Zhen Huan Zhuan

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76 episodes, without any fastforwarding, if this is not love per my habits, I do not know what is.

I have been steadily watching this drama for months, but it’s not since a few weeks ago when I have a chunk of time to do nth but marathon. It’s meticulous in every detail begging savoring for the costume p0rn alone.  My mom can rewatch any episode, entranced and shushing me uttering a word.  I’m now done and though the latter half has draggy moments and lazier writing, it is still near-perfectly acted.  Admittedly I’m not as swept away by its awesome in the later stretch as the better first half, but I now can join the not-hyped up humongous following.  It is the hugest hit by a long stretch of the Qing imperial intrigue/conspiracy dramas out last few years involving the same emperor Yongzheng and his doomed brothers, so much so it is now showing at my local channel at last.

BBJX and even Goong may have larger, younger interweb fandoms, but a decade from now, this will be the only one standing the test of time in the long haul  Actually while I’m watching, I have not a gripe, not one but feasting on all the details of that world, from how every gesture of the ladies in court is so immaculately gentile and confined pertaining to its time, which is no longer something I can take for granted in a Cperiod these days *sigh*.  And the amazing period speak is to lust over!!!  It is a rare beast.   Shallow asides, there are no faces taunting visible plasticity, no circle lens to sting my eyes in a period when I’m being particularly stringent.  *phew*  I’m a fangirl of Chen Jian Bin, but I’ll admit his face is of the typical ahjusshi, opposite of flower boy, but there is also his younger brother Prince 17 fulfilling the role of the Pretty.  I do not agree from all the articles I’ve read of Li DongXue he’s a Song SeungHun lookalike, argh, he does not have that offputting load of sleaze on screen and he can decently act.  He resembles the aura of a young Michael Miu to me actually.

Even the minor characters are so refreshingly pretty!  For once I do not have to wonder if my aesthetics is so off kilter

What impress me most are the ladies of course, I’m in my little own squeeing heaven just watching the acting alone (and truly pretty faces), marveling especially at Sun Li and Jiang Xin, in a Cdrama of all things!!! They are all fluid, I have empathy towards all of them, even when they are rotting in the core and will not bat a lash doing bad bad evil baby-killing deeds.  I have no favorite character I truly root for though, esp not the protagonist Zhen Huan, Sun Li’s Zhen Huan is unrecognizable at the end to the early ZH I met in the very beginning, really no turning back of the character.  While I don’t think she’s my kind of pretty, she is flawlessly gorgeous with the makeup and most loving lighting when it requires to portray her as the convincing beauty.  Each of the characters have shades of unsavory, that’s what made them real and me invested.

When I didn’t hesitate my raves towards BuBu’s costumes, I had not seen ZHZ.  This is another world of refinery and extravagant befitting the imperial palace a shabby production company that is Tang Ren nowadays, even trying their mightiest, can’t match.  The lines are of real conversation I felt of the time, where things are always hinted and implied behind veiled niceties, but the smiles can be subtly telling the true alignment of the heart, if it’s intended to be known.  The intrigue of every conversation begs every ounce of my attention and it’s well penned and delivered.  Truth be told I actually felt empowered for the females against all the superficial because of their insatiable thirst for survival out of the doomed, gilded servitude they were trapped as consorts and concubines.  Nothing in their lives was up to their own choice, and for little they could sway with the matters of the heart, they strived to cling onto, on every tiny bit of human normalcy.   The characters have changes of heart, romances, relationship ebbs and flows, and it’s all making sense at the precise state of mind at where the drama is at.   I spent half the drama swept by 2 characters genuinely in love just to be cheering on the hate and venom of the fallout later.  The story is not fed to us in the usual rushed and instantaneously gratifying manner and pace but I just love the time taken with the steady storytelling, when each unfolding of event is dealt with care.  Even when the plot itself is nothing too inventive as far as palace intrigue and conspiracy goes, often we can tell what will happen in the next plot twist but how the character gets from point A to point B is keeping me glued.

I’m not gushing over Chen JianBing’s treatment of his emperor Yong Zheng here,  I think I’m kicking him out of my crushes pile.  There is something distracting in his truncated line-reading.  He gets the job done,  but I did wonder if he had any fun working on this production at all, he looks like he’s bored to death most of the time.  I love they chose an ahjusshi looking YZ and not making him one bit appealing, even though it makes sense why the ladies will fall for him in their circumstances.  How the character is written is close what I want in a shady, complicated, excessively sensitive yet jaded, ruthless, calculating, cold and cruel emperor who almost never let his inner guard be down.  His love for his hard-earned empire and protective of himself is always the highest priority.

But GOSH, can I droolz and bow more to Consort Hua Jiang Xin?!  She is the ‘villain’ but boy is she a hoot and a half to watch.  There is not ONE face she misses a beat.  You will hate her Consort Hua, but you will also hopelessly sympathize with her.

Sun Li has the chops,  she is a force to reckon with.  I ended up crying like a baby on the plane watching and all she did was drop a few oh so poignant tears.  Every one of her close-up is packed with so much understated punch.  Not only she can cry pretty with the skill of a good K-actress, the tears are not dropping like it’s from a faucet leak, but with gradients of pain and devastation.   I might not be huge enough a fan to watch everything she is in from now on, but I can’t deny it’s been my pleasure watching her acting in every scene as Zhen Huan, especially towards the end.  I can’t root for Zhen Huan the character in everything because I find her character very self-serving while outwardly she is supposed to be this saintly heroine.

***SPOILER***

As much as I find Prince 17 Le DongXue VERY handsome, I wished he’s an even better actor, he’s good, but the scenes of ZH with 17 are sooooo gloriously angsty and tearing my heart out as is, stealing my tears by the truckload, but the slaying could’ve been so much more delish!!!!

A sequel a movie or a drama is in the works, following where it left off.  IF it’s by the same scriptwriter and director husband and wife pair, GIMME!!!!

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15 thoughts on “Zhen Huan Zhuan

  1. I’ve been hearing about this one for so long, and I really should watch it some day. I admit the number of episodes it a little intimidating. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a show that long.

    But it looks very good.

    1. I was so taken aback by the sheer number of episodes as well! that’s why I watched like 10 episodes when it was airing and didn’t have time to continue (and totally forgot about it tbh) But this is truly one of the best C drama I’ve seen out last few years. I will put it up there with 3 Kingdoms and Water Margins even though it’s the genre of more ‘petty’ palace intrigue.

    1. The whole cast is truly amazing, I credit the director bringing out solid performances from everyone down to the bit actors (exc I’m really a bit disappointed with CJB, he was my draw to check this out in the first place and he ended up being my only littly complaint of a marvelous production) Ada is always good, she has shown me she has sth special amongst the TVB actors in her generation since 洛神 2002. But here, her line-reading in Cantonese and Mando-dubbed is distracting me, I’m finicky. And once she lets her true color out, her character turns flat and less interesting, lacking some layers. I just find her slightly overshadowed by SunLi or JiangXin in the acting department, but she is holding her own.

      1. Alright. Too bad her character seems to lack writtingwise but I am so so so happy for Jiang Xin ! She had been underrated after TLBB2002 (I can never forget the scene when she removed her veil and Jimmy’s character saw her face, I loved their loveline). Her role was not lenghty but she stroke me with her performance There. Sooo happy she is getting noticed now ! 🙂

        1. I rem when noise of LoCH is in production with HuGe and Ariel, I was soo rooting for Jiang Xin to be Mu NianChi, and no offense to SS’ fans, JX is just a much more talented actress and will give me an even more squeeworthy OTP in a YH YangKang and a JX MuNianChi. I have forgotten about her, frankly, but she’s just too unforgettable in TLBB2002! Again, I’ll admit Jimmy has never ever impressed me with his acting, even if he looks befitting of the part of DuanYu, I still feel sthsth for their loveline and I will give all the credit to JX’s honest and ballsy performance. Come of think of it, *sigh* TLBB2002 may be the last JY adapt I honestly think is of a good quality overall.

          I love JX’s performance as Consort Hua the most sentimentally, when SunLi is also arguably as amazing, but Consort Hua is just so much more vivid as a character.

  2. Um you pretty much wrote the most beautiful in depth review of LZH ever O_O I cannot even express my love of LZH that well.

    Anyways I totally agree with your points. Even though I was a big fan of BBJX while it was airing and thought that its costumes were the best…….I was SO WRONG. LZH has the most gorgeous costumes/set ever, every single second I am staring at how pretty it is.

    Hua Fei is one of my most favorite characters!!! I felt like the Empress and all of ZH’s other rivals were totally overshadowed by Hua Fei. I would be surprised if Jiang Xin has not gained a major fanbase after her wonderful performance, I know I certainly am a big fan of hers now!

    I’m not sure if I was exactly rooting for Zhen Huan at the end…it’s more like I felt really bad for her because she cannot be truly happy without the people she treasures in her life. It was really sad when I went back to rewatch some of the earlier episodes, to see how drastically Zhen Huan changes over time. 😥

    1. That’s too nice of you, thank thee kindly for your sweet words! ^^

      BB’s costumes befit the drama, it is catering for a younger crowd, so a simplier line and louder, more obvious, bold ornamentation is necessary. Here, this is mighty close to museum quality pieces I’ve seen in the Palace Museum in Forbidden City

      Other than CJB and to a lesser extent prince 17, IF I must rank the awesomeness, it’s JiangXin> SunLi, Ada is actually closer to the bottom of a solidly very awesome batch, she is fine here, but I’ve seen her better. I just have a number of supporting actresses more memorable than her.

      I’ve stopped rooting for anyone, because towards the end, the harsh reality is if you retain a thread of human decency, you would be dead in that cutthroat world, so although I did not wish ‘success’ upon ZH, because of the toll it would require her to abandon morality, yet I could not see another way out if she has to survive. It is a gutwrenching tale.

  3. Wow, I love your review, very eloquently written. It’s exactly what I thought about the drama too. This is the best Qing drama I have ever watched, followed by BBJX and HCGG. This drama is no kidding, the production from the scripts, costumes, make-up, lighting, location, props even to the cast of “Ke lei Fei”, everything were impeccable. Some people may think it’s too long but it needs to be or else it will be like “Beauty at War” (too rushed until viewers don’t understand what is going on).

    1. Thanks for reading actually! ^^

      Oh and there is an apropos meme going viral today: RX is actually the dead queen in ZHZ, and ZH is the old empress in Princess Pearl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can totally rewatch the 3 epics in that order and make yourself a super EPIC!

      imo Beauty at War is an abomination. I do not care how revered Producer Chik is, this is a piece of stinky turd trying its darnest to fake it as some higher art form it is so not. Ep1 just makes less than an iota of sense, period.

  4. Haha. I hated Jonathan Chik for making Beauty at War 1) unnecessary deep. 2) lowly eunuch and palace maid got bigger power than the emperor’s concubine! 3) heck is wrong with the costume. 4) the broom shaped hairstyle. 5) wasted the talents of Ada Choi, Sheren Tang, Moses – they should used their time to create something like ZHZ. 6) where is the king and empress, come out! 7) endless of gossiping between the eunuch and palace maids when they should focus on the main characters storyline ….sigh…..I could go on much further but these are the core mistakes of Beauty at War.

    1. So. True.
      I’m really soo peeved by your Pt 1 alone. the pretentiousness as if it’s some barometer of highbrow goodness is so turning my stomach. I have completely lost faith in TVB periods, they either go slashy slaptick or this highalmightyI’mART route but for the former it’s no longer funny, and latter…just NO. NAH.

      It’s like they are working in a blackbox, a vacuum, where the outside world has no baring and they have exhausted every ounce of their creativity and heart and moolah in the time trespassed since War and Beauty. And wasted any energy left on backward bickering and dramaz. imo what Sheren has been griping: ‘script’ on the fly, her role has to make way for Chrisine Ng’s role to nudge her into essentially Sheren’s place now she’s not under TVB’s more binding contract. And Chik is leaving, I’m sure he won’t really have all the resources he could’ve in his heydays at TVB…but TVB still wanna kinda sorta let him do his thing on this dying brandname. I’m actually clapping this is getting horrible ratings. Stop beating a very dead horse. RIP franchise/copycat.

      1. Dang you are right!! Tvb is on the road to its doomsday. Eventhough Beauty at War deserved every criticisms being thrown at them but to get ratings as low as 19 below than the Bullet Train crap is a bit shocking for me. However, I will still watch it for the sake of Ada Choi ^^; Just hoping that Jonathan Chik can still create something like Secret of the Heart.

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