Meteor Garden


Reviewed by: jeffer

September 08, 2003

Rating: four

This Taiwanese TV series aired in 2000 was based on the Japanese manga/anime Hana Yori Dango (‘Men are Better than Flowers’) and was dubbed as one of the most romantic modern teenage love stories. When it hit Philippine shores in 2003, it earned the same -– if not more enthusiastic -– reaction. I have watched the series in Mandarin with English subtitles as I am not too well-versed in Mandarin, so forgive any errors/mistakes (in names, etc.).

Characters:

Shancai (portrayed by DaS, Barbie Hsu)
Dao Ming Si a.k.a. A Si (portrayed by Jerry Yan)
Hua Ze Lei a.k.a. Lei (portrayed by Vic Zhou)
Xi Men (portrayed by Ken Zhu)
Mei Zuo (portrayed by Vaness Wu)
Xiao Yo (portrayed by Rainie Yang)
Qing He (portrayed by Edward)
Dao Ming Feng (portrayed by Zhen Xiu Zhen)

Other Characters:
Shancai’s Papa and Mama
Teng Tang Jing a.k.a. Jing
Dao Ming Zhuang a.k.a. Sis
Yu Sao a.k.a. Aunt Jade
Li Chen
Xiao Jie

Plot:

Welcome to Ying De Academy, where the sons and daughters of Taiwan’s wealthiest and most powerful go; ruled by the famous and feared ‘Flower 4’, or F4: four guys whose notoriety/fame stems from their good looks and status as successors of Taiwan’s four major families-cum-conglomerates.

In Ying De, the leader and most-feared Dao Ming Si (A Si), the quiet Hua Ze Lei (Lei), the womanizer Xi Men, and party animal Mei Zuo, are gods; they only need raise their brows, and students and faculty alike quake in fear. Whoever offends them in any way is sure to get tagged with a red slip that says “YOU’LL BE DEAD – f4”, and anyone who attempts to help those red-tagged will have the same predicament. They must choose whether to stay on –- and live hellishly –- or drop out of Ying De. Ten times out of ten they opt for the latter.

Meet Dong Shancai, a streetwise, tough-as-nails college freshman from a poor family who is forced by her parents to attend Ying De in hopes of finding a rich husband who will eventually lift their status in life.

She gets her first glimpse of F4 when their professor accidentally squirts soda on A Si. As the professor profusely apologizes and wipes A Si’s shoes, A Si rudely says, “If ‘sorry’ works, what do we need the cops for?” (I liked the way he said these words. It establishes his character as ultra-conceited) One of them catches her eye: the quiet Hua Ze Lei for whom she develops a crush on -– his being part of F4 notwithstanding –- thinking he must be different, even confiding this fact to her friend and co-worker at the bakeshop Xiao Yo.

Things come to a head when Shancai’s friend Li Chen (who got into Ying De on scholarship) slips on the stairs and drops a box of black powder (or something) all over A Si. When the apologetic Li Chen attempts to clean him up, A Si shoves her against the wall. Incensed, Shancai tells A Si off for his arrogance, amusing and surprising Lei, Mei Zuo, and Xi Men with her grit, standing up to A Si like that. A Si merely remarks on her bravery and walks off…and Shancai knows she’s dead.

Consequently, she gets tagged and experiences all sorts of pranks and harassment from the other students. Exhausted, she goes to the rooftop and screams at and curses F4, not knowing that Lei is there, listening. Upon seeing him, Shancai tells him she’ll let him beat her up; only he has to give her a moment to catch her breath. To her surprise, Lei says he does not care about other people, and lends her his hankie. When she tries to return it, he refuses, saying it has become trash. All her hopes of Lei being different are dashed.

A Si’s promise to bully her even more -– and Xiao Yo’s encouragement –- hardens her resolve and she vows not to be defeated. She declares war against F4, sticking her own red tag (pretty much like the F4’s tag, but with uglier handwriting, as commented upon by Xi Men and Mei Zuo later) on the startled A Si’s forehead. This is the first time someone actually fights them back. Mei Zuo and Xi Men compare Shancai to A Si’s older sister, Dao Ming Zhuang, the only woman whom he folds to. A Si does not accept this and so a bet to tame Shancai arises.

However, A Si does not seem to know the first thing about wooing. He hires two guys to scare her off but Lei saves her. As Shancai cries, Lei does a headstand and explains if she feels like crying she should stand on her head, and the tears would go back the way they came.

In retaliation, Shancai punches A Si on the face, leaving him –- and Meizuo and Xi Men –- dumbfounded. Not letting up, A Si has Shancai abducted, brought to his mansion –- errr, palace, to be more precise –- and declares that she, Shancai, is now his girl. Outraged, Shancai rejects him and storms off, leaving a bewildered A Si behind, not believing she just rejected him!

Some girls at Ying De get resentful that a plain and poor girl like Shancai could earn F4’s attention. Catching on Shancai’s crush on Lei, they squash all her hopes when they tell her about the beauteous Teng Tang Jing, the girl Lei has been in love with since –- well -– ever. And Jing is coming back to Taiwan.

Jing arrives in Taiwan and Shancai wonders at her, not believing such a perfect person exists. She realizes she is no match for the beautiful, rich, elegant, and intelligent Jing.

Qing He, a high school classmate of Shancai (whom he’s had a crush on ever since), arrives at Ying De. The amount of time the two spent together does not slip A Si, who issues a red tag in Qing He’s locker. Qing He presumes it’s a sign of welcome. (Stupidly, I think. How could it be a welcome note when it says “You’ll Be Dead” in plain English? Oh well…)

Qing He becomes the subject of harassment from the other students, and Shancai tries vainly to defend him. Lei stops the bullies, making A Si furious and the two guys engage into a sort of tug-of-war holding each of Shancai’s arms. Angered, A Si kicks Lei out of F4 (This is the first time F4 ever had a serious fight).

Jing is such a nice person as Shancai soon finds out when Jing helps her clean up. Later she seeks Lei at the rooftop and apologizes for causing him to be kicked out of F4. She spends the whole night on the rooftop with him, not talking much, just sitting in silence. At dawn, Lei lights up fireworks, saying angels come down to earth at dawn; if you light fireworks at this hour, they are more likely to heed you.

When Shancai comes down with the flu, A Si somehow feels responsible and drops by her modest home for a visit. At first, Shancai’s parents berate him for Shancai’s illness but they fold when they find out who he really is, treating him like royalty and even inviting him for supper, an offer the young man gracefully accepts. Grudgingly, Shancai silently acknowledges A Si politeness, although at first he remarked how her home is smaller than his bathroom (or fishpond, not sure which is which). When A Si asks if she would join the class trip to Hawaii, Shancai informs him she would cruise the Taiwan coastline aboard a luxury ship rented by Qing He’s dad.

Amazing what money can do. At the docks, Qing He and Shancai learn that the luxury ship rented by Qing He’s father was bought(!) by A Si. At Jing’s persuasion, Shancai and Qing He boarded the ship, along with F4, and two others, much to A Si’s silent satisfaction.

At a private party aboard the ship, Jing ‘works magic’ on Shancai, and the F3 take turns dancing with her. While Lei and Shancai dance, Jing and A Si look on gravely (Remember A Si’s still at odds with Lei). When they play a game where the lights are turned off for ten seconds and anyone could kiss anyone, everyone scramble. When the lights come back on, Shancai finds herself on the floor, kissing…Dao Ming Si! Depressed that he should be her first kiss, she feels more down when she witnesses a tender moment in a cabin between Jing and Lei.

Back in Ying De, a more cheerful A Si decides to finally make up with his best friend Lei but finds him at the rooftop with Shancai. In a jealous rage, A Si accuses Shancai of betraying him and attacks her. Now this is quite a scene: A Si almost rapes Shancai on the stair landing, only coming to his senses when her shirt is ripped and he sees her tears. He immediately regrets it and promises he’d never hurt her again.

As an apology, A Si gives Shancai a fancy dress to wear at Jing’s birthday party. Still annoyed at him, Shancai gives it to Li Chen (who wants to go to the party but has nothing to wear). She has no desire to go but her mother forces her, seeing this as the perfect opportunity for Shancai to mingle with the elite. She even lends her old dresses to Shancai and Xiao Yo, and it was quite a laugh to see them dressed in what looked like kids’ party dresses and fishnet hoses.

At the posh party Shancai and A Si avoid each other; she instead joins Mei Zuo (who does not want to mingle with the ‘fake’ people at the party) at the bar for drinks. When Li Chen arrives at the party wearing the dress, A Si insults her and tells her to leave. I must say A Si was really over-the-top rude here.

Jing announces her decision to leave Taiwan for France to study, shocking everyone. Seeing Lei so downcast makes Shancai so sad that she begged Jing to stay, even kneeling before the other girl, a scene that Lei witnessed and did not appreciate, rebuking her later for it. But Jing’s mind was already made up.

Shancai, Qing He, A Si, Xi Men, and Mei Zuo see Jing off at the airport, but Lei was a no-show. When Shancai talks about love being about letting go, A Si scoffs and says that if he really loves someone, he would follow her anywhere.

After Jing has left, they all find Lei standing not too far away, a plane ticket in hand. He takes the next flight to follow Jing, thanking to Shancai for making him see more clearly.

A Si now decides to take steps further and asks -– no, demands -– Shancai on a date. And how does he ask her? He simply walks up to her and states the time and place! Hmm, what an oaf! That day, Shancai instead went to shop for grocery with her mom, only deciding to go to the meeting place after four hours.

This is such a sweet scene. It’s raining hard when Shancai arrives at the park, and there, sitting on a park bench, is a soaking wet A Si who has been waiting for hours in the rain, worried that something has happened to her. Guilty, Shancai offers to treat him to coffee.

He leads her to a posh coffee shop where they argue (since she’s the one paying, she should choose the place as she only has so much money) and end up locked inside the stairwell of the building where they spend the night. A Si contracts fever and Shancai takes care of him, letting him sleep with his head on her lap until the cleaning lady finds them the next morning.

Back in school, everyone congratulates Shancai for being the girlfriend of Dao Ming Si. Apparently word got around of her date with A Si and now her status is elevated, leading to her being invited by some girls to a bar.

At the bar, everybody gets drunk and as Qing He brought Li Chen home, a woozy Shancai is brought by Peter, the bar’s American disc jockey, to a hotel to sleep off the alcohol.

The next morning A Si is so sweet towards Shancai that Xi Men and Mei Zuo shake their heads in amusement. In jest, Mei Zuo warns her to be careful with guys she associates with because A Si is the jealous type. She decides not to let A Si know about the previous night with Peter, although nothing happened.

But the next day, on the bulletin board are posted pictures of Shancai and Peter entering the hotel. The other students, knowing this would not be forgiven by A Si, harass her once more, even wrecking her scooter. When A Si sees the pictures he angrily turns his back on Shancai even as she screams at him that she does not care what others think as long as he believes her.

A drunken A Si wanders aimlessly and he reaches the street leading to Shancai’s home. It was Li Chen who finds him, and A Si, mistaking her for Shancai, kisses her.

Now here’s a revelation. Li Chen brings A Si to a hotel and watches over him; it turns out she is in love with A Si. When A Si wakes up, Li Chen declares her feelings for him which he turns down. Hurt, Li Chen tells him off for having his eyes only on Shancai…and this seemed to wake A Si up.

Shancai is being beaten up by guys at the soccer field and as she falls to the ground A Si arrives and rescues her. He holds her, saying he will believe her if she said it isn’t true. Shancai, who never cried during the beating, bawls her eyes out in the arms of A Si (This is quite a well-crafted scene where you see two people acting totally out of character: a repentant A Si and a defeated Shancai).

A Si brings Shancai to his home and treats her injuries. There he reveals his true feelings for Shancai and they share a kiss. What a funny scene, seeing both of them all red with embarrassment.

A Si makes amends and goes after the guys who tortured Shancai; against her wishes, he lavishes presents (mobile phone, home appliances and even a brand new scooter!) on her and her family. When he tracks down who took the pictures, it turns out to be Li Chen, who is jealous of Shancai. Li Chen apologizes but still drops out of Ying De.

Lei comes back from France and he seems different; he even flirts around like Xi Men! F4 and their respective dates (Shancai included) go on a weekend trip to Okinawa, where they find out that Jing is engaged with a French guy. Lei reveals his pain only to Shancai and, moved, she reveals how she feels for him. A Si sees them kissing and this seems to mark Lei’s permanent departure from F4.

But Lei does not seem to mind and he even goes on a date with Shancai –- if you can call it a date since it was quite boring and Shancai could not help but compare him to A Si. Meanwhile, A Si indulges in drinking and breaking things. His sister, Dao Ming Zhuang, arrives from New York and, finding him in such a state, meets and gets an immediate liking to Shancai.

A Si forces the principal to expel Lei and Shancai but Xi Men, Mei Zuo and Qing He volunteer to drop out of Ying De as well. To settle things, Sis sets a 3-on-3 basketball game (A Si-Mei Zuo-Xi Men vs. Lei-Shancai-Qing He). Whoever loses leaves Ying De. Shancai doubts their chances but Lei assures her.

The night before the game A Si visits Shancai and asks her to confess her love for him. Shancai does not say anything because she is confused as to her true feelings towards A Si, and he leaves with a heavy heart.

The game is on. F4 has since been sought-after by major basketball; that’s how good of players they are. In Shancai’s team, Lei alone is skillful, but he is also a good strategist. To destroy A Si’s game, Lei makes him jealous by being extra-affectionate towards Shancai. A second before the buzzer goes off A Si stops the game and leaves.

A Si wanders the streets absent-mindedly while F3, Sis, Shancai and Qing He have drinks back at the Dao Ming mansion. As a prank, Mei Zuo and Xi Men lock up Shancai and Lei in a guest room for the entire night, but they just talked. When A Si gets home and finds out Lei and Shancai were in the same room, he acts nonchalant but we see him getting all teary-eyed the next morning as he gazes upon Shancai.

In a surprising turn of events, A Si decides to drop out and go to New York with Sis. Somehow Shancai feels hurt that he should leave without saying goodbye. At the airport, Lei tells A Si that nothing happened between him and Shancai, and that she likes A Si. A Si leaves all the same, albeit reluctantly, after asking the F3 to look out for Shancai.

When Shancai gets home the next evening she finds a jet-lagged A Si waiting outside her house. Apparently he traveled 2 days nonstop, back and forth Taiwan and New York. Seeing the state he’s in, Shancai’s mom makes A Si sleep at their small house.

When Shancai’s dad loans over a million dollars and loses it on lottery, she had no choice but to borrow money from A Si, which he willingly gives. He does not even ask her to pay him back; she only needs to meet him for a date that Saturday. Shancai mistakens his intentions and they get into another spat. Forced to look for another job to pay back A Si, she was almost victimized by a porn magazine, if not for the timely intervention of a guy named Xiao Xun who saved her. It was also Xiao Xun who gets her a job at Burger King and eventually becomes her close friend. Driven by jealousy over Xiao Xun, A Si further declares how much she likes Shancai, and that no matter where she goes, be it hell, he’ll chase her. Moved, but thoroughly confused, Shancai does not acknowledge A Si and leaves with Xiao Xun.

Shancai receives another red tag and feels guilty for hurting A Si. Another bout of harassment faces her but this time she is kidnapped and wakes up in an old abandoned warehouse with her kidnappers and –- to her shock –- their mastermind Xiao Xun! It turns out Xiao Xun is using her to avenge his friend who was badly injured and almost killed by A Si three years ago.

The F4 and Qing He become worried when it turns out it was not A Si who gave the red tag. Xiao Xun phones A Si and, as instructed, goes off to the warehouse alone where he gets the beating of his life. He does not fight back for fear that they would hurt Shancai if he does; he merely asks her to close her eyes, but she does not. At the last moment, when Xiao Xun hits A Si with a chair, she rushes toward him and receives the full impact. Shocked, Xiao Xun and company depart.

Shancai wakes up at the hospital and immediately seeks A Si. This is a hilarious scene, when she enters his room and sees his body covered with a sheet, and F3 looking all teary and aggrieved. She weeps by the bed and apologizes; but A Si wakes up and scolds her for disturbing his sleep! Oh the look on the F3’s faces as they duped her!

A Si’s birthday party comes and, broke, Shancai makes cookies for A Si, shaped like his old ‘pineapple hairstyle’ as a birthday gift. It was really sweet how the F3 picked Shancai up from her house and helped her dress more appropriately for the party, intent on Shancai making a good impression on A Si’s formidable mother Dao Ming Feng.

Truly, Dao Ming Feng is scary; even the F3 seemingly cower in her presence. In an attempt to embarrass Shancai, Dao Ming Feng makes her play the piano, which she does beautifully. Insulted that such a poor girl will be with her son, Dao Ming Feng sends her away; but A Si leaves with Shancai, with the help of F3. Imagine this: Lei blocks Dao Ming Feng’s path, Mei Zuo collars the bodyguards and Xi Men takes Shancai’s things out for her.

A Si and Shancai spend the night in his car by the riverbank. When A Si sees the cookies she made, he turns into a child, giddily happy over her gift and bragging to F3 about it.

Dao Ming Feng tries to buy off Shancai but Shancai’s mother sends her away (mainly because she does not want the 5 million. She reckons if Shancai marries A Si they would be far richer than that. Hmmm…she has a point.)

Dao Ming Feng’s then introduces Shancai to Xiao Jie, A Si’s fiancée in a marriage that was arranged primarily for business purposes. The bubbly Xiao Jie, intrigued with A Si, decides to give the engagement a try despite A Si’s protests. Worse, Shancai and Xiao Jie become fast friends, making Shancai decide to give A Si up. Exasperated at Shancai, A Si relents and promises to try to like Xiao Jie.

Meanwhile Dao Ming Feng tries to convince Lei to court Shancai in exchange for help in his father’s failing business, but Lei flatly refuses her, saying he would not hurt A Si and Shancai, but assuring her that he will protect Shancai no matter what. True enough, he keeps Shancai company, lifting her spirits.

At Xiao Jie’s invitation for a double date, Lei and Shancai spend the night at Xiao Jie’s villa. Xiao Jie and A Si stay in one room while Lei and Shancai stay in another, chatting, with Lei trying to cheer her up. In the next room, A Si mulls over Lei and Shancai and, seeing this, Xiao Jie tries to make him forget, even going as far as standing naked in front of him. However, A Si gently rebuffs her and apologizes for not being able to return her affections. Hurt, Xiao Jie lashes out at him and a worried Shancai storms into the room to find A SI flat on his back with Xiao Jie seated atop him. This scene was quite powerful, with Xiao Jie fully realizing her love is futile.

Due to tight finances, Shancai’s parents decide to leave for a fishing village on the coast of Taiwan, leaving Shancai alone. Meanwhile, Dao Ming Feng is enraged when Xiao Jie cancels the engagement and forces A Si to make it up with her, to which he refused and runs away.

Dao Ming Feng pays Shancai another visit while the F3 was also visiting. In front of the three guys, Shancai declares war upon the matriarch, calling her a witch. This earns the admiration of F3, but it also worries them, knowing Dao Ming Feng will not give up. True enough, Dao Ming Feng buys the entire apartment block where Shancai lives, rendering her homeless. With nowhere to go, she wanders in the middle of the night in the streets of Taipei, with a worried A Si looking all over for her, leaving messages on her mobile.

When Shancai opens her phone, she hears all the messages from A Si, and he appears before her. This scene got me all wistful, when A Si holds her tightly in his arms and begs her to stop running away from him.

Since Dao Ming Feng had to go on an emergency trip to London, A Si had Shancai stay at the mansion. Yu Sao, their old family caretaker, will only agree to let Shancai stay on if she works as A Si’s personal maid, a fact that made Xi Men and Mei Zuo egg on A Si into taking advantage of the situation.

The meteor shower comes, and A Si and Shancai watch from the balcony; A Si gives her a diamond necklace shaped like a falling star. They agree to give their relationship two months. If it does not work, they will both give up.

Word of A Si and Shancai’s blooming relationship reaches Dao Ming Feng. Using her connections, she puts Qing He’s father on the verge of bankruptcy and has Xiao Yo’s father fired. The only way to fix these would be for Shancai to leave. Guilty over other people suffering because of her, Shancai leaves and, in one of the highlights of the series, bids farewell to A Si on the driveway, with the rain pouring down. She crushes his heart altogether when she declares she never really liked him (of course, she’s lying).

Shancai drops out of Ying De and joins her parents in the sleepy little fishing village. In Taipei, the F3 and Qing He look for Shancai while A Si is on a downward emotional spiral, returning to his old arrogant self, even getting into a fist fight with the usually amicable Xi Men who has had enough of his attitude.

Qing He finally locates her via a TV coverage of the fishing village. Since A Si refuses to see her, Lei and Qing He go to the village and finally persuades Shancai to go back to Ying De. Lei finds her a place to live as Mei Zuo and Xi Men arranges her papers to reinstate her at Ying De. Throughout all this, A Si remains noncommittal. In one of his most philosophical takes, he says : “Once I would have done everything for her, even turn my back on the Dao Ming fortune. But now I realize the more you put in, the more you get hurt. Some things just can not be forced.”

To the surprise of Mei Zuo, Xi Men, and A Si, Lei admits his intention of going after Shancai now that A Si is not interested with her anymore. A Si pretends not to care, but Lei seems to know better.

Shancai and A Si’s reunion culminates on a bridge where he formally ends everything by throwing the meteor necklace on the pond and walking off. Later, Lei finds her knee-deep in the water, looking for the necklace. He wades in and helps her find it, returning it to her when he does. The look on Lei’s face was poignant as he observes the distraught Shancai looking for the necklace, and it is at this moment that he realizes Shancai loves A Si.

Another notable scene was when A Si, Mei Zuo and Xi Men share a drink and talk about Shancai and Lei. A Si feigns indifference but later breaks down in front of his two friends, realizing he cannot live -– breathe -– without Shancai. The next evening when Lei walks Shancai home they find the windows of her apartment glowing with lights shaped like that of the meteor necklace. Seeing that A Si has not given up yet, Lei leaves for Japan to help with his family business.

Xiao Jie and Shancai meet again and go on a blind date where they meet Qing Yong, who vaguely resembles A Si. Shancai soon discovers Qing Yong is A Si’s long-lost cousin; a fact that A Si has just discovered. Qing Yong pursues Shancai and even asks her to leave A Si and choose him. However, in a major confrontation at Ying De, it is revealed that Qing Yong is not really Qing Yong. His real name is Ya Men, paid by Dao Ming Feng to pretend to be Qing Yong and break A Si and Shancai up.

In another trademark scene, Shancai and Ya Men ride on a bus, leaving a crestfallen A Si behind. A Si chases the bus a long way and, finally deciding to face the problems with him, Shancai stops the bus and runs back to A Si.

Their relationship is smooth-sailing; A Si even goes as far as renting the house next door and sneaks there every night to protect Shancai from a burglar that broke into her house once. Dao Ming Feng’s people are continuously keeping their eye on A Si so he has to keep up disguises when they go out together.

Dao Ming Feng resorts to dirtier tricks when she has her own son kidnapped, locked up and drugged in his own room. Lei flies in from Japan upon hearing the crisis and together the F3 attempt to rescue A Si but fails miserably. Dao Ming Feng only intends to let A Si out after his wedding with Xiao Jie.

Desperate, Xiao Jie (still in love with A Si) begs Shancai to help as A Si has refused to eat and drink anything; he’s just being fed intravenously with drugs. Against the F3’s better judgment, Shancai agrees to go to the mansion and break up with A Si to set him free. Dao Ming Feng agrees but would only let them talk behind closed doors.

In my most favorite scene of the series, Shancai and the weak A Si talk. A Si tells her that if he could give up he would have given up the first time they broke up, and that he believes they will still be together. This turns things around for Shancai as she decides to join A Si; she will not eat if he won’t and she will wait outside the mansion until he returns.

For the whole hot day and rainy night Shancai stands at the driveway of the mansion, earning the sympathy of Sis, who comes home from New York. Finally Sis stands up to Dao Ming Feng and expresses her regret of letting her mother run her life for her, and how she does not want A Si to become as unhappy as she is.

The next morning, Shancai is on the verge of fainting when Yu Sao comes out happily: Dao Ming Feng has left, taking the guards with her. She has given up.

A Si wakes up and Shancai finally faints in his arms. The series end with Shancai finally saying ‘wo xi huan ni’ (I like you) to A Si, a declaration that seems not to be needed, but A Si wanted to hear it all the same.

Another angle of the story that really caught my fancy is the short love story between Shancai’s friend Xiao Yo and Xi Men. Note that Xi Men is your ultimate Lothario, believing that every girl has an expiration date of one week; he never gets attached. After helping Xiao Yo get back at her cheat of a boyfriend Zhong Ze, Xi Men earns the love of Xiao Yo. When the innocent Xiao Yo bravely declares her feelings for him he gently turns her down. But Xiao Yo is persistent and, hoping to scare her away from him once and for all, Xi Men invites her to a hotel room. As he begins undressing her and notices her discomfiture, he stops and tells her she is not this type of girl. Xiao Yo finally reveals to him that her family is migrating to Canada and leaving the very next morning; this night with Xi Men is to be considered her last wish. Surprised that she should leave, all Xi Men does does is hold her in his arms as they lay on the bed.

After Xiao Yo leaves, Xi Men clearly misses her and even stops his womanizing ways for a while. But as the series ends he’s still the same old playboy Xi Men.

My two cents in:

This is a simple series with a simple plot, simple characterizations, and an even simpler acting effort from the stars themselves. What made it click?

Here we have a show that uses old storylines but given a fresh take with how the characters deal with the situations they are in, no matter how unrealistic it seems. Buying a luxury ship at the drop of a hat? Purchasing a whole apartment block? Oh well, I guess these could be done by the filthy rich. However unrealistic they seem, it is still forgivable; after all, this classifies as a ‘fairy tale’-like love story, right?

I also liked the way that the story did not play the card of predictability. At the onset of the series, most, if not all of the viewers would presume Shancai would end up with Hua Ze Lei in the end. After all, he’s more mild-mannered and kind than the rude, arrogant, and utterly incorrigible Dao Ming Si.

The series is well-paced -– not too fast, not too dragging -– and the dialogues are well-written (I could be biased here as I am basing it on subtitles…)

Although overall the acting was not above par, it was alright, considering this is the debut of most of the lead actors and the crew behind the camera. Much credit is to be given to the casting of the four young men who composes F4 and the lady who rocks their world, Shancai. The chemistry between the actors is palpable, especially between Barbie and Jerry. Their continuous bickering would have gotten annoying to the point of exhausting but they manage to make the scenes delightful.

The characters are simple, yes, but in a way that leaves much room for growth. Multi-faceted, not so well-defined but still manages to earn your sympathy, or whatever emotion is appropriate.

If you want to watch a feel-good series, watch this.


The Characters and Performances:

Barbie Hsu as Shancai

Shancai is an ordinary girl whose only dream is for her family to have a better and happy life. She starts out as a meek little-girl-lost in Ying De but redeems herself by not giving up, even finding enough courage to risk loving a complicated man as Dao Ming Si.

Barbie Hsu registers well on every scene, her facial expressions all too transparent and indicative of the travails her character goes through. ‘Cute’ is the word that came to mind when I first saw her onscreen. She has that ‘innocent-yet-tough’ look about her that makes her convincing for the role of Shancai. Her performance is alright, though it could improve.

Jerry Yan as Dao Ming Si

Your usual spoiled brat, it was interesting to see how the usual callousness of Dao Ming Si is mellowed by his affection for Shancai. What I liked best about this character is his conviction and determination in going after what he wants, despite temptations and adversities.

Presence. The way Jerry Yan walks and lifts his proud chin is perfect for the arrogance of Dao Ming Si’s character. Still he has his weak moments when he seems to be ordinary and not the wealthy scion he is portrayed to be.

Vic Zhou as Hua Ze Lei

Hua Ze Lei is your typical lone wolf, not really caring about other people’s business as long as it does not affect him. When he meets Shancai he finds himself caring about her and her business. It is obvious he feels something for Shancai and it is admirable how he respects his lifelong friendship with A Si.

He turns out one of the better performances in the series simply by brooding and keeping quiet, his observant eyes doing most of his acting. He does not speak very much in the series but when he does the words make sense, and he speaks them in such a grave manner that grabs attention.

Ken Zhu as Xi Men

As the playboy (and, I think, most mature) among the four, Xi Men plays around but makes sure he doesn’t get too attached.

Ken Zhu’s portrayal Xi Men of is so subtle it is not exactly what one would expect of a womanizer. All the same, he carries himself with such confidence that it is not hard to believe women would fall for his soft-spoken manners. I’d expected him to be ‘smoother’, but he did alright.

Vanness Qu as Mei Zuo

He values friendship above all, he is closest to Xi Men and enjoys partying.

It’s such a shame Vanness Wu did not get a lot of character exposure in the series so there is not much to tell. But I have to hand it over to Vanness, the way he seemingly glides and moves through every scene is fascinating to watch.

Zhen Xiu Zhen as Dao Ming Feng

Formidable is the word to describe this actress. I have not seen any of her other performances but it is clear that she is a very good actress. She’s so regal and elegant as the Dao Ming matriarch even I find her beautiful.


Scenes worth mentioning:

· Shancai sticking the red tag on A Si’s forehead and declares war. I think this is a major turning point of the story, where A Si’s attention was fully caught by Shancai.
· The ‘standing-on-your-head’ scene. This is the first time Hua Ze Lei showed some semblance of emotion, and gave a glimpse of how he would become an essential fixture in Shancai’s life.
· The soccer field scene where the battered and bruised Shancai cries in the arms of A Si.
· The warehouse scene where A Si came alone to rescue Shancai where he, who was never beaten by anyone before, accepts the blows without a fight.
· After the night at the villa, Lei lends his back for Shancai to cry on. This was such a touching scene. Although short, it establishes Lei’s deep care for Shancai.
· The search for the meteor necklace in the pond, where Lei realizes Shancai’s heart is owned by Dao Ming Si.
· The ‘door-to-door’/’behind-closed-doors’ conversation between A Si and Shancai. Need I say more? Alright. It was a balanced scene, not too emotional or melodramatic.

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