What’s Playing: Love 020

Viewed: 2019. 03/13-03/21

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

I was bound to stumble upon this 2016 drama series sooner or later. Xiao Nai (Yang Yang) is a young entrepreneur designing his first game with his college-age friends when he stumbles upon Bei Weiwei (Schuang Zheng), a remarkable female gamer, skilled at combat in a RPG that is a national hit.

When Weiwei gets dumped inside of the game by her in-game husband, she receives a proposal from the server’s top player, Yixiao Naihe, who, unbeknownst to her, is the school’s most popular guy, Xiao Nai. They’re a formidable pair on the servers, but would they have any chemistry if they met, in real life? Love 020 explores the dangers of anonymous romances online, and the unspoken attractions of those around us, and quite naturally, the misadventures of unrequited love in a dramedy worth your time, if you’re a fan of online RPGs or of Chinese romances.

The romance is sweet and pure, and the conflict makes sense — it’s not all misunderstandings and love at first hate. As a former gamer myself, I was tickled by the scenes included in the series where we get to see their avatars interacting within the game, and that imagination come to life, from dealing with guild politics to fighting a mob boss. It was so much fun!

If you’re not sure about the investment of watching the full series (it’s looooong), there was a 103 minute film version released the same year (different actors) that consolidates the plot. Both were available on Netflix the last time I checked.

Over the past six weeks, I’ve been sharing some of my recent Netflix favorites with you and now, we’re all caught up. I’m currently working my way through another Chinese romance TV series right now, so there’s definitely a possibility that I’ll share my thoughts on that, if and when I ever finish it. Hint: it’s got, like, eighty episodes or something, it’s a long-term investment of my time, which has been limited of late.

Meantime, if you’ve got a great series in this genre that you highly recommend, please leave me a comment with your suggestions. If it’s on Netflix, I can add it to my watch later list, sooner or later. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed these brief looks at some fun drama/romance/comedies.

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What’s Playing: This Is Not What I Expected

Viewed: 2019. 03/13

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

A standalone film, This Is Not What I Expected is the story of a foodie hotel buyer and an unorthodox, but highly talented, sous chef with a flair for mischief. When Gu Sheng-Nan (Dongyu Zhou) is dumped by her boyfriend/boss, she throws herself into her cooking, stirring up those strong emotions into a culinary experience that catches the notice of potential hotel buyer, Lu Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro). It should be love at first sight, however, after a disastrous first encounter between the two, and subsequent awkward interactions that firm Lu Jin’s opinion of Gu Sheng-Nan as a klutz and a menace, there is little chance for either of them.

Comical chaos ensues as Lu Jin ignores the hotel acquisition in favor of attempting to pin out which of the male staff is HIS stellar culinary star even as he is attempts to evade Gu Sheng-Nan, and her penchant for trouble. When he discovers that the very person he has been trying to avoid is the same person he’s been seeking all along, well, things get interesting.

I found this to be a lot of fun although some of the situations are highly improbable and perhaps, would not be as entertaining if occurring in real life. If you enjoy romantic comedies with elements of drama and cuisine, then you may enjoy this too. Take a look and share your thoughts below. Have a great day and remember, keep reaching higher!

What’s Playing: Ashes of Love

Viewed:

  • 2018. 12/23-21/31
  • 2019. 01/01-01/18

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

Ashes of Love, Ashes of Love. Oh, this was ever such a nice surprise! Looking for a palette cleanser after Meteor Garden, I stumbled onto this fantasy series about an immortal romance for the ages, a romantic comedy with plenty of drama mixed in for good measure. This series is based on the novel, Heavy Sweetness, Ash-Like Frost by Dian Xian, which I need to read at some point. If you haven’t yet noticed, I’m not exactly a stickler for reading the book before the film version.

Little Jin Mi (Zi Yang), is a humble grape fairy and she lives in the floral realm under the guardianship of Chief Peony (Peng Yang), who is the defacto ruler after the tragic death of the floral goddess, Zifen (Zhang Yanyan) whom is regularly mourned and honored, centuries after her death. Jin Mi, who has no concept of what love is, has one goal in life — to restore her friend to life, who was cruelly transformed prior to death into a plant. Jin Mi believes that if she can get enough magic, or find someone powerful enough to help her, she can get her best friend back. The only one powerful enough who perhaps could help her is the Heavenly Emperor, ruler over all of the realms. But she’s forbidden to leave the floral realm, so it seems impossible.

When a crow breaks through the protective barrier of the floral realm and transforms into a male immortal from the heavenly realm, Jin Mi demands to be taken there as reward for saving his life so she can appeal to the Heavenly Emperor for help. She doesn’t realize that this immortal is in fact Xu Feng “aka Phoenix” (Deng Lun), the son of the Heavenly Emperor, and brother to Run Yu (Luo Yunxi), the Night god. Like Dorothy traveling to the Emerald City to appeal to the Wizard, this decision launches Jin Mi into a journey fraught with danger, romance, and lots of magic.

The writing was really well done on this one and although it had a bit of a slow start, once I got into it, I was hooked. I was probably averaging several episodes a day, every day, until it was finished, and I forget offhand but I think there was something like 60 episodes in the series altogether. It. Never. Ended.

Until it did. And then, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth (just kidding…). But in all seriousness, this was amazing. There are other Chinese fantasy romances out there on Netflix right now, but I’ve hesitated watching any of them for fear that they’ll pale in comparison. It’s that good.

I haven’t really touched upon the romantic storylines or the points of the central conflict in the series because I really don’t want to give anything away but if you’ve had a chance to see this series, let me know what you thought of it by leaving a comment below. And if you know of any other series in this vein that measures up, please make recommendations! I’m always looking for the next bingeworthy series. Thank you for reading and remember, keep reaching higher.

What’s Playing: Meteor Garden

Viewed: 2018. 09/30-10/20

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

Sorry everybody, I meant to get this posted on Friday and it’s a couple of days late, for anyone eagerly awaiting my next foray into Chinese romantic dramas, here you go…

Meteor Garden was far from a disappointment. This series was originally a manga, although unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate it in print yet.

Dong Shancai (Yue Shen) may come from humble origins but when she lands entrance into one of the best schools of the country, it opens up a whole new world for her. Dong Shancai is accompanied by best friend, Chen Qinghe (Yinhao Liu), who would follow her anywhere. At school, the most popular group of boys, F4, are known for being masters of bridge (sometimes called poker in the series) and for punishing any students who lose bets against them.

There is Feng Meizuo (Connor Leong), the perpetual lover, never settling on a single girlfriend for long; Ximen Yan (Xize Wu), the tea-drinking enthusiast who strategizes romance like a general; Huaze Lei (Darren Chen), the quiet, artistic one; and Daoming Si (Dylan Wang), the defacto leader of the group and the meanest of the bunch.

When Dong Shancai offends Daoming Si, it begins a tumultuous love-hate relationship that spans the series (with multiple romantic triangles) as she pursues love and culinary excellence in her chosen field of study. I love cooking competition shows anyway so seeing a romantic drama with one built in was really quite a treat for me, although it’s far from the focus of the series, most of which revolves around life at school, and the attempts at relationships of the members of F4, with various romantic partners.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, I do recommend that you check it out. If you do, or if you’ve already seen it, please leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Got any other recommendations similar to this series? Don’t be shy — let me know! I’m always looking for the next bingeworthy series on Netflix. Have a terrific day and remember to keep reaching higher.

What’s Playing: Good Morning Call

Viewed: 2018. 07/15-07/23

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

About a year after watching Diamond Lover, I accidentally stumbled onto Good Morning Call, the story of two high school students, forced by circumstance to live together, with just one catch, nobody can ever find out.

Nao Yoshikawa (Haruka Fukuhara) and Hisashi Uehara (Shunya Shirashi) are students at the same high school, but where Nao is a lowly freshman, Uehara is the most popular boy at school. After they are conned into renting the same apartment, Nao and Uehara begin to live together, but the animosity between them makes it extremely rocky ground for love to bloom. Uehara is bossy and picks on Nao, when he isn’t ignoring her entirely, and eats her food. Nao watches with interest as all of the girls chase Uehara, and gets somewhat of a thrill knowing that she sees a side of him that nobody else does, leaving her to wonder, what makes him so special?

As Nao begins to cultivate feelings for Uehara, Uehara’s childhood crush, Yuri, comes back into the picture, and Nao’s best friend, Marina, learns Nao and Uehara’s secret. There’s a lot of comedy in this one, with fan girls fawning all over Uehara, one of the schools top three most popular boys, as well as a classmate, who goes around confessing his love to every girl he meets. Intended for a younger audience, this is a charming, lighthearted romantic comedy that hits the right notes, based on a manga series of the same name.

I’ve been reading manga for a number of years but I haven’t found the books for this series (yet). I think that taking a chance and watching this series is what really opened up a whole new world of delight in the Asian romantic comedy, be it Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc. I can’t tell you how much of this stuff is available on Netflix and once the floodgates opened, I found a lovely new genre that I’d never even heard of before.

Keep watching this space on Fridays, now for the next few months, as I share some of my other favorite finds that I’ve been binge-watching on Netflix. If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Good Morning Call, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you.

What’s Playing: Diamond Lover

Viewed: 2017. 07/11-07/16

Netflix episode list available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

There was about an eighteen-month-gap between my first venture into Asian dramas, Atelier, and my second, Diamond Lover. This is not to say I didn’t find anything binge-worthy on Netflix, only that Atelier didn’t initially whet my appetite for more Chinese dramas. Instead, I went back to my old standbys, a mix of science-fiction, fantasy, historical romances and cooking competition shows, until somehow, luckily, I stumbled onto Diamond Lover, and found a worthy follow-up.

Diamond Lover begins with the comedic premise of an obese girl, Mi Duo (Tiffany Tang) who has a crush on Xiao Liang (Rain), the CEO of a diamond company. After a freak accident results in making her thin and beautiful, she adopts a new identity and goes to work for her crush. Xiao fails to recognize that the new beauty working at his company was once the shy, large girl he ignored. With a faithful friend in the wings who loves her as she is, and jealous office colleagues who would love to discover Mi’s secret, will Mi find love or will the truth, if discovered, repulse Xiao?

The synopsis is a bit more complicated than that but hopefully this overview gives you an idea of the fun, transformational premise of this Chinese romantic comedy featuring musical artist, Rain, in his film debut (he also sings the title number). Like most of these stories, there are love triangles for both protagonist and her romantic lead, and complications as they each strive for happiness, inevitably clashing along the way.

Luo Jin and Dilraba Dilmurat star as the contagonist leads, each trying to win the heart of Mi and Xiao (respectively). Not dissimilar from Atelier, this drama is set in the workplace and features a woman striving for acceptance and excellence in the diamond industry and happiness with a romantic partner.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen this series, but I recall enjoying it and recommend you check it out if you enjoy the genre. Fun fact: Rain spoke in Korean for the role and was dubbed over in Mandarin. The jewelry is also a lot of fun to look at, but it’s far from the only eye candy in the series.

If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Diamond Lover, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you. Over the next few months, expect to see more updates of other Chinese, Korean and Japanese dramas and romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed over the years, available on Netflix.

What’s Playing: Atelier

Viewed: 2016. 01/24-02/09

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.*

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

Atelier was my introduction to the world of Asian dramas available on YouTube. And there are so, so, many to choose from. Atelier, which is also branded as Underwear in some regions, is the story of Tokita Mayuko** (Mirei Kiritani), a young woman starting out in the couture lingerie fashion industry, and what sets her apart from other startup designers, is her obsession with fabrics. She’s a total nerd, seriously. It kind of makes her adorable.

Emotion, the company she goes to work for, is renowned for its excellence in lingerie, but its owner, President Nanjo Mayumi (Mao Daichi) is both a demanding employer and harbors ambitions and secrets far beyond the experience of little Mayuko, who must learn, in this coming-of-age Netflix Original miniseries, how to grow into the artist she longs to become, and navigate the treacherous world of the fashion industry.

This is the first extended TV series that I can recall ever watching in a foreign language and I admit, there is a learning curve. Unlike other binge-worthy shows on Netflix, dramas in a foreign language (thankfully, with English subtitles, or I’d be hopelessly lost!) do not allow you to follow the story in the background while you’re doing other things. If you don’t know the native language, you have to be paying attention to the subtitles. So yes, there is a lot of reading involved. Once I was able to transition past that, the subtitles fades into the background in the same way that a translator disappears, and you’re just speaking face-to-face with that other person, and focusing on their message, their story.

Albeit with some racy imagery (it is called Underwear for a reason!), you are left with an engrossing story that is universal in its application, if exotic (to Westerners like me), in its setting. And that is probably where I got hooked. The story is for mature audiences (in my opinion, probably teenagers or up), but if you are a fan of fashion workplace dramas like The Devil Wears Prada, you will probably enjoy giving this a try.

If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Atelier, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you.

Over the next few months, expect to see more updates of other Chinese, Korean and Japanese dramas and romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed over the years, available on Netflix.

Author’s note:

  • The trailer is in the original language, without English subtitles, so try to focus on the story, not getting lost by the language (unless you can speak it of course).

** IMDB.com seems to list actor names in Western (first, last) style, and character names in Chinese format (last, first). Here, I’ve tried to include them all in Western style, (for the ease of my readers) and hopefully gotten the names down in the right order. Since I just starting out, if I’ve gotten the names backwards somehow, please let me know so I can edit this post and make corrections, thank you!