Ruler: Master of the Mask

Ruler-_Master_of_the_Mask-p03.jpg

My dream team casting has come into fruition! I have always wanted to see Yoo Seung Ho and Kim So-Hyun as the main leads in a drama. I have watched them grow up from being child actors in dramas to the amazing young actors that they are today. Despite their age, they sometimes out-act older actors! In Ruler, Seung Ho plays a young crown prince who has lived life in anonymity due to the price on his life. The King, his father, had made a deal with a powerful group called the Pyunsoo in order to access the throne and have a peaceful rule. However, the price of such rule was to privatize the water system in Joseon and give them sole power over it. This deal was terrible to the commoners because the water would grow to outrageous prices during drought. Furthermore the corrupt Pyunsoo group decided to divert water wells as well which jacked up water prices even more till the point people were dying because of the lack of water. The group hoped to make the new crown prince a puppet as well. Thus,Crown Prince Lee lived most of his life under a mask to protect his identity. However whoever saw his face would be immediately killed. Once naïve young man, he soon discovers the state his people are in during a venture outside of the kingdom. He is heartbroken that his safety was the cause of such poverty and illness in the commoner’s lives. After accidently becoming involved in a brawl, a young Ga-Eun saves him. She is the daughter of a town official and is very interested in medicine. These two develop a tentative friendship, but without Ga-Eun knowing his true birthright. The Crown prince, knowing that the public did not know his face had ventured out without his mask on, masquerading as a messenger boy. Meanwhile, another young man who is also called Lee Sun, becomes acquainted with the Crown Prince. He is Ga-Eun’s friend and a peasant, but he is eager to learn and educate himself. After a terrible situation where both Lee Sun’s and Ga-Eun’s fathers are killed because of the Pyunsoo group, Crown Prince Lee Sun suffers a mental and heart breakdown. He is both angry and aggrieved that the king and him are so powerless against the Pyunsoo group. Therefore, he decides he wants to spy in Pyunsoo group with the peasant Lee Sun as masquerading as him, the Crown Prince in the palace. These three form a tight friendship, but with poor Ga-Eun not knowing the Crown Prince’s real identity. Furthermore, during this time, Hwa Goon, the Pyunsoo’s leader’s granddaughter, had fallen in love with the Crown Prince after he saved her life when she trespassed in the palace. While she is often terrifyingly manipulative, her soft spot for the Crown Prince puts her at odds with her grandfather.

Continue reading

General and I: Epic Angst

GeneralandI.jpg

Chinese traditional epics usually have the same trajectory: childhood loves, pain and suffering for 2/3 of the drama, and then 1/3 happiness and death. However, depending on how long the drama is and how tightly the story is written makes all the difference. General and I is quite long, a whopping 62 episodes. The drama starts out pretty good with our female heroine, Bai Ping Ting having both the brains and beauty. Her role in society at that point is the maid of a young prince of one of the three warring kingdoms in China. However, she actually functions as a war tactician due to her great knowledge of the battlefield through ancient texts. She attracts the attention of Chu Bei Jie with her knowledge prowess. Her fated soul mate is not the prince with whom she grows up with, but Chu Bei Jie. Bei Jie is a war god/general who is fierce on the battlefield and a brilliant tactician. He is also the half brother of the a king from a different kingdom. When both were younger, Ping Ting’s father had saved his mother. Thus, he remembers her forever and vows to find her. One day, Bai Ping Ting and her Prince He Xia, get trapped in a plot where their entire family is wiped out due to the fight for power. These two become separated and eventually Ping Ting is saved by Chu Bei Jie as she floats half dead down the river. She later finds out that it was Bei Jie who helped annihilate her adopted family due to a deal he had made with the other kingdom. He had thought he was helping achieve peace between both nations, but he was tricked by the other kingdom. While Ping Ting dislikes him at first, eventually she falls for him as he treats her preciously. General Bei Jie loves her for her intelligence and kindness of heart. He thinks she matches him in every way and actually enjoys it when she beats him in battle. However, He Xia is trying every which way to exact revenge on Bei Jie as he blames all his tragedy on him. Because Ping Ting ends up falling in love with Bei Jie, she chooses to leave He Xia’s side to support her husband. Many obstacles stand between Ping Ting and Bei Jie. Each of them makes multiple sacrifices for the benefit of the other.

THE PRETTINESS. Angelabby and Wallace Chung are such a treat for the eyes. I enjoy Wallace’s acting, but unfortunately I can’t say as much for Angelabby. She is serviceable, but I feel like she has one expression for all her feelings. Everything is beautiful, people and costume-wise. However, it just isn’t as engaging as I thought it would be. I must also comment on the awkward CG backgrounds at times. It is clearly very computerized and doesn’t look natural at all. Sometimes I get so distracted by the background, that I miss out on important scenes. While I am about half way through, the drama is definitely starting to drag a little. The beginning was quite interesting as it featured their battle of wits against each other. However, now it is just petty palace intrigue coming from both sides, an Imperial Consort and a Prince turned Prince Consort. I hope that these two lovebirds make it through and have some happiness for all their sufferings.

Empress of China: Wu Zetian

Empress of China 9.jpg

I told myself I wouldn’t start it many times due to the long length of the drama, but I finally caved. The costumes of the Tang Dynasty are just so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist. Now I haven’t watched any of the actors or actresses in the drama before except for Janine Chang, so I really just came for the costumes. I am in the beginning of the drama at the moment, and so far Wu Ruyi, our main character has captured my heart. She has the makings of all the main lead females that I like. She is smart, witty, gorgeous, and a fighter. Wu Ruyi enters the palace as a “imperial wife”, one of the dozens that comes through each year. All the concubines wait eagerly for their chance to be with the emperor even for one night. However, Ruyi, just wants to eke out a living in the palace. By chance, she is able to meet the emperor one night and he becomes interested in her (not sexually). He thinks she has interesting ideas and a cute personality. Instead of sleeping with his other wives, he ends up spending time with her whether that be just talking or hanging out. Of course, as this is the royal harem, all the women get jealous. Not the regular kind of petty jealousy, but the vicious, I’m going to poison so you will never appear in front of His Majesty again. Poor Ruyi made only a few friends in the palace so far, but has already had some stab her in the back. She is also targeted by the higher up concubines who do not like a young thing usurping their power and the majesty’s attentions. However much torture Ruyi endures, she struggles through it and becomes stronger on the outside. She gives it back as good as she has got. She knows that she can’t rely on the emperor’s fleeting favor and has to fend for herself.

I ended up really liking this drama which is surprising because usually I dislike watching internal harem politics and the viciousness of women who are jealous. However, I enjoy how strong Ruyi is and I really couldn’t care less about romance in the story. I just want her to achieve more power and give it back as good as she got it. She is enduring so much pain and misunderstanding now that she can’t get revenge on. Although later we will know that all this hardship will harden her heart and will affect how she rules in the future. I really also hoping that some of the friendships she has made will last her most of her rule because it will be so lonely for her if at the top of her power, she has no one to share her happiness with. However, in such a dog eat dog world, it may be the just the closest ones to her that stab her the deepest. I don’t know how many episodes I will watch of the drama, but so far it had me watching 10 in one sitting!

 

Legend of Lu Zhen: Let Us Be Equal

20130513152559_vG2Ef.thumb.600_0-2.jpeg

Since I like my drama heroines to be strong-willed and smart, I decided to check out Legend of Lu Zhen. This drama tells the journey of the first female prime minister of China. Lu Zhen, played by Zhanilia Zhao of Shan Shan Comes to eat, comes from a wealthy merchant family. However, her birth is of mysterious circumstances and she is heavily bullied by her stepmother who wants the family fortune. Luckily, her stepsister stands on her side and tries to help her out of difficult circumstances often.

Lu Zhen has a modern woman mentality where she doesn’t just want to be married, but prefers to pursue a career and she has the smart to accomplish that. However, due to her stepmother’s evil trap, she is accused of murdering her own father whom she loves deeply. While is able to escape being sold off as a concubine to an elderly neighbor, she accidents kills a man who tries to sexually assault her. She had asked the man to help her make a fake birth status certification, but the confrontation had turned ugly. Lu Zhen decides that she wants to enter the palace to avoid being arrested by the police, but was unable to stay there due to her fake certification being exposed.

Continue reading

Song of the Desert: Call of the Wild

Romance_of_the_Desert

Why yes, I am a fan of Tong Hua and Liu Shi Shi as this will mark my THIRD traditional drama with this writer and actress. I don’t know what it is about Liu Shi Shi, but she is casted perfectly each time into this writer’s traditional dramas a female lead who is strong, independent, smart….and creates a little male harem for herself. Again, we are thrown into the political intrigues of ancient China where warring tribal lords are fighting against the Emperor. This time Liu Shi Shi is Xin Yue, a girl raised by wolves in the desert who is then acclimated to civilization by the nomadic tribes of Da Mo (desert). However, due to political strife between the tribes, she almost loses her life as a warlord overthrows the current regime. Devastated, she goes back to her wolf family and into hiding until she meets two special people. One is Jiu Ye, a mysterious merchant who she tried to steal some clothes from. Jiu Ye has a disability and has very weak legs. However, he is the lord of Shi Enterprise which has a large influence amongst the Chinese empire as well as the people of the desert. The other one is General Wu Ji, illegitimate nephew to the Emperor who manages to achieve great military power at a young age. She manages to save Wu Ji from desert robbers and also lead the group back to the city. Enticed by Ji An, the capitol city, she decides to make a living there herself, just for fun and to find these two people again. With the help of Jiu Ye, she manages to take over a dance house and become a prominent business woman. She even manages to help a quiet, but beautiful woman named Qin Xiang to become a concubine to the Emperor. However, this friendship is doomed as Qin Xiang has her eyes set on revenge on the royal family due to a past family tragedy. At first she falls in love with Jiu Ye, who refuses to return her affections due to his noble idiocy about his disability and impotency. Meanwhile, Wu Ji, has already fallen in love with Xin Yue as she is a vivacious girl. While to others he is brash, proud, and stony cold, he always loves teasing Xin Yue. After being rejected one too many times by Jiu Ye, Xin Yue decides to let go of this love and go back to the desert. However, Wu Ji captures her on her way back and convinces her to hang out with him instead. While he is making war on the tribes, she dresses up as a man and participates in the battles with him. Slowly he becomes engraved in her heart.

Now I know plenty of people are aboard the Hu Ge/Jiu Ye ship, but frankly I did not feel a pull towards him at all. Yes, he is quite handsome, but that melancholy air about him is really a downer in contrast to Xin Yue’s playfulness. His noble idiocy was really frustrating at times and frankly I skipped over most of their scenes together. Now, Wu Ji is a whole different story. While most arrogant seemingly secondary leads are annoying, Wu Ji pulls everything off with smoldering looks and charisma. I could not resist his mischievousness and his perfectness for Xin Yue. He treats her like his equal in all manners, including on the battlefield and pushes her to her best. He knows she isn’t one to be coddled and they live in a relationship based on mutual trust and communication. It’s definitely a drama with plenty of scenes to fangirl about.

PS. Liu ShiShi looks so gorgeous in snowy scenes (Bu Bu Jing Xin + Imperial Doctress)