At the Dolphin Bay

Reviewed by: bluegirl11375

April 17, 2006

Rating: three

A.K.A.: A Promise of Love at the Dolphin Bay
Chinese Title: Hai Tun Wan Lian Ren


Ambrose Hsu as Xu Ze Ya
Angela Zhang as Yi Tian Bian
Wallace Huo as Zhong Xiao Gang
Penny Lin as Xu Shan Ni
Jill Xu as Shen Man Qing


On a rainy night, a woman takes her little daughter into a bakery. The little girl holds a white stuffed dolphin. This is where the story begins. After exiting the bakery, the mother is hit by a car, while her daughter watches, tightly gripping her little dolphin, her hair drenched in rain. And that is what brings her to Saint Teresa’s Home, a Catholic orphanage, where she meets Xu Ze Ya (Ambrose Hsu), another orphan brought to the orphanage the same day as her. Because she refuses to tell anyone her name, she is given the nickname Xiao Ping Gai - "Little Bottle Cap". There, a friendship between Xu Ze Ya and Xiao Ping Gai developed.

On a Christmas, when they are six, Xiao Ping Gai’s grandfather comes to the orphanage and mistakenly adopts Ze Ya. Ze Ya promises that he will come back for Xiao Ping Gai. But after a while, another woman, Yi Hui Lan, adopts Xiao Ping Gai. Even though Xu Ze Ya tries to find her many times, the papers on Xiao Ping Gai’s adoption have been ruined in a flood. In effect, Xiao Ping Gai believes that Ze Ya did not keep his promise, and decides to stop hoping for his return.

Years later, Xiao Ping Gai, who is now named Yi Tian Bian (Angela Zhang), hurries to Shen Man Qing (Jill Xu), a famous singer’s promotional event. This is where she first meets the grown-up Ze Ya, who is now the CEO of SET, a TV station, which is also the TV station that supports Man Qing’s new soundtrack, Man Bu Yun Duan/Roam. She also meets Man Qing’s music manager, Zhong Xiao Gang (Wallace Huo), who is dating Man Qing. Because of the unsuccessful promotion, Xiao Gang decides to find a new singer for Man Bu Yun Duan. Tian Bian, who loves to sing, is determined to audition.


Plot line:
This series starts out extremely well with an interesting and focused plot. However, towards the middle and the end, more and more conflicts get added on and the story loses a lot of its focus. The addition of conflicts could be made to add suspense to reach the peak of a plot. However, what made the second part drag on is the way these conflicts are solved. The conflicts are not solved in a quick and relieving manner, but rather, one conflict at the time, dragging the already predicted resolution for the last third of the series. For example, Xu Shan Ni’s (Penny Lin) sickness already allows the audience to predict her death and afterwards, the coming together of Ze Ya and Tian Bian. But her sickness seems to drag on and on. Also, the resolution to Tian Bian’s mother is rather a letdown. It seems to try to build suspense, but does it rather ineffectively. Then the resolution comes out simply with Man Qing simply walking up and resolving everything. All this makes the last episode predictable and simply the final touch of an ending already resolved.

Another problem is the love story between Xu Ze Ya and Tian Bian. My friend once described their relationship in the second half as “pulling a marshmallow;” they go apart and come back together, go apart and come back together, so “sticky and messy”. This is where a focused plot is lost, where the audience’s hopes are raised that they are finally together, then let down again when they separate.

Many modern Taiwanese series show a progression from sweet and cute into serious and gloomy. This series also attempts to do this, but turns from sweet into melodramatic. There is way too much melodrama placed into the role of Shan Ni. Other than Shan Ni’s leukemia and Tian Bian’s music career, there is no real reason why this conflict would be seen as gloomy and serious as it did. This is probably the main cause of all the dragging on of the story: the melodrama placed into a plot that does not need it.

Simply stated, a good drama puts all or most of the main characters in a good spotlight. However, in the middle of the series, all the characters seem to be annoying or pathetic and become a direct contrast to their previous attitudes. For example, Ze Ya, for the first part to be seen as the perfect, supportive guy is seen as a weak and unable coward in the second half. Shan Ni, who is portrayed as the strongest female character, becomes a weak, melodramatic woman who depends on Ze Ya for everything. Tian Bian, who starts out endearing and innocent, becomes irritating when she ruins everything at her own promotion event, then wavering between Ze Ya and Xiao Gang. Also, the character of Man Qing is ruined, as she turns from the character who you sympathize with to the character you hate. Before, she is seen as a sufferer from the injustice of Xiao Gang to the evil manipulator of Xiao Gang and Tian Bian’s relationship. The only character that goes into the good light is Xiao Gang, who is portrayed as a supportive and kind character in the second half, though it does contrast with his cold character in the first.

The amount of character development is also lacking. First of all, almost of all of them are one-dimensional. The only exception is Xiao Gang and Man Qing, and even they seem to be little more than two-dimensional. Secondly, the characters themselves do not change within, but retain the same personality. The only changes one sees are caused by what characteristics of the person are emphasized at what sections. Tian Bian loses a little innocence and matures a little. Ze Ya shows no change. This perhaps is due to the perfection of the two at the beginning that does not allow them to develop later. The only characters who show a little more development are Xiao Gang, who becomes warmer and Shan Ni, who becomes weaker, but these are sudden and only occur in a small section of the series. This lack of character development is an effect of the dragging plotline that does not allow the characters to develop, and in effect, adds on to the dullness.

Bluntly put, the relationships are underdeveloped and rushed. In one episode, Tian Bian and Ze Ya are seen as friends, but in the next, Tian Bian is crushed that Ze Ya does not love her back. Shan Ni’s love for Ze Ya is pretty underdeveloped. The only relationship that is more developed is Xiao Gang and Tian Bian’s. The relationship between Xiao Gang and Man Qing at the end is rushed. I also believe that except for Xiao Gang and Man Qing, no one else understands what true love is. For Tian Bian, Ze Ya, and Shan Ni, love seems to appear overnight. The main problem is, there is nothing significant that occurs between them that would make them love very deeply.

I will still give praise to Tian Bian and Ze Ya’s relationship at the beginning. They look extremely good together, and no matter who watches it, they seem so sweet. Xiao Gang and Tian Bian’s relationship is developed pretty well. They are able to kid around with each other but still have an undertone of serious love because of a deeper character of Xiao Gang. The audience is able to say ‘Aw!’ and laugh while understanding that there is something deeper on the inside.

Music is a big part of what I look for in a drama, because the music definitely adds enjoyment to the series. The music in "At the Dolphin Bay" is extremely good. The opening song, "I Don’t Want to Know", is extremely catchy and fun to sing along to. There are numerous Japanese songs, including "White Snow" by Kokia. It is catchy and the lyrics are deep. There are many songs with many different moods to fit the many different situations and attitudes in the series.

The ending song, "Yi Shi de Mei Hao" became one of my favorite songs. It has a lot of essence and feeling. The lyrics are extremely deep and poetic, filled with imagery. It is hard to find lyrics this beautiful in any modern song. The lyrics also fit directly into the plot, because Xiao Ping Gai is waiting for the promise, like the lyrics go: “Chen nuo chang chang hen ziang hu dei, mei li de fei pan xuan ran hou bu jian. Dan wo xiang xing ni gei wo de shi yan, jiu xiang yi ding hui lai de chun tian.” Translated: “Promises are often like butterflies, beautifully flying, turning, but then disappearing. But I believe that the promise you gave me is exactly like the spring that will definitely come.” Angela sings it rather well.


Despite all the criticism, I still believe that this series is good overall and better than many of the other dragging and mushy series. The characters being to grow on you and you are able to feel for a few. Perhaps you would want to watch the beginning and towards the middle and end, do some selective watching. But it is pretty enjoyable overall.

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