Saturday, April 24, 2021

Chinese Drama Review: The Love Equations (2020)

A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

  • Drama: The Love Equations 
  • Country: China 
  • Year: 2020 
  • Genre: Slow-Burn Romance, College, Friendship 
  • Starring: Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, Li Ge Yang 
  • My Rating: 9 ★s 
  • Romantic complications arise when forensic science student Zhao Fan Zhou (Simon Gong) falls hard for the adorable Zhou Xiao (Reyi Liu), a literature student in the same university. Zhou Xiao loves all things detective-themed, even down to creating a detective club for the university. At first, her relationship with Zhao Fan Zhou is all about his majoring in forensic science, since she's writing an online novel from the perspective of a forensic scientist, but soon he wins over her heart. Their feelings blossom into a full-fledged relationship much to the annoyance of two friends, Zhao Fan Zhou's arrogant childhood friend Jia Yi Chun (Zhu Yun Hui) who has always crushed hard on him, and Zhou Xiao's childhood friend, Cai Ya Si (Li Ge Yang), who has equally been in love with Zhou Xiao for about as long as he can remember.

    While their relationship seems to thrive for a long time since they are such a well-matched pair, eventually health concerns for Zhao Fan Zhou's mother (bipolar disorder) and his fear that he might develop symptoms as he ages, interferes in their relationship. Helped along a little bit by the underhanded conniving of Jia Yi Chun. Are Zhao Fan Zhou and Zhou Xiao meant to be? Or should they go their separate ways and find love in different places?

    The Love Equations is both a frustrating and wonderful drama.

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    I attribute much of its success to the performance of Simon Gong as Zhao Fan Zhou. In the Japanese realm, the character's what is known as more of a tsundere, meaning he's pretty cold at first but emotionally warms up when you get to know him. Simon is the oldest of the main actors, having been about 27 when they filmed the series, and he's clearly familiar with romance and love and how to emote all of that through his eyes. He makes a difficult character like Zhao Fan Zhou very approachable and likable. The end of the series, particularly episodes 23, 24, and 25 are painful in that the leads have been driven apart, made even more painful because of Simon Gong's stellar performance. He made me cry!

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    Reyi Liu as Zhou Xiao is the typical cutesy, clueless female lead that the Chinese college dramas seem to be so in love with. I like the character and I don't like her at the same time. She does tend a bit on the annoying side sometimes, but once she and Zhao Fan Zhou are actually in a relationship, I really started to like her. She grew into herself, and the actors have dynamic chemistry. Overall, Reyi Liu brought a passionate bubbliness to the role that was necessary. So long as you don't binge-watch the series, you'll continue liking her up through the end. 

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    I have to praise Li Ge Yang. He's more of a newcomer, sort of, and this is a support role for him like most of his work through 2020. But he makes Cai Ya Si such a lovable, adorkable nerd. He's so playful and goofy! If I were in my early twenties and had my choice of male characters in The Love Equations, I would have chosen Cai Ya Si, hands' down. I adore nerds and he's absolutely my type, plus he can wear yellow, one of my favorite colors, and I absolutely cannot! His loyalty to Zhou Xiao, especially when she's emotionally hurting, is beautiful. On a total side note, Li Ge Yang is like a Chinese version of Kento Yamazaki, which I think is pretty high praise. He's got the same vibe. I would have given anything for him to be a male lead in this series and get his own girl, rather than be the doomed alternate love interest for the female lead. Fortunately, Li Ge Yang has quite a few upcoming dramas in his line-up where he's playing the male lead, so I'm excited for that. I probably will never see him play a nerd again, so sad, but it'll be interesting to see how he approaches different character personalities.

    One of the unique aspects of The Love Equations is that it tackles the topic of mental health, a bit of a taboo subject in many cultures. Zhao Fan Zhou's mother is a woman paralyzed with untreated bipolar disorder, at least until they finally get her into the hospital after a correct diagnosis. His home life was unpleasant growing up, and the character suffered a lot of emotional trauma and unwillingness to connect with others because his mother had been undiagnosed for so long resulting in the strife between his parents. So he has to work through a lot of that stress and angst while his mother receives treatment.

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    I do feel that the series has far too many support characters. Like Zhou Xiao's college roommates/friends who you see and then don't see, and you're involved in their love lives and then you're not. It would have pared the series down if there hadn't been so many different characters. I think there are something like 5 or 6 other characters that weren't strictly necessary. If they'd been chopped, then the series might have fit more into the 24 episode range.

    Speaking of, since this is a Chinese drama, yes, we have 27 full-length episodes, rather than the 10 or so that most Japanese dramas dish out. It's refreshing because it does give the characters time to grow, but it also gives time for all of those tropes to fully flesh out, like the evil girl from Zhao Fan Zhou's childhood. I say evil because it's true. I'm surprised she doesn't stab Zhao Fan Zhou through the heart with her "if I can't have him, nobody can" mentality. I pity the actress Zhu Yun Hui since this is her first role and I'm pretty much conditioned to hate any character she plays going forward. This female character is the nastiest jealous love rival I've ever seen, by far.

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    But jealous love rivals aside, The Love Equations is well worth the watch. It's a slow-burn romance, like most of the Chinese dramas that I've seen, so it just takes time to develop. Let it. Zhao Fan Zhou and Zhou Xiao are precious and even though they suffer waaaaaaay more than necessary, there is a happily-ever-after.

    I encourage watching the show on VIKI since it's a legal streaming service and the subtitles are terrific. You might need a subscription, but I have one for $4.99 a month which is barely a drop in the bucket. And if you already watch Asian dramas, then you're probably already subscribed to VIKI anyway.

    If you do watch The Love Equations, tell me what you think of the show. And tell me what you think of Li Ge Yang!

    Enjoy this sweet MV from Youtube.

    Friday, April 23, 2021

    Classics Club: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

    Read for The Classics Club. You can find my reading list HERE

    Fahrenheit 451 . . . the temperature at which books burn. 

    I seem to drag Fahrenheit 451 out of the old bookshelf every 7 years or so for a re-read, forgetting many of the book's details in the years in-between. The story always surprises and terrifies me, even more so with this particular re-read due to the current infestation of "cancel culture" and self-imposed "censorship" in my society.

    And before anyone asks what I mean by censorship, know that I am NOT in favor of letting sex and violence run wild in the streets (and on our screens). Ironically, sex and violence seem to be the only thing NOT censored anymore. I don't mean permitting and encouraging and praising every kind of depravity. I hope and pray that there is still moral decency left in mankind, although it's dwindling fast. And it will dwindle faster if the brakes aren't applied quick.

    No, when I say that I hate censorship, I mean that I hate when only one side of an argument is allowed to be presented. Freedom and liberty is the ability, no, the permission given, to present both sides of an argument or a theory. Where the pros and cons to a topic are given equal talking time without having one side shouted or "canceled" out of existence by the opponent. The canceling what we don't want to hear or throwing modern "morality" in the faces of historic authors/public figures is what I hate the most. You like spitting on your ancestors and their mistakes with your hypocrisy and judgment? Wait 100 or 200 years into the future and see how you like your descendants spitting on you because you weren't clairvoyant enough to suit them.

    Off the soapbox and on to the book.

    Dystopian stories are almost NEVER happy ones.

    Doesn't that strike you as odd? 

    They're always tragedies where the world has gone insane due to one group's mismanagement or increase in political power that always strikes down freedom of thought, speech, religion, etc. Our poor fireman, Guy Montag, can't even remember where he met his wife, at least, not until the end of the book. He gets up at night, goes to work, drives with the other firemen to wherever an individual has been reported to own books, burns their home down, and returns to the firehouse to wait for another report. He goes home, wondering if his wife will have overdosed on sleep aids again and need her stomach pumped, then lies in his bed, separate from his wife's, and listens to the not so silent stillness that is broken by the seashells in her ears constantly pumping in data, data, data to her overstimulated mind.

    And the books, always the books. Before he even knew it, he'd snatched a couple, and then more, and more besides until there's a tidy little hoard in the heating vent just waiting to catch him up. There's Clarice the girl next door who still looks up and around at the world and whose family still sits on their front porch laughing and conversing. She wakes him up, this 17-year-old kid, and once Montag is awake there is no returning, not even at the command of his fire captain, Beatty, or the desperate pleas of his wife, Mildred. He has one old professor, Faber, on his side at the end of all things.

    The war begins, Montag against Beatty, a desperate flight for his life, a real war that wipes out towns, and the promise that maybe someday the world can return to a place of respect where history and stories aren't rewritten just because they're inconvenient or might hurt somebody's feelings.

    The book itself is not a quick read for me, despite being less than 200 pages. 

    I spent maybe 3 weeks reading it, 10 or so pages snatched here and there, until I finally blazed through the final 30 pages, including the afterword and the coda. If you've never picked up a copy with those letters to the general idiotic public and publishing houses, then you should find one. They're worth reading because Bradbury literally didn't give a damn about censorship or that he might offend somebody. He was who he was and he wrote what he wrote, and anybody who didn't like it can go write their own stories instead of trying to mess with his. Or they can go boil their heads, he definitely gave that impression too.

    Everyone should read this book. I don't care if you like it or not. Fahrenheit 451 is a book that MUST be read.

    "Frightening in its implications . . . Mr. Bradbury's account of this insane world, which bears many alarming resemblances to our own, is fascinating."  - The New York Times

    Favorite Quotes from Fahrenheit 451

    "You're afraid of making mistakes. Don't be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn." - Faber, Fahrenheit 451

    "Remember that the Captain belongs to the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority. Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority." - Faber, Fahrenheit 451

    "There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burn himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we'll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember every generation." - Granger, Fahrenheit 451

    "Someday we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up." - Granger, Fahrenheit 451