In 2023, besides mystery dramas "Who Is He", and "The Long Season" regaining their hold on the audience's attention, the tactics and heroic martial arts dramas have also made a comeback with a new style.
Recently, "The Ingenious One," led by Chen Xiao and Mao Xiaotong, has rapidly gained popularity. The combination of revenge narrative, martial arts, ingenious reasoning, and commercial warfare has made this costume drama full of suspense and excitement.
Many viewers are marveling at the return of the hot-blooded martial arts world that depicts loyalty, heroism, and courage. At the same time, "The Ingenious One" has also made breakthroughs in visual aesthetics, striving to retain the chivalrous charm of traditional martial arts in both appearance and essence.
The antique and natural costume and makeup, gorgeous and realistic scenery, delicate and melodious music, and intense martial arts actions have deepened the quality of the drama, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in the joy and revenge of the martial arts world with the protagonist team. This drama has aroused the passion of long-hidden martial arts fans and once again sparked discussions about martial arts dramas.
"The Ingenious One" is a high-quality drama that attempts to break the emotional idol routine of traditional costume dramas with innovative designs. Currently, the careful layout of Yunxiang has seen initial results, with the Shengsi case coming to a close, the Caobang no longer shining as brightly as before, and the mystery of Yuntai still unsolved. The challenges that await Yunxaing and Shu Ya'nan are still ongoing.
Traditional Martial Arts Spirit
The soul of martial arts lies in its heroic characters. Without them, it would be lacking. "The Ingenious One" features characters with strong personalities and contrasting traits, making each appearance a spectacle.
Chen Xiao returns to his refined gentlemanly role, portraying Yunxiang, who is skilled in strategy and tactics. Despite his frail appearance as a scholar, he can manipulate the winds and tides of the bloody rivers and lakes with his intelligence.
Mao Xiaotong sheds her usual sweet smile and dons a refreshing new look as a heroic woman in red, Shu Ya'nan, who not only serves as the main force of martial prowess, but also plays a part in the suspenseful plot.
The protagonist of "The Ingenious One" is a young man named Yunxiang, who enters the martial arts world burdened with the hatred of his annihilated clan. Despite years of arduous cultivation on Yuntai, he cannot let go of his obsession, instead adding a fatal sense of loneliness to his character. Such a character must find a way to resonate with the audience in a subtle manner.
The pairing of Yunxiang and Shu Ya'nan conforms to the modern audience's aesthetic for new male and female lead characters. The female lead is no longer a fragile girl waiting to be saved by the male lead, nor an ignorant girl who has never seen the dangers of the martial world. The strong duo creates tension that drives the plot forward.
In addition, the performances of Tang Xiaotian as the aristocratic Su Mingyu, Xu Lingyue as the elegant and Ke Menglan, and Liu Guanlin as the iron-willed and tender-hearted knife-wielding Jin Biao, complement each other as they accompany each other on their journey, increasing their tacit understanding day by day.
The show kicks off with a tight rhythm, bringing together the four elements of a thrilling story. The characters' mysteries are slowly unraveled as they progress through various challenges, such as when Yunxiang sets out to find clues for revenge in the first episode. The settings change frequently, from the riverside to the marketplace, from the mansion to the prison, with Yunxiang always putting himself in danger and using his wisdom to confront officials, bandits, and tyrants.
In a dangerous Jianghu like this, it's only natural that there are some exciting fight scenes. The highlight of the show's martial arts is undoubtedly the rain fight scene choreographed by Shu Ya'nan. The fine rain and dark night create a tense and thrilling atmosphere, making the chase through the narrow alleyways and the intense combat seem mysterious and chilling. The realistic sound of swords clashing on the thick water surface, combined with the beautifully designed martial arts moves, enhances the visual and auditory effects of the show's action scenes.
Director You Dazhi, who directed the highly-rated martial arts dramas "Twin of Brothers" and "Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei", as well as the martial arts choreography team, ensure the show's martial arts and rhythm are top-notch. In addition, many talented actors contribute to the show's ups and downs. Qin Lan and Wang Jinsong are responsible for the business and strategy plotline, while Hui Yinghong and Huang Haibing add a martial arts flavor to the show. Together, they help create the authentic Chinese martial arts style of "The Ingenious One".
Love and Loyalty in the Jianghu
The conflicts and struggles of the Jianghu, from ancient times to the present, often stem from the grudges of the previous generation and the fierce competition for fame and fortune. "The Ingenious One" is no exception. Luo Wenjia, who suffered a tragic family massacre in his childhood, changed his name to Yunxiang and joined the Yuntai to study, and later sought revenge.
In the complex Jianghu of Luo's family village, the Caobang gang, the Su family of the royal merchant, and the Yuntai, Yunxiang took the initiative to lay down chess pieces and attract all kinds of people to fight for it. From defeating the local tyrants who covered the sky with one hand to witnessing the downfall of Qi Tianfeng, the leader of the Caobang gang, he made step-by-step progress, and also achieved his own growth and the establishment of his inner feelings in the turbulent Jianghu.
Shu Ya'nan was an unexpected appearance for Yunxiang, which also aroused the soft side of Yunxiang's emotions. The two of them went from mutual suspicion to knowing each other and then to mutual affection. The whole process was gradual and orderly, and they were both comrades and lovers.
In the early episodes, the ostentatiousness of Yunxiang and the decisive collision of Shu Ya'nan produced many funny plot. In the middle stage, the discussion of reason and emotion between the two, and the contrasting plot of the weak scholar and the decisive female swordsman also became one of the attractive points of "The Ingenious One".
In recent episodes, the male and female leads, who used to only intersect when investigating cases or having arguments, have finally come to a mutual understanding. This has once again increased the cohesion of the small team, urging Yunxiang to continue his pursuit of the truth. Director You Dazhi mentioned that during filming, they used various techniques to segment the actors' reactions into many different facial expressions.
Through the use of jump cuts and close-ups, the audience is brought into the relationship between Yunxiang and Shu Ya'nan, allowing them to feel their inner world. As the story progresses, the changes in the camps of good and evil, and the constant reversals of the villains, continue to attract viewers to delve deeper into the layers of mysteries waiting to be solved.
It is worth noting that the supporting characters are also given enough space. In addition to the blossoming romance between Su Mingyu and Ke Menglan, who have disparate backgrounds, the head of the Su family, Su Huairou, and Jin Biao each have their own development paths, which are linked to the main storyline.
In recent episodes, Wang Jinsong's portrayal of Qitianfeng, the leader of the Cao Gang, has suffered a heavy blow amidst internal and external troubles. This once ambitious hero has fallen into the abyss of despair in his old age, which is inevitably poignant.
Exquisitely Upgraded Realistic Scenes in "The Ingenious One"
As an ancient costume drama, the creation of a beautiful aesthetic is a highly scrutinized aspect. From various details, one can feel that the creators of "The Ingenious One" have poured a lot of effort into this aspect.
Firstly, the clothing and styling are fresh and elegant, with each design closely fitting the character. For example, Yun Xiang's refined scholar-style costume uses cotton and linen materials for a light and elegant color palette, such as moon grey and misty white. The embroidery patterns mainly feature landscape and tree themes in ink wash style. This forms a strong contrast with Jin Biao's rough leather and straw hat attire.
Similarly, for female characters, Shu Ya'nan's chivalry costume is distinct from Ke Menglan's gauzy Ming style dress, while Su Huairou's look emphasizes the use of silk and jewelry to highlight her noble status. Each costume strictly adheres to the character's background and personality traits.
Secondly, the use of props such as architecture and decorations to symbolize characters is noteworthy. The main setting of Liansheng Lane went through a process of rising from nothing, much like the human heart in the story, as Chen Xiao mentioned in an interview.
The production team also specially designed incense burners placed around Yun Xiang, with the smoke rising in front of the camera like the unfathomable thoughts of the character. For example, when Yun Xiang first appears, there is a shot of him carving a wooden lion, which later becomes the gate of the Luo family village, representing his premeditated revenge plan.
The scenes and action scenes in the series are extremely challenging to the quality of martial arts dramas. Currently, the size and composition of the scenes in "Yun Xiang Zhuan" are outstanding, with exquisite scenes such as snow, rainy nights, fights on the attic, and scenery shot. Coupled with the appropriate use of filters and natural light, the well-designed fight scenes are crisp, sharp, and visually appealing. This fills the gap left by previous costume dramas with distorted filters, wrong costumes form, and slow-motion action scenes in recent years, and meets the audience's expectations for a well-crafted Chinese martial arts drama.
In fact, the popularity of Chinese martial arts dramas like "The Ingenious One" reflects the changes in the genre in recent years. After the early works of Jin Yong, Gu Long, and Liang Yusheng established the status of martial arts dramas in the hearts of the audience, the rise of Xuanhuan and Xianxia dramas, as well as the emergence of romance dramas as a sub-genre, even surpassed the popularity of martial arts dramas at one point. Now, with dramas like "The Ingenious One" that preserve the traditional spirit and rustic charm of martial arts dramas, creators are able to find innovative ways to adjust and innovate.
"The Ingenious One" chooses to build a grander plot, with struggles and business wars enriching the story's depth. Combined with an ensemble cast and comedic elements, the modern perspective is more in line with the psychological state of today's audiences. Maybe today's audiences no longer expect traditional heroic male characters, but instead focus more on the emotional expression and humanistic aspects of character development. At the same time, viewers also pay more attention to the linearity and pacing of the story, hoping to see more compact, interesting, and profound plot developments.