After the massive love for A Love So Beautiful (review), I went backwards to check out Hu Yitian’s previous role, which is a fairly smaller supporting role which was probably only about half of the series in very small doses in Rush to the Dead Summer, adapted from a 2006 romance novel originally called 1995-2005 Rush to the Dead Summer written by Guo Jingming . The ending was changed in the version. I haven’t read the story but after the ending felt the need to hunt down the actual ending to draw some comparisons and I will touch on that as well.
RUSH TO THE DEAD SUMMER (夏至未至, 2017)
Cast: Cheney Chen, Shuang Zheng, Jingting Bai, Biyun Chai, Zitong Xia, Hehuizi Zheng, Hanchen Pang, Uvin Wang, Jingyang Ni
The love and growth of a group of young people from the same high school. – IMDB
People say we meet seven versions of ourselves during our youth. One bright and beautiful, one laden with grief, one is gorgeous, one that takes risks, one that is stubborn, one that is soft, and the last one is in the middle of maturing. On the road to maturity, we would experience rain and wind, encounter thistles and thorns. We will swallow our anger and we would also strongly retaliate. Of course, we hadn’t anticipated that there is a price to pay for this so-called maturity. Sometimes, even if we know that we’ll be punished, we’ll still bravely step forward because these are our true selves. Before we are polished to shine, we carry sharp edges and thorns all over, and fearless confidence and determination so we can be dashing heroes for a brief moment. – Li Xia, Rush to the Dead Summer, Episode 5.
You can watch the series with English subtitles on Youtube below:
Rush to the Dead Summer focuses on 5 different characters over the course of 10 years of their life from their senior high years to their adult life. There are a few supporting characters that also get a voice however, those primary five are the main focal points where these other characters pop up for whichever duration. While not as defined as the source material structure, there is a very accurate focus on various characters. It focuses on friendships and romantic relationships as well as each characters hurdles from family, school and their career choices.
The series can be split into various acts. The first building the foundation of the characters and relationships set during the senior high years that has a much longer focus of over 20 episodes. The second act is the post secondary education phase which looks at seeking career dreams, university and finding their path into setting into the real world which could be considered the shorter act because it sets up for the third act which is the real world. Because of this shift in different stages of their life, the story ends up having a decent pacing and also brings up a very real draw in these characters where different primary characters will fall to the background accordingly when some other characters will have their own moments and their stories, just as in real life when friends will each have their own moments to celebrate or experience and the others become their support and audience.
The story tone also has those shifts because of these different stages accordingly. The first act is more innocent high school moments with a focus on Li Xia (Shuang Zheng) and Xiaosi Fu (Cheney Chen) and their romance while also focusing on the bromance between Xiaosi Fu and Zhi-ang Lu (Jingting Bai) and the friendships between Li Xia and Qiqi Cheng (Biyun Chai) as well as Li Xia and Yu Jian (Zitong Xia). Its a building of new friends, maintaining of old friendships and learning about romances and the coming of age of embracing the things that we truly desire and knowing when to fight for them. In the second act, it becomes fairly shorter as everyone splits up into their own segments. The romance between Li Xia and Xiaosi become more developed while the pursuing of their own dreams become a big focal point for both Qiqi and Yu Jian in their own ways defined by their own values while Zhi-ang chooses a new path completely that takes him into a new environment. In the last act, its the final bits as a lot of secrets get revealed, different personalities and motives get revealed and the adult world proves to be one with much more serious consequences for their actions bring dilemmas and challenges and all kinds of conflicts at every turn.
Rush of the Dead Summer’s story sounds like a very familiar teen coming of age kind of drama. In many ways, its hard to argue that it isn’t. The uniqueness of it is how it executes its through changing the different voices and giving the story a moment to move around flexibly while making sure that each of these five characters are ones that we care about to a certain degree.
Rush to the Dead Summer clocks in at 46 episodes. Odd number? I know it is. With these series, they fall into the borderline of having pacing issues because it can very well go into the pacing a little too different. However, this series uses different characters and point of views, experiences and perpetual stories that it makes it never feel like it drags on for too long. The only issue here is that some characters fall into the background and the main issues do lie with accepting when the characters we love more may flip around in the end and fall behind the scenes more or the story loses that focus and it gets more dramatic as these characters get older. In terms of length and pacing, Rush of the Dead Summer does a relatively good job. If anything drags along, it can very well be because the character story that its focusing on is getting too much screen time and the other character in preference doesn’t, but there is a good amount of care in executing it so that the different characters or different pairs all get their due time whether the audience agrees with it or not.
Rush of the Dead Summer focuses on these 5 characters: Li Xia, Xiaosi Fu, Zhi-ang Lu, Yu Jian and Cici Cheng. In the previous sections, I’ve already mentioned some of the romance relationships here and some of the friendships in focus. Before we look at the effectiveness of these relationships, lets take a quick look at the characters.
Li Xia plays a focal character. She is a mild-tempered, hard working and shy girl who has a specific set of values and makes sure that everyone she cares about will be taken care of and respected. Because of this, she is good friends with every one of the other characters. Her junior high friend is Qiqi, her love interesting in senior high is Xiaosi, Zhi-ang has a crush on her but also enjoys being her good friend, and Yu Jian became her friend because she did little things in senior high that made her feel warm. Li Xia is a likable character even if at times, her indecisiveness and her meek personality will make it hard to not feel bad or feel frustrated with her not learning more to protect herself.
With that said, her main relationship chemistry is with Xiaosi Fu. Xiaosi is a more introvert and perfectionist character. He is the first in their grade, he has incredible artistic skills and doesn’t know how to express himself a lot and is very straight-forward with his words. However, his care is in his actions and its because of these things that Li Xia and him has quite a good bit of chemistry. Every series has a guy that is like this and they always end up having this awkward moments that make for some cute and sweet moments.
While it seems like Zhi-ang Lu is the best friend of Xiaosi and has this love triangle, it never quite goes into fruition because he never really pursues her but chooses to be the happy character in the series that goes from the positive and social outgoing personality who flirts with other girls and has one of the biggest changes where he becomes more focused on his dreams and finding a different path while also in the final act, the story suddenly shifts its voice into having a heavier focus on him and a new girl character that enters the picture called Yan Mo (He Hui Zhi Zheng). I’m not going to talk about Yan Mo’s character but its one that brings on a lot of changes and also delivers a lot of sweeter moments in the final act especially when the relationship and career of the first primary couple enters a much of dramatic turn of events affected by a lot of outside factors that this new relationship and pursuit gives off a new comedic angle.
At the same time, its at this time that we can talk about Yu Jian, Qiqi and the different friendships because as great as the chemistry of the relationships here. Perhaps some of the better moments are how the different friendships develop. Yu Jian has a more set goals and has the opposite personality of Li Xia and stands up for her constantly which makes their friendship solid in their own way in a more reliable way where we soon learn, some friendships will change because of the change in perspective and that happens with Qiqi and Li Xia where they may know each other longer but their friendship slowly also has its cracks. Qiqi also is designed to be a more “bad” sort of character and while I never found her good. Her parts and self-destruction and other bits usually prove be more frustrating to watch and probably one of the not so well written characters. While Yu Jian remains one of the better written ones.
Rush of the Dead Summer is unique because it takes on the different voices of five characters and creates a tree of stories for each of them throughout 10 years of their life. There are a lot of quotable moments and share a lot of different sides of life between all of them as they encounter different happy, sad, frustrating and angry moments. Its one very much worth watching. Some people complain about the fact that the main male lead is very rigid in his role but to be fair, his role is meant to be that way and his character because of the initial way changes over the time as a development angle and probably was done deliberately. There are little details in the series that I caught on the second viewing which actually makes these characters and gives them signs on how their character and nature will develop over the course of the series. My only issue is how it chooses to end the series which is hard to decide whether its a better ending or a worse one that the original one in the source material. Its a whole end game issue of which version and type of viewer you are. For myself, it felt a bit rushed and a bit lazy to not have expanded at least a little further on it. The ending few episodes could have definitely used a little more symmetry to the beginning act to give it a more well-rounded feeling.