Hu Ge as Yi Xiao Chuan/ General Meng Yi
Bai Bing as Princess Yu Shu
Zhang Shi as Gao Yao/ Zhao Gao
Zhang Meng as Gao Lan/ Xiao Yue
Tan Kai as Xiang Yu
Jin Sha as Lu Su
Chen Zi Han as Lu Zhi
Ding Zi Jun as General Meng Tian
Li Yi Siang as Liu Bang
Ren Quan as Yi Da Chuan
This series was said to have been produced by Jackie Chan, which was partly responsible for its good promotion and anticipation. I have not watched a series all the way for some time now; this is a combination of lack of time and quality productions. I did watch this one all the way through, but this is more so due to the investment of time spent watching it from the beginning. That's right, very excellent start, good middle, questionable ending. Spoilers will be found in this review.
Story/ Setting [4/5]
Ancient: Qin Dynasty China
This is a time travel series where the main character and his friend finds a mystical antique container and is sent into the later Qin Dynasty from 2010. Hu Ge is the main character, and Zhang Shi is his chef friend. Both of them lose each other from the very beginning and each has found himself in a strange China, and of course, they're like fish out of water. For the most part, the beginning is about how Yi Xiao Chuan is able to outsmart people with his modern wits in ancient China while flirting with various single and beautiful ancient maidens along the way. It's initially quite entertaining, but the leads modern behavior proves to have tragic consequences and some actions serve to be his undoing in the end. The first person of importance that Xiao Chuan meets in his appearance in Qin China is Xiang Yu [Tan Kai], a noble stalwart hero who is fundamentally honest and quite simple. It's not that Xiang Yu's not smart; it's just that he prefers to do things straightforwardly, unlike other characters we will meet in the series. Xiang Yu is a man's man, in history he is known as the conqueror, and it's quite aptly portrayed. Xiao Chuan stays with Xiang Yu and company for awhile, but then departs to find a way to reach home. This leads to his encounter with two beautiful sisters: Lu Zhi [Chen Zhi Han] and Lu Su [Jin Sha]. They are both steadfast and selfless in love; unfortunately, they both fall in love with Yi Xiao Chuan. We see later how each sister is transformed by their love. While he is staying with the Lu family, he also meets Liu Bang and becomes sworn brothers with him. Liu Bang is a crafty self serving character and more than once will be responsible for some series of unfortunate events for our hero. Somewhere along the way, Xiao Chuan is separated from the sisters and reunited with his buddy from the present, Gao Yao. They're ok until these two unsuspecting fellows encounter Liu Bang on their journey. Through the machinations of Liu Bang, Gao Yao is sold into servitude while Xiao Chuan is sent to build the Great Wall. It is when Xiao Chuan is sent to the border that grants him the opportunity to meet the Tu An princess, Yu Shu [Bai Bing]. It is at this time where we see aspects of Jackie Chan's Myth movie come into play. Yu Shu, after rescuing Xiao Chuan and company from a fate worse than immediate death [options: slavery versus human sacrifice], is sent as an ambassador of peace between Tu An and Qin. She will become Qin Shi Huang's newest conquest/concubine and the impressively mature looking and capable warrior General Meng Tian [Ding Zi Jun] will escort her from Tu An to Qin. It is the meeting of these three, Xiao Chuan, Bai Bing, and Meng Tian, that will lead to the heart of the story which I will not delve into greater detail.
Modern: PRC 2010
While all of the events above are happening, the viewers are treated to the aftermath of the disappearance of Xiao Chuan and Gao Yao. Xiao Chuan has left behind a mother, father, and brother [Ren Quan] while Gao Yao has left behind a sister, Gao Lan [Zhang Meng]. In 2010, they use the ancient container as the only lead to find out what happened to both men. We also get to see the Yi family relationship, which is initially estranged at best. Gao Lan was singlehandedly raised by her brother, making her situation quite pitiful when her only family disappears; in addition, she was dating Yi Xiao Chuan. It is this fact that makes many female viewers shake their heads when Xiao Chuan thinks naughty thoughts in his head about other girls. In the present, there is a Darth Vader like character that will repeatedly obstruct the Yi family and Gao Lan from discovering the truth about the container and disappearance of Xiao Chuan and Gao Yao.
Hu Ge as Yi Xiao Chuan/Meng Yi [4/5]
I'll just say it right out, I am not a fan of Hu Ge, but I don't dislike him either. Obviously, it took some time to watch and review a series of his. I can only comment about him from the series that I have watched. As an actor, he has not really shown a wide breadth of casting choices; however, I think he picks characters that grow over time in the story [Li Xiao Yao/Yang Liu Lang]. I must say though, most of his most memorable characters have not been very different from Xiao Chuan with the exception of Dong Yong and Guo Jing. Unfortunately, Dong Yong and Guo Jing could have been made from the same mold! The story starts out kind of like the series should have been named "The Misadventures of Yi Xiao Chuan, Underachiever Extraordinaire." I didn't really sympathize with the character of Yi Xiao Chuan, but I hold nothing against the actor Hu Ge. When Yi Xiao Chuan becomes Meng Yi, he changes into a somewhat more likable character, but this only lasts for a while. Xiao Chuan is by far the most selfish character in the series. His most defining characteristic was his undying love and relentless pursuit of Yu Shu. It was really quite hard to sympathize with, especially when in some instances other people's lives were put at stake. Eventually, Xiao Chuan does learn what it means to sacrifice personal self for the greater good....it was a long time in coming.
There were many instances where the lead was able to show off his innate cleverness and modern education, some were quite funny, others just so-so. Characters such as Meng Tian would have probably been able to best him [and did in hindsight] despite being a person of ancient Qin. Hu Ge is not brilliant, but he can be described as being really clever and resourceful. The character was also crafted as being heroic type- kind or Messiah Syndrome since the lead time and time again will go out of his way to save people; however, the writers usually try to attribute this to him being from 2010 more than it being his natural characteristic. That’s unrealistic, don’t mean to be a drag, but many young people today, regardless of where from, are usually not of the self sacrificing heroic mold, especially since YXC was written to be such an irresponsible cad from the very beginning. We are supposed to get the impression of the lead being a rebel possessing a heart of gold…but it was inconsistent and not always believable.
So why did I give Hu Ge a 4/5? It's because it's not Hu Ge's fault that Yi Xiao Chuan was written to be like such, the writers did that. It was a commendable performance.
Bai Bing as Princess Yu Shu of Tu An [3/5]
Yu Shu is Xiao Chuan’s main love interest for the second half of the series. Bai Bing is a very pretty actress, but she lacks a certain character about her beauty that some of the other actresses have. She is very beautiful in modern wear though. Princess Yu Shu commands the adoration of the main character, the Emperor, and two generals. It begs to be asked…why is this so? Though she is comely, she is also by far the least interesting female. Yu Shu, as a character, was also somewhat confusing to understand at times. Her greatest moral dilemma is how to love her sweetheart while still fulfilling her duties as a peace keeper for Tu An and concubine to Qin Shi Huang. She herself volunteered to be the ambassador of peace between the countries and even chastised Xiao Chuan for telling her to pursue her own happiness over the well being of her people. However, she still continues an emotional affair with him after her appointment as Li Fei…that folks, is a hypocrite. In addition, she is grief stricken when Xiao Chuan becomes Meng Yi and is no longer her Xiao Chuan when in truth, he was just following her lead.
This was just really frustrating to watch. One can empathize with her situation. As a princess, it was her act of abnegation that saved her kingdom. However, sometimes it was difficult to sympathize with the woman. When the storyline was focused on the love story between the princess and Xiao Chuan, the Myth become like any other ancient series and sort of lost the originality it had in the beginning. I fast forwarded a lot in her scenes. Overall, Bai Bing was as boring as her character.
Chen Zhi Han as Lu Zhi [5/5] and Jin Sha as Lu Su [4/5]
It's hard not to want to compare these two characters together because they were sisters. They are actually not too different from one another, but their choices and how they go about solving personal problems are what make them polar opposites. Chen Zhi Han as Lu Zhi was great, but Chen Zhi Han is usually great. She's a beautiful actress as there is certain uniqueness to her looks. Lu Zhi will become the infamous Empress Lu in history, but she starts out quite understanding. Lu Zhi is a filial daughter, great sister, and overall pretty darn good woman. Lu Zhi is a capable strategic planner, proud, determined, and intelligent, but she can also be humble and sweet. It is very easy to see how she falls in love with the main guy in the beginning; he’s basically handled her in pretty intimate ways. When Lu Zhi finds out that her sister is also in love with the same man, she’s unsure how to handle this, but she never stops loving her little sister. However, hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned, and Lu Zhi is transformed by the small neglectful [but many] actions from Xiao Chuan…if he were nicer and more considerate to her, maybe some things could have been avoided.
While Lu Zhi is fundamentally a strong and independent woman, Lu Su has to learn this strength as her sister and father has always protected her. Lu Su is also a filial daughter, great sister, and overall pretty darn good woman. This is where their similarities end. Lu Su is a bit more subdued, sweet and innocent, but she can stubborn and courageous when needed. I believe that this is Jin Sha’s first ancient series, if not first overall. The actress is a bit raw, but has a very genuine feel and endearing face. Her amount of on screen time is probably the least out of the love interests of the hero, but it’s a memorable one for the audience. One wishes she was as memorable to XYC too since he seemed to have forgotten her as soon as he laid eyes on Yu Shu!
Ding Zi Jun as General Meng Tian [4/5]
General Meng Tian was quite a pivotal character, especially towards the end of his relationship with the main character. If following the storyline of Jackie Chan’s movie, it should have been this man that Princess Yu Shu should have fallen in love with, not Xiao Chuan. General Meng Tian is a fine man, if not a product of his time. He’s noble and self sacrificing, and it’s the latter trait that Princess Yu Shu aspired to be but didn’t achieve. If Xiao Chuan could not receive the love of Yu Shu, Meng Tian one upped him by not even daring to love her. Of course, that’s not possible; he pretty much lost his heart to her in the first scene that he saw her in. That was kind of funny actually since Meng Tian is a tough guy who is a bit awkward when interacting with her. Usually, it seems like he’s not sure where to look when in her presence.
Ding Zi Jun is a pretty good actor, but not stellar. He’s very likable though and makes Meng Tian look and seem pretty hardcore. Meng Tian is a pillar of the Qin dynasty, possibly the only character that is completely loyal to the sovereign, and Ding Zi Jun was capable enough to show the passionate and even sensitive man behind the stern façade. Meng Tian is subtle in his emotions towards Yu Shu and if not for one night of drunkenness, no one would have ever known how this sensitive this stalwart hero truly is. Meng Tian is the type of character which makes one feel that he’s holding the sky up by himself, and as long as he’s around, it won’t fall any time soon either. It is from Meng Tian that Xiao Chuan learns about responsibility towards other people, that sometimes sacrificing one’s happiness is inevitable for the greater good when many lives are at stake, and finally, possession of your beloved isn’t always necessary nor does it prove the depth of love for that person.
Zhang Meng as Gao Lan/Xiao Yue [5/5]
Zhang Meng was wonderful in this series! Her ancient character was the opposite of her contemporary one. As Gao Lan, the actress was tough and funny with a tendency towards feminine style violence. That is, she usually wants to beat up her boyfriend. Some viewers have commented on her tomboyish style of dress being inappropriate for her role as an archeologist, but I thought it suited Gao Lan’s personality well. Xiao Yue is a completely different woman than Gao Lan. This one is gentle, sweet, and unassuming. Xiao Yue is so painfully loyal to the people around her; one just feels pity towards this character. Zhang Meng is very beautiful and cute in both ancient and modern clothing. Viewers should be touched to see Zhang Meng’s interactions with the actor Zhang Shi who plays her brother. Their sibling relationship made them both so tragic and human.
Zhang Shi as Gao Yao/ Zhao Gao [4/5]
Between the short time when Gao Yao becomes Zhao Gao, the viewers may find themselves wondering about the somewhat abrupt personality change. Gao Yao is Xiao Chuan’s friend, but Zhao Gao is Meng Yi’s enemy. In truth, in some ways it was Xiao Chuan first who betrayed his friend’s trust, and Gao Yao had a pretty good point about Xiao Chuan’s sentiments, “Why should they care what happens in the past when they are people from the future?” It’s a pretty good point, but it seems that both of these characters were brought from the present to the past to fulfill their individual historical roles. You must watch to understand. Some of the most well acted scenes by Zhang Shi were with both his sisters Gao Lan and Xiao Yue. The character of Zhao Gao is cunning, even evil but he was so steadfast in his role as a big brother that it was heart wrenching to watch. It was hard to take Zhang Shi seriously though towards the last third of the series…the outfit just ruined it for him. You will see for yourself.
Tan Kai as Xiang Yu [4.5/5]
He looked the part; strong, honest, capable and a warrior king. His relationships with the people around him were straightforward and without pretense. I’m glad he and his beloved were able to spend time with one another eventually, it was quite endearing. He’s the exact opposite of Liu Bang.
Li Yi Siang as Liu Bang [4.5/5]
This was a great performance actually, like Xiang Yu above. As a leader, he’s relatively humble, and we see his wife being largely responsible for his aspirations, of any kind actually. How funny since we know he will be the next king after Qin Shi Huang. He also looks the part, crafty, sly, but still kind of a down to Earth fellow, he does what he has to I guess…
Ren Quan as Yi Da Chuan [4/5]
He’s okay. He looks like the nerd he plays, but he has also been able to play dashing roles too. His chemistry with Gao Lan is too funny and very natural. They are both restrained by Gao Lan’s girlfriend status to his missing brother, and it shows between them. His face is suitable to play the smart, bookish, and courageous type, bit skinny though.
Compared to another time travel hero, Hong Siu Long from A Step into the Past, Yi Xiao Chuan paled in comparison. Hong Siu Long's personality was cuter, and he was a more accommodating person. Oddly, Siu Long, a former Hong Kong policeman, had no qualms killing people while Yi Xiao Chuan had too many modern tendencies about the importance of life. I am not condoning the ancient wuxia practice of hacking down people, but Xiao Chuan was such a ninny in some instances, his modern tendencies sometimes outweighed common sensibilities, not practical at all! Though the writers want us to think Xiao Chuan is a modern sensitive man, he is sometimes very pig headed, even more so than the ancient man! Meng Tian [Ding Zi Jun], who thought Xiao Chuan was his brother Meng Yi, humors Xiao Chuan many times. In comparison to the mature and noble Meng Tian, Xiao Chuan can at times be downright obnoxious.
Hong Siu Long also exhibited much higher EQ than YXC, possibly because he was an older man compared to Xiao Chuan who has in his mid to late twenties for the most part in the series. One strange thing that many viewers noticed was Yu Shu and the Emperor’s relationship. We never see them behaive intimately at all, or see her endearing herself to him to curry future favors! This is odd, maybe the writers wanted to keep her “unsullied” in the eyes of the viewers so that our main hero could still woo her. That’s also unrealistic, let’s face it, she’s a taken woman, and her husband’s a king! It’s always best to be on his good side just in case.
In summary, one should definitely watch if they are a fan of Hu Ge or any of the other leads I reviewed in depth. If you’re not, it might be hard to resist fast forwarding, but do give it a shot! If you’re watching the series for martial arts though, be forewarned, they are intermittent at best and few and far in between.