Before I even became into any American series, my life for a good while was all about Taiwanese dramas. They are mostly called Idol Series. Let me tell you that I freaked out with excitement when I realized that Netflix now carries some of them. I’ve seen a few they have available but this one was the one that caught my eye because for those who don’t know, back in 2003-ish, a Japanese manga series was adapted into a TV series in Taiwan called Meteor Garden. That marked the rise of a group called F4 and within this group and possibly kind of the buffer member is a guy who can rap and sing and dance but he never really ever got the spotlight he deserved and that is Vanness Wu who is the main guy in this series, Autumn’s Concerto. As I was researching this before writing this post, I realized that it is one of the top Taiwanese dramas to air…
I’ll continue that thought right after a brief summary…
Autumn’s Concerto (2009)
Series Director: Wei-ling Chen
Cast: Vanness Wu, Ady An, Chris Wu, Benny Wen, Wei Ning Hsu
Mu-Cheng Liang has lived her life cautiously since her stepmother reluctantly takes her along and settles with a man who is far from perfect. Growing up, she’s learned to find the best ways to protect herself while keeping her own secrets. All this changes when she meets college rich playboy, Guang-xi Ren who also grew up with everything material but deep down lacks an emotional connection. They meet under the worst coincidences. Before long, Guang-xi realizes the seriousness and hell and Mu-Cheng is in and sees her authentic personality that others haven’t shown him and they fall in love. Unfortunately, he is plagued with a brain tumor that forces them apart. Not knowing what happened, they end up reuniting six years later but things are no longer the same, mostly because his past has been wiped from his memory.
Autumn’s Concerto sounds super generic and for the most part, I’m an expert at these generic series. However, I can also see how this is done really well. Right from touching performances to great soundtrack to a decent pacing. I can argue that Autumn’s Concerto could easily cut a few episodes shorter but for what it is, it just turned me in a complete and utter mess. I mean, I was crying like crazy. I mean bawling! I haven’t felt so connected to characters that made me think about them non-stop even after I turned off the series or even now, a week or two after the series is done. I always say this about any romance movie or whatnot. There are lots of plots out there and in our minds, we’ve seen a lot of it. In fact, to make it feel realistic and make the characters connect and come to life, giving them a purpose of why they are important to the audience is the most important part.
For some of you who don’t know, whether its Korean or Hong Kong or Chinese or Taiwanese series, its not structured like American series. For the fact that we don’t usually have one episode a week (at least not in Hong Kong) but it also is a one “season” deal. We have one series and its a complete story, not like in North American or UK series where its one series over a ton of seasons. They aren’t asking to be renewed. They have one shot to leave that impression. Its what makes it important to make it worth the while to watch.
For those who appreciate a good romance and even one that touches on a lot of deep issues like harassment and sexual predators, which is rarely touched on in these series, this one takes an interesting turn on it and this makes it unique while giving our characters depth as well. Vanness Wu deserves more roles. He is an outstanding actor and his Ren Guang-xi made me fall in love with him and then get frustrated at some of his decisions and just yearning for him to finally see the big picture. On the other hand, Ady An is also fantastic. I’ve actually never seen her in any other series so its my first experience with her and she is amazing. She captures the essence of pain and reluctance and independence and courage all at the same time. For once, this is a story about not a guy surrounded with two girls who are weak but rather they are both independent and different in how they love. Its not about choosing who is weaker and having to give up. The lesson at the end of the series (or as you learn throughout) is that everyone loves differently and will make decisions they find are sacrifices for the one they love. It takes courage to make those decisions and a lot of control and self-restraint to make these difficult choices when nothing seems like the right decision.
Its not all sad and everything. Actually, there are some really funny parts in the six years later bit which takes up a good 70% of the series. In the little village, it just makes for so much comedic moments along with some absolutely awkward ones as well. Not to mention, there’s a little boy, Xiao-le that is the best child actor ever. He just makes you want to cuddle him and has the best lines and delivers them so well that you just have to believe every word he says.
Aside from these main players, we have the supporting characters which don’t get enough screen time but still deliver fantastically. Playing a guy who has a huge love for Mu-Cheng, Tuo-Ye is Chris Wu who I’ve never seen before either but it seems like he is a big deal in Taiwan (or maybe the years after). I’m not sure because I just stepped back into this even if this series quite some time ago. However, the supporting female character is Tiffany Hsu/Wei Ning Hsu and I’ve seen her before. I think she is pretty good as well. And I can’t really go through this without talking about the older cast here who plays the parents and mentors. Especially the actress who plays Guang-xi’s mom who captures her uptight and strict role in such a convincing way.
I’m sure I’m not capturing how great this series is and sure, a lot of you probably won’t be appealed by it because it sounds absolutely cheesy. However, Autumn’s Concerto is one of the best Taiwanese series I’ve seen. Years ago, I’m not going to lie that I stopped watching Taiwanese series because I’ve grown a little sarcastic and cynical about the whole rinse and repeat thing. I knew I’d come back to it eventually. Who knew it would be for this one that I totally binge watched even when it made me cry a whole lot whether out of joy or sadness or frustration. It deserved every single tear. Right at this moment, as I’m writing this (just like the past week since I finished), I’ve been resisting the urge to start it up all over again. This love for something: I missed that feeling so much.
While you all are showing lots of love for Stranger Things, which I will see soon. I want to sit in this joy of finding a series that has reignited a feeling that I haven’t felt in a while. Getting back to my roots and actually realizing that I am still a romantic makes me so happy.
I sure hope that I convinced a few of you to go check out some Taiwanese series, especially this one. However, even if you don’t, I’m still pretty happy that this series turned out so great and I’m excited to actually dig out some of those series I own and revisit a few.