Kung Hei Fat Choi: Recalling My Strange Journey With Chinovelas From 2001-Present!
Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Considering today is the first day of the Lunar New Year (and too bad we never got to see Noynoy and Pabaya get run over when the clock struck 12), I want to write a recollection of how I got into Chinovelas whether it was from Taiwan, China or Hong Kong. I have the guilty pleasure of lumping them as "Chinese entertainment" and in a sense, Taiwan is called the Republic of China while China is called the People's Republic of China.
I showed little or no interest with Chinovelas (combination of Chinese and telenovelas) before the craze started. Amazing Twins showed up but I wasn't all too interested in it. I was more interested with some Japanese entertainment with dubs or that there was a time I was more into American entertainment. I was trying to live the American dream and I wanted to detach from everything Asian and become American. I didn't care too much about Jackie Chan or Jet Li. Although I watched a few Chinese movies but most of them didn't entertain me. But I had the guilty pleasure of listening to a good song even without understanding the lyrics. Then I would later start looking for translations to appreciate the songs better.
The Meteor Garden days started the craze
Nothing brings memories back more than Meteor Garden. Three out of four members have gotten married. Barbie Xu got married and I can't forget the time I actually had a crush on her while watching it. Okay, that was crazy but I did. I was interested to see the original Hana Yori Dango and later saw the Japanese remake but I can't deny I liked the Taiwanese cast the best. Heck, I even thought Mao Inoue was too young and too green during her time as Makino Tsukushi (Shan Tsai). Jerry Yan made a real good Tsukasa Doumyoji (Dao Ming Si) and Barbie became the best Makino I've seen so far.
I remembered the first episode I saw was when Dao Ming Feng attempted to pay off Shan Tsai to stay away from her son Dao Ming Si. I first thought it was my late paternal grandmother's shows. I had no idea it was based on Hana Yori Dango. The Chinese subtitles were still there and it could mislead one into thinking they were those Chinese shows aired in their original audio with NO SUBS on Sundays back when I was a child. Instead, it was entirely new school and I got drawn into it. I normally didn't like slice of life stories when I was a teenager no thanks to the telebasura culture. But Meteor Garden provided me what telebasuras couldn't. Moderate pacing, good acting, a feisty heroine and I fell in love with the series. It was the beginning of me realizing that not all slice of life stories are boring. It just depends how they're written and Meteor Garden proved it.
But it didn't end with Meteor Garden. Trust me, my interest didn't just limit itself to F4. This was just the beginning of my obsession with Chinovelas.
Post-Meteor Garden days
But it didn't stop with Meteor Garden. No, I just didn't want to stop. I soon got into more of Chinovelas with Westside Story, Lavender, The Poor Prince, Dolphin Bay, Twin Sisters and Return of Condor Heroes from the rival networks ABS-CBN and GMA-7. I remembered how ABS-CBN aired A Chinese Ghost Story starring Barbie Xu but I was more stuck with Dolphin Bay. Then there was Orange Fields with Lavender's leading lady Tammy Chen. I also remembered watching a little bit more like Emerald on the Roof, Silence, The Hospital and those are among a few I could remember. It was that time I didn't get so much interest with newer school Tokusatsu except if there was a pretty protagonist.
Speaking of which, I did end up taking a liking for Wuxia series. A Chinese Ghost Story and Return of Condor Heroes were my very first exposure to such series. When it comes to a lot of martial arts the Wuxia cinema manage to give a lot of insane action. Japanese and Korean action series tend not to exaggerate the action that much. I've watched some Japanese and Korean movies where action feels a little more real. In Chinese entertainment you get a lot of unbelievably exaggerated fight scenes. Take note that some of the best action choreographers are like Taiwanese-Chinese Director Ang Lee. I think that a lot of action directors can learn from his quality of work. Oh, I think Ang Lee puts the sock in Koichi Suckamoto's mouth anytime.
I wanted to check back with more Japanese entertainment with J-Drama while being biased towards Korean entertainment for the first few shows. I felt that while Mandarin and Nihonggo sounded really beautiful but I didn't immediately get used to the Korean language until I watched more Korean shows. I felt Korean was a pretty weird culture and I still don't have much of a liking for it except in a few instances. While I found Song Hye Kyo pretty but I was more attracted to Esther Liu who became a reason why I watched Green Forest, My Home and before that, Westside Story. But I soon got into more of it for the sake of plot than the pretty ladies. Black and White didn't have so many pretty faces but it was nice to see Vic Chou improve from his Meteor Garden days plus the plot was also pretty good.
Then it came: Japanese Tokusatsu fansubs were getting abundant and I would watch more Tokusatsu produced by Toei last decade. Yup, watching Tokusatsu all over again has competed with my love for Chinese entertainment. After my trip to China last 2006, I plan to go to Japan the very "holy ground" of Tokusatsu and Anime. I want to go to Akihabara. I started avoiding Korean shows (again) while returning to it whenever I was bored with Tokusatsu. I soon resumed watching Super Sentai, Kamen Rider and I was glad to have some Metal Hero subs. But then I can still get bored with Tokusatsu for a few months, focus on Chinovelas then I start returning to Tokusatsu. At times, I'll just watch all of them at the same time but it can be very hard to focus on several stuff at once.
But still, I'll admit that I'd still like to watch more of Chinese entertainment than Japanese entertainment depending on my mood. It's sort of like reconnecting to my roots though I'm already immersed with other cultures and I don't believe in cultural purism myself. In short, I don't favor any race or nationality. In the end, it's all about the better offerings. Every country produces bad shows and there's no exemption (though the Philippines produces it at a massive rate with a huge amount of telebasuras and it MUST STOP) to that. I may not be so fond of Korean shows but I thought some of them were pretty entertaining in their own right.
So Happy Chinese New Year!!!!