The urban fantasy and action cdrama "I Am Nobody (Yi Ren Zhi Xia, 异人之下)" is currently being hotly broadcasted. The series is adapted from the popular Chinese manga series "Under One Person" by Mi Er. Upon its release, it received a high IMDb rating of 9.4. The vast world-building, extraordinary abilities of the Yi Ren (异人), and the unique visual aesthetics rooted in Chinese classical culture have sparked a wave of Chinese fantasy in early September, igniting the passion of many viewers.
The ordinary young protagonist Zhang Chulan (played by Peng Yuchang) is drawn into an unprecedented world of Yi Ren after his grandfather's body mysterious disappearance. Faced with the sudden onslaught of other forces and the unexpected arrival of the enigmatic girl Feng Baobao (played by Wang Yinglu), Zhang Chulan is determined to no longer conceal his own extraordinary abilities.
As Zhang Chulan gradually delves into the secrets of his grandfather's past, he becomes immersed in the world of the Yi Ren, where the mysteries of history begin to unfold. And Feng Baobao's mysterious background appears to be the key to unraveling the enigma. Confronted with successive crises, the young Yi Ren unite and form deep friendships and bonds. On this path of growth, each individual searches for their own path and righteousness, as a clash between light and darkness looms.
In the world of Yi Ren, the process of heroism differs from the typical Western narrative patterns of sudden mutations resulting from scientific experiments, sudden superpowers, or accidental discoveries in treasure-seeking adventures.
Whether it is Zhang Chulan, who appears carefree but is actually astute and thoughtful, Wang Ye, who seems relaxed and carefree but is actually calculated and shrewd, or Feng Baobao, whose combat prowess is off the charts but whose background remains a mystery, they all grow amidst the vicissitudes of life while still maintaining the fervor and sincerity of youth.
What sets "I Am Nobody" apart is that it draws upon traditional Chinese culture, highlighting a latent potential that we ourselves possess, known as "Qi (炁)". This series takes Chinese traditional culture and spiritual core as its starting point, establishing a unique texture and value system inherent in Eastern fantasy.
Currently, the reputation of "I Am Nobody" is rapidly fermenting, much like the growth of the protagonist Zhang Chulan. We are focusing on this series because we are curious about the twists and turns that will occur in the world of the Yi Ren, led by Zhang Chulan. At the same time, we are eager to see how "I Am Nobody" will progress as a live-action adaptation of a popular Chinese comic.
Cultural symbols and the visualization of Chinese aesthetics
In the international market, live-action adaptations of comics are always a classic topic. It goes without saying that various Hollywood blockbusters adapted from Marvel and DC comics have achieved great success. Similarly, some excellent works from east asia are actively exploring live-action adaptations, such as the recently discussed "One Piece" and "Moving", to name a few.
What did "I Am Nobody" do right to simultaneously capture popularity and acclaim? First and foremost, it successfully restored the spirit of the original comic work. Zhang Chulan did not transform into a traditional protagonist focused solely on leveling up and battling; he remained the person who longed for an ordinary life but was dragged into the world of extraordinary beings. Feng Baobao was not a cold fighter; when Zhang Chulan got angry and wanted to leave because of the seal, her eyes turned red when she shouted, "Come back." The story emphasizes people rather than extraordinary beings.
Based on the current plot developments, the main storyline of the original comic has been largely preserved, with various iconic scenes intact. Feng Baobao wearing high heels, Feng Sha Yan using space-time manipulation to beat up Zhang Chulan, and more, fully utilize the advantages of visual and auditory language.
The filming locations in Chongqing and Longhu Mountain in Yingtan, Jiangxi, cleverly integrate the unique geographical features of Chongqing and the corresponding aspects of Longhu Mountain with the chaotic world of extraordinary beings, creating a vivid and immersive background.
With well-framed scenes and a suitable atmosphere, the true essence is revealed after the surface is peeled away. "I Am Nobody" presents the concrete manifestation of Chinese traditional cultural symbols such as Chinese martial arts, the eight trigrams of Yin and Yang, and Qi, as well as precise depictions of traditional folk cultures like Feng Baobao's Sichuan dialect.
These elements interweave to create the cultural backdrop of the story. The sense of regional identification and the dissemination of cultural symbols together form the foundation of the story's appeal. In terms of visual effects, "I Am Nobody" effectively balances the sense of fantasy found in anime with the immersive experience of live-action films and retains the passionate core message of the story.
Secondly, the narrative in the adaptation is clear and logical. The importance of the opening for a drama is self-evident. "I Am Nobody" cleverly amplifies the humor elements from the original, fully utilizing the unique expression style of the manga to connect the worldview of the story and the numerous main and supporting characters.
With the emergence of the "Qi Ti Yuan Liu (炁体源流)," Zhang Chulan becomes the center of attention in the world of Yi Ren. Familiar elements such as Longhu Mountain, "Na Dou Tong Express," and various factions with different powers all make their appearances.
The mysterious aspect of the Yi Ren world gradually unfolds. In just four episodes, almost all the main characters smoothly enter the scene, and the vast world structure appears before the audience. By the 5th or 6th episode, the story has already laid out most of the information points and entered the preparatory content for the first clash of multiple forces in the Yi Ren world, the tournament.
The Chinese Superhero
A noticeable change is that "I Am Nobody," while retaining the core spirit of the works, expands on the emotional expression centered around the concept of Dao. Specifically, in the drama, Zhang Chulan's childhood memories with his grandfather Zhang Xilin are added. In those memories, Zhang Xilin tells Zhang Chulan to endure, explaining that being an Yi Ren being brings not only an increase in power but also endless troubles.
Therefore, before meeting Feng Baobao, Zhang Chulan is a young man who constantly reminds himself to endure the chaotic life, fidgeting with the rubber band on his hand. But when Feng Baobao appears, the boiling passion deep inside him bursts out like the snapped rubber band, no longer restrained.
The expansion of emotions, on one hand, provides a more detailed foundation for Zhang Chulan's inner growth, lowering the entry barrier for non-anime fans. On the other hand, it subtly points to the underlying theme of the story, through these scenes to make audience feel the strength and strengthen the sense of connection between people.
As a result, when the white-haired Lao Tian Shi drinks with Tian Jinzhong, he leaves a cup for Zhang Huaiyi and sheds tears when he stands in front of the disabled Tian Jinzhong, speechless. Based on the expansion of the anime's core, not only do viewers feel the youthful passion, but it also touches the older generation who were once young, while also setting up future developments.
Good Chinese film and television works often have the function and characteristics of carrying and conveying outstanding traditional culture. In the Jianghu, loyalty is essential for interpersonal communication, and conscience is fundamental for personal conduct. "I Am Nobody" expresses this Chinese-style superhero culture that is completely different from Western superheroes.
Each character in the story has their own unique Dao, and each person has their own latent Qi. It emphasizes internal change, which originates from Chinese traditional culture and is what "I Am Nobody" want to explore and interpret.
As the live-action adaptation of a high-quality Chinese comic works with a large fan base, "I Am Nobody" has finally found another way to open itself up in today's path of live-action adaptation. It uses concepts from traditional culture, folklore, and martial arts to merge with the urban superpowers full of manga sensibilities, igniting the passion for Chinese-style superheroes that the audience yearns to see in a local context.