Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: The Journey of the Flower (花千骨)



How do I write a review that will do this particular series a justice? How do I stop myself from putting my biases into it? Or is it enough to let everyone who reads this review know that I have an extremely soft spot for Wallace Huo (霍建華)and an obsession for romance and happy ending?

The Journey of the Flower managed to make me finished it in a marathon. That means it has an extraordinary prowess in presenting an attractive storyline. A story in which I can root for the impossible to become possible.

And there is nothing more impossible than rooting for the mountain of rock of ice Shifu (Bai Zhi Hua/Wallace Huo) who personifies all perfection and represents the paramount of righteousness to be with his warm little student (Hua Qian Gu/Zanilia Zhao Li Ying) who brings forth not only his own destruction but bad luck/evil to everyone around her.

From this premise alone it is obvious that this drama is a doom and gloom story. A relationship between a teacher and a student is tantamount to incest. To make matter worse she is not just a regular student who studies at Chang Liu Sect hence by association is entitled to be called his student but she is his one and only student. The one who he personally raises and teaches.

It was only for a short time that she had a status as Chang Liu Sect’s disciple where like everybody else she respectfully addressed Bai Zi Hua as Zun Shang. But after she won the competition to become his one and only student she has earned the most coveted right to call him Shifu.  

Due to his extremely exalted status their relationship is more sacred than the relationship between a father and a daughter. To illustrate how exalted and revered Bai Zi Hua is I’ll let you know that even the Jade Emperor (the King of Gods) himself doesn’t dare to offend Bai Zi Hua not only because of his incomparable strength but mostly because of who he is.

Bai Zi Hua doesn’t wear a crown nor he sits on a throne but everyone considers him as the ultimate ruler of the six realms.

Just by looking at who he is and who she is it is plain to see that nothing good will come out of this relationship. Therefore, I shouldn’t embark on a journey that doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. Unfortunately, I fall in love with the extremely cold, aloof, beyond reproach, and utterly emotionless Bai Zi Hua.

He might only be an immortal and not a real God but his stature is such that whenever he deigns to grace others with his presence the light that surrounds his body could blind the bystanders. The fragrance that emanates from his body stimulates heavenly feelings inside anybody who are blessed enough to catch it.

Were they not in awe of his exalted status and intimidated by his extremely beyond reproach persona and unbelievably cold demeanor with the kind of face that he has, Bai Zi Hua would drive the female population in the six realms crazy with lust or love.  

As it is no one dares to even have the slightest improper thoughts towards Bai Zi Hua. In their hearts he is holier than the holiest Saints despite being way more fearsome for it is simply impossible to tell what Bai Zi Hua is thinking or feeling deep inside.

His face reveals nothing because he feels nothing. He is emotionally detached from everything and everyone because he feels no love nor hate. For him there is only right and wrong. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.

He values nothing because he does not want anything. Even his own existence means nothing to him. Living to him means responsibility to maintaining the peace and balance of the six realms and the life of the mortals in the very fast worlds that he oversees.

The job gives him neither burden nor joy. He does what he does because he has to do it. The six realms count on him. The mortals count on him. Therefore it is only right for him to care for those who depend on him.

The whole world might collapse, the right and wrong might be blurred, the chaos might descend and destroy everything, but one thing is never going to change. Bai Zi Hua will always be there to do what is right regardless of how much it will cost him to right those wrongs.

He might feel nothing for the worlds or those who need him but they would always be able to count on him. Always.

Knowing that I should stop watching immediately. There is no way this paragon of manhood would ever succumb to the fleeting and trivial emotion like love. But, the hopelessly romantic me yearn even more for this unlikely and unholy couple to be. It is simply impossible for me to stop watching with how much I root for this OTP.

I whole heartedly share Hua Qian Gu’s feelings when she watches Bai Zi Hua stands on the top of the cliff staring down at the six realms that he has been watching over for millions of years all by his lonely self.

When she looks at his frozen profile and flowing silken back hair, her heart is overwhelmed with boundless love and infinite tenderness. In the stillness that surrounds them she silently vows; ‘Shifu, from this moment on you’ll never be alone again, I’ll always be by your side to keep you company.’

That is what I want too. For them to be together forever. For Bai Zi Hua to get a happiness in his selfless life. All his life he is always giving and doing things for others. It’s time for him to finally do something for himself.

The journey of watching my dream comes true was not easy. My heart was always heavy and tense but it refused to give up because from the first moment Bai Zi Hua and Hua Qian Gu met it saw a chance.

It saw hope in the fact that the aloof, detach and extremely cold Bai Zi Hua was actually intrigued by Hua Qian Gu’s peculiarity.  And that was before he learned that she was his angel of death.

Having no feeling what so ever Bai Zi Hua has zero ability to empathize but despite that he automatically moves to help Hua Qian Gu when she asks for his help to stop her father from dying. He has to actually stop himself from lending her a helping hand when he remembers his teacher’s warning not to use his immortal power in the mortal world.

Not helping her and hearing her cries when her father dies make his ice cold heart aches.

When he first sees her being chased by a monstrous demon, he doesn’t have to take her into his arms and fly away in order to save her. He could simply push her out of the harm way with his power when that demon attacks but his body moves even before he could think. 

After she is out of the harm way he should leave immediately and continue his journey to investigate the Seven Poison Sect but when she asks him to stay until her 16th birthday he could not bring himself to say no.

He doesn’t like to have a physical contact with other people but his body feels not even the slightest hesitation when he sweeps Hua Qian Gu into his arms or when he touches her.

He doesn’t like to talk but he finds himself speaking to this little girl more than he ever spoke in years.

When she starts to work to put some order into her burnt down house he automatically works at her side. And when she turns around to look at him in surprise and then gives him a happy grateful smile, he who never smiles in his entire life smiles back at her.

He even carves a wooden sword as a birthday present and teaches her a sword technique to protect herself during her long journey to Mount Zu because he feels uneasy knowing that she’ll roam the dangerous world all alone.

He does things he never does before for and with Hua Qian Gu. However, since he has to return to Mount Chang Liu to officially take the position as the leader of Chang Liu Sect he intentionally leaves Hua Qian Gu without saying good bye.

He wipes off Hua Qian Gu’s memory of him only to find out later on that she still remembers him. The only thing that being successfully wiped off is the memory of his face. But aside from that the feelings that she has for him are ingrained deeply within her heart. Both of his name and the memories that they have had together are still crystal clear in her mind. 

To Hua Qian Gu besides her father Bai Zi Hua/Big Brother Mo Bing has become the most important and precious person. She fiercely protects and keeps his memory deep within her heart where not even Bai Zi Hua himself could take it away from her.

She even asks the most mysterious man in the six realms Yi Xiu Jun where she could find her friend Mo Bing. When Yi Xiu Jun teases her that perhaps the one she’s looking for is not a friend but a boyfriend she quickly shakes her head and clarifies that Mo Bing is not her boyfriend but the most precious person to her. The one she needs to thank.

Despite the depth of her feelings for Mo Bing, Hua Qian Gu is still too inexperience to understand what those feelings in her heart are but I find the very fact that Bai Zi Hua feels the need to wipe off Hua Qian Gu’s memory of him stimulating.

Other people might be troubled by worrisome thoughts and doubts and therefore are forced to take some precautions. But this is the almighty and emotionless Bai Zi Hua we are talking about.

Why doesn’t he want Hua Qian Gu to remember him when there is actually zero probability that they’ll ever meet again?

Since learning that Mo Bing is in Mount Chang Liu from Yi Xiu Jun not to mention that she is being ordered by the late Reverend Yu Qing to take Bai Zi Hua as her Master, Hua Qian Gu is determined to go to Mount Chang Liu and become Bai Zi Hua’s disciple. An impossible task for a mere mortal.

Fortunately for Qua Qian Gu, she has the brilliant Dongfang Yu Qing on her side. Or to be precise she has Dongfang Yu Qing who needs to throw her at Bai Zi Hua’s side.

Dongfang Yu Qing refuses to believe that face with his own death the beyond reproach Bai Zi Hua would not do something that will break his own impossibly high moral standard.

His revenge is not really about killing Bai Zi Hua per se but more about how to bring this impossibly perfect man down to the level of others.

Dongfang Yu Qing refuses to believe that there is someone who is so good that he won’t ever be tainted by personal interest. He refuses to believe that Bai Zi Hua will be able to uphold his moral codes when they are conflicting with his own interests. He refuses to believe that Bai Zi Hua won’t kill Hua Qian Gu when killing her is the only solution available to him.  

Dongfang Yu Qing (Zhang Dan Feng) reminds me of Bidam (Kim Nam Gil’s character in Queen Soen Doek). He is extremely charming and mesmerizing and quite adept at utilizing his considerable brain power to plot against Bai Zi Hua. Luckily for Dongfang Yu Qing that the equally brainy Bai Zi Hua is the Bai Zi Hua, otherwise he would have no chance to make plots after plots against him.

If it is somebody else, they would directly kill anyone who wants to kill them, let alone someone who continuously plotting nefarious plans against them like Dongfang Yu Qing. But Bai Zi Hua only looks at Dongfang Yu Qing with icy eyes, gives him cold shoulders and let him do whatever he pleases in his pursuit of revenge.

A revenge which shouldn’t even be directed at Bai Zi Hua because he isn’t the one who killed Dongfang Yu Qing’s father. He was only guilty by association of being one of the five immortals who stopped Dongfang Yu Qing’s father.

Dongfang Yu Qing’s plan for revenge is both a success and a failure. A failure that back fire in the worst way possible and a success that gives him even more than what he wants in his wildest dream. 

When Mount Zu is being destroyed by the Seven Poison Sect, both Mo Yan and Sheng Xiao Mo are wondering about the identity of the ignorant girl who walks up the Mountain path to Mount Zu Sect.

Although there is only a flickering light in Bai Zi Hua’s eyes he is quite surprised when he recognizes that girl. Saying that nobody would be able to make it from Mount Chang Liu to Mount Zu in time to save that girl, Bai Zi Hua takes off to save Hua Qian Gu.

When Hua Qian Gu sees Bai Zi Hua she doesn’t recognize him. His beyond perfect face stuns her senseless. The light that surrounds his body puts her in awe and makes her want to drop to her knees and worship him.

The fragrance that emanates from his body fills her senses and makes her realize that she would never forget this particular fragrance in her entire life, totally unaware of the fact that she is the only person in the six realms who could smell Bai Zi Hua’s fragrance.

Hua Qian Gu knows that this God like man is a total stranger. She would remember him if she has met him before, there is no way she could forget a face like that. The problem is when he takes her into his arms it feels very familiar.

His rock hard body is colder than ice but his embrace makes her feel warm inside. Her heart is filled with inexplicable happiness. She finds herself holding on to him for dear life not because she fears he would drop her but because she doesn’t want to let him go.

When Bai Zi Hua feels how hard she holds on to him, he turns his head a little to look at her from the corner of his eyes. When he sees her shining eyes stare at him without blinking he quickly turns his head away.

But when she holds him tighter to his astonishment he feels that his power is depleting with astonishing speed. It’s not the first time that they’ve been touching but nothing happened before. It’s only now that whenever they touch he loses his power.

What I love about Bai Zi Hua is that although their skinship affects his power he doesn’t shy away from it. After the initial shock he acts like there is nothing wrong. Beyond the prying eyes of others whenever Hua Qian Gu holds him he doesn’t push her away.

The melting of the mountain of rock of ice is a wonderful sight to behold. It is the most beautiful and fulfilling process in this drama. The actual mountain is still there. As hard and frozen as ever. But if one takes a closer look at it one could see a faint wisp of melting ice on its outer layer.

I love seeing how Bai Zi Hua struggles to choose what to do about Hua Qian Gu who insists to becoming his disciple. I love seeing how Bai Zi Hua tries his best to stop Hua Qian Gu from being accepted into Chang Liu Sect. To the chagrin of Luo Shi Yi (the disciple of his senior brother Mo Yan) Bai Zi Hua cheats.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this paragon of manhood, this block of ice who always does thing above the board, abuses his power and tries his hands at underhanded tactics to stop Hua Qian Gu from passing the acceptance tests to Chang Liu Sect.

During that test he learns how precious he is to Hua Qian Gu. Other people love money and power. They want riches and incredible status. But Hua Qian Gu only loves her father and him. All that she wants is to be with him.

As stunned as he is at finding the depth of Hua Qian Gu’s feelings for him, it doesn’t stop him from using his power to keep Hua Qian Gu from passing the test. Unfortunately for Bai Zi Hua, Dongfang Yu Qing is there to ensure that Hua Qian Gu will succeed.

However, although Dongfang Yu Qing has succeeded in placing Hua Qian Gu at Bai Zi Hua’s side, he has unwittingly brought himself into the attention of the extremely intelligent Bai Zi Hua. The whole world might be ignorant and in the dark of Dongfang Yu Qing. But not Bai Zi Hua.

With the knowledge that Hua Qian Gu’s success is not entirely hers Bai Zi Hua could arbitrarily nullify Hua Qian Gu’s acceptance but he does not. He might cheat but when he lost he takes it like a gentleman that he is.

Once Hua Qian Gu is officially accepted into Chang Liu Sect, instead of letting all and sundry particularly his very strict hot blooded senior brother Mo Yan know about her which could save him a lot of troubles later, Bai Zi Hua once again makes a move which is totally unlike him.

Faster than lighting he retrieves Hua Qian Gu’s life stone that reveals the fact that she is his angel of death and hides it. Coldly refusing the demand of his senior brother Mo Yan and junior brother Sheng Xiao Mo to look at it.

I think it was at that moment that I finally realized how truly amazing Bai Zi Hua is. Hua Qian Gu is the only person in the six realms with the power to destroy him, his esteemed teacher and numerous elders has advised him over and over again that once he meets whoever that person is he has to kill him/her without mercy. 

But Bai Zi Hua could not bring himself to do it. Whenever he looks at Hua Qian Gu he does not see the evil that everyone warned him about, what he sees is a warm girl who only wants to be with him. And since fate has brought her to his side he decides that perhaps it is for the best that he has her by his side.

The solitary and emotionless Bai Zi Hua is no longer solitary nor emotionless.

I love how instead of staying in his palace like he usually does he pays particular attention to Hua Qian Gu’s study (this is even before she wins the competition). Seeing how she couldn’t master the technique of flying with the sword he gives his personal sword Emotionless that has conquered the six realms to her.

The value of the sword might be lost to Hua Qian Gu who just momentarily hesitant in accepting his personal sword but other people who see her with that sword instantly understand how precious this girl is to Bai Zi Hua.

Once the teacher and student relationship is established there are so many cute and lovely scenes to warm your heart and ease off the uneasy feeling of the impending disaster.

I love every time Hua Qian Gu calls Bai Zi Hua Shifu. Her ‘Shifu’ sounds more like an endearment to me. Who would have tought that ‘Shifu’ is such a romantic word.

I love whenever Hua Qian Gu acts cute and tries to get her way with Bai Zi Hua. Not that she always could but I love it even more when he concedes.

I even love it when he actually strikes her when she tries to kill Ni Mantian. The cold Bai Zi Hua, the emotionless Bai Zi Hua is care enough about Hua Qian Gu to raise his hand to her face. He could dismiss her with just one word but instead he is outraged by disappointment.

I love it when she holds on tightly onto his legs and begs for mercy. I love it when he stares at her coldly and stands like a statue before eventually raises his hand to gently touch her.

I love it when she showers him with love. I love it when she gazes at him dreamily. I simply love it when they are together.

Living in Bai Zi Hua’s extremely cold and intimidating palace feels like heaven to Hua Qian Gu. One of her biggest ambitions is to transform that cold and lonely palace into a warm and cheerful place.

She transforms into a mother hen and starts to coddle her Shifu by showing off her cooking skills. In her enthusiasm to cook for her beloved Shifu who doesn’t eat she presents a special soup and forces him to eat it. Resigned, Bai Zi Hua takes a sip. 

Hua Qian Gu who is beaming and anticipating praises gets a freezing stare instead and and when she asks what’s wrong, Bai Zi Hua coldly tells her that the flower that she used in her soup was an extremely precious and rare plant that took him a lot of effort to search and then countless years to raise.
                                                                                                                                                                                   
I love seeing Hua Qian Gu the flowers and plants number one killer tries to tend Bai Zi Hua’s precious flower garden. I love seeing the Emotionless Palace which has always been cold and filled with emptiness, starts to get warmer and noisier.

With every step that Hua Qian Gu takes, Bai Zi Hua could hear her approaching not only because of his super hearing but mostly because of the sound of the bell on her waist. The bell that he gives to her when she officially becomes his one and only disciple.

There are simply so many lovely scenes to mention.
But the scene that I love the most (besides the scenes when he lovingly pulls her into his embrace) is when Bai Zi Hua coldly gives Hua Qian Gu permission to tend his personal grooming.

The scene when she combs his hair makes me feel all warm and giddy. 

Although his face reveals nothing, it is apparent that he enjoys having her comb his hair. The very slight curve on his lips that barely noticeable and the yielding of his body into hers makes my heart sings numerous love songs. The ice is melting without none the wiser.

The most awkward scene between this teacher and student pair happens when Hua Qian Gu complains to Tang Bao that it’s very hard for her to locate her aloof teacher in this very huge empty palace. Tang Bao helpfully says, ‘It’s easy Mama, all you have to do is transfer your power into this mirror and think of every single room that you think he might be in.’

After checking every single room in the palace they end up with the scene of the naked Bai Zi Hua taking a bath. Both girls are stunned into immobility and only come to their senses when Bai Zi Hua who feels the gazes of others on his body coldly says: ‘Who is there?’

Hua Qian Gu fears nothing under heaven. The one and only person that she fears is her Shifu. Scared to death she tries to avoid Bai Zi Hua but how could you avoid your own teacher forever especially since there is only the two of you in that huge palace.

Left with no choice she drags her feet and presents herself in front of the bewildered Bai Zi Hua. She swallows a few times but no sounds come out of her mouth.

Bai Zi Hua miserably thought to himself that she might just destroy another garden. Then bracing himself for the worse he encourages her to fess up. Hua Qian Gu thought that he has already known that it was her who spied on him so she blurts everything out.

‘But, I didn’t see anything Shifu. Really. I only saw your naked back.’

The look on Bai Zi Hua’s face has no words to describe it. Of all the things that she could have done. How could it be that it was this one!? Bai Zi Hua has never felt this embarrass in his entire exalted life.

The naked back of Bai Zi Hua has become the down fall of Hua Qian Gu, she couldn’t forget that beautiful sight and draws it. When Ni Mantian sees the painting she instantly understands that the feelings that Hua Qian Gu has for her Shifu is not the feelings between a disciple and her teacher.

She keeps pushing Hua Qian Gu until she couldn’t take it anymore and in the moment of weakness decides to eliminate the threat, the act which provokes the wrath of Bai Zi Hua.

When he calms down he tries to find out what makes Hua Qian Gu wants to kill Ni Mantian. Seeing no other way out Hua Qian Gu lies and confesses that she loves Dongfang Yu Qing.

Green eye monster! How I love thee!

How would an emotionless cold man express his jealousy? I believe there are fans out there who capture these particular scenes and compile them into an amusing watch.

I could continue on and on about scenes that make me love this drama. I could also talk about other things that give this drama added value but I would end this review with a tiny thing that really bothers me towards the end. The editing.

This rather perfect drama feels imperfect towards the ending. A few last episodes are rather confusing. At first I wonder whether it is because of the censor or something else.

For instance, I was in the dark for a while not knowing whether Bai Zi Hua accepts the blood that Hua Qian Gu prepares for him. At first I thought he didn’t but then I realized that he actually did. 

I also didn’t know how Bai Zi Hua reacts when he first realizes that he actually kisses Hua Qian Gu. Him kissing Hua Qian Gu is a very big deal, as it reveals how he really feels about her.

The poor Hua Qian Gu is completely in the dark. She has no idea that her beloved Shifu is also in love with her until it’s already too late. She has to force him to kill her just to know how he really feels about her. Even then the answer is not to her liking.

I think the reason Bai Zi Hua doesn't want to tell her that he loves her is not because he wants to keep his face. More likely it's because he doesn't want other people to hate her more than they already are now. Just like how he punishes her to hell to keep her safe out of reach of the people who want to kill her, keeping his love secret is also to protect her.

This is where things start to get confusing.

The editing is crazy. Or the director is crazy. Or the script writer is crazy. Or is it just Bai Zi Hua who becomes crazy? The whole sequence doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, as if to make amend for all those confusions, they give us the happy ending (sort of) that we all want. And to be honest since I'm very easy to please I'm quite please and readily forgive them.

ps. 
I really thought Hua Qian Gu died. Glad that she didn't and they get to be together under that weird circumstances, but still it's a weird ending to an almost perfect drama.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: Coiling Dragon (Panlong /盘龙)



I’ve been missing from this blog for almost two months. The reason was: Coiling Dragon. I was obsessed and couldn’t stop reading this story until the very last page and even then I still can’t bring myself to believe that it really ends for good.

Coiling Dragon has 21 books and ± 800 chapters. No. I kid you not. It tells a massive epic journey of the male lead Linley Baruch towards the peak of power that will make your heart beat with excitement.

There are many similar stories out there but I hate most of them because somehow they always manage to incorporate a harem into it. In a genre where women are never an important part of the story putting them into a more degrading insignificant position is simply too much for me to stomach. A harem story is a big no no.

Coiling Dragon is the first story by I Eat Tomatoes (我吃西) that I read. And I LOVE it. I love how it begins, progresses and ends. Well, not really how it ends because besides thinking that the ending is too abrupt, part of me doesn’t want to partway with Linley’s journey to greatness.

Judging from Coiling Dragon, I think I’ll love other works by I Eat Tomatoes as long as there is no harem in it.

I admire how I Eat Tomatoes could write such a gigantic story and still manage to make it so tight and coherent. I love how through his writing he gives us a chance to really know Linley and grow with him. I love how he shows us Linley’s struggles and challenges in details. I love how he makes us wholeheartedly cheer for Linley all the way to the very top.

Another thing that I love about Coiling Dragon is the friendship between Linley and his buddies. But I particularly love how beautifully written the relationship between Linley and Bebe is. Their love is even bigger and deeper than the love between Linley and Delia or even that stupid Alice girl.

And although Doehring Cowart can’t be with Linley till the end, I think that that part of the story (their ending) is the most beautiful and memorable scene in Coiling Dragon. 

I love how regretful Linley is when he finally realizes how much Grandpa Doehring loves him but he didn’t even pay much attention to this Grandpa of his.

I love how despite his ambition Linley never lost sight of what’s really important. He knows with absolute certainty that family is the most important thing in the whole world. He knows that people is what really matters.

If I need to say about the downside of Coiling Dragon then I have to say it’s the ending. I’m not going to mention romance because in this genre it’s obvious that romance is not part of the story and that’s why I hate harem’s arch even more.

If the writer can’t give their female lead a depth and character why don’t they just go without it. No woman is much better than lots of women who are nothing but a plaything. If a man can go to such greatness surely a woman could soar to such height too and not confined to bedroom matters or designated to being just a pretty ornament.

Thanks God Coiling Dragon doesn’t fall into that infuriating pattern despite its lacklustre female lead. I’m not complaining. What I find rather hard to accept is how abrupt the story ends. I want to see the reactions of everyone when they meet Linley again.

Yes, Linley does return to his family but that’s it. The returned Linley is not the same Linley. He is beyond powerful. The word powerful couldn’t even describe him now. He is the God Almighty. How will that fact affect his relationship with others?

Truth to tell, I don’t want this story to end. It’s as simple as that.

ps.
http://www.wuxiaworld.com provides the complete English translation of Coiling Dragon if you want to read this wonderful epic journey of Linley Baruch. I personally think that Coiling Dragon is the best of its genre.