A drama that was captivating, until we reached the halfway mark, literally. By then, a mentally strong individual must endure the greatest of mental hardships.
Hey hey guys, it’s Hyunnie back again! As you may have noticed, it is indeed the holiday season right now in Australia (I don’t need to return to uni until the end of February!), and so I have a lot more time on my hands to catch up with dramas, movies, music, variety shows – you name it. On a side note, I’ve noticed that I had a lot of really positive feedback from my last review; thank you all so much everyone and I hope that you will enjoy this review as well 😉
Today’s post is about a C-Drama (first C-Drama review of the year, whoop whoop!) which I had marathoned in three days (I know, the skills lol). The more impressive fact is that it was 48 episodes long…yes you read that right. With each episode being 40 or so minutes, that means that I finished 32 hours in three days…that probably seems more frightening than impressive huh?
Anyway, I came across this drama by accident. It appeared on my ‘recommended page’ on YouTube, after I newly subscribed to a channel that posts C-Dramas, with most of them English subbed (which truthfully I don’t actually need, but don’t mind having :D) With Hua Mulan being one of my most favourite females in all of Chinese history, I was certainly interested as to how this would turn out. And, although expectations are never something entirely negative, it was sad to realise after I had reached the halfway mark, that this drama was perhaps not the one I was seeking for…but I will discuss that later on.
Okay, before I end up revealing the entire drama in just the introduction itself, shall we start??
Name: The Legend of Hua Mulan/The Story of Hua Mu Lan (花木兰传奇)
Broadcast Time: 18th July 2013 to 14th August 2013
Number of Episodes: 48
Note: Finished watching this at the end of last year actually, but I did indeed marathon this over 3 days…
Synopsis (borrowed from a review at Bookendeds):
In Wufeng Valley, everyone knows Mulan as the even-tempered young seamstress who can perform magic with a single piece of thread. So when she is selected as one of the young women who are to work on a betrothal piece on behalf of a Tuoba princess as part of a peace treaty with Rouran, it is no surprise. But something’s amiss in Wufeng Valley, as more than one person comes with ill intent, and Mulan finds that sometimes it’s not enough to be content with staying at home and waiting, especially when her country, and her family, are at stake.
Initially, the drama did entice me very quickly as the drama started setting the scene. Within the first handful of episodes, we grasp a detailed understanding on who Hua Mulan is (or rather, an interpretation of who she was), what her life situation at the village was like and also a sense of curiosity as to how this young woman was going to transform into the badass, well-respected and manly general of the Han Army years later.
It is probably important to take note that I had read around prior to watching the drama that the storyline was based around the 2009 film Mulan: Rise of a Warrior starring Zhao Wei as Mulan, which is a romanticised version of the folktale (in terms of this is an interpretation where Mulan falls in love on the battlefield~) and I can’t deny the fact that it rose my expectations slightly because I absolutely loved that movie. That film was the first ever Hua Mulan adaptation I had watched ever since the Disney animated film, and so it has a very special place in my heart, regardless as to how inaccurate the story may be in comparison to the actual folktale. Therefore, after knowing all this, I really entered into this drama with high spirits.
And boy, what great regrets I had afterwards…
Now, I’m not saying that this drama is a bad one. It had its moments where I was definitely tempted to just shut down that window and say goodbye to the drama once and for all, but then those moments only came occasionally towards the end, and so I just simply held on. However, what I can say for sure is that I definitely do regret trying to find connections between the film and the drama, because there is definitely not much connection between the two, apart from the fact that she does have a romance on the battlefield, but certainly not the way the film had interpreted. So, if you do plan to go ahead and check out this drama, try and not look at it as another interpretation of the film; view it as a different drama on its own because sadly, what I ended up doing most of the time was trying to find common traits between the two, and that ruined the experience slightly for me since there was hardly any.
As for my initial impressions about the characters…hmmm, what can I say? Mulan initially came of as slightly annoying, mainly because it was someone trying to act as an 18 year old, when they were not 18 years old. Trust me, I was quite thrown off at the beginning when I realised that this girl was 18, rather than a 25+ year old person. Sorry Meng Yao, I know you tried but you definitely looked your age, so hopefully that was more of a compliment than an insult (…peeps, please don’t kill me ><) However, seeing as she was only 18 at the start of the drama, there was certain moments in the beginning that made more sense to me, since I can assume that her decisions at times were due to a lack of experience, rather than stupidity >_<’’ Wow, do I sound mean or what?!
The other concern I had initially was Dylan Kuo, who initally acts as Mou Jiang however, we eventually discover to be instead the second Prince of the Rouran people, Duo Lun. If I had not read about how this was based on the 2009 film then probably I would have seen this drama differently however, that is not the case here. Sadly, I had some predetermined expectations for the drama, and that had certainly affected how I judged Dylan’s character. So, for those who are potentially planning to watch this drama, I highly recommend you all to view this drama as a single drama unrelated to any other prior dramas or movies produced about Mulan; look into it as you would with any other drama from any type of genre.
Opinions about the drama:
First off, do not let my initial impressions fool you into thinking about putting this drama aside; it was not as bad as it may have seemed. Although this drama was not perfect, it was not horrible to watch. It was just…slightly tedious at first, and certainly forced my high level of patience to wear very very thin… Although I say that, I do understand the purpose of giving us such a detailed interpretation of Mulan, which I will explain later on.
This drama was certainly not mind-blowing stuff, or anything that other people have not attempted before. But, what it did achieve quite well was portraying a figure (a female figure also) in Chinese history as someone who was not born with greatness or not given their success on a plate; they indeed experienced a journey in growing as a person, and worked hard to earn what they truly deserved. I do have to thank the whole production team (Directors Xiang Yu and Wei Tao, Producer Guo Yi Quan and Screenwriters Su Xiao Yu, Xiang Yi Xian and Liu Jian) for giving us a drama that inspired people both young and old to continue pursuing what they hope to achieve in life, and to not waver in their goals when they are in danger, literally.
What this particular adaptation has done better in comparison to any other version that I have seen in the past, is that it has given us someone to root for and we clearly understand why she is so determined to enter the war and to protect what matters to her. We see her live her life with the family that she loves, the friends who she adores and cares for, and we see why she is so determined to make a difference and contribution to this war. Rather than just simply being shown that she is “patriotic” towards her country, or is “filial” towards her father, we instead gain a better understanding of who she is, what has happened in history and why she is so willing to sacrifice so much for the people she loves and cares about. I’ve read numerous opinion posts about this drama, complaining that the action takes too long to reach, and that the whole beginning is just too slow and boring. In my opinion however, I feel that the whole ‘introduction’ to this woman’s story was the main reason why I even continued watching this drama in the first place.
1. Mulan as the heroine who we grow to love, adore and respect
As I have mentioned before above, this drama take a different approach to other adaptations that I have seen before, as it actually takes the time to develop Mulan’s character prior to her time at war. It successfully develops her strengths and weaknesses, her good and bad parts of her personality; a realistic enough view of her character and thus, we can continue to root for her and care for how all of this will turn out for her. Looking at the drama this way, we can definitely understand and ultimately justify the reasons behind her long stay/introduction at WuFeng Village. We understand what it means for her to fight for her father, her village and for her country, as we experience the hardships she encounters while trying to help find peace for her nation that she has spent literally blood, sweat and tears for. The amount of dedication she has placed in trying to make things right between the Wei and Rouran people is truly inspiring and we see how far she is willing to go and sacrifice everything for the sake of protecting the people she cares most about. I feel that this is all thanks to Meng Yao, who despite her lack of acting experience (this is in fact her debut drama, and she is the lead!), can still portray such a great Mulan that we as the audience just loves.
Aside from her amazing determination and drive to save the ones she loves, this drama also portrays Mulan not as a person who doesn’t belong and is thus seeking for another meaning for her existence, but instead a woman who clearly knows who she is and what she wants in life. She isn’t a woman who is struggle to accept her femininity and role in life; she is completely fine with herself, who loves looking pretty and who feels will be content to sew and thread for the rest of her life. On the other hand, she can use the same needle to become a weapon so deadly that it can kill a person instantly – she can morph and become a woman who will strive to achieve justice and do what is righteous of her. Her character overall is truly inspiring, and I love how solid her character is from start to finish. Even though certain events occur that convinces Mulan to make decisions that she shouldn’t ever consider inn her lifetime, she still tackles these issues as the young seamstress that lived in WuFeng Village.
2. The side characters who seem to teach us more than what the main leads cover
During the course of this drama, we encounter numerous characters who interact with the main leads, but in my opinion, they seemed to leave a greater impression than the leads themselves: Commander Yuhei and General Xie. I felt that these two characters left the greatest impact on not only Mulan, but also on us, as they both taught us so much about who we should strive to be (in terms of personality). In particular, General Xie left the greatest impact on me. He seemed to represent a national icon that most would respect unconditionally, just like Mo Jiang is towards him in the drama. He always fought with honour, and always respected Mulan for her judgements and actions, despite knowing that she is a woman at war (plus, he cared and understood about her a lot while on the battlefield, like an older brother type of character :D). Also, he was a man that acted with pure loyalty towards the Emperor, and his judgements that he made was always after considering the whole story – never did he act rashly or through means of hate and wanting to harm others. Basically, if he was a General who I ever accidently met in real life, I would sincerely bow down to him too.
3. The multifaceted characters that gives us not simply one side of the whole story, but rather reasons for why they had to do what they did
As I am currently studying to become a history teacher, I absolutely love this idea of seeing the whole story about an event or era, rather than just swallowing one side of the story. What this drama has successfully provided us is a multifaceted approach towards all of the characters in the drama, regardless of whether or not they were Wei or Ruoran. As we spend a lot of time on both fronts, we always seem to be getting a whole understanding of the war – the politics, the morals and clear explanations on why they acted in that manner. We see more about what is at stake, and that it isn’t all simply because both sides just hates each other’s guts; they act upon what they all believe is to be the right choice, even though objectively this may not be so.
During this entire drama, there was never a character who was deemed down-right evil, or a true villain at heart – everyone had their own reasons for trying to harm others, usually in an attempt to protect someone else. In order to avoid any spoilers, I won’t mention which character I am referring to, but I feel that this person was not someone who was evil at heart. In order to protect the one they loved, they performed tasks that may seem unforgivable from the outside, but from their own perspective, they truly believed that their actions were indeed the right ones.
Now, despite what I have mentioned above, this drama wasn’t exactly flawless. At times, the politics aspect becomes too much, leading to a really convoluted plot, and the makeup of this drama is really, really heavy (e.g. Mulan is still wearing heavy eyeliner when she enters the army) however, they are some more solid aspects that I seem to find trouble swallowing while watching this drama.
1. The romance towards the second half of the drama gets a little bit…tedious?
No, tedious is probably not the word I was looking for. Maybe something like ‘facepalm’ is more suitable? Along with the plot itself, the second half of the drama is significantly slower (in my own opinion anyway) in comparison to the beginning half, mainly due to the increase in political/war conflict. But, along with all that, our main lovers Mulan and Mo Jiang, they have a huge confliction between themselves because…they can’t hurt each other on the battlefield. Not gonna reveal too much, but if you’re not into the whole “I love him/her so I can’t kill them, but they’re the enemy so I must” sort of forbidden romances in an extreme situation, then maybe this is not the drama for you. I personally don’t mind the idea or concept (Hey, I love myself some melodramas and forbidden love; what can I say?), but that sort of storyline cannot be dragged out for too long without any type of developments…period.
2. The drama is dripping with Han patriotism and imperialism
There is only so much Han pride that I can take without groaning or sighing after every “I love my country and my people because they are better than yours” type of speech. I get that it is, in the end, a drama that is designed to strengthen the morality of the Chinese but seriously?? After every speech with any political figure ends with “we are more civilised than the other” blah blah blah, urghhhh! I’m just sick and tired of all that >_< Honestly, I don’t really care too much about any of that; just give me the romance already and I’ll be satisfied!
Overall, this wasn’t the best drama I’ve ever watched, nor is it the worst that I have ever experienced. The drama was overall well-thought, and the characters were really multifaceted and intriguing to watch. The conflicts that we encounter truly make us conflicted inside, and the drama really allows the audience to think twice on whether or not every decision made is indeed the “correct” one. This drama really allowed us to care about these characters, and really worry about them, leaving us with a filled amount of hope that they all can survive this unfortunate event that they are all involved in. Although I may not be entirely satisfied with some parts of the script-writing, especially during the political scenes, overall it was enjoyable to have experienced.
Borrowing the rating system from the lovely goddesses of Kdrama reviews themselves Javabeans and Girlfriday, I would rate “The Legend of Hua Mulan” as:
How much I liked it: 6/10
How good was it objectively: 5/10
So, thank you all for sticking around with me on this review, and I will be back soon with something else. Currently, I am finishing up with a daily drama called “One Well Raised Daughter” that broadcasted last year. I’ve been looking at that drama for a while now, and I finally gained the courage to start it last week. Now I only have 10 episodes left from the whopping 122 episodes that I had started with so hopefully when I finish it, I will post up a review about it too.
Just on a side note also, I found this drama via YouTube. Just search up the drama with English subtitles, and they should be there. The whole drama is complete with subtitles, but there are some places that are still not perfect translations, so be aware of that.
Thank you all again for tuning in, and I will catch up with you all very soon~
❤ Yami Hyunnie ^^~