Remembering Yuko

More distressing news out of Japan: it was reported yesterday that Takeuchi Yuko (40) was found dead, an apparent suicide.

Her work made us laugh, cry, she was gifted at making us fall in love. However many of her dramas and movies you’ve seen, no doubt each title you’ll think of you’ll say to yourself, “ahh… she was sooo good in that!” It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite, but I’ll leave you with this song…

#in-memoriam, #takeuchi-yuko

Remembering Ben

I received news yesterday that our dear Phorum web guru and friend Ben Spade passed away last Tuesday.

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Ben worked tirelessly to keep our Telenovelas website Phorum site, were we spent many hours and formed many friendships, long after it was easy to do so — browser and platform updates made things break if you looked at it cross eyed! But he faced health issues that had him retiring all too soon.

Over the past few years I’ve thought of him often. He was a joy to know and I hope you’ll understand how much I’ll miss him.

#ben-spade, #foro-de-telenovelas, #in-memoriam, #phorum

Everything is good about The Bad Kids

I’ve not posted much recently because I’ve not been watching much recently (and we can blame The Untamed for this because I’ve fallen down the fanfic AU rabbit hole in great part for this), but I have watched some very good dramas lately. Top of the list has to be The Bad Kids, a Chinese drama that is dark, well-written, and definitely for those who loved My Ahjussi and dramas of that type.

In fact, I committed to another streaming service subscription in order to watch it (thank you, IQIYI), and I’m not sorry that I did so. Now if they only had a Roku app…

But I digress. And this is a series that deserves your full attention.

The series starts off with a bang, or should I say a push; just some guy committing a little murder. You could call it a reverse cliffhanger because the background to that and the introduction to the titular bad kids is revealed in slow, incremental pieces, and the tension builds sequentially. Oh, and not only do we have that opening stunner, the ending of each episode is a true cliffhanger. This is a drama where the tension at the end is so tight you do not want to watch it when you’re trying to relax at the end of an evening. Just saying…

I mentioned the acting being superb; it is, and I want to know how they find such talented child actors to play roles like this. You have the highly intelligent bookworm raised by his divorced mother, Chaoyang; his best friend, a runaway from a state run orphanage, Liang; and fellow runaway Pu, who needs to find money to pay for her brother’s leukemia treatment, and together they are involved in one drastic moment after another. These kids will break your heart because they are so much on their own, must be so self-reliant on each other because there is no one else they can fully rely on. Only model student Chaoyang has a parent in his life, but she’s employed at a resort and often stays away in the dorms there as part of her work, whereas Liang’s father is locked up and Pupu is an orphan. Especially in the case of Liang, you see the resilience born of need, the unwarranted self-confidence that he can make his own decisions, and it creates nothing but worry when watching him. The little actress who plays Pupu is a heartbreaker with her luminous eyes and fragile figure, but she’s the glue in this threesome.

Without revealing too much of the plot, the three come across information that leads them into a dangerous course of action. In lesser hands, and in other worlds their decisions would come across as implausible, but because they’ve been thrust into a world in which they must be self-reliant and feel that they have few alternatives, those choices are not far fetched (even if you shout at them across the screen, “don’t do that!”)

The adults in this drama do their fair share too, from the math teacher antagonist Qin Hao, to the two policemen who have the power to change the course of the story (Lu Fang Sheng, who plays Ye Jun might look familiar to those who’ve seen The Longest Day In Chang’An where he played another investigator). And, when you have children who’ve fallen into these desperate situations, you have those adults who have let them down, either intentionally, or due to their own circumstances. Chaoyang’s mother is a case in point; as a divorced single parent it’s clear her life isn’t an easy one, but her actions in raising him and trying to do the right thing contribute, albeit indirectly, to what transpires.

With all this being said, I encourage you to check out The Bad Kids. IQIYI allows for trial free watching for newcomers, so take advantage of that. (Also, they’re bringing out content I’m not seeing on some other sites, so it will be worth keeping an eye on them.) The steamy, almost palpable tropical setting in Ningzhou is the perfect setting for a drama like this one this summer.

#dollar-rong, #iqiyi, #lu-fang-shen, #qin-hao, #shi-peng-yuan, #the-bad-kids, #wang-jing-chun, #wang-sheng-di, #zhu-chao-yang

Sad news out of Japan today…

I’m sorry that my first post in a while is prompted by very sad news, but it has been reported that Haruma Miura, at just 30 years of age, has been found dead of an apparent suicide.

There will be many who are as shocked as I was upon hearing this news, but we can never know what someone else is going through to lead to this drastic step. My only hope is that someday all communities will embrace counseling and the treatment of mental health issues fully, and without shame.

I will treasure his work and think of him as that delightful High School Samurai, and I wish that his loved ones are supported in their grief.

#haruma-miura, #miura-haruma

Back to “The Longest Day In Chang’an”

I think that picking up once again on this drama may be the smartest decision I’ve made this year when it comes to choosing what to watch. Earlier, I felt conflicted about how it portrayed the various ethnic groups (wondering if this was an oblique justification of the current treatment of Uyghur peoples), but I wanted to take a closer look and evaluate those sentiments. As the story has unfolded it’s been less about the “foreign” group of the Wolven Pack and more about the corruption and betrayals and power struggles within the Tang court, from low ranking officials to the highest ministers and the Emperor, and about human nature and those things that drive us.

By the way, there are no spoilers in this post; it’s really more of an appreciation love letter!

Jackson Yee as Li Bi, head of the Peacekeepers Bureau

I’m now just over half-way though this continued viewing; I’d be further along but this is one of those productions that is just too full – overwhelming action, complicated decisions, dense visuals. Watching standard dramas versus watching this one is like eating a Hershey bar versus eating the richest Belgian truffle – you can’t take in more than a few bites. I find myself holding my breath with each episode; it’s become that good. Episode 16, in particular, is just stunning.

Lei Jiayin as Zhang Xiaojing, the death row former soldier with the 1-day reprieve

What makes each block of time (generally 3 episodes is my max before my brain combusts) so worthwhile is almost too time-consuming to explain, but it begins with the cast, especially Lei Jiayin as the unlikeliest of leading men. He’s rumpled, got a blocky build, sports his own scruffy hair and beard (lots of real hair in this drama, btw), but he’s so convincing as the bad-ass soldier with the courage of his convictions. He is called upon to do the impossible 3 times every hour, but he manages to convince me every time that he can do it.

Reyizha Alimjan as Tan Qi, servant to Li Bi

We also get a female character who is smart, resourceful, willing to take chances and do what needs to be done in Reyizha Alimjan’s Tan Qi. Yes, she’s technically a servant to Li Bi, but she’s there to help him in supervising and aiding Zhang Xiaojing and she works and thinks as hard as any man in the story – more than some!

Zhou Yiwei as Long Bo, mercenary and more

The various characters who are supposed to be working with the Peacekeepers Bureau (but aren’t) and those they’re trying to stop before they set the world afire are not just cartoon characters, which makes them worthy opponents deserving of screen time even if they add to the frustration. One of these who commands your attention every time he’s onscreen is Zhou Yiwei, who’s Long Bo is a mercenary and running the show for his employers (as of this moment in the plot). He reminds me so much of Lee Bum-soo with those eyes and the shape of his face; I’d love to see them go toe-to-toe in something someday.

Lu Fangsheng as Yao Runeng, Investigator

Most of all, the sheer scope and beauty of this drama is difficult to beat; I’m hard-pressed to thing of many other dramas that are this cinematic, this rich in visual and aural texture and scale. Each episode is like a 40-minute feature film, one that many in Hollywood and elsewhere would be proud to have on their resumes.

I’m not sure how long it will take me to finish at this rate, and I can only hope that each subsequent episode will be as satisfying as those that have preceded it. I’ll be back to let you know what the final verdict is, but for right now, this one is one of the ones to beat for best of the viewing year.

#jackson-yee, #lei-jiayin, #lu-fangsheng, #peng-guanying, #reyizha-alimjan, #song-yunhao, #the-longest-day-in-changan, #wang-herun, #xu-lu, #zhao-wei, #zhou-yiwei

Joy of Life – Book versus Drama

Oh, the challenges that faced the script writer when first adapting Mao Ni’s novel, “Thankful for the Remaining Years,” better known by drama viewers as Joy of Life. The source novel is 746 chapters long, dense, action-filled, character-driven, and complicated. The success, or should I say “triumph” in bringing part one to the small screen had me thirsting to know more, to know what would happen in Fan Xian’s world, which turned me to the novel while still half-way in my viewing of the drama. But I made myself a promise; I would not read further than the the adaptation covers until after I’d finished watching it (and yes, I kept that promise.) However, as the script writer is in the process now of adapting what will be the next part of Joy of Life, with plans to go into filming at the end of 2020 if all goes to plan, meaning we’ll likely not see the finished product until late 2021 or even 2022, I’d like to talk about the drama versus the novel, and maybe yes, where the next part will take us as viewers. If you’ve not watched the series I can only ask, “What are you waiting for?” And know that there will be spoilers if you plan to read further, as well as speculations.

In Chinese dramaland today there is a constant need to balance the desire to be truthful to the source with what the official broadcast censors will permit, and we see minor influences of the latter to the former from the start of the drama. It is clear from the start that “this” is a “work of fiction” because we see a contemporary Fan Shen (modern-day Zhang Ruoyun) explaining his latest fiction-writing project to his professor. Folks, this is not a real China, real Emperor, real-world time-traveling or anything like that. It is Fiction with a capital “F.” This is because there have been, at various times, crackdowns on playing fast-and-loose with history, and crazy notions like time-travel, etc. But let’s not let that get in our way.

SPOILERS AND TINY SPECULATIONS FROM HERE ONWARDS

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#chen-dao-ming, #gao-shu-guang, #guo-qilin, #hai-yitian, #joy-of-life, #li-qiang, #li-qin, #li-xiaoran, #liu-runnan, #mao-ni, #song-yi, #thankful-for-the-remaining-years, #tian-yu, #tong-mengshi, #wang-yang, #wu-gang, #xiao-zhan, #xin-zhilei, #zhang-ruo-yun

If I Keep Starting New Shows How Will I Ever Finish Any?

Or, “I’m going crazy with my viewing list and greedy watching habits (and I don’t mind one damn bit)!” Mood: Unrepentant.

Is it really a problem if you’re watching over 8 different dramas at the same time? For me, it’s definitely the right thing right now. I’m going to paraphrase the (highly sexist) King Mongkut from “The King and I” and describe it like this: “Because it is natural. It is like old Siamese saying. A girl drama is like a blossom, with honey for just one man any viewer. A man is I am like a honey bee and (that will) gather all she can. To fly from blossom to blossom a honey must be free.”

This means that I’m sipping a lot of honey! Like the delicious Tale of Nokdu, with Jang Dong-yoon a surprisingly effective kkot-minam (flower boy) hiding out from assassins with Kim So-hyun in a village for widows. I’m halfway thru and it’s entertaining and a feast for the eyes. What’s not to love about that mix?

When I want something fluffier (yes, even fluffier than that, because: assassins), I turn to My Roommate Is A Detective for a dose of Republican(ish) era mystery/comedy and Zhang Yunlong (yes, I know Hu Yitian is the main lead, but really, watch an episode and you’ll know what I’m talking about!) The cases are fairly lightweight, the tone puts me in mind of Tientsin Mystic in some ways, and it’s fun to watch them work around Shanghai Film Park (ah, the nostalgia!)

When I’m looking for something more thought-provoking I turn on another episode of the too-short (13 episodes) Some Day Or One Day which happens to be the first Taiwanese drama in a while, and it’s very good. It’s a very clever blend of mystery, transmigration, loss and love and friendship. I’m parceling out each episode because I don’t want it to end.

I’ve started Sleuth Of the Ming Dynasty but it’s not a sure thing I’ll continue with it at this time as it’s tonally similar in a case-solving episodic, young genius, hot police muscle-type partner (albeit different time period) to Roommate. Maybe later?

After all, there’s the new drama coming out with Lee Min-ho, and Hyena has uploaded all of its episodes and oh yes, there’s a new police drama AND period drama with Wang Kai! I’m most interested in the former, Hunting. Can you blame me?

And these are just a few (really) of the shows I’m watching! Like I always say, “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t!” Or, sometimes you feel like a Joseon cutie, sometimes you feel like a brainteaser, sometimes you feel like fluff, and so on.

On a site note for our writers, I’ve uploaded a number of show images for current and upcoming dramas to illustrate your posts, so remember to check out the media gallery for options 🙂

#alice-ke, #greg-han, #hu-yitian, #jang-dong-yoon, #kim-so-hyun, #my-roommate-is-a-detective, #patrick-shih, #sleuth-of-the-ming-dynasty, #some-day-or-one-day, #tale-of-nokdu, #xiao-yan, #zhang-guang-chen, #zhang-yunlong

Housekeeping Issues

I know that we’re still seeing issues with posting and commenting on WordPress and for that I’ll say sorry, and here are some things I’ve found have worked better for me (which is slightly better than a sharp stick in the eye, as my dad would say):

  1. Don’t use Safari. If you’re on an iPad or iPhone the default underpinned browser for those devices is Safari too and it acts wonky no matter the device. Just don’t. I have sometimes had issues with Firefox, but few with Chrome, so opt for those alternates.
  2. I also prefer to use the old style Admin page for writing posts and editing. It just works easier for me and I can use either Firefox or Chrome without any issues.
  3. Use the WordPress app for reading, posting, commenting, etc. It’s not easy for tagging, or special features like adding photo galleries or adding the “read more after the break” kinds of things, but it isn’t bad for general purposes.

As for your posts, I’ve tried to add photos to the media folder whenever I can for you to use for illustration purposes when you post something. Please do use photos whenever they’re relevant because they make the posts more visually interesting and it helps a reader focus in on the cast or plot when looking for something or in whetting the appetite.

Similarly, please do use tagging for the show and the primary actors. I go back and add them to older posts whenever I have time, but it’s helpful when you do it. Nagging over, thanks for your help (and I’ll still go back and add tags and pics where I can)!

Dramas and Choices in these strange times

Hello everyone; yes, I’m still here! But I confess to being all over the place when it comes to choosing the things to do, whether it’s things I should be doing, or want to be doing (or even can do) — in other words, pretty much like everyone else! This has resulted in me suffering from a rash of completion issues, to the detriment of posting and updating posts on this site. I definitely need to have someone take a chancla to me (perhaps).

What have I been doing? Well, I was still obsessed with Joy of Life, so much so that I found the source webnovel and inhaled all 746 chapters (which I figure has to be equivalent to about 3500 pages). It’s massive, yes, but I didn’t regret a single moment. I often found myself holding my breath as I was reading — is reading apnea a thing? It just might be! I particularly enjoyed comparing how the novel was adapted to the small screen — a long, spoilery post will follow for those who have not seen the series (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) — and contemplating how they will adapt the balance of the novel.

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This led me to reading a totally OTT BL webnovel (smut galore) that too was over 700 chapters! I might add that The Untamed still won’t let me go, so let’s just add in the source novel as well as pages and pages of fanfics for that. Not gonna lie, I’m more than a little obsessed with that series and its cast. (cough* Xiao Zhan), so sue me, I have eyes, don’t I? I even watched Xiao Zhan’s scenes in the forgettable and cheesy Oh! My Emperor (just because), his movie Jade Dynasty, and I’ll probably watch Fights Break Sphere too (bonus: little Fei Liu from Nirvana In Fire, Leo Wu is the lead).

I am watching dramas too, but haven’t been motivated to write about them, and that’s no reflection on their quality because if I’m finishing them and enjoying them, particularly XX, aka Dear My Ex, a short, 5-episode gem available on Kocowa (maybe Viki too). How can you not love a drama featuring a cocktail maker who names a drink “Adios, bitch” for her frenemy? I’m starting a lot of dramas and liking them, which means that hopefully I will finish them. I like Tale of Nokdu and My Roommate Is a Detective, so far, but nothing is making me lose sleep over them the way that reading those novels has. There are some dramas, like the Taiwanese short (13 episodes) time-travel(ish) Some Day Or One Day and the Chinese murder mystery Day and Night that I’m watching that fit this slow-watching mood; they are mood pieces or too gritty for big doses.

I am hopeful that a crop of new dramas will scratch that itch, but I’d like them to get a little closer to being completely finished on air, namely Hyena, Hospital Playlist, Rugal, I’ll Come to You when the Weather Is Nice, and so on — and let’s not forget Lee Min-ho’s new one coming up!

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Which brings me to Crash Landing On You. I’m on “stalled” right now and I’m not exactly sure why. I like it well enough, plot-wise. I find Hyun Bin as ever easy on the eyes. But it’s just not what I’m pressing “play” on at the moment. I have 3 other in-progress dramas that I was watching when all the news starting getting grimmer and grimmer and I’ve yet to return to any of them. It’s like they’re infected somehow too and I’ve put them into a viewing quarantine. I plan to finish them, but time will tell.

Let’s hope we all have the chance to finish the things we want to do, and spend our days doing things that are meaningful and that bring us comfort. Take very good care of yourself and your loved ones, my friends, and here’s hoping that things improve soon!

 

#crash-landing-on-you, #day-and-night, #dear-my-ex, #joy-of-life, #my-roommate-is-a-detective, #some-day-or-one-day, #tale-of-nokdu, #the-untamed, #xx

Joy of Life – Series Review

This is a review for Part 1 of Joy of Life; subsequent parts (planned to be 3 parts at this stage) are in development. It’s important to know this going in because the series does end with a major cliff-hanger which I’ll discuss in the spoiler section of this post. That said, please do yourself a favor and watch this drama! I haven’t been as caught up in a Chinese drama so full of plot twists and turns since Nirvana In Fire, and that is saying a lot (as anyone who knows me will understand).

Wan’er and Fan Xian

What is it about this drama that has captivated me so? Pretty much everything, so much so that I’ve taken up the source novel (available on Webnovel.com/app) to cross-check the drama against the source material and spend a little lot more time in Fan Xian’s world. Note: While tonally the drama is true to the source in terms of the nature of characters and basic aspects of the plot revealed in the novel, there are major changes to the timeline, most significantly when characters are introduced. I’ll do a comparison of book to drama post at a future date.

Chen Pingping

The series is introduced as the work of science fiction created by a student (Zhang Ruoyan) which he’s presenting to an instructor. His story begins with the circumstances of the rescue of the infant Fan Xian during a conflict in which his mother is killed. A mysterious blind man (eyes covered by a thin, ribbon-like strip of cloth) carries the infant to safety; a mysterious man in a wheelchair directs him to take him to the village of Danzhou to be raised in the home of his paternal grandmother. The blind man is Wuzhu, the trusted companion of the baby’s mother, and first mentor to young Fan Xian, and the cripple is the powerful spymaster Chen Pingping, head of the Overwatch Bureau founded by Fan Xian’s mother.

Fan Jian

Fan Xian is raised as the illegitimate son of Revenue Minister Fan Jian, another who is tied by love and respect to the dead woman, and tutored in poisons and medicine as a youngster by yet another Fei Jie. Fie Jie is one of the division heads of the Overwatch Bureau, and sees young Fan Xian as his most beloved pupil.

Fan Xian survives an  assassination attempt as a child, but is finally summoned to go to the capital 4 years later, ostensibly by his father, but in truth, there are other players working in the wings; namely Chen Pingping and the Emperor. Who is this young man, and why is he so sought after, and so skilled in many ways? Wuzhu has trained him physically, and gifted him with a book left by his mother explaining how to achieve grandmaster-level martial arts skills and manage his extreme levels of zhenqi and Fei Jie has taught him to cope with poison, but when you’ve had to deal with all he’s had to deal with, you either crumble or develop resources. Fan Xian excels at the latter. In addition to his physical skills, he somehow knows that he has the memories of another lifetime, another world (or worlds) ago, and uses that knowledge to dabble in literature and poetry (borrowing, let’s say, from the works of those long-ago, unknown in this time, authors), successfully publishing novels and poetry with the help of his half-sister, Fan Ruoruo.

Emperor

In the capital his fortunes and challenges rise and grow in complexity. He finds the love of his life early on, but their future is uncertain. She’s the illegitimate daughter of the Eldest Princess and the Prime Minister, and has been taken under the wing of the Emperor. Too bad that mother is a schemer and wants things that belong to others (namely, the treasury that once belonged to Fan Xian’s mother and now is held by the throne), and that there are a number of other hurdles (Crown Prince, 2nd Prince, etc.) to deal with as well.

With that brief initial synopsis covered, let’s look at the elements that make this story work so well. First has to be the mixture of bravery, insouciance, moral strength, and zest for life that Zhang Ruoyan brings to the character of Fan Xian. I’ve read that he was not considered a good choice for the role and, in reading the novel, he doesn’t match the physical description (almost feminine good looks) of Fan Xian, but he has taken this character and made himself Fan Xian. There is no way they could recast this role with another actor at this point (as was done in Ever Night) because it just would not work. He’s not the only actor to make an indelible impression — even the youngster who plays Fan Xian as a child is remarkable! The choice of the script adapter to move up the introductions to the characters of the Emperor and Chen Pingping was a sound one; their interactions with each other and with Fan Xian are compelling and these veteran actors are scene stealers in their own right. I can’t look away when the Emperor is onscreen!

There are also touching and/or playful supporting characters in addition to the schemers and villains, such as the sly Wang Qinian, stalwart Teng Zijing, the graceful Fan Ruoruo, and more. Li Qin as Lin Wan’er is lovely and a touching counterpoint to the brash Fan Xian, and their love story, while a relatively brief portion of the plot, is well-told and is skillfully interwoven into the major plot points.

The world created by this story, the reasons for why Fan Xian is who he is, who he becomes, and the trials he faces kept me hitting the ‘next’ button far longer each night than I should, and at the end of the day’s viewing I would treat myself to letting the full outro song play over the ending credits and listen to the voice of Xiao Zhan lull me into the hope that things will work out for our hero. Take a listen, and I’ll get into spoiler territory after the video.

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#chen-dao-ming, #frida-li, #gao-shu-guang, #joy-of-life, #li-qin, #li-shen, #li-xiao-ran, #liu-duan-duan, #song-yi, #thomas-tong, #tian-yu, #wu-gang, #xiao-zhan, #xin-zhi-lei, #zhang-hao-wei, #zhang-ruo-yun