Hello folks! I haven’t written in a long while (although still religiously watching c-dramas when I have a moment) as Life has just gotten so busy but I guess this resonates so much with me that I felt compelled to pick up the pen again.
This was one of my anticipated dramas for 2017 but after watching about 10 minutes of the first episode without subtitles, I realised I was in over my head as got a little lost with no backstory or context. Picked this up again recently after Nirvana in Fire 2 as it was fan-subbed up to ep10 on https://siantlark.tumblr.com/post/168222628416/tientsin-mystic-english-subtitles and on https://dostforu.blogspot.com/2018/02/english-subs-for-tientsin-mystic.html for ep11-24.
Was gonna write a post after the first 6 episodes but couldn’t find time so here we are up to episode 18 and happy to say – Still Loving It! It is not so much a sequel to the highly lauded Nirvana in Fire (“NiF”) -which I think is one of the best dramas ever- but rather a different story revolving around the descendants of the protagonists in NiF. A smart move, I should say, as it still has palpable ties for those of us who wanted more of NiF but yet able to stand alone as a separate story.
While I (and probably most of the Chinese diaspora my generation) grew up watching TVB dramas, I have drifted away from them after discovering c-dramas as they have become very run-of-the-mill with type-casted actors/actresses. The last one I watched was A Fist Within Four Walls (2016) with Ruco Chan who I think is one of the better actors left in TVB’s stable.
After the angsty Glory of Tang Dynasty and the hard-hitting Princess Agents (dont get me wrong – I actually really liked both!), I was looking for a romance palate cleanser and wanted to try a rom-com. I always found C-romcoms too long and too dog-blood but first half 2017 was pretty good as I enjoyed (and finished!) Memory Lost (Yang Rong/Bai Yu), Pretty Li Hui Zhen (Dilireba/Peter Sheng) and The Fox’s Summer (Tan Song Yun/Jiang Chao) although arguably the first was a romantic crime caper.
For some reason, I have a soft spot for Jiang Jin Fu after first watching him in Legend of Qin (not a great show and I didn’t finish it) and then the Adventure of Love. His appearance in Takes A Real Man S2 cemented it for me – appears to be brawn > brain but definitely with heart. Which is why I decided to watch this youth sports drama when it aired – I watched My Mr Mermaid too as I also have a soft spot for Tan Song Yun but even she couldn’t save that show for me and I gave up halfway.
Tomb-raiding and an ass-kicking Gina Jin – I had been anticipating this and am pleased to say that I found it a delightful little show. Only 24 episodes long and clearly meant to have a sequel, it was a taut and fun watch.
Unlike the usual tomb-raider dramas, this is anchored by a storyline of searching for one’s parents which then leads to the common wuxia theme of finding oneself and compatriots along the way. I like that the show manages to flesh out a believable trajectory of Hu Tian, son of Hu Bayi and Shirley (the Dynamic Duo played by Jin Dong / Joe Chen or Chen Kun / Shu Qi for those who watch this genre) who was abandoned at 5 when his parents had to go search for a cure to his mysterious affliction, from a bitter, semi-delinquent with an enormous chip on his shoulder to a responsible leader of the rag-tag team, a sweet relationship between him and Bing Lun (a high-achieving, martial trained, US educated tomb-raider with a mysterious past ) and the camaderie of all 5 of them without it feeling forced and contrived.
Kudos to Darren wang who seems to have cornered the market on imbuing a cheeky wastrel character (we all know he isn’t like that deep down inside!) with heart and grit which just needs the right girl/opportunity/life-changing discovery to shine. Never been a better use of the term Diamond In the Rough! Gina Jin, whom I have to come to enjoy with her diverse roles, totally rocked it as the cool chick with her slick moves and cold persona – I did wonder if it was really necessary to wear such short shorts knowing that you will be climbing through holes and crevasses but hey – it’s entertainment! 🙂
Special mention to Wang Li Xin (who was also in With You with Liu haoran and Tan Song Yun) who successfully made Lei Li a likeable character and is really a sap at heart pining after Xiao Jin Ya (Zhang Xin). He may have been the comic relief but he was definitely not the clown. Xiao Jin Ya too , despite being the third wheel for the OTP was sufficiently crushed from her unrequited feelings but yet managed to maintain some sort of grace and dignity.
One disclaimer would be that I am a fan of the genre and enjoy all the backstories and historical possibilities despite the lack of subtitles so it may not be everyone’s up of tea.
I would say – Come for the adventure, stay for the human relationships – and wait for the sequel!
I started watching this on a whim and was gonna write a First Impressions piece but got totally hooked and marathoned all 21 episodes! The second part starts on May 4th (its a total of 46 episodes) and I can’t wait!
I started off writing a pseudo-review of Glory of Tang Dynasty (GOTD) segueing into the first impression of GOTD2 and realized that most of my comments relate back to Li Chu (and Allen Ren who plays the role). So, I decided to do a special piece on him. Why does he rock? Let me count the ways:
I am generally not a fan of t-dramas but do watch the occasional one (last was Back to 1989 which I really enjoyed) so decided to try this as I have a soft spot for Ivy Shao (who was also in Back to 1989) and was curious to see how Chris Wu (who won best actor for A Touch of Green at the 51st Golden Bell AWard) would be like. Am up to Ep 6 and the verdict? It’s good!