The highly anticipated 微微一笑很倾城, Love O2O, starring Yang Yang and Zheng Shuang, finally started airing last week. I’m going to get this out of the way at the beginning; the official English title is Love Online to Offline, without the abbreviations, but I think it’s horrible and so I will be calling it Just One Smile is Very Alluring.
Both penned by Gu Man, the drama is an adaption of her popular internet novel of the same name. With back to back releases of the movie and the drama, heart fluttering posters and the Weibo hype surrounding its release, my curiosity was piqued.
Zheng Shuang as Bei Wei Wei
Yang Yang as Xiao Nai
Summary of the First Half:
In the world of A Chinese Ghost Story, Lu Wei Wei Wei and her friends battle a boss to obtain treasures. Lu Wei Wei Wei, is the only female player in the top ten of her server’s rankings. She is the screen persona of the beautiful and glamourous Bei Wei Wei; a second year scholarship student at a top university and the beauty of the computer science faculty. After her team conquers the boss, she is engaged in a challenge for the possessions the boss has left. She promises to engage in the PK in the afternoon, however the power suddenly goes out. There is no need to worry as the capable Bei Wei Wei is able to fix it. But that’s not the last of the bad news, as her laptop seems to have stopped working afterwards. On a visit to the computer store near campus, she encounters the shop keeper attempting to sell a used item to Meng Yi Ran, the school’s belle. She reasons with the shop keeper to return justice to her fellow peer. However, Meng Yi Ran sides with the shop keeper and purchases the item at that price, in order to prove that she is more thoughtful and understanding. This is the introduction of the rivalry between the top two beauties of the school, one ‘innocent’ Meng Yi Ran and one glamourous Bei Wei Wei.
Wei Wei heads to an internet café, where Xiao Nai, a fourth year computer science student, swimming and basketball champion and the most desired bachelor at their university, is in discussion with his uncle over his desires to be independent. At first glance of Bei Wei Wei, Xiao Nai is entranced by her hand movements as she engages in battle.
Wei Wei’s internet husband, Zhenshui Wuxiang, who is Meng Yi-Ran’s cousin, messages her to meet him. It turns out he wishes for a divorce. Wei Wei, is not saddened by the situation, as she is far aware that their marriage was only a way for them to complete couple quests together. It turns out that, he has dumped her for a more famous and number one beauty in the game. Wei Wei watches the wedding from a distance, which leads to be the headline of gossip between other players. Wei Wei distracts attention from the matter by selling rare magical potions at a discounted price. As the crowd disappears, a character calls out to Wei Wei. He is Yi Xiao Nai He, the number one gamer of their server and Xiao Nai’s internet alias. He engages in a marriage deal with her to complete an upcoming couple battle. As she gets to know more about Yi Xiao Nai He, she discovers his ability to scheme and his meticulous choice of words. She slowly starts to fall for him, with little gestures like her doodling his character in her books and the realisation that if he asked to share pictures, she probably would. Sharing pictures is something she had been reluctant to do with her other internet friends. It’s not till he suddenly doesn’t appear to their final battle for the couple tournament, due to a car accident, that it dawns on her. The sadness of the possibility that he may just disappear; the feeling of heart break that prevents her from going back online to check. It’s not until she receives a call from the game company, requesting to buy the rights to a video they made together for the game, that she finally goes back online to discuss things with him. After the explanation, he asks her to meet up, which gets her more than excited to do so.
Xiao Nai stands under the shade of a willow tree on the campus exit, almost as ethereal as his game character, as he awaits her. She notices him from a distance, a scene that comes almost straight out of the game. She approaches as he looks at her, he recognises her but she only recognises him as the dashing senior that everyone, including herself, crushes on. She’s in disbelief and slight denial as he informs her, he is in fact Yi Xiao Nai He. After a meal, he goes to collect his bike, so they can return to campus for his last basketball tournament. At that moment, she questions what if someone misunderstands their relationship as one that she gestures with a heart. But he seals the relationship with a simple, when were we not in that kind of relationship.
The day after this, he takes her to his office to study and she becomes aware that he had awaited the day she would arrive, as he had two cups with pictures of his character and hers. He is currently developing the second Chinese Ghost Story game, in collaboration with Feng Teng. (For Boss and Me fans, if your question is if it’s the same Feng Teng, it is as the stories are both penned by Gu Man.)
Rumours spread and they quickly reach his parents ears as they are professors at the university. Wei Wei is taking one of Xiao Nai’s father’s classes, so she’s incredibly nervous, but she’s a good student and his father likes her. Xiao Nai has to leave for a business conference in Shanghai, but takes time to have breakfast with her before he leaves. During the time Xiao Nai is away, she interacts with his roommates, who are also her online friends, giving them the rare animals that she requested in exchange for the rights of their video. When Xiao Nai returns, he calls her as he gets off the plane but her roommate picks up and requests him for the meal he owes them; a Chinese couple tradition.
Wei Wei is angered when they arrive at the restaurant, as she notices her friends chose the restaurant on purpose to anger Meng Yi Ran who is also there. Meng Yi Ran like every other girl in the school has a crush on Xiao Nai. She stops Xiao Nai and they go to a fish restaurant instead where her friends eat six kilograms of fish. As Xiao Nai walks her back to her dormitory, they share an embrace as she rests her head on his chest.
Xiao Nai formally introduces her to his friends as they share a meal. It turns out he can’t eat spicy food, something Wei Wei had not realised as when they were at the fish restaurant, everything they ordered was spicy. After dinner, they go to play pool, as the drama plays on the old pool teaching trick, where he’s practically on top of her. As exams finish, it’s time for Wei Wei to head for her home town, so he takes her to the train station.
Thoughts (Before Reading the Novel):
The first scene is a make or break for a lot of people. The CGI for the scenes when they’re in A Chinese Ghost Story, could umm… to put it nicely, be done better… It’s not as cringe worthy as it could be, but also not as nice as it could be. After being exposed mostly to Tangren’s RPG costumes, these do look like a joke but I pushed that aside, as it’s not an RPG series. Nevertheless, I did manage to get past the initial hurdle. The drama did manage to keep my attention. The pacing, won’t make you dizzy and at times can be a little slow, but who can really complain about seeing more Yang Yang? There’s certainly a very dream like quality to his character and I will still fall for the mysterious cold guy time and time again.
Acting wise, I initially thought both leads played their roles quite well. There’s no subtly in their acting, but initially it wasn’t over done either. It was mainly the side characters that I have issues with, especially Wei Wei’s friends. But the story highly revolves around Wei Wei and Xiao Nai, so the side characters aren’t too much of a problem.
The characters are almost too perfect, but I guess that tells you that perfect people end up liking perfect people, if perfect people exist. There’s not really much I can say here, besides that I enjoyed it. Although it’s not the best when it comes to quality, It’s light hearted and warm, and did I mention Yang Yang is beautiful? I probably did, but hey there’s no harm saying it another time, just so you understand how beautiful he is. I’ve seen him in other works before, and have never been impressed enough with him that I felt the need to go explore his other works, but this time it was different. He’s just so beautiful, you should watch it for the eye candy.
After finishing the first 6 episodes, I couldn’t help but want more. And so I, the person who has never really been a fan of Gu Man’s other works, decided to go read the novel. That should say a lot about how much I enjoyed it.
Thoughts (After Reading the Novel):
After reading the novel, I can’t say that I saw Gu Man in a new light and would forever follow the rest of her works, but it was thoroughly a nice and easy read. For those who don’t know Gu Man, she wrote Shan Shan Comes to Eat and Silent Separation, the novels behind Boss and Me, starring Zhang Han and Zhao Li Ying and My Sunshine which was both adapted into a drama and movie, the earlier starring Tang Yan (Tiffany Tang) and Wallace Chung and the later starring Yang Mi and Huang Xiao Ming. That makes me think, why were all of Gu Man’s works given such horrible English titles? Anyway, when I finished the novel, I couldn’t help but think that there wasn’t enough content for it to be a 30 episode drama, but it would have been perfect condensed into a two hour movie. And so I realised how Gu Man managed to extend the story so that there was more ‘content’. She did this by giving Xiao Nai more presence, instead of making it primarily based on Wei Wei as in the novel. But what she also did was give all the slightly annoying side characters more time, and honestly I don’t care enough about them to want to watch their scenes. In the book they were dealt with as flashbacks and probably have like 2 or 3 paragraphs on their story, whereas they’re given several episodes in the drama. The only side story I appreciated was KO’s and Mo Zha Ta’s, so I’m glad they have a little more presence.
And this was when I started to notice, that Zheng Shuang and Yang Yang are not the best at displaying all the emotions of the characters as seen in the novel. In the latter parts of the first half Zheng Shuang does do a little over acting. There was subtly in the novel, that I felt was a missed a little. She also isn’t the 34C that the novel heavily emphasised, hence why I described her as ‘glamourous’. And it becomes a little strange when people bring it up.
The product placement becomes very obvious after reading the novel as well, an example is the game changing from Dreaming of Jiangsu to A Chinese Ghost Story. And Yang Yang does make Xiao Nai to be a little less mysterious in the drama. Something I find in common with all of Gu Man’s male characters is that they’re a little forceful, which we have yet to see until the later parts. Another thing is the characters really do seem perfect in the novel and even more so in the drama, so I wish they had a little more flaws. Like did he really have to be good looking, ambitious, rich, a great friend, good at being social and excel in sports as well? His only other slightly negative trait is his minor narcissism. Wei Wei is also way too perfect. She’s smart, beautiful, ‘glamourous’, kind, great at games and studying and extremely capable. There’s almost no jealously or pettiness in her, and what’s more, Gu Man has written that she doesn’t gain weight either.
So I think it’s best if you don’t read the novel while you watch the drama. Because it was really was a great, fun drama. Don’t get me wrong it still is, but now that I know everything, I’m just not as excited for the next episodes. So do I recommend the drama? Yes, I absolutely do! If you enjoy light hearted romantic comedies, this will be right up your ally. Just don’t expect it to be the best drama you’ve ever watched. And don’t expect the cinematography to be breath taking. I will be continuing to watch the drama, and am looking forward to watching the movie. So look out for future articles about Just One Smile is Very Alluring!