Starring: Ivy Chen, Choi Siwon, Lee Donghae
There are very few romance-oriented films and tv series that I can say that I’m very fond of, and even less so for -pardon this unintentionally snobbish tone- Asian ones. This is mostly due to the fact that I was brought up watching, reading and listening to English materials. That, coupled with my distaste for the romance genre, and you have a woman who lacks familiarity with Asian live-action entertainment.
There is just something off-putting about films that depict two people who declare that they’ve found The One after five minutes of knowing each other, and follow it up with a declaration of undying love barely a week later. And for what? The amount of time they spent together can hardly justify one partner giving up their (for example) life and career for a person they’ve spent a few fleeting conversations and smiles with. Is there something especially extraordinary about this person? I’d really like to know.
It’s just incredibly unrealistic to me.
So here we have Skip Beat!, the Taiwanese live-action adaptation of one of my two favourite shoujo mangas of all time. Needless to say when I saw the DVD in stores, I was torn. I wasn’t familiar with the quality of Asian dramas and I certainly didn’t want to shell out $$$ for something I might not like.
But then it was Skip Beat!.
And then there was Choi Siwon and not to mention, Lee Donghae, members of the legendary kpop group, Super Junior.
The fact that they, especially Siwon, were in it sealed the deal for me.
Memories of my highschool years flooding my mind, I snatched the DVD right up and I have absolutely no regrets about it ever since.
What’s it like?
Given that this is the Taiwanese version of Yoshiki Nakamura’s beloved Skip Beat!, there are several differences to be expected. For example, because the entire storyline is Taiwan-centric, the language spoken is Taiwanese, the Japanese names of the characters are changed to Taiwanese versions and the country this takes place in is Taiwan. You get my drift.
While this might be a deal-breaker for some -and I certainly hope not!- it isn’t for me, because the plot of Skip Beat! is something that can be recreated into many different versions and it’d still be watchable. Amazing, even. I’d happily watch an American version of Skip Beat! if they ever make one. Indian, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, British- of course, Japanese. I’m a Skip Beat! junkie.
That, and the strong, stellar plot is just that flexible.
So onto the review.
Skip Beat! centers around the life of Gong Xi (Original: Mogami Kyoko), a 16 year old girl who soon discovers that her childhood friend and love interest, Bu Po Shang/Shang Jieyong (Original: Fuwa Sho/Fuwa Shotaro), has been using her as his maid and source of income while trying to make a name for himself as a singer in Taiwan. Furious and heartbroken, she vows to exact revenge by one day beating him in show business. That oughta do it!
But just how will she achieve this?
Turns out that this drab, plain girl has what it takes to make it in this unforgiving world, thanks to her staunch determination and unexpected talent in acting. Not that Shang’s rival, Dun He Lian (Original: Tsuruga Ren), is going to make this easy for her. What the heck is his problem?
What’s there to like? And not to?
For those who are worried, the live-action version stays extremely faithful to the original plot, save for a few very minor creative liberties. However, once you get over these liberties and aforementioned differences, you’ll find yourself enjoying the series.
For instance, I was a bit surprised that they did not change Siwon’s look to match that of Ren’s in the manga, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel he is made for the role. From his appearance, to the way he “speaks” (you’ll find out the reason for this in a bit, haha), to his behaviour, Choi Siwon is basically the living, breathing version of
Tsuruga Ren Dun He Lian. His delivery as the gentlemanly Mr Lian has just the right amount of strict dignity and gentility that the character is known for.
So much that I wouldn’t trade him for any other actor to play Lian.
The same can be said about Gong Xi and Bu Po Shang (though his appearance is pretty spot on, in my opinion). In fact, Skip Beat!‘s crowning glory has to be its main actress and actors. Their chemistry and acting skills effectively brought the characters to life, and that is saying something because finding someone to act as Gong Xi can’t be easy.
Energetic and full of hatred, the cheerful, normally kind-hearted Gong Xi might be a tall order to ask of someone to portray, especially in an entirely lovable sense. Yet Ivy Chen manages this seamlessly, and certainly not without hilarity thrown into the mix! Her performance makes her more than worthy of this hefty role, and her interactions with her co-stars a delight. Her bond with Shang is tense and heartbreaking, and her ties with Lian full of humorous, and at times exasperating ups and downs.
But is there anything to dislike about the series? There are, though none of the faults are so terrible that they render it unwatchable.
The dubbing issue with Siwon, for one. When I realised that his entire dialogue was dubbed, I laughed. Goodness, there were parts where the dub did not match when he spoke. Why insist on hiring him when he can’t speak the language? Honestly, I was more amused than anything else because despite this flaw, he more than makes up for this with his acting. He remained the ever enigmatic Lian in my eyes.
Then there is the matter of the special effects. This aspect of the series is mediocre at best, and terrible at its very worst. Thankfully, Skip Beat! doesn’t take itself too seriously and therefore doesn’t fall flat on its face whenever these effects pop up.
See, these mistakes are forgivable- it’s the last one that really hurts.
This is because the series ends with a cliffhanger, with no season two in sight. That’s right.
The live-action drama remains without a conclusion, yet for all the frustration this causes when I think of it, I’m glad to have watched it all the same. This is coming many years late, but Skip Beat! deserves a watch and a second season.
Thank you, guys, for bringing my favourite
glacial slow shoujo manga to life.