An evil sect has brought calamity upon the world, and a turbulent period of catastrophe is imminent. A pair of young boys and girls awaken in Wuyan Village, embarking on a journey to uncover the mysteries of their origins and their mission as sword bearers.
On January 18th, "Sword and Fairy" as promised, immediately claiming the top spot on various charts. This drama revolves around the intertwined fates of Yue Jinzhao and Yue Qi, who possess a magical resonance connection. It unravels a series of mysterious events, including the rebellion of the Qiyuan Sect, ultimately leading the Yue siblings and their newfound allies, Xianqing and Luo Zhaoyan, to form the team and face the hardships alongside the common people.
It becomes apparent that the reason this drama stands out in the saturated market of xianxia dramas lies not in any particular attention-grabbing element, but rather in the synergy of its many strengths. Firstly, drawing upon Chinese traditional mythology, the series portrays the ancient behemoth Kun as the Ming Zhu, creating a fantastical xianxia world that is both real and illusory, thereby adding a sense of weightiness.
Secondly, the emotional bond and destined fate between the Yue siblings, as well as the unconventional identity swap between the Luo siblings, not only avoid the clichéd reincarnation of love but also make the characters more relatable, addictive, and captivating. Lastly, xianxia is not just about the form but also about the essence. "Sword and Fairy" is remarkable not only for its protagonists' pursuit of justice and benevolence, but also for the presence of the common people under the umbrella of such benevolence.
An intricately woven of emotions
One of the reasons why xianxia works endure is because they convince and resonate with the audience. To achieve this, the depiction of the characters' sense of destiny and the rendering of the story are of utmost importance.
Why does the opening of "Sword and Fairy" feel familiar to the audience? Firstly, it does not immediately introduce a grand and obscure worldview, forcibly immersing the audience. Secondly, the Yue siblings serve as the audience's best eyes; they wake up in Wuyan Village, having lost their memories and being in a state of innocence, perfectly aligning with the audience's mindset.
However, this does not mean that the plot drags on. When Yue Jinzhao (played by Xu Kai) covers his right eye, his left eye sees the future. Yue Qi (played by Yu Shuxin) resists the mission of wielding the sword in her dreams, as well as the elusive master, both of which give the characters a strong sense of destiny. As the two pack their bags and set off to search for their origins, they become the audience's guides, and the story rapidly takes flight.
The siblings infiltrate the Qiyuan Sect, and the scene where Yue Qi merges with the soul fish is hailed as a grand opening. The intense scene composition and the poignant background music instantly stir the audience's emotions. It can be seen that, both in terms of text and audiovisual elements, "Sword and Fairy" pays great attention to narrative efficiency. It firmly captures the audience's attention with its well-crafted couple pairing and a captivating story filled with a sense of destiny. Whether it be game fans or casual viewers, they can quickly immerse themselves in the story.
What is rare is that, besides emphasizing narrative efficiency and the portrayal of the main couple pairing, the other characters in the drama also have clear and complete arcs of growth and intriguing mysteries. If the love between the Yue siblings is destined, then the bond between the Luo siblings is driven by duty. However, who is responsible for writing this destined love? And at what cost is the blood bond of family obtained?
When Bian Luohuan (played by Xu Kai), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Yue Jinzhao, appears, even with a mask on, it is difficult to conceal the deep affection he holds for Yue Qi, inevitably evoking thoughts about the earth-shattering secret hidden behind the Yue siblings' amnesia. The act of splitting the demon pill in half for Luo Zhaoyan by the millennium wolf demon Xianqing (played by Fu Xinbo) unveils a long-forgotten past and tightly intertwines the fates of several individuals.
It is not difficult to see that "Sword and Fairy" inherits the classic approach of the "Chinese Paladin" series, using human nature to depict the immortal and demonic qualities, giving the characters ample motivation and an emotionally gripping story, thus evoking empathy from the audience.
Self, destiny, mission
The second level of attraction in "Sword and Fairy" lies in the audience's empathy with the protagonist's background and destiny, and their applause for their struggles and growth. Rather than being a cultivation path, the drama showcases the inner growth of individuals. The reason why characters like Yue Jinzhao, Yue Qi are enduring and stable is because they start from a blank slate and go through three realms: self-discovery, fate, and finding their purpose.
The journey of Yue Jinzhao and Yue Qi in search of their origins raises the ultimate question of xianxia dramas: Am I still myself when I lose my past memories? How can the new me complete my identity when the memories of the old me awaken within me? Will we still love each other without memories? The peculiar parasitic relationship of the Luo siblings shouts out the protest of "My destiny is mine but not heaven's.," facing the ultimate choice of "small self or greater self."
Yue Jinzhao is unfortunate in being able to glimpse the future but unable to unravel the mystery of his own identity. However, he is fortunate to have his beloved by his side and Yue Qi as his anchor in every aspect of his life. To simplify complexity and remain true to oneself in love is a realm. It can be foreseen that after Yue Jinzhao meets Bian Luohuan, the sense of destiny will become more apparent, but this will not prevent him from clearing a path for his loved one in the already written ending.
The mischievous Yue Qi, like a blank slate, appears carefree, but a life beyond her control is even more frightening. Whether seeing past in dreams, merging with a soul fish, or being called "Ming Zhu," they all symbolize the awakening of the true self. However, as someone who relies on scripts and imagination to navigate social interactions, how can she be prepared for awakening? It is destined for her to get lost in dreams and lose herself in integration. Fortunately, like Yue Jinzhao, they are each other's coordinates, and when she is at a loss, Yue Jinzhao's call brings her back to reality.
The Yue siblings have learned to simplify complexity and remain true to themselves in love, which is a realm. In the future, how they will confront destiny and do what they know is impossible remains a big suspense for the audience and another realm they will strive for. In this process, some changes are quietly happening. Yue Jinzhao and Yue Qi gradually understand, through their mutual protection, that love is not only an emotion but also a responsibility.
We can saw the instinct of love in Yue Qi, and their experience of eliminating evil cults in Luori Village made them realize that they should love themselves, each other, and even unrelated beings. They have been searching for their true selves, fighting against destiny, and have come to understand the path they should take and the mission they should bear. From then on, they are closely connected to the greater cause. Self, destiny, and mission, the expression of these three realms allows "Sword and Fairy" to transcend the limited scope of romance and love and rediscover the original purpose of xianxia dramas, presenting a convincing chivalrous core.
The courage to take a step back
In the context of the increasing homogeneity of appearance and content in xianxia dramas, is there still room for innovation in this important category that represents the ultimate romance for Chinese people? "Sword and Fairy" provides a new solution.
Firstly, the love story avoids clichés. In the context of reincarnation love stories, "Sword and Fairy" takes a different path and finds a new way in the conventional framework. Xu Kai plays two roles, but they are not related to reincarnation, instead incorporating the concept of time travel.
Yue Jinzhao and Yue Qi appear as siblings but are actually lovers, creating tension through their mismatched identities and leaving room for imagination. The mentor-student relationship between Bian Luohuan and Yue Qi satisfies the audience's expectation for contrasting intimate relationships. In addition, the emotional entanglements between different groups such as human-demon and immortal-demon fulfill the romantic imagination of diverse love.
Secondly, the focus is shifted back to the mortal realm. Previous xianxia dramas focused more on immortals and less on chivalry, more on personal relationships and less on righteousness, more on love and hate and less on compassion. "Sword and Fairy" takes a different approach, taking a step back, weakening the celestial and divine elements, emphasizing chivalry over immortality, which not only echoes the fine traditions of the "Chinese Paladin" series but also establishes effective communication with the audience.
What makes the "Chinese Paladin" series deeply ingrained in people's hearts is the combination of sorrow and chivalry in its emotional tone. On one hand, in "Chinese Paladin 1," the laughter that accompanies Li Xiaoyao throughout the journey lays the groundwork for the tragic death of Lin Yueru, creating a powerful contrast that achieves a moving aesthetic. In "Chinese Paladin 3," the three incarnations of Zixuan and Changqing accumulate the tragic undertones, leading to an emotional climax.
On the other hand, although the "Xianjian" series emphasizes a sense of fate, the protagonists never submit to it. Li Xiaoyao doesn't bow to destiny and fulfills his dream of becoming a hero. Zhao Ling'er, as a descendant of Nüwa, sacrifices herself for the world and falls into Li Xiaoyao's embrace. What makes them charming is that they defy their predetermined fate. "Sword and Fairy" successfully captures this trait and unleashes the power of defying destiny through growth.
The Yue siblings are a pair of characters whose personal growth spans a wide arc. Waking up in turbulent times and losing their memories is unfortunate, but they don't believe in fate, they believe in choices. They are kind, righteous, and grateful, even though they feel a slight fear of the future due to the mysterious connections, their determination to fight for their lives never wavers.
"Sword and Fairy" emphasizes emotional development and goes beyond the small-scale romance, revealing the broad-mindedness of ordinary people towards all beings, the world, and everything, and pointing out the chivalrous core of the drama. This explains why "Sword and Fairy" can break through the criticism that xianxia dramas often face today.
After ten episodes, what will happen to the relationship between Yue Qi, Yue Jinzhao, and Bian Luohuan? The main characters are gathered, but this complex time-traveling story has only just begun to unfold. Let us follow in their footsteps to see what will happen.