"Many people were raving about the Charmaine (Sheh)-Stephen (Au) pair up. Either I am blind or I have missed one hell of a pair."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Chinese Title (Cantonese)
Ging Yiem Yat Cheung
This title is taken from the martial art that Chu Kot Ching Ngo exercises
Joe Ma – Chu Kot (Zhuge) Ching Ngo
Charmaine Sheh – Siu Keng aka Little Mirror
Stephen Au – Yuen Sap Sam Han aka Thirteen
Sunny Chan – Hui Siu Yat aka Tin Yee Gui See
Annie Man – Jik Nui aka Foo Ying Meng Fong
Shek Sau – Choi Ging
Nnadia Chan – Mong Dip
Derek Kwok – Wu Zhong Shu
Mok Ka Yiu – Lang Huet aka Cold Blood
Lawrence Yan Chi Keung – Zhui Ming aka Life Snatcher
Northern Song. Tin Yee Gui See, Chu Kot Ching Ngo and Yuen Sap Sam Han are respectively the first, second and third disciple of the ‘Zhi Joi Moen’ clan. About ten year or more after they’ve left Bak Sow Yuen, their sifu’s place, they meet up again. In those ten years Chu Kot has worked his way up in the imperial government and became a high-ranked official as well as the emperor’s favourite right hand. Meanwhile Thirteen went into hibernation somewhere far away. He spent his time perfecting his martial art ‘Heartbroken Arrow’ in order to defeat Chu Kot’s ‘Amazing Spear’ one day. He desperately wanted to win from Chu Kot as their sifu has told them that no matter what ‘Amazing Spear’ will always conquer ‘Heartbroken Arrow’. Tin Yee Gui See (TGYS), on the other hand, continued to live at Bak Sow Yuen after their sifu’s death where he lives like a recluse. There he has engrossed himself in Chinese chess, his pet turtle Goldie and playing guqin, while Chu Kot visits him once in a while.
One day Chu Kot met a girl, Siu Keng, whom he thought was the assassinated General Fu Yien’s long lost daughter. So he took her under his care when she encountered troubles. Gradually they fell in love, but Chu Kot was keeping a distance between them as he believed he didn’t have enough time for romance with the invading threat of the neighbouring country Kam.
In the meantime, TGYS also met Jik Nui from the Divine Needle Sect. Soon she forced him into marrying her after he used the Sect’s needles to save his two brothers. When Thirteen also got to know Siu Keng, he too fell in love with her. Not long after Chu Kot finally accepted Siu Keng’s love, he discovered Thirteen’s infatuation with her. In order not deepen their conflicts Chu Kot decided to back out.
Chu Kot had a nemesis in his fellow colleague Prime Minister Choi King who sent Mong Dip, his protégée, to befriend him. But most importantly to spy on him. Together with Mong Dip Chu Kot puts on an act to drive Siu Keng in the arms of Thirteen. At first Siu Keng didn’t doubt Chu Kot’s love for her, but then she realised that Thirteen will always put her first. So she accepted Thirteen’s proposal. Upon learning the truth, Siu Keng plotted revenge by taking away what’s dearest to him: the protection of the country from Choi King and the brother bond between him and Thirteen.
Then Chu Kot discovered that Choi King was in fact an accomplice of the Kam country, but was brought into discredit whilst trying to prove it. Siu Keng could finally let her feelings of revenge and anger go. She even attempted to mend the broken pieces between her husband and Chu Kot.
Tall, dark and handsome. No wonder TVB is making so many efforts to promote him. Yet he is not exactly leading material. And certainly not in this series. Don’t get me wrong, he’s perfect to play a charming, caring and romantic guy. Unfortunately his emotional scenes definitely needs improving. He’s not always capable of conveying the sadness or pain that his character was supposed to be feeling. For these emotions, he just pulls his face in a big, deep frown; which was really quite expressionless. Also I think he lacks screen presence at time. Especially in scenes with Stephen Au, Nnadia Chan and Annie Man he was easily overshadowed. That said, I quite liked the pairing Charmaine – Joe. It’s got a sweet touch to it and their chemistry was actually OK.
Kind, gentle and sweet characters with a tad of innocence. This pretty much sums up Charmaine’s trademark character. You would’ve thought that after playing these kind of characters for so long, she’d have enough practice. Yet she’s still not always convincing neither consistent. To be frank, I prefer her acting as the vengeful and bitter Siu Keng. It’s the evil glare, she’s quite good at glaring like in War and Beauty. There’s one thing that I absolutely loathed about her, namely her smile. For some reason I find her smile really fake. It just doesn’t seem to transfer the joyful emotions that she is supposed to be feeling.
In my opinion, he is the true star of the series and not Joe Ma. Without him I don’t think I would have persisted in continuing this. Just like with Joe Ma, I won’t think of him as a leading guy, but he has certainly proven here that he is able to carry a series by his own. His emotions were really well portrayed. You could clearly see the emotional roller coaster that his character is experiencing. I guess he played Thirteen almost flawless except for some exaggeration as the crazy Thirteen, but which actor has never exaggerated. Besides, it was a subtle exaggeration as it never annoyed me. I truly enjoyed Stephen’s performance.
I’ve always enjoyed his acting from his older series to the more recent Placebo Cure. But in this series he seems to be a bit lost. Even though he appears to be natural in his acting, the only impression I got from him was boredom and tiredness. It was such a passive portrayal. Nothing more, nothing less. If it wasn’t for Annie Man floating around you probably wouldn’t have noticed him. His facial expressions really did live up when he is around her.
She performed as expected. I have also taken pleasure in her interactions with the other actors. She is very natural in her actions which resulted in real irritation with her character. If it weren’t for her character though, you would have one long serious series that would seem to be dragging on forever. Her funny moments really moved the series along. However, there was some exaggeration at times, but it actually fitted her character so I wasn’t exactly annoyed by it.
This is the first time that I have seen her in a very different role than the ones I was used to, that is a scheming one. There was still some goodness left inside her, though, so it was more of an semi-evil role. She did a fine job, but same as with Sunny Chan: it was at times quite passive. Those moments really made me feel indifferent towards her character, rather than being exasperated.
The same big gestures as in Triumph in the Skies, but so much more irritating. He tends to overact a lot, while in my opinion a villain should be more subtle. I guess his performance was tolerable but it lacks a true evil feeling. You are supposed to either hate the villain wholeheartedly for his disgusting conduct or either admire him or his intelligence and the way he get what he wants. I felt neither when watching Shek Sau. Just wanted to keep forwarding his scenes.
My favourite scenes
· Siu Keng wanted to see the lanterns at the Mid-Autumn festival but Chu Kot refused that because he thinks it is too dangerous. Then Siu Keng proceeded to tell him why she wanted to see it so much. Although Chu Kot’s heart softened after hearing her, he still said no. After the festival market was over, he brought Siu Keng out to the empty street. There he had hung up dozens of lanterns for her.
· Chu Kot brought out Siu Keng to watch stars with him. While watching the stars he told her that one of the stars will be representing him, being her guardian star. So wherever she will be, he will be there to protect and take care of her. Siu Keng was so charmed by these that Chu Kot saw his chance to kiss her, only to be interrupted by a falling star.
· Jik Nui discovered that Tien Yee Gui See had faked his blindness to get the divine needles in order to saves his two martial brothers. As a punishment, she made him eat cup cakes with needles stuck in them. But Tien Yee Gui See didn’t know that Jik Nui already knew he wasn’t blind.
· Thirteen proudly showed Chi Ko’s body. His pride then turned into agony when Chu Kot told him Chi Ko was actually Siu Keng’s father. Thirteen realised that his hopes to be together with her are dashed. He blamed Chu Kot for not holding him back which deepens their conflicts even more.
· In order to drive Siu Keng away, Mong Dip and Chu Kot decided to pretend they had spent a night together. Siu Keng waited the entire night in front of their room and by the morning she has fallen asleep. When Mong Dip came out of the room, she saw Siu Keng and poked her awake. She then went on and told Siu Keng it was useless to cling on to Chu Kot because he has already fallen in love with her. Siu Keng just slapped Mong Dip hard in the face and even continued to defend Chu Kot.
· Chi Ko’s body was hung up outside the city wall and Siu Keng tearfully took him down. She then found out that Thirteen killed her father and when he was standing in front of her, she was feeling so angry that she tried to revenge her dad. Thirteen was feeling so remorseful that he didn’t object to it. In the end, Siu Keng only scarred his face because she couldn’t bring herself to kill him.
· Chu Kot witnessing Siu Keng’s acceptance of Thirteen’s marriage proposal. He was feeling so frustrated that he went exercising his martial arts in the forest. Mong Dip followed him and asked him why he is doing this to himself as he is suffering so much from it. Chu Kot just stubbornly repeats that this is the best solution for them all.
· Other memorable scenes are both death scenes of Mong Dip and Siu Keng.
· Many people were raving about the Charmaine-Stephen pair up. Either I am blind or I have missed one hell of a pair. They looked mismatched and chemistry-wise it was quite disappointing. Actually, I am probably the only one who preferred Charmaine with Joe Ma. I admit they did look awkward together at the beginning, but their story and pairing gradually grew on me. There were those little glances to each other, the concern for each other and so on.
· I truly pity Thirteen for being caught up in such a love triangle where he knows for sure that two are in love but none of them includes him. Even though he marries the girl in the end, he knows that her heart doesn’t belong to him. A fact that was proven by the death scene of his wife. The dying Siu Keng only had eye for Chu Kot while Thirteen was as devastated (or possibly even more) as Chu Kot.
· One thing I really didn’t understand: why can’t Chu Kot makes more of an effort to keep Thirteen from killing Siu Keng’s father. When he ran after Thirteen, Chu Kot just kept on yelling ‘Don’t!’, ‘Don’t do it!’. Is it really that difficult to shout out ‘Don’t! He is Siu Keng’s father!’? That will really make Thirteen listen and also prevent a further deepening of their conflicts. But then I guess it was kind of important that Thirteen killed Chi Ko, at least for the story.
· I quite liked the portrayal of the brother bond. It is funny how their bond is at its strongest when Thirteen is happy. You can really see how different their personalities are just by looking at the dynamics in their brother band. Tin Yee Gui See is happiest when their bond is kept intact, Chu Kot when he can mend his relationship with Thirteen and the latter when he can outshine Chu Kot.
Unless you have much time to kill, I wouldn’t recommend it. Plot is mediocre, performances are below average, with exception of Stepthen Au. It won’t be a big loss if you would give this series a miss.
This series is based on the book ‘Amazing Spear’ by Wan Sui On.