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Written by Funn Lim

"Silly yes, but like Xiang Qin, I suppose all the Zhi Shus in us could do with a bit of Xiang Qin such as this series to brighten our day a bit. We cannot be all so serious and anal about everything all the time."

grad day



SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS

Chinese Title
E Zuo Ju Zhi Wen

Dechipering The Title
I like the English title, It Started With A Kiss because it makes me pay attention to it. But it is very inaccurate. It didn't really start with a kiss, the entire story or even the relationship between the leads actually started with Xiang Qin's attempt to give Zhi Shu a love letter. So really, it should have been It Started With A Love Letter.

As for the Chinese title, it can be loosely translated as "A kiss that is a prank" or "Prank kiss" or "Playing a prank with a kiss". Japanese manga original title was "Mischevious kiss" which is ok but I was told the title refers to a prank that involves a kiss.

Episodes
30 (DVD)

Released In
2005

Cast
Taken from Wikipedia

Joe Cheng as Jiang Zhi Shu
Ariel Lin as Yuan Xiang Qin
Cyndi Chaw as Ah Li's wife / Jiang Zhao Zi
Zhang Yong Zheng as Jiang Wan Li
Tang Cong Sheng as Yuan You Cai
Zhang Bo Han as Jiang Yu Shu
Jiro Wang as Jin Yuan Feng (Ah Jin)
Tiffany Xu as Pei Zi Yu
Liu Rong Jia as Liu Ya Nong
Yang Pei Ting as Lin Chun Mei
Jason as Wang Hao Qian
Bianca Bai as Bai Hui Lan
Qian De Men as Chairman Bai
Lai Zhi Wei as Du Jian Zhong
Wu Wen Hong as Ah Hong
Wang Di Jun as Zhang Lang
Chen Bo Zheng as Kong Ling Yang
Yao Cai Ying as Wen Zhen Guan
Hong Jiao Nang as Yang Da Xin / Xiang Qin's teacher
Lee Shiau Shiang as Chang Wu Ren
Yan Ya Lun as Chun Mei's boyfriend, Ah Bu

Synopsis
Taken from Wikipedia

After an earthquake destroyed Xiang Qin's house, she and her father move in with her father's college buddy, uncle Ahli. To her surprise, the kind and amicable aunt and uncle are the parents of her cold and distant schoolmate Jiang Zhi Shu, a genius with an IQ of 200 whom not too long ago rejected Xiang Qin's endless crush on him for the reason that she isn't exactly very bright. Will the close proximity give her a second chance to win the boy's heart? Or, will she break down under his cold, cold words?

The Plot
The synopsis taken from Wikipedia is not accurate, as usual. For one Zhi Shu did not reject Xiang Qin's love because she was not bright but because he simply didn't care. Anyway, the plot below will of course include complete spoilers so avoid this section and the entire review if you wished to be surprise. I wonder why would you since this series is not about the end but rather the journey. The span of this series is 5 years, both leads are of same age and it started at the age of 15 until the age of 20, although strictly speaking the events in this series takes place from the age of 17 to the age of 20.

Xiang Qin is not very bright but she is very bubbly and in some ways optimistic 17 year old girl living with her widowed father. Her father runs a small restaurant business and they get on well financially, and her father, Ah Cai even bought a nice double storey house, realising his dream of settling down, finally after the untimely death of his beloved wife. Xiang Qin meanwhile is in the F class in her high school where the distinction between the F students and the A students are so obvious, A students often looked down on the F students, usually the more goofy ones. Xiang Qin when she was 15 first met Zhi Shu, who is considered as the school living legend, well on his way to graduating from high school having been placed 1st for the entire duration and scoring perfect marks in all exams. He is well known for having an IQ of 200 and is considered the school's IT boy, since he is also tall, good looking and comes from a rich family. Xiang Qin first met him when he went on stage at school to give a speech and she was captivated by his brains as well as his looks. For 2 years she harboured a secret crush that wasn't so secret with her friends whilst amongst her friends, Ah Cai, an ordinary boy without much ambition harboured a not so secret crush on her. Finally 2 years later when Xiang Qin was in her final year and was about to graduate from high school she mustered enough courage to declare her love for Zhi Shu in a love letter which she prepared herself to personally hand it to him. That was the very first scene of this series, as we see Xiang Qin struggling to overcome her shyness to give the letter to a passing Zhi Shu. Unfortunately, not only did he ignored her, he even went on to insult her, basically rejecting her advances in front of the entire school. Xiang Qin became the object of ridicule in her school from thereon, and Zhi Shu had fun reminding her of her silliness in daring to confess her admiration for him when frankly he didn't even care to look her way. Xiang Qin was crushed but in her bubbly optimistic self she thought at least she tried. However one event would bring these two polar opposites together.

Remember the house Xiang Qin's dad bought? One day, all of a sudden there was an earthquake and of all the houses that crumbled under the quake, it was Ah Cai's house. Destroyed totally, Ah Cai and Xiang Qin faced the prospect of living on the streets until fate has it that Ah Cai's old school friend from college, Ah Li and his wife, Mrs Jiang saw Ah Cai on TV. Ah Li and Ah Cai were best of friends in school and Ah Cai even helped Ah Li to woo Mrs Jiang, and having lost contact for many years, Ah Li and Mrs Jiang were emotionally very touched by what they saw. Immediately Ah Li contacted Ah Cai and offered his house to Ah Cai, so that they can stay together. Mrs Jiang also knew Ah Cai has a daughter and since Mrs Jiang had 2 sons and always hoped for a daughter, to Mrs Jiang Xiang Qin will be like her own daughter. Xiang Qin didn't quite like the prospect of living under someone's roof and Ah Cai knew but they needed time and money to find a new place and so they had to make do. Xiang Qin was pleasantly surprised to find out Ah Li's house is situated at the millionaire's conner, a bungalow and Xiang Qin felt she could stay there for a while, since Mrs Jiang so warmly welcomed her, until Mrs Jiang asked her eldest son to come out to help with moving their stuff in and he was none other than Zhi Shu! Xiang Qin was totally embarassed whilst Zhi Shu knew it was going to be Xiang Qin since his parents told him they're inviting a girl from his school that just lost her house in an earthquake and there was only one such girl then. Zhi Shu was polite and well mannered in front of Ah Cai and Xiang Qin though embarassed felt quite happy to live under one roof with her idol. Mrs Jiang went all out to make Xiang Qin comfortable, unfortunately Xiang Qin made an enemy with Yu Shu, the baby brother of Zhi Shu as Yu Shu had to handover his own room to Xiang Qin and sleep with his big brother. Xiang Qin felt guilty over the attention by Mrs Jiang although she felt much welcomed. And Mrs Jiang had her own devious plan; she liked Xiang Qin at first sight and wanted very much to pair her with her son, Zhi Shu.

The next day was school day and Xiang Qin couldn't believe her good luck that she was having breakfast with Zhi Shu who basically ignored her. When it was time for school, Mrs Jiang pushed Zhi Shu to accompany Xiang Qin and well, they took a bus to school but Zhi Shu ignored her causing Xiang Qin to be molested everyday on the way to school in the bus. In fact Zhi Shu warned Xiang Qin to keep all these a secret and Xiang Qin agreed. At school none of her friends knew where they were staying and Ah Jin made it his sole mission to find out what is going on with poor Xiang Qin.

All was going well at school and at home, except for Xiang Qin feeling very much ignored by Zhi Shu whilst Yu Shu had very little respect for her, calling her stupid. She wasn't miserable since she knew she wasn't very smart. But when Xiang Qin found out that Class F was indeed F in every subject in the school, and spurred by her teacher's motivational speech and not wanting to be looked down by Zhi Shu again, Xiang Qin sworn to get into the top 100 students list in her school, causing many to laugh at her noble but hopeless attempt. Xiang Qin tried hard, studied to no end but she couldn't understand. When Mrs Jiang happily made her supper and she found out Mrs Jiang never had a chance to make supper for Zhi Shu since Zhi Shu never studied and never stayed up pass 10pm every night, Xiang Qin was appalled that Zhi Shu was so smart! She was even more determined but felt quite hopeless until Mrs Jiang showed Xiang Qin a secret of Zhi Shu; Mrs Jiang always wanted a daughter and thought her first child was a daughter but it turned out to be Zhi Shu. Not deterred at all, Mrs Jiang dressed Zhi Shu in girls' clothings for many years right up until he was about 7 and everybody thought Zhi Shu was a girl until one swimming class where he took off his wig. Everybody laughed at Zhi Shu who because of this shut off emotionally and became very cold towards other people. Mrs Jiang even had photos of Zhi Shu in girl's clothings, posing in cute poses. Xiang Qin promised Mrs Jiang no one will hear of this but she thought of a plan.

When Zhi Shu pretty much laughed at Xiang Qin's declaration to get into the top 100 list in her school, Xiang Qin became fed up and used the photo and the negatives to threaten Zhi Shu. Zhi Shu didn't want anyone to know and so he agreed to tutor Xiang Qin which was not easy since she knew nothing. After much scolding from Zhi Shu, he decided to teach her nightly and Xiang Qin loved the attention by Zhi Shu. At the end Zhi Shu who had very little sleep ended up dozing off in class and Xiang Qin felt guilty. After the exams she was hoping Zhi Shu could maintain his perfect record although he was always tired thanks to her. When the results were out, she ran to look at the list and was very happy to find Zhi Shu was still no. 1 in her school, his name at the beginning of the list. Zhi Shu meanwhile ran to see the list but went in search of Xiang Qin's name and he was smiling despite himself when he saw her name at the end of the list, right there at no. 100. He showed Xiang Qin that and Xiang Qin was very happy and from thereon their relationship changed from distant to not so distant. Far from very friendly of course. Zhi Shu had a bit of respect for Xiang Qin who attained the impossible whilst Xiang Qin idolised Zhi Shu more. When Ah Jin found out she was living with Zhi Shu and so did the entire school, they knew the secret to Xiang Qin's success. The entire F class, including the teacher except for Ah Jin begged Zhi Shu to help them for the final state exam and whilst Zhi Shu at first disagreed, he was basically pressured to say yes and he reluctantly tutored them. Interestingly the entire F class, except for Ah Jin passed and graduated from High School which was unheard of before in the school. However Zhi Shu didn't want the recognition and together with the A Class insulted the F Class students during the celebrations causing much anomisity. Xiang Qin of course was hurt but she still idolised him. They went into a big argument and frankly I can't remember at which point but he ended up kissing her on the lips, and he was stunned by what he did, and so did Xiang Qin. They never spoke of the kiss thereafter although Xiang Qin felt maybe there was hope for them both. Zhi Shu tried to fight his feelings but realised he liked Xiang Qin, despite himself.

Time came for them to graduate. Xiang Qin and her two best friends, Chun Mei and Nong decided to enter the same school's university department and study child care. Zhi Shu was meanwhile pressured to enter Taiwan University, the top university and his father expected him to take over the family business (designing and selling computer games). Zhi Shu didn't know what he wanted to do but he didn't want to enter Taiwan University. Now kinda semi boyfriend with Xiang Qin after that first kiss, Xiang Qin did hope he would go to the same university as her but she knew he was too smart to be on the same level with her. She encouraged him to take the Taiwan U entrance exams, even accompanied him to the exam centre but all the way she was feeling some pain in her stomach and she ended up fainting at the entrance. Zhi Shu quickly ran back and carried her to the hospital. When Xiang Qin woke up, Mrs Jiang and her own father were there and she thought Zhi Shu was at the exam hall when suddenly Zhi Shu appeared. Mrs Jiang was shocked that Zhi Shu missed the exam and Xiang Qin blamed herself, crying uncontrollably that she had caused him so much trouble although no one blamed her. Ah Li scolded Zhi Shu but Zhi Shu later confessed to Xiang Qin that he could have reached the exam hall in time to take the exam but he didn't want to. He didn't want to go to Taiwan U and in the end he ended up at the same university as Xiang Qin, studying technology, I think.

And so a new phase begins and now they're both university students. Xiang Qin was very happy she was again going the same way to school with Zhi Shu who quite enjoyed her presence although he pretended not to. Xiang Qin of course wondered if they were an item. At school, Xiang Qin tried to find out which club Zhi Shu joined so that they could spend more time together, more so when she found out Zhi Shu's lab partner is a very pretty girl named Ziyu who herself had set her sight on Zhi Shu. When she found out he joined the tennis club, she begged to join the club and got in! Of course it was hell on earth as she had to practice and practice. Zhi Shu didn't turn up for practice since he was school and state youth champion or something so Xiang Qin thought she has been duped. But suddenly one day Zhi Shu appeared for practise and whilst Xiang Qin didn't quite know it, he actually went to the practice for her. Of course on that day a senior who was jealous at Zhi Shu's ability as well as Ziyu's undying attention for Zhi Shu instead of himself made a bet with Zhi Shu; that if Xiang Qin as his partner could return one serve (I am not a fan of tennis so I don't really know the term for that), he would do as Zhi Shu bids. But if she couldn't, he would have to play in some tournament dressed in women's clothings. Zhi Shu said yes and Xiang Qin panicked. Whilst on some tennis workshop which was out of town, Zhi Shu wanted to teach Xiang Qin but she was given the task of cooking for the entire team, leaving her with very little time. She was hopeless in cooking and Zhi Shu ended up helping her secretly, cooking for the next 6 days. Everybody complimented Xiang Qin on her cooking, causing a bit of a satisfied smile on Zhi Shu. But the practise was going badly, and during one time Xiang Qin hurt her ankle but she didn't tell Zhi Shu. On the big day she braved enormous pain and played and she did return one serve but her ankle gave way. Zhi Shu was touched by her determination and I believe began to like her even more when he found out she did all that because she didn't want him to lose in the bet. But Zhi Shu didn't tell her of course and she still wondered if he liked her.

Meanwhile back at home thing were getting friendlier, and even Yu Shu began to soften towards Xiang Qin who doted on him although he still called her stupid. But Zhi Shu was not happy. He wanted to know what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, and when things were almost ok between himself with Xiang Qin who was now his semi girlfriend, Zhi Shu wanted to move out. He wanted to experience life for himself, and he didn't want to be pressured by his father who kept insisting he go to Taiwan U and to takeover the family business. He felt cornered and wanted to move out. Xiang Qin hoped he didn't but felt she could do nothing and so he moved out and never told his family where he was working or staying until one senior told Xiang Qin and she knew he was working at some steakhouse restaurant as a waiter. Everyday she went to see him and whilst he looked annoyed at her presence he was secretly quite happy that she was there. And to her horror she found out Ziyu also worked at the same place which made her very determined to find out where he lived. One night raining heavily, Xiang Qin who drank too much coffee since it was the cheapest, fainted (again) and Zhi Shu was asked by the manager to take her home. No taxi would take them and so Zhi Shu took her back to his place, much to Xiang Qin's joy. Back at his place Zhi Shu called his mother to drive to take Xiang Qin back home but his mother took this opportunity to give many excuses so that Xiang Qin could stay a night there. Zhi Shu was helpless and stuck with Xiang Qin. Xiang Qin was embarassed but felt very happy at the prospect. They even ended up on the same bed but Xiang Qing felt a blow to her pride when Zhi Shu didn't even kiss her at all and she thought Zhi Shu didn't like her when Zhi Shu quietly confessed that he would not touch her even if he wanted to because he would then fall right into his mother's trap; he liked Xiang Qin but he didn't want to do it the way his mother planned it and Xiang Qin understood.

Now that they have spent one night together although nothing happened, Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu became closer but Zhi Shu was still distant in his own way. Suddenly his father summoned Zhi Shu home and said a trusted secretary has ran away with millions of the company's funds and Zhi Shu who knew exactly what to do had to help his father. Xiang Qin took this opportunity to work at the same company although Zhi Shu felt she would hurt more than help. He successfully designed a new smash hit game with some inspiring ideas from an unsuspecting Xiang Qin and the company was saved. Except his father lied and Zhi Shu was very angry that he left again.

I can't remember the timeline but along the way Xiang Qin was alone at home with Yu Shu when Yu Shu became violently sick. She panicked and called Zhi Shu who taught her what to do. At the hospital Yu Shu was in need of surgery and having no one to make a decision, Xiang Qin made the difficult decision and saved Yu Shu's life. During that course Yu Shu became closer to Xiang Qin, although reluctantly since he always thought she was too stupid for Zhi Shu. He also saw his brother kissing a sleeping Xiang Qin, so he knew Zhi Shu actually liked Xiang Qin. And during his stay, Zhi Shu realised what he wanted to do; like what was suggested by Xiang Qin, he felt a deep interest for medicine and secretly changed faculty to study medicine. Xiang Qin was proud of him and in a way he didn't tell anyone except for her.

When Ah Li found out, he was very angry and Zhi Shu and him had a big argument, where Zhi Shu wanted to find his own future and not to be dictated by his parents. Xiang Qin was there and heard Zhi Shu said the words that he didn't want even his love life to be dictated and he despised the fact that his mother kept pushing Xiang Qin to him. Xiang Qin at that moment felt horrible and thought Zhi Shu didn't like her at all and again she was torn between him liking her or despising her. His mother slapped him, to her own shock and again he ran away.

I can't remember the timeline but somewhere along the way Ah Li suffered a major heart attack and Zhi Shu had no choice but to quit school and to run the company which was in deep financial trouble. Xiang Qin tearfully asked him to reconsider, that his ambition was to become a doctor but Zhi Shu felt defeated and knew he had to takeover the business if not his father would probably die. Ah Li was happy as he was recuperating in the hospital whilst Zhi Shu went to work to save the company. Xiang Qin provided emotional support and cooked him lunch meals to show her support for him, which he dutifully eat every day despite the fact that her cooking is horrible.

However Zhi Shu came upon a big stumbling block. No matter how smart he was he couldn't find financial support for the company until he met Chairman Bai, who liked Zhi Shu so much he proposed a union between the families in the form of his lovely granddaughter, Hui Lan, a soft spoken gentle girl whose parents died in an air crash. Chairman Bai even had in view that Zhi Shu would one day run his company. Xiang Qin couldn't believe what was happening and whilst she thought she could stop it, Zhi Shu actually agreed to meet Hui Lan and ended up dating her. Ah Li and wife never once asked Zhi Shu to trade marriage for business but Zhi Shu was determined since this was the only way to save the company. And he liked Hui Lan. Xiang Qin was crushed and she finally realised she had to move on since Zhi Shu didn't love her. She had to start anew and all these years right at her side was Ah Jin, who now was her father's cook apprentice. She knew Ah Jin could takeover the business one day and with Ah Jin, she felt quite happy, spending time with him in ways that she never did with Zhi Shu. But her heart didn't belong to Ah Jin, despite all her efforts, she realised she still loved Zhi Shu even if he didn't love her. And she knew it wasn't fair to Ah Jin. So when Ah Jin proposed, she tried to say yes, she tried to let him kiss her but Ah Jin saw how she was forcing herself and Ah Jin was heartbroken. Tearfully Xiang Qin ran away.

Meanwhile Hui Lan confronted Zhi Shu and she confessed she felt Zhi Shu may be polite to her, even very gentlemanly, but she felt Zhi Shu was cold and distant towards her. She could see that when Zhi Shu was with Xiang Qin, he had temper, he had anger, he had emotion that she never felt when he was with her. Zhi Shu who knew through Chun Mei and Nong that Ah Jin was about to propose to Xiang Qin that very night was very disturbed because when he found out about the proposal he realised he loved Xiang Qin. He knew he didn't love Hui Lan and abruptly he left, running to find Xiang Qin in the rain whilst Hui Lan, like Ah Jin cried alone. Zhi Shu ran and ran to find her, realising that he really loved Xiang Qin and found her staring at the restaurant he worked at. Drenched in the rain, Zhi Shu asked her if Ah Jin proposed and Xiang Qin, surprised to see him there was forced to admit she still loved him, despite his cold and distant nature. Tearfully she confessed she can't forget him and she doubted if he felt the same when suddenly, with one passionate kiss he confirmed his love for her. He took her home and in front of his parents and Ah Cai, he asked for Xiang Qin's hand in marriage, and promised to take care of her. That he will marry her, but after she graduates. Everybody was happy but Chairman Bai wasn't. He withdrew all support and the company was facing financial ruin. For the first time Zhi Shu who was normally proud and arrogant had to beg for help but no one was helping. Xiang Qin though never had such pride and for her man she was willing to anything and so she went to beg Chairman Bai, even knelt down on the floor and swore that she will not get up until he will see her. Zhi Shu was there with her and though he asked her to stand up and leave she refused. He knelt beside her the entire day but Chairman Bai was unmoved. Hui Lan saw what was going on and tearfully said to her grandfather to stop whatever he was doing and to help them. To her marriage was one issue, business was another. Chairman Bai was moved to tears by his granddaughter's forgiving heart (after all Zhi Shu did hurt her) and asked to see them. He gave Xiang Qin an ultimatum; leave Zhi Shu. Xiang Qin said yes she will, Zhi Shu scolded her for being stupid and that he could rebuild the company even if it folds now. Xiang Qin didn't see it that way and agreed to Bai's terms and Bai agreed to help Zhi Shu's company unconditionally. When Bai met Hui Lan behind the door, he expressed regret that Zhi Shu could not be his grandson in law.

The company was saved. Ah Li realised he can't stop his son's ambition and decided to go back to the company despite Zhi Shu's protest and he gave Zhi Shu his blessing so that Zhi Shu can pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. But Ah Li was worried who will takeover the business and Yu Shu volunteered and said he will. All was happy.

Mrs Jiang not wanting to wait anymore secretly planned a wedding and Zhi Shu had to say yes since he did agree to marry Xiang Qin. But there is still one problem; Ah Jin. Ah Jin could not work, he was heartbroken, and he ignored Xiang Qin causing Xiang Qin much tears. Zhi Shu came to see Ah Jin at the restaurant to beg for his forgiveness and in anger Ah Jin tried to strangle him to death and screaming "You cold arrogant bastard! What do you know about love? You who is so cold who never know how to love!" and Zhi Shu quietly answered "When I found out you were about to propose to Xiang Qin that night, I knew love ..." and Ah Jin stopped strangling him. Ah Jin tearfully said "You better treat her well. She loved you from the first moment she saw you, for 5 years she has not stopped loving you. I have loved her from the first moment I saw her and for 5 years U have not stopped loving her. Xiang Qin, I hope you will regret your choice. Of all you could have chosen, you chosen this bastard, I will ignore you from now on, please leave". Xiang Qin tearfully left as Zhi Shu hugged her. Of course all was well when Ah Jin could see beyond himself.

Then the day of the wedding came. Instead of a proper wedding, Xiang Qin made Zhi Shu wear the wedding dress whilst she wore the suit and it was a very rainy day but the wedding was a happy one. Xiang Qin finally realised her dream of marrying Zhi Shu whom she thought was an impossible reality but it happened because she persisted and dared to dream the impossible. Zhi Shu confessed he will love her more each day and Zhi Shu relaxed a bit to open up his heart. Xiang Qin wondered what life would be after marriage but whatever it may be, she will always remain by his side supporting him in whatever he does.

The end.

Well there is a sequel airing in September 2007 which will continue the story in terms of their marriage. So don't worry, you will probably get to see Xiang Qin bumbling her way through marriage and Zhi Shu sulking all the way also.

Comments
This series was shown on local TV some time back, I didn't pay any attention. It was aired during the sama time as those other Taiwanese series of similar themes, such as Devil Beside You, that Heaven wedding dress of whatever, that Pasta whatever, and everything else. In fact when I first read the storyline it felt very familiar; almost like Meteor Garden but of course quite different in many ways. My friend said she loved this series so much she has watched it several times and it's true, the DVD covers looked worn out. Yes, she bought the DVD with the English subtitles. I didn't need that since I could understand 90% of the speech and as for the 10%, I could safely guess. In fact the English subtitles is worse than All About Eve. Imagine the name Jiang Zhi Shu translated as River Keep A Tree! Funnily enough, Xiang Qin was still Xiang Qin and Ah Jin was still Ah Jin. So why Zhi Shu became Keep A Tree? Then there was the dialogue which basically means Zhi Shu to propose marriage to Xiang Qin and the subtitles went something like "Zhi Shu has proposal to Xiang Qin", which is grammatically wrong and more importantly sounds like a business dealing. What they don't know how to translate, they just write the Chinese words! Thanks to the subtitles I had a fun time laughing all the way through the series, and what's even funnier? The subtitles never really matched the dialogue and when they did, I kinda suspected that the translator had a thesaurus next to them him some words are just too formal. I still find it very funny when the dialogue became "You think you intelligent beyond meter river keep a tree?" and it took me a moment to realise that was Zhi Shu's name. Or "You must refuel" which really had to be the funniest. Refuel! Ok, maybe in English it is hard to find the right words, at least Japanese had "Kambate" (I apologise for the inaccurate spelling) but in English it can be "Do work hard!" or "Do the best you can" which sounds patronising instead of encouraging but refuel? Sometimes I wonder why they even bother with the subtitles. Why make a mockery out of the already rather cringe worthy dialogue? If you're those that could not understand Mandarin (or rather how the Taiwanese speak Mandarin with all the lehs, ehs and huhs), I am sorry to say you will feel hopeless with the subtitles. Is there like a part time I can apply for these distributors? I don't mind doing some translations. I am fed up with the poor quality. Even the better ones like from PMP Entertainment aren't accurate but this ISWAK subtitles, they can be gibberish sometimes.

Anyway back to the series itself. Maybe it is not right to classify this series as such but ever since Meteor Garden, I view series with such pairings and such storyline as idol type series because the stars, specifically the male stars would become somewhat of an idol after the series. And amongst all those recent idol series, this one I read at Wikipedia had the highest rating, a big smash hit that merits a sequel which will probably bomb since sequels made after the success of the first are usually for profit and nothing good can come out of a series made solely to profit from the first smash hit. Look at Meteor Garden 2 and I am sure you must agree with me. But I will still watch it and I can explain why.

When I first watched Meteor Garden, I was appalled at the sissy looking guys with their long hair and the entire rather strange story about Taiwanese version of love, or rather the Japanese since it was based on a manga series. The worst was of course the acting. Except for Barbie Hsu, the so called F4 were basically horrendous. They weren't acting, they were sulking. And that was my impression of the first of the many idol series. I caught a glimpse of Devil Beside You, which to me had a fantastic title but the lead actor, Mike He could sulk the sulkiest person into oblivion. Saw that heaven wedding dress or whatever, and the lead actor was handsome but can sulk and can't act. Saw that Prince Turned Into Frog, Ming Dao was good looking when his hair was combed back and he could sulk too. Then came It Started With A Kiss, where I can safely say Joseph Cheng is the king of all sulky prince. He could really sulk, not one smile on his face despite the silly antics of Ariel Lin. Now I call that supreme acting.

So yeah, I was skeptical. The storyline are almost always the same; young, impressionable, naive, virginal, cute, bubbly, innocent, kind hearted, nice, friendly, silly and unassuming young girl has a crush on the always sulky like the whole world owe him something kinda guy, always rich or comes from a rich family, has attitude problems, doesn't trust people easily, quite a rebel, always terribly smart, doesn't have a relationship to start with since he isn't bothered with trivialities such as love (so almost always our hero is also virginal physically), cold, distant who will always end up being warmed by the girl's warm and friendly nature but we will never know if he actually loved her until he would do something. Not buying gifts or giving flowers, since these heroes are rather stingy. In fact it would be the girl who goes all out to do things for him, all he had to do is to be touched by her affection and effort and all he had to do to reassure the girl is to give her a hug or a sudden kiss. In older series, we always have the guy and the girl running towards each other for that affectionate hug but nowadays I notice it would be the girl doing the running and the guy standing there like a stone, receiving that hug, almost always surprised by the girl's affection like he didn't expect someone could be so affectionate. Always it would be the girl questioning why the guy did this and that and how she could break that barrier in his cold distant heart because she truly believed he could be warm and open but something happened that closed his heart and now it was her duty, her all consuming mission to open his heart for love.

Let me pause here for a moment and go ...
awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Yes, that's the basis of such series, always. I guess people like that. I like that actually. I mean isn't it every girl's dream to melt the cold distant hero, to tame the rebel and to domesticate the unruly because you know if you could do that and he would settle down for you, it can only mean he really really loves you. And only a young girl, 18 or 19 or 20 would dedicate her entire existence to do just that because older women would have walked away and never look back. I guess the older we get the less tolerant we are towards being silly, being ignored.

I find the basis of Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu's affection for one another, likewise with all other idol series rather abusive. No, Zhi Shu never hit Xiang Qin, at worst he ignores her. What I find very interesting is one scene where Hui Lan spoke to Zhi Shu about his affection for Xiang Qin where she said "With me you are always polite, always the perfect gentleman, you have never raised your voice at me but when you were with Xiang Qin, you had temper, you raised your voice, you had anger, you were flesh and blood, those things you were never with me". As far as I can recall, he did teased Xiang Qin endlessly but when I say abusive, I meant verbally. Every other episode he would call her an idiot, says she is stupid. And this series said this is called affection. So I guess when someone is too polite that is not real, which means we women liked to be insulted, shouted at and basically ignored? There is something very strange with this kind of rationale. I understand it although I don't think I will equate being called stupid as being affectionate. If you look at their relationship in another way, I don't think you will find how Zhi Shu acted with Xiang Qin as loving or even affectionate although at the other end it may mean the guy was so familiar with her he can be so terribly honest. Of course this series counter balance all these verbal abuse with some actions that I would call quite loving on the part of Zhi Shu. Do remember the girl does everything, the guy had to do very little. For example ...

Scenario 1
The Girl
Making a bithday gift overnight for the guy

The Guy
Pretending he didn't care but actually he ran to pick up the gift, without her knowing (in fact in the series Xiang Qin thought someone stole the gift and we never see the gift in his room. It would be nice if she saw it and knew in her heart he cared about her instead questioning herself every other minute).

Scenario 2
The Girl
Cooking for him and making him lunch boxes

The Guy
I find this very loving because how many can stomach bad cooking? Well he quietly ate what she cooked, happily even if he pretended he didn't care.

Scenario 3
The Girl
Sprained her ankle but still played tennis for him

The Guy
Carried her to seek treatment

Scenario 4
The Girl
Hot boiling water accidentally poured on her feet

The Guy
Immediately carrying her to the toilet to clean the wound

Scenario 5
The Girl
Fainting every other episode

The Guy
Carrying her to hospital

Scenario 6
The Girl
Always next to him, listening to his problems even when he didn't say a word

The Guy
Not telling anyone except her what was troubling him. She who has exclusive rights to his innermost turmoils.

You get the picture? She had to do a lot, he had to do very little. Well I guess opening up his innermost deepest darkest worries is quite an effort so I guess he truly loved her despite he never gave her a single rose or a gift, at all. It's a very strange kind of relationship but entertaining.

You see, this series' ending is pre-written. They will end up with one another, so there is no question like are they or aren't they. The series' fun part is the journey, and in sometimes painful details why on earth a guy with an IQ of 200 could fall for such a silly girl. You may wonder or you may not. I did. How on earth the series is going to explain that and in the end the answer is quite simple really. The girl showed him unconditional love and attention and he liked that. She went all out for him, she didn't mind being embarassed or humiliated. The one thing about the heroines in an idol series is they're thick skinned. Try and try again. Despite the guy not confessing his love for her, she will still be there, for him. She can't give up on him because she loves him, 110%. Her nature is such that she is naturally silly, bubbly, optimistic and terribly understanding. I emphasise on silly because frankly I too would be attracted to such a girl who knows she is humiliated but still get up again and continue on just for the sake of me. The attractiveness of this girl is her entire existence is for the guy and no other. Some may find this suffocating but the genius of this girl is she knows when to retreat just a little, but frustratingly she never knew when to stop loving him even when he kept pushing her away.

I have detracted from my review. I guess like in the series I am trying to explain every sentence I am typing, to leave no stones unturned. Such idol series always have such peculiar and sometimes annoying habit. I want to illustrate this. For example...

Funn : I am typing this review.

Funn narrating : There is a reason I am typing this review, for this review is the essence of my opinion of this series, this series the essence of my opinion, why am I typing, why shouldn't I? This is after all my review, my review is my opinion, but what is my opinion? Does it matter? Will it be read or will it be discarded? My review...oh my review.....


Yes, the narration in this series is longer than the spoken script itself. I felt like I was watching some Shakesperean play, where one character actually says one or two sentences but in the narration by that very same character, like some voiceover will interprete what she perceives of that situation she was in. This most often happens to Xiang Qin but even Yu Shu the kid has his narrative moments which kinda seem rather silly. Like "Why is big brother kissing that stupid girl? Does he really like her? Oh he really likes her? He is ruined!" kinda script. There is of course an advantage to this; you as the viewer will know exactly what is the character thinking about, the disadvantage is sometimes too much information, too long, waste of time. It is almost as if the characters rarely speak to one another but in thoughts, the conversation in the mind can go on and on.

Another annoying habit in such series which this series kinda goes overboard is the overactive imagination of the main character that is Xiang Qin herself. I guess the hallmark of such lead female character is her imagination of what she hoped would happen and what actually happens. These imagination sequence may seen cute but sometimes it gets in the way of the storytelling when suddenly all things serious becomes all things light hearted. What I enjoy about such sequences is how Xiang Qin sees Zhi Shu; in her imagination she seems Zhi Shu as someone playful, someone very cute, doing silly things, smiling widely when in person Zhi Shu will never do such things. Even Zhi Shu had his imagination as Xiang Qin describing her wedding day and well Zhi Shu got her right; she would have said what he imagined her as saying. But there are too many of such sequences and it is as if like the writer is trying to waste time and to stretch the series longer.

But none is worse than the last 2 episodes where almost more than half the one hour show is dedicated to music video sequence and our Xiang Qin looking lost, confused, sad or Zhi Shu looking lost, confused, sulky, sad. It got on my nerve when all I wanted is for it to move on to something concrete. And during that 2 episodes we see more of Xiang Qin trying to forget Zhi Shu and dating Ah Jin, with the neverending sequence of them visiting zoos. I was screaming of boredom. I don't care about Ah Jin, I want to see how Zhi Shu reacted to the news Xiang Qin was seeing Ah Jin. But rarely did I get to see that reaction, I felt like I was robbed the pleasure of seeing Zhi Shu suffer.

And that is the major problem with this series; the sequence of the story. Some feels forced, some feels boring. It tried to be so many things, putting on so many elements when many were unnecessary.

For one, the side story of Chun Mei and Nong and their love life. Not much but unnecessary. It detracted from Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu. Then there was that side story of that overzealous senior and his infatuation for Ziyu, and it went on and on that it was boring. Even Yu Shu has his own love story which didn't detract from the story but I didn't want his story. The worst was Ah Jin and his undying love for Xiang Qin. Many moments were dedicated to him trying to get her attention, many moments were him speaking so many lines in many unnecessary scenes that it felt like this series would never end. It was very obvious Xiang Qin didn't care about him in terms of love but she does care for him as a friend but this guy was like having a broken antaenna, he just didn't get it. And in the end he set himself up for that heartbreaking moment when he tried to kiss her and her reaction of total forced and disgust plus tears said it all. Many times in this series I was screaming GIVE UP LAR!!! The same can be said of Xiang Qin. This series is after all about her total devotion to him, and I could say total servitude. It is obvious he loved her, in his own cold distant way but the way the series went it was like neverending with her proving to him many times how much she loved him and always doubting if he ever loved her. We all know he loved her; he ate the food she cooked and that is his best proclamation of love for her.

To tell you the truth the series after a while felt like it was never going to end. Everytime they bonded something happened to tear them apart and make Xiang Qin question herself. I see this nice girl putting herself through such torture of not knowing if the guy actually liked her. He kissed her yes, but he never actually said he loved her. Not one flower, not one gift. She chased after him, he looked like he tolerated her. For quite a few episodes it was as if he liked her, because he felt amused by her silly and sometimes stupid antics, he felt charmed by her natural goodness, her natural innocence and optimism but the question throughout the entire series right up until the last episode was did he love her? Liking is one thing, loving is another. Well you will get your answer in the last episode but the journey to that point was much too long for my taste. I was kinda fed up with the neverending doubts and music video moments. I was hoping for one scene where Xiang Qin actually tell Zhi Shu that she gives up on him, she is moving on and Zhi Shu will then have to earn her love back, to do something to win her heart and trust again. You may say running in the rain searching for her, risking the company and such are evidence of that something BUT her reaction was just too easy. She has always been that way; she was ready to accept him so long he just gives a little. When he ran to her in the rain, it was as if she was waiting there, ever willing and ever ready to give him that chance. Like Ah Jin who did so much and got so little in return, it was the same with her and Zhi Shu had to do so little to win her heart because let's face it; her heart never changed, it is a question of him beckoning her and she is ready to run to him. One part of me felt disgust at this entire storyline which is offensive to the core, that if this is called relationship and this is called love, sorry I have my pride. I am actually more like Zhi Shu I think. But yet it makes for a very compelling watch, as we see a progression of their relationship. Zhi Shu hardly changed, he just needed to admit he cared for her more than he actually admits.

The set up to Zhi Shu's character is more complicated than Xiang Qin. But it is also the stupidest set up ever. We all know he is cold, distant, sometimes pretend to be uncaring, arrogant but like this series love to remind us as they reminded us of Xiang Qin's stupidity every episode, we are constantly reminded that Zhi Shu is Taiwan's no. 1 most intelligent young man, he is the most talented, the handsomest, the tallest, the everything. He is the sun to which the Earth spins around, if you still don't understand. Everyone who met him will be very captivated by his brilliance, his intelligence, his handsome face. Not one woman was immuned and even Chairman Bai felt a great loss that Zhi Shu can't be his successor and grandson in law. Everyone who met him would tell us the viewers that he was a force to be rekconed with, and Xiang Qin at first both loath his arrogance as much as she admired and respect him. Get the point? Frankly I don't see why everyone goes gaga over this sulky young man. With an IQ of 200 it is amazing he is in the same stream as Xiang Qin as in the same form or grade when he should have graduated from University by the time he was 10 or something. This series went to great pains to establish that Zhi Shu is this great talent of Taiwan, how smart, how rich, how good looking that I feel embarassed for the writer to come up with such an amateur childish set up. It wasn't the worst. The worst was why he was cold and distant. Mrs Jiang said because she made him wear girls' clothings when he was little, dress him up as her imaginary daughter, dancing ballet or whatever. Let me say here first; Mrs Jiang is the TV world's scariest mother ever. Which mother would do that except those mentally demented? Anyway the setup of him being cold and distant and to me really rude was him dressing in girls' clothings when he was little. What a brilliant way to setup the background of a character eh? How dumb. I almost gave up the series right there and then. To say it was stupid is the kindest compliment I can pay to the writers for that one sequence. The series never really went on to explain why Zhi Shu looked like he got a cactus up his bottom all the time. We know he is not friendly by nature but he has friends who seem to disappear halfway through the series. He likes being alone and he is boring. In fact I knew he was the smartest kid in school but I didn't know he was the most popular because nothing in the earlier parts established that until graduation day where the girls were trying to grab a piece of him. I find the setup for Zhi Shu's character, why he was the way he was were poorly done. But why he refused to admit his love for Xiang Qin was reasonable.

It is obvious he liked her, not from first glance although I am sure he felt flattered by a girl braving herself to give him a love letter. In the bus on the way to school, if you notice it he kept looking her way. I believe he liked this girl, he just didn't want to admit it. He was cold towards her and yet sometimes teasing her endlessly until the point he kissed her and he felt surprised he did that because deep inside him he was falling for her, even when he didn't want to. He rudely dismissed her, he rudely called her stupid, he did all things to brush her aside and yet thoughtfully did some small things to get her attention. He enjoyed her attention on him and yet he despised giving her attention, he ignores her existence and yet find comfort in her presence. He is an enigma in this sense, and he was the way he was with Xiang Qin because in later episodes, we know he hates his life being dictated by his parents. He loved Xiang Qin but ignored his own feelings because he hated the fact that his mother kept throwing Xiang Qin at his way. He hated that his mother approved of her and he hated to admit his mother was right. He wanted to chart his own way and Xiang Qin was his mother's wish and so he wanted to fight that. But he can't. He didn't know what he wanted to do but he knew he didn't want to run his father's business. He said to Xiang Qin "Maybe I will find something I like about this job, maybe I could learn to like it, maybe I could fit in", which means he had no choice. He felt helpless and he felt unhappy but what can he do than to say yes. He wanted to save the company, and even when his father never asked him to do that, he went after Hui Lan. When he knew he didn't love her, and even Hui Lan suspected that when he met Xiang Qin with Ah Jin at the zoo and he was very rude to her and Hui Lan said "I've never seen this side of you before" and he quietly and sulkily said "Don't worry, I will never speak like that to you" that even Hui Lan knew with her he was pretending, with Xiang Qin, he was more real. He was sucked into a powerless situation with his father's company, as much as in issues of love. But he loved Xiang Qin.

One of my most favourite scene in this series, which is actually a long sequence of scenes was when Zhi Shu dragged Xiang Qin with him after that confession of love in the rain by kissing her passionately and he asked Ah Cai's permission for Xiang Qin's hand in marriage, Ah Cai tearfully said to Zhi Shu "My daughter is not very bright.." and Zhi Shu said very seriously "I know" and Ah Cai said "She can't cook", Zhi Shu said "I know", Ah Cai said "She makes a lot of mistakes, always making a mess of things" and Zhi Shu said "I know", Ah Cai said "She is not exactly smart" and Zhi Shu said "I know" and Ah Cai said "But she is by nature optimistic and bubbly, she is a good girl" and Zhi Shu said "I know". This is perhaps one of the best scenes in this series if you ask me, since he knew but he loved her despite all these likewise with Xiang Qin who loved him despite his cold arrogant nature.

And then they both had to persuade a very angry and insulted Chairman Bai to help Pan Da, the company and Chairman Bai ignored Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu who were both kneeling in front of his office. What came after was my most favourite scene in this series that involved neither Xiang Qin nor Zhi Shu. It was the quiet moment between Hui Lan and Chairman Bai when Zhi Shu and Xiang Qin were both kneeling outside the office, waiting for Chairman Bai who was very angry with Zhi Shu. After all Chairman Bai said "If Zhi Shu would dare to reject my Hui Lan, he can of course dare to see his own father's company in ruins!". But Hui Lan was a good gentle person, in fact perfect and she tearfully said to her grandfather "Grandpa, do you remember when you first moved into this building? You said as we move to a bigger and taller building, as the company is more successful, we must remind ourselves to be more humble and to be more sensitive towards the needs of others. I know you are behind the orders to the banks to stop aiding Pan Da financially because of what Zhi Shu did. You are forcing him to marry me to save his father's company. But grandpa, I always thought my marriage and my happiness should never be part of a business deal. If he did marry me, he would have married me to save his father's company. I would know that and I would feel helpless at that." This to me is my most favourite script in the series and I thought the scene was well done as old Chairman Bai tearfully wiped the tears off his beloved granddaughter's face. For once in this series there is a scene that is subtle, moving and intelligent. Then not much later Chairman Bai gave Xiang Qin an ultimatum; "I will consider helping Pan Da if you leave Zhi Shu". Xiang Qin thought just for a while and said "I agree" and Zhi Shu immediately said "I disagree" and she said "I agree!" and he said "I disagree!" and Xiang Qin thoughtfully said "But this can save Pan Da, this can save uncle's company, you can't let it close down" and Zhi Shu said "Don't be an idiot! Even if Pan Da closes, I can still rebuild it and make it flourish again" and that was when Chairman Bai agreed to sign with Pan Da a contract that will assist Pan Da financially without any conditions. Not much later before that scene ends, Chairman Bai asked Zhi Shu "Why did you reject my granddaughter? Is she not good enough?" and Zhi Shu standing beside a very silent Xiang Qin said "Hui Lan is perfect, I can't think of a single criticism against her" and Chairman Bai asked "Then why..." and Chairman Bai looked at Xiang Qin up and down, almost insulted that this talented young man would choose that over his Hui Lan and Zhi Shu quietly said "Love has no reason. I know I have hurt Hui Lan, please accept my deepest apologies..." and quite unlike himself, he humbly bowed low in respect to a frustrated Chairman Bai (I think there was a bow, though frankly it could have been from my overactive imagination). I don't know, I thought it perfectly illustrates that love has no reason nor ryhme, you love because you just do. Of course we know because despite her silliness, her stupidity and her ability to ruin everything, Xiang Qin always did things with the best of intention for Zhi Shu. Her sincerity and her purity of her love for him moved him and he finally accepted that. And then Chairman Bai walked away and saw Hui Lan standing behind the wall and he with great sadness and regret said "I was really hoping Zhi Shu could be my grandson-in-law" and Hui Lan sadly looked on.

I also liked the earlier scene where Zhi Shu ended up on the same bed as Xiang Qin for the first time. Very difficult to describe it but it was funny. All may favourite scenes include Zhi Shu and Xiang Qin arguing with one another as well as Xiang Qin's interaction with Yu Shu, a very rude little boy but as you can see the progression, even the little boy liked Xiang Qin. When Zhi Shu was considering marrying Hui Lan, Yu Shu saw how Xiang Qin was quietly crying in her room and Yu Shu went to a very stony Zhi Shu and pushed his brother gently saying "Brother, don't know why that idiot Xiang Qin is crying in her room" and Zhi Shu quietly said "I will introduce Hui Lan to you. She is gentle, smart and she can cook. You will like her ..." and Yu Shu, rather surprised gently pushed his brother and said "But brother...you love Xiang Qin, I know you do" but Zhi Shu looked on blankly whilst Yu Shu felt very frustrated that Xiang Qin was being dumped.

However, from thereon in the last 2nd half of the last episode of this series, everything went downhill for me and when I say downhill, it became so idiotic I can't help but feel why did the director and the writer destroy a perfectly reasonably good series into such a farce and nonsense. The 2nd final scene was the wedding where again the scary Mrs Jiang forced her son to marry Xiang Qin fast which he reluctantly agreed. They were to be married at their first (and only) dating spot, the lake. What was so infuriatingly stupid was Xiang Qin came up with this stupid idea to make Zhi Shu eat back his words when they were kneeling at Chairman Bai's company begging for his help and Zhi Shu said he will do anything if she was successful in seeing him. You know what she did? She reversed the roles of bride and groom. She wore the charming white suit which I really wanted to see Zhi Shu in and Zhi Shu had to wear the wedding gown. The bridesmaid and all also had the reversal and what was even more ridiculous was the maid of honours were not Xiang Qin's 2 best friends but Ziyu and her sister. I wonder when did they become such great friends? I cringe as I saw Zhi Shu being humiliated when exchanging vows in very heavy rain which I suspect must be real rain, in the name of love. Of course passionate kisses ensued and his open declaration of love for her. But all these runs contrary to his very nature which I find such a bastard and yet so appealing. To make him bow down to love the way he had to in that scene makes a mockery of the character of Zhi Shu and even Xiang Qin and makes me wonder why on Earth he would marry such a dumb stupid idiot who would suggest such a reversal of roles. Of course many may argue that's true love, finally he is doing something more and Xiang Qin something less BUT that is not the point. First the relationship is built on verbal abuse and ridicules and now it is sealed with a ceremony of such farce and joke, I can't take their love for one another seriously. I was really hoping for a proper ceremony, a moving one in fact but the rain, the wedding gowns, everything spoilt it. This one single wedding scene killed the series and I now understand why it is and will forever be referred to as an idol type series; for some it is bad acting, some bad writing, some bad moments, to me a combination of horrible moments, awful writing and awful perception of what is love. Such immature perception.

Whilst that single moment of nonsense and crap was the worst, what came after was 2nd worst. The series went on and on and on. We have Xiang Qin narrating, all her over active imaginations of what she would do with Zhi Shu and how their marriage would be like. Basically she confirmed my fear that her entire existence is meant for him and she will now glue herself to him and poor Zhi Shu, he can never escape from this mad woman who doesn't have an ambition except to marry him. Some people like that I suppose but it is scary. She went on to narrate what if this, what if that, and I was wondering shouldn't the series have ended already? Or at least show a bit of their married life. And suddenly it ended. And I was thinking luckily there is a sequel which will correct that awful wedding scene and will show more of the married life instead of this farce.

There are plenty of moments in this series that I thought were overdone. The presence of Ah Jin for one, the over the top acting by the actor who played Ah Cai, the really scary characterisation of Mrs Jiang, the non stop narration by everybody and anybody. But a few were simply winners of the worst kind such as Xiang Qin in earlier scenes boarded a bus to go to school and she was blatantly molested. Her breasts were squeezed, hands were running up and down her thighs and inner buttocks areas and Zhi Shu was "I don't care" although I suspect he didn't know. There was Xiang Qin narrating again screaming for help but never actually screamed for help. If this scene was supposed to be cute and even funny, I didn't laugh. I thought it was awful to place the character in such a situation and to make a comedy out of it. There is nothing funny about such blatant molestation and the character's reaction to such a problem is disturbing; she did nothing to help herself until for the 3rd time she was molested by two men, she couldn't stand it anymore and wanted to kick them and then Zhi Shu came and saved the day. All these as a set up for Zhi Shu to save her and so she would forgive his nasty behaviour in ignoring her since he so gallantly protected her? I was begging for mercy from such immature plot lines.

Then there was the totally confusing part earlier in the series of Class F's teacher and his relationship with Class A teacher. What was that about? It made no sense to the plot and it was like wasting time when the focus should be on Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu.

And then there were some scenes lacking, more importantly to showcase the overall super intelligence of Zhi Shu. Not just maths but at least a scene where he plays the violin? Or at least the presence of a piano in the Jiang house? How about heavy duty books? I saw some lab equipments but what about telescopes? Or maybe some astrology charts? I don't know, at least a musical instrument like a flute! Even the schoolbooks seem unbefitting a highly intelligent being reportedly with IQ of 200. No wonder he was constantly bored. Then there was the family car; so rich but the car so old. And how come Zhi Shu does not have his own car or some cool car? I mean he is supposed to be rich right? And there he was, taking a bus to school. Very down to earth family! What I like though is Mrs Jiang's over feminine, cute little car. That was fantastic actually but a bit overdone like Xiang Qin's room which was deliberate to show Mrs Jiang's over eagerness for some feminity in the house dominated mostly by men.

And then we have Xiang Qin fainting every other episode. You can say this series has the most faints by one character. And of course her bad cooking which is amazing because her dad is a cook, not one single scene of her showing some real effort as in practical effort of learning to cook from her father instead of trying to learn to cook from a cookbook. It was really frustrating to see how impractical she is as she continues to poison poor Zhi Shu and Yu Shu with her horrible cooking.

Over on the editing side, some scenes were too long, some scenes totally unnecessary and always the sound is so muted and with so much echo, it was as if the crew did not hire a sound editor. It feels like a very cheap production which doesn't emphasise on quality although they took 1 year to film a relatively simple 30 episodes of nothing much but talk talk talk. In the earlier scenes, there were some special effects sounds that was so annoying like in Princess Huai Yu, those supposedly cute swish, swosh, ching sounds for some movements. I was terrified that it was going to be there until the end but luckily it stopped after the first episode.

What is so sad about this series is that it has the hallmarks of a very good series, not just entertaining, not just worthy of worship on a pedestal but a very good series. The story at is core is interesting, it shows the progression of a love that no one thought was possible, certain characterisation is strong and memorable and we have two main characters that can be as infuriating as lovable. But those elements I have mentioned above killed any hopes to eleviate this series beyond those idol-type series and it just feels like another rushed production that didn't emphasise on quality. I should have known that since the entire series do feel lightweight in every sense.

However I can't deny the generally acceptable performances in this series.

For one, I am glad to see the actor who played Chairman Bai, who according to Wikipedia is called Qian De Men. I assume Wikipedia is accurate. I remember this actor very well, much older but his presence brings respectability to an otherwise silly series. A veteran as such who has such little scenes but his appearance brings regalness to this series that never had that and bring a sense of maturity and stability that this immature lightweight series lacked. I love his scenes with his granddaughter played by Bianca Bai, assuming again Wikipedia is accurate who looks pretty, gentle although acting wise passable. This veteran actor alone could act the pants off any of the actors in here.

The parents of Zhi Shu, Cyndi Chaw the mother and Zhang Yong Zheng the father were both very good in their respective role, although Cyndi Chaw was a bit sillier whilst Zhang had more serious moments.

Zhang Bo Han as Yu Shu was fantastic. I thought he was such a cute kid although bloody rude for calling Xiang Qin stupid but his affection for her grew as the series went on and I love the scenes with him being teased by Ariel Lin. They both were very compatible in that sense and I think this boy is a better actor than most actors in this series. However one strange thing is this series goes 5 years back, although technically it focused on max 3 years and this boy never grew. Let's not talk about consistency I suppose, as long as he can act I shall sing hallelujah.

Jiro Wang as Ah Jin seems very compatible with Ariel Lin, he acts well in certain scenes whilst in more emotional scenes he seems more forced, more held back and quite a pain to watch because the camera lingered too long on him. Anyway any fault with Jiro's performance is mainly due to the character Ah Jin and his never ending love for Xiang Qin which became a burden to the series towards the middle of the series since it was repetetive and stagnant.

Tiffany Xu as Ziyu is very pretty, looking very mixed and her acting, well it is not bad. I can't say it is good either because she seems very restrained and her face registers very little change of emotions. But she can speak very good mandarin, although she is half Chinese I suppose.

Tang Cong Sheng, according to Wikipedia who played the father of Xiang Qin shocked me when I saw some youtube clips and he was so cool, hip looking and young! Acting wise, the worst amongst the older generation. However he is funny even when he was crying.

Ariel Lin was a delight to watch although her character can be so frustratingly simple minded. I mean how many times can a girl humiliate herself in such embarassing situations? With Xiang Qin, it is every single episode where she is reminded she is stupid and useless and yet look at her go. She is thick skinned, knows she is stupid and useless, knows that her taste in men may be too high quality even for herself and of all boys she has chosen to fall for, she chose the most talented, the smartest, the handsomest, the everything. She sets herself up being ridiculed and she was silly at most times. Such a bumbling character can be very annoying as we have seen countless of actresses trying to act young, innocent, naive and dumb in TVB series, and for once I am very satisfied with this performance because Ariel is very young, she is very cute, she isn't really very dumb but she can pull a dumb face and she gives me an impression she is such a bubbly happy person. Her character isn't supposed to be very pretty and may be a bit on the plump side and Ariel Lin was perfectly cast in this role although I will confess, I find her very pretty, especially when she smiled that sunshine smile of hers. You can safely assume she is the best actress in this series, as always in such idol-type series where the girl can act whilst the guy can act cool. She basically saved this series from being really really boring by good performance alone, but even she can't save it from that suicide wedding scene. But for what's it is worth, Ariel Lin is a talent to be reckoned with and I am very happy to have watched this series and to have discovered her. I am afraid she may be typecast since she has those young girl's looks but I believe she has enough talent to break that barrier. What is great about her is that as an actress she is willing to pull down her glamarous image, where in one scene which for me is my favourite scene of hers where she was dressed as a Japanese ghost with frightening white powder on her face in some costume party and there she was looking like she was really enjoying making a fool out of herself as she glided through the party. It was a very funny scene and whilst it is painful to see her Xiang Qin being made a fool so many times, that scene pretty much sums up her character Xiang Qin; ability to be silly and enjoying the moment and even when being ridiculed as a fool, she could just wake up next morning and forget about it. Some actresses seems rather annoying acting innocent, and I can name one which I saw cuddling a sheep, crying over the sheep's death which was so bloody cliche in showing innocence. I am just so glad Ariel didn't have to run around with orphans to show how kind hearted she is although she did have some scenes with very sick children in a hospital. An excellent performance.

Last but no least, Joseph Cheng. This guy shocked me the most when I saw those NG scenes at the end of the DVD and he was totally opposite from his Zhi Shu's character. His big laughter almost scared me out of my wits and he seems more like his age in person whilst Ariel was the more subdued one. So I can only conclude that he is a good actor if he can do such a 360 degrees difference between his real personality and his onscreen personality. Actually, I do think he is a good actor, amongst those idol type series' lead actors. I have seen Ming Dao, perhaps the king in Taiwan TV with his baby face and darker complexion, and his permed hair. Oh yes, all these actors have great hair. I have seen Mike He. Saw some others as well. I can compare them in terms of looks (quite similar but not quite), height (quite similar as in tall) and acting, which I believe thus far Joseph Cheng impressed me the most. For one, he can sulk better. In fact he can look like the world owes him everything and stare to death someone else better than all the actors I have named. I don't believe he is that bright in person but his looks does suit the character of Zhi Shu, although when he starts to speak, he has this annoying facial feature; he speaks like as if he has no teeth. When he doesn't speak, standing there looking mournful or sulk or sad or troubled or very serious, he has the looks perfected. He can portray Zhi Shu's arrogance and pride and he can also portray his more loving nature when he is with his baby brother Yu Shu or with the family dog. He can definitely flirt with the female actress, sometimes Ariel looked very uncomfortable at the close proximity since she seems a bit too shy over the way he stares at her. And he can kiss, in fact in interviews he has no problems doing kissing scenes so that is good. At least he doesn't kiss like he is going to die and his chemistry with Ariel Lin is impeccable, being one of the best on screen partners in my opinion. But what I hated about this series also showcases his versatility; Xiang Qin has moments of over active imagination and it always involves her perception of Zhi Shu which is totally opposite from the one we often see; so in these scenes Joseph Cheng could be silly, funny, cute, even overacting to achieve the comedy element. One of such scene was when Xiang Qin imagined his reaction to her visit at his place, first was extreme happiness with some seduction, then it was extreme anger that she was there, then him being quite a bastard with another woman and then it was him being quite a bastard with another man! All these in one succession and I thought he must be having fun at so many dimensions to his character. Then there was him as a doctor, a pilot, a sad lover in the rain, etc. But I like him best when he was a bit more relaxed towards the end eating the awful lunch box and his mischevious smile, not too much, not too little. Even the worst suicidal wedding scene where he had the undignified end of wearing a wedding gown, he as an actor took it in stride and genuinely seems to enjoy that scene. In fact there were many times when Ariel and himself were in a scene, they seem to be really real in those scenes, but I pity him having to keep a straight face at cute scenes where Ariel were teasing the boy who plays Yu Shu. And from the NGs that I saw, he is also accident prone. I don't think his performance is perfect, he has room to improve and I feel he does fit the character of Zhi Shu quite well but for whatever I have seen in this series, I think he has plenty of potential. Plus he is very tall, quite good looking in some scenes looking like the before-the-tan Louis Koo plus that Edison Chan look which I hope very little resemblence, more like Jeff Zhang's fairness with the whole idol-worthy looks in the sense not masculine, a bit feminine but with a voice that is more manly than girlish. So yeah, he has plenty of potential and I think he did a good job except please don't ask him to take off his clothes anymore. He should hit the gym before doing that, because he looks horrible without his shirt on.

Verdict
Despite my criticisms of the ending and several characters, for 29 and a half episodes I enjoyed the series very much. It has been quite some time where I chased after a series and I watched this series on a Tuesday public holiday beginning from 4pm till 8am the next morning, causing me major headache, so please don't try that. It is very long considering the story is one track story and at times I thought it was never going to end since the love story is on a one track mind until the writer had to do something to push it towards an end and thus the characters of Chairman Bai and Hui Lan have to be introduced. I find the acting performances by those who matters credible, guys will surely like Ariel Lin although may find her Xiang Qin extremely dumb whilst girls may be attracted to the cold, arrogant but capable of being melted by love Zhi Shu played by Joe Cheng, whose hair alone is worthy of being worshipped. The attraction of this series lies in the fact which is every girl's dream and every guy's desire; the girls would hope to make that arrogant rich handsome smart super achiever bound for greatness bastard to fall for them whilst the guys would hope to find someone as lovable and cute as Xiang Qin. This series satisfies that craving of yours and although I call it idol-type series, I think it will appeal to those even in their 30s although those beyond 40s may find it stupid and a complete waste of time. I like watching such series even if I hate admitting that. Whilst it is terribly flawed, for what's it is worth, this series was engaging most of the time and fun as well. Silly yes, but like Xiang Qin, I suppose all the Zhi Shus in us could do with a bit of Xiang Qin such as this series to brighten our day a bit. We can't be all so serious and anal about everything all the time. Skip some parts if you like but do give this series a try. I am sure it will make you smile a little despite yourself.

Info On The DVD
30 episodes divided into 10 DVDs, each with 3 episodes with the NGs part in the last episode without any indication there was any NG scenes included. Priced at I think RM 80-00, the box is pretty, but the inside DVD menus is badly done. You have Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese for subtitles as well as English but like I said don't bother with the English subtitles. They're worse than All About Eve and I was very bitter about All About Eve's subtitles. I am not sure it is distributed by which local company but you can buy this with a good discount at HK Video, Sungai Wang Plaza, KL or at Classic, Berjaya Times Square, KL or at Jusco shops when there are 10% discount although I think Sungai Wang has more discount. All these are of course true copies, not pirated ones. I am sure you can find other versions though. You can also try online shops. For Malaysians, I recommend coolwin-video.com whilst for others, yesasia.com would be a credible site.

If you have no money or could not find the DVD, last resort you can download the torrents although it will be episode by episode and that is such a hassle. Or you can watch online at youtube.com although each episode may be broken into several parts which again is a hassle.

Fun Facts
All taken from Wikipedia

Is there not a Taiwanese series based on some Japanese manga? This one is no exception. The series was based on the Japanese shoujo manga "Itazura na kiss" (Mischievous kiss) by Tada Kaoru. The are 23 volumes of the manga. There is no ending for the manga; the series was still running when the author passed away at the age of 38 from a brain aneurysm. Itazura na Kiss (TV Asahi, 1996) is the Japanese adaptation.

The filming of It Started with a Kiss lasted one entire year. Some scenes were filmed in different seasons, which resulted in many goofs.

The director, Qu You Ning, made two cameos in the drama: One as the fat, middle age woman on a bus who accuses Ah Jin of taking advantage of her and another as Zhi Shu's boyfriend in Xiang Qin's imagination (birthday gift giving scene).

The sequel is set to air in September 2007 due to the show's high ratings (60.1%, third most popular drama in the country) in Taiwan. I wonder which is the first?

There is this cute poster that is plastered to the wall, the entire family digitally added to the body of characters' from Pixar's smash hit computer animated movie about super heroes in disguse, The Incredibles.

Count The Kisses
Since this series is essentially about kisses as the title suggested, just out of curiosity I want to check out how many kisses between Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu since one clip in youtube said there was about 7 kisses with 4 major ones. Did you spot a kiss which I might have missed?

Kiss No. 1
Xiang Qin accidentally kissed a sleeping Zhi Shu on the cheek (should to be the first kiss but the series seems to ignore this one)

Kiss No. 2
Zhi Shu kisses Xiang Qin on the lips as they argued (known officially as kiss no. 1 in the series)

Kiss No. 3
Zhi Shu kisses a sleeping Xiang Qin on the lips at the hospital, witnessed by Yu Shu but unknown to Xiang Qin until the last episode when Yu Shu told Xiang Qin which Xiang Qin then knew Zhi Shu had loved her very early on (known officially as kiss no. 2 in the series)

Kiss No. 4
Zhi Shu kisses Xiang Qin on the lips passionately in the rain after a confession of love (known officially kiss no. 3 in the series)

Kiss No. 5
Zhi Shu lightly kisses Xiang Qin on the lips as she was kneeling in front of Chairman Bai's office

Kiss No. 6
Xiang Qin passionately kisses Zhi Shu at the wedding after their vows

Kiss No. 7
Zhi Shu kisses Xiang Qin at the wedding when they fell into the pond/lake

Technically kiss 6 and 7 should be 1 kiss but since they kissed twice, I take it as 2 kisses. In fact if I remembered correctly they kissed 3 times in the wedding. But yeah, 7 is about right. When I say passionate, not really that passionate as we see in those Hollywood movies but pretty passionate for Asian drama series. Quite a lot of kisses. And we didn't count hugs which will tally the kisses and of course the number of times these two had lovers' quarrels which will be more than 7. But the highest number would be for the number of times Xiang Qin makes a fool of herself, which will be probably 3 times per episode.

Anyway I found a video in Youtube where the cast discussed about the main kisses in the series. Not all, but most.



The Themesong
Ahem, posted by yours truly.



The subsong
Not posted by me. I think it is an MV, and in the series I read it was sung by Ariel Lin but not sure about this one.






4 comments:

  1. Reading this review makes me want to watch the series for the performance of the lead actor and actress. But the plot sounds infuriating. The girl, like, have no dignity leh.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Funn Lim29.11.07

    Kidd, you're spot on about the no dignity part. In fact it was quite infuriating to watch but you know towards the end the man had to pay back quite a bit so their love story is very endearing. In all those taiwanese idol series I notice the girls don't have much dignity when they pursue the man they want.

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  3. Hello, just recently I decided to watch this series and I finished it already. I'm so happy I watched it and waiting for my TKA to finish downloading.

    You're missing one kiss scene on the list.

    Kiss No. 6
    While they were filming their wedding video, Zhi Shu said that unlike in other couples' kettle which eventually dried up of water, their water will be kept constantly heated, at boiling point. And Xiang Qin said she doesn't understand what he meant. Zhi Shu then told her that he will love Xiang Qin more and more and keep loving her until they're old. After that, they had a quick kiss. So cute and sweet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Where are you living? I'm from the Philippines and am Chinese by blood. But unlike you, I can't speak and understand Mandarin and rely on subtitles only. Good thing is, the subs on torrent are good.

    I really hope to learn Mandarin so that, like you, I can understand the speeches on the dramas I watch without having to rely on subtitles.

    ReplyDelete

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