The romantic Wuxia drama "Love Forever Young," starring Fang Yilun, Liu Lingzi, Ma Wenyuan, Su Xiaotong, Feng Mingchao, and Dai Yanni, is currently airing. Adapted from a manga of the same name, the drama tells the story of two martial arts sects that have been feuding over territory for three generations but end up entangled in a tale of love and hate.
Despite lacking well-known celebrities or extensive publicity, the drama has gained some recognition since its release. The production studio Xin Sheng Tang's previous dramas like "Chef Fang" and "Chef Hua" share a similar style with this series - no high-profile stars or dramatic plot twists. However, they all bring forth a refreshing breeze through their focus on companionship within the daily life genre of costume dramas.
Different from traditional wuxia dramas, "Love Forever Young" sets itself apart by presenting an enjoyable and absurd narrative about the enmity between the two factions despite informing viewers from the start about their three-generation conflict.
The interesting and lively young heroes as well as mysterious ancestors who seemingly complicate relationships add to audience interest. Furthermore, relying on a talented production team ensures sincerity throughout every aspect of costume design to real-life shooting locations. It is evident that works with attitude and sincerity are worthy of audience appreciation.
Capturing Youthful Growth
When discussing a drama series, audiences primarily focus on characters; therefore, evaluating plot quality and plausibility becomes crucial at a deeper level while character portrayal remains most visually striking for viewers.
The character ensemble design in "Love Forever Young" is remarkably successful. As an adaptation from the manga source material, both plot development and character shaping carry distinctive comic book traits—yet this can be understood without criticism because the key lies in how vivid and dynamic these characters are, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.
As the embodiment of beauty in the Yanshan Sect, Chao Xingmu not only possesses extraordinary martial arts skills but is also a complete martial enthusiast. Moreover, he has a countenance that mesmerizes countless young maidens. Chao Xingmu's reputation has already spread within the Baihua Sect, capturing the heart of even the usually aloof Senior Sister Yue Qingqiu.
The younger martial brother, Jun Weiqi, is perceived as a wealthy second generation with simplistic thoughts. He has fallen deeply in love with the mischievous junior sister from the Baihua Sect, showcasing a delightful relationship of both affection and conflict.
Then there's Gu Yulang, a sickly and dependent individual who relies on medication to maintain his vitality. It is hard to imagine such a person being skilled in martial arts. However, he possesses high intelligence despite his weak physical abilities. He channels all his cleverness into wealth accumulation and has become the true embodiment of the tycoon within the Yanshan Sect. His partner, Yu Linglong, happens to be someone who enjoys defending the weak against oppression. Upon discovering Gu Yulang's fragile nature beneath his facade, she showered him with care and became his exclusive bodyguard.
At the beginning of the drama, the enmity between the two sects was portrayed with great severity, as if a major battle was about to commence at any moment. However, in reality, the disciples from both sides were intrigued by each other's sects and began to question whether they should continue this feud.
Prior to their interaction, disciples of Yanshan Sect chanted slogans of "crushing Baihua Sect," while disciples of Baihua Sect chanted slogans of "eradicating Yanshan Sect." Yet, since romantic feelings blossomed between the younger generations of both factions, it was their own sect regulations that became their greatest enemy.
Contrastingly, among the older generation masters who vowed to eliminate each other's sects, Master of Baihua seemed to have stories and connections with several masters from Yanshan Sect, they all abandoned their seriousness and transformed into devoted followers of Baihua master. What kind of grievances had occurred among them before? All remains unknown.
Rules are meant to be broken; it is evident that the rule prohibiting interactions between disciples from both factions is unreasonable. This rule hindered young men and women from pursuing love interests and caused questioning and reflection amongst youths in both Yanshan Sect and Baihua Sect who grew up hearing this imposed regulation. Ultimately, through self-realization and growth, they will redeem themselves from previous generations' enmity.
An unconventional martial arts light comedy
The series opens by setting up a century-long entanglement between Yanshan Sect and Baihua Sect. However, the brief narration accompanied by cartoonish visuals has already established its "absurd" style.
"It is said that there were two formidable experts in Jianghu (martial world), one male and one female; both possessed extraordinary talents but never encountered each other until they competed for a Feng Shui treasure land. After battling fiercely for seven days and nights, the man founded Yanshan Sect atop the mountain, accepting only male disciples, while the woman established Baihua Sect at the foot of the mountain, accepting only female disciples. The two factions never had any contact and several centuries have passed."
This narration clearly carries a sense of legend. Why did these two individuals engage in this battle? What was the outcome? None of it is explained. It is simply stated that no one knows who won or lost, but each established their own sect on different parts of the mountain. These two warriors, who have never laid eyes on each other, haven't disclosed what kind of hatred they hold towards one another but have made an oath to forever remain apart and ensured that their disciples adhere to this rule.
However, in the past century, the two sects have never engaged in a true duel. Even the rules of Yanshan Sect explicitly forbid disciples from conflicting with Baihua Sect. While female disciples of Baihua Sect boast about annihilating Yanshan Sect, they secretly admire the handsome men of Yanshan Sect. The so-called rules seem to be nothing but empty words.
Furthermore, when disciples from both sects meet, the scenes appear absurd and comical. Take Jun Weiqi and Li Yixin for example; although they have long harbored feelings for each other, their young hearts do not comprehend what love truly means.
From the main plot perspective, it seems that this drama will ultimately lead to a grand reconciliation between Yanshan Sect and Baihua Sect. Currently portrayed as an antagonist is Xia Xinhe, a junior sister who left Baihua Sect years ago due to opposition from both sect leaders after eloping with a disciple from Yanshan Sect.
Unfortunately, her husband tragically passed away which fueled her hatred and desire for revenge against both sects. However, her actual goal aligns with that of Yanshan Sect and Baihua Sec - dissatisfaction towards these century-old rules and the desire to abolish them. Her methods are also filled with absurdity; first she disguises her son as a girl to infiltrate Baihua Sect before personally appearing to pressure Hua Zhangmen (the leader) into marrying Tang Zongze from Yanshan Sector.
In reality though, Tang Zongze has long held affection for Hua Zhangmen, and vice versa, but due to strict adherence towards their respective sect's regulations, they have never given each other an official status. They also bear the responsibility of being leaders in their respective sects as it ensures harmony between both sides. This entire series combines absurd comedy with warmth and presents a unique style of martial arts comedy.
Romantic Aesthetics Achieved Through Real Locations
When watching "Love Forever Young," many viewers are undoubtedly captivated by the beautiful and romantic scenes depicted on screen. Director Xia Yu stated that the drama was filmed entirely on location, traveling through Yunan and Guizhou provinces, capturing views from numerous villages and towns. It is this dedication that has resulted in a work filled with romance and sincerity.
Although adapted from a manga source material, if everything were to be shot against green screens it would inevitably appear distorted and fail to achieve the desired effect. Therefore, the drama utilized real landscapes - real mountains, real waters, and real scenic beauty - which made the scenery far more authentic than anything constructed artificially.
Furthermore, in terms of martial arts aesthetics, the drama showcases two distinct factions: Yanshan Sect represents strength while Baihua Sect consists solely of female disciples who abandon traditional masculine toughness found in typical martial arts works; instead they employ a combination of Chinese martial arts techniques fused with ethnic dances. Thus when practicing their combat skills, Baihua disciples move gracefully akin to dancers.
The landscapes of Yunan and Guizhou resemble traditional Chinese ink paintings, a perfect complement to the martial arts style portrayed in this drama, resulting in a fresh, new form of romantic, majestic martial arts aesthetic.