So something pretty surprising happened lately. I – who previously hardly ever (like, seriously, ever) checked out Taiwanese dramas – have been on a Taiwanese drama kick.
I’m not even talking about being mildly-to-moderately interested, and simply adding Taiwanese dramas as one more option to my drama plate. I’m talking about full-on back-to-back episode binge-watching, to the exclusion of everything else. Including kdramas. Gasp! What in the world..? Right?!? 😛
And this, when the dramas themselves weren’t even all that good. Like this one.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
WHY TAIWANESE DRAMAS, ALL OF A SUDDEN?
A big part of the reason, I think, is coz Chinese drama Nirvana in Fire (so wonderful and so brilliant. Such a masterpiece!) ignited in me a never-felt-before interest and affection for my mother tongue. Instead of filing Mandarin away in a corner of my brain as a language that I happened to understand, suddenly, I became very interested to hear more of it, and get better at it too (now who says dramas can’t be life-changing?? XD )
Plus, I loved Taiwanese drama Bromance, flaws and all, as well as Baron Chen and Megan Lai in it, so much so that I even went on to watch their first project together, Because of You (2010). (Short verdict: It was ok. Nothing to shout about, but it gave me more Baron+Megan. I must say, though, Baron’s wayy sexier in Bromance.)
At the same time, it just so happens that I haven’t been all that interested in the various new kdramas coming to our screens. I don’t know what it is, but so few of the newer kdramas actually make me curious enough to want to watch them. (Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be diving back into kdramas soon!)
Also, Real Life’s been (very) hectic lately and Exhausted Me was in need of some fun fluff to unwind to. Taiwanese dramas seemed like a good place to dive in, since (in my head, anyway) they’re known for being boppy illogical fun. As a somewhat unexpected bonus, I find that I often don’t actually need to read the subs, since I already know Mandarin. Win!
WHY THIS DRAMA?
I confess I went into this one relatively blind.
I’d happened to come across a blog post that listed a bunch of Taiwanese dramas that the blogger had enjoyed (sorry, I can’t for the life of me find that post to link to). Among the shows she’d listed, this one sounded like it had a cute premise. I found the idea of a rich genius ending up in a love triangle with himself quite amusing, and was intrigued enough to want to find out more.
Plus, I remembered that my dear friend Eleanor had once spazzed enthusiastically over Aaron Yan. I couldn’t remember if it was this show that she’d been watching (turns out it was), but I figured this was as good a time as any to experience his charm for myself.
Jumping in, I was pleased to find that this show was full of Cute, and even though there were enough lapses in logic and gapey characterization to make one’s eyes glaze over, I was enamored enough to keep on clicking on the next episode, and then the next, every time I reached the end of one.
So, my brain was effectively off on vacation, I was quickly coming around to Aaron’s charms, and I was marathoning a drama again. What’s not to love, right?
..Turns out, quite a lot. 😛
WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE
There are two separate sets of downsides in my head, when I think about this drama.
Not great, but worth overlooking for the Cute
In this category, I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff, like:
- Coincidences abound, particularly in setting up our drama world. And stuff gets cheesy, particularly in the “heartfelt” advertisements that OZ creates.
- Complete suspension of disbelief is required, around male lead Lu Tian Xing’s disguise as Xiao Lu. It’s like Superman, basically. A different hairstyle and a pair of glasses, and everyone quite easily buys that they’re two different people.
- The broad-stroked, uneven characterization of our male lead, who exhibits completely contrary behaviors as Tian Xing and Xiao Lu, so much so that this show sometimes felt like a drama about a guy with a split personality instead. [MINOR SPOILER] I mean, one minute, Xiao Lu could be crying over how much he’s hurting female lead character Tao Le Si (Tia Li), and the next minute, Tian Xing’s saying mean things to her. Like, whut? It just doesn’t make sense. [END SPOILER]
- Tia Li is serviceable for the most part, but her delivery – and therefore her character – comes across as rather flat at times.
- The OTP chemistry isn’t great, unfortunately. Shows serves up a good amount of skinship and kisses, which add to Show’s squee factor, but the lack of OTP chemistry dampens the squee by a fair bit.
The truly bad stuff
Up until about the halfway mark, Show was still a fun enough watch, in spite of the downsides I just talked about. Unfortunately, it feels like the writers ran out of story and decided to turn this show into a Very Dramatic Melodrama.
Suddenly, all the fun fizz was gone, only to be replaced by lots of tears, scheming and screaming.
Once Show had our leads in a place where she’d forgiven him for his deception, it seemed like the writers decided to spend the remaining screen time creating dramatic tension by whatever external means possible, rather than exploring the relationship dynamics between our lead characters.
Suddenly, second female lead Huan Huan (Beatrice Fang) loses her ability to walk thanks to a (very stupid) freak accident. With constant brainwashing and goading from her power-hungry brother Lance (Gao Ying Xuan) and misguided doting mother, she then simultaneously uses the Illness and Guilt cards to blackmail Tian Xing into marrying her, while getting increasingly crazy and screamy.
In the meantime, in response to the nastiness dished out to them by the Crazies, all our “good” characters become saintly, self-sacrificial and forgiving to the extreme. This narrative cycle gets put on rinse-and-repeat, all the way to the very end.
Show effectively went from Fun Fluff to Tedious Drag, which was a very sad turn of events indeed.
WHAT KEPT ME GOING TO THE END
There are a couple of reasons I stuck with this show through to the bitter end. As sometimes is the case, they aren’t very much, but it was enough (ok, sometimes barely), to keep me hanging on.
1. Aaron Yan is handsome
I concede that Aaron Yan did more than just look handsome on my screen. In fact, I thought he had the strongest delivery among our leads, and I didn’t realize until after, that acting isn’t his only job, and that he’s also a member of Fahrenheit and sang most of the songs on this show’s OST.
However, I confess that what kept me going was Aaron’s rather unusual and very appealing brand of handsome. It did take me a little while to get on board, but once I saw the light, I was very quickly mesmerized.
Such strong brows, such sensuous lips, and such a sharp jawline. His all-around pleasing bone structure added up to such a beautiful profile too. Add on the honey-toned tan, and I was toast. Very happy toast.
Show knows that the Aaron Handsome is its strength, and plays to it often, even serving up multiple shirtless scenes as fanservice. I.. don’t have any complaints whatsoever about that, since Aaron’s hot bod is of the very lean, very lithe, and very sculpted variety. Ahem.
No matter how eyeroll-worthy the story got, Aaron’s brand of gorgeous was a constant that I held onto, throughout this show.
2. Butler Fu is cute
Butler Fu (Chen Bo Zheng) is adorable as Tian Xing’s wingman and affectionate father figure, and I enjoyed the two’s shared scenes a lot. I particularly loved how enthusiastically Butler Fu helped Tian Xing create and maintain his alternate identity as Xiao Lu; he was like a little boy in grown-up clothes, savoring a Very Special Adventure.
It’s unfortunate that Butler Fu enjoyed less screen time and plot presence as the show got into its later episodes, but I continued to have a soft spot for him all the way to the end.
3. The tailored menswear is gorgeous
It’s true that some of the menswear that Tian Xing sported was of the more outlandish variety (those giant bows, seriously!), but thankfully, that was mostly limited to the early episodes of the show. The rest of the time, the tailored menswear we got to see on Tian Xing as well as Lance, was beautifully fitted, and looked to be of serious designer quality.
Lance’s wardrobe was the simpler, plainer one between the two, but the quality cut and fit was unmistakeable, and I couldn’t help admiring his clothes anyway.
Tian Xing’s wardrobe had the same gorgeous fit, but also often boasted interesting textures and details. Like that shot above, where his blazer is part leather; a small but very luxe detail that I liked a lot. The fact that Aaron Yan looks just as good in his clothes as he does out of them *cough*, also helps take it all to the next level.
All drama long, I couldn’t stop gazing in appreciation, which definitely helped to distract me from the terrible direction the storyline was taking.
4. The music is catchy
The music in this show was definitely one of its bigger strengths. I love me a good OST, and the breezy, catchy tunes from this show sweetened my watch experience by a lot.
5. I just wanted to know what happened [SPOILERS]
I was very frustrated with the show by the last couple of episodes. Everything felt slow and draggy. But, I kept going because I really wanted to know how Tian Xing planned to solve the big problem of being forced into marrying Huan Huan. The big question on my mind was, What’s the Plan?
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Unfortunately, the ending was very, very underwhelming, for me.
For one thing, the “baddies” all experience rather sudden turnarounds. The most unbelievable one, for me, was Huan Huan’s mother’s awakening. She runs out crying to a park somewhere, and who should appear in front of her, but Tao Le Si. Who then goes on to tell her to take it out on her, if it makes her feel better. As if that’s not bad enough, Tao Le Si then takes her home to have a meal, and everyone welcomes her with open arms and hokey dialogue about family & warmth. Which then wakes Mama Li up to what she’s done wrong. So unbelievable, seriously.
The only thing worse than the sudden turnarounds by the “baddie” characters, is the smilingly saintly responses of all the “good” characters. Forgiveness is given quickly and easily, and nobody holds a grudge against anybody. I mean, I’m all for forgiveness, but this was wayy beyond the boundaries of believability. The actions and reactions didn’t seem even faintly human-like, to me.
The biggest offender for me, though, was the fact that Tian Xing really didn’t seem to have a Plan, after all. I mean, what if Huan Huan hadn’t changed her mind and offered to give him to Tao Le Si? (Such a hokey scene, I can’t even.) After all the insinuation that he had a Plan, I was aghast to realize that there was no Plan. Worse, after making Tao Le Si cry so much, we don’t see Tian Xing apologizing to her at all. We only see them holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, and smiling. And then getting married and living happily ever after.
Even with the convenience of everyone pairing up and getting a happy ending (except Lance, who decided he’d had enough of this nonsense), this ending felt spectacularly weak and far from satisfying.
When all is said and done, this show is quite the disappointing watch. If only the writers had decided to stick with the fun and fluffy, instead of derailing into Wincingly Melodramatic territory. Sigh.
Still, Aaron Yan’s so impossibly beautiful to look at in this, that in a small way, my fangirl heart feels like this was time well spent.
My brain disagrees, of course. But you already know that. 😉
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Cute, until Show went Crazy. On the upside, Aaron Yan’s very handsome in this.
FINAL GRADE: C+