Zhang Qing, a present-day college student in culture and history major wants to study in professor Ye's postgraduate class, so he decides to write a historical fiction to elaborate his ...
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Zhang Qing, a present-day college student in culture and history major wants to study in professor Ye's postgraduate class, so he decides to write a historical fiction to elaborate his perspective of analyzing ancient literature history with modern concept. In the fiction, Zhang himself acts as a young man Fan Xian with mysterious life who lives in a remote seaside town of Kingdom Qing in his childhood, under the help of a mysterious mentor and a blindfolded watchman. Fan goes to the capital when he grows up, where he experiences plenty of ordeal and temper. Fan persists in adhering the rule of justice and goodness and lives his own glorious life.
Quirky, with intriguing characters and plot twists
What can I say about Joy of Life (aka Qing Yu Nian)? After seeing the dramatic trailer, I fully expected this to be a dark historic saga. I just never imagined I would be laughing so much. One-sentence synopsis: It's a story about a 21st century college student trying to survive ancient China by outmaneuvering political machinations while navigating through cultural and moral quandaries with plenty of modern flare.
Although Joy of Life fits mostly in the drama category, there were still plenty of sitcom moments and an army of quirky characters, with our time traveling protagonist at the top of the list. Wait, did I say time travel? I stand corrected. There's a minor detail I learned when I decided to read the novel after watching a couple of episodes: The original time travel/transmigration storyline is not in this live adaptation because China's media authorities banned time travel theme in domestic movies and television. Just google it if you want to learn more about the restriction on time travel, it's quite interesting.
I thought the juxtaposition of contemporary background music and historic setting can be a bit jarring at times, but it became less noticeable once I began to fully immerse in the drama. It wasn't hard for me to get use to the anachronisms since Joy of Life was set in a completely fictional world. Plus it's just plain funny to watch other characters' reactions whenever our protagonist fires a bunch of modern slangs and concepts at them.
I'm not a big fan of Zhang Rouyun (the lead actor) and I'm still not feeling the chemistry between him and Li Qin (the female lead). Even so, I had to admit that he did a great job portraying the crafty opportunist with a heart of gold. Overall, the intriguing plot twists and its fascinating characters were the main reasons that kept me hooked to this odd story until the very end.
I would recommend this series to viewers with at least some knowledge of Chinese language and customs; the wordplay and cultural references in the show were truly funny, but they could easily get lost in translation. Therefore, I'd like to conclude this review by giving all subtitle teams a round of applause for taking on the challenge of translating shows like Joy of Life.
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