Wind and Cloud

Reviewed by: spcnet

November 02, 2003

Rating: one-point-five

Warning! Spoilers!
A story adapted from my favorite Hong Kong comics, Tin Ha (Tian Xia), Fung Wan is a series about two boys whose names bore the Chinese characters for 'wind' and 'cloud', how Hong Ba, the leader of Tin Ha Clan sought them because of a prophecy promising world domination. If you've seen the movie, The Storm Riders, with Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok, then this should be familiar.

For about half of the 44 episodes (on VCD) series, "Fung Wan" was faithful to the comics, retaining about 60% of the characters and story line. The story was divided into first part introduction with Hong Ba acquiring Wind and Cloud in their childhood. Second part are some side stories from the Fung Wan novels, third part after the death of Hung Ti, then the defeat of Hong Ba. This is in the 20+ episodes. For the latter half, there is the invasion of Japanese warriors, the number one Japanese fighter, Juet Mo Sun, then his defeat, Hong Ba's comeback and finally his defeat.

The series took a major slide down the scales after Hong Ba's first defeat. It seemed as if the producers were content enough to leave most of the story alone and then change it drastically from the comics thereafter in the last half. Either that, or they must've just wanted to give Sonny Chiba, who played Hong Ba again, a huge role and use his presence as much as possible.

The revealed casting before the release already has many, including this reviewer, disappointed. Lip Fung (Wind), the handsome God of Wind, is played by Chiu Man Chuerk, who seriously looked awful with long hair. Even worse is that it is dyed an ugly blondish color with fringes. Peter Ho's Bo Ging Wan (Cloud) still does not measure up in action. His arms are not buff enough. Ho tries too hard to look mean and cold, his expressions often exaggerated.

Duan Long is played by a skinny actor, yet wears sleeveless tops which emphasize his lack in physique. Same goes for Juet Mo Sun, and he's supposed to be the number one Japanese warrior? Outfits worn by almost all the actors, except Hong Ba's and Tuern Suern's (Wong Hei) costumes, were horrible--like a bad clash between the stylish comic version with traditional martial arts wear.

Yet, even all these preliminary complaints on casting and costumes could be overlooked somewhat if the plot can still be saved. The first half is actually acceptable and pace was surprisingly good. Tie ins from the novel to comic related and, most importantly, the story made sense. The characters' personalities were also retained somewhat--except for Dok Gu Ming who is a complete slimeball here. A lot of dialogue exchanges were even taken word for word from the comics. Yet, the one major flaw in this series is Hong Ba. This man does not die and is in for the long haul. A lot of unanswered questions were left open, such as, how did Hong Ba acquire such strong martial arts after he wiped it out completely? Where was Ding Ling (Hung Ti's twin sister) all this time prior?

After Hong Ba's first defeat, it seemed as if all the characters lost their uniqueness and identity. Bo Ging Wan is no longer the cold, lonesome killer who does not like to speak much. In fact, like Qiong Yao flavored men in Taiwanese films, he likes to analyze his feelings, declare his love to Chor Chor over and over again. What is really, really hard to stomach was when some government official called him "Bo dai-hup (hero)"! Not once once, but a few times! Those who did not read the comics will not know that Bo Ging Wan was a ruthless murderer for quite a time. He killed many innocents for Hong Ba when he was still his disciple, all for the single purpose of achieving his revenge against Hong Ba one day. Basically, Bo Ging Wan is no "dai-hup" type main character. But that's what makes him likeable to many--because he's different. He's dark and dangerous, eventually does do good deeds but he's NOT a "dai-hup"!

Bo Ging Wan became an absolutely perfect man by the second half of the series. He's caring to Chor Chor, admits his affections to her lots, and believes that love can conquer everything. He even brings their baby with him to the final fight at the end. That must've been the stupidest thing ever, tying up your child at the front side of your body and fight a super-villain.

Chor Chor played by Tao Hong seemed limited to only a few expressions in every scene--scared, sad, sappy happy. Her eyes are always wide-open because this gal is always caught, always needing comfort and saving or watching someone fight while she stands there worried. The Cantonese dubbing on her voice was also awfully high pitched and whiny. Bo Ging Wan has to reassure his love to her so much. Their loving scenes together dragged like crazy. The problem here is that they paired up Bo Ging Wan and Chor Chor too early on so that it allows an insane amount of time to their love scenes. The only declaration of love that Bo makes to her in the comics is when he jumps off the cliff with her after she was raped. Which, in my opinion, is enough. Sometimes producers really ruin things when too much is spoken. Then it becomes sappy.

Chiu Man Chuerk as Lip Fung was just horrible (this reviewer has no words for it, except maybe three letters, B-A-D). It was enough that they killed his dashing image but his personality as well. He seemed to smile too much in the series. His Wind God Kicks and his "hing-gung" (lightweight martial arts) is considered his trademark in the comics since he becomes one of the swiftest fighters, yet the series didn't really emphasize his speed at all. The part where he turns to the demonic side was also poor acting by Chiu. Most of the time I thought he looked like a dope.

Shui Ling's dual roles as Ming Yuet and 2nd Dream were some of the rare few I do not have complaints about. She looked really pretty compared to the other actresses as her hair-do and costumes were the best. Her kung-fu moves were also neat.

Sonny Chiba did look the best as the main villain, which might be why they didn't let him just rest in peace. However, I thought he tended to over-act in many scenes, especially those with his daughter, Yal Yuerk. He also likes to put his arm around the shoulders of another person when speaking, to show that he's plotting something evil all the time.

Mo Ming by Suen Hing is passable. It was inconsistent though that he taught Bo Ging Wan the Sword Origin's ultimate move, "Million Swords Return to Origin", which required one to rid of all your martial arts first. Yet, Bo Ging Wan just learned it! Now run that by me again?

Lip Fung's mother, Kan Ying, dressed like a pretty bird. She really looked inappropriate in her sleeveless outfits, sometimes reminding me of a peacock.

Jiang Zu Ping playing Hong Ba's daughter, Yal Yuerk, also had a lot of screen time. She was cute but her role was not, especially when she started feeling something for Duan Long.

Most annoying character goes to Ding Ling played by Annie Wu. Her character was completely irritating and useless, probably there just to give Annie Wu more screen time. Annie Wu also does not look very pretty in ancient costume as she has a modern look. Second most annoying has to go to the China Dolls who played the Doll Assassins. Again, their voice dubbings were too high pitched and they looked really silly when fighting. I tried switching to the Mandarin channel but it was the same with their voices. Speaking of Doll Assassins, what happened to them in the middle of series? They just disappeared after the Japanese came?

The ending is also reversed. It is Bo Ging Wan who gets the happy ending while poor Lip Fung is left all alone. It is supposed to be Bo Ging Wan's fate as the Tearless God of Death to have a lonely life but then again, this isn't the only thing they've screwed up. By the end of the series, I didn't even have expectations for it anymore.

A big portion of the series was flashbacks. We do not, and I repeat, do not, need flashbacks of scenes that occurred in the same episode. And these were same flashbacks that were replayed again and again. What an ingenious way to save money and fill up an episode--sarcasm dripping here. There was too much talking by the last half of series about love, love, and how much I love you, you love me--let's all love each other.

The themesong has English lyrics as did Peter Ho's subtheme during the series which is inappropriate for a period drama, even if it is a comic spin-off. Lines like "I'll sing without you, can you feel my pain?" and "Girl, I need you" (or something like that) does not match the series! As sukting noted, the sub song at the end of each episode was much nicer and suitable for the main theme.

Graphic-wise, some were good, like Lip Fung's saber thrusts with the Snow Drinking Saber, but overall, mostly fake looking, such as the Kilin. Many of the fighting scenes were good though some scenes were reused from the movie, such as the bamboo forest fight scene between Hong Ba and Lip Yun Wong, Lip Fung's father. That scene was almost an exact ripoff with no originality.

Because I watched the Cantonese dubbed version, I recognized a lot of re-used voice actors for several characters, probably because of low budget. And that's the thing about the TV series. It feels low-budget and cheesy. I can never understand why adaptations could not just respect the story and characters and keep it intact instead of trying to make it up on their own. About 90% of the time, it doesn't work out and just kills the original story.

If there's a Part II, I will not watch it. I had to brainwash myself with the comics after watching the series so that I'd feel better. For suggestion, why not make an anime of it instead?

On a side note, I feel as if I am beginning to lose my passion for writing reviews. It must be some sign when it becomes more perfunctory than pleasure. Maybe I'm growing up (!) but I personally think that I am not as inspired anymore. I shall pass on this torch soon...

More Screenshots:
Tin Ha Fung Wan at SPCNET

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