Thursday, March 7, 2013

TDrama Review: The Devil Beside You

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The Gist: College student: Qi Yue (Rainie Yang) is mortified when she accidentally gives her love letter to the class terror Jiang Meng (Mike He) instead of the cool and sweet basketball captain, Yuan Yi (Kingone Wang). Once Jiang Meng has his sights on Qi Yue, he has no intentions of letting her get away. Even though Yuan Yi eventually accepts Qi Yue’s feelings, Jiang Meng is determined to interfere and claim her for himself. This situation is complicated by the fact that Qi Yue’s mother, Xue Wei (Ge Wei Ru), is newly engaged to Jiang Meng’s father, the school president. As soon to be step siblings, Qi Yue can’t get away from Jiang Meng, especially once they start living under the same roof. As Qi Yue begins to develop feelings for Jiang Meng, she has to hide it from her parents, figure out how to let Yuan Yi down gently, and escape Jiang Meng’s biggest fan, tough girl Xin Li Xiang (Ivy Fan).  
1.The Central Romance
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So often watching dramas, I find myself thinking, oh my god, did I just wade through 16 episodes just to see these characters kiss once in the last episode? Not that I don’t appreciate nuances of relationship building, but sometimes I just want some darn intimacy! That’s one thing that Taiwanese dramas are great at and TDBY in particular. You don’t have to wait long for development between the characters and once the romance starts, you get plenty of it. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before (Marmalade Boy, anyone?), but it’s still a romance fraught with unusual difficulties, tackling them at a decent pace. If you find yourself wanting a romance drama with plenty of romance, this is my number 1 recommendation.
2.The Side Romances

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As if the central romance wasn’t enough, all the side romances are just as compelling. After being ditched by Yuan Yi, he is quickly claimed by her best friend, Qing Zi (Tsai Pei Lin). I love how these two balance each other, fulfilling how much they just want to be loved and adored by other people. Second, it’s pretty obvious, pretty quick that Jiang Meng’s friend Ping (Masuyama Yuki) has big eyes for Li Xiang, who doesn’t spare him a second glance next to Jiang Meng, whom she affectionately calls Prince. I am absolutely obsessed with Li Xiang – I think she is a fantastic character, coming across snarky, but is really desperate and in need of some friends. Her passionate fanaticism is mirrored by Ping, who is just as obsessed with her, but is just a little quieter about it. This show may seem to tie up its ends too neatly, but the pairings all make sense, so it’s hard to argue.
3.The Parent Romance

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Sick of romance yet? Me neither! I think this is the first time I actually liked have a second generation romance running alongside the kids. Way to go TDBY! The silliness of Qi Yue’s mom and Jiang Meng’s dad often turns to very sincere moments about being a parent, being a single parent and trying to maintain your child’s happiness while going after your own. Individually, the characters are great, but together, they are dynamite. As much as their happiness harps on Qi Yue and Jiang Meng’s, you just have to root for their family.  
4. Ah Rang

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Played by the ever talented Ceng Shao Zong, Ah Rang doesn’t make his first appearance until halfway through the show and at that point, is pretty much terrorizing everyone we love. Ah Rang quickly became one of my favorite characters as we see that he just wants some love, like everyone else. I enjoy it when antagonists get some redemption and reconciliation and TDBY does this seamlessly with Ah Rang. He gets a good range from totally nuts to totally adorable, which Shao Zong plays impressively well. As despicable as he is sometimes, when he looks sad, I just had to forgive him!
5.The Pacing

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At 20 episodes, The Devil Beside You is pretty long for a drama and most at that length way overstay their welcome, but this show never drags on. I never once thought that TDBY should be any shorter than it is and you will definitely power through it quickly once you get started.
1.The Music

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There is good and bad when it comes to the audio accompanying TDBY. The score can get to be a little cartoony and weird while the show is going on, but the opening song is awesome! It’s Chou Nan Ren by Huang Yida and it’s so catchy that I found myself looking forward to the opening of every episode just so I could hear it. It is now chilling on my iPod.
1.The Third Friend

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But really though, wasn’t there a third girl? Xiao Cai (Fu Xiao Yun) completes a trio of friend with Qi Yue and Qing Zi, but about 2/3 of the way through the series, she has just totally vanished. The three of them are always together at the start of the show that it’s bizarre when she’s just no longer around without any explanation. Her spot is overtaken by Li Xiang, who is admittedly much more awesome, but it’s still jarring. With Qing Zi and Qi Yue in such enveloping romances, it would have left a good opening to shed some light on being single when your friends aren’t, but instead, she’s just written off the show.
2.The Production Value

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While the romances are awesome, the production value of Taiwanese dramas is substantially lower than their Japanese and Korean counterparts. The audio has too much ambient noise sometimes and it’s difficult to hear the actors and the picture isn’t always very crisp. Also, the transitions are occasionally choppy and disruptive. (Don’t let this point totally deter you from watching though, the story more than makes up for it).
So… if you’re expecting a crisp clear high budget drama, this one is not that, but you shouldn’t mind it because the romances are all fantastic. This is one of my top five and definitely my favorite Taiwanese drama. Don’t let the length put you off because you won’t notice it at all. In fact, I’m sure you’ll want a bit more.
Final Grade: A

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  1. I just totally agree with your review. I re-watched it two weeks ago just for the fun of seeing a realistic romance on-screen (realistic intimacy-wise, not contextually of course). Mike He just steals the show, he makes the perfect devil. Rainie brings out the best in him; they really sparkle together.
    The kisses are just great. You said it. I said it. It is said, and it feels so good. You really believe the sweetness of love and the fire of passion between those too.

    The parents are just lovely, I loved them too. The sense of family is central in this drama, and I think it was well depicted.

    You are so right about the weaknesses. The production is a disaster. The concert scene, for instance, is just awful. A song is playing, yet you can totally see it doesn't match the singer's lips movement at all. It's one of these what-the-hell moments when you regain consciousness of reality (you're cut out from the world of fiction, because the scene is just ridiculous).

    Your comment about the third friend made me laugh - I didn't even realized she disappeared by the end of the drama. She was completely expendable.

    1. Well, this show is not short any side characters, so I can see how her disappearance would go unnoticed. It's just sort of funny. I got used to seeing the three of them together, but once we got Li Xiang involved, I notice she kind of took over her spot. Oh well, minor issues :)

      This was I think the first Taiwanese drama I ever watched so it has a special place in my heart. I'm probably about due for a rewatch...

  2. I just found your review! I'm deeply into K-dramas, but the first Asian drama I ever saw was "Devil Beside You," in something like 2007. I wasn't really paying much attention then, but when I got into K-dramas, of course I went back to re-watch it. And loved it.

    You're right about the production values. A lot of ambient noise and general messiness. Are Taiwan dramas always behind K-dramas in production values, or is this because it was made in 2005? K-dramas in 2005 were pretty rough too (Lovely Samsoon an example).

    But the theme music makes me so happy and the characters are great. And K-dramas have only recently started to make kiss scenes that steamy.

    I love that I can read stuff here about the Taiwanese and Japanese stuff (that I may never have time to watch!)

    1. Thanks for commenting! I think tdramas tend to be a little lower quality but this drama definitely suffers from being ten (!) years old. My favorite drama just you is also a tdrama and the quality is almost kdrama levels.

      Tdramas definitely still have the intimacy on lock but I am glad to see kdramas getting steamier. Time is the enemy of every drama fan - I hope you find some time and I look forward to your comments in the future!

    2. I'll have to check out Just You. Because you have Shut Up Flower Boy Band and Devil Beside You in your top ten, I know I can relate to your taste--and I haven't been sure what to try when I explore T-dramas.

      Also, I nominated you for a Liebster: Thank you for the great blog! I'll be back soon!

    3. Thanks! That's so sweet. I loved loved loved Just You. It takes a couple episodes to find its footing but I pretty much just blanket recommend this to everyone. It's so sweet and romantic!