TV Binge: Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

ashes of love

Director: Yui Bun Chu

Cast: Andy Yang, Allen Deng, Leo Luo, Adonis Liao, Zhi Yuan Xia, Faye Wang, Ting Wei Zhou, Yukee Chen, Kathy Chow, Bella Du, Yang Peng, Run Jun Wang, Zhong Hua He

In ancient times, the Flower Goddess dies after giving birth to a daughter. Before she passed, she fed her daughter the Unfeeling Pill, ordered her subordinates to keep the girl’s birth story a secret and to imprison her within Shui Jing for 10,000 years. The girl’s name is Jin Mi. 4,000 years later, the Heavenly Emperor’s second son, Xu Feng, was entrapped by someone and mistakenly entered Shui Jing. He was saved by the ignorant Jin Mi. After living together for 100 years, Xu Feng gradually developed feelings for Jin Mi. Someone close to them wants to use those feelings for their own benefit. – MyDramaList

Where to watch with English subtitles (as at March 25, 2020): Netflix Canada & Youtube

QUOTE/SCENE

Jing Mi: That one’s so ugly. Why did you bring it here also?
Phoenix: I feel that one is the most beautiful of all the Phoenix lanterns, because it contains our memory.
Jing Mi: This is the memory of Saint Girl and King Yi. [pause] What a beautiful view!  It’ll be great if we can drink some self-made osmanthus wine. In fact, before I descended to the mortal world, I buried some osmanthus wine I made here.
Phoenix: I dug it out several days ago. Let’s try  your wine today. [next scene] The wine you made is indeed savory and mellow.
Jing Mi: I must have some skills amongst the six realms. Why are you staring at me like that?
Phoenix: Its great that I don’t have to look at you through the veil.
Jing Mi: Isn’t it beautiful?

STORY

ashes of love phoenix jingmi

Ashes of Love is essentially a love story and its where it thrives at its best. Much like the structure of 2017’s Eternal Love (review) and background, this one is set a little different  in the actual fairy world where this one has six realms however, the Sky realm is still the highest one (as it usually is) and the story resides in these different deity/fairy ranging from flowers to nocturnal creatures to celestial creatures and all kinds of animals and even inanimate objects. In terms of creativity, the story is full of them and that is one of the many highlights of this one and can bring so much fun to this as it makes for some leaps of beliefs but in a fantasy world like this one, its more about learning about it first. And that is a lot of the charm especially as it starts off fairly light-hearted and fun.

The realms here are really where the many past dilemmas have ignited from the past generation between the Floral Goddess, Heavenly Emperor, Water Immortal and all the other people linked to them. Its created essentially what happens to Jing Mi to have been given the Unfeeling Pill when she was born to prevent her from meeting her curse of love with the first 10,000 years of her life, which ends up being the catalyst of all the events that end up happening as misunderstandings happen as the truth unfolds. But that said, each of these realms of the three focused on among the six is different in its own way and has its own traits reflective of the place but yet still has their own good and evil characters.

ashes of love war

At the end of all this, between war and feuds and misunderstandings and realm battles for power, it all dials down to the romance and the love triangle between Jing Mi, Phoenix and Runyu instigated by jealousy and unfairness on one end and then creating revenge and hatred, making things worsen. Its all a story of the basic philosophy and belief in Chinese that what is meant to happen will happen regardless of how you plan on changing its course, that act alone is also destined to happen. Also goes along with you reap what you sow at the end of the day especially as what is given off from one generation can affect its next. Its all very common plot points and themes in ancient Chinese fantasy TV series as Eternal Love has about the same kind of plot point (as an example since its the other one in the same genre). What does work here is that once you get past those similar plot points and embrace what they do different in building this new world and its characters, Ashes of Love has a stronger bond with its love story and leads (for myself) whereas in comparison, Eternal Love is entertaining well-rounded but perhaps didn’t quite connect as much in terms of the main leads and their love story. I don’t mean to compare but I did watch them almost back to back.

ashesashes2

Before we jump to pacing, I need to mention that the costume designs here are really nice. There’s a lot of thought of each one from the Birds Realm to the colorful Flower Realm to the dark Demon realms outfits as as well as the gold and white and more royalty colors in the Heavenly Realm. Its one of the elements that make me love watching Chinese Fantasy TV series. The costumes and the hair ornaments and hair styles are just so beautiful! While I’m talking about this, I do have to mention that when they do close-ups of the props, fake flowers and such, it is pretty apparent, maybe one of the lesser elements of this series. But then, I guarantee you that there is one “sex” scene in this (its public TV so nothing explicit) and its filmed so poetically and beautiful that I was really impressed by the whole thing especially when you remember the true forms of the leads on hand.

LENGTH/PACING

ashes of love jingmi

Episodes: 63
Episode length: 40-45 mins approx.

Its incredible how long Chinese TV series are sometimes especially these big production Chinese fantasy ones. Ashes of Love is surprisingly long at 63 episodes and yet, the script is done so well that the story progresses in phases that gives time for each stage of these characters to grow and develop individually and together in their different relationships, friendships, family, brothers, etc. It doesn’t take a break from this other than maybe the secondary couple from the demon realm which ends up being a rather touching story as well by the end.

Looking at the phase, the first part (as I mentioned) before is about the meeting between Phoenix and Jing Mi and her introduction from the Flower Realm to the Heaven Realm and gradually the reveal of her true identity as well as her growing relationship in their few hundred years as the helper and disciple of Phoenix. As her true identity gets revealed, it jumps into the next phase of the story where it shares about the past and the characters involved and what actually happened, throwing the hatred of the Heavenly Empress and her desire to split up Jing Mi and Phoenix while Phoenix’s brother, Runyu gets pulled into the mix and he learns about his mother and it builds on his revenge and his plot slowly conspire. Things gets more messy here as this also get intermitted with Jing Mi’s mission to become an immortal by going to the Mortal Realm to experience the suffering of mortal life to gain knowledge where she ends up connecting with her feelings more as a turn of events takes Phoenix to have a rather intense romance. Finally, the third phase appears after all the plots of phase 2 unravels and Jing Mi unexpectedly breaks the Unfeeling Pill’s effects and realizes her real feelings and makes up for her mistakes to Phoenix. That turns into the most painful, emotional and heartbreaking moments of search and hopelessness and this last part is just such a ode of how the beginning builds up its characters and relationships so well that this part ends up working a lot. (I mean, I bawled my eyes out a ton in the last 8-10 episodes or something)

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Leads: Jing Mi & Phoenix

ashes of love phoenix jingmi 1

Ashes of Love takes a lot of time and attention on building these two characters. Its great because the focus never quite leaves them even when they are apart and doing their own thing. There’s a lot of factors that work here. The first is that its not dubbed voices and the actual actors are voicing these characters because both Andy Yang and Allen Deng are really talented actors and in their respective roles as Jing Mi and Xu Feng (aka Phoenix, as I keep referring to him), they are incredibly convincing and hard to not ship them, to be honest. These two characters are strong individually as they both have their own family, relationship and realm issues to deal with and consider in all their choices and their own secrets to uncover. Its what makes their love story so heartbreaking and bittersweet altogether because each of their own issues and it all comes down to Jing Mi and the Unfeeling Pill that stops her from realizing her own feelings until its too late which makes their relationship take a very heartbreaking turn of events. The chemistry between these two characters are fantastic especially in some scenes of how the director uses close-ups to the dialogue around them where they both are able to act with their eyes and interpret some genuine feelings without saying anything.

Brothers & Family Feud: Phoenix & Run Yu

ashes brothers

All royalty has their own conflicts and Phoenix’s family is the Heaven realm’s family which creates all kinds of crazy as the Heaven Emperor reveals to be a rather unloyal man where his past creates the Empress’s hate and jealousy making a lot of issues become unfair to the older son, Runyu the Night Immortal. What starts off as a rather good brother relationship despite the parent issues ends up turning sour as Runyu’s character ends up having a subtle villain type of change full of plot and schemes, creating this character that flips from the nice guy at the beginning.

Love Interests, Villains & Other Characters of Interest

Love Interests for Jing Mi is mostly Runyu as well as some other characters that don’t really have too much to mention however the main villains of the series is one, the Heaven Empress, aka Phoenix’s mother (as mentioned before because of jealousy) and the second is Phoenix’s “cousin”/crush who likes him a lot and believes she is the one destined for him and does increasingly evil acts. The two villains in the end are the main cause of Phoenix’s “demise”. Everything comes in full circle in Chinese philosophy and nothing proves it quite like how TV series stories work. You can’t say these two villains don’t do a great job. Empress is portrayed by 90s Hong Kong TV actress Kathy Chow who does a fantastic job that its hard to not dislike the character much like Faye Wang as the love interest who plays on the more annoying side of things.

Of course, the more fun additions do go to the Green Snake and the other colorful character of the Flower Realm just like the Moon Immortal (Phoenix’s uncle) who are comedic but in desperate times, knowledgeable and contribute to the dilemma in their own ways. There’s a lot of characters in Ashes of Love so its hard to talk about all of it.

OVERALL

ashes phoenix

Ashes of Love is a really great series. Its one that takes its sweet time to move through its different story levels to gradually connect with each of these characters as they develop and learn about the different secrete in their life, especially with the main female character, Jing Mi. The magical elements and this new world and the possibilities gives it the space to believe in all the twists and turns and thats because its already given it such a creativity to begin with which also sparks some deeper thoughts on how certain plot points would work but never quite doubt its possibility, leaving space for the audience to draw their own conclusions. The different worlds have beautiful CG effects that make them unique as well as their own kingdom and rules as well as different worlds and their feuds with each other.

Aside from all that is crafting these characters that work so well on their own in complexity. Having 63 episodes to do it definitely feels like it would be a drag but it isn’t most of the time because these characters need it and its because of that, it makes especially Jing Mi and Phoenix’s story so much more emotional to watch whether its happy moments to the extremely heartbreaking moments. Fantastic series that makes me want to watch and rewatch and notice those little story plot details more.

MAIN THEME

Music Obsessions – February 2020

Welcome to February 2020! Its time for the Music Obsessions to kick off this month! I usually take February as a love song expose of sorts but somehow this time, this time is a bit of a mix. The starting and ending song are more up-beat but nothing related to love however, the middle stuff is all about love stories as they are all theme from movies or TV shows. Let’s take a look!

Daydreamer 白日夢想家 – Vision Wei 魏晨

If there’s anything that I love from discovering the amazing Who’s The Murderer, its how it adds in so many great celebrity investigators and the best one that I’ve found is Vision Wei who is great in the variety show but at the same time, it gave me the motivation to look up his music and so far, this one is absolutely fave. Its upbeat and fun and the video isn’t is done really well. Its one that makes me all happy and a great way to kick off this Music Obsessions.

A Kind Of Sorrow 有一種悲傷 – A-Lin

I haven’t seen the actual movie, More Than Blue that this song is for. I am hoping to watch it at some point as it looks really good. A-Lin is a phenomenal singer with great vocals. Her voice is just exceptional and emotional. I love listening to her music and this one is no different.

天地無霜 (Ashes of Love Main Theme) – Andy Yang 楊紫 & Allen Deng 鄧倫

I’ve already expressed my obsession with Ashes of Love. This TV series really is amazing. I’m working on the TV binge but at the same time, the main theme is this wonderful duet from the main leads who are not actual singers but actually do a great job. Its captivating whenever this song appears in the series as well. At the same time, there is a solo version for just Allen Deng which is equally great. Allen Deng is my biggest discovery from the show and I’ve been finding traces of his musical talent and not just his acting talent. For fun, here is the solo version:

Don’t Cry 不哭 – Rocket Girls 101 Sunnee 火箭少女101 楊芸晴

I’m not a huge fan of Rocket Girls 101 in general. They have some okay songs but I can’t say that I’m completely behind their music but individually, some of the members are very good as they branch off to do their own things. My fave vocalist in the group does go to Sunnee who is unique in herself and as I look up more of her music after watching her participating in Masked Singer China, its definitely had some great finds. My fave goes out to this promotional song for the movie version of Cry Me A Sad River. I haven’t seen the movie but the TV series was one of my top series of 2019.

Blah Blah & WYTB – NEXT (Zhejiang New Year’s 2020 Gala Performance)

Ending it off on a high note, I wanted to open with NEXT as its more upbeat. I might have shared WYTB and maybe a snippet of Blah Blah before but Blah Blah is one of my favorite songs from this group. I think Yuehua Entertainment really found gold with putting this group together as a part of them definitely have the idol stars. Of course, it helps that they got a great gig with having a reality show for Mango TV called Master in the House that shared a bit of who each of them are and their aspirations, giving each of them a chance to learn from some great musicians and celebrities in the music industry. They are all very well-rounded and I can see great things in the future for them. They are only like 1.5 years since the creation of the group so still lots of time to get even better.

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
What have you been listening to?

What’s Up 2020: Week 4

Welcome to this week’s What’s Up as we look back at the previous week, Week 4! Its been a crazy January so far and I’m going to have to first apologize for the infrequent posting schedule and the delay of this one being posted up later than usual and the lack of, you know, actual writing stuff. I will talk more about it in the January Adventures at the end of this week. However, Week 4 was okay. Last week was still in half crazy phase so still managed to get some time to relax. Let’s check it out!

READING

Currently reading: Buried in the Past

Buried in the Past is a pretty good book. So far, it hits a lot of elements that I like about both the story and how its executed. I’m actually almost done reading it at around 70% or so and its been able to capture my attention that I want to read it whenever I have a moment.

PLAYING

overcooked 2

Currently playing: Glass Masquerade DLCs, Overcooked 2

My recent obsession with playing Glass Masquerade and then finding the DLCs on Lunar New Year Sale on Steam took over my gaming habits despite needing to play something else (which I didn’t end up starting). However, Glass Masquerade is such a relaxing puzzle game that I honestly can’t help but to play it during this mega busy time at work to destress a little in small doses. Other than that, the husband and I are still trying to get through Overcooked 2. We enjoy it so much and yet, we also only play a few levels per sitting so it might take a little while longer on the currently playing section.

WATCHING

Crawl
  • Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (2015 rewatch, Review)
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018 rewatch, Review)
  • The Guardian Brothers (2016)
  • Crawl (2019)

I’m going to say this right now: Nothing beats watching creature features as fun little relaxing movie night. At least in my world that applies. Of course, nothing also beats rewatching romantic/teen comedies that I love which is pretty much what happened this past week with movies. Obviously, the two rewatches are my faves and thats why they tend to show up frequently in the watching section as rewatches but then To All The Boys: P.S. I Love You is releasing on Netflix on February 12th so call it prep..not that I need it since I’ve watched it so many times already.

Talking about new movies though, Crawl was a boxing day purchase and its been one that I’ve been looking forward to watch as a 2019 catch-up. I have to say that its one that was a lot of fun to watch. Sure, there’s some coincidence in the set up of the whole situation but they make a decent effort to make things logical enough. Plus, the alligators are done so well and there’s a decent amount of tension. I’ll be doing the creature feature eventually. The busy schedule pushed a lot of stuff behind so I’m not sure whether this will happen after the Valentine’s marathon (which should be coming up at some point).

BINGING

ashes of love
  • Ashes of Love (2018)

Currently binging: Who’s the Murderer 5, Eternal Love of Dream, Master in the House

After 63 episodes of Ashes of Love, I finally finished it. Well, physically I did, I guess but mentally, I’m not. All those last few episodes of bawling my eyes out has made this one stick in my system a whole lot longer than I expected. Why am I using past tense because who am I kidding? Its still circulating in my system that I need to rewatch my fave scenes. Still, regardless of that, the busy schedule has stopped me from making too much progress in the new series, Eternal Love’s “sequel” called Eternal Love of Dream. Its recently aired so that one is going to take a while to get all released but I literally just started episode 1 so I can say the tone is nice. I think they chose a good director (same as Ashes of Love) to do this one which is much more light-hearted couple. However, its hard to judge anything with one episode so I’ll talk more about it next time.

That’s it for this (late) What’s Up for Week 4!
Its been a hectic week and expect the same for next week’s recap!
However, things should get back on track soon (hopefully)!

What’s Up 2020: Week 2

Week 2 of 2020 has wrapped up and its been a fairly crazy time. A lot of it got affected by the fact that we had some bad weather hit Montreal and the lovely suburbs that I lived had power outage for 16 hours or something which of course, took a toll on the whole movie watching and gaming elements along with one other issue. With that said, it still is pretty balanced of late. I’m trying to start 2020 with a nice start of not procrastinating any writing so taking things a little slower to allow more time to do the write-ups.

READING

Death in Smoke

  • Death in Smoke by Barbara Elle (Review)
  • The Weighing of the Heart by Paul Tudor Owen

As with any power outage, my Kindle became my best friend, especially as the cell towers seemed to also be affected. I was able to catch up on some reading and finished up The Weighing of the Heart which will be reviewed in a blog tour coming up very soon. Both of these books that I finished was pretty good. I’d have to say that The Weighing of the Heart was good because of the Egyptian mythology angle as well as a quick concise story that helped keep the pacing really good.

PLAYING

color pieceout

Currently playing: Color Pieceout, Overcooked 2 (co-op mode)

I’ve been playing Color Pieceout for a while already but never really quite talked about it because its a mobile game. Mobile Game Roundups are hitting a little stand still over at Game Warp Blog which is mostly a writer’s block for specifically game reviews. Its coming up soon but I just need to get back into the groove of things. However, Color Pieceout is a fun little game. Its free and uses coins collected during the puzzles to unlock things which makes in-app purchases unnecessary. Its animation is similar to Professor Layton and blends Match-3 puzzles with mystery cases. So much fun!

WATCHING

brokeback mountain

  • Brokeback Mountain (2007)
  • Mamma Mia! (2008 rewatch, Review)
  • Sinister (2012)
  • The Marshes (2017)

I’m not going to lie that I started a few movies but just fell asleep so I’m not adding it in like Robocop, The Raid 2 and some other one that I can’t remember right now. However, these few are those that I did finish. We are getting back into horror, not that I took that big of a break from it in the first place. The highlight of this week goes to Brokeback Mountain which is part of the Movies and Tea season. Why it gets the highlight is simply because it surprised me how much I liked it. It shouldn’t because its Oscar fodder and it comes with its talent but I liked it a lot more than I expected that I would. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Sinister which was a pretty tight fight between the one to highlight. Sinister did a lot of things right and had a sequence that I absolutely loved and had some clever twists to the story.

BINGING

all i want for love is you

  • All I Want For Love Is You (2019)

Currently binging: The Circle, Who’s The Murderer 5, Ashes of Love

I took an unexpected turn and started watching All I Want For Love Is You, which wasn’t part of my list anywhere and just popped up on my feed and I was like, “Sure. Why not?” It turned out to be pretty fun overall. It had the whole teenage high school romance that went into university. There were some silly moments but it had some SERIOUS pacing issues. I’ll be getting the post done for this one and will talk more about it then. One the other hand, The Circle has one more week of their event to go before it ends. I honestly can’t wait to talk about it since there’s a lot to discuss about that and it’ll depend on how the final few episodes go. While I’ve started a new series via Netflix called Ashes of Love which was a big deal the year that it was released. I literally just started the first few episodes so hard to say how I feel about it so far.

That’s it for this What’s Up!
What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?