Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre 2019 (Cdrama, 50 Episodes Ongoing)
The sequel and the final part of the Condor trilogy tells the story of a young Zhang Wuji hero of mixed blood(Wudang Sect & Eagle Cult), who became the future Leader of the Ming Cult; the Sect he swore to never join as a child. However, without the first generation, there would be no story to be told. That’s why the first 8-10 episodes are devoted to the stories of the parents of many prominent characters of the series. Which means, if you skimmed through the first arc, the main story is told in the remaining 40.
HSDS is a wuxia with many-many-many adaptations. This production team knew they can’t slack off when it comes to Martial Arts Battles. However, even though the execution and choreography are beautiful, the editing is still rough. Slow motion was overused in certain scenes, which actually reduced the intensity of the battle. Personally, if CGI is not well done, they should just skip using it, because poor CGI is a distraction.
Acting and direction, so far for the first arc, is not perfect, but they’re being compared to all the adaptations before. Hence, why I have to shut off that biased part of my brain. It was also helpful that the screenwriters changed certain parts of the storyline to keep the viewer’s interest. Given that the production added 10 episodes more than the 2009 version, some of the storylines were expanded. I don’t mind changes to original works as long as it adds character development and motives. Even the late author Jin Yong, who was the grandmaster of Wuxia, revised his own original works many times.
Notable Mention: The child actor who plays the young Wuji, not only looks like his older counterpart, but he was definitely not 10-years-old when the drama was filmed. He must have done an outstanding job at his audition to play a role older than his real age by 2 years. He’s so adorable. I want to wrap him up in a blanket, like all his elders, to keep him from harm.
The Legends (Cdramas, 55 Episodes Ongoing, YouTube)
Finally, a fantasy wuxia drama worth my time. For one, the female heroine is no heroine. In fact, Zhao Yao (Bai Lu) was the Villian for the first arc, told in flashbacks. No, I don’t mean they’ll show endless repeated flashbacks like Tribes & Empire or King's Woman -- assuming their viewers all suffer from short-term amnesia -- or I would have dropped the drama. Personally, I love writing-reading-watching stories in nonlinear format. That’s why The Legends, with its many layers of mysteries, was right up my alley.
What’s more surprising is, as someone who doesn't like romcom dramas, this sweet tanghulu (candied fruit) was doable even for an unromantic person such as myself. It was not filled with unintelligent dialogue typical of Kdramas, which often lowers the characters’ IQ in order to create unrealistic fluff to appease the fans.
Another pro was the fact that the series was not just about the main leads’ love story, but the other characters as well. Including tales of undying, unselfish devotions, bringing colors to each roles -- including the motivations for their actions. Whether it was good or evil, it was still relatable for those who have experienced love and loss.
I Will Never Let You Go aka The Legend of Hua Buqi (Cdrama 2019, 51 Episodes Ongoing Viki)
Priestess, priestess, oh my priestess...This is the second time Ariel Lin has played a character that held the fate of the Kingdom in her palm. Unknowingly, of course. Street smarts aside, Ariel plays the character quite well. I have to give her props for that. The problem is Zhang Bin Bin, who has, so far, managed to snag the same character after starring in four historical/ancient dramas. It’s like he is afraid someone will take away his title of the “Mopey King” if he doesn’t secure that spot every chance he gets.
However, the supporting cast was surprisingly well liked, if not, I would have quit this drama for good. Even the Villain, played by Austin - a Taiwanese Native like Ariel - did an outstanding job of igniting anger from those who watched him. With only 30-35 episodes, this drama could be a comedy gem with well loved characters to appease the fans. But, since they have Ariel and Bin Bin, the marketing team decided to drag it out to 51 episodes for an endless amount of nonsense, with barely much of a direction.
Notable Mention: My true love of course is Xing En, an actress who plays Young Lord Mo - a male character - so outstandingly, I had to second guess myself when I first spotted her on screen. She definitely pulls off the male aura perfectly, even better than some of the male actors on screen with her. Let’s hope she’ll secure more roles in the future.
The Legend of Hao Lan (Cdrama, 62 Episodes Ongoing Viki)
Yes, I managed to finish this long drama that should be 45 episodes at most. There are about 2-3 arcs, while the first arc was much more entertaining due to the Royal Family’s genetic defect from the Queen. From mother, to daughter, to son, they all seem to be obsessed with possessing those they could never have. The Queen of Zhao, play by veteran Ning Jing, would be diagnose as a psychopath in modern age, was the most entertaining Villain. Depending on her ever changing moods, she could be your ally or your foe, which makes her unpredictable.
However, character development ceased once you get to the second arc of Hao Lan. The story was fast paced, but after the first arc, I did not care about any of the new characters. Which was not a surprise when it comes to Zheng Yu’s team of scriptwriters, who always like to play Russian Roulette with their newly introduced characters. Some of the deaths didn’t even make sense or serve any purpose to the storyline.
They did try to follow history, with many artistic liberties when it comes to the ending, yet it was still lackluster. Especially when the King who was destined to Conquer all of China was presented as a spoiled, angry, immature brat.
The Umbrella Academy (Netflix, 10 Episodes, Complete)
While Daredevil was canceled, Netflix picked up The Umbrella Academy, an obvious underdog, even without looking. Boy, did they make the right decision, since Daredevil was going nowhere. And the countless other Superheroes series (i.e. CW Arrow/Flash) that became so repetitive I can predict the outcome in my sleep. On the other hand, Netflix Superheroes series drag out the storyline, with the forever gloomy reality of humanity that refused to stop. It’s like writers don’t understand why Superheroes were created in the first place -- they were created to give hope to those in their dark times that there will be light upon the horizon.
What I enjoyed about the Umbrella Academy was that it did start with the darkness of the human soul. But gradually, with each character’s/sibling’s progression as the story moves along, we see the change that will help shape their growth for the better. Spoiler Alert: I mean, what kind of person decides to detox when the world is going to end within days? Yet, that’s what it comes down to for these characters/siblings, the ability to admit their faults, the need to change, and to be by each other’s side at the most important of times.
This isn’t really about being a superhero or having super powers, because honestly, they rarely used their powers. It’s about self-discovery, learning to trust again, but most importantly, it is about family.
Yan Shi Fan 40 Episodes 2019
Detective L, 30 Episodes 2019: Bai Yu’s Detective drama has not had a set date yet, even though it was rumored to premiere in March 2019. However, there’s no sign that Viki has the license to sub, or even a page for the drama. So if you have 10 seconds of your time to spare, please fill out the request form with the link I provided below. BTW, HSDS and The Legends also need licenses as well, while you’re at it. Thank you!