Warning: review contains some spoilers!
Hu Ge- Li Xiao Yao
Liu YiFei- Zhao Ling'er
Ady An Yi Xuan- Lin Yue Ru
Liu Ping Yan- Ah Nu
Eddie Peng Yuyan- Tang Yu
Bryan Wang Lu Jiang- Liu Jing Yuan
Tse Kwan Ho- Jiu Zui Xian
Tsui Kam Kong- Bai Yue Jiao Zhu
Sun Li- Wu Hou
Loletta Lee- Sheng Gu
Cheng Pei Pei- Lao Lao
Ben Wong- Wu Wang
Cheung Sai- Cai Yi
Patrick Tam- Jiang Ming
Jiang Xin- Nu Yan
Sam Lee- Xiao Hu
Lynn Poh- Ji San Niang
Guo Liang- Jian Shen
The kingdom of Nan Zhao is brainwashed by the chief of a moon-worshipping cult (Tsui Kam Kong) who forces the King (Ben Wong) to sentence his Queen (Sun Li) to death, claiming that she is a demoness. In reality, the queen is the descendent of Nui Wa, a goddess. The evil chief unleashes a water demon and the queen sacrifices herself to save her people from the demon. Before she sacrifices, she asks Jiu Zui Xian (Tse Kwan Ho) and a masked stranger to bring her daughter and nanny away..
The story shifts to 10 years later. Li Xiao Yao is a mischievous orphan who lives together with his auntie. His auntie falls sick one day and 2 mysterious men tell him to travel to a magical land to retrieve an antidote for his auntie. He meets Zhao Ling'er (Liu Yifei) who is the long-lost daughter of Nan Zhao Kingdom's Queen together with her nanny (Cheng Pei Pei). Xiao Yao is mystified when Ling'er and her nanny know him and calls him their savior. He later falls for Ling'er and marries her, promising that he'll come back and fetch her after he goes back for his auntie with the antidote. Before he leaves, a strange army of assassins turn up for Ling'er and her nanny is seriously injured while saving her. Xiao Yao realises that the 2 men tricked him but before he can confront them, they attack him and wash away all memories he had on the island. Ling'er is saddened when Xiao Yao denies knowing her when they meet again. He however, takes pity on her when her nanny passes away and promises to bring her back to Nan Zhao Kingdom. Meanwhile, Ling'er's childhood friend, Ah Nu (Liu Ping Yan) is tricked by the evil chief and sets out to find Ling'er.
On the way to Nan Zhao Kingdom, Xiao Yao and Ling'er befriend a scholar, Liu Jing Yuan (Bryan Wong) and his sassy cousin, Lin Yue Ru (Ady An), who because of a misunderstanding, is at odds with Xiao Yao. Ling'er later discovers that she's grown a snake tail and in a moment's panic, runs away. She later finds out the truth of her birth, being the descendent of Nui Wa, like her mother and decides to return to Nan Zhao Kingdom with
Ah Nu. She discovers that she is pregnant with Xiao Yao's child but decides to keep it a secret. The god son of a Nan Zhao general, Tang Yu (Eddie Peng) who secretly loves Ah Nu follows them on their way.
Meanwhile Yue Ru develops feelings for Xiao Yao when she accompanies him to find Ling'er but is rejected by Xiao Yao who only has eyes for Ling'er. However, the 2 grow closer while battling spirits and demons on the way and Jing Yuan is heartbroken as he had always loved his cousin. After many happenings, Ling'er finally leaves Xiao Yao as she wants to concentrate on her mission to save Nan Zhao Kingdom from the Evil Bai Yue
Chief. Xiao Yao is touched by Yue Ru's undying love for him and accepts her eventually. They then have to save Ling'er who is captured and locked in a pagoda by Jian Shen (Guo Liang). Xiao Yao suddenly recalls his past memories with Ling'er and realises he still loves her. A saddened Yue Ru sacrifices herself to save Xiao Yao and Ling'er, leaving him devastated. He names his daughter with Ling'er in memory of Yue Ru. When their friends including Jing Yuan, Jiu Zui Xian, Ah Nu and Tang Yu sacrifice themselves to defeat Bai Yue Chief, Xiao Yao and Ling'er are determined to join forces to defeat him...
Adapted from a popular PC game which took Chinese gamers by wave, this adaptation follows the original plot quite closely until three quarters into the series when, according to outraged loyal fans of the original game, the directors decided to stray away from the plot by adding in unnecessary bits, killing off characters and practically butchering the whole ending. Certain characters were modified also to make them less likeable, like Ah Nu, who I heard was changed beyond recognition, and Ling'er. I've never played the game before but I've read the original story and the series' ending really sucked in my opinion. I thought the last three quarters really dragged, probably because of the absence of the lovely Yue Ru but still...and there was this part in the middle of the series which showed Xiao Yao and Ling'er dragging their feet on their romance for more than two episodes which really pissed me off.
The really lame humour didn't help either.
Other than these however, I must admit that I enjoyed the series as a whole, the story is great and the soundtrack is just awesome. I loved every single themesong and background piece, especially this bell tune which played when Xiao Yao was seeing Yue Ru's illusion after she died, which was totally heart-wrenching. The fighting was okay and certain parts were really hilarious, especially scenes between Xiao Yao, Yue Ru, and
Jing Yuan. The tiny sub-plots with other couples such as that of Jing Yuan and Cai Yi , Jiang Ming, and Nu Yan were really touching and sweet as well. Needless to say, I loved Xiao Yao with Yue Ru more than he with Ling'er, they sparked much more chemistry and are so compatible with each other, a pity they didn't end up together like in the original story.
Li Xiao Yao- Hu Ge
Cheeky, stubborn, smart and somewhat temperamental, Xiao Yao is the main character in the story who has a gift for picking up fighting skills really fast. I've never seen Hu Ge on screen before but I must say that he's really good for a newcomer. His playful and cheeky expressions are very natural and his serious, sorrowful and pained ones are convincing. Most gamers thought he portrayed Xiao Yao really well. I really felt so sad for his character towards the end when he was left all alone with his daughter, his dejected look, drained of all hope and happiness was really good.
Zhao Ling'er- Liu Yifei
Gentle, soft, kind but strong, Ling'er is bestowed with a tragic life, which is to help and sacrifice herself for the people of her kingdom, like her mother. This is the second time I've seen YiFei on screen and I'm
disappointed to say that her acting hasn't improved much despite all the hype about her. It's either her or the way her character is painted such that Ling'er appears clueless, somewhat weak, and helpless instead of strong and determined, the typical weak damsel in distress. Yifei's expressions are limited to a few sad and confused dazes and occasional blank smiles and wooden looks. She lacks energy in her acting but I have to admit that she did ok in some scenes, like the crying scene when her nanny died and the ones towards the end. She is really an ancient goddess though and has alot going for her in the looks department.
Lin Yue Ru- Ady An Yi Xuan
Spoilt, loud, strong-headed, independent, brave yet kind at heart, Yue Ru is an awesome character made to love and Ady will make you laugh at her hilarious actions, feel so sorry for her when she sacrifices and loves Xiao Yao so much yet that blind fool is just oblivious to that and keeps pining for Ling'er. You will also love her for her magnanimous actions and independent ways. I was truly shattered by her death and was really pissed at the directors for not reviving her at the end like the original plot. Two thumbs up for Ady as the spunky Yue Ru. Before this, I've seen Ady only as gentle and soft characters but this role really proved her versatility, her comic expressions were not in any way forced, her spoilt and sassy ones were so natural and her crying was excellent. You grow so use to having this perky girl around such that there's always this tinge of emptiness after she's gone.
Ah Nu- Liu Ping Yan
Innocent, gullible and supposedly cute, Ah Nu is Ling'er's childhood friend who loves and cares for her alot. Ah Nu also has a great love for all types of food. I really disliked this character and the actress playing it. The character was made up to be so gullible to the point of losing that child-like innocence and looking plain stupid and her obsession with eating really got on my nerves. The fact that Ping Yan is a really unnatural and stiff actress just added on to my dislike. Her 'cute' expressions, confused looks crying and delighted smiles just looked so forced and annoying. I think the only parts she did well was when she looked all dazed and evil after being hypnotized by the evil chief, she was so much more natural with those expressions rather than all those faked happy ones. And to think that she was originally cast as Yue Ru - thank God they had sense to cast Ady instead!!
Tang Yu- Eddie Peng
Quiet, calm, loyal, and brave, Tang Yu is another citizen of Nan Zhao Kingdom and is one who loves Ah Nu with all his heart and is willing to do just anything for her, he later becomes one of Xiao Yao's best friends. Eddie did an average, if not above average job and managed to make Tang Yu quite likeable for me. His somewhat blur and honest looks seem rather suitable for his role of a simple and earnest guy. He also does quite well with all the shy expressions and blushing every time he's with Ah Nu and will make your heart melt with all the things he does and sacrifices for her, the last scene where they flew away as birds was rather touching.
Liu Jing Yuan- Bryan Wang Lu Jiang
Honest, upright, timid and loyal, Jing Yuan is Yue Ru's scholarly cousin who secretly loves her and is willing to mask his feelings and do anything to make her happy. You will feel quite sorry for him when Yue Ru is mean to him, he also becomes one of Xiao Yao's best buddies. I've seen Bryan act many times and he is a really good actor, this is a very different role from his previous loud, crazy or girly ones. He is really convincing as an upright gentlemen and inflected a little stubbornness and strength into his character as well when we see him stand up to his beliefs and with the exception of Yue Ru, and maybe Xiao Yao, no one can force him to do stuff he doesn't want to. The part he pretended to obey the evil chief was also really good.
The rest of the supporting or guest cast are all veteran actors and did above average jobs. It was rather refreshing to see Tse Kwan Ho as a crazy and funny drunkard from all his other serious roles and a nice twist to see him mad over Sun Li's character, instead of the other way round in "The Book and Sword 2002". Loletta Lee was, however rather under used since her character, Sheng Gu is a rather bland one which is a pity since she's a really good actress as well. Cheung Sai did a great job as the kind Cai Yi and her actions to save Jing Yuan were so touching. Same goes to Jiang Xin as well, who I really liked from "Tian Long Ba Bu 2003" and was good in here too.
In conclusion, if you're not a hard core Xian Jian fan who is really loyal to the game, you may want try catching this series. Besides the terrible ending episodes and some below average acting here and there, the series plus music is good overall.