The cdrama "Judge Dee's Mystery" became a hit even before its release. It has received over 8 million reservations on the platform, making it the highest-ever reservation record on Youku. Moreover, it marks Netflix's first purchase of a historical suspense cdrama. In recent years, suspense dramas have gained immense popularity, captivating viewers and generating high anticipation, both nationally and globally. The confidence of "Judge Dee's Mystery" lies in its captivating content.
Three new for Judge Dee's Mystery
Judge Dee is a well-known figure in China, not only as one of the famous ministers of the Tang Dynasty but also through the portrayal of the righteous and fearless magistrate detective by the renowned actor Liang Guanhua on screen. With the combination of real history and fictional interpretation, the foundation of the audience is solid, and their aesthetic expectations are naturally high. How can the story of Judge Dee be further told? "Judge Dee's Mystery" brings three new dimensions to the narrative.
Firstly, it offers a fresh perspective. "Judge Dee's Mystery" is adapted from the eponymous novel written by the famous Dutch writer, sinologist, and diplomat Robert van Gulik. It tells the story of Chinese court cases using the narrative techniques of detective novels, presenting the youth of Judge Dee and the grandeur of the prosperous Tang Dynasty from an international perspective.
Secondly, it introduces new characters. "Judge Dee's Mystery" starts the story from Judge Dee's youth, abandoning the stereotypical characters and creating a more modern version of Judge Dee. The drama revolves around Judge Dee, forming a concentric circle of two layers of character relationships, with high character recognition and a wealth of information.
The first layer is the main character relationships. The opening case, the "Phoenix Seal Case," swiftly establishes Judge Dee's personal image: a free-spirited individual with a sense of justice and astonishing insight. Among the members of the investigation team, Hong Liang, a loyal servant who has watched Judge Dee grow up, brings a sense of reassurance, acting as a mentor and father figure. Qiao Tai and Ma Rong, the bodyguards, possess courage and loyalty but lack strategic thinking, providing humorous moments during the investigation process. Outside of solving cases, the young Judge Dee also has a personal growth arc, including the mystery of his background, his bond with his wife Cao An, and the intriguing relationship with the Empress.
The second layer is the character relationships within each individual case. Judge Dee travels to different places, where unusual cases occur. Based on the revealed star-studded cast list, all the villains are firmly established, and the masterminds behind each case are intricately linked to Judge Dee. For instance, in the "Phoenix Seal Case," Wei Wuji, played by Zhang Jiayi, is Judge Dee's mentor and a crucial courtier who stands against the new policy. He spreads rumors of the "Heavenly Fire" and even disregards human life to achieve his goals. As the truth unfolds, the relationship between teacher and student becomes poignant, leaving a lingering taste of the struggle between human nature and power.
Lastly, the structure of "Judge Dee's Mystery" is innovative. The drama is divided into separate cases, with nine interconnected yet independent storylines. When we mention the new structure, it does not mean that the concept of separate cases is uncommon. Rather, it refers to the emphasis on reasoning and evidence within each case, incorporating the storytelling style of Eastern court cases into the structure of each case. This is why the drama is not concerned about spoilers. Even though the identity of the real culprit can be deduced from the cast, the twists and turns in the investigation process provide an immersive experience. The credit for this engaging experience goes to the well-crafted structure of the script.
Three highlights of the historical costume
Suspense drama are the surprise and immersion brought by the historical setting, the logicality and freshness generated by the suspense elements. "Judge Dee's Mystery" embodies traditional Eastern aesthetics throughout the series, presenting the splendid and extraordinary landscapes of the Tang Dynasty from multiple dimensions. It seamlessly integrates the ultimate Eastern aesthetics into the scenes, styles, and camera work, creating a unique aesthetic experience that emphasizes richness in scenes, strength in style, and precision in cinematography. This aesthetic experience actively participates in the storytelling, further enhancing the sense of the story. The plot development and the process of solving cases no longer solely rely on dialogue but also rely on the combined audiovisual effects. This naturally accelerates the pace of the plot, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in the search for truth and the unraveling of the mysteries.
"Judge Dee's Mystery" is set in the Tang Dynasty, with scenes not only in Chang'an, but also in various other locations such as Penglai and Lanfang, encompassing a wide range of settings including islands, deserts, and snowy regions. The combination of the era and the geographical locations is vividly presented. The "Phoenix Seal Case" takes place in Chang'an, showcasing the grandeur of the palace and the bustling streets.
A visually stunning scene of a sea voyage is featured in the trailer, which is likely part of the "Golden Mystery" storyline. The ship, recreated in a 6,000 square meter studio, is a 1:1 replica with a total length of 70 meters. The immersive experience created by the authentic setting is irreplaceable for the audience and a challenging yet essential feat for the creators.
Furthermore, "Judge Dee's Mystery" is also worth appreciating for its strong aesthetic style and meticulous craftsmanship. Due to its inherent mystery, the overall tone of the drama leans towards darkness, but within the darkness, there are layers of subtlety, like a flickering candle in pitch blackness, skillfully creating an atmosphere and faithfully portraying the era's landscape. In terms of overall color palette, the unassuming elegance amidst antiquity embodies the restrained, implicit, and understated aesthetics of Chinese culture.
The aesthetic style is derived not only from the exquisite grand scenes, but also from the attention to detail, as the customs and traditions of the Tang Dynasty are intricately depicted through food-related details in the drama, such as Hu Bing and Bi Luo, which authentically recreate the daily lives of Tang people, providing a tangible experience.
Lastly, as a suspenseful detective drama, "Judge Dee's Mystery" greatly enhances the richness of information and dramatic tension through its extensive and refined use of visual storytelling. The absence of unnecessary shots is the most notable aspect of the viewing experience. Almost every sudden close-up shot serves as a crucial clue in solving the cases. In the "Phoenix Seal Case," when He Da Jing, a fellow disciple, invites Di Renjie to drink, the details of the bitter taste of the wine and the leaking wine pot may seem insignificant, but soon after, the Jushui Tower suddenly catches fire, revealing the manipulation behind the so-called "Heavenly Fire." It is a deliberate act.
The implicit meaning conveyed through the visuals is equally thought-provoking. Di Renjie discovers that the silk farmers who raise silkworms were burned to death, and the burned silkworms were the ones used in the empress's silk tribute. The county magistrate of Wannian cryptically says, "It's like a fight between immortals," hinting at the strange occurrences surrounding the missing Phoenix Seal and the frequent appearances of Heavenly Fire. The fragments of details continuously connect, ultimately pointing to hidden conflicts within the imperial court. The satisfying feeling of unraveling the mysteries brings great joy to fans of suspense and detective stories.
Three premonitions of platform-oriented thinking
As mentioned earlier, the detective genre is thriving in the drama market, bringing forth high-quality productions and diverse subgenres. "Judge Dee's Mystery" is a rare historical costume suspense detective drama that maintains a distinct advantage in the genre. While there is a constant stream of outstanding modern crime investigation suspense stories, drawing inspiration from the depth of history adds a unique touch to the storytelling, combining the allure of historical tales with the surprises and twists of suspenseful detective plots, providing audiences with fresh perspectives in the collision of genres.
Furthermore, "Judge Dee's Mystery" brings back the Chinese judge's desk genre to the screen, reviving the iconic figure in a contemporary presentation. It demonstrates a leading awareness in terms of audience resonance and cultural confidence.
Looking back, the judge's desk stories are not unfamiliar to the audience, with Di Renjie and Bao Qingtian being classic characters that have emerged from these stories. Through the repeated interpretations in picture books, dramas, and films, they have become widely recognized figures. In recent years, while the suspense genre has risen in popularity, with modern crime investigation and imported detective stories dominating the mainstream, "Judge Dee's Mystery" seeks stories from history and classics, invoking collective memories of the audience, while showcasing the charm of traditional culture and cultural confidence in an international context.
Lastly, as part of Youku's content strategy, "Judge Dee's Mystery" demonstrates the platform's clear understanding of its content positioning and the needs of its audience, as well as its leading actions. With this comprehensive coverage of various subgenres, the platform effectively attracts audiences with diverse aesthetic preferences.
After the release of "Judge Dee's Mystery," it is certain that the mass influence of the suspense and detective genre in this deep-rooted path will reach new heights. According to this standard is not only the voice of the audience but also their aspiration.