Who loves Sunny Happiness (幸福最晴天)? I love Sunny Happiness, that’s who! I’ve not been addicted to any drama since 2011 started, until I ran smack dab into a wall of unforeseen couple perfection that is Mike He and Janine Chang.
Individually, I’ve liked neither actor (though I also don’t actively dislike them), but collectively, they are my new crack. I’ve dismissed and mocked Sunny Happiness from its conception to the trailers, so first I’ve got eat some of my own words before I bring you my ode to SH. BRB. *nomnomnom*
Okay, I’m back, and still utterly consumed by this drama. I’ve marathoned 18 episodes in a week, and would’ve done more and done it faster had all the episodes been released. I’ve read entire episode summaries, and still I can’t wait to watch it. This means I know exactly how this drama will end, and my raging desire for more SH remains unabated.
The last TW-drama I was addicted to was Fated to Love You, which fell apart for me mid-way through and I lost interest. But SH keeps getting better and better. The first few episodes were cute and nice to watch, but starting from episode 8 onwards, this drama is on an upward trajectory of win. It’s my biggest mea culpa surprise of the year so far.
Not only are Mike and Janine absolutely perfect together in SH, Janine also has wonderful chemistry with the second male lead, played by rising actor-singer Li Yi Feng – who is so damn adorable, cute, charming (%*&% $^& running out of adjectives) – just accept that I have raging second lead love in addition to first lead love, okay?
Mike plays Xian Yun Jie, a cold and commanding hotel president who finds himself needing a temporary wife to gain custody of a son he never knew he had (until now). He enters into a contract marriage with Fang Yong Yong, a member of his hotel cleaning staff, who he finds exceedingly annoying and a thorn in his side.
In exchange for the secret contract marriage, Yun Jie will back off on purchasing the land where Yong Yong’s childhood orphanage is located on and kicking out all the orphans. Yup, he forecloses on orphans, clearly a bastard of the first order (until he meets the girl who will teach him to open his heart).
Yun Jie and Yong Yong bicker and fight, but always in an honest and intelligent way, never over-the-top and cartoonish. These are two people from very different backgrounds with conflicting outlooks and approaches to life. They start to get along rather quickly, and it’s a treat watching them learn about each other and grow together in little ways.
The second male lead is Xian Yun Chao, the younger brother to Yun Jie, who has found himself living in his capable brother’s shadow his entire life. Yun Chao wants to make his mark in the company, and prove to his father and brother that he’s just as competent and successful. Yun Chao gets himself a rich fiancée early on in the story in a bid to land financial backing for his business venture, and then proceeds to slowly become friends with Yong Yong.
Yun Chao and Yong Yong’s friendship is sweet and tinged with a frisson of awareness, as he cannot help but be attracted to this down-to-earth and funny girl. When Yun Jie and Yong Yong’s secret marriage is revealed, Yun Chao stands up for his new sister-in-law, all the while trying to stop his emotions from growing any stronger.
He’s honorable, but honest with his own feelings. It turns out that Yong Yong and Yun Chao were actually each other’s pen pal first love in high school. Could it get more complicated in Sunny Happiness land? Sure it can.
Yun Jie and Yong Yong move along parallel paths, each growing to love the other, showing their feelings little by little, but neither able to take a concrete step forward to make their pretend marriage a reality. Events occur to propel the forward momentum of their marriage in reality, but stifle their emotional connection because each carry so much baggage and uncertainty inside.
Yong Yong is a very compelling heroine – honest, intelligent, decent and giving. She’s written not as a paragon of virtue, but a girl who has a good head on her shoulders and a kind heart within. It’s wholly believable that both brothers would fall in love with her, even as she does nothing to try to win their love.
Older brother Yun Jie on the surface seems like the superficial cold hearted chaebol heir, but underneath is a nuanced and emotional male lead. He’s not wracked with emotional scars or hang ups, and is simply a guy who doesn’t now how to love until he meets a girl he cannot help but love. And once he does, OMG Yun Jie goes for broke and makes my toes curl with how he treats his Yong Yong.
I love Yun Jie and Yong Yong’s relationship. Neither feel like stock characters, and I immediately felt a connection with the set up of their relationship. What makes SH such a surprisingly good drama is that the main characters are well-written and perfectly cast. The story is as flimsy as expected for a TW-drama, but what the viewer gets instead is a grounded and realistic love story that feels fully fleshed out.
Yun Chao and Yong Yong’s friendship is a wonderfully developed storyline as well. In addition to becoming a new Mike He fan, I’ve also got major second lead love in SH. It doesn’t hurt that the actor playing Yun Chao is a billion percent too cute for words, but he’s actually a good actor as well. I’ve found a new boy cutie to keep my eyes on.
I find Sunny Happiness to be such an entertaining drama to watch because it understands its strengths and weaknesses. It eschews broad comedy for cheerful interludes, it develops characters more than plot twists.
I’ve not discussed the second females leads, and there are two (Yun Jie’s ex-wife and the mother of his son, and Yun Chao’s fiancee), because both are frankly a blight on the screen and a distraction from any scene between Yun Jie and Yong Yong (and Yun Chao and Yong Yong). I highly recommend FF-ing any scene that doesn’t have either of the three leads in it.
I don’t remember what prompted me to check out Sunny Happiness, but I thank my lucky stars I decided to click on episode one and open my mind up for something different. My post does not posit that SH is a great drama by any means (it’s not), only that I simply can’t get enough of it. If it makes me happy, then that’s good enough for me. 😀
Sunny Happiness is a Taiwan-China collaboration, which means the same thing is happening to it as what befell Down With Love (the Ella/Jerry drama). It’s 100% pre-produced, and Taiwan just started airing two weeks ago. Except China is airing it 5 times a week and is almost done with its airing.
This means all episodes are soon to be online. This caused DWL’s TW-ratings to remain mired in low digits, and it looks to be the same case for SH. I’ll likely watch the C-version, and re-watch the TW-version as it airs once as week. The production sometimes cuts the two versions differently to hook viewers into watching both.
[Credit: all pictures as marked and/or official stills released by the Sunny Happiness production]