First Impressions of King of Lan Ling: Of Pretty Kings and Emperors and One Clueless Goddess

You won’t believe the numbers of emails and comments I’ve gotten in the last week asking me to (1) recap King of Lan Ling, or (2) share my first impressions of it. I’ve been meaning to write about it but strangely there have been quite a few C-dramas that have turned out really watcheable recently in addition to King of Lan Ling (in particular the witty sitcomy Longmen Express and the cheeky re-imagining of the Justice Bao legend Detective Alliance) so I confess spending more of my time watching rather than writing. I want to cut to the chase and just go with a stream of consciousness like review of the first fourteen episodes of this highly anticipated C-drama starring some of the current It-names in greater Chinese entertainment ranging from Feng Shao Feng, Ariel Lin, Daniel Chan, George Hu, Zhai Tian Ling, Wei Qian Xiang, and Mao Lin Lin. This one promised to have luxe beautiful visuals seeing as it came from producer Chen Yu Shan who did Autumn’s Concerto and Material Queen. So what do I think of this drama having watched 1/3 of its episode count? It’s laughably easy to watch, and I say this as a compliment and in all earnestness. There isn’t a single truly horrendous actor to be found, the story barrels along at breakneck speed, and the visuals have a simplistic prettiness about it that doesn’t hurt the eyes.

So yes, this is a C-drama that is as easy to watch as one would find it easy to eat to well-decorated homemade cupcake. But at the end of the day, no matter how you dress a cupcake and try to increase it’s allure by jacking up the prices, it’s still a very sweet dessert with humble ingredients and an ordinariness about it that asks the taster not to over think it. King of Lan Ling is essentially a giant rip-off of two major classic mangas with a twist. It takes the soothsaying goddess with two rulers in love with and fighting over her straight from Hosokawa Chieko‘s long running Crest of the Royal Family (Oke no Monsho and also known as Daughter of the Nile) crossed with many scenes lifted directly from Tamura Yumi’s Basara featuring powerful potential heir battling internal jealousy and external conflicts. I don’t know if the writers of this drama are as big a manga fanatic as I am and have read as many sets as I have, but these are just two of the most glaring similarities that jump out at me but in general the entire drama feels as full of rose petals falling from the sky type of syrupy romance and battle as in a shoujo manga. Is that a good or bad thing? For the drama viewer in me, it’s such a slap in the face of intelligent mature writing, but for the shoujo manga reader in me, it’s like a homage to all that makes the genre as sweet as cotton candy. Continue reading