Something happened on the way to 2015. At the beginning of the year, I began following quite a few Chinese drama bloggers. As a result, the number of Chinese dramas increased exponentially as I would read the synopses and be drawn to the various posters BEFORE these dramas were ever released. Two dramas in particular, Nirvana in Fire and Cruel Romance were the first two dramas to entice my senses. When I also saw the extended trailers, I was immediately sold on the fact that I MUST watch these dramas!
One thing I must admit off the bat was the fact that I was totally in the dark when it came to actors. One of the best things that lured me to Chinese dramas were the action and the stories. I’ve said many times that I grew up watching Chinese movies from way back when. My oldest brother (RIP my brother) used to take me to the theater every other Saturday and we would watch Kung Fu and other martial arts movies. So, my draw to Chinese dramas should have been the first thing to happen; unfortunately, the quality and number of dramas that used to be available with English subtitles were far and few between.
But, something happened in 2014/2015. Sure, there were sites that had these dramas available for years but I’m sure a lot of us didn’t know it because we were unfamiliar with the actors and the dramas. Slowly, sites like DramaFever and Viki started offering many of the modern Chinese dramas. I admit that modern Chinese dramas don’t have as big a draw to me as the Wuxin and/or ancient subject; so, I really wasn’t interested in them as much which is totally reflected in my drama watching from previous years.
I’ve always loved the Korean saguek dramas. It made perfect sense for me to begin watching the Chinese dramas. One thing for sure, the biggest lure to watching the recently released Chinese dramas is the stunning and absolutely beautiful cinematography and the use of CGI (Computer-generated imagery). As expected, I’ve been deeply immersed into Chinese dramas this year. So immersed that the number of Korean dramas that I have completed is very low for the first since I started watching them. Out of the 30 Korean dramas I watched this year, 12 of them were web dramas. That leaves a mere 18 dramas! Compared to last year, that is a pittance!
I am happy to know that a lot of these dramas were extremely popular in China when they aired. Anyone who watched some of these shouldn’t be surprised at all. After all the dramas that I’ve watched, I’ve developed my ‘favorite’ list of actors that I would make every effort to watch their dramas and movies. Here’s hoping to see them again next year. Who are those favorites? Qi Ji (Cruel Romance as Qian Tian/Shuang Yi), Hu Ge ( Ming Tai in The Disguiser), Han Dong Jun (WuXin: The Monster Killer as WuXin), Feng Shao Feng (Prince of Lan Ling as Gao Chang Gong/Lan Ling Wang), Zhao Zanilia (The Journey of Flower as Hua Qian Gu) and lastly Zhang Han (The Four as Leng Xue). Up and coming young actor, Wu Lei zoomed onto my list as my favorite character in Nirvana In Fire as Fei Liu.
One thing for sure, me and my drama watching buddy have come to the realization that some of the popular ones (International audiences) wasn’t our cup of tea. Here is the 2015 dramas that we watched.
This was a drama that I liked more for the action and side characters and less for the romance. Talk about despising a lead female character almost through the entire drama? When it came to Rong Jin Xiu (played by Chen Joe), I wanted Zuo Zhen (played by Huang Xiao Ming) to run far, far away. While others might discount the drama because of the female heroine, I cannot dismiss the fact that when the romance was there, it was there; when the action was there, I loved the drama. If I was to cut out 4-5 episodes, this drama would have been near perfect. So my rating stands: Cruel Romance 9/10
The Chinese remake of one of my favorite romance/time travel dramas, Queen In Hyun’s Man was Love Through a Millennium. The main leads, Jing Boran and Zheng Shuang, I had never seen before this drama. Other actors like Chen Xiang and Yi Niki, I’d seen in supporting roles so their faces were at least familiar. While this was a remake and the drama from episode 1 to 12 almost mirrored the Korean drama, from 13 until the end, not only did the drama take us into a different story, but the writer actually did a better job in blending in the stories (past and present) and gave us an ending that was so satisfying and made absolute sense! Anyone who has seen the original knows what I am talking about. As far as the romance, it was just as poignant and beautiful as the Korean version. While some would find Zheng Shuang’s Lin Xiang Xiang character a little more annoying, I didn’t. I found her character just a quirky and cute as I found Yoo In Na as Choi Hee Jin. While there were some flaws in the drama, most of them were minor and had nothing to do with the acting. This drama had more action, more scenes in the past and just as much romance; no more. My rating for this drama: Love Through a Millennium 9.5/10
This drama might represent the first of many ‘coast to coast’ marathon watching dramas for 2015. What do I mean? While my drama buddy is 12-13 hours away in a different time zone, we would watch together many of the dramas that I will list in this blog post. Seems impossible, huh? But somehow we were able to do it and I believe this was the first (or was it Swords of Legend?). As expected, the drama actually held true to the premise of the many movies that had been released from 2008 (HK version) to the 2014 Chinese release of The Four 3. As you can expect with so many lead characters, this drama had a lot of action and evil characters. Iron Hand, Chaser, Heartless and Cold Blood are names that the fans of the movies are familiar with. This drama represents the first drama with Zhang Han that I have completed. He did a wonderful job as Cold Blood and as expected, the man isn’t shy when it comes to romance! Romance is guaranteed if Zhang Han is in the drama; seriously! His chemistry with Chang Janine as Chu Li Mo was great and the romance was palpable. I loved that the story didn’t allow the ‘3rd wheels’ to penetrate the love these two had for each other. But make no mistake, this drama wasn’t solely about one character but them all. Definitely a drama to watch, especially if you liked the movies. My rating for this drama: The Four 8.5/10
The Lure of the Hua Xu Song represented multilayered drama that wove 3 stories in the middle of the main characters, Su Yu/Mu Yan (played by Cheng Kevin) and Ye Zhen /Jun Fu (played by Lin Yuan) whose romance had an odd fate. Su Yu and Ye Zhen were from warring kingdoms. The emperors of the two kingdoms literally hated each other but through the marriage of their two children, you’d think a bond or dismissal of conflict would happen. Au contraire! You’ll have to watch the drama to see what happens. But as their story was told, 3 others were also.
The drama started off with Shen An (played by Yuan Justin) and Song Ning (played by Jiang Xin). Song Ning will go down in my drama history as a woman who’s life would have truly been better off NOT meeting her fated love! While others will not particularly like the story, one thing for sure is that the acting was stellar! I came away loving a woman and crying profusely for every injustice she endured to hating the air of the man she loved breathes! As the story goes, the angst level in this story was probably the highest!! Shen An was not one of my favorite characters.
If you watch nothing else, this story of the sisters, Ying Ge and Jin Que, is one of the best told and saddest romance I’ve ever seen! I applaud Guo Zhen Ni for playing two totally different characters that you have no problem distinguishing the two from each other!
Ying Ge and Rong Yuan represent the most beautiful romance that you can see in a Chinese drama. Ying Ge suffered under Rong Xun’s tutelage as he made her an assassin. At first, she loved him and wanted to be with him; however, once her sister, Jin Que surfaced, she was tossed aside like yesterday’s trash and forced to marry the emperor, Rong Yuan. Resentment? Yes. But, what she found was a man who loved her for herself and not what she would do for him. Even after he realized she wasn’t the sister he’d seen, he continued to love her more and more.
The last and final story was a trip back in time. It is during this time that the use of CGI is heavy as a lot of it takes place in the hidden forest area where Mu Rong An lives as a demon and Su Heng luring her out by making her fall in love with him and giving up her power in exchange for leaving the forest. As you can expect, Su Heng is a user of the worse kind as it was his plan from the very beginning! But surprise, surprise, we come full circle because these two are Su Yu’s parents!
Hua Xu Yin is loosely based on the best-selling fantasy romance novel Hua Xu Yin ( 华胥引) by Tang Qi (唐七), author of Three Lives Three Worlds and Ten Miles of Peach Blossom (三生三世十里桃花). There is a reason the full English title of this drama was Hua Xu Yin: The City of Devastating Love. No story had a ‘true’ happy ending but regardless, I rated this drama 8/10.
I’m really not going to praise this drama that totally took me by surprise anymore here. I would end up writing another incredibly long post singing its praises and how much I LOVE me some Han Dong Jun (or Elvis Han as he likes to be known as). If you watch nothing else of this list, I highly recommend this little gem! I was happy it was subbed and even more happy that I watched it…..in 3 days!! My rating for this gem was 9/10 (it would have been a perfect drama, if only……). Refer to my previous post in November, 2015 on this drama, WuXin!
One of the best CGI dramas that I have seen, The Journey of Flower was amazing because it was a 50 episode drama that we watched from episode 1 to 50 without skipping a beat. I simply love Zhao Zanilia and as Hua Qian Gu, no one else could play this role. Wallace Huo was Wallace. Unlike others, I’d really like to see him play a different type of character; however as Bai Zi Hua, his usual drama persona was Zi Hua to the tee.
Other characters of note were Zhang Andy as Dong Fang Yu Qing, Jiang Xin as Xia Zi Xun, and most especially Ma Ke as the extremely handsome and beautiful Sha Qian Mo (or Big Sis)! Big Sis was a character that we both gravitated and loved every single scene! Even when he was evil, he wasn’t truly evil when you compare him to others. I have to give the ‘Most Evil’ card to Ni Man Tian (played by Li Chun). She was another character that I happily toasted their demise! Some may not like The Journey of Flower because he does depend heavily on CGI; however the use and effectiveness of the scenes were orchestrated so beautifully! Once again, for a 50 episode long drama, though scenes were long, I wasn’t truly, truly bored. My rating for The Journey of Flower: 8/10.
There is really no surprise that I liked this drama. I cannot tell you how many Hu Ge dramas that I have now seen and many more waiting for me (I swear I will finish The Myth…one day). There was many things to like about this drama. The acting, the cinematography, the action, and most especially the costuming!
This was my first ever seeing Liu Tao but as Princess Ni Huang, her costuming was simply STUNNING!! Though her and Hu Ge as the long time love interests, really didn’t share more than a hug here and there, I must admit that there love story wasn’t any less important or enjoyable. The entire drama was filled with so much intrigue and wonderfully orchestrated scenes. While everyone else fell for Hu Ge or Wang Kai (my first time seeing him), I was enamored with our little Fei Liu, played by Wu Lei. At 15 years of age, Lei did an outstanding job as Mei Chang Su/Su Zhe’s bodyguard and protector. There weren’t many scenes that he wasn’t in that he didn’t grab the spotlight. I am truly looking forward to his next works (The Whirlwind Girl and The Legend of Qin). This was an outstanding drama and personally the ending wasn’t a surprise for me. But regardless, you cannot go wrong with watch this drama as the performance by all; from main to supporting characters were stellar! Wonderful! Awesome! The final rating for Nirvana in Fire: 9.5/10
I couldn’t end the drama year without watching this drama, The Disguiser. Pretty much the entire cast from Nirvana in Fire were picked up and once again gave performances that were memorable. We ended the year watching this drama that wasn’t ancient or Wuxin but a modern drama that takes places during the Japanese occupation of China. The drama is full of the history surrounding the many factions against the Japanese presence. From Kuomintang to the Communist, all the groups were fighting against the Japanese oppressors as well as the Japanese sympathizers in the form of Number 76.
The interesting thing about watching this drama is in many ways the scenes, props, clothing reflected the time. I really felt that a lot of research was done in presenting this drama. My friend’s sister assured me that this was one of the top watched dramas while it aired in China. I imagine it was. There really wasn’t any standout performances because everyone was really good. I have to give Wang Ou who played Wang Man Chun big props. Why? Once again, she represented a character I hated with a passion and that I summarily toasted her demise! SPOILER: What a glorious and well-deserved death!! I could go on and on about this drama but there are a lot of other well written reviews and recaps available for this. I couldn’t do it anymore justice than others. I highly recommend this drama; a drama that made even me cringe and put on mute because of the torture scenes. The rating for The Disguiser: 9/10
We really did watch a lot of Chinese dramas this year! I found I liked them more, the fit into my love for the historical and action genres that I prefer. As the year went on, we found the time to fit in quite a few older dramas that were good (some not so good). But the wonderful thing about Chinese dramas, the stories weren’t always cookie cutters of the last one we watched. Here are the rest of the ones we marathon watched this year:
2011-2014 Dramas I watched in 2015
Sound of the Desert (2014) 8/10
Swords of Legends (2014) 8/10
Perfect Couple (2014) 7/10~We liked this one a lot less than others (Ffwd became our friend)
Prince of Lan Ling (2013) 8/10
Heroes in Sui and Tang Dynasties (2013) 8/10
Legend of Hua Mulan (2013) 7/10~I watched this one by myself. The action was great; story was meh.
Cuo Dian Yuan Yang (2012) 9/10~Best romance in a historical Chinese drama!! EVER!!
The Vigilantes in Masks (2011) 7/10~This drama had its moments…moments…moments…
Palace: The Lock Heart Jade (2011) 7/10~Another popular drama that suffered in the story for us. Again Ffwd was golden!
Next year, seems we are waiting for subs for the Fall dramas and next year, we already have about 3-4 dramas that we will be anticipating!! Hey Drama buddy, our drama ‘dance’ card will once again be FULL!!