Zhong Wu Yen: It’s a Winner!

One of the more higher profile Taiwan dramas of 2010 has passed the mid-way mark in its airing. Zhong Wu Yen aired episode 11 yesterday, and whether the drama ends up being 14, 17, or 21 episodes (TW dramas lengths are notoriously hard to pinpoint), it has aired more than enough for me to make a substantive assessment of its merits.

I wrote about ZWY when it first aired, and discussed how the first episode was much better than I expected. It had glimpses of subtlety and maturity, whimsy and levity. I was intrigued, so I did indeed keep watching. While episode 1 was enjoyable, episodes 2 and 3 almost tanked my enjoyment. I really didn’t like those set-up episodes, and almost broke up with ZWY.

I’m glad I gave it a few more episodes, because starting from episode 4 the drama took off and found its footing. Episode 6 was great, and every subsequent episode has only gotten better. If I had to choose, I would always prefer my dramas to start off shaky and get progressively better, as opposed to the other scenario.

Watching ZWY, I have a huge raging case of second lead love. I positively adore Chris Wu, both his character and his performance. Nevermind that lead Ming Dao has always been a favorite TW leading man of mine. In ZWY, it’s Chris that owns my heart and loyalty. However, kudos to Ming Dao for taking a very unlikeable character and running with it, making his gradual transformation from clueless douchebag into thoughtful young man believable. I now am wholly on the main OTP-ship, because its clear these two are meant to be together. And I am not one to toy with fate.

Let it be said that ZWY is also the drama that made me a fan of Cheryl Yang. She is incredible, an actress with talent and finesse. She is beautiful inside and out as the titular Zhong Wu Yen, and one of the few TW drama heroines that is neither stupid, screechy, or a combination of both. She is smart, level-headed, kind, and idealistically charming.

ZWY is one of the rare TW dramas that isn’t OTT or silly. It’s subject matter poignant and thoughtful, it’s execution simple yet effective. ZWY is not as romantic as Autumn’s Concerto, nor as cracktastic as Fated to Love You. Rather, ZWY is like the adult in a room full rambunctious teenagers, the romantic drama that eschews the melo-dramatic for the melo-realistic.

I can’t state that ZWY is great, groundbreaking, or even all that memorable when all is said and done. But it has this aura and allure of both sense and sensibility, making it a drama that doesn’t dumb its viewers down (too much) and gives us some really lovely moments of romantic tension. All in all, the best TW drama I’ve watched all year. I’ve tried quite a few, but have not finished any of them. ZWY will be the first 2010 TW drama I am watching from start to finish.

A Zhong Wu Yen Screencap Buffett:

The Zhong Wu Yen Story:

The drama is a re-telling of a famed Chinese legendary woman warrior, who loved an Emperor and conquered a kingdom for him. But she was ugly, born with a facial deformity, so the Emperor used her but never loved her back. In the end, she left him, heartbroken forever more.

In this re-telling, Zhong Wu Yen was born with a red facial imperfection, but she grows up to be smart, confident, kind, and remarkably an all-around awesome girl. She has loved Qi Xuan, the son of a scion, all her life ever since he was kind to her when they were children. Too bad Qi Xuan grew up to be a useless and clueless tool, who has given up the pursuit of anything since his mother died and his father became disillusioned with him.

Are these two meant to be? Would their love story make us feel the sweetness, the tenderness, the romantic tension? The answer is a resounding: yes! It takes a bit to get going, but once it does, ZWY is a very lovely story. Chris Wu plays a fellow chaebol/corporate heir who starts off the story as blind, but later regains his eyesight under the friendship with Zhong Wu Yen. I can’t say anymore without giving away the twists.


Zhong Wu Yen: It’s a Winner! — 21 Comments

  1. thank you. I’ve been waiting for you to metion zhong wu yen again as I am totally loving this show. I like all the leads with the exception of the model – she’s so clingy and evil…
    Side question: Did you finish Hotaru no Hikari 2? How did you like it overall?

    • I didn’t like HnH2 past episode 4. Great start, stalled and then died on me in the latter half. I still remember all of HnH fondly though. Plus HnH2 gave us all Seno!!!

  2. I’ve liked Chris Wu ever since Autumn’s Concerto and coincidentally, that was the last Taiwanese drama that I watched from beginning to end. I’ve sampled many as as a subber but none of the ones that I’ve watched in bits and pieces were memorable or even likable enough for me to watch the whole thing. Most of the Taiwanese dramas that I chose this year left a horrible aftertaste in my mouth. None really had gripping storylines or even relatable characters. So I definitely drifted apart from my first love and sought haven in Korean dramas this year. I’ve heard that ZWY was pretty decent from some of my friends but I haven’t really decided to check it out yet.

    So thanks for this lovely post and all the photos, ockoala! I liked the heads-up info you gave in this post regarding the episodes and stuff, so I’ll know beforehand a little of what to expect. For now, I’ve added ZWY to my “to-watch” list and I’ll at least check out the first episode sometime in the future.

  3. glad you like that drama as well… i like it a whole lot too… i heard the tale of zong wu yan since i was young and frankly, i wasn’t a fan of it because the prince was such an ungrateful brat so i didn’t expect too much from this drama. i only watched it cuz of mingdao and chris wu and i’m glad i did, it surprised me. and since you mentioned fated to love you, when mingdao made a cameo and replaced ethan ruan… wouldn’t it be fun if ethan ruan made a cameo on zwy as well? haha… i’m dreaming…

    • I thought when MD wore the mask in episode 9, it was like that scene in FtLY when Ethan wore the mask and danced with Qiao En, which was the exact scene MD cameo’d. I doubt we’ll see Ethan on the small screen anytime in the near future, whether in a lead role or a cameo.

      • Why did you say “I doubt we’ll see Ethan on the small screen anytime in the near future, whether in a lead role or a cameo”?

        What’s up with Ethan Ruan?

      • Ethan has openly stated he doesn’t want to do idol-dramas anytime again. He wants to make movies. Or likely do serious TV fare.

      • oh, you’re right.. i totally forgot about that scene… and i want ethan back on small screen… one day. and random thought. that guy is really tall. XD. don’t mind me… ive been running exclusively on PK high lately so my brain is starting to show some side effects.

  4. Ockoala,

    Did you watch My Queen, starred by Cheryl Yang & Ethan Ruan? That was my first Cheryl drama and loved her there. Loved Ethan even more in that drama than in his more popular Fated to Love You.

    That was one of my favourite 2009 T-dramas.

  5. Hi ockoala. Your watching list is just like mine. Minus Giant. I don’t want to start watching long series. Not enough time in a day for me to add more 🙂

    I started ZWY because of Ming Dao. He’s charismatic even when he’s a newbie. Like him all those years ago from Prince… Other series of him I usually didn’t finish… mainly because I don’t like the storyline or the other actors cannot keep up with him. ZWY i like because I’m still checking it out every week after the sub is up on viikii.

  6. It’s a winner in my book too! Although its not a meaningful drama and it wins me over by not aspiring to be one. Ming Dao is delivering such a great performance, and the only thing that irks me is that, well physically, the man has definitely aged, and I keep comparing him now, to the him in Frog Prince days. I shouldn’t do it, I know, but I can’t help it! He’s s’posed to be a babelicious hotshot here!

    But like you, I have a serious case of second lead love, as happened in Autumn Concerto as well, because Chris Wu is just the most incredibly charismatic second lead EVA! I’m having trouble imagining him carrying a drama as the lead, which is why I’m happy with him as second lead! I can still squeal like a hyper-little-piggy every time I see him onscreen, whatever his role may be.

    But haven’t just watched Ep11 too, I just have one tiny question to confirm whether I’m the only weird one – does anyone else prefer Howard’s character blind?

    • oh lord, i’m just typing blindly like an idiot. i typed ‘having’ as ‘haven’t’…….. I don’t know how I coulda done that! My hands went on autopilot….

    • Carol,

      You literally read my mind, about MD aging (but still got it, the boy does), and about preferring Howard blind! I had a conversation with my sister over the weekend, and we both discussed what an awesome character Howard was. But once he got his sight back, it’s like his cool quotient dropped a bit because now he’s almost like your average second male lead.

      I think ZWY has to downplay Howard at this point and continue to push MD, otherwise the second lead love is going to get out of control and no one will ship the canon OTP.

  7. Haha! I love seeing some regular commenters on this blog. I believe it’s a start of an online friendship forming here? Heehee. And holy crap, ockoala, over 86,000 hits? Freaking crazy, in a good way of course. I remember when the blog hits was in the few thousands… I’m thinking it will be around 100,000 after this week’s PK recaps are done, which is another indicator how popular it is online. <3

    • The crazy hits are totally weirding me out, since I started AKP posting about the most random and inane of stuff. I’m happy PK is so popular and people like my recaps, but I’ll be just as happy when the traffic dies down and it is a bunch of regulars like you said. 😀

  8. I’ve been a fan of Cheryl Yang ever since she delivered a moving performance in My Queen as an extremely vulnerable woman who has built walls around herself (and her sizzling chemistry with Ethan Ruan definitely helped), so I had pondered whether to give Zhong Wu Yen a go, but all the reports about Ming Dao being hard to stomach made me pause. Not to mention: definitely agree with Carol above that the years hasn’t been quite so kind to poor Ming Dao! I still remember how cool he was in Ying Ye 3+1… *sighs* This is perhaps not the best drama to bring me out of my bout of Second Male Lead Syndrome.

    The idea of a blind second male lead sounds really interesting though, it adds a whole new dimension to the original second guy who’s pretty much your standard knight protector/daddy long legs figure.

  9. Lol! Is Playful Kiss mania stressing you out? I started reading your blog because of Playful Kiss and since you have done such a great job recapping it I am interested in your opinions on other dramas as well. Just thought I would warn you that you may never be back to just a few regulars again! On serious note though, you really do a good job with your recaps.

  10. hey do u know where one can find the remainder of the OST (that is not sung by bii)there is one song in the drama that goes “yin wei ai ni wo de xiang fei” i dont know the name and cant find it anywhere!!!!

  11. Is it just me? The male lead from My Queen IS The Same Guy as the male lead from ZWY. Why do you talk as tho he isn’t?
    Ming Dao/Ethan Ruan(Yuan) – whatever name given to him, the face, voice, mannerisms, all are the same guy… ; )

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