TangRen’s ‘forte’ is adaptations with their own spins, so called ‘fusion periods’. It’s when their source material is threadbare (Chinese Paladins) or too hefty (LoCH angsty second half) OR when they have to be creative from scratch (Clothing) that they run themselves into walls of trouble. With Ijimae, it’s the right fit. We know enough of the tale, so even if TangRen’s writing is not strong in eloquent, sophisticated storytelling, there is plenty of room to do their flares. Moreover, they’ve learnt from their mistake, carefully setting a right tone, lapping just enough on the drama plate unlike their last miserable folklore adaption My Little Fairy, that Ariel and HuGe’s first OTP outing IS a piece of turd. IF this is done by a more resourceful/richer production co, I can guarantee money will pour into an extravagant, visual saturation of grandiose pretty fight after fight in CG galore, taking any realism a cartoon is allowed out of it. Instead, we meet the characters plucked off their everyday lives st fr the streets, our everyday joes with some very spiffy skills. Less is more.
And OH WALLACE!! I’ve liked his tender, pretty face all along, his acting….is just serviceable though. That beginning fight club scene, there’s this new never seen fire in his eyes, and just enough hint on a layer of tragic angst hollowing his soul.
Wallace, our hero Li Ge Xiao (His name: 离. without 歌. song 笑.laughter…how sad 😦 ) is promised a doubled pay check to lose the next fight after a close win. A longing look at a worn embroidered handkerchief won him the last one.
He got a higher bidder to win this match just as it begins. In the audience is VVIP Ying Wu Qiu (应无求= Should Have No Desire), baddie alert (?)
Ying is offering Li 100 taels of silver to win. Our hero throws him a piercing glance and KO the opponent in 2 seconds.
Ying warmly calls Li, ‘Big Bro!’ They join hands fighting the owner’s minions. Li throws out a gold badge. Before a lowly street fighter, our Li is a top imperial guard (and he’s still carrying his sparkling gold ID badge around)
Clearly they have a history, not all pleasant, but there’s a greater residual endearing love btn the pair (it seems) as they drink and catch up, or feeling each other out. Ying is a big shot in the imperial guards now, who may or may not get the position by stepping all over his big bro Li. They used to be bestbuds/partners in the force.
Li: There are 3 grades of booze. The lowest is the one you buy yourself. The middling is those brought by a friend. Fine wine on the head of the imperial guard Mr. Ying is the best you can get.
Ying: Bro, Are you still holding the grudge I’ve got the position you deserved?
Li: A grudge against you? I’ve never wanted the post. And it’s so long ago, things, people are no longer the same. We are on our different paths.
Ying: not the same….no longer here. Here, lets take one for her.
*AngstAngstAngst* Angsty flashback of dead Li’s wifey! *sob*
The piece of gold is the only one remaining of the government fund allotted for the famine victims up north, the rest is all robbed.
A unsatisfactory job as a government minion leads to offing of one’s head. Ying is there to rescue his colleagues, promising the retrieve of the gold pieces in 5 days in exchange for his men. (<3333 the illustrations!)
The big bad wolf is Gao Song. A powerful high ranking officer of the court. Obvious history with the boys…he is responsible for wifey’s death! BIHF!!
Li shocked Ying (and the world) he wants nth to do with finding the gold, saving starving victims and do a big hit on Gao. His eyes are suddenly hollow. Brotherhood, loyalty are things he stops believing in. ‘I’m an invalid’ as he walks away. Ying yells, ‘You used to be a hero when Jing was alive! You don’t deserve HER!!’ One guess, love triangle involving bros and a very dead lovely girl.
Home, Li finds comfort in hallucinating about his supportive sweet wifey Jing Ru Yi (lit. Thorns… like memory)
I love how his comfort-kerchief is worn and faded in real time yet in his misty eyes it stays new and prestine.
A snippet of Li in a sad drunken stupor, witnessing a petty theft of a bag of rice fr an old lady. The thief is a famine victim and Li lets him go. Also witnessing the scene is Ying, hollering his case. ‘Where is the hero before Jing’s death?!’ To which Li answers, ‘he’s dead, you know that.’ Li then asks him for 1 tael to pay back the grandma’s loss…and walks away as if unfazed.
He walks up to an orphanage. The kids warmly welcomed their Sifu (awww, hot + raising orphans!!) He’s here to see his own sifu/ father figure.
An affectionate and inspiring Sifu to pupil chat follows. They had a chance to do ‘sth else’ 5 yrs ago, yet they stick with the orphanage, knowing the only way beating the devils in the Ming court is the Future, as in raising the kids properly.
Li’s Sifu: It takes a lifetime of diligence or more to be a good man, yet a wee thought can spark evil.
Sifu sniffed Li’s here for advice, instead of giving it straight up, he told him as his proudest pupil, he’s ready to make his own right decision.
Sifu: You have taken a long long nap these last years. You’ve to pick yourself up where u’ve fallen.
With that, he’s game! That piece of silver is the down, Ying owes him another 9999 pieces, and he has to promised he can’t ask a thing and can never kiss and tell, Gao has MINIONS. He’ll gather his team and each will get a payment of 2500 silvers. Li is back in the Jiang Wu business!
Team member 1 is a robust warm simpleton Chai Hu .
he saved his fellow worker from being crushed by tonnes of rice and didn’t want a penny for the good deed…but the pennies r his severance. He’s fired for doing 10 man’s job, stiffing their rice bowls. They even wanna beat the crap out of him.
Chai, ‘ I’ve made a pact of never raising a finger in a fight for 5 years!!’ Bring it on!!’
The pact is with Li and he’s there at the nick of time calling it off.
And we find out Chai is a grand thief on the most wanted list, 1 vs 27 top imperial guards. The dumbos r SCARED, pleadin for their lives. Chai only wants them as witness though…to a death match with Li!
But before any more deaths, Chai needs to know why the pact is cut short!?! He agreed to it coz of his 5th lost to Li, but a pact is a pact, it has to be kept!
Li: I need your help, Hu…
Li: ov’r mountain of swords, thro’ boiling pots of oil.
Hu: without me, you’ll die?
Li: something like that.
(ahhhh, ❤ this bromance of frienemies!!’)
Hu: I’m the only one who can kill you!
With that, Li throws him that bottle of hard liquer, Chai drinks to it without a hesitation, and another pact btn 2 men is simply made.
Off they go to catch an opera! This is clearly the writer who writes LoCH08. Those Canto HK humor lines r here as well. I’m loving it!
Li: Even the crappiest operas/dramas are sung from the bottom of heart! We should be nicer audience. (lolz TengRen, I HEAR ya! but nay possible haha!)
Team Member 2 is He Xiao Mei. Xiao Mei is Lil’ Cherry Blossom literally (ie little Ijimae), it also sounds like lil’ sister, quite a cute pun on a cross dressing opera songstress (winkwink escort on the side).
He/she has a way with words and super observant. Chai Hu is, as expected, this homophobic square pants. Just the fact Li and He purr at each other their Chinese ‘Oppa (GeGe)’ and ‘lil’ dongseng (Xiao Mei)’ is giving him shivers. But GE ge is an obvious enough name for our Li GE Xiao in honorifics fr a youngling. Clever!
HAHA Our Xiao Mei has to make Chai even more ants in pants by calling him Hu Dai Ge~~! (big bro Hu). Chai protests, she cuts his goosebumps count by shortening it to ‘ Hu Ge’ (Bro Hu) or our beloved TengRen mascot HU GE! bwahahaha
[I ❤ Ray Ma and he’s channeling Leslie here.]
Enough chitchating, but not enough fun for our XiaoMei, Li is cooing the 3 of them off for a friendly drink. XiaoMei puts it directly if this is just friends catching up or a business meeting. Somehow this leads to HuGe asking What kind of business (s)he can make a profit out of… lolz
XM: singing is 1 tael, drinking is 5. ‘selling smiles’ (escorting) is negotiable, but more expensive….10!’
HuGe: Huh, humor me how can a trannie like you ‘sell smiles’?! *throw down a 10 tael*
XM wryly smiles, then takes the 10 taels in a st ST face!
There you’ve been served the smile you bought!
XM is still not done toying with his HuGe. His real deal, a master in Face Changing!
…who loves his pearls and I bet all shiny things. He’s on the team just with the mention of the 2500 paycheck (but clearly has a heart and dreamier life goals hidden somewhere) His first order of biz is to shop for the finest pearls.
The pearls r carefully lined in a box…. as bait
And gotcha.. our Yan San Niang (Sparrow Lady), who could’ve escaped with the pearls and a white jade palace treasure she’s been longing to get her hands for years. Curiosity kills the cat, she’s fallen back into the hands of Li, she has to find out HOW he grabs what she wants, and she’s THE best stealthy thief in town!
Quite a token of ‘friendship’…and we got our cool 4some.
As a 40 min ep1, this is as tight and breezy as you can get. The action is so clean and nicely edited and none of those slowmo pretentious crap I hate (yeah 1 of the things Chuno got on my nerves…) Things r left a bit crude and unpolished stylistically, but mashing well with what it set out to be a comic strip in real action.