It’s that time of the year again, when we all start taking stock of our drama years, and wonder where all the time has gone (it’s gone to dramas, of course). 😁
Everyone had so much fun with last year’s year-end guest posts, courtesy of the lovely folks on Patreon, that we’re doing it again this year, woot! 🥳
This year, we’re taking things in a more relaxed direction, so that we don’t all get stressed out from this (and so that I can actually stay on top of my revised, much more demanding Patreon schedule, at the same time 😅).
So, we’ll be seeing about 2 guest posts per week, and this will unfold into January 2023, and that’s perfectly ok.
AND, my annual year-in-review, which usually comes out in December, will also come out in January (or thereabouts 😅), after all the guest posts have been published.
Dear phl1rxd is kicking us off this year (thank you, phl1rxd! ❤️).
If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you probably already know that she’s a sweet, generous and kind lady, who has a passion for wuxia dramas, and a possible obsession with all things Nirvana In Fire. 😁
If you missed our Nirvana in Fire Group Watch, you can still enjoy our Open Threads, which contain my episode notes, phl1rxd’s very comprehensive notes, and everyone’s comments and insights (Open Threads are listed here).
I hope you guys enjoy!
I had a year enjoying some great Chinese classics. I finished The Dream of Red Mansion, Legend of the Condor Heroes and I will be starting on Return of the Condor Heroes before the end of the year.
I am also continuing my podcast listen of Outlaws of the Marsh (yes Trent, I am still listening to this which may take me another year to finish. I am persistent, if not timely).
Again this year I watched more CDrama than KDrama. I am only going to cover my Top 3 which are all CDramas. I dropped the number of dramas to ‘up’ the comments.
These 3 dramas grabbed me by the heart and refused to let me go.
As far as KDrama, not much inspired me this past year. While Little Women impressed me with its unique story and Pachinko was deeply moving, I never got the emotional reaction as I did with the three shows mentioned below.
Note – I have yet to see Under the Queen’s Umbrella, and Reborn Rich is still in progress.
Now, a word about Patreon – As I said last year, I cannot say enough about how great a place it is. Watching Fangurl’s process of breaking down a drama is quite enlightening. It has been on fire with ‘da crew’. Hanging out over there is downright fun.
As j3ffc has said, Hey Ho, let’s go…
Here they are folks, my top 3 shows ranked in order:
1. China | Be My Princess (2 watches in 2022)
I need to preface this by stating that I have never been one to depend on anyone else. I have been dedicated to reaching self-sufficiency and I am proud that I have been able to achieve this goal.
My favorite expression has always been “Time waits for no man and neither do I”. The thought of someone taking care of me is a foreign concept to me.
So, why did I fall hard for a drama about a man – Taifu – that quite literally waits hand and foot on his object of affection? I have no idea, but fall I did, and very hard.
Our OTP consists of Mu Ting Zhou, a perfectionist actor (AKA “The Movie Emperor”) and Ming Wei, an aspiring actress who is presently working as a model and an Italian interpreter. She models Hanfu clothing, looks for acting jobs and lives with her little sister.
What I loved about Wei Wei is that she is so steady, kind and compassionate. No high pitched theatrics here.
Mu Ting Zhou meets Ming Wei when his manager hires her to interpret at a meeting with an Italian businessman.
On the way there, Ting Zhou spots Wei Wei waiting for her bus. She is still wearing the Hanfu clothing from her just completed modeling assignment. He stares at her, mesmerized, and his gaze is only torn away as the light turns green.
It is a moment.
Mu Ting Zhou is preparing to take on a new role as the Grand Tutor (Taifu) of the Emperor’s young daughter and he devotes many years to her education. Taifu also has many responsibilities given to him by the Emperor.
The role of the princess is being cast and, although a few experienced actresses are named, Ting Zhou uses his clout to select rookie Ming Wei. He begins to fall for her as they are shooting the drama.
The problems begin after the drama has wrapped, when on a rainy night, Ting Zhou crashes his car and wakes up in the hospital as Grand Tutor Taifu.
The problem is that the Taifu only trusts one person, and that is the princess. As Wei Wei played the role of the princess, she is the only person he recognizes. She reluctantly agrees to help him until he gets back to being Ting Zhou. The delightful hijinks then begin.
This is a ‘two for one’ drama as it features the historical costume drama “Be My Princess” within the present day main story. We get the OTP in both dramas. You can decide for yourself whether this is an amnesia, reincarnation or a parallel universe theme.
Main Leads: Jeremy Tsui plays the ML as both Mu Ting Zhou and Taifu. In both roles he shows a sense of basic decency and he strives for perfection. I loved him as Taifu.
I have to admit that I am a fan of this young actor. He has been in a lot of period dramas such as The Autumn Ballad, Novoland: The Castle in the Sky 2 (the only Novoland I watched in its entirety) and Legend of the Phoenix.
He is known for his intense stare while lowering his head and yes, it is intense.
Ming Wei is played by Zhou Jie Qiong who I loved in Miss Truth. She is a talented pipa player in real life and although the syncing was not perfect, I gave a big round of applause whenever she was shown playing the guqin. I blame any mismatched movements on the editor.
Wei Wei is down to earth and emotionally stable.
She loves her family and they all get along quite well. She manages to handle all the twist and turns of her life in a responsible manner and she never takes shortcuts. She makes all the big decisions with a lot of thoughtfulness and I rooted for her all the way.
Support Roles: Ting Zhou’s manager, played by Hu Yun Hao, was excellent in the Darker Series and has such a memorable face.
He did a great job as the long-suffering employee. Wel Wel’s dad is played by Wang Li who recently played Great General Lu Tong in Strange Tales of the Tang Dynasty. He handles his fight scene with absolute realism. Most impressive!
The OST! There are some beautiful songs on this OST.
This drama also had more designer coats in it than The Long Ballad had wigs. It also has the best damsel in distress rescue scene ever – better than Fairy and Devil.
I personally did not agree with many of the costume designer’s choices for the ladies but some viewers may like them. Ting Zhou’s house was top notch and I loved the layout and design. My good friend Sean threw this lead to me in a side comment and as always, I am grateful.
My only complaint would be that 30 episodes was not long enough for me to enjoy watching the OTP on my screen.
I read the original novel using Google translate as that is how much I loved this story. However, the drama is far better than the novel and kudos to scriptwriter Zhai Yu Fang Yide for her drama rendition.
I seriously cannot believe how much I loved this show.
This is not feminist theater here, this is an old time sappy, sweet love story. I fell under its spell hook, line and sinker. I end this by saying I could drop my independent streak – but – only for Taifu!
Available on Viki and WeTV.
2. China | Love Like the Galaxy
Well, what can one say about a drama that is almost too good to be true? I accidently happened on this and was immediately in stitches over GMom’s physical comedy act. What a theatrical show of FIFA worthy falls! She stole every scene she was in.
I love to see Fei Liu growing into adulthood.
Not much to comment here, as what more can one say that Fangurl has not already written in Patreon.
I read every single Patreon post on this drama, sometimes more than once. So – do yourself a big favor and jump over to Patreon to read them. If you have not watched this – do so immediately. You will not regret it.
Available on Viki, Tencent Video and WeTV.
3. China | Side Story of Fox Volant
I am a big time wuxia fan. If you are like me and are in the mood for a wuxia drama done just right, this one is for you.
What a breath of fresh air this drama is. This flew under the radar as there was not a lot of chatter on the internet about it and just a brief mention by Avenue X.
The drama is based on a Jin Yong novel set in the late 18th-century Qing Dynasty. It is also known as The Young Flying Fox.
A prequel to the pre-existing novel Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain it was published in 1959. It is a true to form wuxia hero story and our pure of heart hero is Hu Fei.
The story starts as Hu Fei, the orphaned youngster, is being raised by his father’s loyal servant Fourth Uncle.
Fourth Uncle teaches the boy his father’s set of martial arts and pushes him to avenge his father’s death. His father, Hu Yi-Dao, and his mother died in a friendly duel with their friend Miao Ren-Feng who has an otherworldly grasp of martial arts.
We follow Hu Fei’s journey to find and kill Miao Ren-Feng. He runs into many situations that alter his life path and make him question what he has been taught. He changes and grows, but never loses his will to help those in need. His heart remains pure even after all of his trials.
Every character has real human emotions you can relate to so you begin to care about them almost immediately. The relationships progress throughout the story and you begin to see the character’s true selves revealed.
There are love arcs, martial arts competition arcs, friendship arcs and let’s not forget birth secrets – this drama has them all.
The casting is sublime. Qin Jun Jie does a great job bringing Hu Fei to life with all of his earnest, shining qualities.
Miao Ren-Feng is played by Lin Yu Shen who fits this role to a T. He is one actor who actually looks better in period pieces.
In a support role there is Ye Xiang Ming, who may be the best looking actor with a queue Qing Dynasty hairstyle ever to grace our screens.
Along the way we see many older familiar martial arts actors. The two female leads are memorably played by Liang Jie (The Day of Becoming You) and Xing Fei (Put Your Head on my Shoulder).
There have been many adaptations of this story over the years both as films and dramas. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China have all created representations.
The instrumental OST is beautiful. I have read that the fights are not CGI enhanced and that is unreal as the fights were absolutely amazing.
I loved the perfect ending. This is real wuxia story telling. Jin Yong crafted a living, breathing piece of literature and the production team did a bang up job bringing it to our screens.
Available on Viki, Tencent Video and WeTV.
China | Love between Fairy and Devil – a Beauty and the Beast love story with an overabundance of uber adorable and super gruff. When he rescues her your heart will skip a beat.
China | Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty – I found it to be very entertaining. It features a great bromance and an actor who plays three roles with chilling effectiveness.
China | Reset – a gem of a time travel drama. Great acting and production values and a nice tight story.
China | Sword Snow Stride– a visually beautiful and well written wuxia story featuring Zhang Ruo Yun. It had all the great wuxia requirements and then some.
China | The Dream of Red Mansions (2010) – I finally finished this classic because some kind and beautiful soul finished subbing all 50 episodes this year. It was a real experience to finally get to finally see it and to watch Yang Yang as a young teenager.
China | Legend of the Condor Heroes (2008) – I also finally finished this 50 episode classic wuxia. This is the Hu Ge version.
China | Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty – Lu Ling Feng and Su Wu Ming bring out the best in each other and it was a pleasure to watch their relationship develop and grow. I could not get enough of their interactions. I am hoping for a season 2.
Best OTP (a tie):
China | Be My Princess: Taifu and Wei Wei without a doubt. A beautiful love story that grabs you by the heart and does not let go. The OTP has a sizzling chemistry.
Japan | Koi to Dangan: Oya Toshiomi and Yuri are a cray-cray love match made in manga heaven.
Definite Re-watch (2):
Korea | Reborn Rich – I will need to do a re-watch on this to pick up all the pieces I missed in the first watch. I think this drama is well worth it.
Korea | Alchemy of Souls – I need to look at this again as there is more than meets the eye here and I know I missed a lot on my first watch.
Best original score:
China | Be My Princess OST
Best original song: (tie)
China | Be My Princess “Love Will Find a Way”
China | Be My Princess “By Your Side” (English version)
Razzie Awards, Oh No!
China | Thousand Years for You – Alan Ren, I do love you but you have to show me more than a scowl. I know you can do better than this.
China | Who Killed Cock Robin – Please avoid this movie like the bubonic plaque is knocking at your door. Lock all the doors and windows, quickly run to the basement, dig a hole and cover yourself with dirt and hope you do not get infected.
It is the most disturbing movie I have ever seen and I only managed to get halfway through it before I had to turn off my TV. To each his own, but I cannot believe another human being actually thought this was art.
A HUGE shout out for something completely new and different:
Japan | Koi to Dangana | AKA Romance and Bullets | AKA Yakuza Lover – let’s put this right out front and say this one is definitely not for everyone.
First, it is a pretty sexually charged drama so beware. Second, you need a bizarre sense of humor to appreciate the high level of insane inanity on your screen.
It is also the funniest drama I have ever seen.
It is OTT extreme – extreme cheese, extreme camp and extreme cringe and it refreshingly makes no excuses for any of it. This drama does not care if you like it or not. It is cray-cray hilarious and I have laughed until I cried.
There are plenty of barking mad characters for you to love. Great actors who absolutely imbibe their roles without any fear, really fantastic OST and decent production values.
It is still in the production process but should be done by the time this posts. It is on Disney+ but – do not be fooled – it is no children’s drama.
The manga is X Rated and while the drama is very toned down, they do not hide the “feelz” shall we say.
A humongous hit in Japan right now, it is a Japanese manga rendition at its absolute finest. Sean – this is the best drama recommendation you have ever given me.
Available on Disney+.
That’s all she wrote folks! Looking forward to 2023 and a new slew of dramas that we will have to add to the Never-Ending List. The struggle to find time to watch them is real folks!
Wishing Fangurl and her family and all of you the very best holiday ever. I am looking forward to meeting more folks over at Patreon in 2023. Come and join the never ending party!