Wish To See You Again

Reviewed by: AndyChrono

April 16, 2009

Rating: five

In A Nutshell: One of the best contemporary Taiwan dramas.

Details (Spoiler Warning!):

A. Characters:
1. Vic Zhou as Xu Le
Xu Le is a best-selling author struggling with a bad case of writer's block. Growing up as an orphan, he naturally developed an introverted personality, making him seem weird at times and awkward when interacting among other people. He has only two friends in his life: Xiao Ma and Ah Hao. To put it succinctly, this is the best character in the series. He's complicated and has great depth for the actor to explore. Vic Zhou does an incredible job here, as every little facial feature is performed flawlessly. The awkwardness and weirdness is pulled off with just enough weight to give it credibility without going too over-the-top to the point where it's no longer believable.

2. Chen Yan Xi as Pan Neng Xian
Basically the girl next door. Some may complain that this is a cliche or stereotype. This is a fair criticism but the reality is that most young women in Taiwan probably have a very similar life to the Neng Xian character: just out of college, trying to find a job via internship, exploring dating, etc. Thus I personally have no problem with common characters like this because they represent reality. Michelle Chen fits the role like a glove. First off, she looks the part of the girl next door. Secondly, she doesn't overdo some of the funny or serious moments but instead strikes the right balance so that it's entertaining while still believable in the context of the girl next door.

3. Ken Zhu as Ding Yu Hao
At first, I thought it would be another "friend who disappeared and suddenly came back" character. But the underlying reasons for his disappearance is hinted and then explored very well. I won't reveal too much here, but suffice to say the character's background is complicated and interwoven very well with the other main characters. As for Ken Zhu, I personally found him to be the only weak link among the main actors. He doesn't express the character's tortured past and shame very well, and does a bit too many blank stares from time to time. The only difference between his various emotions was the loudness of voice. Ken didn't do a very good job of communicating through the eyes and facial features and body language.

4. Kingone Wang as Ma Yong Rui
The character is a standard one: the sibling that is always compared to and falls short of the standards set by his older sibling. While certainly cliche, it's also a character type that represents reality. Most people with siblings have probably had some kind of rivalry or comparison done by parents or others. Xiao Ma here plays a manager of a 5-star hotel run by his older brother. Kingone does an excellent job in showing us the upbeat and casual Xiao Ma. He's also excellent in the sobering scenes. Suffice to say this guy has come a long way since Devil Beside You.

5. Terri Kwan as Lu Yi
Childhood classmate of the three friends Xu Le, Xiao Ma, and Ah Hao. Was the school beauty that all the boys wanted to date. Now works at a news company. She has ties to all 3 friends which are slowly explored through the story. The Lu Yi character is the hub around which the three friends turn. Their relationships toward her and one another change dramatically over the course of the show. She can thus be labeled as the catalyst or driving force behind a significant portion of the show's plot. This kind of character is the most difficult to express. Because of the constantly changing relationships, one has to switch between the full range of emotions through the show. Terri Kwan does an excellent job here. There are a lot of crying scenes, but I was pleasantly surprised that she didn't pour on sacchrine to the point where it was cringe-worthy. All-in-all a great showing.

6. Ji Qin as Pan Neng Zhen
Plays the eldest sister in the Pan family. Loves Ah Hao but is too shy to admit it to him. She is a huge fan of Xu Le's novels but only knows him under his pen name of Ye Zi. The Neng Zhen character exists primarily to help develop the character of Ah Hao throughout the show as a new love interest. The role is relatively small compared to the 5 other leads, but Ji Qin does a good job at playing out the changes that the character goes through: changing from a shy and sheltered girl to one who isn't afraid to go out into the world. Again, somewhat cliche but at the same time realistic and relatable.

7. Supporting Cast
The entire supporting cast is superb. You have the hilarious boss of the taxi company who loves to ask his drivers to bring him back any good food they find. Xiao Ma's brother who exudes a calm and serious demeanor of a general manager. The Pan family parents who run a Chinese medicine clinic. Vanness Wu's guest star role as Leo is hilarious but not overdone to the point of ridiculousness. I also want to make special mention of the 3 actors who play the younger versions of Xu Le, Xiao Ma, and Ah Hao. They develop the personalities of the characters flawlessly, as you can see the seeds of why their adult versions are the way they are and why they make certain decisions in certain situations.

Character Summary: The best part of the characters in the show are that they are all realistic and relatable. Some like Neng Xian (Nancy) are straight out girl next door types. Some are more eccentric like Xu Le, but they all have qualities the viewers can relate to. There are no over-the-top characters (e.g. anything with Mike He) that while entertaining once in a while, are completely in a different universe. Furthermore, the main characters are all good people with flaws. Their successes and failures are due to their various strengths and weaknesses. This creates a stronger connection with the audience, as you can really root when they succeed, and you really feel for them when they come up short.

B. Plot/Story
I won't give away the plot, but I'll say that it has similar qualities to that of the characters: realistic and relatable. Nothing absurdly crazy happens. Everything that happens could really happen in real life, which in my opinion strenthens the dramatic impact. There are a couple "buys" we have to accept in order to set up the initial situation and get the ball rolling. However these come early on so you don't get deus ex machina situations at the end. These is a near "kiss of death" cliche near the end but I personally thought that they did an excellent job resolving that without resorting to ultra-weepy scenes with cringe-worthy dialogue. That section is handled in a very adult manner which suffice to say is a rarity in Taiwanese drama. The final thing about the plot is that it weaves in a bunch of tourist attractions in Taiwan (more on this below) and it does it very well. All in all, the plot does an excellent job of weaving the characters together in a belieavable story and also including some beautiful locations for them to go.

C. Music/Soundtrack
Usually, Taiwan dramas if anything have excellent music. This one has one of the best drama soundtracks I've heard. The opening track "Waiting Here For You" by F4 is catchy and easy to sing along with. There are other tracks used for various moments, and you will recognize them during the show. Lu Yi's moments have a particular song. The 3 friends have their song. Xu Le and Neng Xian have their own songs. I can't find fault with any of the songs as not only are they good songs but they are used effectively to enhance the show instead of distract or detract from it.

D. X-Factors
The biggest X-factor is definately the scenery. This show was partially funded by the Taiwan tourism bureau, and they masterfully incorporated some of the big tourist attractions like Ali Mountain, Toroko Gorge, Sun Moon Lake, and the Taipei 101. There's some great shots in the show, and I marvelled at how they managed to wrap a believable story involving all of these places. I also want to add points for being realistic with the characters and plot. In an age where over-the-top stuff is the norm, this show was a breath of fresh air. Sometimes less is more, and the realism strengthens the dramatic impact and lessons of the show.

E. Summary/Conclusion
Wish To See You Again is one of the best contemporary Taiwan dramas. It features realistic adult characters in a realistic story. None of the exaggerated stuff that Taiwan normally puts out. It provides a clear look into life in Taiwan through the characters and shows off many of the beautiful tourist attractions there throughout the story. The music is great and enhances the experience. You grow to care for the characters, as they are all good people trying to succeed, but flawed so that they are tested along the way. This is due in no small part to the actors, who give excellent performances. The plot develops all the main characters very well, including back story and changes through the show. The final resolution is handled nicely as what would normally be a horrible cliche in any other drama is resolved in an adult manner. This one hits all the right notes. I highly recommend you see it if you haven't already.

Final Score: 5/5

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