"I was really surprised as I expected another young-girl-playing-young girl (read: boring, annoying and horrible) performance, such as those by TVB Shirley Yeung and the like. Rainie is actually wonderful to watch."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
"Er Mo Zai Shen Bian"/"Ngok Mor Joi Sun Bin" (Mandarin/Cantonese; translates to devil by one's side)
No. of episodes
The Japanese manga "Akuma de Sourou" (translates to Devil Does Exist) by Takanashi Mitsuba
1. Opening: "Chou Nan Ren" (Jerk/Bad Man) - Huang Yida
2. Closing: "Ai Mei" (Ambiguous) - Rainie Yang *also an interlude
3. Interludes: "Li Xiang Qing Ren" (Ideal Lover) - Rainie Yang, "Yi Miao de An Wei" (A Moment's Consolation) - Huang Yida, "Set Me Free" - Huang Yida
Rainie Yang Chen Ling as Qi Yue
Mike He Jun Xiang as Jiang Meng (Ah Meng)
Kingone Wang Chuanyi as Yuan Yi
Tsai Pei Lin as Qing Zhi
Ivy Fan Xiao as Li Xiang
Masuyama Yuki as Yang Ping
He Du Lin as Jiang You Hui (father to Ah Meng)
Ge Wei Ru as Huang Xue Wei (mother to Qi Yue)
Wu Zhong Tian as Ah Shen
Tang Qi as Grandma Jiang
Katherine Wang Kai Di as Mei Di
The series begins with second-year university student Qi Yue finally accumulating the courage to confess her crush on Yuan Yi, the captain of the school's basketball team. Unfortunately, her efforts backfire when she accidentally hands her confession letter to Ah Meng, a first-year student who is the son of the school's president. Ah Meng, who has secretly had feelings for Qi Yue for some time, uses this to his advantage to blackmail Qi Yue into becoming his slave. Terrified of Ah Meng's reputation as a bully and of the possibility of her secret crush being revealed, Qi Yue agrees. As they get to know each other, however, Ah Meng and Qi Yue become involved in a relationship, though it is far away from smooth sailing. The real nail in the coffin arises from the fact that Ah Meng's father is set to marry Qi Yue's mother i.e. our perfect little couple has found itself in the taboo situation of becoming step-siblings.
They are supported by friends who are privy to their little secret but the appearance of Ah Meng’s grandmother (who sees right through the young couple) and the upcoming wedding of the parents forces Qi Yue and Ah Meng to come clean.
Many have compared this series to the hypnotically popular Meteor Garden, which is also based on a Japanese manga and has the familiar archetype of good-poor girl/bad-rich boy. However, I'd argue that there are some important differences between the two series. First, though both series are adapted from Japanese manga, the overall feel of Devil Beside You resembles that of a comic book much more than that of Meteor Garden. It is fast-paced, the opening credits and a few scenes are animation-heavy, and some of the acting is almost cartoonish.
As well, though both series exploit the good girl/bad boy coupling, if one looks more carefully, the characterization is actually very different. Shan Cai is the good girl from MG; she loves her friends and family but she is very undecisive when it comes to love, though when she finally decides on who she wants, she is determined to make it work. She has a strong personality, and is sometimes even annoyingly bull-headed. Qi Yue from DBY, is also strong (probably more so in her own subdued way) but at the same time she is a sweet soul. She has a heart of gold, loves her friends and especially her mother. She is fundamentally different from Shan Cai in that she knows from the beginning (and more importantly, is willing to admit) that she loves Ah Meng after acknowledging that her crush on Yuan Yi was simply infatuation. In this sense I find Qi Yue a more level-headed, believable character, as I found it really annoying that Shan Cai couldn't decide on whether she wanted Lei or Dao Ming Si until almost the end of the series.
Speaking of Dao Ming Si, he may seem identical to Ah Meng on the surface but in reality they couldn't be more different. They both play basketball, both are idolized by the girls in their schools, and both have a tough guy exterior, but the similarities stop there. Whereas Dao Ming Si is immature beyond belief, Ah Meng has a kind of wisdom and maturity that goes far beyond his young 19 years. Yuan Yi mentions this in the series, and this is due to Ah Meng's painful past of being neglected as a child. One could say that Dao Ming Si and Ah Meng have similar backgrounds, but both have dealt with their past in extremely different ways. Ah Meng has adopted a determined, devil-may-care (no pun intended) attitude but he evidently cares very much for his family, friends, and especially Qi Yue. Dao Ming Si, on the other hand, has become a selfish jerk who only learns how to really love Shan Cai after some time, while his friendships really aren't that compelling. Ah Meng is also much more willing to both confront and admit his emotions.
Another important difference? Qi Yue and Ah Meng sleep together at the end of the series (finally, something realistic – teen sex!), where Dao Ming Si was constantly mocked by F4 for how he was destined to remain a virgin due to Shan Cai’s views on sex (i.e. sex after marriage).
Though DBY is shorter than MG and also plays more like a comic book, the actual content of DBY is actually more intriguing, especially when one considers the relationships. Whereas MG only had two relationships that were actually interesting (mainly the Dao Ming Si-Shan Cai pairing and the relationship between Dao Ming Si and his mother and sister), DBY boasts some very compelling relationships (besides the Qi Yue - Ah Meng relationship) that could have been explored more.
1. Qi Yue and her mother: They are friends first and mother and daughter second, which makes their interaction both heartfelt and funny.
2. Ah Meng and Ah Rang: The two brothers with a troubling relationship that is mended at the end. Ah Rang does everything to try to destroy Ah Meng, but in reality he just wanted his older brother's attention, whereas Ah Meng has always been deeply envious of Ah Rang for his mother's apparent favouritism, and in the end, they each learned where the other one was coming from.
3. Qi Yue and Li Xiang: Although there is a petty the-boy-is-mine hatred between the two, there is also a kind of grudging respect, especially on behalf of Li Xiang. Li Xiang sums up her feelings about Qi Yue in a very honest scene with Yang Ping. She says "I've always thought that nice, innocent, caring people like Qi Yue were the dumbest people in the world...When she yelled at me, I thought, how could someone who barely knew me so honestly care about me? When I look at her, I suddenly feel so ugly. I'm not angry at her because Ah Meng is attracted to her innocence and friendliness, I'm angry at how she can so honestly face others and herself. On the surface, I just hate her, but in reality I envy her..."
4. Qing Zhi and Yuan Yi: A very realistic portrayal of teen/young adult relationships. The character of Qing Zhi is especially reflective of how girls behave and think in relationships, for example when she forces Yuan Yi to choose between her and his love for basketball.
5. Ah Meng and Yuan Yi: From fighting over the same girl to building a friendship from being teammates, they understand each other in a very subtle way, and also get along though they bicker often. I felt this relationship wasn't explored enough. .
Mike He/Ah Meng
I'm probably the only girl who doesn't think Mike He is handsome. In this series he has too much hair, whether it was styled as an 'updo' or just hung down. Half the time I couldn't even see his face. Anyways, his acting was really shaky at first - sometimes he was expressionless, and sometimes he overacted. I didn't like him at all at the beginning. His smug 'devil' look was too over-the-top and exaggerated, but gradually he improved and grew into the role of Ah Meng and gave it a certain kind of intensity and emotional angst. He has phenomenal chemistry with Rainie Yang and they make a very believable, bickering, but sweet couple.
Rainie Yang/Qi Yue
I was really surprised as I expected another young-girl-playing-young girl (read: boring, annoying and horrible) performance, such as those by TVB's Shirley Yeung and the like. Rainie is actually wonderful to watch. Physically she is perfect for the role: cute, pretty, and tiny and thin as a ragdoll. At the beginning she's just cute and funny (with her cartoonish expressions), but as the series moves along there is a certain depth, consistency, and even honesty in her performance as the compassionate and genuine Qi Yue. I love her performance in here as she managed to bring out the maturity and selflessness of her character very well. She definitely has potential as an actress in terms of acting ability, though her appearance will probably prove to be a barrier since she is much too girlish to take on a more mature or sexy role.
Tsang Pei Lin gave a very good performance, giving Qing Zhi extra spice and oomph, though her voice gets pretty irritating after awhile. Wuang Chuanyi is really, really ugly and gives an average performance as decent fellow Yuan Yi. Ivy Fan was very good too as Li Xiang, her best scene is the one when she confesses her true feelings in the scene mentioned above with Yang Ping. Speaking of Yang Ping, I had no idea that the actor was Japanese, maybe he was raised in Taiwan? Anyway, he was incredibly likable as well. Other notable performances go to Tang Qi (who played Yu Sao in MG), whose role is small but the impact is definitely there; and Wu Zhong Tian who was dreamily gentlemanly as Ah Shen. He Du Lin and Ge Wei Ru are funny but get cartoonish sometimes as the lovey-dovey parents.
Like Korean dramas and Meteor Garden, the background music for this series is excellent and appropriate. Special mention to the closing theme and interlude "Ai Mei" (Ambigious), sung with much girly emotion from Rainie, who manages to sound sweet but strong, kind of like Vicki Zhao actually. And the lyrics are perfect for the relationship between Qi Yue and Ah Meng.
To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
As I mentioned, many interesting facets could have been explored more, but as a short, comic-based series it does the job and even exceeds some expectations. A must-watch for Meteor Garden fans, and also recommended for others who need an entertaining quick-fix.
From the Grapevine
Rainie Yang is most known for her membership in the now-disbanded Taiwanese girl group 4 in Love. Her original English name was Lily until she joined the group, whose manager named the four girls Rainie, Cloudie, Sunnie and Windie. She is the only 4 in Love member still involved in the entertainment business, and has been romantically linked to Hong Kong teen singer-actor Shawn Yue (with whom she denies any romantic involvement, past or present). She has said that Mike He is the best kisser out of all her male co-stars, although they have never dated but are good friends.