I don’t know, you guys. I think I might be the single, lone person in the entire dramaverse, who has watched this show and not loved it. Literally, everywhere I’ve looked, the people who’ve watched / checked out this drama consistently gush over this show with hearts in their eyes. They literally can’t get enough of this one.
..And here I am in my little corner, wondering what the fuss is about. Hrm.
HOW I ENDED UP CHECKING OUT THIS SHOW
This show wasn’t on my radar at all, but after I posted my review of A Love So Beautiful, a show which I loved, blog reader orioness suggested I check out this one, saying that it was even better than A Love So Beautiful. That got my attention real good, since A Love So Beautiful basically stole my heart and wouldn’t let go.
Checking out this show on YouTube, I noticed that the comments section was full of comments praising this show, and many commenters had also made the same remark, that this show was even better than A Love So Beautiful.
The problem was, I just couldn’t see it. *sadface*
FIRST, THE POSITIVES
1. It’s a pretty quick watch
Since I’m currently juggling an extra hectic Real Life schedule, Show’s short episodes definitely counted as a plus.
Each episode hovers at around a 30-minute running time. Sometimes the episodes do run longer, but usually not by a lot. Additionally, at 24 episodes, this one is shorter than the average Chinese drama, since the full-length Chinese dramas tend to average about 40 episodes. Altogether, this felt like something that my packed schedule and limited mental bandwidth could handle.
2. Show is prettily shot and is quite atmospheric
Generally speaking, this show has more visual polish than the average youth trendy. The cinematography feels crisp and clean, the music lends a dreamy, ethereal touch, and the editing – while a little rough around the edges at times – does sometimes successfully experiment with its use of angles and perspective, to create an interesting effect. All in all, Show does possess a distinct moody, atmospheric vibe that sets it apart from its peers.
3. Secondary characters take turns being appealing
I mostly couldn’t get into the main loveline in this show (more on that later); it was the secondary characters that endeared themselves to me more. The secondary couples weren’t uniformly engaging, but it definitely helped that there was, more often than not, at least one secondary loveline that captured my fancy at any given point in the show.
[SPOILER ALERT] The first moment I actually felt truly taken by anything in this show, is when Zhu Xuan (Yu Hao Yang) makes her nervous love confession to Yuan Lang (Wen Yi Fan) in episode 7.
Yuan Lang’s shy joy at her confession is absolutely delightful. We already know that he’s liked her from the start, so to have her confess to him like this, and ask if he likes her too, must be the best gift he could ask for. His bashful peck on her cheek as a response is super cute, and I squee. <3 [END SPOILER]
4. Fan Shi Qi /Kris Fan is quite attractive
Our male lead Kris Fan didn’t endear himself to me right away, but over the course of the show, he actually grew on me quite well. Not only did my eyes find him more attractive over time, I also found myself feeling quite impressed with him in several of the more difficult scenes. In particular, I found his delivery of restrained angst very good – that is, when he was allowed to be restrained.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
Even though show’s visuals are more polished than the average youth trendy, Show generally lacked soul, for me. Mostly, I found the characterization and dialogue rather stilted, and it didn’t help that the acting tended to lean on the greener side. Together, this created a situation where characters didn’t feel like real people to me; for the most part, they merely felt like actors going through the motions and reciting their lines.
Just for the record, I also found that I often didn’t jive with Show’s idea of funny – but that’s generally the case with me and most dramas’ idea of funny, so I don’t hold that against Show too much.
Here’s a quickish spotlight on the major things that didn’t work for me, in this show.
1. Song Yan Fei / Cecilia Boey as Ye Zi
It took me several episodes to realize that Ye Zi’s resting face is a sullen expression. When she wasn’t actively smiling or laughing, her sullen resting face gave her a surly vibe that I did not enjoy at all. In fact, in the still that fills the screen each episode just after the intro song (second pic in this review), she looks so angsty crouching over Ze Yi’s shoulder, that to my eyes, she legit looks like she belongs in an angsty teen vampire show. That Twilight-esque sort of angst on our female lead mostly kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I often found that I didn’t like Ye Zi’s behavior very much.
[SPOILER] Generally speaking, I observed that Ye Zi has a tendency for non-communication, and then getting all up in a twist in her own head, and then acting out.
In episode 10, in the past timeline, she thinks she might be pregnant, and sets about being all angry at Ze Yi and treating him like he’s guilty of a wrongdoing. Worse, she expects him to grovel and be apologetic, without even hinting at why she’s upset. Plus, the thing that upset her isn’t even something that he’d actually said or done that he could search his memory about. How was he supposed to know that she was afraid that she was pregnant? Not appealing at all, I thought. [END SPOILER]
2. I couldn’t get into the OTP loveline
I think I generally don’t buy into Show’s idea of romance.
[VAGUE SPOILERS] In the earlier timeline where our OTP first builds their relationship, I consistently struggled with Ze Yi’s advances with Ye Zi, because he regularly invaded her personal space. On top of that, their relationship starts in a rather sudden manner, from where I’m standing. From basically running away from Ze Yi every time she was near him, Ye Zi is suddenly all smiles and sunshine around him, and I found this jarring and quite strange. Because this early timeline basically forms the foundation of their relationship, my inability to get on board with their initial romance, meant that I inevitably also had trouble with the later timeline where Ye Zi seeks to find Ze Yi again.
I mean, since I didn’t find their initial romance that meaningful to begin with, I couldn’t really get behind the idea of them needing to find each other again. This was a problem, since I think Show’s intention was to build their connection into something pretty epic and profound, so that the angst of them fighting their way back to each other would feel worthwhile and important. I think all of that intent just flew over my head, unfortunately. [END VAGUE SPOILERS]
[SPECIFIC SPOILERS] Right away in episode 1, I already didn’t like the way Ze Yi was approaching Ye Zi. There’s a scene in the library where he takes a book away from her, then later returns it, and then takes the heart sticker off her sweater and puts it on her cheek. I literally felt violated in her stead. I didn’t perceive it as romantic; in fact, I felt it was kinda sleazy, to be honest.
At the same time, I felt frustrated with the way Ye Zi consistently freezes up in Ze Yi’s presence. The whole arc of him trying to get her to sing a duet with him was mostly a rinse-and-repeat cycle of him arranging to meet her, him trying to talk to her (and maybe pull one of his close-proximity ploys), and then her literally running away from him. It got to a point where I wanted to reach into my screen, pick her up by the scruff of the neck like she’s a cat, and just make her sing that stupid song.
On top of everything else, Show presents forced skinship as romantic, and that was also a problem for me. [END SPOILERS]
3. Sometimes the characters don’t behave like real people
There were more than several occasions where I couldn’t make sense of why the characters behaved the way they did. Specifically, this happened a lot with the OTP, and that added to my challenges in trying to get on board with this show.
For example, in episode 16, the interactions between Ye Zi and Ze Yi, particularly in the scenes leading up to what appears to be a reconciliation, feel unnatural to me. In particular, the water fight feels shoehorned in for The Cute, without a plausible thread of emotional development to support it. One moment, they’re all awkward and angsty around each other, and the next thing I know, they’re giggling and laughing through a water fight. The whole thing just didn’t feel organic to me.
To continue the strange bent of their interactions, we see in episode 17 that Ye Zi is triggered by the sight of the drawings that Ze Yi had made for her back when they were dating in college, and that causes her to confront him about why he left in the first place. This confused me greatly. Why hadn’t she asked those questions in the last couple of episodes? I mean, it’s not like she forgot?
I found it hard to make sense of Ye Zi’s behavior. I mean, I try to rationalize that she was all caught up in the moment, of being around him again, that she didn’t think to ask him these questions. But, it doesn’t work for me, because not so long ago, when he’d first re-appeared in her life as a murky shadow, she’d chased him down, and screamed out at him, with those questions burning in her mind. So to then have her seem to forget these questions existed, doesn’t ring true to me. Which brings me back to my issue with this show; the characters sometimes – or more like oftentimes – don’t quite seem to behave like real people.
4. Bemusingly high levels of angst
Aside from the cheerful (and, in my opinion, rather awkward) early romance, this show is full of angst, particularly when it comes to the OTP. The contrast between the past timeline happiness and the present day angst is supposed to amplify the angst, I think. But the problem for me was, the angst between Ze Yi and Ye Zi felt rather pointless to me, like Show was just making them angst for the sake of it.
For one thing, Show stays mysterious for far too long, with regard to the reason why Ze Yi disappeared on Ye Zi all those years ago, and why he continues to stay away from her in the present timeline. I get that Show probably wants the audience to treat this as some sort of puzzle, but Show isn’t forthcoming at all with clues as to what actually went wrong, and every episode, all we get is a lot of angst in the present day timeline, with him avoiding her, and her unable to forget him.
In the first half of the show, Ze Yi makes it clear that he doesn’t wish to be found, but Ye Zi continues to allow his absence to cast a deep pall over her personality and her life. In episode 8, when she is convinced that he’s near her house, she chases down his shadow and screams into the darkness that she will make him keep his promise. I couldn’t understand this, because you can’t make someone keep their promise, if they don’t want to – especially if that promise is to be with you.
By episode 20, they seem to have reconciled, sort of, but oddly, he still avoids her, out of guilt, and then they are extremely awkward around each other when they do see each other again. I found the whole thing very weird. The two of them just angst a lot individually, and are anything but upfront when in contact with each other. It feels like these two have been playing cloaks and daggers with each other for a really long time, and it doesn’t feel like a healthy relationship at all, to me. And all of that angsting takes up most of the episode, before he ends up crying in her arms.
By the later stretch of the show, we finally find out the truth, that Ze Yi had landed in prison because a jealous Gu Yi Shan (Yu Tian Yi) had plagiarized his work, and in the fight that had ensued, Yi Shan had been knocked into a coma. Cue a lot more angst.
Finally, in episode 22, after All Of The Angst, everything comes to a head, but What. An. Anticlimax. that turned out to be. After allll the angst and high drama, the resolution is a quick gathering of a bunch of people around a table, a direct question asking Gu Yi Shan to explain what’s special about the work that he claims he didn’t copy, and without Gu Yi Shan having to say much at all, everyone believes Ze Yi and everything is cleared up and everyone is happy. The resolution feels really convenient, especially after so many episodes of build-up and angst, and I personally found it to be quite the deflating letdown.
Overall, I just always felt like our characters were immersed in a disproportionately large amount of angst, and I.. just couldn’t get into it.
5. Show’s unhelpful quirks
Our story regularly toggles between two timelines, and Show mostly doesn’t do much to indicate the switch. It doesn’t help that Ye Zi looks pretty much exactly the same in both timelines; she doesn’t even have a different hairstyle or anything. This meant that I regularly got confused when Show switched timelines, and had to depend on the styling of other characters in order to get my footing. My main clues were the hairstyles of the three main male characters, because most of the other characters also looked pretty much the same in both timelines.
Additionally, Show does this thing, where characters sometimes break the fourth wall and address the audience – occasionally while they’re in the midst of a scene. I generally found that kind of odd, and quite distracting.
WHY I KEPT ON WATCHING
Yuan Lang, Yuan Lang, Yuan Lang
During my watch, I regularly asked myself why I was still watching this show, when I clearly didn’t quite enjoy it. A small part of it was because the secondary characters would often be just interesting enough for me to want to stay with them a little longer. Another part of it was a stubborn, morbid curiosity about what the deal was, with Ze Yi and his Big Disappearing Act.
In Show’s last stretch, when Ze Yi’s backstory had been revealed, and when Show was in Full-On Angst Mode, I really almost did drop this show, even though I was only 4 episodes away from the end. I was so over all of it.
But then, Show shifted the spotlight to Yuan Lang, who by this time had become my favorite character in this entire drama world, and for him, I had to stay.
In episode 20, Show starts to hint at Yuan Lang being quite sick, possibly with some kind of late-stage brain tumor, and I was really bummed about that.
As a character, Yuan Lang doesn’t enjoy a lot of screen time in the grand scheme of things, but he’s got a really sweet dorky quality about him which I found very appealing. He’s also a super sweet boyfriend and husband (depending on which timeline we’re in), and more than a few times during my watch, I found myself thinking that Zhu Xuan has the best taste in men, among all the girls in this show.
And so, when Show started toying with Yuan Lang’s life (argh), I decided that I just HAD to stay, to make sure that sweet Yuan Lang got out of this alive.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Ohthankgoodness. Yuan Lang is perfectly fine; it was all a hospital mix-up. Which, pretty much, is all I care about in this finale.
But alright. Other stuff happens too. Ye Zi’s parents renew their marriage vows, and that is sweet. Ze Yi is moved by the ceremony, and tells Ye Zi that he’d like to grow old with her, and officially proposes. Ye Zi answers in a vague manner, musing about how she used to envy Xin Ran (Xu Ran) and Zhu Xuan that they could be with their beloveds, but how she’s now realized that love isn’t about being together all the time, but about helping each other become better people. Ze Yi concludes that it’s his turn to wait for Ye Zi, and that when they’ve both become people who are worthy to be trusted and depended on, that he will put the ring on her finger. They part ways.
..I don’t understand that. So they aren’t currently trustworthy and dependable? And so, they have to prove themselves some more, before they can be together? That’s really strange, but whatever. It seems that Show just wants to even out the score a little bit, and let Ze Yi be on the waiting end, at least for a while.
Fast forward to some unknown point in the future, and we see Ze Yi and Ye Zi, finally getting married, surrounded by their friends – and importantly, that includes a happy and healthy Yuan Lang.
I personally still don’t understand why Ze Yi and Ye Zi had to angst as much as they did, nor why they had to take the longest-way-around possible to reach each other in the end, but Show did give me the only thing I really cared about. Sweet Yuan Lang is alive and healthy, and I’ll take it.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Disproportionately dramatic and angsty a lot of the time, but it’s prettily shot, and quite atmospheric. Possibly suitable for when you’re in the mood to wallow in melancholy for a bit.
FINAL GRADE: C+
WATCH IT HERE:
The whole series is available on YouTube, in HD with subs. Here’s episode 1, in case you’d like to dip your toes in right away. I mean, I clearly didn’t love this one, but lots and lots of other folks did, so you might, too?