Review: Shining For One Thing [China]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Show might look like a typical high school story on the surface, but in reality, this works out to be a love story, and a pretty epic one, at that.

Less about time travel than its premise might suggest, Show is more about growing up, and learning to love both yourself and others.

And the epicness of the love story creeps up on you in the best way, so that one day, you’re just gobsmacked by how stirring that love story is, even though you didn’t see it coming.

Our leads Karlina Zhang and Qu Chu Xiao both do very well in their roles, but I have to confess that it was Qu Chu Xiao’s turn as shy steadfast boy Zhang Wansen, that really stole my heart in a big way.

More worthwhile than it might first appear.

THE LONG VERDICT:

Y’know, it’s so surprising to me, that this show didn’t turn out to be anything like I’d imagined, when I’d first glommed onto the trailer, and yet, this show has managed to get under my skin in a big way – even more than I’d first imagined, when I’d found the trailer promising.

I guess you’d call that one of the best kinds of surprises?

I’d imagined that our protagonist Beixing (Karlina Zhang) would get a chance for a do-over, with her timeslip back to her high school days, and I really liked the idea of her going back and doing things differently, and building a better future for herself.

That.. really isn’t the approach that Show takes, at all.

Without getting spoilery, let me just say that while I might not have been very convinced of Show’s approach on paper (if I’d had the chance to see it on paper, that is), in execution, this worked out to be way more than the sum of its parts.

And by the end, I suddenly became aware that Show had stolen my heart in no small way. ❤️

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here is Show’s OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.

I have to admit, I was a little indifferent at first, to a number of the OST tracks, because the English lyrics aren’t actually grammatical, and the way the lyrics are matched to melody is on the.. unconventional side of things, where typical emphasis on certain syllables tends to be ignored.

HOWEVER. I have to say, that as I progressed through the story, the lyrics of these very same songs, became increasingly poignant to me, and ended up really amplifying my watch experience.

Funny how that worked out, eh?

In terms of a favorite, I do think that the first track, For Lovers, gets under my skin a little more than the others. There’s something so gently melodious about it, even as explores all the feelings that our characters go through, in the course of our story.

ALSO. Our male lead Qu Chu Xiao sings a version of it too, which I hadn’t realized, and which I’m now swooning over. 😍😍😍

I do love how the lyrics work for both our lead characters, so whether the song is being sung from the perspective of our male or female lead, the meaning of the lyrics hold true, in the context of their journey. I LOVE THAT. ❤️

Here it is, in case you’d like to listen to it on repeat instead. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:

1. This is not primarily a time travel story

What I mean is, yes, our protagonist gets to time travel, but it’s not Show’s primary interest, to explore how or why it happens, and all the mechanics around it.

The time travel is but a gateway for us to explore Show’s actual primary focus, which is..

2. The characters and their relationships.

This is really what Show’s more interested in, and if you’re ok to roll with that, rather than wonder why Show isn’t explaining more stuff about the time travel, you’d be a much happier viewer.

3. Show can lean a bit broad and slapsticky sometimes,

..which is why a manhua lens comes in handy to help everything go down a lot more smoothly, particularly when it comes to our characters doing things that seem just a bit much, for real life.

4. There’s a poignance to this,

..that feels kinda-sorta in a similar vein as the poignance I associate with Taiwanese drama Someday Or One Day (review is here, Open Threads listed here).

Rather than fight it, embrace it, coz it’s really quite beautiful.

STUFF I LIKED

Karlina Zhang as Lin Beixing

I have to admit that it took a while for Beixing to grow on me, as a character.

Mainly, I found her extremely immature and illogical, particularly for a 29-year-old back in her 18-year-old body.

It basically took me a while to figure out that that’s just part of Show’s manhua-esque DNA, and not something I ought to hold against the character herself. 😅

I thought Karlina Zhang did very well as Beixing, particularly in Beixing’s sadder &/or angstier moments, because those are a lot more complex than scenes of Beixing  being sunny and cheerful.

And, in spite of the fact that I shook my head at some of Beixing’s decisions, I realize that I did grow fond of her, almost without realizing it.

That’s.. pretty nicely done, yes?

Qu Chu Xiao as Zhang Wansen

I was immediately drawn to quiet shy boy Wansen, and I really, REALLY like how Qu Chu Xiao plays him. 😍

Because of Wansen’s reserved nature, he often doesn’t say much, but it’s not hard to get a sense for how he’s feeling, because of the way Qu Chu Xiao delivers him, with a good amount of nuance in his facial expressions and body language.

I have lots more thoughts about Wansen (and Beixing too) in the next section, but for now, I also just wanted to say that I grew a gigantic soft spot for Wansen’s voice.

I’m preeetty sure that that’s Qu Chu Xiao’s real voice (based on what I hear in this behind-the-scenes video), and I love – just lurrrrve – the restraint and gentleness that we consistently hear in Wansen’s voice, particularly when he’s speaking to Beixing.

It’s quite literally one of my favorite things from my watch. 🤩❤️

Wansen and Beixing together

Watching this relationship develop is quite the journey.

In the beginning, I’d felt rather perplexed at the manner in which Show chooses to build this relationship, but eventually got around that with – you guessed it – my handy manhua lens. 😁

And then, over the course of our story, Show builds this relationship into something more deeply poignant and more epic than I’d imagined possible with this manhua-esque drama, and I feel like I ended up giving these two my whole heart without even realizing it.

That’s quite an accomplishment. Credit goes to our writers for creating the platform for our leads to shine, and also to both our leads, for doing such a great job of bringing the emotions to life in such a believable, raw, palpable sort of way.

Despite this being a manhua-leaning sort of world, I found myself being more and more invested in their story, and that had a lot to do with how they made all the emotional beats pop.

Because this relationship is literally THE highlight of my watch, here’s a sprawling look at all my thoughts and reactions to the growing connection between Beixing and Wansen, through most of the show.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1-2. Shy boy Wansen definitely seems more aware of Beixing than she realizes.

He doesn’t say much, but the way he looks when he’s around her, and the way he offers her his umbrella so that she won’t get wet, definitely indicates that he cares about her more than he cares about the average classmate.

Which makes me think that it’s quite likely that he’s squeeing internally, each time Beixing goes up to him and starts chatting with him. Aw. The idea of that is sweet.

E3-4. I wasn’t quite prepared for the cartoonish, in-yo-face, exaggerated manner in which Beixing approaches Wansen.

In fact, given the way Beixing pursues Wansen incessantly, in the name of trying to protect him, I’d even go so far as to say that Wansen might be feeling harassed because of Beixing.

Instead of being a protector, it seems like Beixing’s almost the aggressor, because of how insistent she is.

Plus, the way she keeps trying to jog his memory – of things that likely haven’t actually happened yet in this timeline – seems misguided and futile.

Like, why would Wansen have any memory of the lighthouse tower, or the red-haired dude, if this is the beginning of the school year, and these things that Beixing remembers from other time slips, haven’t happened yet?

For someone who’s actually 11 years older on the inside, Beixing sure doesn’t show a lot of wisdom. Again a manhua lens helps to smoothen this out.

Also – I’m reminding myself that Beixing doesn’t appear all that wise in 2021 either, ha.

E3-4. I do appreciate the narrative touch, though, that shows us that Wansen is starting to care about Beixing.

Not only does he rush to the experiment duel site, fearing that Beixing will get hurt by Mai Zi (Jiang Yun Lin), he also relents and tells her that he’ll help her study, so that she can achieve her goal of transferring to Class One.

ALSO. He get miffed and leaves in what looks like a fit of jealousy(?), when he overhears Beixing talking to Zhan Yu (Caesar Wu), telling him (in a sardonic tone that Wansen seems to miss) that he’s great, and welcome to transfer to Class One with her, if he wants.

E5-6. Poor Wansen. I felt bad for him every time Beixing pronounced so enthusiastically, that she had no desire to interfere in his matters, or that she had no other interest in him, except to protect him.

This, especially after we hear him ask Gao Ge (Jinna Fu), at the top of episode 5, that if someone’s very important to you, you wouldn’t lie to them, right?

Clearly, Beixing is that very important person to him, which, awww.

I’d kind of imagined that after Beixing and her spectacularly intrusive way of pestering him in the last little while, that he’d have backed away from liking her, really quickly – especially given his reserved personality.

In my head, it must have been a nightmare for him to have been badgered by her so incessantly, and in such a weird, off-the-wall manner to boot, but it appears that his liking for her – which we now learn stems from middle school! – has stood him in good stead, heh.

On that note, I do find it extremely tropey that Wansen would have had a crush on Beixing since middle school, and had been the one to save her, when she’d assumed it to have been Zhan Yu, all along.

Dang. If this had been the first time I’d encountered this trope in a drama, I would’ve been sooo frustrated on Wansen’s behalf.

But, since I’ve learned that this is just par for the course with most dramas, I’m just rolling with it, and waiting for Beixing to find out that her knight in shining armor, had actually been sweet ol’ Wansen.

I did find Wansen’s reticence around telling Beixing that there’s nothing between him and Gao Ge rather frustrating to watch, but I’ve come around.

I realize that he’s just that reserved of a person, and it’s likely more because he feels socially awkward, than because he lacks courage to tell Beixing the truth.

Also, he’s just not the kind to push back, most of the time, and so, when Beixing cuts him off each time starts to tell her the truth about him and Gao Ge, it’s just not in his personality to push back so that he can finish what he’d been saying.

I guess it’s just easier for us to see that Wansen likes Beixing, because we’re the objective bystanders here.

Putting myself in Beixing’s shoes, I imagine that the reason Beixing’s so unable to see Wansen’s soft spot for her, is because she’s so focused on the goal, which is to ensure that Wansen doesn’t end up dying after the college entrance exams.

I must say, I’m growing extremely fond of Wansen, the more I watch him.

He’s so reserved, but every time Beixing says something that makes him happy – like the way she declares that he’s her person – the little micro-expressions that indicate that he’s pleased, are super cute. 😍

And, he’s got this way of swallowing the sliver of a smile, that makes me think that he’s possibly exploding with feelings on the inside, and we just can’t see it.

Also, he strikes me as really pure, so much so that I’m unconsciously categorizing him as a precious cinnamon roll, who should never be harmed.

Like the way he obediently waits outside his house for Beixing, with breakfast buns for her, just because she’s announced that she’s going to be his bodyguard all day, every day.

Aw! How sweet is that?

And then the way he immediately excuses himself to take the bus, when Beixing shows up with another girl in tow, to introduce to him. How unwavering is he? It’s Beixing or no one, basically, and I luff him for that.

There’s something about a shy, steadfast boy that really gets to me these days. 😍

Of course, there’s the misunderstanding between Wansen and Beixing, when he doesn’t speak up for Chaoyang (Luo Ming Jie) when she asks him to, but happily, that gets resolved relatively quickly, when Beixing catches Wansen at Mai Zi’s workshop, calling out Mai Zi for breaking the window.

How cute though, that whenever Beixing grumbles about something that Wansen fails to do this episode – like call her to go with him to see Mai Zi, or stock his fridge with food so that she can cook for him – he will respond with something along the lines of, “Next time for sure.”

At least, that’s what the actual dialogue says.

My subs translate it as “Next time I will,” but I prefer the literal translation, because it indicates a sense of determination from Wansen, that the next time, he will definitely, absolutely do what she asks.

Also, it’s nice that Beixing apologizes for misunderstanding Wansen; that sense of them overcoming a misunderstanding gives me the impression that their relationship is growing.

E5-6. I was quite tickled by the way Wansen leans into his injured duckling act, when he sees the opportunity, because he’s just that desperate to win Beixing’s attention, over any possibility of Zhan Yu gaining it instead.

That scene of them on the bicycle is a great flip of an iconic trope, where it’s usually the guy riding the bike, with the girl riding pillion. And, it’s pitch perfect too, since Beixing’s all about protecting Wansen. 😁

ALSO. Doesn’t Wansen look incredibly pleased about riding pillion behind Beixing, in his tamped down, subtle way? Gosh, I realize that I love it when he’s happy. 🤩

Can I just say, I love that highlight reel that we get, showing how Beixing and Wansen spend a lot of time studying together, and generally getting along, and being comfortable around each other?

It’s so feel-good and picture-perfect, honestly. 🥰

And, YAY that Beixing does well enough in the test, to get transferred to Class One, and becomes desk-mates with Wansen, thanks to Gao Ge ducking out of the way (aw, good woman, Gao Ge!).

I was kinda stoked to see Wansen go up against Zhan Yu on the basketball court, and it was really cute of Beixing to make Wansen a banner and all, but what we get instead is infinitely better.

I will say, though, that the way Wansen heart-thumpingly wipes that paint off Beixing’s cheek is quite thrilling. 🤩

Of course Tengteng (Roada Xu) locks Beixing in the storeroom in a fit of pique, but yay that Beixing manages to cheer Wansen on from the window, with a makeshift banner made from a school uniform.

And when Beixing loses her balance and ends up hanging painfully over the window ledge, I love how Wansen runs right off the basketball court, right to her aid.

AW, YESS. Wansen doesn’t care about the game one bit; he only cares that Beixing is ok.

The way he runnnns right to the storeroom and helps her down, with that intent, gentle smolder in his eyes. Squee! 😍😍

Last but not least, I’m pleased that Beixing makes the connection that Zhan Yu isn’t the one who had saved her from the fire, back in middle school.

And, from the way she asks Wansen if they’d known each other from before, I do wonder if she got sufficiently similar vibes from Wansen rescuing her this time, to connect the dots to the first time he’d saved her..?

It’s a bit of a stretch, honestly, but with a manhua lens on, it’s possible?

E7-8. We spend most of episode 7 with Beixing fixated with trying to get a look at Wansen’s arm to check if he has a scar there, in order to determine if he’s the one who’d saved her from the fire in middle school.

And, I just wanted to say, isn’t it really cute, that the scar itself looks like a blip on a heart rate chart? 🤩 I thought that was a really fun touch, particularly since Wansen’s heart is so often in overdrive because of his feelings for Beixing. 😁

I also thought it was really really sweet of Wansen to work so hard to get those breakfast buns for Beixing, just because she likes them, never mind that there’s a typhoon going, and the shop owner isn’t even planning to make any buns.

Guh. How sweet is he, really? 🫠

Poor Wansen. He’s always coming across false clues in terms of who Beixing likes, and then getting the wrong idea. Sweet misguided baby.

Like when Zhan Yu complacently informs Wansen that Beixing will be late, because he’d asked Beixing to design his basketball jersey for him.

Aw. You can practically hear Wansen’s heart fall to the floor, even though he holds in his disappointment.

Also, poor, POOR Wansen, who not only gets swindled out of 150 yuan for that raincoat, but then gets beaten up because Mai Zi and his boys mistake him for Dahai (Hou Wei Tao).

As a silver lining, I do love that Beixing runs right to him, once she realizes that he’s in the infirmary, and showers him with lots and lots of concern and attention.

Plus, I have to admit that Wansen looks all kinds of adorable in that raincoat, like a confused sleepy good-natured green teddy bear. 🧸😍❤️

Especially once he realizes that Beixing didn’t stand him up because of Zhan Yu, but because of her brother.

That bashful little smile, as he tells Beixing that they can have breakfast together another time, is one of my favorite things, this set of episodes. 🤩

I just love seeing Wansen and Beixing together, and that beat at his house, where she basically pins him down, in a bid to see the scar on his arm, which gives us that heart-thumping hyper-proximity between them, is quite tantalizing.

I keep wanting Beixing to just grab our shy boy and shower him with kisses and make his heart explode. 😁

E7-8. I wasn’t too into the redesign of the school statue, but hey, since it gets Beixing to the point where she can confirm, by putting that school badge against Wansen’s scar, that he’s absolutely the boy who had saved her from the fire, I’m willing to just roll with it.

And then, we get that beat when Wansen saves Beixing from those falling desks, in a slo-mo twirl that puts them right in each other’s personal space.

Squee! The quiet gentle smolder in Wansen’s eyes; I likey. 🤩

I like that Beixing talks to Wansen quite soon after, about how he’s saved her three times, including that time in middle school. YAY. I was afraid that she would keep that a secret, and I much prefer this openness, thank you.

Their conversation, where they ask each other what their wishes are, is so sweet and gentle and open in tone. I love it – until the point where Beixing says that the reason she wants Wansen to be safe, is because he’s her friend.

GAH. Did she just friendzone him without realizing it??? NoOoo~ Poor Wansen! 😩

E7-8. I am really digging the growing closeness between Beixing and Wansen. It shows so clearly, in the way they talk to each other.

They use lower tones now, as a matter of habit, and it feels like it’s because their conversations are private and meant for their ears only.

And there’s a gentleness in their tones as well, particularly during those times when Wansen assures Beixing that he trusts her.

And there’s also that time when Wansen assures Beixing that everything will be fine, and asks her to go camping with him and Mai Zi.

That gentle, almost cajoling tone of his, just gives me the warm cozies, you guys. 🥰

E7-8. When the camping trip does happen, I immediately got couple vibes from the matchy-matchy of Beixing’s and Wansen’s clothes, so it’s rather fun, that Gao Ge and Chaoyang call them out on it.

DID they plan to wear matchy clothes, I wonder?

How significant, though, Beixing starts talking to Wansen about whether he’d really tried to steal the exam papers for her like Gao Ge says, which then triggers Wansen, who feels backed into a corner, to ask Beixing if she likes him.

My subs only translate the beginning, “Lin Beixing, do you..” BUT ACTUALLY! In the actual dialogue, he asks the whole question: “Lin Beixing, do you like me?” Ahhh!

It’s too bad that Beixing’s suddenly distracted by the fact that Wansen’s got the pink rabbit hair band, which she’d assumed to be Mai Zi’s, to actually think of an answer to Wansen’s oh-so-important question.

E9-10. The scene of he and Beixing playing with bubbles together really is very cute.

Paired with that gorgeous lighting and those spring colors, AND that breezy love song in the background, and the whole thing is almost ethereal. 😍

I do think it’s ridiculous that Beixing buys all the soft toys in the shop in a bid to stop the strange woman (who turns out to be Wansen’s mother) from buying a toy for Wansen, but I do like the detail, that Beixing buys a little gorilla keychain for Wansen as a gift.

As Chaoyang helpfully point out, the term for gorilla in Mandarin is “Xing xing” which sounds just like Beixing’s name.

(For the curious, gorilla is written as 猩猩, while Beixing’s name is written as 北星, meaning that her “Xingxing” looks like this: 星星. Similar, but still different. 😁)

I take this to mean that Beixing would like Wansen to have something that represents her with him, at all times, and that is an adorable idea.

I also like that Beixing creates an opportunity for Wansen to have dinner at her home, with her parents.

On a side note, I just wanted to say that it is ingrained into us Chinese folks, that it’s rude to show up to someone else’s home without some sort of gift (usually edible) in hand.

That’s why I find it perfectly understandable that Wansen would insist on buying some fruit, before he’d allow Beixing to drag her into her house.

For Wansen, who’s lived alone for quite a long time, this must feel like a refreshing change. Not only does he get a home cooked meal, he gets to feel what it’s like to have a rowdy family atmosphere around him, both of which are rarities for him.

On hindsight, it occurs to me that during that scene where Beixing shows him her Sailor Moon things, and that photograph of herself with boyishly short hair, Wansen actually already knew all this.

At least, he knew that she’d had boyishly short hair as a kid, and that she’d loved Sailor Moon.

That does add a layer of something to the scene. I’m gonna go with poignance, since I rationalize that Wansen wasn’t keeping the truth from Beixing for any malicious reason.

Rather, I’m sure that he just wanted her to remember on her own (ie, without prompting), because (I think) that would validate his importance in her memories.

While it’s a little predictable by now, that Beixing misunderstands the entire situation around Wansen’s application to vets without borders, I appreciate that once she realizes that this really is his own dream and not someone else’s dream for him, she resolves to be supportive, even though she really doesn’t want him to leave.

On a tangent, at least now we know where that rabbit hair band is from, and that Beixing has the exact same one too.

On Wansen’s side of things, it feels really poignant to me, that his reluctance to leave, is everything to do with Beixing.

Aw. He doesn’t want to be apart from her! Isn’t that the sweetest thing? 🥰

While I’ve found the childhood connections more than a little tropey, I appreciate that each time it comes to light, Beixing is quick to tell Wansen that she knows.

Previously, she’d been quick to tell Wansen that she realized he had been the one to save her from the fire, and now, she’s also quick to let Wansen know that she remembers their shared adventure at the zoo, and supports his dream to be a vet without borders. That’s very nice.

AND, I’m pleased that Beixing’s suddenly prodded by the ticket seller, to see Wansen in a romantic light.

Our Beixing can be really slow on the uptake sometimes.. I mean, Wansen standing there shyly holding two drinks in his hands, totally looks like a (very cute) boy who’s there to meet his girlfriend, yes? 😍

I also do like how her thoughts immediately go to her earlier question of where her world is – because suddenly, she sees that Wansen is her world; the one who’s always behind her, when she needs him. Ohh, that feels momentous. 🥹

Their date at the zoo is very cute, almost in the vein of that bubble scene that I liked so much. That said, I did find it pretty random, that Wansen would pull Beixing into his arms, when the tiger roared.

I’m not against the skinship, don’t get me wrong; they are cute together and I do want to jog this loveline along. BUT, that made zero sense, ok?

I do find myself rather intrigued by the status of the relationship between Wansen and Beixing.

They haven’t overtly said that they’re dating, but.. we get moments like the one I just mentioned, where Wansen pulls Beixing into a protective embrace.

And, we also get that scene where Beixing encouraged Wansen to follow his dreams, and she talks about how separation is hard for them to accept now, but that they’ll get used to it, and how they can rely on phone calls to be together and keep each other company, even though they can’t be together in person.

Put together like that, there’s definitely some kind of romantic relationship nuance at play, yes?

I get Beixing’s desire to surprise Wansen with a fireworks party at the zoo, but aside from the concern I instinctively have in my head for the animals’ wellbeing (fireworks are stressful for pets, so they’d be stressful for zoo animals too, right?), I can’t help feeling like all this time feels rather wasted?

I mean, not only do they spend a lot of time apart because Beixing’s busy trying to make the surprise happen, Wansen gets all moody and perplexed because he feels Beixing’s distancing herself all of a sudden.

Add on the fact that Zhan Yu (who’s still fixated on getting Beixing’s attention and affection, pfft) gets involved in Beixing’s surprise plan, and it’s just a recipe for a Huge Misunderstanding.

Happily, it doesn’t explode too much, but I still mourn the time that’s been lost, that Beixing could have spent with Wansen. Sniff.

I’m glad that Chaoyang nudges the reconciliation along, by getting Beixing and Wansen to meet at that bioluminescent beach (the bioluminescence is caused by light emitting microorganisms living in the sea), and talk it out.

It feels so nice to see Beixing and Wansen make up, with her apologizing, and him telling her that he’s changed his departure date, because he’d like to stay with her until after the entrance exams. Aw. That’s sweet. 🥰

That portion of conversation, where Beixing and Wansen talk about Polaris, feels extra significant.

First of all, as you may already know, Beixing’s name means North Star, which pretty much means Polaris.

Her full name is 林北星, and 林 (Lin) also means forest. Wansen’s name 万森 means ten thousand forests, and while the two characters aren’t identical, 林 and 森 both mean forest. In fact, the proper term for forest is a combination of the two characters, 森林 (sen lin).

All that to say, Beixing’s full name can be interpreted to mean the forest’s North Star. Meaning, she’s Wansen’s North Star.

And we have Wansen also saying, in episode 10, “Polaris is not the brightest star. But it has a special meaning for us, so it’s known by people.”

Which is basically Show saying that Beixing’s not the brightest star indeed, but she does have a special meaning to him. That’s really rather nice, yes?

E11-12. I’m just really glad that Beixing gets antsy enough, to actually ask Wansen not to leave. Ahhhh!

“Zhang Wansen. Can you please not go abroad?

I know that sounds selfish. I told you that separation was common.

But it’s getting closer and closer to the day you leave and I am afraid that we won’t be able to meet again. Can you please not go to Africa and do not take the exam of veterinarians without borders. I want to go to university in Beijing with you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes. I am serious.

I have made up my mind that I’ll be with you if you want to be a veterinarian. I have searched that Agriculture University has a veterinary medicine program and I will try my best to enter the university.

Sorry. Sorry, I regret it now. Zhang Wansen. Can you please not go?”

“Okay.”

Ahhhh. I love it.

I love how earnest yet gentle Beixing’s request is, and I love how grounded Wansen looks, as he just gazes at her, then smiles that little lopsided smile, and tells her yes.

I can see the happiness in Wansen’s eyes, and in his smile, as he agrees to stay, and I feel like perhaps he’s been half hoping that Beixing would ask him to stay, even.

And then the mutual smiles turn into a handhold, and YES, I am certain this counts as a confirmation of their feelings for each other, and without saying it in so many words, I say they’re officially a couple now. 😍

I would have actually preferred Wansen to tear up his own application form, because in my head, this would mean that it’s his choice not to go, but I after he explains why he’d like Beixing to tear it up instead, I get his perspective as well.

It’s quite a nice idea, that he’d like Beixing to tear it up, as a promise to him, that she will study hard and not always think of taking the easy way out. Aw. Wansen is SUCH a sweetheart; he’s making her promise this, for her own benefit!

I really appreciate the detail, that there really seems to be not wistfulness in Wansen whatsoever, at the prospect of giving up his dream for vets without borders. He looks genuinely happy to accept Beixing’s alternative, of studying to be a vet in Beijing with her instead.

I find that extremely melty, really, because as much as Beixing is content to make her dream about Wansen’s future, Wansen is content as long as Beixing is in his future.

Guh. This is giving me some feels, you guys. 🥰

It’s sweet, that Beixing decides to trust Wansen on this, and tears up the answer sheets that she’s made for the college entrance exams, based on what she’s experienced before.

For our Beixing, whose entire plan to conquer this do-over, had been to ace the college entrance exams by memorizing the answers, this is a Big Deal.

As a matter of interest, the red “tattoos” that Wansen and Beixing have scrawled on their arms in the mugging highlight reel, say “加油” which loosely, is an equivalent for the Korean “fighting” and which translates literally to “add oil” – which means, to add fuel to your efforts.

Isn’t it cute that they’ve scrawled that on their arms, with hearts next to the words? Tee hee. Clearly, I’m jumping on every indication that these two are officially a couple.

Ah, another thing which you guys might find interesting, is the little beat where Wansen hands Beixing a bag of walnuts.

My subs translate the dialogue as “drink it” – which makes zero sense – but what the actual dialogue says, is “补补” (bǔ bǔ), which is a phrase that means to nourish, for example, you’d drink ginseng to nourish your body.

Wansen says “补补” to Beixing, while pointing at his head, and handing her walnuts, which means he’s insinuating that her brain is lacking, and therefore needs nourishment (walnuts are shaped like brains, which is why, traditionally, in Chinese medicine, it’s believed that eating walnuts is good for the brain).

That’s why Beixing gets all up in a huff, and chases Wansen in retaliation, because he’s just playfully insulted her brain. Our Wansen can be a cheeky boy, yes? 😁

E11-12. I’m rather charmed by the fact that when Beixing tries to tell Wansen about having seen the questions before, long ago, he tells her that he believes her, even before she’s finished saying, “Whether you believe me or not..”

Aw. I love his unwavering trust in her! 🤩

It makes me wonder if Beixing will ever tell Wansen that she’s time-traveled to this timeline, and if he’ll react in the same, matter-of-fact, wholly trusting manner.

The whole arc of Chaoyang getting detained by those scammers is kind of silly, but I do love the beat where Wansen comes running into the room, along with their teacher and Chaoyang’s parents, and makes straight for Beixing.

His earnest gaze, as he looks at Beixing and says in his gentle way, “Are you okay?,” is just really sweet. No wonder Beixing looks so content, as she sits there and looks back at him. 🥰

I’m glad that Beixing and Wansen get to the go the fireworks party like she’d wanted, and it’s sweet that Wansen wishes upon the fireworks, that he’d like to go to Beijing to study, with Beixing.

And even though Beixing masks her wish by including Chaoyang and Gao Ge in it as well, essentially, she’s saying that she wants Wansen’s wish for them to come true, isn’t she? That’s sweet.

I find it very understandable that Beixing would grow increasingly uneasy, as the college entrance exams grow nearer, not because of the exams themselves, but because of what this point in the timeline has meant, in every other iteration that she’s been through.

It’s hard not to wonder if the same thing will somehow end up happening again, despite all the changes that have taken place in this timeline. You just.. never know until you get there, right? And I can’t blame Beixing for feeling anxious. I feel anxious too. 🙈

It’s rather sweet how everyone, including Wansen, interpret Beixing’s anxiety as her being stressed about the exams, and tries to encourage her in their own ways.

Mom always bringing milk to Beixing as she studies at night is sweet.

But even sweeter still, is how Wansen talks with Beixing on the phone, and gets her to recite the periodic table in order to keep her mind occupied – and then continues reciting for her, when she gets stuck.

The thing that I find most endearing in all of this, is the little detail, that Wansen is stroking the little gorilla keychain as he talks to Beixing on the phone.

Since we’ve established that the gorilla is representative of Beixing (xingxing), isn’t it sooo sweet, that Wansen’s metaphorically stroking Beixing, as he talks to her? Melt. 😍🥰

Their sleepy little whispered voices just make the moment extra cozy and sweet. Love.

I also love that other sweet moment, when Gazi (Sun Tian Yu) allows the class to take a nap instead of study, and Beixing and Wansen just gaze at each other for a bit, with their heads on their desks.

It’s so sweet, how Wansen tells Beixing to sleep, and that he’ll be there with her.

Ahhh. The relaxation and contentment on her face is very nice to see. I love these little moments of coziness very much.

That other moment, when Beixing backs out of Gao Ge’s house when Gao Ge gets into a fight with her dad, and Wansen blurts out that she can stay over at his house if she likes, is played more for laughs, and it is low-key amusing how awkward this all works out to be.

E11-12. I was honestly rather nervous at Wansen taking Beixing to the lighthouse tower, because, well, it’s dangerous, and all, but thankfully, nothing bad happens.

In fact, it’s rather sweet how Wansen tries to get Beixing to close her eyes and enjoy the breeze. And I also like how he tells her that he doesn’t know what she wants him to remember, because he already remembers everything about her.

Aw. I believe him. He totally remembers everything about her. 🥰

E13-14. This set of episodes, I feel like Beixing and Wansen are teetering back and forth over whether or not they’re actually dating.

One moment, we get some indication of closeness and intimacy that you’d associate with a dating couple (like the way Beixing hugs Wansen when she realizes that he’s not gone after all, or the way she confirms that he’s her person now, and he agrees that he is), and then the next, we get one of them agonizing over how to officially confess, and make things official.

It might feel a bit whiplashy, I think, but I feel like if you think of it as them being in that in-between stage of making the move from friends to lovers, and being kind of shy and wishywashy about it, it makes sense?

I did lap up all the various moments of hyper-proximity we get this set of episodes, with Wansen and Beixing running to hide from Mai Zi and his boys.

Those were rather delicious, I have to admit – made all the more delicious by Wansen’s soft gentle tones, which I find extremely melty. 🫠

And then there’s also the moment when Wansen holds Beixing, when she tearfully admits that she’s worried that she won’t be able to get into the university in Beijing like she plans.

The way he puts one arm around her, and cradles her head with his other hand, is quite squee-worthy.

My favorite Wansen-Beixing moment though, is the one where Wansen tells Beixing that they won’t be split up, because he’ll always be with her.

He literally tells her that if she repeats the year, he’ll repeat it with her, and MY GOSH, I just find that so romantic. 😍

I mean, it’s quite impractical and foolhardy, yes, since he wouldn’t need to repeat the year, with his great grades, but the fact that he sincerely is willing to do that, in order to stay with her, so that they won’t have to risk growing apart while they’re apart, is knee-meltingly sweet. 🫠❤️

E15-16. I have to say, the sweet moments between Wansen and Beixing really are sweet.

Even with Mai Zi and his boys after them, Show manages to create moments like the one in the photo booth, where it feels like Wansen and Beixing are together, suspended in time, alone, and untouched by the chaos outside.

The hyper-proximity; the meeting of their gazes; his finger on her lips; it’s all rather heart-thumping stuff, really.

And, although we aren’t told specifically whether the flashback that we see through Beixing’s eyes, is an actual revisit of what had happened, or a dream that she’d dreamed afterwards, Wansen’s confession is tender and sweet, and I just can’t help but melt in the face of his gentle voice.

Another example of this suspended moment in time, is when Beixing decides that she will be the one to confess and ask Wansen to be her boyfriend, instead of the other way around, and we get that slo-mo shower of pink and white balloons, falling around them.

It’s quite lovely, really.

E17-18. As Beixing goes about her life in 2020, I appreciate that she’s more thoughtful, and more introspective, even as she figures out what she should do.

I actually rather like that Beixing continues to learn fragments of information about Wansen, through this set of episodes.

It feels like the picture of what had happened in this particular timeline, is finally coming together, after being vague and mysterious for so much of our story.

Admittedly, I’m not examining the details too closely, in that I’m not making a list of the fragments of information, and comparing them with the various incidents with which they’re related, as Show serves them up.

This just doesn’t feel like the kind of show where that’s important for us to do.

As far as I’m concerned, Show appears to have done a solid job of sprinkling these various happenings in our earlier episodes, which had felt like random little things at the time, but now take on much greater significance, when Show reveals the context around them.

I’m content to sit back and appreciate the idea that Show is serving up; that Wansen’s cared about Beixing for a long time, and he’s continually poured out of himself, out of his love and care for her, without ever expecting anything back.

That in itself is such a moving idea, that I find that I don’t have the desire to examine Show’s accuracy in presenting these nuggets. Why nitpick, when there’s such a melty, hit-me-in-my-soul kind of love being presented to me, right?

It also feels like a rather penetrating dilemma, that Beixing is confronted with the idea that, in wanting to go to Wansen in 2010, she would be leaving her family behind.

Even though Wansen didn’t live for a long time (for now, in this timeline!), it’s becoming clear that he’d had a profound impact on the lives of people whom he cared about, and that’s really quite an achievement, for someone so young, isn’t it?

I’m kinda glad that Mai Zi punches out this version of Zhan Yu, because, in this timeline anyway, he really was a douchey boyfriend to Beixing.

And, I’m glad that Mai Zi still has Wansen’s phone, and hands that to Beixing, even as he fills in all the gaps of information for her.

It’s so poignant, when we see in flashback, that the last thing Wansen had done, when he’d realized that his life was in actual danger, was press “send” on that message to Beixing, telling her that he liked her.

That’s pretty much exactly what he’d done in the last timeline too; he’d made sure to tell Beixing that he’d liked her, just as he’d fallen over the ledge of that building.

Guh. He’s so consistent and steadfast in his love for her; it brings my heart to its knees. 🫠

I’m glad for Beixing, that she manages to find his love confession airplane in her room (although, how long has she not cleaned under her desk, if that confession had been thrown by Mai Zi, while Wansen had been alive??).

E19-20. I really hadn’t bargained for poignance this sharp or cutting, in this show.

First of all, we see in episode 19, just how much Wansen has always liked Beixing, and how much she’s unwittingly shaped his life, just by living hers.

It’s pretty poignant to me, that the reason that Wansen had pushed himself to excel, not just in his studies, but in basketball, had everything to do with Beixing.

He’d pushed himself, just for the chance to see her and be near her again. Not even for the chance to be her friend or anything; it was enough for him just to be near her.

That’s so much hard work, effort and sacrifice, with Wansen wanting so little in return. And, he’d kept that up for years, too. That’s pretty poignant stuff.

Even more poignant, is the fact that he would bend over backwards to help her and do everything he can to make her life better, even though he knows that she would have no idea, and he would get nothing in return.

It’s like it’s enough for him, just to know that he’s done something for her. And that goes so far as him withdrawing his school fees, in order to pay back Dahai’s debt, in order to keep Beixing safe from Mai Zi and his boys.

This kind of long-suffering, silent, deep love is the stuff of legends, and it’s somehow extra poetic, that it’s coming from our unassuming shy boy Wansen. ❤️

On that note, I just wanted to say, it was SO GOOD to have Wansen back on my screen this set of episodes, after having lost him for a while.

I mean, I already knew that I liked Wansen a lot, but it’s not till we lost him, and I felt his absence so keenly, that I realized just how much affection I have for Wansen. This set of episodes, it made me happy just to have him on my screen, seriously. 😍

Another thing that’s poignant this set of episodes, is how Beixing figures out that the various points in time when she’d arrived in the past for her timeslips, were all linked to Wansen’s wistful regrets around her.

On top of that, there’s her realization that the thing that brings the time slips to a close, isn’t Wansen’s death per se, but an articulation of “I like you,” from either of them.

Whether it’s Wansen sending that “I like you” text to Beixing, or him shouting it out loud, or her telling him face to face, as long as either of them expresses their feelings towards the other, the time slip comes to an end.

Oof. What a huge realization, and with such far-reaching implications.

That means that even if Beixing gets another chance to go back in time, she can only save Wansen if she doesn’t tell him she likes him, and makes it such that he doesn’t end up telling her that he likes her.

Ack. That’s tough.

I’m so glad that Chaoyang shows up to put things into perspective for her.

The way he puts it is so simple, “Is your love more important, or is his life more important?”

Well. When you put it that way, then of course Wansen’s life is more important! Because, Wansen is a precious cinnamon roll who must be protected at all costs!!

I’m so glad that Beixing does manage to go back, and see Wansen again. If I were in her shoes, just being able to see him again in front of me, alive and well, would be priceless, I think.

But this time, Beixing has a better understanding of how this timeslip thing works, and that underscores her interactions with him in a whole new way.

Now, she needs to be friendly, but she also needs to keep a certain distance, so that things can stay platonic, so that they won’t end up confessing their feelings for each other, and thus inadvertently ending the timeslip.

It’s good to see Beixing reconnecting with Wansen, and it’s lovely to see them hanging out together and doing simple things like taking the bus together, and riding bikes together.

However, as Beixing realizes at the close of episode 20, this whole thing really isn’t that simple.

First of all, her every move to get closer to Wansen, will only encourage him to make his “I like you” confession to her.

And, as much as Beixing can control what she does and doesn’t say to Wansen, she can’t exactly stop him from telling her that he likes her, can she?

Beixing thinks to herself that the only thing she can do, is to stay away from Wansen, but y’know, I don’t really think that that’s going to do the trick.

After all, the very first time her timeslip had ended, she hadn’t even made any meaningful connection with Wansen, right? And he’d made the confession anyway, before falling off the lighthouse tower.

Gah. What’s our girl Beixing going to do now, with her last chance of saving precious Wansen? 🥺

[END SPOILER]

The group of friends together

Somewhere along the way, an unlikely friendship starts to form between Wansen, Beixing, Gao Ge and Chaoyang, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how warm and endearing this friendship turns out to be, despite their very different personalities and interests.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Even though their friendship only happens in one of our timelines, the connection between them seems to linger, through other timelines, and I find that quite touching.

In other timelines, they still somehow are willing to give one another time and attention, when the occasion arises, even though Gao Ge and Chaoyang don’t have the memories that Beixing has.

I’m rather wistful that they didn’t have the special summer of final year that Beixing remembers, but I console myself that, 1, it’s better that Beixing did have it in one of the timelines, than not at all, and 2, they are still somehow connected, in our final reality.

[END SPOILER]

Wansen and Mai Zi

Speaking of unlikely friendships, I also liked the one that forms between Wansen and Mai Zi.

It’s just so incongruent to see such complete opposite personalities actually start to get along, that it gives me a bit of a thrill, each time I see them being friendly to each other.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E7-8. I do like the beat where Wansen comes to Mai Zi’s assistance, when Mai Zi’s being confronted by that group of guys.

The way Wansen thinks quick and gets out that fire hose, and the way Mai Zi looks so thrilled as he trains that hose on the gang of guys, gives me a bunch of bromantic vibes between this odd couple, and is altogether quite endearing.

And how good-natured of Wansen, to shrug off the confirmation that he had indeed been beaten up by Mai Zi, the day he’d been wearing the raincoat.

E17-18. The other thing that I find pretty touching, is how Mai Zi remains so steadfast in his friendship and loyalty towards Wansen, even though Wansen’s no longer around.

Show isn’t specific about this, but to me, it feels like the reason Mai Zi’s worked so hard to turn his life around, is in order to honor Wansen’s memory, and I find that really quite affecting.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-out:

Jiang Yun Lin as Mai Zi

I just wanted to say that Jiang Yun Lin is truly quite the chameleon, isn’t he?

[VAGUE SPOILERS]

Because Mai Zi’s trajectory is slightly different in each timeline, we’ve seen him in all manner of hairstyle, and also, at different stages of his journey.

In early episodes, we see him hardened, jaded and angry, and in other episodes, we also see him uncertain, tentative and innocent.

I’m really quite impressed with his range, because he’s struck me as believable, in each iteration of Mai Zi that he’s given us.

[END SPOILERS]

Show’s little cultural tidbits

I rather liked that Show manages to include some cultural bits and bobs in the course of its story, despite being such a manhua-esque sort of drama.

Specifically, I’m thinking about Chaoyang and his love for crosstalk.

Crosstalk (相声, pronounced xiàngsheng; lit. ‘face and voice’) is a particular style of Chinese performance banter, done between two partners, where speed, eloquence and puns are the order of the day, with the goal being to impress, entertain and amuse the audience.

The closest equivalent I can think of, is perhaps a stand-up comedy duo?

Here’s an example of a pair of crosstalk artists on stage:

[MINOR SPOILER]

E7-8. If you were wondering about the clappers that Chaoyang salvages from his typhoon-ravaged secret hideout, they are used during crosstalk performances, during portions which I can only describe as a type of Chinese rap. 😅

You can find out more about the clappers, as well as see a short example of a performance using clappers (in English!), in this video.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Show’s treatment of the time travel stuff

I’ve made reference to this earlier, but I thought I’d say it again here.

Overall, Show really isn’t all that focused on time travel and the mechanics of it. Or, if it is, Show isn’t too fussed about explaining it to us in a way that makes it clear how all the various parts work, and why.

I was a little disappointed by this at first, but as the characters grew on me, I more willingly adjusted my lens to what Show wanted to be, instead of what I’d hoped it could have been.

It just gets a little whiplashy at times, because occasionally, it feels like Show leans harder into the time travel stuff, but in the end, it doesn’t really provide much in the way of insights or answers.

Learning to roll with that, while keeping my eyes on our characters instead, helped.

Show’s manhua-esque sensibilities

I’ve mentioned a lot in earlier sections of this review already, but thought it would be helpful to at least mention that I was just ok with Show’s manhua sensibilities.

Sometimes, I felt like Show leaned in too hard, such that it became distracting, but for the most part, I was pretty ok to just roll with it.

For the record, here are just a few examples (out of many!) of Show and its manhua tendencies.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3-4. After Tengteng basically swoops in to date Zhan Yu, and turns out to be a terrible friend, I’d actually wondered how Beixing would respond to Tengteng in the past, since, back in 2010, Tengteng hasn’t actually betrayed Beixing yet.

In that sense, I’d imagined that Beixing would feel conflicted about it, and that we’d get a more nuanced treatment of the issue.

I.. was getting ahead of myself there. That was a thought I’d had, before I’d realized that Show’s more manhua in its sensibilities than I’d first imagined.

Which is why Beixing’s flat-out treating Tengteng as the enemy, and taking petty revenge on her, even though Tengteng technically hasn’t betrayed Beixing yet.

See, ordinarily, this is the kind of stuff that would disturb me, but when I remind myself that Show is more of a live-action manhua, this becomes a secondary almost non-issue, designed more to be a bit of silliness and comedy than anything else.

E3-4. The whole backstory of why the gangster dude Mai Zi’s been looking everywhere for Wansen is so silly.

So, Mai Zi’s basically seeking out Wansen to duel it out with him, in conducting that Elephant’s Toothpaste experiment, so that he can impress a girl??? Pfft.

E9-10. The entire arc around Wansen’s father – which turns into an arc around Wansen’s parents – is pretty comic in sensibility.

Like, the way Dad randomly starts talking about how Mom had used to dress Wansen as a girl, back when he was little. And also, the very fact that Mom had dressed Wansen as a girl.

Just, whyyy? The poor boy probably hadn’t liked that very much.

E15-16. Beixing’s encounter with Wansen’s parents also feel very much manhua-esque, because it’s soo unlikely that any mother would be this over-enthusiastic about the girl whom her son likes.

Or.. have I watched too many dramas with over-protective moms who think that no one’s good enough for their precious sons..? 😅

[END SPOILER]

Caesar Wu as Zhan Yu

Zhan Yu’s a character that touched so many points of the spectrum between douchebag and decent dude, that I don’t really have strong feelings about him, after all. Which is why he’s in this section.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Depending on the timeline and how things unfold, Zhan Yu could be the worst jerk ever, or a halfway decent guy.

At his worst, I wanted to reach into my screen and slap him upside the head, for being so horrible to Beixing, like when he dumps her at the beginning of the story, then acts all self-righteous, when he shows up to the class reunion with new girlfriend Tengteng in tow.

Because of this, I felt gratified in other timelines, every time Zhan Yu gets upset that Beixing won’t give him the time of day, and only seems interested in Wansen.

I also felt somewhat amused when Zhan Yu decides that he rather likes Beixing after all, and starts trying to get her attention. Oh how the tables have turned – which was also gratifying to see.

And then, at times, Zhan Yu is actually helpful to Beixing, and seems truly sincere in his feelings for her.

I liked him best at these times, but not enough to actually root for him to win her heart. I still remember what a douchey ex-boyfriend he’d turned out to be, after all. 😁

[END SPOILER]

Gao Ge and Chaoyang

Partway through our story, Show starts to tease a growing bond between Gao Ge and Chaoyang.

Overall, I just found this ok, because while some parts were quite pleasant and sweet, there were also many times when this just felt like comic filler.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Plus, because of the way Show jumps timelines, in the end, I felt like this thread was somewhat dropped, because it never actually had a place to go.

That said, I did like the thoughtful tone of the some of the conversations between Gao Ge and Chaoyang, and I liked the idea of these two people becoming closer, in spite of their different personalities.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

The way Show plays with danger [SPOILERS]

Because Wansen’s death seems to be the trigger for the end of each timeslip, there’s always danger lurking in the background of our story.

The thing is, Show often lulls me into a false sense of security, as we delve into the Cute and the Sweet, of the developing closeness between Wansen and Beixing.

And then, every time I find myself getting lost in the cozy feels, Show whips out the Danger Card, to remind me that I shouldn’t be resting on my laurels, and that there’s an actual death to prevent, in our story.

I was ok with this at first, but the longer this went on, the more my nerve endings felt raw and sensitized, and towards the end of the show, I found myself getting actually upset with Show, when it did this.

It was just all very trying on the nerves, and ultimately, rather stressful.

Hou Wei Tao as Dahai [SPOILERS]

So I know that Dahai’s not a bad person per se.

I just found him incredibly exasperating and frustrating at times, particularly when he kept refusing to stop his shady business dealings, despite repeated pleas from Beixing.

Dahai’s not evil or anything, but he’s naive and kinda stupid, and ambitious to boot, which turns out to be a terrible and dangerous combination.

I found that hard to watch, and often wanted to reach into my screen and shake him, hard.

Roada Xu as Tengteng [SPOILERS]

Tengteng’s more of a token side character than anything else, but I just wanted to put it out there, that I didn’t like her very much.

She doesn’t turn out to be a good friend, OR a good girlfriend, and she’s entitled, petty and pouty, to boot.

She fulfills her narrative purpose though, so I guess there’s that?

THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]

E13-14. The idea that only when you find yourself, can others really like you.

Without getting into details, I just wanted to say that this resonates with me a great deal, because when I look back on my life, I realize that I spent far too much time trying to gain the approval of others, before finally being put in a position where I had to find myself, or be lost.

And it was only after finding myself, that I now feel so much more comfortable and confident in my own skin.

I like myself more now that I did before, and I’m happier now than I’d been before, as well.

And I’m so, SO thrilled that Beixing learns this lesson, and is able to articulate it, not only with clarity, but with kindness even, to Zhan Yu.

I do love the idea that when Beixing finally lets go of her crush on Zhan Yu and focuses on finding herself, the tables get turned, and it’s Zhan Yu who can’t help but be drawn to her.

When I’d first watched the trailer for this show, I’d had the feeling that the douchey ex would definitely start liking Beixing in the do-over, and I relished the thought, more in a “serves you right, HA” sort of a way.

But, this feels so much more meaningful, that ultimately, Zhan Yu can’t stop thinking about Beixing, not because his pride is hurt that she no longer likes him, but because, now that she isn’t fixated on him, she’s found her identity and her own loveliness. LOVE. 🥰

I also really appreciate the narrative touch, that now that Beixing’s found her own identity and self-confidence, she has the capacity to show grace and compassion for Zhan Yu, where before, all we saw was a variation of a childish sort of petty rejection. I like that a lot too.

E17-18. The idea that it’s our experiences that change us.

As Beixing thinks back to all the moments that she’s shared with Wansen, there’s a distinct layer of pathos underscoring the entire thing, because now we know that Wansen dies, out of his love for her and his desire to protect her.

As Beixing soaks in these thoughts, feelings and memories, it doesn’t surprise me, that she becomes a more thoughtful, pensive, mature version of herself than before.

Nothing may have changed in the present, and nothing may have ultimately changed in the past, in that she didn’t manage to save Wansen like she’d set out to, but the important thing is, Beixing herself has changed, from her experiences.

Her time with Wansen has taught her a lot of things, and she’s learned to appreciate him, as well as other people, in a new and deeper way.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE STRETCH [SPOILERS]

E21-22. Gah. This was a tough set of episodes to watch, you guys.

I guess I kinda knew in my gut, that Beixing would try to distance herself from Wansen, and even make him stop liking her, for his own safety, but it was still hard to watch, when it came down to it.

In many dramas, this would count as the noble idiocy stretch, since it’s all about “I need to leave you for your own good,” but in this case, it doesn’t count as noble idiocy, because there is an actual threat to Wansen’s life, if he continues to like Beixing like this.

And yet, Wansen now looks so miserable, that the idea that this is keeping him safe, is cold comfort. Because, his sad puppy eyes are like a sucker punch to my gut, every time I see them. 😭

I can see that this is hurting Beixing as well, because she really does like him. But what do you do, when you’re convinced that your presence and influence is going to end up killing the boy you like, and who likes you back?

The only thing worse than heartbreak itself, I feel like, is heartbreak in slow motion, because it’s incredibly hard to watch Wansen’s heart get slowly broken, as Beixing takes steps to put distance and coolness between them.

He’s so steadfast and unwavering, that sometimes it feels like Beixing’s the one who’s going to waver instead.

I mean, just look at the way he throws himself into the fray to shield Beixing, when Brother Lei’s boys position themselves to beat her up. In the end, he’s the one who gets beaten and injured, and he doesn’t even regret it a little bit. Oof. My heart.

I’m glad that Beixing at least allows herself to take care of him while he’s recovering from his injuries, because I would’ve been so forlorn on Wansen’s behalf, if she hadn’t.

I feel like this time that she allows herself to spend with him, is like drops of water in the desert, for both of them. It’s so little in the face of such a strong need, and so precious, at the same time. 🥺

The moment that stands out to me the most, this pair of episodes, is the one where Beixing leans in over a sleeping Wansen, looking like she’s debating whether to kiss him while he sleeps – and then he wakes up, clocks her nearness, and then after a beat of hesitation, leans in to kiss her.

..Which is when she hurriedly leans the other way, avoiding his kiss.

AUGH. That made my heart leap with all kinds of feelings, in a single moment. Hope, breathlessness, anxiety and wistfulness, all at the same time. And then, that aftertaste of heartbreak, because I can only imagine how Wansen feels, in this moment. 😭

So, SO poignant, seriously. 💔

And it must be so confusing for him too, because beyond her words, it’s clear to see that Beixing’s miserable. There’s almost always a sheen of tears in her eyes, and she looks dead and broken, almost, as she keeps saying these cutting words to him.

It must be killing Wansen, to know what’s really going on with Beixing, and how he can make it better, because he just likes her that much.

And yet, through it all, I can’t blame Beixing, because, in her shoes, I would probably do exactly the same thing. After all, she’s seen him die for her multiple times now, in multiple timelines.

Of course she would do whatever it takes, to keep him safe, even if it means breaking his heart. 😭

It’s about this point in the show, when the lyrics of our key songs start to make a whole lot of sense, as the context suddenly becomes clear.

It’s your hand

Guarding me silently

Exchanging regrets for my future

Tell me how can I get you back

Oof. 😭 It all hits differently, now that I understand the gulf that exists between Wansen and Beixing, in their love for each other.

I appreciate that Beixing tries to get to the root of the problem, which appears to be Dahai and his loan from Brother Lei.

That’s consistently been the thing that’s put Wansen in danger, and so it makes sense to me that Beixing tries to nip it in the bud.

Which is the point where I get really annoyed with Dahai, because he’s being such a stubborn dolt about wanting to borrow the money to sell subpar goods, even when Beixing reminds him that these are loan sharks who charge high interest.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. I don’t think Dahai’s a bad person, but he’s naive and kinda stupid, and ambitious to boot, which, as we’ve seen in other timelines, is a terrible and dangerous combination.

I thought it was pretty smart of Beixing to entrench herself in Dahai’s shop, when he refuses to give it up, because when Brother Lei and his boys come knocking, she’s immediately put in danger, which serves as a wake-up call to Dahai.

It still doesn’t seem to solve the problem, though, even after Dahai swears off the business, because they still have that outstanding loan with Brother Lei, so I’m still concerned about that.

I do think that the thing that’s the hardest to watch, this set of episodes, is Wansen’s spirit slowly wilting and dying, in the face of Beixing’s cold treatment.

The toughest scene to watch, along those lines, is the final scene in episode 22, where Beixing, galvanized by the phone threatening Wansen’s safety, crushes Wansen with the harshest words I’ve heard her say this entire show.

“Do you want to tell me we knew each other when we were little, and I once encouraged you for your dream to be a veterinarian without borders?

Or do you want to tell me your arm was injured because of me?

Zhang Wansen! You’ve been badgering me due to those trivial things in our childhood! Is it interesting? Do you think I’ll be moved? Do you regard it as your protection for me? Do you think I’ll risk everything for you because of it?”

Ack. That look of stunned heartbreak on Wansen’s face, as he struggles to keep it together, the tears burgeoning in his eyes; the barely detectable wobble in his voice.

Augh. It just breaks my heart so. 😭😭

And then, when Beixing walks away, his tears just flow, and I’m a blubbering mess, because this is my precious Wansennn. Don’t hurt himmmm. 😩😩😩

Guhhh. I honestly have no idea how Show plans to wrap this up in a satisfying manner, because I can’t figure out a way out of this conundrum.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

Oof. This was a very poignant finale indeed.

Coming into these finale episodes, I hadn’t been sure where Show would go, and how Show could possibly wrap up this story in a manner that feels satisfying, without undermining the central conundrum that it’s built, and yet, Show manages a very decent showing indeed.

Show really had me going in episode 23, with Beixing successfully pushing Wansen away, and Wansen finding Beixing’s diary, and getting the gist of why she’s been behaving so strangely.

And then, when Wansen manages to avert getting arrested despite trying to turn himself in for a crime he didn’t commit, I honestly thought that this was going to be THE time when Beixing would succeed at saving him.

But in the end, because Beixing’s so overcome with emotion, knowing that he knows, that she rushes to the airport to see him one last time – only to see him mouth the words, “I like you.”

..Which brings Beixing right back to 2021, all over again.

Thinking back on it, though, just because the time slip ended, doesn’t mean that Wansen doesn’t survive in that timeline, right?

Does Beixing’s exit of that timeline negate everything that happens in that parallel universe? Is there another Beixing who belongs in that timeline, who will take over the reins, when our Beixing returns to her own timeline?

I can only wonder, because like I said earlier, this really isn’t Show’s primary focus.

And so, I can only conclude that in Show’s universe, it’s probably the case that everything’s negated and truncated, the moment Wansen says the words, “I like you.”

Back in her original timeline, I’m most affected by Beixing’s conclusion, that it must have been tiring for Wansen too, to continually watch over her in silence, all that time.

Oof. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but she has a point.

With each timeslip that she’s gone through, Wansen’s been there, experiencing everything with her, and watching over her, in his steadfast, loyal, unwavering quiet way.

As much as it might have taken out of Beixing to go through those years multiple times, it must have taken the same, out of Wansen, in a manner of speaking.

I really appreciate that angle of thinking about it, because then, in accepting that there will be no more timeslips, and that she needs to achieve closure and her best life, in this timeline, it feels like there’s consideration for Wansen in there, as well.

Beixing isn’t just moving on for her own sake; she’s moving on for Wansen’s sake too, and there’s just something quite touching about that, I feel.

It’s also very poignant to me, that the way Beixing goes about living her life now, in 2021, it really feels like she’s living for the both of them.

She applies herself to causes that she knows have always been close to Wansen’s heart, and even successfully gets accepted into the vets without borders program.

And, she thinks of Wansen often, and talks to him in her thoughts, about things that she knows he’d wanted to do with her, like see the first snow together.

That speech that Beixing gives back at Nanchuan High, where she talks about the magical summer that she’d spent with Wansen, really made my heart pinch.

That summer really had been magical, because it had never happened in this timeline, but the memories are so real, not just with Wansen, but also, with Gao Ge and Chaoyang, and the effect that it’s had on Beixing, is so real as well.

Even as she says that when they’ve beaten the odds by themselves, and can tell their special person who cares about them the most, that they’ve succeeded, and grown up, it underlines so strongly, the way Beixing’s been living her life, after coming back.

She really is living in a way that would make Wansen proud, and that is such a profound expression of love, isn’t it? She knows that she can’t be with Wansen, but that doesn’t stop her from finding a way to express her love for him, in a meaningful and far-reaching way.

That’s heart-pinchingly beautiful. 🥹

AND THENNN. Just as we’re running out of screen time, just as Beixing’s thinking her thoughts to Wansen, as she experiences the first snow, that umbrella appears over her head, just like it’s done, in those other timelines.

We don’t get a full view of his face, but I’m absolutely convinced – along with Beixing, I’m sure – that this! is! Wansen! EeeeAhhhh!!! 🤩🤩🤩

He IS the world behind her, in this moment, just like he’s always been. Ahhhh. This is too much. My hearrrt. 🥹❤️

Is this a nod at that little detail from before, when Wansen had been eerily accurate in his speech about the future??

Was it because some version of Wansen had time-traveled to the future, to meet 2022 Beixing???

I want to believe that’s the case, because that’s just how epic their love is.

As I come to the close of my watch of this show, it finally dawns on me that this is a modern take on the classic love promise of loving each other for “三生三世,” which is literally three lives and three worlds, ie, three lifetimes.

No matter what parallel universe they find themselves in, and no matter what timeline it might be, Wansen and Beixing just cannot help but love each other.

And that thought is just truly moving, affecting stuff that both breaks my heart and fills it to the brim. 🥹❤️

PS: I am definitely looking forward to the movie sequel, slated to come out in 2023!

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Surprisingly poignant, moving and affecting, in spite of some rough edges.

FINAL GRADE: B++

TRAILER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Shining For One Thing, is Little Women. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I’m immediately intrigued. My E1 & E2 notes on Little Women can be found here!

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Foundation Tier (US$1): k-ent tidbits + E1 & E2 notes of all shows covered on Patreon

Early Access (US$5): Love Like The Galaxy [China]

Early Access Plus (US$10): +Little Women

VIP (US$15): +Extraordinary Attorney Woo

VVIP (US$20): +A Dream Of Splendor [China]

Ultimate (US$25): +Alchemy Of Souls

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

9 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Elaine
Elaine
5 days ago

Although Show doesn’t explain much about how the time travel happens, it manages to stay consistent with its own mythology.

Spoilers for time travel from last quarter of series
When Beixing finds out that each moment she has jumped to was one of the “regrets” that Wansen had (yi2 han4 in Mandarin), it then made sense to me why she exited the time slip every time one of them said “I like you” to the other, because once they did, that resolved one of the “regrets”. And that gives further impetus to my theory that what “powered” or fueled the time travel in the first place was not to save Wansen’s life, but for Beixing to get to know Wansen and fall in love with him! But my big question is, which version of Wansen is the one who shows up with the umbrella at the end?!

I find this idea of the “energy” generating the time travel is a bit similar to my theory for Reset

Spoiler for another series – Reset – ending
when we find out that it was the daughter’s death that motivates the couple to plot and carry out the bus bombing, added to the Chinese myth referenced at the beginning of the series of a person’s spirit lingering at the spot of their death if they have died a wrongful death, this gave me my theory that it was the psychic energy of the daughter’s spirit powering the time loop, so that more wrongful deaths from the bus bombing could be prevented. And once the bus bombing was successfully stopped, there was a shot of the daughter’s spirit looking peaceful and happy.

Elaine
Elaine
5 days ago

OK so I binged through to the end of Shining for One Thing today. I think I will miss this show! Funnily, the

Spoiler
drama and angst
were so powerful the last few episodes that when I read through Kfangirl’s review, I had already forgotten many of the lighthearted manhua high school moments she cited which happened at the beginning of the series, even though I only started the show a week ago!

Spoilers for the ending, obviously

So my first reaction was WTF OPEN ENDING I HATE OPEN ENDINGS!!!!! But then I realised the drama had littered enough clues that I kept expecting 2022 Wansen to show up all throughout the final episode. I thought he would show up at the high school graduation ceremony as one of the illustrious alumni invited to give a speech. Then I thought he would show up as one of the interviewers for Vets Without Borders. Then finally with one minute to go, Beixing prepares to cross the road, the first snow starts falling, and then, an umbrella! AAAAAAGHHHHHH. And it is pretty clever of show to do this style of ending, cos viewers’ minds will just fill in the dots themselves, and we won’t be dissatisfied as we might be with a conventional closed ending.

So my next thought was, if indeed Original Timeline Zhang Wansen survived the fall from the lighthouse (magically? Through time travel? Through modern medicine? Because he fell in the water and not on the rocks?) then why did Beixing have to go through all the time travel? Then I realised, she thought she was time traveling to save Wansen, when really the whole point was to open her eyes to what a great guy Wansen was (is) and fall in love with him, and also for her to grow and mature into a better version of herself, not to deserve him, but because she’s inspired and encouraged by him. Omo, so very touching and poignant! I love the character growth. And I like that it isn’t so much that love magically made Beixing better, but she decided to work hard and be more brave cos she found a new goal that was more worthwhile than her previous dogged focus on Zhan Yu, and it’s not just getting together with Wansen, or saving him, but learning to value the things he values, like family and saving animals. Once she found her why, she stopped showing up late to work, and committed to doing good work at the zoo because now she realises the work is aligned with what she now values, and a way to honour Wansen. In other words, she set her compass to a new North Star – Wansen! (Ironic cos Beixing’s name means North Star in Mandarin. Well, not entirely ironic cos similarly, Wansen set her as his compass and she inspired him to do well in school and pursue his dreams!)

Lastly, I hope Jennifer is right and Wansen is also a time-traveler, cos I can’t stand the thought that Beixing built up such a strong friendship and romance with Second Timeline Wansen and that it was all lost in the ether! Fingers crossed for the movie sequel to be a satisfying follow-up!

Leslie
Leslie
3 days ago
Reply to  Elaine

@Elaine – I wish everyone could read your thoughts behind the spoilers, because they are so filled with the spirit of the show. Really enjoyable. Thanks1.

I’m still marinating in my reflections on Show, before writing, but I will say it is one of my top favorites in 2020.

Leslie
Leslie
3 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

Er, make that 2022.

JJ
JJ
25 days ago

Sooooo, here is my very serious post about this little Show that I was thought was all about time travel, then totally stole my heart. Thanks KFG for mentioning this one, then putting this Show on your list for Patreon Notes. And all your explanations about Mandarin along the way AND about Crosstalk. Had so much fun watching with you and Leslie this time. Both of you added so much to my second watch and deepened the Show for me even though I was so bummed about the lack of time travel explanation, etc. Turned out to be a beautifully done deep love story ❤️

For everyone else, give the Show a chance, it will surprise. So much meaning is layered into this Show at first glance as KFG pointed you think you are watching one thing, then…

If you do watch, here are some tips

  1. Pay attention to the Episode titles
  2. Pay attention to the Song lyrics
  3. Try to figure out what the Old Man by the Sea is telling our FL
  4. P.s. – if you do, then tell me PLEASE 🐶🦄🌈
  5. Pay attention to the TV in the beginning (thanks again KFG for this one that I TOTALLY missed the first time)
  6. Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention this one is literally littered with clues and meaning everywhere 🙂
  7. Go to Patreon for the Episode notes on this one. So helpful!!!

And finally, thanks Leslie for watching this one and diggin in with me! Had so much fun with our conversation and everything you pointed out that I missed and how much meaning you layered into the Show. What a little gem, right??? 🥰

Serious heavy heavy heavy SPOILERS. So stop here if you plan to watch the Show which I highly encourage OR continue to read if you prefer stress free drama watching like me 😬🤣🤭

Heavy Show Spoilers – Heavy
SPOILERS AND THEN SOME MORE SPOILERS
At some point in the Show during my first viewing, I started to have the inkling Wansen knows about the universe and time jumping and he has been doing the same as well following her and protecting her without her knowing about any of it.

This is just my theory, but I am pretty confident about my inkling that only the movie will answer! When he said “I have a solution”[when he fell/jumped off the roof] makes me think he knew he had to say I have a solution and fall saying I like you and she would be pushed back to her original universe and time. Could be very wrong.

The other little nugget is the “first” time he died, I dont think he ever died because Gao Ge said he disappeared, so since his parents moved to assume he passed away. So when he was falling and said
I like you or sent the text I like you, he jumped to his own original universe and time. 

Where his original time and universe is, not sure 🙂

Elaine
Elaine
5 days ago
Reply to  JJ

Ah interesting theory JJ! My theory was more straightforward, that

Spoiler speculation about the end
Original timeline Wansen wasn’t a time-traveler, but after falling from the lighthouse he was in a coma for a long time, his parents brought him overseas for treatment, and then he later recovered and joined Vets Without Borders and that’s how he reconnected with Beixing at the end. BUT I think your time traveler theory works better cos the fall from the lighthouse definitely looked like a fatal fall for any ordinary human being =( =( =( =(

JJ
JJ
25 days ago

SQUEAL!!!! I have not seen that Behind the Scenes video, yet! WOW!!! Makes me teary eyed all over again !!! ANNNND, Qu Chu Xiao voice resonates so deeply out of his chest which I did not notice until this Behind the Scenes Video! (TOTAL Digression – just so everyone knows BTS really stands for now Bangtan Sonyeondan, the amazing KPOP group 💜💜💜💜💜💜💜!!!! But I digress as usual!!!😂😂😂)

@KFG – Did you stay for the end credits? Oh they made me all teary eyed and loved them. Seemed as if they had a good crew behind the scenes with lots of great chemistry. 🥰

As for the movie, is it 2023, yet? 😬

p.s. – This is my FUN post, the serious one comes next!

JJ
JJ
25 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@KFG – THANK YOU!!! Loved it!!! I am so glad to see the production crew and the ensemble cast seemed to have gotten along so well Behind the Scenes 🙂