I’m going to have to divide my thoughts into 2 categories: things I liked and things I wasn’t crazy about, or at least will have to wait and see how I feel. I think that I’m going to try and emotionally distance myself from the original and think of it as a whole new show.
I don’t know how many spoilers there can be in a first episode, but just in case, you’ll find my impressions after the jump.
Things I liked
- The opening title sequence: Nice homage to NIF1 with the echoed watercolor animation and music (though the theme isn’t as hauntingly lovely to my ears as that of the first). Plus, the use of the cicada instead of the butterfly is a nice reference to the cicada talisman that Mei Chang Su used to reach out to his old master for assistance in NIF1. I’m sure there’s other significance, but I don’t know what it might be as of yet.
- Style and video quality: That opening shot of Huang Xiao Mings chiseled profile was a beauty, and it’s clear that the production design and camera work has matured in just the few short years since NIF1 was completed. Maybe they got a bigger budget because of the success of 1? The shots aren’t as breathtaking and imaginative as some we might recall from the Tribes and Empires trailer, but they’re crisp, clear, and don’t look like they cut corners.
- Liu Hao Ran looks like a youngster (21), even if he looks a little “modern idol actor”-ish. Not exactly my cup of tea (yet), but I’m looking forward to his character’s growth because he does have very good reviews for his performance here.
- It looks like you don’t have to have watched NIF1 to watch this one. It seems like it’s about 1-2 generations removed from the original (so far only Jin Dong’s Lin Chen character having a role, as the Old Master of Lang Ya Ban).
The other things…
- Why do they have to open with a battle sequence? Yeah, I get it that they’re setting up a story of betrayal, but I worry that it can’t be as diabolical as in 1, plus I just don’t get into battle sequences in general.
- The discussion with the ministers at the start didn’t do enough to let me know the historical connections with NIF1; is the Emperor the son of Prince Jing (whatever his name became as Emperor), now an adult?
- There was a lot of time skippiness going on; “now”, 3 months ago, sometime now plus after Huang Xiao Ming is rescued and I’ll just have to play it by ear for now.
- Liu Hao Ran’s bouffant crown to his ponytail and floppy bangs (though in NIF1 young Lin Shu and Prince Jing both had similar loose ponytails as late teenagers, so maybe it’s a costuming thing to signify that they’re just boys)
- The closing theme sequence: the woman singing it is talented, but it is leagues away from being as gutwrenchingly beautiful as Hu Ge’s closer to NIF1. I still get all the feels when I listen to When the Wind Blows.
- With it being 1-2 generations removed from NIF1 there’s doesn’t seem to be much room for connection to/nostalgia for the characters we fell in love with so hard.
- No Fei Lu.