Romance in the Rain


Reviewed by: TKL

May 26, 2004

Rating: two-point-five

The long-waited and much anticipated series of famous Taiwanese romantic writer, Qiong Yao, Romance in the Rain (or Qing sheng sheng, yu meng meng) created another sensation and resurrected Leo Gu’s career as an actor and a singer. However, to be honest, this series was probably produced for commercial purpose using the casts’ popularity to sell the series. In order to satisfy the audience and to live up to the new trend in her style after "Huan Zhu Ge Ge's" (HZGG) sensation, Qiong Yao added much changes to the plot and characters.

I watched the new version with much anticipation, as I am a big fan of Qiong Yao. Since the sensational HZGG I, I have also become a fan of Vicky, Ruby, and Alec. Yet, I was so disappointed by this series that I did not want to write this review because at the time I did not have anything good to say about the series. Being an ardent fan of Qiong Yao’s works, it pains me to say so.

THE PLOT: the story revolves around lives of members of the Lu’s family with Lu Zhenhua as the head of the family. Lu Zhenhua has 9 wives who all resemble his lost love in some way. However, the series only focus on two of his wives, the 8th and 9th (Wen Pei and Xue Quing respectively). Wen Pei has two daughters Lu Yiping (Vicky Zhao) and Lu Xinping. Xinping was Zhenhua’s favourite daughter yet, she died and left a lasting impression on her parents and an envious feeling in Yiping, who thinks that she would never be able to take the place in her mother’s heart. Xue Quing has four children: Lu Erhao (Gao Hsin), Lu Ruping (Ruby Lin), Lu Mungping (Le Tingting), and Er Jie. Xue Quing, being a woman who would not want to share her husband and the fortune with anyone, finds every way to make Wen Pei’s and Yi Ping’s life miserable. Wen Pei and Yi Ping are eventually kicked out of the house, however, they still depend on the money that Lu Zhenhua gives them monthly. Being a strong-willed girl, Yi Ping always says what is in her head. She angers her father one time and he beats her. She vows to never take money from them again. This leads her to find job as a singer in Shanghai Club. During this time, both Yi Ping and Ru Ping encounter He Shuhuan (Leo Gu) and Du Fei (Alec Su). They are two young aspiring reporters working with Lu Erhao. Lu Erhao fell in love with Ruping’s friend, Fang Yu. However, when he was 16 year-old, he loved a maid in the family named Ke Yun. She was pregnant but his mother, Xue Quing, found a way to make Ke Yun’s family leave without Erhao’s knowledge. Ke Yun gave birth to a child who died soon after that due to illness. Devastated by the loss of her child, she became mad. Er Hao loved Fang Yu but he also felt responsible toward Ke Yun. The series then revolves around the love relationship involving these young people.

THE CAST

Leo Gu aka He Shuhuan: The character of He Shuhuan was supposed to be "the knight in shinning armor", an educated, intelligent, suave, charming, and loving man. He met Ru Ping first when he asked her to take care of a roll of negatives. Ru Ping fell in love with him at first sight but it was difficult to tell his feeling towards her. Shuhuan then ran into Yi Ping on that fateful night after she was beaten by her own father and asked her to come back to his house to dry her hair. Shuhuan found the story of Yi Ping intriguing but as she discovered that he had connection with the Lu family, she left his house. One year passed by, and Ru Ping could not bring herself to confess her love for Shuhuan while Shuhuan still treated her as a special friend. Unfortunately for Ru Ping, during this time, Shuhuan encountered Yi Ping again, who had become a famous singer in Shanghai club, and was captivated by her beauty and the mystery of her life. Shuhuan relentlessly courted Yi Ping who had also started to develop feelings for him. They finally went out but their love encountered many trials as Ruping was helplessly in love with Shuhuan and Yiping is too stubborn and strong-willed at times.

I was surprised to see Leo Gu in the role of He Shuhuan since I got used to see him in a more playful and immature roles when he was in TVB. For the first few episodes, I was convinced that Leo had improved and that he could play a role of "the knight in shinning armour" but as the series progressed, his character lost its charm. First of all, I cannot stand this new trend of hero that Qiong Yao creates in her stories. I prefer the old male characters in her earlier works. They were rather mature, loving and intelligent. This new He Shuhuan just really irritated me. He fights, he kicks, he punches, he pushes, he challenges, he runs, he jumps, etc. at every chance he gets. At first, I thought, wow, so He Shuhuan could fight, that meant he could protect Yiping. Yet, towards the end of the series, he was more like a monkey that just could not rest, and have to run around fighting. There was one ridiculous scene in the series when He Shuhuan challenged the Japanese tank and he fought what seemed like the whole Japanese army. No one dared to shoot him and I thought Japanese soldiers were very ruthless when they invaded China. Leo Gu was alright in romantic scenes and thanks to special effect, he looked like he could fight. I read somewhere that before filming this series, Leo had to train himself really hard so he could look "hot" for the part. Yet, he still did not look manly or suave enough. He also overacted in most scenes of the series, especially ones that required emotional expression. Leo could not act with his eyes. His eyes expressed the same emotion in every scene. All he did in emotional scene was glare and nothing else. I could not see the love, the affection, or any other emotion in his eyes. I remember two scenes quite clearly.

Scene #1: After Shuhuan rescued Yiping from the river, she was in a coma. When she woke up, she chased Shuhuan away and he told her that he loved her. At that critical moment, when Shuhuan’s eyes were supposed to fill with love and regret, Leo looked as though he was about to challenge Vicky to a duel.

Scene # 2: When Shuhuan told Yiping that he would enlist himself as a soldier, Shuhuan was supposed to look as though it was the most painful decision he had to make because it meant that they would be separated. Yet our Leo was glaring at Vicky, his hands clenched into tight fists by his side as though he was ready to fight.

Su Yupeng aka Dou Fei: Yupeng took on this role to prove that he could play a different role from the protective Wu Ah Ge in HZGG I. However, the development and the characteristics of this character were too lame to me. The only thing that I found sweet about this character was his devoted love towards Ruping. I pity Yupeng for taking on a role that would turn him into some sort of cheap clown. His facial expression was exaggerated. His mishaps were rather dragging and irritating. Though Qiong Yao said that his character was inspired from the character of Xiao Yan Zhi in HZGG, it is a really bad version of Xiao Yan Zhi. I might have had some pitiful feelings toward Dou Fei in the first few episodes but as his character got into more ridiculous mishaps, those feelings soon turned into frustration. The scenes that I found most silly and unnecessary are: when Dou Fei caused a chaos in the market chasing after his gift for Ruping, or when he spent a day working for Assistant Li. The only thing I like about his character is that he acts as the voice of reason in the series. He might be the joker but he thinks more clearly than people around him. Especially when Shu Huan and Yi Ping breaks up after she sees him hugging Ru Ping when they are hanging washing. He told Shuhuan to make up his mind and pick one woman only, even if Shuhuan finds it difficult to let down Ruping. I pity Dou Fei actually. Qiong Yao lets his character go overboard sometimes with all of his mishaps. By the way, Alec looks too boyish in modern series.

Vicki Zhao aka Yiping: She took on a totally different role in this series. Yet this is one of the roles that I like to see her playing. It is challenging and allows her more room to express her emotions and to mature her acting talent. She was cute in the beginning with two pigtails. At some instants, Vicki looks too old with all the make-up when she is on stage and some of her singing costumes look really cheap. Yi Ping is one complicated role to play because she is young but already faced with life’s hardship. She is torn between love and revenge. Yi Ping might appear cold and aloof and hateful, but she is just like any other normal girl who wishes to have a happy family. Vicki and Leo look compatible but Leo’s acting skill is very disappointing and at times, he could not help Vicki to portray the conflict in their characters’ personalities and relationship.

Ruby Lin aka Ru Ping: About Ru Ping, I read few people's comments on her character in the forums and they just seem really unfair. Such as, they say how she steals Shu Huan away from Yi Ping and that she is pathetic to wait for Yi Ping and Shu Huan to break up so she can have him. However, they forget that she has loved him secretly for a whole year before he meets Yi Ping. Dou Fei is upset since he cannot understand why she has to chase after Shu Huan and cannot like him, who really loves her. Yet he is just in the same situation, he is also waiting for her to get over her love for Shu Huan. If there was a girl chasing after him, would he give up Ru Ping and get together with that girl?

Ru Ping is just a normal girl who is desperately in love. In her eyes, Shu Huan is perfect, no one could take his place in her heart, then why is she not allowed to have hope that one day he would be hers? It might be the case in the beginning but Ru Ping became too persistent in her quest for Shuhuan that it makes her appear as though she cannot wait for the day that he would break up with Yi Ping. Ruby displays her disinterest very clearly in the way she played Ru Ping. I think what she said about acting in the series as a way of repaying Qiong Yao is very true. I remember how she played the role of Zhi Wei with such emotion, how she cried and her face was very expressive in HZGGI. I also remember how she portrayed Kin Ling in "Duke of Mt Deer 2000" with such liveliness and joy. She enjoyed her role in there and it showed. In here, I only saw a very passive Ruby who shed a tear here and there as the script required. I could not see the passion and the emotion she felt for her character Ru Ping, unlike Vicki, who was very much into her role.

Li Yi has a great role as Fang Yu is a very independent girl. She is different to Yi Ping, she loves Er Hao very much but without Er Hao she can still stand on her own. Yi Ping might appear strong but deep down, she knows that Shuhuan is the only person who could offer her some stability. However, Li Yi has weird facial expressions when she cries and she is probably too concerned about her straight hair that she does not want to act much.

Ke Yun was a ridiculous character who would forget her suffering parents the moment she saw Er Hao. The character was annoying, the actress, Hsu Lu was even more annoying as she could not act. I got very frustrated watching her playing a mad woman.

Gao Hsin fits the role as Er Hao, the man who does not deserve to have the love of two women.

For the first few episodes, the only character I like was Xue Quing. I think Wang Lin brought out the essence of the character very well. She also looks the part.

As for the rest of the cast, they were adequate in their jobs. The actor who played Assistant Li was rather young for the part while the actor who acted as Yi Ping’s father really had that air of authority about him, just as Lu Zhenhua was supposed to be.

I still want to complain about the extras. You know, the people who walk on the street, in the park, in the shop as a background for the main characters. There were too many people, and they were not very lively. They walked in the market as though they were sleepwalking. All of them look so down and so bored.

The Most Annoying Character goes to Yiping’s mother, Wen Pei, who is portrayed as a useless mother. I understand that she was brought up in a comfortable family, and never moved her finger to earn money. Yet she needs to grow up and adapt to different situations in life. Instead, she just sits there and blames Yiping’s father who deserted her. It seems like the women in this series cannot survive without a man and they are so desperate. Wen Pei only knows of Lu Zhenhua and would always welcome him after all he did to her. A Ru Ping who leaves everything behind, her family, her life to chase after Shuhuan, a man who does not even love her. A Ke Yun who cannot seem to keep her hands off Er Hao. A Yiping, who would stand up to her father, but cannot go on without Shuhuan.

One more award should be given to the character who is likely to provoke uncontrollable rage in viewers. That character is the old woman with the cat. Her story should only take one episode instead of dragging on and on.

SWEET SCENE: I thought the scene when Shuhuan and Yiping took a walk to the bridge to see the sunset was rather romantic and sweet. It was also the first time Shuhuan showed any indication of his affection for Yiping. As Yiping asked whether his interview at the Shanghai club had finished, Shuhuan said that he had finished it long ago but there was still something at the club and he could not leave. Yiping then asked what it was and Shuhuan gently took her hand and wrote down the word "You".

WEIRD SCENE: It might be that I had too much time in my hand, but I watched the series with great attention. In the beginning, it was because I liked the series. Towards the end, it was because I had nothing else to do. One scene I found hilarious was when Yi Ping ran out from Shuhuan and Ru Ping’s engagement party and she went to this bridge that carried many sweet memories of their love. She climbed on the bridge and I was thinking, who on earth would be able to do any climbing when they are wearing a qi bao? The scene was getting quite emotional with Yi Ping’s speech about her sacrifices, how she had to change herself for Shuhuan. As she jumped, the whole effect was destroyed with the stunt man. Even though the scene was filmed from a distance, I could see the hairy, beefy legs of the stunt man, ewww…

KISSING SCENES: Since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I have become obsessed with kissing scenes in Asian series (and please do not call me a pervert, I just thought it’d be fun to point out some interesting points). Anyway, there are many kissing scenes in here to accompany the romantic plot of the series. First of all, we should mention all the "smooches" going on between Yiping and Shuhuan. They are very detached, no sparks or chemistry going on. The only scene that really brought out the passion between the two was when they kissed in the rain. Talking about the other two couples, it was quite hilarious and embarrassing to watch them kiss. In the end, when Ruping nursed Dou Fei after he was operated on, Ruping just leaned across and then their heads did this twisted motion where viewer might thought that they were grinding their face together. While Er Hao and Ke Yun/Fangyu were typical of Asian actors/actresses, they kiss lightly on the mouth before the girl wraps her arms around the man, and brings her head to the side, so to hide their mouths from the camera, but I could have thought that they were sucking blood from each other’s throat.

COSTUME: It would be a mistake not to discuss about costumes used in this series. Evidently, Qiong Yao has spent so much money in preparing costumes for this series. She really wanted the series to represent the 30s-40s period. I have no complaints about the costumes of the older generation as they fit the era. However, the costume for Yiping and Ruping are a bit too modern at times. The tight pants made Ruby Lin appear to be too skinny. Both of them don’t look good in qi bao. The only actress who brings out the beauty of the dress is the actress who plays Xue Quing. Purple is Qiong Yao’s favourite colour so most characters in the series have a purple outfit. I like the purple dress that Yiping wore when she sang "Chuan". The purple qi bao of Fang Yu was also very nice. Most of Vicky’s onstage costume does not suit her as they are too elaborate with either too much lace or the colour is too strong like the red dress she had on when she first sang "Yen Yu Meng Meng". Yet I like all of her costumes every time she saw Shuhuan, especially the dress when he first kissed her.

The only thing I found funny through the series was when the city was invaded by Japan. YiPing and her mother decided to leave their houses with their belongings. However, they had time to go and change into what I called their best looking clothes. Yiping was wearing this outrageously red shirt and white pant while her mother dressed up in a qi bao with high heels. I don’t understand how at a critical time like that, when their lives could be considered in danger, they still had time for dressing up.

SOUNDTRACK: One thing the series should receive credit for is the soundtrack. Qiong Yao herself wrote the lyrics so they are very meaningful. My favourite song is not the theme song "QSSYMM" but the first song that Yiping sang "Yan Yu Meng Meng". The song really expresses Yiping’s love for Shuhuan. "Hao Xiang, Hao Xiang", and "Li Bie De Che Zhan " are also beautifully written. "Chuan" is a very short song but somehow I liked the lyrics and the music. It is also partly because Yi Ping sang it after Er Hao splashed the glass of wine in her face and she was crying when she sang that song. I like Leo’s voice as it is warm and nice. Vicki’s voice is pure but might be a bit too childlike for an emotional song like "Yan Yu Meng Meng". I would have loved the soundtrack more if Alec Su was given the chance to sing. His voice is so much better than Leo’s.

HOW MUCH DOES THE SERIES DIFFER FROM THE ORIGINAL NOVEL? If you have read the novel, you would probably realize that the series resembles nothing of the novel except the characters’ names and Yi Ping’s situation. There are many additional characters and events. I prefer Shuhuan in the novel as he was very clear in his choice of love. He was also not a perfectionist like Leo’s Shuhuan who would blame Yi Ping when things go wrong. Shuhuan in the novel is more understanding of Yi Ping’s situation and he was clearly devastated when he thought Yi Ping only used him for her scheme of revenge. It might be that Leo could not bring out the emotion in Shuhuan. Ru Ping is also a different person in the novel. Ru Ping is a very demure and fragile girl who knows that she cannot compete with Yi Ping. She is not beautiful and also not intelligent. She is a very pitiful character that somehow gets caught in Yi Ping’s plan. I do not like Ruby Lin’s Ru Ping as she becomes too persistent and too manipulative. She just jumps at every chance she has with Shuhuan. Dou Fei, Assistant Li’s family, and many other people also do not exist in the novel. The novel is more central on the main characters without distracting reader with trivial love stories as in the series.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT? By now, I think everyone must have watched it. The series does have its moment but between those moments are endless suffering. It was interesting in the beginning but dragged too much towards the end. The love story also becomes rather silly and the ending is too predictable because we know for sure who will end up with who. Qiong Yao might want to desert her trademark for tragedy and move towards comedy and happy endings but her original works were more touching and able to bring out the emotion in the readers. I don’t recommend watching the series unless you are a real die-hard fan of any actor/actress mentioned above but I do recommend listening to the soundtrack.

Screenshots (http://www.chiungyao.com.tw Copyrighted).


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