Also called Tieu Ngao Giang Ho (in Vietnamese ) or Smiling Proud Wanderer, or some other ridiculous English names like “State of Divinity”, “Blood Cold, Proud Hot” (10$ for whoever can come up with a stupider name than this).
I was bored, coudn't sleep and had nothing to do, hence this review was done, as I can see that a few still haven't seen it yet. For those who have seen this, please discuss <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0"> By the way, if I make mistakes with the pinying names, please correct me.
Just a side comment: I bought this series from ChinaMall.com after visiting Trinie's or Lingz13's XAJH 2001 site and SPCNET (that's how I found this place). Got ripped off big time (paid $94 USD including shipping to Australia) but it was the first time I used my credit card so I didn't care <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0"> Anyway let's start with the review. You will see that I do things backwards compared to other reviewers. I should have captured some screenshots but I'm too lazy, and you can find them in other reviews or sites dedicated to this series anyway.
1.Packaging, intro & ending themes.
This is the main picture on the box: .
Typical stuff for a wuxia series: the hero in the middle, surrounded by the chicks and his enemies. Maybe I'm just nitpicking, but firstly they placed the title Xiao Ao Jiang Hu (in Chinese) in the wrong place where Jiang ended up being on the girl's bright dress, hence the letter Jiang had to be white on a black background. Looks very messy. Next, call me crazy but I almost didn't buy this because I didn't like the expression on the main hero's face. He should look smiley and carefree instead of being so serious (more on this in The Cast). Might post a rant on wuxia series' posters later.
This series consists of 28 VCD's and 40 episodes (about right for a Jin Yong adaption). It's in VCD 2.0 format, which has quite good pictures, just slightly below SVCD and DVD imo.
The intro and ending themes are what I usually watch first when watching a wuxia series, since they are a special feature of this genre. I like how they made the intro with the flash stuff, but how they selected the pictures is another story. They just picked some random pictures of the two main male and female characters and put each with two other random pictures of some other random characters ! Too much randomness here, just meaningless. The music (flute) was awesome though. The ending theme is pretty well done. The song, sung by, well, some guy and Faye Wong if I'm correct, captured the main theme of the novel: smiling & proud wanderer (the male singer's part) and romance (the female's part).
Mainland series are well known for beautiful scenery, so this is not an exception. I must say that I'm most impressed with how they chose the locations: they appear exactly how they are described in the book. The best ones are Yingying's place in the city of Lu Yang; Hang San (where the nuns are) – I couldn't believe that that bridge really exists ! Fan-bloody-tastic ! ; Song San – where they fought for the Five Sword schools leader position, you can feel the thrill before the battles start.
This adaption is about 70% faithful to the novel, so it might piss off some hardcore novel fans, but to those who haven't read it, I think it's acceptable. The biggest changes are caused by Yingying – the female lead. She's supposed to appear in the second half of the book, but here they make her appear in the 2nd episode ! Initially I was annoyed, but after seeing her, I thought that was a brilliant idea ! Girls, do not let your boyfriend see this series because afterwards he will be dreaming of Yingying instead of you. Even if the whole series were a dud, you could still sit through it just to watch Yingying. Anyway because she appeared too early, many small scenes were added to make the series flow.
Although I quite like the fight scenes (see next part), I hate how they added too many unecessary ones here, by letting the Song San guys and the Evil Sect guys running rampant, crashing into each other or our heroes randomly and just start fighting for no particular reason.
Many will tell you that this series has the best fight scenes. They are correct. This series is mostly about sword arts so there are many sword fights, and the majority are very well done. What I like the most are that they didn't use stupid “special” effects like using swords as Star Wars light sabers or like machine gu ns that can blow up big rocks etc., and that there aren't many flying scenes (gosh I hate those). You get to see real sword play, assisted with flash effects. The best performed one, IMO, is the Evil Sword art (Pi Xie sword) used by Lin Pingzi. Incredibly fast, fierce and feminine, exactly how it's described in the novel. I was also impressed by the varieties of sword arts from different martial schools: the sizes of the swords, the performing speed, the ways they are wielded... Again, almost like how they are described in the novel.
However, inevitably, there are lemons. The most disappointing is, unfortunately, Dugu 9 Swords, which is the most displayed, the main kungfu of our hero Linghu Chung and perhaps one of the coolest martial arts in Jin Yong's universe. I could sense the disappointment the first time I saw Fong Qing Yang teach Linghu Chung this sword art. Instead of applying the sword philosophy he was teaching, like how it should be in the novel (predicting opponent's moves, attacking is the best way to defense, using the sword like flowing water, floating cloud and “no move beats real moves”), Fong was flying across the cave. Later, well you can guess it, Linghu was flying too, whenever he performed Dugu 9 Swords. It's funny, because most of the time he was seriously injured and could barely walk, but he could fly ! Whatever. Flying isn't entirely bad, but the way he flew was totally ridiculous. One of his favourite moves was to fly straight up with his sword pointing upwards, then after he was about 20 feet above ground, he dived head first, sword tip pointing downwards. After the sword touched the ground, he started wielding it around, and attacking the opponent.... My IQ dropped 10 points after seeing that the first time, and I believe his opponent's dropped to zero. If I were fighting Linghu, I could simply thrust the sword forward while he was flying and bye bye to our hero. I still can't understand why the kungfu choreographer could come up with such BS, seeing that the other stuff were very well done.
The other lemon is Xi Xing Dafa, another skill that Linghu and his future father-in-law, ex-leader of the Evil Sect posessed. Also known as Vacuum Cleaner kungfu....Seriously you have to watch this to see how silly it is. I can't be bothered talking about it.
Just like the scenery, mainland series usually have very good costumes and so does this series. Yingying's fashion show is enough to prove this. You can also see how serious they were when it comes to this, for example, all monks and nuns actually shave their heads. Things like that, although minor, make the series much more enjoyable.
The only lemon: someone had this stupid idea of portraying the Evil Sect...Whenever there's a scene about the Evil Sect at their headquarter, there are a few African-like dudes with funny tatoos and paintings all over their bodies, blowing and swallowing fire. You know, just to make it obvious to braindead morons that these Evil guys are weirdos. Puh-lease.
Linghu Chung – Li Ya Peng: 4/5
He is the Smiling Proud Wanderer, the main hero. While he showed plenty of pride, he always looked a bit too serious (probably should blame the script writer), not carefree and smiley enough, thanks to the extra emotional scenes he had to act (should I blame the script writer ?). On the whole, his performance was fine. The only scene that he annoyed me was the last one, when he was standing there, like a dumbass, watching Yingying getting seriously injured and almost killed by Yue Bu Qun, his martial teacher. Oh well the script writer thought he didn't have enough reason to kill Yue so....
Ren Yingying – Xu Qing: 7/5
She's the reason why I bought this series (at first I thought it sucked) and I was not disappointed (although I didn't know who she was before that) ! She looks exactly like the Yingying that XAJH readers can imagine. Hey even Jin Yong himself thinks so ! She was given a bit more melodramatic role in this adaption however, but although it differs a lot from the novel, she did an excellent job. She's innocently beautiful, cute, witty and caring, although she is a terrible cook (but who cares !?). Anyway the only thing that makes her different from the novel's Yingying is that she's not shy enough. The novel's Yingying blushes all the time.
The leaders of the 5 sword schools: 5/5
They are Yue Bu Qun (Hua San – LHC's master), Zu Lingtian (Song San), Mok Dai (Hanh San), the nun of Hang San school (I don't know her name) and the Taoist of Tiansan. They all did a very good job, especially Yue Bu Qun, who was brilliant as a hypocrite with the nickname Gentleman Sword, and the nun – she's tough and can surely kick arse !
The Evil Sect's leaders:
Dongfang Bubai: 4.5/5 the most powerful villain, who castrated himself to pratice a very powerful kungfu manual (the more complete version of Pi Xie sword mentioned above) and somehow became a shemale. He (not sure if it's a he or a she) wasn't on screen much, but the fight scene between him and Linghu Chung and the rest was awesome.
Ren Wo Xing 2/5: father of Ren Yingying and ex-leader of the Evil Sect. I recognised him immediately – he played Cao Cao in the classic Romance of the Three Kingdom. He was brilliant in that, but here he's terrible. Someone please teaches him how to laugh...there's more than one way of just looking up and “hahahahahah” like a dumbass. Ren Wo Xing is supposed to be a cool and very smart villain but somehow this guy turns his character into a joke – constantly loses his cool and....laugh like an idiot. At first with his messy clothes as he just escaped from the dungeon, he was actually OK, but later I felt sorry for him for trying too hard to laugh and act almighty. He got killed by Yue Bu Qun in the end because he was too full of himself.
The support cast:
Most of them were wonderful. Yilin the nun was amazingly beautiful and very well chosen for such a minor role. The 6 Peach Fairies were very funny and here they have all 6 of them instead of just 2 or 4 because of limited budgets like in other adaptions. Xiang Wan Tian, the No Commandment Monk, the Shaolin Abbots, the Wudang leader etc. did very well, especially in fight scenes (I think I've seen them many times in other wuxia/ancient series).
The one deserves most of the praises is Lin Ping Zhi, a rather pitiful character (parents got killed, got cheated by everyone, had only one way to take revenge...). He makes the character much more livelier than in the novel. The scene where he took revenge and displayed the Pi Xie sword art is one of the best in this series, IMO. 5/5 for him.
There was another lemon: Yue Bu Qun's wife – who was closest to a real parent Linghu Chung ever had. This actress has the right look, but she can't act at all. In scenes that had her in, she just stood there listening to others with that dumb look and no expression on her face, until the camera focused on her. Then you can see a delay of about 2 seconds (very noticable !) before she started to act ! She was good in the fight scenes though. 1/5 for this lady.
On the whole, this series is highly recommended and a must watch for wuxia fans. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first wuxia series that mainland made, and I think they did a fairly good job. I give it 4/5 overall. I think my 94$ USD wasn't wasted <IMG SRC="smilies/tongue.gif" border="0">
<font size="1">[ May 26, 2003: Message edited by: TristeCoeur ]</font>
<font size="1">[ May 26, 2003: Message edited by: TristeCoeur ]</font>