Douluo Continent (2021) Review
Entertaining c-drama with plenty of light-hearted moments
I bumped into this fantasy/wuxia c-drama by accident. Not a fan of Xiao Zhan and hence, have not been anticipating this drama despite all the publicities and hoopla. But the first 2 episodes got me hooked on, and I have been following the series daily. What is so great about this drama that I spent slightly over an hour every day watching 2 newly released episodes? If you go by Douban’s rating score of 6.2 from 700K viewers, then this series is nothing but an average fantasy costume drama production.
However, there is a sign of over 700 reviews. It means that this is a popular series with a serious and loyal fanbase from the novel, manga, computer game, and anime. Considering Xiao Zhan’s ever-growing hardcore fans, you have plenty of interests that kept this c-drama on top of the chart throughout its airing during the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The first thing that I checked on any costume c-drama is the storyline. Most of the time, the storyline is so crappy that you would think the screenwriters are some of the stupidest people within the television industry. The storyline here is your typical fantasy wuxia where the main protagonist started as a lame duck and transformed himself into an expert fighter/soul master through cultivation/leveling up throughout his adventure.
The positive news here is that there is no overemphasis or overdependence on Xiao Zhan and Wu Xuanyi, as the other 5 members of the Shrek Team and the 2/3 teachers get their share of airtime too. This is a plus point because what makes some storylines unbearable is when you see the ML and FL dominates the scenes. Another great news is that romance is not given much emphasis in this series. You don’t have a storyline where ML and FL would fall in love, got into some disagreement and separate, fall in love again, separate again, etc.
Another good thing is that there is not much fake studio setting. Where possible, the production team finds real bushes or secondary forests especially for scenes involving the hunting of soul beasts. Okay, there were occasionally fake studio settings like in Ep 23 and 24 when the Seven Devils were fighting the Fiend battle team in Xi Si City. I can’t understand the need for those mushroom-like structures in the fighting scenes, but they were not particularly hideous.
Tang San/Xiao Zhan is adorable but his character is very much Mary-Sue-like. Brave, charming, handsome, righteous, honest, etc with a tragic past and revenge mission. The female lead however tries too hard to be cute. Wu Xuanyi/Xiao Wu’s introduction in Ep 2 as she entered Nuoding Acadamy was so bad, it reeks of overacting. Granted her performances improve as the series progresses but she tries too hard to be cute in some of the scenes. When she acts normally, it looks more natural.
Her acting will improve as gets into more drama, and she could be as popular as her “Rocket Girls 101” co-member, Yang Chaoyue, who is now ranked as a Forbes Top-100 Celebrity in China given the right dramas and movies. I don’t like Ou Si Ke’s character – too talkative and his penchant for writing during an inopportune time like when they are about to fight left me baffled and confused.
There were numerous light-hearted moments that make this series enjoyable. I love watching Xiao Wu trying repeatedly to kiss Tang San but failed to do so; or DuGu Yan playfulness in claiming Tang San as her husband; or DuGu Bo eccentric humor and quirky common-sense; or Xiao Wu lack of understanding of male/female relationship, or Ms. Liu obsession with Tang San’s sifu, etc. Too many instances to list them out but they make this series worth re-watching, albeit on selected episodes.
The chemistry between Tang San and Xiao Wu is evident for all to see because I believe, Xiao Wu’s happy-go-lucky character fits Wu Xianyi’s natural disposition. This couple reeks of cuteness overload. The other couples don’t give me the same excitement as Tang San/Xiao Wu. And how did Calvin Chen as Tang San’s master be that good looking at 40!!
This is a CGI and VFX heavy production. Every time a character uses his/her inner power, CGI and/or VFX is required. I thought the CGI and visual effect were beautifully done and nothing was particularly amiss or looking out of place. The soul beasts are all computer-generated too, and their incorporation into the fighting scenes is not bad either.
Of course, there are times when the characters’ flying or qingqong seem to challenge the law of physics, but that is to be expected in this heavy-laden CGI/VFX that must have kept the CGI/VFX working overtime during the post-production processes. On a related note, Visual Impact Digital Production, the company engaged to provide the CGI/VFX for the series admitted of plagiarism in the drama’s opening title sequence through the use of His Dark Materials and the character Jhin in League of Legends. Luckily this controversy was a nip in the bud, and the c-drama was not affected by it.
Now the ending – typically expected ending with a prelude to Season 2 clearly in the minds of the Directors/Producers. There is a cliff-hanger that is designed to whet the viewer’s appetite for Season 2. Just hope that “Douluo Continent 2” will not suffer the same fate as “Evernight 2” – the sequel could not match the series original success; or “Princess Agents” where the sequel never takes off.
My overall verdict of this series is 8.0/10. A must-watch for Xiao Zhan’s fans and those who like video-game type of levelling up. Plenty of funny and enjoyable moments.
Story – 9.0/10
Acting – 7.5/10
Music – 7.5/10
Rewatch value – 8.0/10
Overall – 8.0/10