan is advised against bringing up the Chiyan case, for fear of jeopardizing his standing for the throne, Jingyan reacts with a swift, instinctive anger. It’s more than a quest for justice. It’s a quest for justice, for Xiao Shu, for Xiao Shu’s family, for his fellow Chiyan soldiers, who’d lost their lives. Jingyan’s clearly driven by much more than justice in and for itself. For him, it’s a deeply personal thing, that he feels down to his bones. He’s ready to throw away his quest for the throne, if it means that he can obtain that justice for those that he cares about. And I really hafta admire him for that.

[END SPOILER]

3. The bromance

Oh, the bromance. You guys know that I love a solid bromance – even better if it’s of the intense, emotionally potent variety – and this show does not disappoint.

Pretty much every which way you look in this show, there’s a bit of bromance lurking nearby, and I love it. From the emperor and his eunuch (Ding Yong Dai and Tan Xi He), to Jingrui and Yujin (Cheng Hao Feng and Guo Xiao Ran), to Mei Changsu and Fei Liu (Wu Lei), there’s a whole lotta strong male affection going on in the show; a fact that I dig very much.

Hands-down the most compelling bromance of them all, though, is the one between Jingyan and Mei Changsu.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The hook for me, with this bromance, is two-fold.

The first layer, is just how much these two men mean to each other. Like I mentioned earlier, Jingyan deeply treasures every single thing that he has, that he can associate with Xiao Shu. It’s clear that he thinks of his dear friend with a deep sense of longing, and it was heartbreaking to see him even break down in tears in front of his mother, for missing Xiao Shu.

Over on Mei Changsu’s side, we know that Jingyan also means the world to him, even if Jingyan has no idea. The very reason he’s even in the capital as Mei Changsu, is to put Jingyan on the throne. Yes, it’s largely to do with obtaining justice for his family and for his Chiyan troops, but it also has a lot to do with allowing Jingyan to reach his fullest potential, and be the kind of emperor that the kingdom needs. Every time Jingyan speaks wistfully of his friend Xiao Shu, we can see from Mei Changsu’s rueful, melancholic gaze that he misses Jingyan just as much as Jingyan misses him. Which, tears.

The bromantic connection between them is so emotionally potent that I was completely mesmerized.

The second layer, is the star-crossed fact that Jingyan has no idea that his Xiao Shu, whom he longs for so deeply, is right there in front of him. As Jingyan progressively picks up on clues that connect Mei Changsu to Xiao Shu, the will-he-or-won’t-he-find-out of it all, is downright cracky goodness.

While I found the layered double meanings quite delicious in the season that Jingyan didn’t know Mei Changsu’s true identity, I also eagerly looked forward to them finally being able to speak to each other as the besties that they truly are.

I really wanted them to hug it out properly, so much, and rooted for these two with the whole of my fangirl heart, all series long.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-outs

There are a lot more things that I love in this show, but in the interest of (relative) brevity, I’m selecting just a handful of my favorites for the quick spotlight.

Chen Long as Commander Meng

Commander Meng is seriously one of my favorite characters in the entire show. So strong, straightforward and loyal, and yet, just a touch slower than his unreasonably brilliant friends; poor Commander Meng often comes across as a little dim, purely by association.

I admire him for his courage and leadership on the battlefield, and love-love-love him for his gruff but wholehearted love for his friend Mei Changsu. A dorky, lionhearted sweetie-pie of the best kind.

Wu Lei as Fei Liu

Fei Liu is the most adorable fighting puppy there ever was. I love that he’s so adept at effortlessly kicking ass as a martial arts savant, while being endearingly and poutingly childlike in every other way.

In particular, I love his hearts-in-eyes, puppy-like loyalty to Mei Changsu. He’s always got Mei Changsu’s back, whether it’s warranted or not. And his dismissive “hmph!”s whenever he gets peeved became one of my favorite things in the show.

The romance

With the show’s strong emphasis on bromance, and with so much political plotline to cover, the romance is very understated in this show. Still, what we do get is very poignant and sweet. I very much appreciate the unwavering nature of this OTP’s love for each other, as well as the pure nature of that love.

[SPOILER] Once Nihuang understands that Mei Changsu needs to focus all his energy on his quest and can promise her nothing, she makes no demands on him whatsoever, and simply supports him in every way that she can. She doesn’t even know the full extent of his illness, or how long he has to live, but simply because she senses just how much his goal means to him, she supports him without question. Despite this loveline mostly being in the background, that pureness of her love moved me in a very real way, all the way to the end. [END SPOILER]

Liu Min Tao as Consort Jing

Ahh, Consort Jing. Such grace and wisdom. Contrasted against all the rest of the whining, scheming concubines, Consort Jing is a breath of fresh air, and I loved watching her forward her cause without ever losing her subtlety or her dignity. It pleased me very much, that Consort Jing got more and more screen time as the show progressed.

Tan Xi He as Chief Eunuch Gao Zhan

Chief Eunuch Gao Zhan totally snuck up on me; the more I saw of him, the more I liked him. From giggling with the emperor, to fussing over him like a mother hen, to shrewdly and subtly keeping the cranky, reckless emperor in line, Gao Zhan does it all. He is, in a word, awesome. And cute, too.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

What a thoughtful, thought-provoking ending, that managed to move my heart, break it, and fill it, all at the same time.

In the lead-up to Lin Shu going to battle, I was moved by his quiet determination to avail himself for his country, yet I also felt the deep reluctance and distress of those near and dear to him. In particular, the conversation between Jingyan and Xiao Shu on the rooftop tugged at my heartstrings. Jingyan’s tearful, choked-up desperation that his friend not endanger himself, contrasted against Xiao Shu’s gentle understanding and his quiet firmness, was touching to witness. Yet, in that moment, despite their opposing words, both men are on the same page and have the same painful understanding; this is the only choice available to them.

It’s heartbreaking that Jingyan and Nihuang and everyone else is left behind after Xiao Shu’s death, but how moving – and how apt, really – that Xiao Shu essentially gets to finally be himself again, and live as himself again. Not as a sickly, frail strategist, but once again a warrior on the battlefield, using his talents and his passion to protect his people and his country.

Augh, that is such a gut-wrenching, yet poignantly fulfilling arc for our main character. Not only does Xiao Shu finally see the justice that he’s sought for so long, but he gets to really live, as himself, one last time.

That Nihuang understands his desire so deeply, so much so that she would not only yield to his wishes but support him, in spite of her misgivings and worries, says a lot about her love for him. As understated as their loveline is throughout the show, I did choke up at their goodbye scene. Each being strong for the other, while knowing that it’s likely the last time they would see each other. Sob.

In the end, I absolutely love that Jingyan names the new army in memory of his dear friend. After years of having his name associated with treason, Lin Shu is now a name that’s not only clean, but highly esteemed. How very poetic and fitting. This truly is the highest honor that Jingyan can accord Xiao Shu, and I loved that dual demonstration of righteousness and loyalty in one.

At the same time, I love that the name Jingyan chooses for the new army draws from both of Xiao Shu’s identities. What a perfect expression of how Jingyan accepts, embraces and honors every part of his dear friend, and not only the Xiao Shu of the past. So perfect.

Plus, with this army now bearing his name, I almost feel like Xiao Shu’s still with Jingyan, in spirit. Now that’s a thought that I really, really like.

[END SPOILERS]

CLOSING THOUGHTS

What a breathless, breathtaking journey. Equal parts brilliant and satisfying, and executed with such meticulous, fine care, Nirvana In Fire is definitely a drama for the record books.

I never would’ve imagined in a million years, that I would be writing about a Chinese drama in this space. After all, this is a blog about Korean dramas, and I hardly watch anything but Korean dramas. Will this be the first of many Chinese dramas reviewed on this site? Are we witnessing the beginnings of a C-wave that will sweep the world like the K-wave has? It’s hard to say.

One thing I will say, though.

China, you’ve got my attention. This has been nothing short of amazing, and I sincerely hope that you’ll amaze me again. ❤

THE FINAL VERDICT:

A masterpiece that is epic, spectacular, gripping, and thoroughly moving. A must-see.

FINAL GRADE: A++

TRAILER:

MVs:

For those of you who haven’t seen the show, this is a great way to get a flavor for the lush cinematography and overall cinematic vibe of the show. Without any context, and without knowing who’s who, you won’t be spoiled, trust me. 🙂

BONUS: Alterna-Ending

So I found this alterna-ending, which is labeled as “uncut” (未删减版). I personally prefer the ending that did get broadcast, but I figured that some of you guys might actually like this, so here you go:

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

108 thoughts on “Flash Review: Nirvana In Fire [Chinese Drama]

  1. I really fave this drama as well, since I continuously watched it four times over =D. Thank you for the flash review! Hopefully more people will want to watch this drama, despite of the monstrous number of episodes. I was reading the Youtube comments, and many were discussing the changes made by Hai Yan on the exposure of Xiao Shu’s identity to Jing Yan. Apparently, the way Jing Yan knew of Su Zhe’s real identity in the book was way different from the drama, but since the book had 100 over chapters, I chose to leave it alone =/. I recommend anyone who can read Mandarin to watch on Youtube, not only are the comments hilarious, but I also found things like many of the characters are on the production team, like Xia Jiang, Li Gang, and Tong Lu. Thank you Kfangurl for the review! =D =D

    Like

    • Wow, 4 times!! You are a serious NIF fan, Seljy!! 😀 I definitely plan to rewatch this one sometime, but for now, I’m going to let it breathe for a bit. So that when I rewatch it, it’ll feel as fresh as possible 😉

      YES, I definitely hope that more people will give this drama a chance. It’s why I wrote the review to begin with, even though I never planned to write about a non-Korean drama on this site. It’s just too good not to share ^^

      And WOW, I would’ve never guessed that Xia Jiang, Li Gang and Tong Lu were actually also part of the production team!! That’s amazing and hilarious at the same time!! Thanks for that fabulous little tidbit! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, your review made me cry, in a good way of course, but this show does that to me. It’s so beautiful and moving and lovely. If you are feeling the loss, come and read our recaps at PotUP and fall in love again 😀 Also, the “alternate ending” wasn’t an alternate ending. It was actually something they aired as a teaser around episode 30 and fans got this idea in their head it was an alternate ending (and I’ve heard that the production crew was trolling a bit). It got so bad that they actually came out and made an official statement that it was just an unaired segment that didn’t make the cut and was set for before they came to the city to commence the grand plan. 😀

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    • Aww, thanks dear chingu (or should I now say Péngyǒu (朋友)? XD ) It’s all thanks to you that I even decided to jump into this one, in spite of a full drama plate. SO WORTH IT. ❤ I'm so happy that you enjoyed this review and that it brought back some feels for ya.. I will pop on by to PotUP for some recaps, yes. This is definitely one of those shows that will live forever, I believe ^^

      Also, thanks for the insight on the "alternate ending" – that's SO different, if it was originally meant to be inserted before they went to the capital! Night and day, literally! XD I personally didn’t prefer this “alternate ending” anyway, since it didn’t feel true to Xiao Shu’s character. But I just put it in there, since I thought it might soothe a few hurting viewer hearts out there. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am soooooo sorry that I never replied T___T Isn’t this drama just so amazing?!? I still think about it all the time. And cry when I see new fan videos.

        I’m glad that the “alternate ending” explanation thing helped. If you ever want some AMAZING fan videos, I will be sure to share them with you ❤❤❤

        Like

        • Aw, don’t worry about it – I know you’ve been busy lately! Especially with WKI! And yes, I’d love to see some of those amazing fan vids, so I’d be much obliged if you could point me to them! Thankies, dear chingu! ❤ ❤ ❤

          Like

  3. Oddly enough, I’ve been watching several cdramas lately (there’s even a shoutout to two in my last post). Must be something in the air. 😀

    Yup, NiF has definitely been the cdrama phenomenon this year, EVERYONE has been talking about it. 🙂 I got to ep 10…ish before I got distracted by something else. I will probably finish it one of these days.

    As for other cdramas, I have “Disguiser” lined up as well as last year’s “Battle of Changsha”. Right now my life has been taken over by “Of Monks and Masters” – it’s gloriously gorgeous to look at, I’d say even more so than NiF. I don’t remember when last I’ve been so compelled to take screen grabs! The thing is, there are no subs, so save for few words here and there I’ve got NO idea what they are saying, LOL! I’m still totally hooked on the story. Guess there’ll be a post once I’m done, heh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh, quite a few of us are checking out C-dramas lately, that’s really interesting! I do notice, even as a casual bystander, that China has been seriously upping their drama game, and has been putting out much higher production values. I just had no idea that the writing could be this good. The writing here is so thoughtful and so whole, and I’m really impressed by that. I do think that you’d like it, when you get back to it. 🙂

      I’ve got Disguiser on my list too, but am saving it for a little later, so that the cast can at least shed their NIF identities in my head a little bit. 😉 I’m intrigued by “Of Monks and Masters” just for fact that you’re pressing on even without subs AND without understanding much Chinese!! It must be pretty compelling!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, China has really started to put their best foot forward when it comes to production values. Though according to my pal Mookie, they make awfully lot of crapola too, LOL! Stuff may look good but writing sucks. Guess one needs to learn to pick out the good ones.

        I just finished “Of Monks and Masters” and wow! I’m kinda blown off. I was at the edge of my seat and didn’t even notice. What a build up! That’s one drama that messes up with your head like no tomorrow. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, that much I can say straight away, but I loved it!

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        • Ah, sounds like the C-scene isn’t unlike the K-scene in that way.. Guess it’s unrealistic to expect consistent masterpieces across an entire industry! XD Still, I’m so glad I’ve been clued in to the awesomeness that is possible with C-dramas, and I’m excited to see more awesome!

          Can’t wait to read your write-up on “Of Monks and Masters” – it sounds intriguing! I’m not sure if I’m ready to watch C-dramas raw – my Chinese isn’t as fluent as I’d like – but I’m definitely curious to hear more about this show! 🙂

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  4. I would love for there to be a C-wave. I started watching this because I’ve heard only good things about it and wanted to watch something to practice my Chinese. I only wish Taiwan would up their game too.

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    • If China’s got more like NIF up her sleeve, I say BRING IT! 😀 If that’s the kind of golden we’re in for, I’d be totally up for a ride on a C-wave! The plus point for me, as it is with you, is that I get to improve my Chinese. Which is, practically speaking, way more useful than improving my Korean, if I think about it! XD

      Oh yes, if Taiwan upped her drama game, that would be pretty awesome too. But, if there’s more like this coming out of China, I may not even care that Taiwan’s lagging behind, tbh! 😛

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  5. Great review! I’ve already watched it twice but after your review I feel like watching it for the third time.To be honest,I didn’t have high opinion about C-dramas in general and mostly watched Korean and Japanese ones.Never thought a C-drama would become one of my all time favorites.How I wish I new Mandarin so that I could read the book.

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    • Super happy that you enjoyed the review, Farah! 😀 I totally understand what you mean about feeling like a rewatch! I’m already planning for one – but not right away, since I like my rewatches to feel as fresh as possible. Which is why I think a breather would work nicely. Gives my brain time to let the details fade 😉

      Similar to you, I didn’t used to have a high opinion about C-dramas in general. I’d checked out a couple long ago, and checked out again, for lack of interest and determination on my part. Even as a casual bystander, though, I’ve been noticing the higher production values coming out of China in the last year or so, and that’s intrigued me somewhat. It’s not till NIF, though, that I was curious enough to actually try watching. I’m just SO pleasantly surprised by HOW good NIF is! 😀 And that’s now intrigued me to check out China’s other drama offerings too, and I’m adding new titles to my watch list even as I type this. I may never watch ’em all, but my Mandarin is definitely improving! XD

      I heard that the book is really long, so I doubt I’d ever be able to finish it. But, given how brilliant NIF is as a drama, I can totally understand your curiosity to check out the source material! Who knows, maybe one day it’ll get translated thanks to NIF’s glorious international popularity? 😉

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      • Actually someone did translate the first 7 chapters of the book in her blog (not sure if it’s ok to post link here but it’ll pop up in google if you just search writing Nirvana translation). Unfortunately she stopped after that.But those few chapters were so interesting and intriguing that I was instantly hooked.Hence my regret for not knowing Mandarin.But as you said,since Nirvana is being appreciated in international drama community as well,there’s hope that another kind soul may take up this arduous undertaking 😉
        In my hurry I forgot to thank you in my last comment for your wonderful review.Thank you very much.I’m planning to check out Disguiser soon and may be it’ll give us another chance to rave about another C-drama 🙂

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        • Oh, that’s so frustratingly tantalizing, that you managed to read 7 chapters of the book, but are unable to continue! 😛 For your sake, I do hope that NIF’s international popularity will inspire others to translate the original novel! I personally think there’s a pretty good chance of that happening, so don’t lose heart! ^^

          Ah, I’m so glad you enjoyed the review Farah! I absolutely believe there’s so much that can be said about this drama. In fact, yesterday as I was reading through the review again to check for any typos, an additional insight to Jingyan’s naming of the army hit me. The WAY he named it, taking a character from both of Xiao Shu’s names, is such a clear message, that he wants to embrace and honor not only his long-time friend Xiao Shu, but also the strategist Mei Changsu that he’d come to know. Guh. The realization totally flooded me with feels, all over again. How totally touching is that?? He loves EVERY side of Xiao Shu. ❤ ❤ I just had to add that to the review. 🙂

          And yes, Disguiser! I'm going to wait a little while before starting on that.. I want to give my brain a chance to fade these actors' NIF identities a little, heh. 😉

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  6. Haha yes finally! This review, the show is brilliant. If you check out Kap’s post on this in avirtualvoyage.com, the comments section is insanely long and spoilery and obsessive. Nirvana and Disguiser I feel like are literally the best dramas of this decade! I don’t know if this will be a trend though. Yes Cdramas have been becoming more and more flowery and pretty as in high def and all that. There’s still a lot of idol-ish dramas going on, an awful trope-y trend that has migrated to the historical/wuxia genres. The recent ones, Hua Qian Gu, Legend of Zu, have all been completely horrible disappointments with mostly mediocre acting and absolutely horrid and vapid plot lines. If you want the good stuff, the meatier, well directed and scripted stuff, Shanying (short of Shang Dong TV) makes the best. They produced both Nirvana and Disguiser.

    Nirvana is absolutely my fav drama, Literally ever. If you liked Nirvana this much, you should really check out The Disguier (Wei Zhuang Zhe). It has practically the same cast, s produced by Shanying, and broadcasted much at the same time. It’s a story in the Communist/Japanese era, with Jin Dong, Wang Kai, Hu Ge as brothers, and Liu Min Tao (Jing Wang Fei in NiF) as the big sis. The acting is PHENOMENAL. Hu Ge gets less room to develop and shine, purely due to his role, but Jin Dong and Wang Kai and the bomb! And Liu Min Tao! And Wang Ou (Ban Ruo in NiF)…man she plays the most convincing and complex psychopathic villainess. I personally like NiF better because I like the story and the time period more, but The Disguiser truly is really good. I hear it’s kind of like a prequel set up to All Quiet in Peking, Shanying’s production last or a few years ago. I hear that was also good, and Wang Kai was there too, but I’m not as interested in it… Anyways. Disguiser is set in that civil war period, but it’s not a truly war drama. More like before the war happened, the behind the scenes maneuvering and set up spy stuff. It’s awesome. So much emphasis on patriotism, loyalty, family, brother/sisterhood, ugh. I can’t describe.

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    • Wow Julianne! Thanks for the insight into the C-drama scene!! For a noob like me who’s intrigued to see more, your explanations and tips are very useful! I’ve got The Disguiser on my list (for after my brain & heart have rested for a bit, from NIF), although I do suspect that like you, I would probably prefer NIF, if only for the time period. Still, coming so highly recommended, I definitely am curious to see what The Disguiser has to offer 🙂 I’ll also be sure to look out for Shanying productions, and avoid Hua Qian Gu and Legend of Zu – thanks for that invaluable tip! 😉

      And YES, NIF totally blows the lid off what I thought a C-drama could be like, and literally is the first and possibly only drama this year that I’ve graded an A++. It’s just SO GOOD on multiple levels.

      Also, as I was re-reading my review today (self-editing, heh), I realized one more layer of meaning in Jingyan’s naming of the army. Yes, renaming it honors Xiao Shu, but the way he renamed it – by taking a character from Mei Changsu, and a character from Lin Shu, demonstrates so clearly and so poignantly, that he is embracing and honoring BOTH sides of his best friend. Not only the Xiao Shu that he grew up with, but also, the Mei Changsu whom he later came to know. How touching is that??? Ahhhh!! I flail at the insight, and even though I’ve added it to the review now, I just HAD to share it with a fellow NIF fan! ❤

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  7. So I have been hearing LOTS of good stuff about Nirvana of Fire, but have definitely been hesitant to check it out. Like you, when I hear a lot about something I tend to at least give it a peak to see what all of the commotion is about. But I’m an exclusive Kdrama watcher since I have been unable to complete a single non-Korean Asian drama. Not for lack of trying though. I have started a bunch of other Asian dramas, but I have never lasted past a few episodes. I usually end up bored and unable to connect with the characters for whatever reason.

    I do have a question. Just how political is Nirvana of Fire? For instance, I love sageuks, but if there are more than a few scenes of political talk per episode, I tend to get quite bored and will drop the drama. I just hate political stuff.

    I’m watching my first longer drama right now, Empress Ki, and I’m loving it. While there is some political intrigue, it fits my criteria of only a few scenes per episode. And despite having serious circumstances propelling the story forward, their is a large cast of very likable supporting characters to compliment the main ones and even very interesting villains.

    Is there enough other stuff to grab interest besides the politics in Nirvana of Fire? Because it sure sounds awesome. It’s one of those dramas you just want to like because everything about it seems so grand and amazing 🙂

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    • Hey there Kay!! Yes, isn’t it an adventure sometimes, to check out positive buzz?? I’ve done that quite a few times with fantastic payoffs. I literally would’ve never experienced some truly excellent dramas if not for keeping an open mind and stepping outside my comfort zone. This is totally the case with NIF, and I really hope you’ll be able to enjoy this show too!

      As for your question about the political-ness of this show. It’s not such a straightforward answer, so I’ve been chewing on it for a little while, in order to give you the most helpful answer that I can. The thing is, the show rests a lot on political intrigue. But, and it’s a big BUT, the political intrigue itself largely has its foundation on very human things. It is very rarely political intrigue for its own sake. Instead, we see almost every political arc rooted in characters’ personal stories, and we see what everything means to them. The story itself, in that sense, is not a political story, but a very personal one. And that’s what makes it accessible and relatable to someone like me, as I have little (zero, almost) interest in political intrigue in and for its own sake.

      Additionally, the characters’ own stories, and the epic bromance at the center really are big draws, for me. The supporting characters are also a very likable bunch (the good guys anyway). The writer takes care to inject moments of lightness even during the more tense points of the story.

      NIF takes a while to get into because of its sprawling cast and scope, but if you just go on good faith for about 4-5 episodes, things will start to fall into place in your head quite nicely. I watched this with a pretty casual lens and never had to work too hard to follow everything. Occasionally, because of my casual lens, I’d be like, “Wait, what did I miss?” But, I’d just keep going, and soon the pieces would click into place. Does that help?? 🙂

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      • Well now, that does sound even more interesting! I don’t think I’ll be able to resist at least giving it shot. I think when I complete Empress Ki, I’ll go for Nirvana in Fire. And thank you for your very insightful and helpful answers 🙂

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        • Ah, YAY that you’ll be giving this a shot! 😀 I haven’t seen Empress Ki myself, but my mom has, and she thinks NIF is many times bigger and better than Empress Ki. And I say that not to diss Empress Ki, but just to give you an idea of just how magnificent NIF is. And, this also makes for an excellent drama trajectory, since you’re now free to enjoy Empress Ki without it having to live up to some awesome show prior 😉 I find that little things like that make a difference to the viewing experience ^^

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          • So far Empress Ki is one of the best sageuks I have seen, so if Nirvana in Fire is better than that, my mind will be officially blown, lol.

            And yes, that was my idea. I usually watch two dramas at a time, but I try to keep them in separate genres so that I’m not comparing the two so much. Even then there’s always a twofold worry when you’re watching a drama you love: One, that whatever other drama your watching won’t be able to compete with the loved one, and two, that the other drama will be even better and come in and steal your attention from the loved drama. So yes, always a good recommendation not to start something else that has a high chance of being fabulous so that you can enjoy what’s already before you.

            I’m sure I’ll be looking for something to fill the void after Empress Ki, and Nirvana in Fire looks like it has good replacement potential 🙂

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            • Oh yes, there IS that instinct to compare, and it sometimes does mess with our ability to appreciate a drama properly, I think. It’s why I sometimes defer watching something, if I think that the timing is off for me.

              I do think there’s a solidly high chance that NIF will end up blowing your mind, actually. It’s just in a league of its own, particularly in the area of the writing. I can probably count on one hand, the number of kdramas that have similarly impressed me with their writing – and I’ve watched quite a lot of kdrama! The downside, of course, is that after a drama like that, it’s a tough act to follow! 😛 I’m now in that phase where I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to this show, and am dipping my toes into the early episodes to get a fix. ^^ I’d love to hear how you like this show, when you do eventually get to it!

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  8. Because of your blog I am currently watching and enjoying Nirvana in Fire. Thank you

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  9. Got my interest in this , downloading 🙂 looks like its from Mainland China , and not Taiwan , once again thanks much ❤

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  10. I have seen a few Cdramas and always ended up dropping them as they seemed a to be lower quality than the more polished Kdramas, but after reading your review i just might give it a go 😉 just a quick question, where can you watch this drama? Anyway thanks for the lovely review 😃

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    • Ah, I know what you mean, naomi! I’d checked out C-dramas in the past, but none of them ever stuck. I dropped them quite fast, actually! 😛 NIF is in a completely different league, though, and absolutely worth checking out! I watched it on viki (I can’t access most kdramas on viki, but happily, the licensing for NIF extends to Singapore!) – you can check it out here! If you don’t require English subs, it’s available on YouTube in HD as well. I hope that helps! 🙂

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  11. Looks good! Would check it out by Christmas break. Haven’t seen any Chinese drama for a long time.

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  12. Wow, what a glowing review! As always, your review was a joy to read because it was so eloquently worded:) You truly are a gifted writer! I’ve never really watched a C-drama before, because they just didn’t really appeal to me the way Kdramas do. But you have totally convinced me that I have to check this one out. It sounds so interesting and while I’m not much for political stuff, it seems like a deeply personal story at its core. Also, a plus point for me is that I understand Mandarin thanks to all the years of Chinese lessons in school, so I will probably be able to better appreciate the poetic-ness of the dialogue, as you did. I guess knowing my mother tongue does have its perks, if only on rare occasions;) Thank you for the review!

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    • Aw, thanks Rennie, it’s so nice to know that you enjoyed the read! 😀

      Also, I’m SO pleased that you’ll be giving NIF a chance! It’s the first C-drama I’ve completed, and I am completely blown away. This show is lingering with me as only an A++ drama does, and I’m finding it hard to say goodbye to the characters. You’re absolutely right to say that this isn’t a political story per se. There IS a lot of political intrigue, but at the heart of it all, it’s a deeply personal story, and it’s the personal arcs (& the excellent delivery of them) that truly grabbed my heart.

      What a plus, that you’ll be able to pick up on the nuances and poetry in the dialogue!! It’s really beautifully written, and my gosh, I honestly never knew Mandarin could sound this melodious and gorgeous! Makes me want to improve my Mandarin, and that’s saying A LOT, since I’m most comfortable speaking English. 😛

      Another piece of potentially good news is, NIF is available on viki, in Singapore 🙂 I usually don’t use viki since almost all kdramas aren’t available on viki in Singapore. But NIF’s licensing extends to Singapore and I was able to watch it all on viki. The timed comments were a fun touch. It not only always made me feel like I was watching with fellow fans, but sometimes, those comments helped me keep track of events and relationships in this sprawling show. I’d love to hear how you like the show, after you’ve had a chance to check it out! 🙂

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    • May i know from what site where you able to watch it? I would love to watch it too. Thanks

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  13. Thank you so very much for this Fangirl , this is an exceptionally beautiful art of work , everything is done so very well , I was afraid to venture into long drama , but with this one , I never felt the whole of 54 episodes. This is highly recommended to everyone, young and young at hearts. ❤ ❤ ❤

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    • I’m so so pleased you enjoyed this one Nancy!! It really is a masterpiece, isn’t it?? From every angle, there’s just so much beauty to enjoy. From the costuming and sets, to language, to writing, to acting. It’s just all so lovely. ❤ And like you said, this drama is just so good that you don't feel the length, really. I've been relentlessly recommending this to friends and family, it's just too good to miss! ❤

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  14. Pingback: Year In Review: 2015 | The Fangirl Verdict

  15. I am so glad that I found your site… You described NIF perfectly… Until right now, my heart still feels heavy… How can I live in the world without MCS??? 😦
    Btw.. after reading lots and lots of blog dedicated to NIF, I just found out that Consort Jing (Jing Fei) is actually the adopter sister of Lin Shu’s mother.. No wonder she cried so bad and kept saying that “Your parents will be heart broken if they see your condition like this”..
    OMG… Even when I am writing this comment, my eyes are still teary….. WHAT A PERFECT DRAMA!!!!!

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    • Aw, I’m so glad you enjoyed this review, anne! NIF really IS a masterpiece, isn’t it?? I’ve watched a heckuva lot of drama, and NIF is wayyy up among the very top few on my list, I’d say (I can’t choose a single top one, but I’d say top 3, for sure!).

      It took me a while to clue in, but yes, Consort Jing is the adopted sister of Lin Shu’s mother.. If I’m not mistaken, it was Lin Shu’s mother that brought her into the palace in the beginning.

      Also, you absolutely don’t need to live in a world without MCS.. the rewatch is always an option, after all. 😉 I’ve heard of folks who’ve seen it 6-7 times, and are still going! I myself started a rewatch, but have paused at around the E17 mark for now. I’ll definitely go back to it though, it’s a show that’s worth a rewatch – or several. ❤

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  16. Hi Fan girl… Thank you for your nice reply… I can’t keep stop saying this but IT IS REALLY A MASTERPIECE… Btw.. May I know your top 3 ever??? For me, it’s very hard to choose my top 3 because they may keep changing.. But now on the top of my head would be NIFF (LOL), Bu Bu Jing Xin (The first one only of course), and….. Hm… A lot of dramas are coming to my mind such as Sealed with a kiss, Empress Ki (Korean one), etc etc.. But to be in the top 3 with NIFF and BBJX… I don’t have any yet.. hehehe 🙂

    You are correct.. It was Lin Shu’s mother that brought her to the palace too.. She was some sort of a doctor who travels around places but they adopted her.. It’s very touching to see the relationship..

    Yes.. rewatch is an option.. But, I don’t think I am going to rewatch it anytime soon.. Other wise, I would getting deeper and deeper to the drama and the hole in my heart would never heal 😛

    The last scene of MCS with The Emperor was also quite dramatic… The Emperor said that “Your brother fought by my side for 10 years.. Your mother’s my sister… When you were little, I used to hug you, played with you…” It kept me thinking “Why would the Emperor said this?” Was it because he’s still human after all and have some “love”? But.. After a while, I guess it’s because MCS is the first person he’s actually afraid of.. or consider as his equal rival.. By saying that, the Emperor wants MCS to “take it easy” because after all we are family.. I don’t know though.. This is just my guess..

    Kindly let me know should you have any thoughts to share about this drama… A second post. third post and even 100th post, I would be your loyal reader…. 🙂

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    • Hmm.. My top 3 dramas of all time. I’d have to say, besides NIF, it’d be Chuno and Secret Love Affair. Those are the only other 2 dramas that I’ve walked away from, thoroughly and utterly convinced that they are masterpieces; works of art in their own right, even. I haven’t seen BBJX (NIF is my first C-drama ever, and what an introduction!), but I’ve heard very positive things from its dedicated fanbase! I’m definitely curious to check it out, but I’m also hesitating because I’m anticipating the K-version and want to love that one as much as possible (SOO many lovelies in there!). Maybe after I’ve seen the K-version I’ll give the original a go ^^

      Aw.. I say rewatch NIF – to fill that hole in your heart 😉 My mum’s just finished her 2nd watch, and she said that the 2nd watch was even more enjoyable than the first watch, because she was able to pick up on so many more details the 2nd time around. I’ve only rewatched 17 episodes, and I have to agree with her. These 17 episodes took on a lot more meaning since this time around, I knew who’s who and what’s what, and could pick up on small plot details as well as nuances in the acting. Maybe on your second watch MCS’s last scene with the Emperor will make more sense? 😉

      As for more posts about NIF, I generally don’t write about a show more than once on the site.. The only exception being Nine, which I reviewed, then dissected further in a joint post with a blogger friend. I won’t say never, though, so maybe sometime? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow.. Thank you for replying… I am very happy that you recommended the drama that I haven’t watched.. I will buy Chuno DVD and even started to watch Secret Love Affair.. I have been a big fan of Yoo Ah In after watching Jang Ok Jeung… I have watched some clips but I haven’t watched the whole drama…
        I would definitely watch the second round of NIF… Will let you know whether my heart has been healed…
        About BBJX, can I convince you to watch the Chinese version?? You should watch it while reading the drama review from mydramatea.com..
        I recommended heisui’s blog for this drama as it’s perfect to describe the the masterpiece…
        Hope that you’ll give it a go….
        Happy NIF day! Hahahaha

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        • Ahh, I’m so pleased that you’ll be checking out both Chuno and SLA! If you’re a Yoo Ah In fan, I’m sure you’ll be blown away by his performance in SLA. He is SO GOOD in it, seriously. I’ve written massive reviews for both Chuno & SLA, which you can check out after you’re done with your watches 🙂 You can find them here and here.

          Oh, I’m so sure you’ll love your second watch of NIF.. I totally plan to continue my rewatch. It’s just such a good show! As for BBJX, I definitely plan to check it out, most likely after I’ve given the K-version a chance to wow me. 🙂 Thanks for the tip on checking heisui’s blog for BBJX posts – I’ll keep it in mind for sure!

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      • Oh yeah, Chuno’s definitely really phenomenal (I prefer NiF but in terms of quality, Chuno’s up there). But while I really enjoyed BBJX, I really don’t think it’s at the same level… I don’t want to offend anyone since it was a pretty gigantic fanbase, but it’s not really comparable to NiF (or even Disguiser) IMO. From true diehards of quality, I here Battle of Changsha was good and All Quiet in Peking and Three Kingdoms were even better, but they’re less my genre so I haven’t gotten around to them.

        On the other hand, on the other end of the spectrum, Love O2O the drama version this year was surprisingly awesome and addictive in a totally different way. It’s fairly brainless with little conflict, but it’s tooth-achingly sweet and adorable without being cringe-worthy or cheesy. I’m a fan of the book, so while the acting wasn’t phenomenal, it didn’t need to be cuz the characters were fairly straightforward. Not flat, but also not requiring an excess of skill. Was really pretty, the setup was really addicting, and the actors were totally in character. Even well-known acting-wooden-block the-same-101-expressions Zheng Shuang managed to surprised and do reasonably well, pretty in character, and breaking out of her useless flower-vase mold. It’s not really comparable in quality or feels, but it’s another drama I’ve been unable to let go of and have been rewatching.

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        • Hi there Julianne!! I’m sorry this reply comes so late, October was a crazy hectic month and I’m only just now getting properly caught up!

          I’ve heard excellent things about Battle of Changsha and All Quiet in Peking. I’ve only managed to find Battle of Changsha so far though. I haven’t come across All Quiet in Peking yet. Do you have a source to recommend? 🙂 I confess to being stalled on Disguiser, not because it’s not good, coz it is, but I’m just not in the mood for it at the moment. I will definitely go back to it.

          As a matter of fact, with so many people endorsing Love O2O, I added it to my collection today and plan to check it out soon(ish). Your endorsement sounds very promising, and I could absolutely use a spot of cute fluff! 😉

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          • May you pls tell me from which site can I watch this C-drama? Been itching to watch this after reading your review. Thanks!

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          • Sorry for the late reply, but here it is. No subs though. I hear it’s great and actually very rooted in family (not as much as Disguiser but different) and deeper themes, but also more political-thinking oriented. It’s set so that it’s not quite the actual battle part of the war (that’s left for Changsha) and Disguiser’s the spy-setup before the battles, and Peking is like the tension, behind-the-scenes maneuvering before even that.

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          • btw have I also mentioned Wang Kai is in All Quiet in Peking? Main character (mostly, depends how u define – there are many important ones) ‘s brother. Here’s a clip before u watch the actual series that showcases his acting. (Haven’t watched the show myself but love this clip): starts 26:42 not sure where it ends, but it’s the speech part https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5vYLAf4e20

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            • Wow, that was a pretty gripping scene! Thanks for pointing me to it, it’s definitely piqued my interest to watch All Quiet in Peking!

              To be honest, I’m much more comfortable with English than with Chinese, so when I saw that All Quiet in Peking doesn’t have subs, I didn’t feel that confident of watching the show. I mean, with the era and context-specific vocabulary, AND the speed of the dialogue, I thought I’d feel pretty lost. I’m pleasantly surprised that I was able to follow most of this scene, without losing too much meaning with the words that I wasn’t too sure of. Thanks Julianne! Looks like I just might be able to watch one more excellent C-drama, thanks to you! 😄❤

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          • ends about 34:00

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  17. My sister and I finished NiF last night. Just one word: a MASTERPIECE with every meaning of the word! I am sure there is no other period C-drama quite like this one – at least, I know I haven’t watched one yet. Your review was fantastic and captivated the full essence of this amazing saga (it’s not a journey, it’s a whole lifetime in 54 episodes. At first, I thought they’re too many, now I find them not as much; hilarious, isn’t it? 🙂 ). And, just like you, I really, really need days to fully “absorb” the magnificence of Nirvana. But how can I overlook the chance to add my two cents in just a few sentences? That’s impossible, so…
    1. The story is so foreigner-friendly. It transcends the old “Count Monte Christo” plot by adding the heartbreaking “family” factor. The betrayal goes deeper than just a couple of friends and a girlfriend and that is the genius concept that made this drama absolutely superb. Thousands died because of very few officials. If that’s not a universal theme I wonder what is!
    2. The bromance felt more like a brotherly love to me and that’s why I loved it. Jingyang could have very well been Lin Su’s brother instead of a cousin- either way, blood is thicker than water and I can totally relate to that.
    3. NiF is an excellent example for all those (web-)novelists out there. 178 chapters are not TV material. And since I’m sure not even Homer’s poems could have survived on today’s television, the writer did a perfect job editing out several characters and subplots that probably made little to no sense at all to this particular script. I can only imagine her agony to see some of her “babies” gone. Anyway, BRAVO!
    4. The production team offered the chance of at least one perfectly acted scene to every secondary character. CHAPEAU, Chinese TV.

    The short version? I believe I watched one of my top-5 TV-series of all times! I haven’t a long version, yet… xD! I really hope we’re witnessing the birth of the C-wave because that would be my first time ever. So, I’ll be around for sure!
    Thank you, kfangurl!

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    • Ahhh! I’m so glad you enjoyed NIF, hariaharia!! 😀 And how cool, that you had your sister for company! Drama company always adds another dimension to the experience, and what a lovely way to amp up the NIF experience! This drama truly is in a league of its own, and is definitely one of THE best dramas I’ve ever watched.

      I’m pretty sure that you’re right in saying that there isn’t another C-drama that can quite match this one. It’s so perfect in every way, that both my parents have watched it twice, and plan for at least a 3rd watch. I’ve been told by more experienced C-drama fans that the quality of C-dramas varies quite a bit. Production values can be nice and high, but story quality and everything else can be hit or miss. NIF is a case of everything coming together wonderfully for a truly amazing watch experience. I’ve heard that The Disguiser is good too; it’s made by the same production team and stars many of the same actors as NIF. It’s set in the Japanese Occupation, so even though it’s technically a period drama too, it’s not the same sort of drama, at all. I tried it for a couple of minutes, but got too weirded out when I saw Wang Kai walking around in a suit. I was so not over NIF, and in my head and heart, could only see him as Prince Jing. Lol! So, I’m saving that show for when I feel ready to move on from NIF, at least for a little while 😉

      I totally agree with you that the story is so universal that it’s easy for anyone to identify with the core themes, even if the setting and language and culture are unfamiliar. And indeed, Hai Yan did a phenomenal job of adapting her novel for the screen. It’s no easy task, and I can only give her mad, mad props. She’s truly gifted, and you can tell that she’s got a true feel of the pulse of NIF’s world, from the big characters to the small. SO GOOD. And absolutely, the secondary characters were not neglected. Kudos to Hai Yan for weaving them in so well, and kudos to the actors for delivering so well. Big bravos all around! Truly, if China produces more quality shows like this, I’d be TOTALLY on board for a C-wave!! 😀

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  18. I just have few questions: when does it start to get so good? I am on Episode 13, and its getting very difficult for me to hang on to this drama. There’s no momentum so far. How long will Lin Shu-gege continue plotting without anyone finding out who he is? How many succesful schemes can he keep making before the shit hits the fan. Episode 12 wasn’t bad, since the princess figured out who he is. … I’m waiting for some actions here, but I only get talking. And they talk a lot. It doesn’t help that they talk in monotone.

    So many have said this is the best Chinese drama they’ve seen, and therefore decided to check it out. But I am not seeing it in the first 12 episodes. Am I supposed to wait after 20 episodes? When did you start loving the drama? Am I missing something in the first 12 episodes? Am I just not getting it? (I am watching SIx Flying Dragons. That show knows how to balance actions and plain dialogues in each episode).

    I do want to mention the things I love. I love the gorgeous, very detailed costumes, the art-like cinematography, and the fight-sequences. The acting is on point from the main to the support. I do appreciate the drama in those aspects.

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    • Hi there Drawde2000! First of all, I’m sorry that my reply to your questions is coming so late. I usually answer comments a lot faster than this, but sometimes – like this time – time slips away from me, and before I know it, weeks have passed! 😛

      I’m actually rather surprised that you’re enjoying SFD more than NIF.. To tell you the truth, both my mom and I watched NIF, and are/were following SFD too. We agree that between the two shows, we much prefer NIF. In fact, we find the writing and execution in NIF much more refined and elegant compared to SFD, which feels almost “rough” in comparison. And I say this wanting to like SFD more, since I’d been looking forward to SFD quite a lot, and it stars many actors that I enjoy.

      I’m not sure whether it’s a mood thing or a lens thing, in terms of what’s preventing you from enjoying NIF more.. I actually felt sucked in and fully engaged pretty early on, with NIF. By E3, I was very intrigued. My dad resisted NIF a lot, coz he also prefers more action and less talking. Yet, after clarifying certain characters and plot points with him, he started getting sucked in at around E3 as well, and marathoned 3 episodes in one evening, a big thing for him. And now, he’s watched the whole thing twice and can’t stop talking about how brilliant it is.

      I will say that in NIF, everything is significant, ie, you can’t skip over conversations and categorize all the talking as boring, unimportant stuff. Every scene is significant, and its significance will come to light at some point. Sometimes it’s earlier, and sometimes it’s later, but there are no superfluous scenes in NIF. Also, I found all the conversations very gripping.. I found Lin Shu such a fascinating, brilliant character, and I was always on the edge of my seat wondering what his next step would be. He makes progress into his plans with sure, deliberate steps, and is unfazed by the obstacles that he encounters. I found it brilliant, and loved seeing how he’d find a way to move forward, even when the odds looked to be stacked against him.

      If you’re looking for actual battles, I will say that things ramp up in E20, which is a very exciting episode in terms of moving pieces and big reveals. From the early 30s episodes right until the end, there are several waves of excitement which had me on the edge of my seat watching multiple back-to-back episodes.

      I’m not sure if my answer helps, but I really hope that you’ll be able to find your groove with this show, coz it’s too good to miss. 🙂

      Like

  19. I finished watching Nirvana In Fire recently, and indeed this drama is spectacular in SO many ways. From the story to the cast as well as the cinematography, I was more than just captivated. Never imagined that I would watch a cdrama again after so many years, but this was so good. Thank you for your review kfangurl 🙂 I actually teared up a little thinking about the drama as I read your post; haha can’t believe I love it so much ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh, I’m so glad you loved NIF, Jas!! And yay that you enjoyed the review! 🙂 This show truly is magnificent in so many ways, and it definitely piques my interest to check out more C-dramas. I really am blown away by just how meticulously handled NIF is, from start to finish, in every aspect, from writing, to casting, to acting, to direction, to execution. Just, amazing and fantastic all-around. I’m SO glad I didn’t miss out on this, even though I generally only watch kdramas. I’ve paused on my rewatch, but I’m definitely going back to it. This one’s worth watching again, and yet again. It’s that good, and that special. ❤ Also, thanks to NIF, I'm starting to venture out beyond kdramas, bit by bit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I sure did, thanks so much ^^ Yesss I agree! I plan to watch 伪装者 – The Disguiser 😉 There are lots of NIF cast in it and it is directed by Li Xue one of NIF’s directors, and from the same producer! Me too, I was so in awe! Haha I used to watch quite a number of Hong Kong and Taiwan dramas; then as the years went by it became mostly Korean :b As for Cdramas, I probably watched them a long time ago when they aired on the local TV. Hmm I haven’t done a full rewatch of each episode, only certain scenes but I will watch it completely again! Yup, it’s definitely a great and unique drama.

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        • Yes, The Disguiser’s on my list too! That’s probably the next drama I’ll check out from this production team. I just need to be ready to see the NIF characters being different people, which totally messes with my head. I mean, I believed them so thoroughly in their NIF roles, that I find it hard to see them as other characters in a different drama world. I stopped watching Disguiser after 15 minutes coz I just couldn’t handle seeing Wang Kai walking around in a suit. In my head, he was Prince Jing, and the image on my screen felt all wrong. XD I will definitely watch Disguiser though. When my heart’s ready. 😉

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          • Me too! Hahaha we need some time to get used to it, because The Disguiser is set in a different setting, time and with a very different story premise. I know right, all of them were very convincing in their characters, even the less major roles; so I feel you kkk~ I’m waiting for the right time to start it. And there are so many new and upcoming kdramas, we have lots of show choices but need to factor in the time for them. 🙂

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            • EXACTLY!!! My dad was marveling just the other day, at how good the actors are in NIF, down to the minor roles. They’re all so convincing that I almost feel sorry to watch them in something else, coz it means that I will have to admit to myself that the characters aren’t real people. 😛 I almost never feel that way, so NIF is definitely sumthin’ very special! I know, I’m waiting for the right time too, to start Disguiser – there just seems to be no end to new dramas that I want to check out, and I feel like I don’t have enough time to fit them all in. And now that I’m venturing beyond the k-shores, I’ve got more choices than ever! 😛

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              • Agreed! Everything in NIF was solid – down right to the details. HAHAHA usually by the end of a drama I would think about how good the acting was, etc and despite knowing that it is just a fictional story I sometimes just cannot get over how each and every single character was brought to life by the actors. The feels are that powerful to fans like us, that’s why we get withdrawal symptoms after finishing a drama we really like. Yes, I’ll have to make time to check out what I will end up choosing to watch from the new ones! I’m really glad you’re going beyond kdramaland 😀 there are some really good shows out there too, from C to HK to TW dramas! XD

                Liked by 1 person

                • Oh yes, I know what you mean! Usually, I’m very focused on how well the actors brought the characters to life too.. I think in this case, while I totally know that Lin Shu and Prince Jing and everyone are characters brought to life by fantastic actors, part of me is choosing to believe that these characters are real people. 😛 Which is going to be a real problem, once I want to watch Disguiser. That illusion is going to be shattered, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to be ready for that. 😛

                  I didn’t know you also watch C & HK & TW dramas!! I’m only just beginning to venture out, and it feels like such a big world of drama out there to explore! I’ve just finished my first TW drama in a long, long time, and I am so surprised by how much I like it! I really need to find more drama time so that I can explore as much as possible! ^^

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Yeah, because they have to be relatable to us although they may be fictional characters so that we can feel for them! Hahaha I feel you 🙂 while I was watching NIF they were so close to heart and felt so human. Ahhh i cried so much for them during the drama T.T
                    Awww take your time! No worries since Disguiser will always be around for us to watch heee XD You may not be 100% prepared but it’s okay! Sometimes we need the write mood for certain dramas – like I heard about how good Misaeng was and tried to start on it afterwards but couldn’t get into it, so it’s still on my watch-list :b

                    Hehe not so much of cdramas, the only one I remember was 还珠格格 – My Fair Princess that was really long ago. Others are vague memories already. As for HK & TW dramas, I’ve been watching lesser and lesser of them over the years; now I only watch 1 or 2 when time permits. Haha it’s been dominated by the k-wave. Heee I’ve heard about Bromance but have yet to watch it. The most recent TW drama I watched was last year’s Someone Like You – it was quite good! Same here, to your last sentence 🙂

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                    • Oh, I totally agree about being in the right mood! Attempting a reputable show while in the wrong mood can tank the show completely for you, even if the show is very good, objectively speaking. I liked Misaeng very well, but it did take me one false start before I actually got into the show. I’m sure that given the right mood, you’ll be able to enjoy Misaeng just fine.. It’s excellent slice-of-life underdog stuff, but it’s languid and long, and definitely not the kind of show that’s good for marathons. 😛

                      I’ve heard of 还珠格格! But I’ve never seen it. My drama-watching all this time has been dominated by the k-wave, just like you, lol! I think the only other TW drama I’ve watched before Bromance, is Corner With Love, with Show Luo and Barbie Hsu. I liked it quite well, but I wasn’t as sucked in by it as I was with Bromance, that’s for sure! I don’t know what Baron Chen & Megan Lai have done to me, I am quite hooked on them now! 😛 So I’m now checking out their first drama together, 2010’s Because of You. Never thought I’d see the day when I’d do something like that, for a TW drama! XD Guess I really shouldn’t ever say never!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yes at that time it just didn’t feel right.. I believe that I will enjoy it too! Ah thank you for your advice, I won’t marathon it 😀
                      Some shows get you into its rhythm right from the start, but some only get into the momentum after 1 or 2 episodes.
                      It was so popular back then hehehe. Still NIF is special because it involves the princes’ fight! 😉 I think most Cdramas set in the palace are about conflicts between princesses. Yeah and the k-wave is still going strong lol. I watched Corner With Love and liked it too! Shall check out Bromance one of these days 😀 Hahaha yes Never Say Never! I also never thought I’d watch a Cdrama again and am so very glad that I didn’t miss NIF 🙂 In my previous comment I think I made a typo – *right. Sorry about that but you know what I mean XD

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                    • Oh yes, how soon a show grabs me varies a lot too.. Some shows suck me in within the first episode, and some take several episodes. It took me a whopping 14 episodes before I actually started to care about the characters in Heartless City! 😛 Plus, it varies from person to person too.. So I guess it all boils down to us knowing ourselves best after all ^^

                      As for Bromance, the OTP chemistry & Baron Chen’s intent smolder did me in. A lot of the show is OTT and the writing can be quite illogical, but the OTP chemistry is so strong that I found it easy to overlook everything else 😛 I’m still rewatching their BTS clips, that’s how much they got to me! So, if you don’t mind enjoying a show for the chemistry rather than the story, you’d probably be able to enjoy Bromance quite well. If you’re the type that needs solid writing, though, Bromance might not be able to satisfy you.

                      As for C-dramas, I feel like those are a whole new world to explore, for me.. I’ve been told that the team that did NIF also did a bunch of other dramas that are worth checking out. So far, Battle of Changsa and All Quiet in Peking come highly recommended. But, I think I’m just going to take this slow.. starting with Disguiser. At some point, when I finally feel ready! XD

                      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you for writing a review about Nirvana in Fire. Without it I would not have found this great cdrama. I have watched a joint production of china and hongkong drama Virtuous Queen of Han last year and i loved it. So when i saw your review it was easy for me to try and think about one day to give it a try. At that time though i was busy with the other kdramas i was hooked on and it was just recently when the other kdramas went on the lunar new year break that i found i needed something to help me get by the one week break of my latest drama craving. AND INDEED IT WAS A POINT OF NO RETURN!! 👍👍👍 I really really love NIF kfangurl. I am at episode 30 and quite sad that I only have 24 more episodes to go. Am i insane hahahah? I know that after i finish this i will miss it dearly but i guess dont worry about tomorrow lol All the episodes i have watched had touched me and made me cry at some point. Even my husband is now watching with me and is so interested in lin Shu’s secret. And the characters are all deep with interesting back story. The setting, the costumes, characters and actors playing them, the writing ~ it is all superb. Im actually recommending this to my mom ~ by the way do you know if a DVD is currently available for sale so i can buy it for her?

    So again, thanks so much!!!! I really find your reviews spot on and you and your site has always been one that i rely on when choosing what to watch or drop. Sometimes i feel bad dropping a show and think maybe its me thats weird but i also see that you dropped it and the reasons you cite are the same ones im feeling. So kfangurl i just want to say that im so glad i found your website and thank you for all your hard work and effort reviewing and recapping. Its really appreciated.

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    • Hi there, Joy! I’m SO GLAD that you gave NIF a chance, and ended up loving it! I totally get your wistfulness of having only 24 episodes left! I felt the same way while I was watching – I never wanted it to end, but couldn’t stop myself from watching back-to-back episodes, thus bringing the end ever closer. The silver lining is, NIF is fantastic for rewatches. My parents have both watched it twice now, and both confirm that they picked up so much more in terms of nuance and detail, on the second watch. I rewatched E1-17 immediately after finishing the show and I had the same experience. So many things that feel like throwaway moments in the earlier episodes especially, take on new meaning and significance when you watch it with informed eyes. Suddenly, a lot more stuff clicks into place, and things that characters say take on so much more meaning. I highly recommend a rewatch of NIF – not only will it soothe the pain of the show actually having an end, your rewatch will feel fresh even if you embark on it right away after your first watch. 🙂

      As for purchasing the DVD, you can order it here.

      Also, thanks for your encouragement with the reviews! It’s always so nice to know that the posts are helpful and appreciated. What a lovely shot of motivation – thank you, Joy! 🙂

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    • Egad. Joy! I hope you haven’t made a purchase, because I JUST realized that the DVD box set on YesAsia does NOT have English subs! Which means to say, even if you order it for your mom, unless your mom understands Chinese, it won’t be much use to her. I’m so sorry!

      The thing is, the English subs that are out there right now, are by Viki, ie, the show’s subbed by fans. So there are no official English subs out for this show. It would probably be better for you to show your mom how to use Viki. 😛

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  21. hi i just started watching this show n i m glad that i found your review here, giving me more motivation haha. its funny how i only found this drama yesterday n normally i only watch C dramas. if ur interested in this genre i ll recommend “Legend of Zhen Huan” and “empress of china ” to u, those r very expensively made with good storyline too, and hv u watched “tiny times” (movie series)? if u did u ll know that actually china got more pretty faces than sk haha n they r all natural lol, they just dont have good story writers, this is the biggest problem, i hv seen a few of c dramas n those rich companies spent fortune to make sure everything visually perfect but with crappy script =.=” anyway, i ll keep on watching nif, it seems that everyone speaks highly of it. thx for your review again:)

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    • Ah, yay that you’ll keep going with NIF, Amirra! Especially if you’ve been disappointed by poor writing in other C-dramas. Coz the writing in NIF is SO GOOD. I really am impressed by Hai Yan, who clearly put a lot of thought and care into writing the story and the characters. I hope you’ll enjoy your watch as much as I did! 🙂

      PS: Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll keep them in mind!

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  22. I haven’t started watching this drama yet but it looks like something worth adding to my to-watch list! Thanks for the review, I’ll check it out 🙂 Anyone interested in Chinese cooking and drama, welcome to visit my blog 🙂

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    • This absolutely is a drama you should add to your watch list! This show has shot up to be among the top 3 spots of my all-time favorites list. It’s SO GOOD, in so many ways. It’d be a pity to miss it! ^^

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  23. This is a fantastic write up. I am so glad I happened upon this drama – and it was purely by chance. Like you, I only ever watch KDrama and I could never get into CDrama, try as I might.

    And then a succession of serendipitous viewings of “Love Me if You Dare” and “Hua Qian Gu” landed me in the lap of “Nirvana In Fire.” And the rest, as they say is history.

    I have a DVD library of favorite KDramas and this is only the second CDrama I’ve added to my library (the other being Hua Qian Gu). With NIF, I even made an iTunes playable version (complete with downloaded subtitles) and now I carry it around on my iPad to play when I got to the gym, when I’m on the train, when I just want something to pass the time.

    I’m very glad to hear you say that the Mandarin here is poetic, especially since I have my NIF iTunes playlist on a loop pretty much 24/7 because that means that my brain is getting saturated with beautiful, poetic Mandarin. If I ever learn the language well enough to talk to people, let’s hope this saturation lends some polish to the way I use the language….

    Oh dreams…

    Anyway, I just want to end by expressing my deepest gratitude to the production team for “Nirvana in Fire.” They really set a high bar for televised storytelling – a boar I doubt can, or will be easily surpassed, but one that I hope other productions aspire to.

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, I’m SO GLAD you found your way to Nirvana in Fire, Curio!! It’s SUCH a masterpiece that it would a huge pity to miss it. I used to have a bit of a mental block when it came to Chinese dramas, partly coz I had (wrong) assumptions about their production values, and partly coz I felt somewhat scarred from years of struggling with Mandarin in school. I’m SO GLAD that I gave NIF a chance, coz it blew my mind, and has opened my eyes AND my heart to C-ent and to Mandarin as a language as well. From thinking of Chinese as that annoyingly difficult language that I wasn’t ever any good at in school, NIF opened my eyes to see that Mandarin is a beautiful language. Isn’t that completely life-changing? 😉

      The Mandarin in NIF is very poetic. It’s also more formal than you’d hear most of the time, in modern usage. It’s sort of like sageuk language vs. modern Korean. The Korean in sageuks is more formal, and there are turns of phrase that you’d never hear in modern Korea. Same thing with the Mandarin used in NIF. There’s a poetic beauty to it, and there’s also a period bent to it. So if you ever do use phrases from NIF in Real Life, people might end up looking at you funny. 😉 Still, it’s beautiful and well worth sinking into.. I definitely think immersing myself in NIF and other Chinese shows has helped improve my Mandarin! ^^

      I am totally with you in hoping that other productions will aspire to the sort of standards that NIF has set. It’s SUCH a well-made show, in so many ways. It’s literally as close to perfection as humanly possible, I think, when it comes to the art of drama-making. I am definitely keeping my eyes peeled for other productions coming out of China, particularly from this production team! I’ve started on The Disguiser, and it’s very good, just 2 eps in. It feels a little like Gaksital in context, but seriously, the production values blow Gaksital out of the water. If you haven’t checked it out, I totally recommend it! 😀

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  24. I have just finished NiF a few months ago, and is current watching Disguiser and Ode to Joy. There are lots of good shows coming out of China right now, and quite a few are getting attention internationally. However, there tons of bad and corny dramas coming out of China as well, and I feel on average, the quality of C-dramas have actually gone down…. You can really tell when they are re-making stories from existing drama.
    For example, the recent production of Wuxia and Xianxia dramas (Such as Legend of Zu, 2014 version of Return of Condor Heros) felt like idol drama in wuxia’s clothing and the actors can barely convey emotion and action they are trying to portray. They lacked the charm of old HK (and sometimes TW) wuxia drama or the early-to-mid 2000s (1995 Version of RoCH) Wuxia and Xianxia dramas (Chinese Paladin 1, 2006 version of RoCH).
    It seems as if many of today’s drama are just fashion shows for pretty stars so they can walk about set with in thing kinds of costumes. Even Hu Ge falls into this as well, for example, Good Times/大好时光, which was produced around the same time NiF and Disguiser is just….bad. Even Ode to Joy, which is a very drama, still lacks the sort of realism and emotional feel of social commentary drama like Dwelling Narrowness. Also adventure stories like 闯关东 (To Northeast,also done by Shanying, NiF’s production company), 血色浪漫 (Blood Romance) are also quite lacking these days as well. It seems people only like to product mediocre and often troupe ridden romance stories for some reason.
    As a background, I have being watching C-dramas for nearly my entire life. I think the first drama I watched was the old 1987 version of Drama of Red Chamber as well the 1994 version HSDS (as well as an unhealthy dose of Qiong Yao dramas..), when I graduate from watching cartoons to dramas with my family in the mid-1990s. I’m also guy that loves history and strategy games, so that’s my bias here.
    This is my biggest complaint about the current Chinese TV industry, it appears serious historical dramas have completely disappeared as genre for Chinese drama. Ever since the old 1994 version of Romance of Three Kingdoms, it was the strong suit for C-dramas, with actual adult political scheming, philosophical discussions about meaning of government and leaderships, realistic military strategy and diplomacy. It seems the current breed of historic drama is all about palace scheming among concubines, where who will the emperor sleep next is the primary concern, I think Schemes of a Beauty started this trend and it’s now just soak, rinse, and repeat for every single drama. (Though Legend of Zhenhuan is still enjoyable, mainly due to attention to detail) Historical epics like 汉武大帝 (Emperor Wu), 大明王朝1566 (Ming Dynasty 1566), 大秦帝国 (The Qin Empire), 贞观之治(Rule of Zhen Guan) just isn’t made anymore, which is shame since Chinese film budget have improved a lot since then. (Though, the massive battle scene from the old Romance of Three Kingdoms is no longer possible, since the Chinese military has disbanded its Cavalry and you can’t just draft thousands of soldiers just to do a Movie/drama anymore…) NiF does have a few of those plotlines, but it’s far from the main part of their story. I really hope C-Drama can return to this genre, since China has so much rich history and it’s shame to waste it on fictional and often written harem intrigues. Tribes and Empries perhaps can fill this hole in me, but It’s more of an epic fantasy drama, which is still good, rather than an epic historical drama.
    Well, enough of my rant. Long story short, while there a few outstanding shows, I think quality of C-dramas have actually decreased, and my favorite genre is gone…

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    • Correction:
      1987 version of Dream of Red Chamber instead of “1987 version of Drama of Red Chamber”. Which by the way have probably the best cast for that story. However, it is filmed the old Eastern Bloc style, which is quite strange to watch these days. (such as zoom into a small object like a mirror or a bowl to exist a scene. If you watch old Soviet or Yugoslav TV dramas from the 1970s, you’ll see it too, just to show you how far and how different Chinese film/drama make have come)

      Tribes and Empires, instead of “Tribes and Empries”. Great trailer, read the book because of the trailer. Story is not bad, but definitely needs a script writer to patch it up.

      Just to add, there is also a lack of serious family dramas like 中国式离婚 (A Chinese Divorce), 金婚 (Golden Marriage) as well as Sitcoms like 爱情公寓 (Ipartment), 武林外传 (Untold Story of Wulin) as well…. I kinda missing those days when there a very diverse set of dramas to choose from rather than a bunch of dramas that in essence tells the same kind story.

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      • Thanks for all the titles of the shows that you do like, xingfenzhen! 🙂 I’ll be sure to keep them in mind, even as I wait for new fab dramas coming out of China! 🙂

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      • You have great taste in shows :D. Well they’re filming part two of 大秦帝国 so we have hope there hahaha.
        And the up coming 九州海上牧云记 “Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy” looks good – haven’t read the books but the trailer is great.

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    • Hi, nice to hear your thoughts on C-dramas. You are right, I used to watch those grand historical dramas aired late at night with my father, e.g. Kangxi Di Guo, Yongzheng Wang Chao etc, and I liked them a lot. Even as a teenager (seriously I don’t know anyone my age who watch those dramas a at that time, and it’s very unlikely that I can fully comprehend or appreciate the show because although I cannot remember anything about those dramas I remember bugging my dad with questions on why the emperor does this or that. Lol)

      I also remember watching those dramas referencing from 野史 (unverified or unofficial history) which were really interesting as well.

      Somehow such dramas disappeared. I don’t pay much attention to c-drama news on a whole, but I do see the trend shifting to those concubine fighting shows (like you mentioned), and perhaps fusion wuxia shows, which seems like the trend these days. I have no patience to watch modern c-dramas, so I’m quite sad to see there’s less good historical dramas like the old days. Lucky there’s Legend of Zhen Huan and Nirvana in Fire, which are gems among the rubble. They are very different from the kind of grand historical dramas in the past though, as the narrative skew towards triggering emotions from audience, rather than subtlety provoking their thoughts like the older series you mentioned. As an audience I find myself more invested in these kind of dramas, but like you, I still wish the older historical dramas make a return. Since I’m older now and more likely to appreciate them better. (:

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience of C-dramas, xingfenzhen! 🙂 I’m very new to C-dramas, so all this is very educational for me. I do know that the quality of C-dramas these days is rather uneven, with a fair number of mediocre ones that might look polished, but lack substance. At the same time, there does seem to be the occasional gem, and NIF is definitely one of them. I was completely blown away by the multiple levels of excellence in this drama ❤

      Also, if it makes you feel any better, I think the same thing applies to dramas coming out of other countries as well. Many kdramas nowadays also tend to be formulaic and not very good. Yet, every once in a while, there's a gem that makes me feel like it's worth sticking around for. So I'm hoping that there'll be more great dramas coming out of China going forward 🙂

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  25. Pingback: Review: Oh Hae Young Again [Another Oh Hae Young] | The Fangirl Verdict

  26. Just have to give you a great, big thank you! I finished this drama and all I can say is how glad I am that I read this review and took your recommendation to heart. NIF is magnificent in so many ways. I loved this drama and I loved that there were so many episodes – your feelings about the characters grew along the way.

    **SPOILER ALERT:**
    My only 2 negatives (and these are small in relation to the overall excellence of this drama) were;
    *First, I felt so invested in Lin Shu, his life and his cause, that at the risk of sounding cruel, I wanted to be there when he died. I wanted to make sure he had a dignified departure befitting his stature. I wanted to hold his hand and make sure that he had peace in his last moments.
    *small Second, I got lost so quickly in the first few episodes that I had to watch them twice, if for no other reason than write down names. I took this drama seriously and I did not want to miss a single piece of the story. Note: a re-watch will get rid of this very small negative.

    The acting was sublime, the costumes out of this world and the settings believable (except outside the palace where logic says there would have been a thriving community). I literally felt that I could walk through my TV screen and be right there with all the characters. The settings were simply gorgeous.

    I am checking your full list review first before I watch another drama! We all appreciate a quality drama, and this is top notch! Thanks a bunch for writing this review – so spot on!

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    • I’m so glad you loved NIF, phl! And I’m so pleased to have been the one to point you in the direction of this magnificent show! It really is wonderfully written and acted and directed, isn’t it? It’s like a meeting of genius, that everyone involved was able to deliver on similar levels of mastery. Just, SO GOOD. ❤

      [SPOILERS]
      In terms of your negatives, I get what you mean about wanting to be with Lin Shu to the very end. At the same time, I feel like this narrative choice actually offered Lin Shu the dignity of privacy in his last moments. Sometimes, shows deliberately veil certain scenes or moments from the audience for that purpose, and in this case, I felt that that was the purpose behind allowing his death to occur off-screen. I hope that perspective helps to soothe the sting at least a little bit. 🙂

      And yes, those initial episodes take quite a bit of settling.. It was only at around episode 4 that things started to come together in my head a little bit, and that’s considering the fact that I understand Chinese and therefore should have had less trouble with names and such. You’re so right, though, that a rewatch would fix that right up! 😉 I personally know lots of people who’ve watched NIF multiple times. Coz it’s just THAT good! ❤

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  27. Pingback: Year In Review: 2016 | The Fangirl Verdict

  28. Hi.KFG. Well, i just finished watching this . It’s not my first Chinese drama, but it’s certainly the best.
    The performances were fine especially Liu Tao.
    If you see this perhaps you could tell me I’m pronouncing the name right. I say it like this
    loo as in loose, and tow as in cow.
    I also liked the actress who played her friend.
    Great soundrtrack.
    Great costumes. I have no idea how authentic they were though.
    10/10.

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    • Oh, my favourite relationship is the one between the lead character and his Doctor friend.
      I have been reading some of the other comments. So on Julianna’s rec, I am going to check out The disguiser on Viki.
      I’m not sure if it has been posted already. but here is all quiet in Peking with eng subs.

      Like

    • I’m so pleased you enjoyed this one, martin! I love this one, and consider it quite possibly the best drama I have seen from anywhere, ever. 😍

      As for your question on how to pronounce Liu Tao’s name, you’re halfway there! It’s more like lew as in lewd (sorry, couldn’t think of another word), and tow as in cow. 😊

      Also, thanks for sharing the link to All Quiet in Peking with subs!! I had no idea subs were available for that show, so this is a precious find! 😊

      I watched about 14 eps of Disguiser before stalling, coz it was very good, but also hard to watch. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as NIF, but it’s definitely a worthy watch that I will go back to!

      Like

  29. I. Feel. So. Emotional.
    And I am in pieces…

    I just finished the last episode a few minutes ago, my first C-drama.
    Without batting my eyelids, I can say truthfully, this was probably one of the MOST emotionally intense rides I’ve ever gotten out of a show.
    Like Ever.
    Thanks chica, knew I just had to trust your A++ judgement and fly with it. And what a ride!

    My take: this show is to be watched intensely and obsessively!
    There is NO way around.
    There is nothing mediocre about this show. From the moment go, you just see superlative actions and reactions.

    There is so much my heart wants to say, so much I want to write, but alas, I just saw the last of this beautiful journey and…
    My hearts torn as I am sitting with my hands over my mouth in tears for the whole of the last episode.
    It’s just…
    It really got me.

    Poignant. Eloquent. and overwhelmingly agonizing…
    I will have to come back for more later, right now I just want to wallow in my angst over my two favorite characters: Lin su & Jing Yan.

    ~N~

    Like

    • Thanks for trusting me on this, dear N.. This show truly is heartrending in every way possible, and so elegant and magnificent while it’s at it, too. I’ve watched hundreds of dramas (literally), and I’ve concluded (for now) that this is the one that sits at the very top of the list, it’s just that amazing and that well done. I definitely plan to watch this one again, and I don’t see myself ever getting tired of this. I know of people who have watched this multiple times, and I can totally see why. It gets under your skin, it grabs your heart, it blows your mind.. Augh, just so good. ❤

      It took me a fair while to move on after this one, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you weren’t up to watching another show for a while. Just wanted you to know that that’s perfectly normal! 😘

      Like

  30. I agree with everything, this drama is fenomenal. A true feast for the eyes and ears and the heart AND the brain. The ending was indeed perfect.
    If I were to find some flaws, I must say that the characters were great but I don’t think they had much of a development. Not that this is a deal breaker in any way
    Also, the princess disappeared for quite a few episodew and I missed her. And what happened to the lady strategist? She was just given to the marsial artist puppy as a present…? Huh?
    Also that ”yeti” thing was a bit wtf.

    On the whole, this thing is unbelievably close to perfection.

    Like

    • Lol. The “yeti” thing threw me off too, I must admit! But like you said, this show is unbelievably close to perfection. It boggles the mind, really. I have watched hundreds of dramas, and I honestly think this one could be the one to top that entire list. ❤ Glad you enjoyed this one too, Yllegjord!

      Like

      • I’ve been recommending it like there is no tomorrow since I’ve watched it.

        But I don’t know if it’s better than Six Flying Dragons. The main difference being, I think, that SFD continues AFTER their initial main plan succeds. It shows what happens after they come to power.

        If I were to compare them, I would say that NIF is a very, VERY beautiful, very elegant, well polished silver art nouveau vase, while SFD is a well made sturdy stoneware pitcher that beats you repeatedly on the head and the solar plexus, and you enjoy them both equally.
        Also, Yoo Ah In, what a find.

        Like

        • Lol. I love your analogy of the 2 shows, Yllegjord! 😆 Especially the SFD one, where the stoneware pitcher hits you on the head repeatedly, HA! Brilliant! And yes, Yoo Ah In is fabulous. I can’t recall if you’ve seen Secret Love Affair? Yoo Ah In is SO GOOD in that, I was blown away, to a million pieces. ❤

          Like

          • Glad you liked it 😀
            I’m afraid I only watch historical dramas, so I’ve only seen him in Sungkyungwan Scandal and also the movie Sado (he obviously dedicated the year 2015 to controversial Joseon princes). I am very impressed.
            People have been raving about Secret Love Affair, but I don’t know, it’s not what I would normally watch.

            Like

            • Secret Love Affair is very much more like a sensitive art film, and not a scandalous, sensational story about an affair that its posters might suggest. If it helps, my review of it is here. Yoo Ah In is magnificent in this, as is his leading lady Kim Hee Ae. I hope you’ll find yourself in the mood to check it out sometime! 🙂

              Like

            • Well, if you’re more into historical type stuff, I did really like him in Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love. I fast-forwarded through all the overly political bits, but was very taken with the love story. It helped that I didn’t have strong feelings for the actual history behind the story. I thought YAI was very lovely as the young, in-love king.

              I highly recommend SLA, when you’re in the mood for a sensitive, art-film sort of watch. Yoo Ah In is so fantastic in it, it’d be a pity to miss his performance. And it’s overall so well-done as well. I hope you do give it a chance sometime! 🙂

              Like

  31. Pingback: Flash Review: Age Of Youth | The Fangirl Verdict

  32. Pingback: Flash Review: Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossom [China] | The Fangirl Verdict

  33. Well said. thank you very much. You have all the words and works of a professional writer. i love every word you have written and feels like the drama came to life. Indeed the drama was breath-taking. comprises of everything not just romance and still so poignant. Lately I’m loving Chinese dramas than Korean drama. I felt the story line are more precise and very intelligent. This is the first time i came across your blog. i hope you also have “Ten Miles of Peach Blossom”. Until next time, thanks again. I enjoy reading it.

    Like

    • Thanks Tami, I’m glad you enjoyed this review! Indeed, this show is breathtaking, and the best drama I’ve seen so far, in my many years of intense drama watching! I’m super curious about NIF2, which is due out next month! 🙂 Also, since you mentioned it, you can find my review of Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms here. I liked that one a lot too 🙂

      By the way, what are some Chinese dramas that you have been enjoying? I’m keen to check out more Chinese dramas, but have had patchy success outside of NIF and Peach Blossoms. 🙂

      Like

  34. Pingback: Review: The King Loves | The Fangirl Verdict

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