by Xianxia, November 30, 2020
168

FORWARD


When it comes to Fantasy genres, China's[1][2] Xianxia[3] is almost unparalleled. Involving entirely new imaginary worlds with rich storylines and costumes, they are a standout in the bottomless number of C-dramas released every year. But, comes with a cost... 

Despite the genre’s popularity,  few of the countless dramas made each year achieve success. They are either a hit or a miss. As most Xianxia dramas are adaptations from novels, one reason that opens them to wide criticism and ultimately leads to its “failure” would be storylines and characterization often straying too far from the original novels. Other commonly heard complaints from loyal fans range from unimaginative and poor quality CGI to lazy action scenes and poor editing.


When Love and Redemption began dropping Music videos and trailers[4] last year, it drew a lot of people into the pre-hype as it was based on a popular novel[5] with a large and loyal fan base. 

When the drama premiered on unsuspecting viewers without warning, the dangerous hype[6] phase began.

So, is this 59[7] episode Xianxia really worth your time? A resounding YES, and let me tell you why! 


Ready for an adventure across the three realms?

The story starts with the typical background history where we get an account of the great battle in which the God of War defeated the most powerful General of the Asura Clan, the Star of Mosha. He was destroyed, his primordial spirit was lost in the chaos, and his stellar soul was sealed in a magical crystal lamp and hidden in the mortal realm. After the great battle, the God of War too mysteriously disappeared.


A thousand years later and still bitter from defeat, the demons who have formed the Tianxu Sect learn that both the Star of Mosha and the God of War are to undergo tribulation together. Their initial plan to steal their souls before they enter the mortal realm fails.

Flashforward 16 years later, Chen Ming Jue (Wang Xu Dong), the 2nd senior disciple of the Shaoyang Sect, excitedly gossips about how his Sect leader’s second daughter, Chu Xuan Ji, was born. With a huge catch…

“Senior, what do you mean by lacking the 6 senses?”

“Let me tell you, its the understanding through sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and awareness.”

“If I put it nicely, it means she is unaffected by everything. If I put it unkindly, she is completely useless.”

A twist of events leads to our "senseless" Xuan Ji literally falling from the sky onto an unsuspecting cultivator, while he is en route to participate in the Flower Gathering Banquet at Shaoyang.

Yu Si Feng is a disciple of the mysterious Li Ze Palace; who conceal their faces by wearing masks. As the most skilled disciple of his sect, Si Feng is initially horrified by Xuan Ji's cluelessly lazy, good-for-nothing attitude. An unfortunate incident leads to Si Feng losing his mask and having to rely on Xuan Ji to try to retrieve it. They run into each other in many hilarious ways following that, and he falls for her and promises to help her regain her 6 senses. 


At the banquet, a friendly competition between the sects goes awry and leaves the incompetent Xuan Ji seriously injured. Determined not to continue being this inept and powerless, Xuan Ji leaves Shaoyang to concentrate on her training. Meanwhile, Si Feng returns to Lize Palace to face the repercussions of breaking the sect‘s rule and falling in love.  Unrepentant, he endures torture and ultimately receives the highest punishment - "The Lovers’ Curse”.

Years later, they meet again, setting off on an exciting adventure that rekindles their friendships and past promises. But what lies in wait are ominous traps and hidden truths as they slowly start to realize that not everyone or everything is as appears...

The Tale of the Lost Monkey(Fu Fang Jun)



CHARACTERS AND CAST


There are many interesting characters that you will love and/or hate in this drama, so this is just a teaser introduction of some of the main ones from Shaoyang sect and Lize Palace, where our main couple are from and whom we meet quite a lot within the first 9 episodes. I suggest watching the drama directly to find everyone. Many of the main characters themselves don't appear for several episodes.

[NOTE: ALL CHARACTERS' IDENTITIES AND APPEARANCE ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGES.]


CHU XUAN JI

(Yuan Bing Yan)

YU SI FENG

(Cheng Yi)

Daughter of Shaoyang Sect leader, Chu Lei. Born without the six senses, she is introduced as a childish and lazy cultivator.  
The most skilled disciple of Li Ze Palace. Initially stuttering and shy, he falls for Chu Xuan Ji.

CHU LING LONG

(Zhang Yu Xi)

HAO CHEN

(Liu Xue Yi)

Xuan Ji's elder twin, known for her capricious and proud nature. She is quick to pick fights and is not easy to please, but secretly cares for everyone.
A highly skilled cultivator of Shaoyang who trains at Xueyang Peak. He is Xuan Ji's mentor.


We get an in-depth view of each sect, their leaders, and disciples. However, we constantly come across these cultivators quite a lot during the first phase of the drama.

ZHOU MING YAN

(Li Jun Yi)

 LIZE PALACE DEPUTY CHIEF

(Peer Zhu)

The 6th Senior of Shaoyang Sect and also, Ling Long and Xuan Ji's constant companion. He is a reasonable and patient cultivator and makes fast friends with everyone.
 A mysterious man with a fan, he manages all the affairs of Li Ze palace in his Chief's stead.

LIU YI HUAN

(Han Chen Yu)

RUO YU

(Zhou Jun Wei)

A prisoner of Li Ze Palace and Si Feng's friend. He is forbidden from leaving for breaking the rules. Often, he offers wisdom and advice to the gang.
Si Feng's friend and another intriguing young disciple of Lize Palace, he joins Si Feng and Xuan Ji on many adventures.


Indomitable Love

Relentless devotion - In love or friendship, that’s the way to describe the relationships in this drama. Whether they are one of the good ones or the bad ones, whether their love was reciprocated or not, each character is wholeheartedly committed to giving their all to the one they care about.


Credits: Stardust and Supernovas

The most devoted of them all is the male protagonist Si Feng. Although protectiveness, selflessness, and chivalry are common traits of male lead characters, Si Feng outshines all those who preceded him and those who may come after him and perches himself on the seat at the top. I have to admit his unwavering devotion, unrelenting hope in the face of repeated betrayal and heartbreak, made me google the word vertebrae because I was worried he didn't have one.



How to Befriend A Magical Being  And Make Great Friends


On their adventures, our characters encounter many mysterious and magical creatures from demons to mermen, fox spirits, and celestial beasts in addition to disciples from other sects. Its also during this time we come across many of the major characters who play a pivotal role in the show.

One of the reasons for me to restart L&R after initially dropping it without a second thought was an excessive amount of fan edits and collages of a certain white-haired fellow whom we see glimpses of in the earlier episodes and do not meet until around post-ep 30s. 




Teng She (Bai Shu), a self-declared fearless Minister of the Heavens. Haughty and disdainful, he has a soft side for anyone and anything related to food. He appeared to be the usual tropey C-drama lead that attracts the audience, but he grew on me, and by the end, I waited for his scenes and wanted to know his choices. 

His presence, snake-like gestures, and surprising intelligence were the lighter parts of the show. Also, the glimpse of the heavens we get through him was pure joy.


Teng She and Qing Long (Lu Peng).               CREDITS: IMMORTALITY

A driving force of the story is the unshakeable allegiance that everyone possesses. And one character that I found different from the others was Zi Hu (Hou Meng Yao), a powerful fox demon on a 1000 year-long mission. She was a ticking bomb for the righteous disciples: while her mission had a high chance of ending up being fruitless, success could mean the end of peace between the three realms. But does she give it a second thought? 

When it comes to disciples, the seniors of Shaoyang were particularly delightful. All of them, including Zhou Ming Yan, were only some of the people in the show who were funny. Also notable was the Lize Palace Chief (Mickey He), whose actions I found unintentionally hilarious.




Gripping Revelations and Twists

The onion-like story reveals itself at a fast pace. Pay close attention because within the first four episodes, scenes that would affect the story much later take place. 

Skipping scenes of certain characters is not a choice as even seemingly minor ones decide the fate of the plot's direction.

Lu Yan Ran (Yang Xi Zi), Si Feng's closest friend in Episode 20.


Each trip to a new location comes with a revelation, most importantly during Xuan Ji's quest for her six senses. Also, hanging over them like a blade is Si Feng's Lover's Curse.

One of the preview posters for EP 27. Also - one of the major mysteries of the story.



This is just the beginning, though. The pace of the drama picks up speed, and the plot begins to move swiftly and dangerously after the 10th episode. The closer the characters get to the truth, the more danger they come into. As more secrets are revealed along the way, and the lovers' resilience is put to the test and viewers are left wondering if all this is really worth the pain. 

The writers and the production team took a lot of effort to bring the story to life, and hats off, cause they succeeded. For a drama that toes the borders of the three realms, it maintained an equilibrium without seeming off. The pull of the story is what kept me breezing through the episodes. Also...

THE TORTURE

Love and Redemption is a fitting title because our best-loved characters go through hell to get what they love.  

Notably, Si Feng's unyielding loyalty and love definitely come at the price of his pain. 

Sifeng in EP 2. Don't you worry  - we have around 40 more episodes of this. 

While no Xianxia is complete without the customary blood-spitting internal injury, this was excessive to the point I was concerned that Si Feng was going to die from blood loss before the final episode. The ridiculous frequency had netizens making a game out of keeping a tally. This frequency was only matched by the number of times our FL cried "Si Feng”. There are few who haven’t heard that name go through their head for days after the drama ended.

As several characters are manipulated and deceived into making dangerous choices, we viewers are forced to refrain from punching some of them in particular. The truth dances in and out of view, and the frustration build to a peak. 

I also particularly found certain scenes of Ling Long pretty harsh and terrifyingly realistic. Zhang Yu Xi was really good although I've only seen her before in modern dramas. 

One of Ling Long's powerful scenes. And that's Teng She being himself. 

The best we can do is grit our teeth and wait for all of it to pass... 

But, is the torture excessive? Nope -- I think it made the drama even better. Any good onion will make you cry as the layers peel away, and that is what the torture and blood-spitting achieve. Let me know if you agree after watching.



No drama is complete without an antagonist. In this, we have several antagonists who are like chess pieces placed perfectly to move the plot along seamlessly. There isn’t one that you can pick as a simple or as a minor, filler character. Each villain exists to either advance the plot or contributed to the growth and development of the main characters.

From the heavenly realm to the mortal world to the underworld,  the villains in this drama are fantastic. Their commitment to their goal, the unashamed calculation, manipulation, and ruthless plotting while still managing to look graceful and dignified is as close to perfection as I have seen. The actors portraying these characters have managed to mesmerize and boil the blood of many viewers of this drama.


STUNNING CGI  AND ACTION

CGI is the staple of every Xianxia live action. And also can be its bane. The initial graphic effects in the drama, especially the Shaoyang set, were pretty average but improved very much as the story progressed.

 Episode One. (Credits.)

The character growth was subtly portrayed, especially Xuan Ji's, through changes in their style. Si Feng himself had a variety of ever-changing looks throughout the drama in a distinctly noticeable way. 

The God of War

The number of fight scenes is not to be trivialized. . Half of the cast seems to have been hung in the air for a good amount of time - something which I have not yet seen in dramas that rely heavily on CGI.

Wu Tong (Huang You Ming), a disciple of Dianjing Valley during the banquet. One of the many conflicted characters in the show. 



MEMORABLE SOUNDTRACK



The  OST[8]was surprisingly good. Especially, the various versions of songs played a pivotal role in making certain scenes completely memorable. There were many background scores that I absolutely loved and replayed several times. They had a strange allure and nostalgia surrounding them.  


FROM THE LIBRARY OF TABLETS


No drama is perfect, and may not appeal to everyone. This is no exception.

While mostly excitingly paced, the final phase of the drama was a bit dragging. In the beginning, Chu Xuan Ji is portrayed as a typical Xianxia female lead[9] who is somewhat dumb or naïve. Not everyone had patience with her antics during this time.

The repetitive actions of certain characters and the amount of "pawns" during the plot's peak might be intentional to portray the power of the antagonists, but it definitely did not sit well with all. These are just small flaws and not deal-breakers.

However, the ruthless writing, awesome action scenes, and memorable soundtrack were absolutely worth watching for.

Although the cast may not be new to the screen, they are not from those that have been/are in the limelight. Cheng Yi’s performance was incredible in conveying the characters' emotions and state of mind. You could choose any scene of Si Feng and know what he is going through without the need for any backstory.  

 

And, despite some initial complaints, Yuan Bing Yan was perfect for the rule of Xuan Ji. She played the naïve Xuan Ji with the same ease as she did with the ruthless God of War. I personally love her fierce scenes best. 

A glimpse into one of Xuan Ji's flashbacks.... another mystery.

Xuan Ji and Si Feng's relationship is another noteworthy point of the show. Their slow-burn romance and the exceptional chemistry between them was enough to make the viewers root for their happiness. They were not shy about showing their feelings for each other with yearnful glances and passionate kisses.


Another thing that I loved? The line between good and evil is often blurred. Almost everyone is a villain in someone else's story. Not a single character, even the good guys, leave with their hands completely clean. We expect characters to take perilous paths, but, they all stay true to themselves. I loved the way this is portrayed, especially by the supporting cast who did a wonderful job.

Long dramas are exhausting to watch and require much emotional investment, but do give this one a chance for at least 8 to 10 episodes. I'll leave the rest of the surprises for you to discover. 

It is to me as worthy of a watch as Ashes of Love or Eternal Love, both of which are some of the most well-loved or rather more popular Xianxias released in recent years. It's also available on Youtube for free! [10]** 

I bid a hearty farewell to all my favourite characters. After overcoming all their tribulations and finding what or who they were looking for, I wish them happiness and contentment on their subsequent adventures far beyond my sight.

           "Be of one heart forever, grow old gracefully together.                                                                               
   Your happiness is my happiness."    ~ Ting Nu  (Yao Yi Chen)




ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, SUPERSCRIPTS, AND CREDITS 

SUPERSCRIPTS
CREDITS
  1. Starter Kit: China by Benevolentia
  2. Why You Should Try: Chinese Dramas! by Tine
  3.  Glossary
  4. The long trailer. (I suggest watching without subtitles to get the gist, but still not get spoiled.) English subtitled here, after the author deleted it and reuploaded by another user. 
  5. Based on The Colored Glaze Beauty by Shi Si Lang, who also wrote the novel - The Killing of Three Thousand Crows (adapted as Love of a Thousand Years).
  6. Hype Culture: Pros and Cons by VarricT
  7. Originally planned up to 72 episodes, later reduced to 66 and finally released with 59. 
  8. Why a Memorable OST Matters by Size15FeetJames
  9. A few readers of the novel seemed to find the drama's changes to be favoring the male lead.
  10. The drama is region restricted on Viki and WeTv. But, it is available through YT just fine.

WEBSITES AND IMAGES:

  • **Productive Procrastination -Screenshots and excellent, detailed subtitles.
  • Movielosophy (watermarked)
  • Immortality
  • Ohsehuns (watermarked)
  • Stars and Supernovas
  • Sohu
  • Zhuanlan. zhihu 
  • Sina Weibo

EDITORS:    


Many thanks to all the editors who answered my questions and spent their time with this article. And if you have reached the end of it despite all its shortcomings or even took a  glance - I sincerely thank you. I hope that everyone is staying safe and doing the best for life along with the dramaland.


Editors: BrightestStar (1st editor), YW (2nd editor)

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