Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

After countless calls and anticipation, Fan Xian has returned. On the evening of May 16th, after a 5-year hiatus, "Joy of Life 2" premiered online, skyrocketing in viewership and popularity. With a peak viewership rating surpassing 2.2 and a market share of 10%, it secured the top spot in viewership during the same time slot. On Tencent Video, its internal heat index reached 32,906, making it the first series in history to enter Tencent Video's hit club on its premiere day.

On the second day of its release, the heat index surged to 33,636, breaking the platform's historical record held by "A Dream of Splendor" for two years (33,520). The actual views exceeded 29 million, setting a new high for the first-day views of new dramas in 2024. Topics related to "Joy of Life 2" dominated various social media platforms, with 16 trending searches within two hours of its premiere, almost monopolizing the charts. These impressive figures have solidified "Joy of Life 2" as the "King of Dramas".

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

From a male-oriented work adaptation into a commercialized benchmark five years ago, to leading the entire online drama landscape with a bang upon its return, "Joy of Life" not only ignited another nationwide frenzy but also added fuel to the entire drama market. As a highly anticipated series that has been eagerly awaited for five years, what exactly did it do right? And what risks does it still face? These are questions worth exploring.


The Changes and Constants in "Joy of Life 2"

With the premiere of its first seven episodes under the spotlight, "Joy of Life 2" has elicited polarized reactions, mainly focusing on its narrative style and acting performances. The second season kicks off where the first left off, presenting the biggest mystery: "Is Fan Xian really dead?" Naturally, the protagonist, under the halo of plot armor, is not dead and won't die. "The Death of Fan Xian" serves more as a mirror, reflecting the myriad faces of the world's people.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

What kind of picture does this present? When the news reaches the palace, the "three fathers": Emperor Qing, Chen Pingping, and Fan Jian - are either heartbroken or mad. The princes are all scheming in the shadows. Outside the palace, Fan Xian's "death" triggers a nationwide mourning, turning his funeral into an industry chain with memorabilia, themed visits, and imitation shows.

This farce is just a drizzle compared to what follows: Fan Xian disguises himself and infiltrates the palace, engaging in a knowingly deceptive "negotiation" with Emperor Qing, and conducts a "three-way meeting" with the princes at Baoyue Tower while searching for Teng Zijing's widow, all under a facade of madness.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

At first glance, this is a tale of political intrigue; upon closer inspection, it resembles a comedy. The drastic change in "Joy of Life 2" tone is also evident in its use of outdated modern jokes, such as the phrase "colorful black" and the character Wang Qinian naming his daughter "Baba" (homophonic with "father" in Chinese). These forced comedic elements and the deliberate simplification of plots involving conspiracies, like those led by the Second Prince, dilute the gravity of the series.

The first season's triumphant mix of political intrigue, sentiment, and comedy was a winning formula. So why does the second season feel weaker? It boils down to the mismatch between the narrative style and the audience's evolving tastes. From the writer's perspective, interspersing unexpected lighthearted moments in tense, serious, or tragic atmospheres should be highly engaging for the audience.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

However, from the viewers' perspective, waiting five years only to receive a diluted "sitcom" seems disappointing. Thus, we witness an intriguing situation: the series goes to great lengths to cater to the audience, yet some viewers remain unappreciative. Fortunately, starting from the fifth episode, the political intrigue plotline gains prominence, and the narrative style begins to align with the audience's expectations.

Regarding the performances, the controversy also hinges on the balance between change and consistency. "Joy of Life 2" retains its original cast, including Zhang Ruoyun, Li Qin, Chen Daoming, Wu Gang, Li Xiaoran, and Tian Yu, while introducing new faces like Yu Feihong, Jin Chen, Mao Xiaotong, Wang Churan, Wang Xiaochen, and Fu Xinbo, resulting in a comprehensive upgrade of the cast. From the initial performances, Zhang Ruoyun and Tian Yu continue to portray Fan Xian and Wang Qinian with their characteristic rebelliousness and shrewdness. Veterans like Chen Daoming and Wu Gang remain consistent. Aside from Zhang Ruoyun losing weight and Guo Qilin gaining some, there have been no other notable changes.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

In contrast, the new faces have not been received as warmly, with criticism focusing on their acting skills and line delivery. Wu Xingjian's portrayal of the new Yan Bingyun has been criticized for his unclear diction and pursed lips while speaking. Wang Churan's new character, Sang Wen, garnered discussion for her "fake smile". Zhao Ke's Liu Ruyu, using her original voice, has been perceived as lacking the commanding presence of the first season, leading to doubts.

This also indicates that with the crown of success comes the burden of expectations. Surpassing its predecessor is no easy task for a sequel. Maintaining the original essence while introducing new elements, and enduring scrutiny from an audience armed with magnifying glasses to find flaws, are unavoidable challenges. Nevertheless, "Joy of Life 2" courage to innovate is commendable.


The Era that Created the "King of Dramas"

A drama that leads an industry trend and becomes a cultural phenomenon is never an overnight success. The triumph of "Joy of Life" can be seen as a product of its times, strategically aligning with the rhythm of the era. In 2007, the original author Mao Ni began serializing "Joy of Life" on Qidian Chinese Network, coinciding with a period of rapid growth in China's online literature industry. The number of internet users exceeded 10% of the national population for the first time, and a new generation of online writers was emerging. Full copyright operations based on original online literary works were entering the market, breaking through cultural and regional barriers.

During its writing, "Joy of Life" capitalized on the popularity of the time-travel genre, positioning itself as "a palace intrigue drama disguised as a thrilling novel." Over two years of serialization, it garnered 10 million hits and built a massive fan base. The collaborative way in which fans contributed ideas for characters and storylines helped expand the work's reach beyond the niche military and historical fiction circles, laying a solid foundation for its adaptation into a television series.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

In 2012, the adaptation of the online novel "Empresses in the Palace" into a TV series took the country by storm, sparking an unstoppable trend of adapting online literature into dramas and heralding an era dominated by female-oriented content. Each year, a major hit emerged, such as "Eternal Love" in 2017, "Ashes of Love" in 2018, and "The Story of Minglan" in 2019.

Meanwhile, the male-oriented market faced consecutive setbacks. As the web drama market struggled to break free from the bottleneck of homogenized content, the filming of "Joy of Life" was completed in 2018. Though it seemed to come late, it absorbed the lessons of the previous phases of web dramas, costume dramas, and online literature adaptations. It shifted the focus from star power to script quality, from appearances to acting skills, and from emotional nuances to story logic, perfectly filling the long-standing gap in the male-oriented market. Upon its release, "Joy of Life" became a massive hit and marked a turning point for male-oriented works.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

In 2024, "Joy of Life 2" returned amid widespread anticipation, serving as a deep dive into the long-tail effect of the series. Over the past five years, the drama market has undergone a significant transformation, with cost reduction and efficiency improvement measures showing preliminary results. The competition between short and long videos has reached a fever pitch, rendering the "work + traffic" formula for hits obsolete. Work adaptations have expanded from romance web novels to serious literature and other fields, with pioneering works rich in cultural depth gaining more audience appreciation. The promotion and marketing strategies for dramas have also continuously evolved.

Most importantly, viewers now exhibit greater agency and autonomy. Phenomena like supporting characters gaining popularity or main characters facing backlash demonstrate that no matter how strong a production team is, if a series contradicts widely accepted values, it can face disastrous consequences. Can a blockbuster sequel withstand five years of market changes and audience expectations? "Joy of Life 2" undeniably stands as an unprecedented and unparalleled case. If it succeeds, it will undoubtedly go down in history. Thus, "Joy of Life" is indeed a product of its time, earning its title as the "King of Dramas."

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences


The Commercial Strategy Behind a Popular Drama

Evaluating whether a drama is a popular one involves its commercial performance as well. "Joy of Life 2" has set a benchmark for the industry with its innovative business strategies. Despite the five-year gap between the first and second seasons, "Joy of Life" maintained a remarkably long pre-release buzz, keeping fans eagerly anticipating.

Initially, it teased fans for three years with rumors about whether a second season would be produced. Periodic leaks about casting choices, project details, and unofficial updates kept the market's interest alive. After the completion of the second season's filming, speculation about the release date further heightened anticipation. By the time the official announcement came that it would air on May 16th, Tencent Video had over 17 million reservations, making it the first drama to break the ten million reservation mark across the web.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

In the lead-up to its release, "Joy of Life 2" held ten preview events in Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, featuring stars like Zhang Ruoyun and Li Qin for promotion. On its premiere day, a marathon of promotional activities called "First Day City Walk" took place, including the release of the theme song "In Our Lifetime," live broadcasts, and a premiere event titled "Reunion at Home," among others. This comprehensive approach, spanning both online and offline channels, ensured no revenue opportunity was overlooked. By engaging users and leveraging topic marketing, "Joy of Life 2" effectively captured audience attention, creating a positive buzz even before the series aired.

The sharp instincts of investors are evident in the fact that "Joy of Life 2" secured over 100 million RMB in advertising deals in the first quarter of this year, surpassing the early-year hit "Blossoms Shanghai." The high advertising rates meant the series had already recouped its costs before airing. The advertising power was so significant that "Joy of Life 2" had more leverage than its sponsors. The official announcement poster even showed sponsors vying for prime placement, with categories like general sponsorship, joint sponsorship, lead special sponsorship, and special cooperation, resembling an award ceremony lineup. Remarkably, two well-known dairy companies sponsored the drama, and the special edition re-release of the first season attracted 15 advertisers, showcasing unprecedented commercial prowess.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

Upon its release, "Joy of Life 2" topped trending searches due to the sheer volume of advertisements. In the first episode alone, three prominent ads appeared, featuring nine brands and totaling 2 minutes and 18 seconds. These ads covered a range of products, including yogurt, protein powder, cosmetics, televisions, nutritional supplements, and novel apps.

Additionally, "Joy of Life 2" launched 15 co-branded products, with Zhang Ruoyun himself gaining nine new endorsements. This level of commercial penetration is unparalleled, leaving many popular stars in awe. Looking at the drama market, "Joy of Life 2" undoubtedly deserves the title of "King of Dramas." Its influence and commercial expansion have far exceeded the drama's inherent value and significance. Whether "Joy of Life 3" will surpass this success remains to be seen, but time will tell.

Return to Jianghu: Joy of Life 2 Premiere Ignites Excitement Among Audiences

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