So, I have good news and bad news, my friends.
The bad news is, this is one of those highly raved C-dramas that I ended up checking out based on the buzz alone, and once again, I didn’t end up loving it as much as everyone else seems to.
The good news is, unlike shows like Well Intended Love and Where The Lost Ones Go, where I not only failed to understand the shows’ appeal, but ended up strongly disliking both shows, I feel like I can understand why people like Go Go Squid. And, I even ended up enjoying it, albeit in a more muted fashion than most.
That’s progress, right?
MY TRAJECTORY WITH THIS SHOW
This was a show that I wasn’t actually planning on watching, because it looked a lot like other C-romcoms that other people had loved, and which I’d then failed to enjoy.
But just like that old proverb that talks about dripping water eventually eroding a rock, my resolve to give this one a pass – though not quite a rock – was eventually worn down by the consistent spazz I saw over this show.
I didn’t like it right away, but I hung in there because 1, I’d heard that Show gets better after the first few episodes, and 2, I was quite taken by the fact that Li Xian in this legit looks uncannily like my first boyfriend (Gasp! I know!).
Li Xian looks more handsome, certainly, but the resemblance was so striking that I got a kick purely out of seeing him on my screen, heh. Which then kept me watching this show for a lot longer than I ordinarily would, given my very muted levels of enjoyment of the show itself.
The funny thing is, even though I never got as sucked into this show as many others did before me, I did find myself growing affectionate of the characters, and genuinely interested in certain arcs, which is more than what I’d expected to begin with. Not bad.
I sometimes wished that I was more able to throw logic out the window and just adopt a silly, nonsensical lens with this show, because then I think I would’ve enjoyed my watch a lot more.
On the upside, I can see why people might really like this show.
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.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
I don’t think anyone would argue the fact that this show is far from perfect. It’s on the low-rent side of things, and the patchy dubbing, where the audio is patched with dubbed lines inserted either to cover mistakes or to accommodate a rewrite, is really obvious and distracting.
To be fair, this also happens in more expensively produced C-dramas, so that’s not a problem limited to this show. It just.. didn’t help matters.
Show’s approach is also slice-of-life, so it can feel rather scattered, like nothing much happens in an episode.
Aside from these more fundamental structural sort of issues, here are 5 things that I found myself not liking so much. If you can take these into account when adjusting your lens, I think you’d have a better chance at enjoying this show.
1. The emotional beats generally don’t land with much weight
This is a big one, for me. Generally speaking, I didn’t manage to engage with Show in a strong emotional way, which limited my enjoyment of my watch.
There’s just something about this show that makes me feel that it’s made for your inner teenager. Something about how each arc is designed and pitched, and also, how the relationships are positioned and fleshed out; it’s all more on the young side.
Additionally, it occurred to me during my watch, that the dialogue in this show mostly leans stilted, like it’s obviously been written by someone, for a specific purpose, to create a desired effect. It didn’t feel organic to me, like the words would naturally come out of these characters’ mouths.
2. Logic stretches
There is an elastic kind of quality in Show’s brand of logic that I had trouble getting used to. I think it would help, if you could adopt a more manhua / donghua (the Japanese equivalent would be manga / anime) sort of lens.
Here are a few logic stretches that I noticed during my watch, which, while small, did niggle at me somewhat.
E9. I find it odd that Shang Yan (Li Xian) would need any kind of help navigating the steps to registering on an app and working out how to use it, given his profession. Has he been in an analog bubble all this time, only caring about games and not about social media?
E33. If Nian Nian (Yang Zi) has drunk a whole bottle of liquor, Shang Yan would’ve smelled it on her breath long before she announced it. It shouldn’t be a surprise to him, the way Show wants it to be a surprise to him.
E34. I don’t know if I buy the way Nian Nian’s mom (Kong Lin) is shown coming around. She was so against Shang Yan dating Nian Nian before.. and now she suddenly admits that she can see Nian Nian likes Shang Yan? It just feels a little out of the blue to me.
3. Sometimes the narrative choices come across as quite odd
On a related tangent, there were quite a few occasions where I found the narrative choices quite bizarre, and my struggle to take it all in my stride added to my bemusement with this show.
Here are a handful of examples, when I felt puzzled by what the writers were thinking.
E14. Shang Yan requesting that Nian Nian sing a children’s donkey song for the audition is really quite weird. I get that both of them are missing the other person, and that things are awkward, but the concept is weird, and the execution is painfully awkward. Ack.
E16. The way Solo (Li Zi Feng) tells Xiao Mi (Li Hong Qi) about his performance ultimatum on his birthday strikes me as odd. It’s a punch to the gut to Xiao Mi, and Solo knows that. So why would he choose to tell Xiao Mi during his birthday celebration, of all times?
E17. The way handsy woman tries to get between Shang Yan and Nian Nian is childish, and the way Shang Yan and Nian Nian retaliate is just as childish. I did not enjoy that.
E26. Is this kind of weird jump common in Chinese dramas? Coz this happened in Where The Lost Ones Go, where the OTP went from estranged to giggly water fight in two seconds, with no lead-up that made any sort of sense.
And here we have something similar, with Han Shang Yan showing up and acting like a possessive jerk to Zheng Hui (Qu Xian Ping) at the hospital where Nian Nian’s father (Wang Ce) works.
And then while walking her home, a random guy in a silver alien suit suddenly starts playing music in the empty alleyway and the two start dancing together, all smiles and giggles. What?
E29. The goodbye for Su Cheng (Wang Le Jun) was beyond cringey, with all the dramatic tears and hugs, when she’s just moving to KK’s Norway office. The crying-humming-swaying song was laugh-out-loud terrible. Eep.
4. There’s a fair bit of filler
Generally speaking, Show presents narrative arcs that are quite short, and demonstrates a general habit of getting over humps quickly.
While this made the watch feel lighter, it also tended to muffle the narrative arcs’ potential for emotional resonance. Another thing is, some of these narrative arcs felt like filler, which I did not appreciate.
For example, Shang Yan’s breakup with Nian Nian in episode 21 is clearly designed to be filler, because at this point, Show is only at its halfway point, and we apparently can’t have 20 more episodes of Shang Yan and Nian Nian being in an uneventful relationship with each other.
Which is why Show imposes a breakup via Nian Nian’s mother. We proceed to have quite a few episodes of filler where Han Shang Yan looks kind of tortured, while Nian Nian continues to be absurdly nice to him in spite of his cutting words. Ho hum.
It’s not my jam, but as a silver lining, thanks to Show’s general light hand in just about everything, it’s not too terrible either.
5. Sometimes the aesthetic choices seem.. questionable
The biggest offender for me is Tong Nian’s wardrobe, which I found ridiculously ugly. Tong Nian is consistently dressed in multiple pastels, in clunky silhouettes, with weird mishmash designs.
It was one thing when I thought the wardrobe people were buying the stuff and matching everything badly.
But in later episodes, I spotted a bit of ungainly tailoring along the seams, which made me suspect that the wardrobe folks actually patched colored clothes together to make her have the colorful quirky wardrobe they wanted.
It’s.. really not a good look, in my opinion.
SHOW’S MAIN FOCUS
Notice how this section is headlined by a picture of Han Shang Yan, alone? Ha.
It took me quite a long time to become cognizant of the fact that romance is not at all Show’s intended Main Event.
Yes, the promotional material, posters and trailers put the OTP front-and-center, and even the title suggests that it’s about romance (Show’s Chinese title translates literally as “beloved, ardently,” while the “Squid” in Show’s English title refers to our female lead’s online moniker), which is why I went into this with my romance lens firmly at the forefront.
Little did I realize that Show was doing something of a bait ‘n switch.
..Which wouldn’t have been that much of a problem, I think, if Show had been more obvious in its storytelling, what its main focus was. But the romantic developments take up a fair bit of screen time especially in Show’s early episodes, and that muddied the focus for me, I feel like.
It was only in Show’s late episodes, that I realized that this was never all about the romance. This was really more about Han Shang Yan’s journey, and romance was only one part of that journey.
Now that I have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I’d say that this is more a show about healing, reconciliation and sportsmanship, with some cute romance served up on the side.
Y’know, I think if I’d known this upfront, I might’ve been able to enjoy my watch a little more. I mean, at least I would’ve understood better (well, faster) the narrative restraint employed around Shang Yan’s relationship with Nian Nian.
That said, maybe it’s all on me; maybe if I’d been faster on the uptake, I would’ve gained clarity earlier, lol.
SHOW’S REAL LOVELINE: The angst around Team Solo and its resolution [VAGUE SPOILERS]
So it was only at episode 35 (out of Show’s 41!) that it became clear to me what the real loveline was, in this story.
The real loveline, with the greater angst, and the greater emotional payoff, is between Han Shang Yan and his previous CTF (Capture The Flag) team, Team Solo, with whom he fell out years ago.
Prior to episode 35, we do get bits and pieces of Team Solo’s backstory, but we don’t actually find out what caused the rift until episode 27.
This means that every time we are shown present-day angst (all very serious and dramatic), or team closeness from days past (all very earnest and happy), I found myself unable to actually appreciate what was going on.
I didn’t have the information to sympathize properly with any of the team members, because I didn’t know what drove them apart in the first place.
I couldn’t appreciate why Shang Yan was so full of angst, nor could I really appreciate scenes where the other members are shown trying to make peace with him, and he brushes them off.
I basically didn’t have the information I needed, in order to pick a side.
With the stakes kept vague for such a long time, I basically mentally shelved anything to do with Team Solo and its backstory, until Show did its “big reveal” in episode 27.
I will say that by the time Show did its big reveal, I did feel rather underwhelmed at the truth, which seemed like, well, not a molehill per se, but something that had triggered a very emotional response, and then left to fester for years.
Given the situation, Solo didn’t have much of a choice. He didn’t have someone else who would care for Xiao Ai (Zhang Ge) for him, and Su Cheng couldn’t take care of her anymore.
But ok. I get that it was a blow to the team, and somehow things fell apart. After all the sacrifice, that must have been a huge disappointment. But, it still felt like an anticlimax from where I was sitting, after all the angst and build-up.
Ultimately, the biggest, weightiest relationship in this show, isn’t the one between Shang Yan and Nian Nian. It’s the one shared among the original Team Solo.
The weightiest relationship arc isn’t anything to do with the romance.
It has to do with teasing out and unpacking all the emotional baggage among Team Solo, and letting everything come to a head, so that the old wounds can be soothed, and the enduring embers of emotion that have been smoldering all these years, can finally be fired up again, and given life.
For most of my watch, I found myself enjoying Show with a detached sort of appreciation. But the one time Show managed to fully engage me emotionally, it had to do with Team Solo.
In episode 35, there’s drunk ugly-crying, shouting, tears and apologies, complete with three-way hugs. And while some of it lands kinda cheesy, I have to concede that it brought a lump to my throat.
In comparison, I found nothing that emotionally weighty with Shang Yan’s relationship with Nian Nian, which is why I say that this is Show’s true loveline.
In episode 36, it’s nice to see the original Team Solo reunited, including the substitute players, and I like the idea of the celebrity match. It gives them one last hurrah as a team, which is something they never thought they’d have.
Funny how I found this so much more meaningful than the OTP milestones.
I was a little disappointed that we don’t actually get to see Team Solo play in the celebrity match in episode 37 (I mean, we get to see the speeches and the cheers, but after all that build-up, I feel like I was shut out of a key part of the goings-on, which was disappointing), but still, yay that Show at least lets us in on the fact that Team Solo won, and that Gun God blew it out of the water and beat everyone else. Yeah, baby!
THE TEAMWORK / GAMING STUFF
Another thing that kinda crept up on me, in terms of getting me to care, was all the team-related stuff.
From thinking of all the CTF team stuff as a backdrop for the main romance (which, like I said, was the completely wrong focus), I grew fond of the various team members (I have the biggest soft spot for earnest and sweet Little Demo, played by Yu Cheng En), and I started to feel a lot more interested and invested in the team stuff, as I got deeper into my watch.
Here’s a handful of team-related highlights of my watch.
E10. It’s heartwarming to see the opposing teams unite while on an international stage, even though they’ve always been at loggerheads, in a manner of speaking, in the past. It wasn’t about who won among them; it was about bringing honor to their country.
E32. The arc with Buff (Chen Fang Xu) is rather meaningful, in that even though Buff and Shang Yan have always competed against each other, there is mutual respect there that is clear to see. And it’s pretty meaningful that Shang Yan doesn’t let Buff retire with regrets, but invites him to be a part of the KK team.
E38. It’s gotten to the point where I actually feel more engaged when the focus is on the team. When the focus shifts to Buff joining KK, and the initial angst around that, I found myself feeling more interested in the goings-on, and how the members felt.
In particular, I’m fond of little Demo, and don’t want him to get downgraded to substitute, when it comes down to it.
But it’s pretty admirable that every member understands why Shang Yan is doing this, and doesn’t hold a grudge, even though there’s a possibility that one of their own will be downgraded as a result of the change. That’s heartwarming.
THE ROMANTIC LOVELINE
By this point of the review, you’ve probably already figured out that I did not love this OTP loveline. However, unlike Well Intended Love, where I chafed at many of the OTP developments, I did find a good amount to like, with this OTP.
Li Xian as Han Shang Yan
Overall, I quite enjoyed Li Xian as Gun God Han Shang Yan.
It’s true that Li Xian’s delivery leans a touch one-note, especially in the beginning, in that Han Shang Yan is shown constantly furrowing his brow, as if it’s shorthand for angsty hot male lead, but over time, Han Shang Yan does show more facets to his character than just broody and angsty.
And until that time, I was, like I mentioned earlier, content to enjoy the visuals, not just because I think Li Xian is a handsome man, but also because of the weird coincidence, that I see a striking resemblance between Li Xian as Han Shang Yan, and my first boyfriend (I totally missed the resemblance when I checked out Tientsin Mystic, but I blame that on the period styling, heh).
I think my favorite thing about Han Shang Yan is that even though he is packaged similarly to the 霸道总裁 (bàdào zǒngcái), overbearing president type male leads popular in modern C-romcoms, he is shown to be kind, caring, all-around decent, and a bit of dork, underneath the intimidating image.
Show does a pretty good job peeling back Han Shang Yan’s layers, as we get deeper into our story, and the more I saw of Shang Yan’s softer side, the more I found myself wanting to root for him.
Here’s a quick overview of some of my Shang Yan observations.
E2. I do like that when he encounters Nian Nian online as a noob player, Shang Yan assumes it’s a kid that he’s interacting with, and is kind.
E6. This is the episode that I feel like we see more of Shang Yan’s nice side; the marshmallow underbelly to his reticent gruff aloof shell.
The way he gives everyone red packets, and insists that the cleaning lady get one too, and the way he won’t let Demo stay at the dorm by himself over the new year holidays and takes him home.
There are even a few small stifled smiles thrown in here and there, which I like.
E8. I find it very endearing how Demo throws himself all over Shang Yan, to wish him Happy New Year. It shows that beneath the surface awe and cautiousness, he really isn’t actually afraid of Shang Yan, and in fact, likes him very much.
Shang Yan’s stifled smiles as Demo jumps on him and around him, hollering New Year blessings, is just so wholesome and sweet. Aw.
E8. The way Shang Yan thinks of Nian Nian, when the manager remarks that he doesn’t have to be accountable to anyone regarding his upcoming Norway trip, makes me think that he quite likes the idea of having someone. It also makes me wonder how lonely Shang Yan is, underneath his gruff surface.
E13. Even though he’s moody himself, Shang Yan makes an effort to check on Demo because he hears that Demo’s not doing well emotionally. That’s caring and kind.
E15. ..And the glowery male lead with all the swag turns out to be an awkward goofy dork when he starts dating for real. That’s hilarious and quite endearing.
E22. The reluctant connection between Shang Yan and his stepmom (Liang Ai Qi) is rather sweet. It’s quite touching that she insists on being his mother for life, even though she isn’t required to. The exchanging of pictures under their hotel doors is cute too.
Yang Zi as Tong Nian
Yang Zi has legions of fans who love her for her cute image, but I have to confess that I’m not quite a fan of the cutesy female lead type, and Yang Zi seems to have carved an image for herself playing cute roles.
For example, I didn’t really care for Yang Zi’s cute female lead in Ashes Of Love, even though tons of people loved her and the show. I guess my drama taste is evolving, and of late, I find myself more drawn to female leads with more obviously strong personalities.
So let me state for the record, that lots of people loved Yang Zi as Nian Nian, so there’s a good chance you might, too.
As a silver lining, I found that Tong Nian wasn’t just all cutesy air and fluff.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that beyond the cutesy fangirl stuff that we see in episode 1, namely the insta-love and desperate texting, both of which didn’t at all appeal to me, we soon learn that Tong Nian is a very smart and talented individual, with a great deal going for her.
At first, I admit I was a little confused in terms of trying to figure out what Show was trying to say.
Was Show saying that you can be the most successful woman out there, but in the face of love, you’re nothing but a desperate fangirl, or was Show saying that there’s no type or box when it comes to being smart and popular?
Ultimately, I chose to believe the latter, if only to ease my own ability to enjoy this show.
I also appreciate that even though we see Tong Nian going all-out to support Han Shang Yan in his passion for CTF, we also see that in the end, she doesn’t forget her own interests and career.
Just for the record, here are some of the random factoids that Show tosses out about Tong Nian:
1. She’s a bit of an online celebrity, being a very popular singer on Netease, and has so many fans (more than a million followers) that she attends fan meetings and signs autographs.
2. She’s quite the academic, and started university at age 15, doing a double major in hardcore engineering subjects.
3. She came in second in a prestigious international programming competition, and is often invited to give talks, such as the one we see her give on Artificial Intelligence.
Han Shang Yan and Tong Nian together
I have mixed-tending-positive feelings about this OTP, and here’s why.
[HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS]
Show creates the OTP connection via a chain of hard-to-believe events and coincidences, where Tong Nian falls for Shang Yan at first sight, and hard, and then proceeds to try to connect with him in somewhat stalkery ways.
I did not care for her desperation and rather lame behavior, so that was a negative, in my books.
I also found the start of their dating connection via sudden fake relationship hard to believe, even in the romcom sphere of things.
However, I like that once that connection is formed, the dynamic between Shang Yan and Tong Nian is generally shown to be a healthy one. That, I liked. Plus, some moments are genuinely cute, and I appreciated that.
However, with Show’s light touch, and the story’s real emotional weight lying elsewhere, I found that the OTP relationship didn’t land with enough feels or resonance, for me to feel strongly engaged.
In terms of chemistry, I found that the vibe between Li Xian and Yang Zi was decent overall. I found some moments quite well executed, and others rather awkward, as if our leads felt uncomfortable in the scene.
But, because this OTP relationship wasn’t actually the Main Event that it was advertised to be, I didn’t find this to be dealbreaker for me, and ended up enjoying the OTP relationship, albeit in a fairly muted fashion.
Here’s a rather sprawling map of my reactions to this OTP relationship, during my watch.
E3. The whole misunderstanding about Nian Nian being at the competition for Grunt (Wen Yi Fan) lame, but I’ll buy it for set-up. Again, I like that Shang Yan is kind.
He assumes that she’s Grunt’s girlfriend and that she and Grunt are lying about not knowing each other, so he arranges for her to be included at the hotel meal.
That’s pretty gracious, for the intimidating Boss man.
E5. Again, Shang Yan isn’t unkind, even when he has the option to be. When his team members needle him to let Tong Nian come into the competition arena, he allows it even though he knows that it’s all based on a misunderstanding.
When he sees that Tong Nian doesn’t quite know how to explain their misunderstanding to the team members, even though she’d offered to do so, he tells her she doesn’t need to explain, because it won’t matter anyway. He’s showing a marshmallow side, which I rather like.
E7. The random family friend connection, and the sudden fake relationship is ridiculous, but I’ll buy it.
Xiao Bai (Hu Yi Tian) throwing Shang Yan under the bus using misleading bits of information – “all our club members call her sister-in-law” ha! – to save himself is something I’d believe he’d do, and Hu Yi Tian’s amused-defiant delivery of the moment is gold.
I find myself nicely amused by this episode and this development. It feels like a new dimension’s been added to the entanglement between Tong Nian and Shang Yan, and I’m curious to see where this fake relationship will go.
E7. It’s just like Shang Yan to be honorable about the fake relationship arrangement, telling Tong Nian that until they break up, she is his girlfriend and will honor her needs if she just tells him. I find that quite endearing about him.
E8. Grandpa (Paul Chun) demanding to see Nian Nian means Shang Yan does the boyfriend thing and pays a New Year visit to Nian Nian’s family. But, on top of the basic minimum, I find that he goes above and beyond. I mean, he really does act like her boyfriend.
Indulging all her snack whims at the supermarket, carrying all the groceries, getting her to fish his car keys out of his pants pocket (those startled blinks were gold!), doing all the cooking and washing, and then after driving her home, even asking if she wanted to sit in the car and listen to some music, since it was still early.
That last one really threw me extra, because there’s no reason at all that he would need to do that, so he must actually want to spend more time with her.
E9. All the fan reactions on Tong Nian’s post on Netease was quite fun to watch; that does feel like how fans talk online. And it was amusing to see how much furore her post, and Shang Yan’s innocent, awkward reply, created.
E10. Tong Nian calling to leave cheery messages for Shang Yan on his birthday seems to have tilted his attitude just enough, that he reached back out to Xiao Mi for company on his birthday. That’s nice.
And the way Shang Yan thanked Nian Nian, when she called him right after KK’s win to congratulate him, struck me as being genuinely sincere, rather than simply lip service. In that moment, his connection with Nian Nian felt real.
He even asked if she wanted to hear the cheers for China, and held the phone up to let her hear the full sound. Aw.
E11. Nian Nian offering to make the testing software for KK – the quality of that’s going to surprise Shang Yan, I’m sure. I do like that she keeps employing her strengths to support Shang Yan in practical ways.
E12. This is the amusement park group date, followed by Tong Nian getting drunk on one can of beer, back at KK headquarters.
Drunk Tong Nian does feel rather awkward to watch, especially since Show uses it in a rather tropey way, to introduce close proximity hijinks.
But I was quite taken by surprise, that Shang Yan would reciprocate Tong Nian’s affection by stroking her hair as she rests her head on his shoulder. Does he have – gasp – feelings for her?
E13. Han Shang Yan keeps surprising me with how.. sincere he is. First, he decides to give the bracelet to Nian Nian just because she seems really happy with it when she’s drunk – this, even though it will put him in debt for a year.
And then, when Nian Nian’s friend Lan Mei (Shi Qing Yan) quizzes him about whether he likes Nian Nian, he gives a very serious, well thought-out answer: that he can’t say he does right now because he’s only met her a few times and saying he does would only be hypocritical. But, feelings will come with time.
Squee? As in, at this point in time, he does seem fairly serious about developing feelings for Nian Nian?
Also, he does seem genuinely bummed when she suggests breaking up.
E15. I’m glad they’re dating for real now coz all the moping was not fun to watch. I do like that they’re just taking it as a time of getting to know each other.
Honestly though. Han Shang Yan’s awkward nervous “Should we hug for a bit?” had me giggling.
E16. Snerk. Han Shang Yan means well, but he’s really noob as a boyfriend. The way he solves the misunderstanding of what Nian Nian saw on the video call, of a robe-clad woman in his bedroom getting handsy with him, is to book Nian Nian a ticket to join him?
And then the way he informs her about it is just so weirdly backwards too. Best of all, he even looks oddly proud of himself. HA.
E16. Can’t deny that I felt a measure of satisfaction when the handsy woman looked like she’d had the wind knocked out of her, when Han Shang Yan received Nian Nian and took her luggage for her, like the dutiful yet distant boyfriend that he is.
E17. I think I enjoy watching Shang Yan being a dork about being a boyfriend. He has no experience, and only knows how to frown and glower, mostly, so it’s extra amusing to see him preen in front of the mirror in expectation, before meeting Nian Nian.
E18. That almost kiss was nice – it felt like such a heartfelt and natural response when he realized she’d stayed up just to make the game for him.
I can see signs of Shang Yan falling for Nian Nian. Like the way he gives her the hoodie off his back, when she asks for one as a keepsake of her little vacation.
I also like that Nian Nian’s questions for Shang Yan show that she is genuinely interested to know more about him, and she really does want to understand him better. That’s sweet.
E21. This is becoming less fun to watch. Mom is being a hypocrite. She’s extracted a promise from Shang Yan not to contact Nian Nian anymore, and when Grandpa tries to put in a good word for Shang Yan, Mom says to let the kids figure things out for themselves?
That is so deceitful and full of double standards. Ugh.
It’s also hard to see Shang Yan doing the noble idiot thing of being mean to Nian Nian in order to drive her away. Also hard to watch.
E22. Shang Yan ghosting Nian Nian without any warning or explanation is not cool. That’s not how you break up with someone, dude.
E23. It is not ok at all for Shang Yan to say the cruel things he’s saying to Nian Nian in order to fulfill the promise he made to her mother. I hope he suffers a lot of regret for hurting her like that.
E26. So now Nian Nian and Shang Yan are in this weird not-a-couple truce space. They seem happy to have made peace, but.. this doesn’t mean anything, so I feel like this entire story seems to be written by preteens who’ve never actually been in a relationship.
E27. I still don’t get where things are between Han Shang Yan and Nian Nian. He’s telling her some truths, but not telling her about her mom, and not clarifying where they stand with each other right now, and that vague no man’s land makes me uncomfortable.
The fact that this state of affairs is making Nian Nian happy also makes me uncomfortable.
E28. This is the combined family trip to Suzhou, and Grandpa preparing to leave for Norway. Ok, so it looks like at least Nian Nian and Shang Yan are clear that they are just friends – at least officially. I guess it was more clarity for me than for them, since they seemed to know this while I didn’t.
E30. Alright, I’m mollified and I approve. I’m pleased that Nian Nian demanded (nicely) to know exactly what they are, and when Shang Yan indicated that she was his girlfriend, I’m pleased that she protested.
I’m also rather pleased that he asked before he kissed her, and, I’m also rather pleased that the kisses are far from static.
E31. The interactions between Shang Yan and Nian Nian are rather sweet but on the decidedly muted side of things.
There are times when I really do feel like Shang Yan is dating a little girl; the way he tells her to go play on her own sounds akin to what an adult would tell a child, to keep them busy while the adults do their adulting things.
It’s sweet though, that when Nian Nian realizes that Shang Yan might be tight for money, she immediately offers to take care of him because she believes she will be able to earn good money.
E31. The whole thing about keeping their relationship from Nian Nian’s parents niggles at me.
When her parents are not in the picture it’s easier to overlook, but when Shang Yan was distracting Nian Nian’s father with the pretense that he couldn’t get over Nian Nian, so that she could sneak back into the house, that was harder to swallow.
I know it’s being played for comedy, but.. somehow it’s just not that funny to me.
E32. The whole misunderstanding about marriage between Shang Yan and Nian Nian is supposed to be funny, but I find it hard to buy that things could get blown out of proportion like that.
I thought the initial communication between them on that was clear enough for anyone with common sense to figure out the situation, that neither of them is itching to get married right away.
E32. The argument between Shang Yan and Nian Nian is, again, played for comedy, but it felt exaggerated and try-hard to me. I do appreciate that Shang Yan really is a relationship noob, and so it terrifies him when Nian Nian appears upset, and he goes overboard again, trying to cheer her up.
E33. The whole thing with Nian Nian drunk-confessing her relationship to her mom was meh to me, even though I understand that, narratively speaking, it’s to get her relationship with Shang Yan out into the open.
Also, even though I rationalize that Shang Yan made up a story about him being the one smitten with Nian Nian from the beginning, in order to preserve her dignity, but it just felt weird that he’d basically lie through most of his spiel, when he’d promised to come over and explain everything to her parents.
I will say, though, Li Xian cleans up nice in a suit.
E33. Xiao Mi’s random remark about Nian Nian losing out because Shang Yan’s much older than her, and so she’ll never experience a campus romance, leading Shang Yan to go incognito at her campus, is kinda silly, but since I’m fairly amused by the idea of Shang Yan cosplaying the ideal campus boyfriend, I’ll let it slide.
E34. Shang Yan’s stint as Nian Nian’s campus boyfriend is mildly amusing, though I mostly just liked looking at Shang Yan wearing casual loungewear and looking all spiffy as the Handsome Boyfriend.
What I do appreciate is how seriously Shang Yan approaches being a better boyfriend. When Xiao Mi says something in passing, he gives it thought, and then acts on it.
Now, Stepmother is talking to him about how to love someone, and I know he’s going to act on that too. He’s just quite consistent, that way.
E36. I like that Shang Yan is gentle with Nian Nian, and that he’s telling her that they will get married when she’s ready; basically, that he won’t rush her in any way.
I also like how supportive Nian Nian is, getting so informed and involved in CTF for his sake, and doing all kinds of things to cheer him on. I also appreciate that she is willing to go all in, even offering up all her savings, in all seriousness, to further his dreams.
E37. I like that Shang Yan is pouring his heart out to Nian Nian, about what happened in the past, and what his feelings and motivations were. And I like that she says she’s happy to hear him out.
That’s a healthy, supportive, open relationship dynamic. The proposal was all very meaningful for Shang Yan, with it being at Beijing station where he first arrived to meet Solo, and done with his championship ring.
The proposal rejection thing was a bit surprising, since both of them had considered marriage, and Nian Nian had expressed that she would marry Shang Yan, if he wanted to get married. This feels a little shoehorned in, just to create a bit of filler.
But, I do appreciate that the angst is short-lived, and Shang Yan and Nian Nian talk it out quite nicely, and make up on the flight home.
E38. I alternate between finding the awkwardness between Nian Nian and Shang Yan when they are alone and trying on naughty thoughts, amusing and cringey.
Mostly cringey, as is the case this episode, where they sit around awkwardly pretending to be oh-so-comfortable, while waiting for Nian Nian’s parents to come home.
Thankfully it’s not dragged out for too long, phew.
SPOTLIGHT ON A HANDFUL OF NARRATIVE ARCS
Because of Show’s rather slice-of-life nature, there are multiple smaller arcs that take the spotlight over the course of our story. Here’s just a handful of them, that stood out to me a little extra.
Xiao Mi’s journey
I was pleasantly surprised by how meaningful I found Xiao Mi’s arc, which takes place at around the episode 23-31 mark.
The idea that his less-than-ideal performance would force him to consider the team’s needs, as well as his own second career, is something that feels relatable and real, even though I felt the execution leans overly neat.
Here’s my small collection of thoughts and reactions around Xiao Mi’s story.
E23. Xiao Mi’s retirement is hard on his friends, but it’s the most realistic step for him, and he did it in a way that was full of swag. Leading your team to victory as the lowest ranked member, and then bowing out in glory? That’s one heckuva retirement announcement.
E29. I find myself appreciating Xiao Mi’s arc more than I’d expected to.
The thing about making one decision that you regret because it’s affected the course of your life in a big way, and then working to reverse it by re-entering the competition arena, only to fail and then bow out, feels so real.
I feel like this thing, about failing, and then looking for a new area to be reborn in, so to speak, is something that many viewers would be able to identify with. I like the idea of him being KK’s new manager, though I do wonder about his administrative skills.
I also like the idea of him winning the team members over in his own way, even though I feel like the team members’ cold reception of him is rather overdone.
E30. I was hoping that Xiao Mi’s acceptance by the team would be played out more organically, but I guess with a show like this, and for a supporting character, I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s been somewhat glossed over and fast-tracked to its happy conclusion.
I did appreciate that Xiao Bai led by example and supported Xiao Mi, and I rationalize that that would naturally get the other team members to reconsider their positions on the matter.
E31. It’s a little jarring to me still, the massive turnaround from the team towards Xiao Mi. Them singing to him to greet him as they met to go out for their celebratory dinner was really odd, I thought.
But, it’s still gratifying to see Xiao Mi grow into his new role, and do well, as KK’s manager.
The Xiao Mi and Ya Ya connection [VAGUE SPOILERS]
Xiao Mi gets a little loveline with Tong Nian’s friend Ya Ya (Jiang Pei Yao), who happens to be a diehard fan of his, from his Team Solo days.
While this loveline is relegated mostly to a slow-burn, background sort of thing, I had a soft spot for it because I liked the idea that down-and-out, discouraged Xiao Mi, would have such a loyal fan who would support him with stars in her eyes.
I would’ve liked this loveline to have been developed more organically, but I was still no less pleased to see this couple get their happy ending by the time our credits rolled on the finale.
Solo’s personal arc [SPOILERS]
Although I didn’t feel very connected to Solo as a character, I felt that it was important for us to understand his backstory, and Show delivered on that.
Not only do we see what happened in the past, when Solo discovered that he had a baby daughter, we also see his struggles in the present, to be a good father to Xiao Ai.
Xiao Ai’s brattiness thankfully gives way to much more warm and open behavior eventually, and while it’s bittersweet to see Xiao Ai leave Solo’s side to stay with mum Su Cheng in Norway, I appreciate that this is often the reality of co-parenting a child, post-divorce.
Additionally, I appreciate that Xiao Ai makes peace with both parents, and even though they are all in an imperfect situation, that the relationships among them have all turned for the better.
Wu Bai’s connection with Ai Qing [SPOILERS]
We’re told fairly early in our story, that Wu Bai has a longstanding crush on Ai Qing, who is his idol, and the entire reason he got into CTF in the first place.
Thereafter, Show maintains this connection, but doesn’t actually give these two much narrative real estate to develop it. Mostly, we see Xiao Bai asking her to have coffee with him, with her declining.
They lock meaningful gazes several times over the course of our story, mostly at competition arenas, but don’t say much at all.
In the end, Xiao Bai is rewarded with a hug, delivered in a professional capacity, but when he asks Ai Qing to have coffee with him, she finally readily agrees. And that’s about it, really.
Ack. This is an arc which I found full of potential (I did feel that Hu Yi Tian did very little, and showed up very little overall, in this show), and I would have really liked Show to have explored Xiao Bai’s crush on Ai Qing more.
With him an up-and-coming CTF star dominating the world rankings, and her a CTF legend herself, I would have loved to have seen more conversation, more interaction, and more sparks between these two. This was a wasted opportunity, I thought.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
As I expected, Show gives us a feel-good ending, with happy bows all-around.
Everyone not being able to sleep before the big day of the finals is quite touching. The fact that Nian Nian and Ya Ya can’t sleep, vicariously excited for the competition that both their men are involved in, is sweet.
They’re so invested. It almost feels like a lesson for other significant others, for how to support their loved one’s passions and interests.
KK wins the Asian Championship, while SP wins their own match and comes in third. It’s nice to see SP and KK no longer at loggerheads, but cheering each other on, congratulating each other after each win, finally acknowledging with gusto, that it’s China that comes out the champion.
Nian Nian asking Shang Yan to marry her, right before the competition starts, feels quite perfect.
She’s speaking his language, in that sense, telling him that regardless of the competition outcome, she’ll always be there to support him. Shang Yan’s funny antics swopping clothes with Solo to meet her parents right after the competition, is bonus.
Shang Yan’s dramatic, heartfelt spiel to Nian Nian’s parents, asking them to entrust their daughter to him, and basically pledging to love her forever with all of his might, is part cringey and part sweet, which I rather enjoy, despite finding it rather heavy on the cheese.
It’s also fitting that when Shang Yan and Nian Nian return to KK, amid lots of cheer and teasing, that Shang Yan takes a moment with Team Solo.
Their conversation touches on the past as well as the future, with a poignance that is laced with both wistfulness and hope, before they toast to their dream of the world championships.
The scene is quick, but it’s clear that it means a lot to all of them, Shang Yan in particular.
Xiao Mi finally confirms his relationship with Ya Ya, which is a good thing, though I can’t help feelings that it’s a bit of a cop-out coz it’s such a by-the-way sort of thing, with Ya Ya being the one to clarify what she should say, when his family asks over the phone if she’s his girlfriend.
But, Ya Ya is so shyly happy, and Xiao Mi is so sheepish in his gladness, that I can’t hold it against him too much. Plus, his bashful peck on her cheek after the phone call is sweet.
Shang Yan and Nian Nian register their marriage, and call Grandpa in Norway to share the happy news. Gramps is beside himself with excitement and decides that the lovebirds need five wedding banquets in order to properly celebrate, heh.
The KK and SP teams gather at the airport, with Solo joking that if SP needs any substitute players for the competition, they can just borrow some from KK. Heh, I do like how closely united the two teams have become.
As Show closes out, we see Shang Yan, with Nian Nian on one side and Solo on the other, heading into the airport, towards the world championship.
In voiceover, we hear Solo asking, and Shang Yan answering: “Do you have a dream?” … “Get first place; for China, get first place in the world.”
Which, to me, brings home the point that this story was always more about Shang Yan’s dream, and about carving a name for China in the arena of CTF. Shang Yan’s romance with Nian Nian was always just a part of his journey, albeit an important part.
All in all, I’d say that Show ended on a note that felt true to its overall tone: a little awkward in some of the emotional beats, but overall, still earnest, aspirational, and heartwarming.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Show’s emotional punch tends to land muted, but is still a pretty feel-good, fluffy watch, given the right lens.
FINAL GRADE: B
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here. It’s also available on YouTube here.
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The main actor here is an absolute hottie and the main actress so so cute, but my oh my, why did they decide to centre the whole story in the ML’s dream and all that boring patriotism… The FL’s lead dreams, interests, life, independence were completely, and very purposely, overlooked, which made me quite angry.
Most reactionary show I’ve seen in a while. Terrible really. The only saving grace was the overall solid performances of everyone, but that’s it… Gorgeous male lead totally wasted, ugh!
Disappointing on so many levels, most are covered already. No one yet has mentioned her foot-plopping walk–she sounds like a sulking toddler when she walks. and wardrobe was cut and then sewn back together, Frankenstein-style. Her bedroom at home looked like it belonged to an 8 year old. WHY WHY?? WHO thought these details made any sense at all?
And—did anyone else find it weird he made her rummage through his (tight) pants pockets for his car keys?? That one made me think he was going to be outed as a pervert, but it was a one-off, thank goodness.
How this finds its way onto fan ‘favorite’ lists is a mystery. Maybe they’re all preteens.
The original material was a 苏甜 romance novel, so I was expecting the drama to mostly focus on the loveline, but I was surprised that it managed to develop the sub-plot about Han Shang Yan’s broken friendship with the Solo team members as well.
To be honest, I fast forwarded through an entire episode which had more than half the screentime devoted to a looooooog flashback about Solo team’s past; I wanted the week’s serving of SWEET CANDY!!!! It was tough watching the drama as it aired in China. T.T But all that build-up eventually paid off, and I enjoyed seeing the struggles of each Solo team member. I was keenly interested in Solo and Mi Shao Fei’s sub-plot. And eventually when Solo team reconciled, my heart was taken over by a warm fuzzy feeling.
In all, this was a story about Han Shang Yan and his dream. He was so near his dream when he gave it all up in the heat of the moment (I like how Mi Shao Fei admitted to him that he regretted that decision, and eventually, Han Shang Yen had a similar situation) and that made him angry. That pent up anger (I think more at himself than at Solo) was directed at his workaholic tendencies to build up the KK team. And as all good dramas go, Nian Nian changed things, beginning a path of healing leading towards understanding and reconciliation with the Solo team members. This kind of lived up to the title of 亲爱的 (Nian Nian)，热爱的 (CTF).
I totally adore the OTP. I like Yang Zi as an actress and she does manage to have chemistry with most of her co-stars. I was just swooning so much that any plot bugs/logic lapse didn’t come into the foreground. I was just preoccupied with the OTP <3 This drama will always have a special place in my heart as the one which lifted up my mood everything. I’d literally bounce my way to work each day with the OST playing in my earpiece – happiness.
Censorship is such an annoyance. The CS sequences so painstakingly filmed will never see the light of day. T.T I so wanted to watch Solo team in action. Han Shang Yan in action. Move over, CTF.
On a side note, the sister novel to 蜜汁炖鱿鱼 has completed filming. Although some actors from 亲爱的，热爱的returned (Hu Yi Tian did), many of them are replaced by more popular actors/actresses, which I am really disppointed about, because I did like the original cast.
That’s interesting, that the source material was mainly a romance! I thought Show would be mainly a romance too, based on the trailer and the positive buzz, but it felt like Show was more interested in the CTF story. I did see some reports of the spin-off drama being made, but I think I’ll be giving that a pass. 😅
You got everything on point!!! Yes, Han Shangyan and Baby Squid got my attention. Why wouldn’t they? They are both good looking but it wasn’t enough to keep my attention. What made me stick to it until the end was the friendship of Team Solo and the K&K members. They made it look like they have been together literally for 10 years and also kinda wished i was part of the gang.
Hi5, Apple!! 😀 Yes, that loveline in this was just rather weak, even though it was the main point of Show’s marketing. The real draw is the team stuff, and that’s the only reason I stayed with this one until the end! 😉
Wow, what a very detailed review!. ^_^ I could only read partial for now because I wanted to avoid spoilers but i’m impressed with your indepth review with episodic references. That’s awesome, I applaud your passion towards dramas and writing! I usually never leave comments, but I want to leave a note to give you kudos ^.^
Aw, thanks for taking the time to comment, Thelonemoon! I appreciate it! <3 I hope you'll enjoy the review in full, when you're finished with your watch of the show! 🙂
Please watch Wait, My Youth. This series is one of the most well-written youth dramas in recent years. I felt that it’s even better I hope you find time to watch and enjoy it as much as I did.
Hi there Camsee, thanks for the suggestion. I’ve added Wait, My Youth to my list, and I hope I’ll find it as enjoyable as you did! 🙂
Giving it a B is being generous, tapped out at ep 24 .
I cant even understand the hype of the series and 40 freaking episodes.
That’s a valid point, Che! 🙂 You’re right, I thought the OTP was overhyped, and I still don’t quite understand why people go crazy for this show. But I was indeed feeling rather generous by the time I got to the end, because the team stuff finally came into focus and brought some (much needed, imo) emotional heft to the show. That bumped up Show’s grade, for me. 🙂
I thoroughly enjoy reading your reviews and the way you break down shows. Would love to see something written on The Untamed! It’s been months and I my heart still lurches whenever I see something about that show/a gif or video.
Truly something special
Hi there Velvet, thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoy the reviews. I’ve currently got Untamed on my plate, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to get around to it. I’m drowning in a whole bunch of dramas at the moment! 😅 I do hope I’ll manage to love the show as much as you do! 🙂
I watched this one for sure, but I forget what episode I dropped it. I was just not felling the FL at all. I think you’re right about the whole ‘getting older so I’m leaning more to stronger female leads’ thing. I cannot stand air-headed, pushover female leads anymore which is sad in a way cuz that’s like 70% of em.
Till today, I do not know how I ever watched playful kiss and enjoyed it??? Like, I tried re-watching it like last year and god, I almost punched my screen from frustration. Anyways, I’m surprised you gave this a B. I felt like the over cuteness would send you running.
Lol. You’re right. I was a little generous with my rating. That was because of the late-stretch feels that Show managed to give me, around the Team Solo arc. Nothing to do with the romance at all. In this case, the romance didn’t really work for me, and felt oddly stilted. But I also give Show points for making Shang Yan a considerate boyfriend instead of a dominating one. That’s how the grade got overall bumped up to a B. Otherwise, it would’ve been more of a B-, I’m thinking. 😉
Also, YES, cutesy female leads are not my thing, at all. And, they’re hard to pull off, since there’s such a fine line between cute and too much. The cuteness level in this was too high for me. 😆
Also, please do check out Extraordinary You when you have the time. It’s ongoing and making people lose their sanity.
I’m watching Extraordinary You, and I loved the early eps, but am admittedly less engaged, now that I’m in Show’s last stretch. :/ Have you finished your watch?
I’m really glad you wrote a review on this one. Most of the points that you have mentioned are identical to mine and I’m glad I’m not the only one. For example, you talked about how you felt confused since the show was promoted to be a cute romance focusing on a love story but in actuality, it was more about Han Shang Yan’s character and his journey. I was very ‘eh’ about the first few episodes because they didn’t seem that great and it seemed like a slow burn rom-com. The drama seemed very stretched out for no reason. I don’t know why I held on but I’m happy I did. I liked the overall message and I also liked the fascination of CTF representing China. I liked the teamwork. I liked the simplicity of Han Shang Yan and Tong Nian’s relationship. It was fun. PS: yes Tong Nian’s wardrobe was a mess. I face palmed every time.
Wow, we certainly agree on just about everything, on this show! Hi5, mkLols! 😀 I wasn’t taken with the romance much (although I give Show points for not making Shang Yan a jerky boyfriend). It was the teamwork stuff that made me give this one a B. And yes, OMG what WERE they thinking with Tong Nian’s wardrobe? 😆
Hi kfangurl! I was wondering if you’ve heard of or are planning on checking out The Untamed/Chen Qing Ling ☺️ I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about it! It’s one of those dramas that are a bit of a slow burn, but it hits its stride around 13/14. Hope you check it out!
Hi there Gilgil, I do have The Untamed on my list as one to check out, but haven’t managed to make a dent in it yet. I did attempt E1 a while back, but wasn’t in the mood and shelved it quite quickly. I do plan to give it another try, once I have a bit of wiggle room on my drama plate! 🙂
Even though I liked that show I wouldn’t give it more than a realistic C. It dragged too much and was too overdramatic [backstory came out so lame und made SY an even more insensitive douchebag in past].
I really liked XM. He was far more interesting than all other and his story with YY was just giving me the love vibes that I missed from the OTP. You can say I could connect with both characters quite natural.
Normally I’m not the “the book is better” type since I appreciate both and there are too many dramas who made an average novel a bestseller. But this time I better hadn’t known the novel before since it made the big plot holes even more obivious. Probably that happens when the original author is the screenwriter.
And the clothes…well…yes. I’m sure they wanted to make it look nouveau since it is something a Designer would surely come up with (or proably did). But it didn’t fit YM and neither her character. Same with the haircut of a 7-year-old. She may be a nerd but she knows exactly what looks good on her. She is a visual idol who sings.
Has anyone noticed that the actress of YY would have fitted more the image of the book heroine? Probably I’m biased but I think her acting was better than YZ’s. YZ was trying too much and she is better when she doesn’t need to act cute. But I’m sure the director wanted her to be that cute for whatever reason. Let that girl act, she can but she is more a natural actress than those who can impersonate every role.
Hi there Usi! I guess this is one of those times where ignorance is bliss? 😆 I am not familiar with the source material, and therefore was not able to notice where Show did a poor job of adapting the original story, which I guess saved me from further frustration! 😝 That’s possibly one of the reasons I managed to enjoy it a little more than you did.
That said, I agree that Yang Zi was directed to act way too cutesy. I cringed many a time, especially when Nian Nian threw herself on Shang Yan in a koala hug and refused to get down, even while everyone else was watching and snickering. 😖😬 I just put it down to personal taste, since I do know of folks who love Yang Zi in this show, saying that she’s so cute without being cutesy. 😅 But seeing as how you felt the same, hi5? 😆
Yeah, normally I prefer reading the novel after but it isn’t something you can choose when you already know the story when it gets announced to be aired soon -_-. Probably I should keep an eye on the filming lists. The show didn’t made a poor job, it was just the really iconic scenes (for me) came out quite lame and the chemistry was toned down too much. Probably I’m too naughty. I enjoyed the Drama nonetheless since the beginning was nice and 2nd OTP but it is nothing I would put up very high on my rewatch list.
Hi5! ヘ( ^o^)ノ＼(^_^ )
Lol. I am highly unlikely to rewatch this one, I have to admit! 😅 Just once is enough. 😉
Hi kfangurl – I also watched this one till the end with my hand on the fast forward button. I couldn’t figure out why this was a meh for me until I read your review. It was sold as a fluffy romance and turned out it wasn’t and I couldn’t adjust my lens thereafter. Even as a romance I really didn’t like the way the show represented the way heroine behaved- as you said- in stalkery ways – and I felt that was there throughout their relationship. Not healthy at all.
Hi there D, glad this review helped in terms of putting your dissatisfaction into perspective! 🙂 Yes, there were certain things that I felt were unhealthy, but I decided to give Show a chance because in relation to other trendy C-romcoms, the relationship dynamics are relatively healthier. Could it still be better? Yes, absolutely. But it’s already a good step away from the typical trendy C-romcom, which tend to be full of overbearing, controlling male leads (which grates on me no end), so I’m inclined to give Show at least a little credit for that progress! 😅
I stuck around till around episode 42…couldn’t push through after that. It was okayish but I couldn’t get involved with either the OTP or the issues with Solo. Frankly, I think I completely lost interest when the reason for Shang Yan’s resentment anger and resentment with Solo was revealed. I think I lost a little respect for Shang Yan too. Come on, that was a helpless baby. Hello…as a dad…a human, shouldn’t a tiny, defenseless baby come first? The whole arc left me feeling Meh…
And I am totally there with you about Nian Nian’s wardrobe! What on earth were they thinking?!
On a different note, I recently finished ‘The World Owes Me A First Love’ and quite enjoyed the show. It wasn’t in the category of ‘A Love So beautiful’ but it has some nice character development and a hero who is not a scumbag.
Yeah, the big reveal was meh for me too! I think Shang Yan offered to take care of the baby for Solo, or something similar; I remember he told Solo to say that the baby was his (Shang Yan’s), but Solo declined. I.. did not understand that. I don’t see how offering to be the baby’s official parent would help matters; like you said, someone’s got to take care of the baby! So yeah, the whole thing didn’t seem to warrant the years of bad blood, to me. 🤷🏻♀ HAHA about Nian Nian’s wardrobe! It was really bizarre! 🤣 Someone must’ve thought it was nice, but I just don’t get it. I guess they were trying to make her look sunny and quirky?
I’ve heard of “The World Owes Me a First Love” but haven’t tried it out. Good to know that it’s a solid watch! 🙂
Hi Fangurl! I think I made it to episode two – maybe three? I also could not get through the childishness. I started watching primarily for Li Xian – just loved him in Medical Examiner Dr. Qin as well as in Tientsin Mystic and in Only Side by Side with You (although I dropped this around episode 12). There is something about him that I find fascinating – similar to how I feel when watching Gang Ri Yao.
Working my way through his works as I can get access to them. I think he has the capability to carry a very serious role and looking forward to seeing him do so. I had to laugh when you say that your ex looks just like him. Thank you for sharing that LOL!
I really liked Li Xian in Tientsin Mystic actually, I thought he was really cool. I was just too weirded out by the bloody zombie babies. 😛 At the time, I hadn’t yet clued in on the resemblance between him and my ex, lol. But now that I’ve realized that they look very similar, I can’t unsee it! 😂 I might just have to watch Medical Examiner Dr. Qin, if you loved him in it. It’s been on my list for quite a while, but I just never got around to it coz there are so many other shows I want to check out. Now I have added reason to – more Li Xian! 😀
I second Dr Quin, it’s one of my fave cdramas of recent years. The Trio of Awesome is… well, awesome. 😄 But yeah, too many dramas, too little time.
Tee hee. You were the one who pointed me in the direction of Dr. Qin, so you’re the whole reason Dr. Qin is even on my list! 😀 I just took a peek at it, I’d forgotten it was only 20 eps! Compared to most C-dramas, that’s very manageable! And the eps are only half an hour long too. I might just manage to squeeze it in, in the name of my Li Xian high. 😉😆
Fangurl – I had to close my eyes at the murder scenes and autopsies in Dr. Qin but the “Trio of Awesome” as Timescout so aptly describes is bloody awesome. Zhang Ruo Yun and Li Xian together – please! They are together again in the movie ‘Nuts’ and Zhang Ruo Yun plays the biggest dork. I really enjoyed it.
Thanks for the heads-up, phl dear! <3 I'm not much into gruesome stuff, so I will tread with caution! I just tried E1 of Dr. Qin today, and I'm pleasantly surprised; I feel interested and engaged right away! I also see a lot of potential for awesome in the threesome. Very promising indeed. 😀 Will keep the movie Nuts in mind for another time, thanks! <3
Whew and lololol… I’m on a roll. I lasted half an episode – my comment overall: too childish. So, no lens in sight whatsoever 😂🤣😂
You ARE on a roll, Sean! 😆 This one does lean childish, and if I hadn’t had it in my head that a good number of my friends liked this a lot, I might’ve dropped out early too. I ended up growing somewhat fond of the show, but that was in spite of its patchiness and weird narrative choices, not because it was really that fantastic, ha. 😆
It’s always interesting how we end up staying with a show kfangurl 😄 Long Distance Romance is a case in point for me. It started off so well, then crashed and burned. What kept me going (and other watchers) was the person who subbed it. She translated it from Vietnamese into English. Did it lose anything in the translation from its Chinese form to Vietnamese to English? It didn’t seem to. Plus the subber threw in some very, very funny comments and explanations along the way too 😂😂😂
Oh WOW! I mean, SO MUCH credit to the subber, for keeping you guys on board! We often don’t give enough credit to subbers, and here we have a subber who kept so many viewers watching, when the show had already crashed and burned. 😱 What the writers, director and actors failed to do, the subber did. Amazing! What a star! 🤩🤩🤩
I do sometimes venture into the fluff-land too, though I hardly ever stay there all that long. 😀 But every now and then I come across a fluffy drama that oddly enough ends up being quite enjoyable. I think it depends on the quality of the script and execution.
I wasn’t initially interested in The King’s Avatar either, but then checked out the first few episodes out of curiosity and ended up following the whole thing as it aired. I actually liked it enough to watch most of it again when subs caught up, LOL! The gaming sequences are surprisingly really well made (even the game characters have character, ha). I eventually got into cheering the teams on in the tournaments with the best of them. 😀 Yeah, there is more going on than just the games. I also really liked many of the characters besides the main group.
Woah, that’s saying a lot, that you watched it raw, and then watched most of it again, with subs! It does sound like a heartwarming sort of show, and perhaps it will work for me, since it doesn’t feature romance. I find that C-drama romances are hit or miss, for me. So maybe taking the romance out of the equation might make it a better watch overall? 🤔😆
Yes, TKA was surprisingly hearwarming and even inspiration ina a way. As you know, romance generally ain’t my thing and cdrama romances tend work even less for me. There’s just something about them that doesn’t agree with me. 😁
*inspirational in a way* Dang, pressed ‘send’ accidentally. 😂
I have liked some C-romances, but there’s a big chunk that don’t work for me. It’s quite puzzling. I think there’s something about how they’re written; the ones that don’t work for me tend to lean nonsensical, and at the same time, the emotional stuff just doesn’t land for me the way I want it to. I have had some success, though, so I won’t write the romances off completely. But.. you definitely have given me food for thought. Perhaps it’s worth seeking out the ones without romance; I might have a better time of it. I’ve put The King’s Avatar on my list, based on this conversation alone – hopefully I will be able to get to it soonish! 🙂
I liked King’s Avatar a lot as well!
The esport team spirit is indeed great… and there are also so many funny and loveable characters! I really enjoyed the humour (and comments between the rival teams 🙂). I’m now reading the webnovel as well and having a lot of fun 🙂
(No romance… but… I shipped anyway 😁)
Well, I didn’t get very far with this one before getting utterly bored, so I dropped it. 😀
As eSports dramas go, The King’s Avatar is so much better. I was kinda surprised how much I ended up enjoying that one and I’m not into gaming at all, ha. TKA is all about the gaming, no romance. Plenty of team building, bromance and awesome friendships instead, all of which are just up my alley. This is also the first time I actually liked YangYang in a role. 😉
Oh, I’m rather surprised that you tried this one, Timescout, since you don’t usually gravitate towards fluffy things, and this one does have a reputation for being fluffy! So I’m not surprised that you ended up dropping this one, heh. 😆 I’d say you made the right choice, coz I can’t see you enjoying this one, overall.
That’s good to know, about The King’s Avatar! It wasn’t on my list, coz I’m not into gaming at all either, and usually only end up enjoying gaming dramas if it’s not just about the gaming, and everything else is well done. The teambuilding, bromance and friendships do sound appealing though, so I might have to add it to my ever-growing list of dramas to check out! 😉
My comment got somehow eaten up… just wanted to say I loved King’s Avatar as well. For all the reasons Timescout listed. Plus the humour, I really had fun (all those teasing remarks between the captains 😁). I also liked how this wasn’t only about the main hero, there are many interesting (and funny) characters… and the show is full of respect… and yes, team spirit.
(No romance… but.. I still liked and shipped😁 some relationships 😆).
Oh, and last thing, I’m now reading the webnovel it is based on and having lots of fun 🙂
Sounds like a very decent watch all-around! I like team spirit things.. and this one sounds solid. I think I’ll add it to my list! 🙂
A bit of a hypocrite bc I’m pretty sure I’m one of the people who initially recc’d GGS to you, but I also haven’t finished past ep 17. I thought it was very squeal-inducing initially. I guess I’m one of those people that the romance really really worked for. It helps that I’m a fan of the author of the original novel. On the contrast, I suppose because I’m aware of the author’s prequel to this source-novel and because I’m a die-hard fan of the King’s Avatar novel, but the team-building sportsmanship dynamic actually fell a little short for me. I loved the KK team from the beginning, but Team Solo never really grew on me. I see that it seems they get more relatable and heart-tugging later on, but I guess I never made it far enough to figure that out. That said, I think the prequel book, if it ever gets adapted, would be MUCH more your vibe.
It’s about the career and pioneering of og Team Solo’s days, and truly much more about the sport, regrets, and the actual conflict within Team Solo eventually is actually much more…mature and bittersweet almost? It also focuses much more on Xiao Bai and Appledog. I actually like Appledog much more in the books too. She’s very cool and chill and their muted unspoken relationship also feels much more layered. I know it’s unfair to compare adaptations to book, esp since all things considered, MBFB (scriptwriter and author) did her best to preserve what she could while also making it a lengthier, marketable drama. Go Go Squid the novel was really meant to be brainless, one-night-read fluff. She wrote it because she had just finished a very sad, period novel and she wanted to be in a lighter headspace. It wasn’t really meant for solo adaptation I guess. I think she chose to agree to adapt because she insists on only using actors she had imagined to fit her characters, and I guess Li Xian and Yang Zi both happened to be able to take this project. I think it’s so confused as a drama bc it tries to bring in both the GGS novel, and a bit of the prequel to add depth/meat for a lengthier drama. But it also wasn’t enough to portray the full depth of the prequel either. So it’s in an awkward position.
Bottomline, despite my initial squeal-worthy feelings for GGS, I also dropped it quite early on. So…eek a little hypocritical here. I definitely feel you’d like Love and Destiny much more. The barebones plot feels and sounds very similar to 10 Miles, but the execution is somehow so much better, and the script and themes to me feel so much better written too. And the ACTORS (Zhang Zhen is freaking phenomenal and NiNi is awesome too)! I ADORE ZZ now. His acting is beautiful and charismatic, you forgive his sad styling. And SUCH a great kisser. Also a little hypocritical because I ALSO am stopped at ep 42, but more because I just lost motivation in general and not anything specific about the drama.
Would also highly highly recommend Young Blood as an amazing ensemble-cast low-budget drama that has generally very good original script and amazing cast-chemistry.
I’ve also been loving Extraordinary You. I know. Crazy. Me? A kdrama? But yeah. I also just binged all 3 seasons of Stranger Things. Total tangent, but Stranger Things is LIFE CHANGING-ly amazing.
Julianne!! Always great to see ya! <3 Thanks for the background on the source novels, prequel included. That makes a lot of sense, in terms of why this story was told the way it was. I can't blame you for dropping out early, coz Show was weirdly reticent about its most major emotional arc, which was around Team Solo. The little fragments of information made no sense at all, until Show was past its halfway point, which is way too long to keep your audience guessing, imo. I wonder if it was an expectation that the audience would be familiar with the source material, and that's why they thought it would be ok to dangle so little information around Team Solo, until so late in the game? 🤔 That's actually a big reason why it legit took me by surprise, to realize that the weightiest emotional arc in this story, was around Team Solo and Han Shang Yan's reconciliation with them. For at least half the show, it was positioned as something in the background, playing second fiddle to the main romance – which took up so much screen time, but which turned out to be a supporting arc instead of the Main Event. Very, very strange storytelling approach, I must say.
I've got Love and Destiny on my list, but I don't know when I'll get to it. I've just taken on Le Coup de Foudre, and I'm liking it well, 2 eps in. I'm also enjoying Longest Day in Chang'an.
Also! I saw your comment about Extraordinary You! I meant to reply, but have been procrastinating on lots of things, replies included, and just haven't gotten around to it. But I must tell you, your enthusiasm got me to start on the show too, even though I felt like my drama plate was full. I'm just a few eps in, but I do agree with your assessment, that it's better conceptualized than W was – at least, that's what it feels like so far! Fingers crossed that it stays coherent and solid! 😀
PS: I haven't seen Stranger Things, but I've heard quite a bit of positive reaction to it. Maybe I should check it out sometime! (As if my watch list isn't long enough, ha! 😅)
I dropped this one. I wasn’t into the love at first sight stalkery-ness either, stuck it out for a while longer hoping it’d get better but I really wasn’t feeling the OTP even after they got together. I have nothing against Yang Zi but I guess I’m getting too old for the super cutesy female leads, and it was odd how airheaded she seemed despite supposedly being a really smart accomplished character. Btw omg @ the BF that looked like Li Xian haha. 😛
I feel you, Owl Star! I didn’t like the love at first sight stalkery stuff either. It felt too extreme and too ridiculous, and did not endear Tong Nian to me, at all. I also agree that Tong Nian seemed like such a fluffball character, but yet was so accomplished and smart. I found the dissonance confusing, but chose to think that Show was demonstrating that there’s no one single “type” when it comes to smart women. Yes, I was rationalizing, and hard, lol. I think I stuck it out longer with this show coz there were several of my trusted drama friends who loved this one, so I hoped to love it similarly. And then there’s the thing with the BF that looked like Li Xian, HA! 😆 Like I said, Li Xian is the more handsome one between them, but seriously, the features – jawline, eye shape, cheekbones, proportion of facial features, skin tone – is strikingly similar! It tickled me NO END, I tell ya! 😆
Honestly, Wu Bai and AppleDog is a noona romance I would pay good money to see. I really liked Hu Yi Tian in this semi-role.
Oh, I agree with you Michele! I would’ve loved to have seen that noona romance play out. I felt like the chemistry between Wu Bai and AppleDog was very promising, from the little that we saw! Maybe they’ll do a spin-off? 🙂