Love, the same as life, always accompanies with flowers and thorns…

Tonight, you belong to the King of the Sea

Madame de Boudoir, King of the Sea

Title
The Starry Night, The Starry Sea (2017)
Also known as
Nà piàn xīngkōng nà piàn Hǎi
Genre
Fantasy,  Romance
Written by
 Qian Jingjing & Xu Ziyuan
Directed by
Wei Hantao
Country of Origin
China
Episodes
32 – Season 1  &  34 – Season 2

oh! … brief

Following her parents’ divorce, Shen Luo is mistreated by her stepmother and stepbrother so she lives with her grandfather until she moves away to the big city to make a life for herself. However, she struggles to make ends meet and is so miserable with the way city folk live that she returns to her home. On the day of her return, she meets a peculiar man, Wu Julan, who has no background, no family, no friends and no money.

Wu Julan is, in fact, a mystical merman, a creature only referred to in legends and folktales. He is a man on a mission. He must relocate the divine (magical and spiritual) pearl stolen from him 150 years ago and gain it back in order to survive. Without the pearl, his life, both human and immortal is in peril.

Because of Shen Luo’s initial kindness to him, Wu Julan uses his mysterious powers and intelligence to make her life better. In time the two grow fond of each other and eventually fall in love. But happiness doesn’t last long as Wu Julan discovers that the divine pearl he seeks is inside of Shen Luo’s body and to remove it would cause her demise. To save her, Wu Julan will have to sacrifice his own life.

oh! … talks drama

This cdrama is adapted from a similarly named novel by renowned Chinese romance novelist and author Tong Hua. Her novel Bu Bu Jin Xin was adapted into two dramas, “Scarlet Heart” and “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo.”

I was curious to watch this merman series to see how it ranks with other mermaid/merman/merpeople options available in the Asian drama and film industry. As much as I love Feng Shaofeng, I must be honest and say that I had mixed feelings about this series after I watched it. I wasn’t completely sold convinced how I felt so I will have to watch it again before I even think about contemplating Season 2 which is more like a fusion sageuk I’m guessing.

I was glad that the writers of the script, Qian Jingjing and Xu Ziyuan, included a voice-over monologue which gives important background information relevant to the story. The voice explains the story of the beginning of heaven and earth and merpeople were created at the same time as humans. Humans ruled and spread over the earth and the merpeople ruled the waters. For thousands of years, there was peace and understanding between humans and merpeople until a merman met a human girl and fell in love. Their love forced a war between humans and the merpeople. In desperation, the merpeople asked the ocean how to fix the hatred that had grown between the two different species and it simply responded, “Sincerity“.

This short little piece is crucial and if you miss understanding it you will be confused later during the show as it is very relevant to the context of the plot.

I was quickly absorbed by the overarching story. It’s more common to find mermaid stories, so one featuring a handsome one thousand-year-old merman on a mission to recover his precious spiritual pearl ….. of course, I was going to watch that production just because of the plot! The spiritual pearl is the main character in the narrative if we really want to be honest… everybody, and their army of minions, is out to secure the gem. Why? Because it prolongs life and for humans brings them back to life.

Qian Jingjing and Xu Ziyuan had a great plan with their script however the pacing of the narrative was virtually non-existent. There are more than a few bursts of activity and energy and then serious lulls where it borders on becoming boring. In my opinion, the script could have been more tightly written and the number of episodes lessened to make the pacing better. It’s the fault of the script and the director and not the actors, but it did become annoying at times.

The writers don’t give the leads equal opportunity to mature in their roles and develop their characters, so some characters bring their role full circle and others remain stagnated. It’s disappointing. But as I have alluded to before, when there is more than one writer involved in the script, these kinds of flaws can happen. You can almost tell which writer is behind which episode simply because of the difference in the ‘voice’ behind the writing of the characters dialogue. Strange that I can sense that, but I do and especially in this production.

However, if you’re a ‘scratch the surface’ kind of fan the issues with the script I’ve mentioned above are not likely to bother you. You’re here purely for the entertainment and all the cdrama pretty. I on the other hand like a bit more meat to my bones, if you get my drift!

Where the writers did a fabulous job was with the romantic elements of the story. Lately, I’ve watched so many romances, from the very serious to the outrageously funny and everything in between. I don’t know whether it was the chemistry or the combination of chemistry, fantastic natural lighting and acting, but the romantic interludes between the leading couple were charming and gentle, like a quiet whisper between souls. It was covetous! Not that I begrudge that kind of natural intimacy at a spiritual level, but I am like a green-eyed monster! Wait I am green-eyed ….. I just don’t consider myself to be a monster. I was slightly jealous of that ‘thing’ between Feng Shaofeng’s character, Wu Julan and Bea Hayden’s character, Shen Luo.  There was dazzling chemistry in fleeting moments between the two leads. I wish there had been more emphasis placed on that, creating this grand romance and building up to the heartbreaking conclusion. One scene where Wu Julan’s confesses the depth of his love to Shen Luo is from Episode 10 where he explains the importance and symbolic nature of shells and how in times past they were a sign of nobility but instead today are shared as love tokens. After having said all this he takes Shen Luo’s hand and places a seashell in it, indirectly confessing his feelings. It was just so touching and beautiful!

Also, the writers managed to add some good humour to keep things balanced and light-hearted. For example, after Shen Luo finds out that Wu Julan is a mermaid, she continues to make really bad fish jokes. In one scene, she’s seriously asking Wu Julan about his former dating life and then she drops the bomb by asking if he’s ever dated an octopus before! I swear I lost it when I heard that!

Of course, not all the flaws belong to the writing, director Wei Hantao also bears partial responsibility. I think the filming or visual narrative was immaculately achieved. The locations were exceptionally picturesque and who doesn’t love a sky blue sea, the rolling waves and a bevvy of handsome men and beautiful women?

The cinematography offered indelible imagery highlighting the colour and texture of emotions absolutely individually from one scene to the next. In the underwater scenes, the cameras pushed the boundaries to create a beauty of the underwater universe almost entirely detached from humanity. It was very nicely executed. I did also enjoy the choreography behind the fight and chase scenes and think the cameras captured these more complex action shots sufficiently.

When it comes to wardrobe I can make no complaints. The outfits are all everyday clothing that most people wear and the odd suit jacket or two for the male characters. Where I did have an issue was the ‘costume’ for Wu Julan when he was a mermaid. It looked so artificial, not the talk end I know that part was all CGI and that came across really well. I’m talking the ghastly rubber gloves and the crap on Wu Julan’s head and ears. They looked so artificial and I honestly believe they could have done a much better job and paid some serious attention to these details to get them right! Whenever Wu Julan became a merman I found the fake accessories distracting.

I did or rather I do love the accompanying soundtrack and I’ve added it as a playlist on Spotify and includes The Starry Night, The Starry Sea opening theme song by Jin Zhiwen, Echo the ending theme song by Zhou Shen, Starry Sea in the Summer Sky by Alex Fong, When Love Comes by Wang Yaoguang, and Don’t Say by Zhong Chunguang.

While the cinematography, the choreography of each scene, the wardrobe and the music are all notches under Wei Hantao’s belt, he did not do a good job in the directing of some of the cast. There are at least three performances that started off abysmally and one of them continued that way from start to finish. A lot of overacting, even on the part of the female lead who’s screeching at times really grated my nerves and was so unnecessary. That’s not to say I disliked the cast, I just didn’t like the way some of them acted. And one or two characters come around and give better performances as the series progresses. Others, unfortunately, don’t!

Wu Julan, serious, quiet Prince of the Sea, otherwise known as Regulus, was played by Feng Shaofeng and I really like him for and in this role. It’s my first time seeing him not playing either in a period style cdrama or fantasy, something or other. I enjoyed his understated performance. I think he interpreted the character traits of his character and depicted them organically. The rather wooden dead-pan acting is not because he isn’t a good actor, but because he interpreted Wu Julan as being socially inept. And I tend to agree with this interpretation. I did enjoy his longing stares and the slow way he broke into a smile once he realized he was in love with Shen Luo. I also think that Feng Shaofeng gave his character a tenderness and gentleness that I haven’t yet seen in a role of this type. Either way, his performance was in a class and level above almost every other actor and actress in this production. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Season 2, the period styled version of this story.

Bea Hayden played Shen Luo and initially the overacting and excessive screeching and whining of this character annoyed me, almost to the point that I stopped watching entirely. I couldn`t believe how immature and stupid the character was considering the age of the character. I was not impressed at first at all, but I stuck with the series because the two leads did have a certain charisma and tangible chemistry. You can almost say Feng Shaofeng was the saving grace when it came to the leading couple. I am looking forward to seeing whether Bea Hayden does a better interpretation and delivery of her character in Season 2.

An Zuo, a black wizard with manipulative powers was played by Sunny Wang and like Feng Shaofeng, he delivered a strong, solid performance. His character was not likeable but Sunny Wang brought the evil nature to the surface and I was a believer in all the secret talents of his character. I would have liked to see a little more aggression and feistiness from the character, maybe even a little more blood and guts, but I think overall he performed really well.

Sui Yongliang plays another bad guy, Zhou Buwen, a childhood friend of Shen Luo and who really wishes his relationship with her was more than just friends. Sorry dude you got friend-zoned! I so disliked this character, driven by jealousy and rage and desire for something he couldn`t have so he was willing to steal it. Sui Yongliang gave an impeccable performance!

Jiang Yisheng, Shen Luo`s best friend was played by none other than Huang Ming. I don`t have too much to say about his performance. The character was the glue that kept things running, literally. But I was in between liking and disliking the acting. I guess it`s more because the character reminded me of a boy I dated in my teens and while I loved him dearly, like a brother, I just couldn`t really take it further than that. Jiang Yisheng`s character reminds me too much of that person. I`ve never come to a final conclusion with whether I liked him or not, so I`m the same way with this performance. It`s not that I`m reviewing the acting, it`s the character. The acting I am certain was right on the money.

Wang Mengli played Wu Jingjing, a guardian of the merpeople and extremely loyal to Wu Julan. Wang Mengli gave a well-rounded performance. However, I felt she was `strutting`a lot – at least that`s the impression I got and I`m no fan of actresses that strut their way through their performance. Anyway, I`ll watch her performance in the next season to see if she does a better job.

oh! … sidekicks

By far the most annoying character of all was Zhou Buyan, a spoilt heiress who is in love with her step-brother Zhou Buwen. She was played to absolute perfection by Guo Xiaoting. And the character, Zhu Yiyang, who was crushing on Zhou Buyan was played by Wang Yanlin. This character had me in hysterics at times because he was just so naïve. It was a grand performance.

oh! … that’s a wrap

Overall I enjoyed this production, even though my criticism may come across as harsh. I favoured the story because it was something refreshing and I think overall the writers did a fair job of fleshing out the plot.

 You`ll enjoy this production if you’re a fan of fantasy and anything to do with the world beneath the waves and merpeople.

oh! … tidbits

The second season of The Starry Night The Starry Sea is set during the Tang Dynasty and follows the story of a human girl who cross-dresses so she can realize her dreams and fulfil a desire to be at sea. There she meets the merman Wu Julan.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

Written by