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January 23 - talk to me about cdramas you think I'd like! (daughtersofthedragon @ tumblr)

Unless I’m misremembering, you’ve already watched some or all of Love020, all of The Princess Weiyoung, and some of The Legend of Hua Mulan, or I’d rec those. These aren’t necessarily the absolute best cdramas ever, but they’re accessible (both in terms of content and ease in finding with English subtitles), dramas I liked, and have good actors and characters and no bad writing/terrible endings.

So, in order of release (and with years because some of these are based on stories that have multiple adaptations):

Return of the Condor Heroes (2006): This was hugely popular at the time and remains a favorite of many. Some of the special effects (such as the naked kung fu scene) kind of inspire secondhand embarrassment now. ROCH is the grand romance of wuxias, and I’ve seen it called the wuxia Romeo and Juliet. No feuding families (in the forbidden romance aspect) but definitely a superforbidden romance. This is a good intro wuxia series in general to get a feel for the tropes because it’s a more straightforward romance and lighter of subplots and politics, but still covers most of the tropes.

The Young Warriors/Young Warriors of the Yang Clan(2006): So, this is based on a famous story about a Song Dynasty family, this part of the story largely being known for the fact that the father and most of his sons (7 in this version, but the number varies in different version) dying in a ingle battle, and their wives later replacing them as warriors, so you know going in to expect a fair bit of character death. This focuses on the romances of the 4 youngest sons and the parents and does a good job of switching between different storylines and characters. It’s just well made and a good drama in general

Legend of the Condor Heroes (2008): A prequel to ROCH but you honestly don’t really need one to enjoy the other. The leads of LOCH are supporting characters in ROCH, and the male lead of ROCH is the son of a villain in LOCH. While you don’t need one to enjoy the other, you really should experience both stories. ROCH has a more complex plot than LOCH, and Huang Rong is one of the best wuxia heroines. This version apparently takes a lot of liberties, and people who have read the book say that the 2003 version is much more faithful. I haven’t seen that version yet, but I’ve only ever heard good things about it, and the version currently airing is apparently pretty good ,but it doesn’t have English subtitles (hopefully with a “yet” attached to it.

Detective TangLang (2010): To take a break from the ancient dramas, this is a mystery series set in the 1920s with a former police officer turned private eye and a female lawyer clashing and working together on various cases. It starts mostly focused on him, but by the end the mysteries surrounding the lawyer’s past largely take over, and he’s more in the position of a glorified and devoted bodyguard. It isn’t a comedy, but it’s definitely lighter fare than the rest of the list.

Vigilantes in Masks/Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei (2011): This one is pretty much Wuxia Leverage, with a former police officer turned drunken street fighter working with a team of several criminals to fight government corruption, and rich people who get away with things by buying off officials. There were some things in the last third that made my like it less than the rest, though others didn’t have the same problem I did with that, and it remains a good show. It does, unfortunately suffer from There Can Be Only One syndrome as far as major female characters, great as she is, unless we count the Tragically Dead (and Virtuous) wife in flashbacks.

Sound of the Desert/Ballad of the Desert(2014): This is actually somewhat my default rec for people looking into checking out cdramas lately. It’s very female centric and has multiple good interactions with women (both allies and enemies, and some in between) in most episodes, and the main villain is a former friend of the heroine’s, and she’s a very worthy villainess. It’s a little less prone to being overdramatic than many cdramas (though they do play up the literal “raised by wolves” aspect of the heroine’s character) and sometimes the feel is a little more in line with Sageuks than most ancient cdramas. It’s one of the series that’s basically a romance novel in TV form, but less prone to soap opera elements than some others.

Green Hill Fox Legend (2016): I debated this one because it could be a bit draggy, but overall it’s a pretty good fantasy series. It’s an anthology series about members of an ancient fox clan (fox clan=immortal fox demons who take human form) trying to find a sacred treasure that was stolen from them before the goddess who assigned the to safeguard it punishes them for losing it. Most of the stories needed to be an episode or two shorter, but I liked all but one of them, and it has a good array of the types of folktales and stories and romances that show up in xianxia and fantasy series.

Two series that I like a lot and would recommend but not as a first wuxia are Sword Stained With Royal Blood (2007) and Paladins in Troubled Times(2008). Over the last year or so, several people I know who hadn’t watched cdramas before watched and loved Nirvana in Fire (2015), and it’s also very well liked and highly recommended by longtime cdrama fen, so it’s probably a pretty safe bet. I haven’t watched it yet, but I plan to. I have been very (but largely a bit quietly) into The Legend of Chusen for a few months now. I’ve been taking it slowly because it’s actually 3 seasons long, with the 3rd season not having aired yet, or even started filming.

Hu Ge, Wallace Huo, Liu Shi Shi, Yuan Hong and Eddie Peng each appear as major characters in two or more dramas each usually with more than one of them in a drama-Young Warriors wins there for featuring all of them except Wallace Huo)-with Liu Shi Shi ahead of the pack with 4 dramas in the list, though Hu Ge ties with her if I count Nirvana in Fire. This isn’t deliberate, they just tend to choose projects that I like, and often work together.

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