Alright, so here’s the thing; this drama wasn’t ever meant to touch my radar. I knew that it would just be a terrible idea to even think that I should start watching this drama. And yet, here I am, writing my current trek for it. One reason why I shouldn’t be following this is because uni has started here in Australia, and they have certainly not been forgiving. I’ve got assessments due already in a week’s time (and it’s only week 3!), tests and quizzes to revise for and on top of that, I’m looking into getting another part-time job to support the family a little more. So in advance, I do apologise for any future lack of activity on the blog because, I can’t possibly continue following numerous dramas at once without sacrificing work, which at the moment I can’t afford to do (despite how tempting it is to just dump all this work and just marathon a drama for my personal enjoyment kekeke) However, the main reason why this drama is much more dangerous to take on is because it releases two episodes every day (kind of; I’ll explain it below later). And the drama is 48 episodes long…Yep, screw uni work!
*Clears throat* So, which drama is it that has gotten me so twisted and torn to the point where I am spending hours trying to search for answers without spoiling it for myself? It is in fact the Chinese drama Cruel Romance.
Name: Cruel Romance (锦绣缘 华丽冒险)
Broadcasting Period: March 3 2015 – (date will be announced in the coming future)
Broadcasting Times: Sunday – Thursday: 20:10-22:00 & Friday – Saturday: 19:30-20:10
Genre: Romance, Action, Rebellion
Note: Marathoned the first 20 episodes over 3 days; now following the drama daily ever since
Yes, Cruel Romance, the widely raved-about drama ever since the middle of last year with the huge anticipated cast including Huang Xiao Ming (Summer’s Desire, New Shanghai Bund, Return of the Condor Heroes), Joe Chen (Breaking the Waves, Fated to Love You, The Queen of SOP) and Qiao Ren Liang (Tiny Times, Love is Back, Legend of Lu Zhen). In particular, more people were excited to see Xiao Ming and Joe return as a couple again after their previous movie together, Breaking the Waves that they filmed together back in 2010.
To be honest though, I was initially put off by the drama after hearing from my parents (and yes, they are huge drama-watching fans!) that they disliked the main female lead from the get-go. Not for her acting, but rather for the writing of her character. She seemed, as they stated “Too dumb”, and I have to admit, their opinion got to me and therefore I put my interest for the drama aside, vowing myself to not try it because I didn’t want to become annoyed over a really shallow minded character.
However, about 2 weeks later, I came across a recap on AVirtualVoyage covering Ep 3-6, and so I briefly scanned through a couple of them. After seeing a very steamy collection of pics over a certain scene involving our main couple, I wanted to see for myself if their chemistry really did live up to my expectations.
And I have to admit, I didn’t feel disappointed in watching it. Even if I had no clue what was going on (but a shirtless Xiao Ming should be the last thing I should ever complain about honestly) I just simply watched it because this was a moment that they were going to probably remember about each other in the future. And it was stea-my! You could seriously sense the tension rolling off between the two. Therefore, dropping (almost all) the thoughts and doubts that I had previously formed about the drama, I decided to just watch it and see what all the fuss was about.
Cruel Romance is an adaptation of the 2001 Republican-era novel “The Fate of Jin Xiu”, which tells the story of Rong Jin Xiu (Joe Chen) who travels to Shanghai in search for why her entire family was murdered. Along the way, she becomes deeply embroiled with triad leader Zuo Zhen (Huang Xiao Ming) and the two fall in love. However, their romance is tested when others eye for Jin-Xiu, like Xiang Ying Dong (Qiao Ren Liang) who is both a businessman and close friend to Zuo Zhen starts to become attracted to her too. Ultimately, Zuo Zhen’s efforts to protect his woman from any other man pays when Maeda Ryuichi (Qi Ji), a villainous Japanese man, tries to finish off the remaining members of the Rong family.
Reasons why I am clearly addicted:
As we have grown to learn, having a great cast doesn’t exactly guarantee that a drama will be great to watch. A star cast tends to draw audiences from various areas, but never does it ensure that these viewers will follow the drama till the end (Geez, there are so many examples I could list here lol) However, despite the fact that the handsome and swoony Huang Xiao Ming was in this drama, there was no other convincing factor that could really encourage me to watch the drama at first. Yet, as I have discovered myself through my own personal viewing, there is indeed many redeeming qualities in this drama which I like.
1. The development of the plot (in terms of romance at least) is more believable than most dramas
If you are on the fence about this drama, then perhaps this is a factor that may call to you. In comparison to most dramas that I have seen (especially in terms of Chinese and Taiwanese ones) this drama certainly paces its romance to be more spread out and to develop more ‘naturally’ than most other romantic relationships. There isn’t that whole “girl falls for handsome guy at first sight” cliché ordeal, and the female lead instead is very happy to never see the triad leader again after their unimpressive first impressions of each other. And yet, events and accidents somehow occur that allows these two individuals to meet and interact with each other, but I never sigh and say “Typical” or wonder “Wait, why the hell would he/she be there?!” – it all seems unbelievably natural and normal at times. I know, crazy right?! Each action, each moment is given meaning and so nothing ever seems irrelevant or out of place, which is something that I can really appreciate since the drama is indeed 48 episodes long.
Along with the romance side of things, both leads also grow in both personality and moral views. For Jin Xiu, she tries to find her place and standing within this new and harsh scenery and therefore grows in order to be able to properly stand for herself. As for Zuo Zhen, he is gradually realising and discovering things that he himself was never aware of, relating to both his work ethics and ways to interact with others. I personally just love seeing how two people can really affect and allow the other to become not exactly a new person, but certainly a better version of themselves prior to their meeting.
And so, if a believable romance between two leads is your cup of tea, then I suggest you guys maybe give this drama a try once the English subs are out (I am Chinese, and speak Mandarin at home so following the drama as it releases hasn’t been too much of an issue as of yet) As I am aware, Viki is currently subbing the drama. Although their releases are a little slow, their translations are really accurate which in my personal opinion, is so much more valuable than releasing google-translated subs on a daily basis.
2. The chemistry between our cast (everyone with everyone…seriously, everyone is pretty great in this)
As I have mentioned time and time again in countless reviews and first impressions, chemistry in my opinion is a crucial component within any type of picture production etc. It is a factor that we can not only see on screen, but can also sense too. And it is clear that Joe is indeed comfortable with her other cast members in the drama. With Xiao Ming, I can understand how she can be comfortable around him (since this is the 2nd time they have acted with each other), but her clear enjoyment in being within the company of Ying Dong and many others is nice to watch, and does not come off as awkward and forced.
And not only Joe is great at forming connections with others! Xiao Ming ge-ge has a lot of scenes that involve forming relationships with others, who he regards as his ‘xiong-di’ (兄弟) or ‘brother’ in it’s literal translation. You can sense that he is indeed caring for all that vow their loyalty to him, and treats everyone as if they were his younger brothers. With characters such as Ying Dong and Shi Hao (Yang Le from My Sunshine), you can clearly sense that ‘bromance’ (for lack of a better term) that he has, and that couldn’t have been possible without his ability to have such great chemistry with his co-stars.
3. Visuals are pretty stunning, and you can see the clear effort they’ve placed in producing the drama
It is to no one’s surprise that this drama has been raved about not only about its star casting, but also with the costuming and setting locations that this drama was filmed at. If you know me well enough already, you do know that I love historical dramas/movies and one factor that tends to be the reason (apart from the historical info POV) is usually the costuming of the setting. I’ve seen some Shanghai 1930 dramas during my time, and usually one thing that I tend to devour and just drool over is definitely the suits and dresses they wore. In Cruel Romance, both Zuo Zhen and Jin Xiu’s outfits are sometimes just absolutely stunning. Maybe it just suits them (Xiao Ming in particular is usually very suitable for this type of era of fashion) but I think it is more that their costuming is just spot on. It is seem clearly across the whole cast, and every single outfit clearly shows the time and professional craftsmanship that they have spent on producing them. Also, the locations of filming (those mansions…omg…) are really cinematographic, and just gives the drama more realism and really convinces us that this is indeed Shanghai of the 1930s.
There are dozens of official pictures that circulate around the webs which can justify my point. I mean, just look at the ‘small’ collection I have below. All of the settings that this drama is set in are so archaic and realistic; it really does feel like Shanghai during the 1930s.
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know too much about how the main characters are like, please just scan through this section at your own risk.
First off, I can’t blame my parents for their explanation about Jin Xiu’s character. She is indeed not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor the fastest gun at all. As for calling her just “dumb”, I feel is a little bit of a stretch – I would consider her as a person who is naive and has been sheltered by her parents too long to the point where she has not experienced enough of the world that lies outside her doorstep. Yes, she does indeed make some poor decisions, and is sometimes very rash in her actions but I would blame her lack of experience and background knowledge about the big world, rather than simply deeming her to having a low IQ.
I am betting on the fact that since this drama is quite a lengthy one, her character will indeed take a while to change and form into some sort of badass female that can stand beside Zuo Zhen as his other half. However, if any of you are sick and tired of damsel in distress type of leads, then perhaps this drama is not suited for you that well since I don’t see that character changing too much until we get to the mid-teens/almost 20 episodes in-mark.
And our other opposite of the fine Jin Xiu, we have the authoritative Zuo Zhen. This man is indeed full of flaws (I sense a tragic backstory incoming!) and is indeed not the most nicest ‘gentleman’ we wish to ever meet randomly on the street. However, what I love about this character was the fact that he is so complex to figure out and make sense of. For any rational person with a normal functioning mind, his actions can sometimes be judged as incorrect or immoral but honestly, I love that. I believe that is through these sort of characters that we can see them grow and thrive off from other characters. We desire to see the main leads change each other and usually, a lost puppy-type of male lead is indeed a very enjoyable person to watch sometimes. Of course, some will judge him for being too up himself, that he positions himself above and beyond anyone else regardless of age, social class, gender, race etc. But, I’m presuming that the impact of his ‘tragic backstory’ and his current position in Shanghai wasn’t simply achieved by being inactive. He clearly has reasons for being the way he is, and therefore we as the audience have to be aware of that.
The sad thing though, is that at times his sudden attitude and cold demeanour may seen very disconnecting between the audience and with the character on screen. What I mean is, since this man is so different from what most of us will ever meet in our normal day-to-day lives, we can’t really relate to his character as much. Certain aspects may be relatable (like the romance side of things), but for others…not so much. I can see how his character can really repel a lot of viewers, but I am willing to give him a chance in order to see how he will transform through the influence of Jin Xiu.
When this post finally gets published, the drama would already be heading the downward slope (i.e. the really really sad and angsty part of the drama >__<) which is something that I am both dreading and looking forward to, if that makes sense. From what I have seen, it is not surprising to me as to why I am addicted. There is tons of action in the drama (it is a drama about a triad leader and how everyone is out to kill him lol) and each episode never seems to get boring, despite it being 48 episodes long.
I’ve been trailing behind the drama ever since the beginning of the week and even though I was a little late in joining the bandwagon, I honestly do not have any huge regrets. Yes, I may be screwing myself over for following it now when everything is due but honestly, I feel that this drama is worth the time and effort to follow and watch. Not only because of the great casting we have or the pretty costumes that I see, but because is not only visually appealing, it is also a drama that allows you to think, predict and investigate about who and what is 1930s Shanghai. I know, people are going to puke about the whole “Republican” side of the story, but I feel that it teaches more than trying to convince us to follow a certain viewpoint.
Another final note I need to mention: I have refused to read anything regarding how the original novel actually ends in order to allow myself to watch this drama as a single entity apart from it. I know that many have found the novel and seen summary posts on it telling of how the ending goes and what happens to everyone however, I am avoiding them because from what I’ve heard, the drama actually doesn’t follow the novel that closely (as expected). So, for anyone who is reading recaps like what Deer Drama is doing (who is fantastic at what recapping; go check her blog out if you can’t wait for episodes to be subbed soon enough!), be a little cautious if you don’t want to be spoiled because most have actually seen how the novel ends.
Anyway, hope you all enjoyed this uber delayed/long post! For those who do not require any subbing of the drama, I may recommend you all to perhaps follow the drama once it almost finishes broadcasting, or maybe once it is complete. As for those who do need subs, be thankful that you can wait until it all complete before watching it; the feels and cliffhangers that they’ve thrown on me are sometimes too much to bear. So, don’t feel too left out and disappointed about not being able to watch it right now 🙂
Thank you all once again for sticking around, and hopefully I will be capable in writing a full review on the drama once it finishes broadcasting. I will continue to try and not spoil anything for myself (although, those trailers they release at the end of every episode just kill me at times!) and I wish you all the best of luck if you plan on watching this! By the way, I was hoping to get some help in some drama recommendations! Currently, Cruel Romance and My Heart Twinkle Twinkle are the only dramas that I’m currently following, and I was hoping to see if anyone else has any great suggestions. This drama slump is killing me, and I really need some nice new dramas to watch. Any recommendations? Leave a comment below; I’d really appreciate it!
Hope you all have a wonderful day/night wherever you are in the world, and I’ll talk to you all really soon~~
❤ Yami Hyunnie ^^~