Remember when so many of you asked me if I knew of a show that’s similar to A Love So Beautiful? Back then, I felt like nothing really fit the bill, but now, I can finally say that this lil show does feel like it’s a reasonably close relative of A Love So Beautiful.
It’s true that this one’s much more about friendship and family than it is about romantic love, but the world in which these characters live feels like it’s plausibly just a couple of neighborhoods away from A Love So Beautiful’s drama world, in the same nostalgic time period to boot. Both big plus points for me personally. I’ll admit that these characters didn’t come alive for me right away like the characters in A Love So Beautiful did, but I can honestly say that by series’ end, they’d gotten deep enough under my skin, that I was sincerely reluctant to say goodbye.
Which is why I think that if you loved A Love So Beautiful, then this one’s solidly worth a look.
I feel managing expectations is really key, when it comes to enjoying this show. Here’s a quickish rundown of what I’d suggest adjusting your lens for, to give yourself the best chance of loving this lil show and its ragtag bunch of characters.
The acting leans green
The younger cast members in this show seem fairly new to acting, and across the board, I can’t say their deliveries were very nuanced. The crying scenes (thankfully of which there aren’t many) seem to be delivered with the most difficulty. On the upside, the entire cast is clearly very earnest, and over time, this endeared them to me sufficiently that I was able to just look past the rough edges on the acting front and just enjoy these characters for who they were.
This show is heavily slice-of-life, in that there is no strong overall narrative driving this thing forward. There are little episodic arcs, which reminded me of A Love So Beautiful as well. Some arcs are more compelling than others, while some almost feel like filler. Basically, Stuff happens each episode, but it often doesn’t feel like a whole lot happens in the overall scheme of things. The episodic arcs do contribute to moving the relationships along, though, which is great, because it often feels like the characters and relationships develop very organically over time.
With this show, you really need to be in the right mood for this slice-of-life tone. When I wasn’t in the right mood, Show would feel slow and almost pointless, with its meandering sort of pace. But when I was in the right mood, I found myself enjoying this one very well, and I felt like I really got to know the characters along the way as well.
My advice? Save this one for when you’re in the right mood.
The teenaged lens is best
I hafta admit, I struggled with this one a little bit, and now that I’ve had my Aha! moment, I’m sharing my insight with you, so that you can enjoy this show without the same struggle that I faced. Basically, I sometimes found that I couldn’t agree with the kids’ decisions. I would find their choices illogical &/or irresponsible, and I would find it hard to root for them, at those points in the narrative.
[SPOILER] Like in episode 10, when the kids abduct He Mei (Pan Mei Ye) and take her swimming, when you just know that she’s going to suffer the wrath of her parents when she gets home. Or in episode 20, when the kids gang up to prank the factory director that had gotten Li Yu’s dad and Yang Xi’s mom laid off, right after Yang Zhao had advised Yang Xi to just work hard at her studies and stop making trouble for their parents. Or in episode 22, when the kids dive in to help Hua Biao clean chemical waste, all in their bare feet, even though they’d brought Hua Biao a pair of rain boots. [END SPOILER]
On deeper thought, however, I realized that when I was 18, I’d made similar illogical and irresponsible decisions, which my own parents had struggled to make sense of. With 20/20 hindsight, I now see that I was behaving irresponsibly, but back then at 18, I fully believed in the validity of my choices, and threw myself into those choices wholeheartedly. That’s exactly what these kids are doing, in this show. They are 18, and not fully mature in many ways, and sometimes, their choices just won’t make sense to the impartial viewer. Being able to appreciate that and roll with it, will go a long way in helping you enjoy these characters, I think.
The occasional slightly violent parent
This doesn’t show up a great deal, but occasionally there’s a bit of angry and slightly violent parenting in this drama world. I see it in other dramas too, and not just in Chinese dramas either. I don’t enjoy watching it, but I do think it’s a fairly true reflection of what Chinese parenting would be like, especially in those times. Full disclosure: when I was a kid and my mother got angry with me, she got screechy and violent too, and my friends tell me the same about their parents, from when they were kids. I guess this is one of those things you just have to accept as par for the course.
Don’t focus on the romance
With this drama world vibing so closely to A Love So Beautiful, I kinda assumed that romance would be the Main Event in this show. I was so wrong. Friendship and family take the spotlight in this show, with romance being almost a peripheral presence. Narrative arcs feature the various lovelines crisscrossing our drama world from time to time, but it’s always with a light touch.
When Show serves up romantic moments, I found them mostly awkward to watch. If you think about it, though, it actually feels quite authentic, that crushes and puppy love, particularly in a retro setting like this drama world, would feel awkward. I mean, all of my crushes and puppy love at age 18 went awkwardly, eep. 😛
STUFF I LIKED
Once you get the lens adjustment done, there’s a lot to enjoy in this show. Here’s a quick macro-type overview, before I touch on the characters themselves.
The gang of friends
The growing connection and bond between our teenaged characters is Show’s main focus, and from showcasing the overall group dynamic, to exploring the friendships between individuals within the group, Show does a very good job of balancing it all.
In particular, I was quite impressed with the way Show handles the introduction of a new member to the group. Hua Biao (Hou Ming Hao) arrives on the scene as a transfer student, and Show takes pains to tease out his growing bond with each of the members of the group, as well as the shift in group dynamic as the group makes way for a new member.
Every time one of the group had a problem or some kind of personal crisis, the group never failed to rally round to provide support, friendship and whatever solutions they could muster. It’s heartwarming, cozy stuff, and I liked watching this ragtag group of friends a lot.
Here are a few of my favorite highlights featuring this multi-way friendship.
E12. The way the kids all go to Hua Biao’s house to pay their respects on his parents’ death anniversary is very sweet. This shows how much they care, and how much their lives are intertwined.
E17. It’s nice to see everyone rallying around to support Li Yu during his emotional turmoil over his mom’s second marriage. It was heartwarming to see everyone chip in, in whatever way they could. The highlight this episode is Hua Biao’s growing friendship with Li Yu (Zhang Yao). From breaking into Li Yu’s apartment just to make sure he won’t be alone, to starving alongside a stubborn Li Yu who refuses to eat, to offering to cook for him, it’s all very endearing. Most poignant of all, is how Yang Xi shows Li Yu, through Hua Biao’s personal story, that life’s not always perfect. It’s what shakes Li Yu out of his self-pity, and enables him to face a new day, and it’s great that he emerges out of this rut with his friendships with Hua Biao and Yang Xi even stronger than before. Aw.
E19. It’s lovely to see the friends rallying around to help Hua Biao with the dumpling stall, when Gran (Wu Yan Shu) isn’t well enough to run the stall herself. From learning to make the dumplings to selling them, they band together and just make it work, and it’s so heartwarming to witness.
Another thing that I think Show does very well, is flesh out the various family dynamics and relationships, and tease meaning out of it all. Given that there are five members of our main friend group, that’s quite a feat, fleshing out the dynamics of five households, and giving them meaning and significance. I thought this was very well done.
It really wasn’t long before I felt like I understood each kid’s family background and situation, and how this affected each of them.
Generally speaking, over the course of the show, we see initial perceived parental harshness eventually give way to some degree of mutual understanding and appreciation between parent and child. Show takes pains to make each transition feel specific and organic to each household, and by Show’s end, I felt like I knew the adult characters almost as well as I knew the kids.
Here’s a smattering of highlights featuring family that I enjoyed.
E2. I am pleasantly surprised by Yang Xi’s brother. She shows so much displeasure and animosity toward him, but when Mom has her meltdown at Yang Xi and Yang Xi runs off to brood, he comes and talks with her in gentle tones and tries to cheer her up while also trying to help her see why Mom is angry. I love that he even says that if things don’t work out and she ends up being a total failure, he’d take care of her. Aw. I find that really sweet.
E13. Er Tiao’s dad taking him along to his business drinking session, because he wants to show Er Tiao (Li Ming De) the kind of life he’d likely have, if he doesn’t get a good education. This is the first glimpse we have, that Dad doesn’t actually enjoy being a businessman, and wants better things for his son.
E14. Er Tiao running away from home in a fit of pique, believing that his parents only care about money and not about him, is very typical teenaged stuff. The way Mom rushes to the hospital in a private get from Guangzhou in order to donate blood to her son, totally proves him wrong. In the same episode, Yang Xi’s mom learns Yang Xi’s school work in order to help her, which is really sweet. It’s tough-going, but Mom pushes on and even stays up late, all because she wants to help her daughter. Aw. Moms really do love us more than we know.
E20. This episode, the spotlight is on the love between parent and child. Li Yu’s dad takes a job in another city to provide for his son, and Li Yu silently supports him. In the meantime, Yang Xi comes around to how much Mom loves her, and she reciprocates, by working hard to learn music to make Mom happy, which was something she had no interest in prior. Yes, the way love is demonstrated might be a little old-fashioned to some eyes, but this rings true for a Chinese family, particularly one that exists in this drama’s time period.
Touches of social context
This isn’t a major thing, but I personally enjoyed the occasional touches of social context that Show gave us.
[SPOILER] In episode 7, I found it interesting to see how MacDonald’s and Pizza Hut are such novelties to our characters, after China opens its doors to the West. The fact that this is used as a focal point this episode, adds to the fun. Yang Xi getting a treat at Pizza Hut is a Big Fat Happy Deal to her, and I found that very amusing. Also, I never knew until this show, that Pizza Hut’s Chinese name translates literally as “Sure-win Guest” – it’s no wonder Yang Xi, who’s striving to do well in school, found a lot of meaning in her visit to Pizza Hut.
Later, in episode 24, it’s 1997, and we see Hong Kong returning to China. Because I’d only ever been exposed to this event from outside of China, I found it quite fascinating to have a peek at the other side of the story, from the happiness and pride on our characters’ faces as they observed the historical event on TV. [END SPOILER]
We get regular voiceovers from our various characters sprinkling every episode, and these voiceovers do a lot to add to the nostalgic, wistful tone of this show. Consistently, the voiceovers are from our characters reminiscing back on these moments onscreen, from some point in the future. Essentially, they are voices from the future, musing on and articulating lessons from the past.
A lot of the time, the voiceovers are warm and thoughtful and maybe even a little bit wistful. This had the twofold effect of reminding me that these characters have grown up and left these days behind, and of reminding me of my own 18-year-old days, which I, too, have left behind. Both of which had the effect of making me feel very sentimental and nostalgic, as I watched. A plus, in my books.
E12. This episode, Hua Biao, Li Yu and Yang Xi, reflecting on their memories and life lessons, makes the teen lens of this drama world really come alive. How they learned they were growing up even as their elders were growing old; how they did something brave that they would never forget; how they were more loved than they thought. It’s all poignant, heartwarming stuff, and makes me look forward to the next episode, even though Show manages to make it feel as if not a lot happens each episode.
E19. The kids really are growing up, and it’s not all easy. This episode, the voiceovers, about growing pains being about finding out unbearable realities, are wistful and poignant.
Show’s character development leans on the slow and sneaky side, coz even though it sometimes feels like nothing much happens in an episode, yet, our characters continue to grow and their relationships continue to evolve.
I didn’t even realize how much these characters had grown on me, until episode 19, when I decided to watch the episode’s closing credits instead of skipping them as I usually do, and found myself feeling a very strong sense of wistfulness and nostalgia come over me, as I revisited through the credits, scenes that I’d already watched. I felt like these were kids that I knew in real life, and that they were growing up before my eyes. Sniffle.
Here’s the quickish spotlight on our main cast of characters, all of whom managed to worm their way into my heart, flaws and all, long before I was done watching this show.
Hou Ming Hao as Hua Biao
Even though I wasn’t too taken with how Show makes Hua Biao initially appear too-cool-and-too-mysterious-and-too-handsome-for-school, I found myself warming to him a lot faster than I thought I would.
Although I first found him flippant and cocky, I soon realized that Hua Biao’s a lot more caring, considerate, loyal and generous than he first appears, and I couldn’t help but like this kid. I feel like his main flaw is his habit of keeping his troubles to himself, even though there are people around him who care enough to want to know. Hua Biao’s journey, of learning to let others love him, was one that I enjoyed quite well.
Here’s a handful of thoughts I had, as I got to know Hua Biao.
E2. Hua Biao’s really skilled at fighting, is a genius in the classroom, and he’s good-looking to boot, without coming across as arrogant about it either. He’s not boastful; in fact, it seems like he’s just being himself, while keeping a low profile. Also, context really is everything. When we understand why Hua Biao’s going around with pipes in his bag, everything we think about him changes. He’s not carrying around pipes to pick fights with others. He’s bringing them home so that he can fix them to the wall as grips for his grandma. That’s sweet.
E3. Hua Biao’s growing on me. He’s sweet to his grandma, and he really does seem rather guileless, when you get down to it. He didn’t revel in the fact that the gangsters wanted to pledge allegiance to him, but he took the opportunity to ask a favor, for them to track down the guy who stole Yang Xi’s bicycle – and then went to get it back for her. His offer to help her with her school work is also purely to pay what he perceives as a debt. She can’t get the 10 points through competing because of the chemical explosion he caused, so he wants to make it up to her. He’s a good egg.
E3. I like how carefree Hua Biao is, and how consistent he is, about that. He does take things seriously, but he also doesn’t take them too seriously. He’s got a light grip on the heavy things, even while making sure he takes the responsibility he needs to. I rather like that. Like the way he goes to play video games after the whole math test saga. And also, the reason he plays to win – not to be at the top of the heap per se, but because if he wins 50 times in a row, he gets to play for free for a month. It’s innocent and childlike, and it’s quite endearing.
E7. Ouch. Hua Biao allowed himself to get beaten up, so that the guys wouldn’t seek Er Tiao out for revenge? He’s so loyal. T.T
E13. Hua Biao’s very caring. Even when he’s troubled by the issue of Gran’s stall with the gangsters, he still goes to meet Yang Xi to walk her home, because he knows that she’s still spooked by her encounter with the stalker pervert.
E20. Hua Biao taking the time to listen to Yang Xi’s troubles, when he’s got bigger worries of his own, is really sweet. As Li Yu’s voiceover says, sometimes love is so simple that you recognize it straightaway.
Wan Peng as Yang Xi
Like I mentioned in my 2018 Year In Review post, I didn’t find Wan Peng immediately likable in this. I found Yang Xi a touch over the line when it comes to boisterous cute, so that it comes across as more boisterous than cute. She’s also written with quite a bit of attitude, but there’s not enough cuteness to balance it out. I wanted to like her, but I admittedly found it an uphill task.
Wan Peng’s stiff acting didn’t help as well, and unfortunately, because Yang Xi is positioned as this show’s female lead, I did feel like Wan Peng was the weak link that prevented this show from being more enjoyable than it is.
On the upside, Yang Xi does a nice amount of growing up over the course of our show, and that mellowed out her sharp edges a great deal, from my perspective. We also get to see that Yang Xi is a lot more caring and earnest than she first appears, and every time I observed her demonstrating care – or learning to demonstrate care – for the people around her, I liked her a little bit more.
Zhang Yao as Li Yu
I personally feel that Zhang Yao delivered the most nuanced and understated performance, relatively speaking, compared to the rest of the young cast. He made Li Yu really come alive quite quickly for me, which I liked. In fact, I wasn’t even 10 minutes into episode 1, when I felt like Li Yu had my heart, as the sweet neighbor boy quietly crushing on his birthday-twin downstairs neighbor, while she seems to literally see him as a brother. Poor baby.
Li Yu deals with a lot of growing pains over the course of our story, from puppy love, to friendship and loyalty, to family issues. Sometimes he’d become a stubborn ass and I’d want to bop him on the head for it, but by story’s end, I felt truly proud of him for all the growing up that he’d done.
Here are a few of my personal Li Yu highlights.
E4. It’s kind of endearing, that Li Yu’s way of fighting it out with Hua Biao, is to join the Physics competition. It’s like it’s his version of fisticuffs. I’m just glad that they’re going to be friends now.
E8. Li Yu is a generous boy. Every time Hua Biao is in need, he will do something to help. He’s brought tiles for Hua Biao’s house from his dad’s factory, and money, for when Hua Biao needed it. And now, he’s promising to feed Hua Biao too. This, even though Hua Biao is technically his rival for Yang Xi’s affections. That’s a good egg right there.
E8. That moment when Li Yu agrees that Hua Biao should tell Yang Xi that he likes her, is so poignant. He’s giving up whatever slim hope that he has for himself and Yang Xi, in respect for Hua Biao as his friend, and because Hua Biao articulated his feelings first. In his heart, he feels like every important person that he wants to hold close, is fated to leave him. Li Yu chooses to do what he feels is the right thing, even though it hurts his heart to do so, and I can’t help but feel proud of him, even as my heart pinches for him.
E13. I used to feel that Li Yu was too hard on Deng Deng (Dai Lu Wa), so I really liked seeing him soften towards her this episode. He manages warmth in his eyes and gentleness in his voice as he talks to her, even though he isn’t accepting her feelings for him. That’s growth. And kindness. I like it.
Pan Mei Ye as He Mei
He Mei (Pan Ye Mei) fades a touch into the background by nature of her quiet and reserved personality, but Show still manages to give her enough screen time and focus, to help her come alive as a solid member of the group.
I feel like many of us would be able to identify at least a little bit, with He Mei’s deep struggle to do well in school in order to please her demanding parents; a struggle that feels all the more monumental because of her lack of academic aptitude. I found He Mei’s journey a very sympathetic one, as she grew more and more stressed because of what felt like a losing battle.
At the same time, I found He Mei’s tendency to gravitate towards her friends for escape and support a very relatable one. I so remember doing that, when I was 18. When your 18-year-old world seems to be crumbling around you, your friends really feel like the only light in a very dark tunnel, and I’m glad that He Mei never had to go it alone, because her friends were always behind her.
Li Ming De as Er Tiao
Er Tiao (Li Ming De) is a character that totally crept up on me. By all accounts, he’s a peripheral member of the group, since he’s not part of the main love triangle. Plus, he’s quite the jokester, so in my head I pretty much saw him as the group’s token clown, amusing and resourceful by turn.
It was only later in the show that I realized that there’s an undercurrent of pathos in Er Tiao’s arc. Not only does he have some family issues, he also sees himself as having a different future than his friends, because of his lack of academic talent. What moved me most, though, was that Er Tiao is unfailingly loyal to his friends. Come hail or high water, he is always there for his friends, and will not hesitate to go out of his way to help a friend in need. Li Yu’s final voiceover in episode 13 sums it up perfectly: if you’re Er Tiao’s friend, he must know about all your matters. And once he knows about it, it’s not only your matter anymore.
Aw. What a poignant and heart-tugging philosophy on friendship. And what a stand-up, decent guy Er Tiao is, truly.
Dai Lu Wa as Deng Deng
Deng Deng (Dai Lu Wa) crept up on me just as much as Er Tiao did. From finding her a bit of a pushy diva in Show’s early episodes, I found myself feeling surprised at how much affection I had for her, by Show’s second half. Bit by bit, we see that there’s a softer, more caring side to her, and I found myself concluding that Deng Deng really is a sweet girl.
In particular, I found her one-sided crush on Li Yu quite refreshing, in that she is so frank about it. I love that she wears her heart on her sleeve, and isn’t afraid to make the first move in order to build a closer connection with the boy that she likes. That takes courage, and Deng Deng puts on a brave face and puts her heart out there time and again, even though she knows that Li Yu’s heart is pining for Yang Xi.
I loved Deng Deng for the brave smile that she continues to wear, even when her heart is breaking on the inside. What a girl. ❤
Wu Yan Shu as Gran
I just loved Wu Yan Shu as Hua Biao’s grandma. So cheerful, loving and warm, that I perked up every time she was on my screen. Her addiction to Maruko cartoons is just adorable, and her close relationship with Hua Biao, the most endearing, heart-tugging thing. I wanted Gran to have her own show, I loved her that much. ❤
Wang Sen as Teacher Kong
Wang Sen is endearing, sincere and completely dorky as Teacher Kong. Although Show often gives Teacher Kong comedic moments to provide some fun levity to our story, I was most touched by Teacher Kong’s earnest care for his students. Being a first-time form room teacher, he might not always know what to do, but what Teacher Kong lacked in experience, he more than made up for, with heart.
Here are just a couple of my favorite Teacher Kong moments:
E10. Teacher Kong is such an endearingly sincere dork. The way he gives Hua Biao chocolate, claiming that he received it from someone else, and the kind words he ways to Hua Biao, that Hua Biao’s problem is their problem now, is just very endearing.
E14. Teacher Kong getting involved in getting the money back for Hua Biao, and then getting pronounced as one of the “brothers” is cute. The way the boys ask him if he likes the teacher from Hui Ying, and the way he admits it, then runs off, is just so cute and so dorky.
E15. Teacher Kong deciding to resign because of the chemical explosion thing, and then coming back. It was a little contrived, but it was heartfelt, and the apologies all-around felt sincere, as did the happy whoops from everyone when Teacher Kong announced he was coming back. Aw. They lurve him.
THEMES + SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE
For a show that feels mostly meandering, Show is surprisingly astute in consistently weaving in themes into its story.
Every episode has a title – Growing Pains, or Confession, or Miracle, for example – and each episode’s various mini arcs tie into the episode title, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways. Coupled with the voiceovers sprinkled through each episode, Show manages to come across as surprisingly cohesive and thoughtful, even when the kids’ antics are the opposite of that. I liked that a lot.
Here’s a quick spotlight on episode 23, the theme of which is Miracles.
In line with the theme of miracles, and we spend much of the episode on the miracle of kids growing into maturity, as Li Yu becomes more of a parent to his dad when Dad is sick, and as Hua Biao does his best to care for his Gran, with Yang Xi’s help. And then there’s He Mei, who finally articulates to her mom her need for her own life – a miracle in and of itself, for the usually shy and reticent He Mei.
Also, to Dengdeng, it’s a bit of a miracle, that Li Yu is turning around to support her dream now, and even gives her a beautiful pair of red ballet shoes, which she’d always wanted. Their relationship is still as yet undefined, and he doesn’t confess to reciprocating her feelings, but this gesture alone, is a huge step forward, and therefore quite miraculous.
Yang Xi’s excellent results on her second model test also feel like a miracle, given her past struggles, and it makes me smile, to see Mom and Dad so delirious with happiness at her good grades. To this end, I like Hua Biao’s wisdom this episode, that miracles happen for those who believe in them.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I genuinely feel wistful as I go into this finale, because I know it’s time to bid these characters goodbye. I’ve grown more fond of them than I’d expected to, as I shared their world, in spite Show’s little rough edges.
This episode’s title literally translates as Youth Doesn’t Regret, and this is exactly what our characters do this last hour. We see each of them make choices that will enable them not to have regrets later on. We see in the last episode that Deng Deng re-auditions for the Hong Kong Ballet Company and leaves school to go to Hong Kong. This episode, He Mei chooses to work hard and face the scary college entrance exams in spite of her deep fear of failure. Yang Xi really works to apply herself, and decides that she might just have a shot at Bei Qing University and makes the leap of faith to put it down as her first choice in her university application. Er Tiao accepts Dad’s offer to send him overseas, and he puts on a brave smile, leaving his friends behind so that he can challenge himself to live well and happily, just like his father.
Li Yu, despite knowing full well that Yang Xi’s heart is with Hua Biao, plucks up his courage to make his feelings clear to her, before leaving for Japan to live with his mom for a while. And Hua Biao, knowing that Gran’s lucid moments are limited, chooses to put off university, so that he can travel with her for as long as her health allows, to make the most of the remaining time he has with her. It pinches my heart when Hua Biao and Yang Xi part ways while fighting back tears, but it feels like they’re making the best decisions for themselves. Hua Biao won’t have another chance to travel with Gran, and Yang Xi needs to be true to herself and pursue her dream of studying at Bei Qing, her acceptance to which is a miracle in itself.
It’s a very bittersweet goodbye, as each of our friends steps out to do what they each need to do, to be true to themselves. Their hearts are wistful, and forever friendship and imminent reunions are firmly on their lips, even though they don’t know what the future holds for each of them or for their friendship; whether they will achieve their dreams; whether time and distance will keep them apart for longer than they anticipate.
But pride and satisfaction tug at my heartstrings, in the knowledge that these kids have matured into young adults over the course of these 24 episodes, and are truly choosing to live without regrets. I realize that I feel glad to have walked this pivotal part of their journeys with them.
Cheers to friendship; cheers to life; cheers to not having regrets. Cheers to you, my friends.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Slice-of-life, and therefore feels meandering & even a little slow at times, but simple, warm and nostalgic, with regular servings of chicken soup for the soul on the side.
FINAL GRADE: B+
WHERE TO WATCH:
The whole series is available on YouTube, with English subs, albeit not in all regions (boo). I can’t view this where I am, but hopefully most of you guys can. Here’s episode 1: