Go Princess Go: The Other Genderbender

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A parody, but also not really. We always see dramas genderbending girls into acting like boys, but not often do we see the other way around. This time, like BuBuJinXin, we have a time traveler who ends up in the era of Chinese dynasties. However, this time, it is a guy who becomes a woman! After suffering an accidental drowning in the pool, Zhang Peng becomes Royal Crown Princess Zhang Peng Peng as he is thrown back several hundred years. He ends up in the body of a very beautiful woman, but still has the mind of his past life as a player whose only goal in life is to eat good food and fool around with beautiful women. At first, he tries to kill himself again in order to go back to the future. However, he ends up lusting after all the beautiful women he encounters in the palace, including his own maid and the crown prince’s concubines. It becomes hilarious since he is still in a women’s body and they are oblivious to his advances. However, she soon becomes sand-whiched between the Crown Prince Qi Sheng that she is married to and his brother, 9th Prince. In the beginning, Qi Sheng had no romantic feeling for his wife, Peng Peng, and was having an affair with another brother’s wife. The past Peng Peng just became embittered and jealous as time went on. However, after Zhang Peng took over, she gave Peng Peng an entire personality change. She was empathetic to the plight of the men and didn’t even mind all the affairs and concubines as she was too busy enjoying herself with all the beauties. At one point, Qi Sheng tried to assassinate Peng Peng when he thought he was unable to control her and thought she was a danger to him. This pushed her into forming an alliance with 9th prince and his friend. She wanted revenge on Qi Sheng and to grab hold of power for 9th prince or even stabilize her own position in the palace. However, as time wore on, Qi Sheng become more and more interested in the new Peng Peng and even fell in love with her. Their intense emotions for each other vacillated daily.  She became more and more entrenched in palace affairs and eventually even bore Qi Sheng a child. However, this vicious cycle of them lying to each other eventually came to a head as they constantly tested each other on their feelings. Peng Peng also became feminized as she fell in love with Qi Sheng.

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Mu Gui Ying Gua Shuai: A Different Kind of Power

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An oldie, but a goodie. In the same of vein as Mulan, Mu Gui Ying Gua Shuai tells the story of young girl who has the smarts, beauty, and physical prowess as much as or even more than any guy during her time. Born the daughter of a rich bandit, she has lived her life to the fullest doing as she pleased, but also gaining skills that surpassed most men. When her father tried to marry her off, she proposed that she will marry any suitor that can best her in martial arts. Of course, no man in town could even match her level until she managed to offend the heir of a family of generals. It then becomes a vicious cycle of Gui Ying provoking the heir, Zhang Bao, while he tries to take a valuable wood sculpture from her. They are well-matched in martial art’s prowess, but Gui Ying exceeds him in intelligence and craftiness. As they duel back and forth, they slowly fall for each other. At first, Zhang Bao hates her for besting him at each encounter, but slowly he becomes enamored and impressed by her. The line is thin between love and hate. Even though his family opposed the relationship, he can’t help but go to her and she has similar intense emotions for him. Eventually, they end up marrying each other, but end up encountering just as many obstacles against them even after their marriage. She had to endure many competitions against family or friends just to prove that she was good enough to be part of the famous Zhang family. However, it seemed like Gui Ying had a way to solve each one of their problems and continued to impress all her family and friends. She even became involved in the royal palace after placating the Royal Princess who had been pursing Zhang Bao before he married Gui Ying. Eventually, she even managed to lead the royal army in defending the Emperor’s territory from the Khitan nomads.

Mu Gui Ying is actually a legendary and real figure in Chinese history. She was famous for being a woman beyond her times and playing a big part in defending her country. While I haven’t seen the lead actress, Miao Pu, in any other drama before, I am very impressed with her acting. She was very natural and endearing. Her martial arts choreography was also on point. She also had such an addicting laugh paired with her country accent. As for Zhang Bao, played by Jin Luo, I really enjoyed his acting of intense emotions. He played the angsty role brilliantly and had a great comedic side to him as well. However, unlike traditional dramas now, the supporting characters of the drama did not have as big of a role as I would have expected. They felt more like add-ons and I would have liked to see more of their story and interactions with the main leads. Furthermore, as this drama is more obscure, to the point where it doesn’t even have a wiki page, it is not subtitled at all. So watchers beware, with the accents and royal speak, it was a struggle even for me at times. However, it is an amazing drama that really spoke to me as it featured a strong female lead which I love. Hopefully it will be subbed one day and more people can enjoy this drama!

Return of the Heiress / 千金归来 : Lies and Betrayals

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Since I am really enjoying Li Qin’s acting in Return of Happiness, I decided to check out more of her works. This brought me to the melo-revenge piece she did….called Return of the Heiress. She sure likes to make these “returns of”. This drama ALSO feature birth secrets, but fake amnesia. About 16 episodes in, I finally paused long enough to write this first impression! Return of Heiress is about Changqing, heir to Shen Shen Enterprise. When Changqing was young, her mother had died a mysterious death after a long period of ailment.  At the time of the mother’s death, a mistress appeared who goaded the poor woman into asystole and most probably did some nefarious dead to propagate the ailmet in the first place. Although Changqing’s father was stricken at his wife’s death, he was pleased that the CEO position of Shen Shen came to him because Changqing can’t manage a company at such a young age. He also decided to bring the mistress into the family home along with a daughter he had out of wedlock. Changqing’s father had been having extramarital affairs. Thus, this supposedly “happy” family of four lived for over 10 years without any issue. Meanwhile, the mistress and her daughter had ulterior motives to push Changqing out of the family. They often manipulate naive Changqing who really believes that she has a nice stepmother and stepsister. However, they have been secretly poisoning her all along. It comes to a point where she actually became hospitalized and was declared dead. With her “death”, the stepmother and stepsister became afraid of what they had done. Little did they know that Changqing miraculously came back to life under the white sheet and became privy to all their manipulations.

After learning how they had betrayed her so deeply, she decided to get revenge on them. In order to do that, she pretended to have amnesia and a complete personality change. She was able to mostly convince her step-family and her father that she had forgotten everything that had happened. Her father was in an unfortunate position where he feels bad that he had treated his extramarital family so poorly and wanted to make reparations while still supporting his revived daughter. They all hope she does not get her memory back and are suspicious at her every move. Changqing must always be very careful in her words and actions. It becomes a battle between her manipulative step-family and her at every turn. She has to prevent the mistress from marrying into the family. Meanwhile, one of her favorite uncles gets into an unfortunate accident and dies. As she was very close to this uncle, she was extremely upset. Little did she know, this uncle was actually her real father due to a drunken event on her mother’s wedding night (father dearest had gone to see the mistress). Her fake father, CEO of Shen Shen already knows this and is only catering to Changqing to keep his foothold in the company. Upon knowing that her father had something to do with her uncle’s death, Changqing must also battle with her fake father as well.

Luckily she meets one of her childhood friends who will help her along the way to mature into a smart and career woman. He is a doctor and tries to help her achieve her goals in any way he can. The other male lead in her life is a rich and financial guru who has a prickly exterior. He doesn’t take any nonsense which Changqing fires right back at him. This definitely peaks his interest in her and her ambitions.

Li Qin looks incredibly different in this drama versus the current Return of Happiness. However, her acting is still very good, but definitely a different style. Of course Li Yi Feng as our doctor friend is adorable and heartbreaking his pining for his childhood friend. They evoke such feels together and he brings such joy in her life when everyone else has betrayed her. There is also a certain fire between her and Jin Rui, a more mature relationship based on wit and prickliness. Also I do feel obligated to warn you that Shin Min Hee who plays second female lead will annoy the guts out of you. She overacts in the department of cutesy, contrived, pouty, clingy, etc. You will want to poke your eyes out and hers! I am excited to see how this drama pans out I really like the angsty parts that have happenedd and hope there are more yet to come.

Return of Happiness/幸福归来 : Back to the Sea

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I do feel like I have been on a Chinese drama binge lately! Yet another one has caught my attention. Even though it feels like your run of the mill chaebol + Candy storyline with amnesia/birth switcheroo, I enjoy it for the great acting (actors who I have actually never watched before)! Return of Happiness focuses on You Wei, a passionate seafarer who loves to go sailing due to her upbringing near the sea. However, in the beginning, she was actually the precious daughter of a rich family. One day, she explored too near the edge of a cliff and fell off. This resulted in her losing her memory. In an effort to keep the money in the family which the father was going to donate to charity, the aunt searched high and low for the missing girl. Instead of bringing back the lost daughter when she found her, she brought back another ailing girl in her place. The aunt then places the real daughter with the family she took the girl from 10 years later so that the girl is more unrecognizable. She intends to keep this as her leverage in her bid for more company power. Therefore, the lost daughter takes on the name of You Wei and lives her life by the sea while her counterpart works at the family company when she grows up.

You Wei grows up to be your super-Candy, hardworking, bright, and working 5 jobs to support her little (pseudo) brother’s education. Her dream is to be able to sail yachts for a living. She applies for a job on a sailing team, gets it by winning a sailing competition, but loses it due to misunderstandings when she meets Hao Min, the CEO of the company. Hao Min is actually a childhood friend that You Wei grew up with, but now can’t remember. However, not to be deterred, she manages to get another job with maintenance of sailboats instead….before getting fired again due to another misunderstandings. Through these events, she is gradually and unknowingly coming in contact with key players of her childhood life. Hopefully one day she will recover her memories and set things straight with the help of Hao Min.

So far, the drama is breezy and light. Willing suspension of disbelief is a must in these kind of dramas or our lead lady would have died a couple of deaths already. For example, when she falls off the cliff, drinks two bottles of Hennessy Cognac by herself, and gets whacked in the head with a stick (why didn’t that bring back some memories?). And I guess they aren’t in the practice of getting more DNA samples and can’t recognizing their OWN daughter (we will give credit to the mother who has a gut feeling that her current daughter isn’t hers)? While the plot may be hole-y, I am still attracted to this drama due to the crackling chemistry between our leads. The moments where You Wei angsts are particularly good and Hao Min puts on a good comedic flair without being slap-stick. May I just say, I just realized the past 3-4 leads in the Chinese dramas I’ve watched all had pixie short hair!

EDIT: I am quite addicted! And what a wonderful OST!

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Youth Assemble: Line Up!

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After my bingeing on Destined to Love You 2015, I was hungry for more military style dramas. Therefore, I took a peek at Youth Assemble, a drama set in military school during modern times. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t take even after 6 episodes. This drama is about a group of freshman who attend military academy for various reasons and learn to grow through overcoming obstacles. The story mainly focuses on Duo Duo and Ren, two complete opposites who butt heads inside and outside of school. Duo Duo is a independent and headstrong girl who is academically strong, but hot-tempered. She loses the chance to study abroad in the US due to her hot temper during a visa interview. She absolutely hates the idea of going to military school since her father had died a pilot. However, her mother manages to trick her into attending. Meanwhile, Ren is a soldier at heart who cares about honor and serving the nation. Unfortunately, he was not able to pass his pilot training not due to flying ability, but rather a health issue. His dream is to join the military and the school was his chance to prove himself worthy. With their different personalities and outlooks on life, these two do not get along very well on a daily basis. However, they did prove themselves able to work together when it comes to solving problematic situations of civilians. Joining them at the military school will be a variety of different people such as the girly-girl, the one that came to lose weight, the geeks, the rich son, etc. These youths will need to learn discipline and grow into mature versions of themselves.

While the plot sounds quirky and fun, I just really couldn’t get into it. I think that the main problem for me was Duo Duo. She really grinded my gears with her personality. She is very arrogant and thinks herself a genius because she writes well. She turns down an opportunity for higher education because of her temper and just blows it off saying she didn’t need it anyways. She just doesn’t have a purpose or ambition and thinks its okay to live off her mother until she hits it big with her writing. This drama also breaks the 4th dimension where she talks straight at the camera at times. This gives the drama a disjointed feeling for me even though it is trying to make the drama more like her “diary”. While I know her immaturity is a point where the drama is going to make her grow, I really couldn’t drag up the courage to continue. So while for me it is mainly a character problem that is keeping me from continuing, I am sure that watching the rest of the youths overcome their obstacles and achieve their goals will be interesting. Don’t be put off if you can tolerate Duo Duo!

A Final Word on Destined To Love You 2015 / 偏偏喜欢你

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Destined To Love You 2015 has definitely taken the number one spot in my heart for Chinese dramas. As a pretty underrated drama and one that is largely unsubbed, it has not garnered a decent fan base just yet. As I am a sucker for Revolutionary era dramas and some handsome sausagefest, this drama hooked me right from the start!

Plot: The drama focuses mainly on three characters’ journey and growth through an elite military academy. Baobao, the main female lead, was a circus troupe performer who acted her way into the academy. She takes the place of a psychology instructor who “died on a train accident” in order to get her ailing mother medical care from the military facilities. On the way she meets Xiang Hao, rebel student soldier who is being dragged back to the academy after a year of freeroaming due to a tragic accident. Finally we have Wen Tao, straight-laced ace student of the academy and rival of Xiang Hao, though they were tight buddies once. While Xiang Hao and Baobao butt heads on every issue, Wen Tao takes a liking to Bao Bao and protects her even when he finds out her real identity. Now the Dean of the school and his devious son are trying every which way to eliminate or kill these power three in order to get the son in the Captain position of the future elite squad. The rest of the episodes give us great scenes of how these three unwittingly work together to overcome all the obstacles thrown at them. We see growth in their personalities and skills not only in these three characters, but in the other students/instructors of the school as well. Bonds are strengthened, misunderstandings unknotted, and romance is developed. Of course, as it is a Revolutionary era drama, they ALWAYS MUST end with a devious attack from the Japanese forces (hello Lady&Liar and Cruel Romance). With one last tragic and patriotic boom, the drama takes out some of our most important and loved characters. I for one, bawled my eyes out for our second lead. Two, I am not so keen on amnesia tropes as that negates all this wonderful growth and bond between certain star-crossed lovers.

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