Story: Li Xiao Yao (Hu Ge) is a good for nothing. He is a pain in the neck of his aunt, and dreams of
becoming a noble fighter someday. However, one day his aunt becomes very ill and some strangers tell him about
an island not far away, where he can find a cure. Xiao Yao sets out and meets the girl Ling'er (Liu Yifei)
on the island, which he instantly falls in love with. Ling'er is the daughter of the queen of Nan Zhao, a country which
is manipulated by Bai Yue (Tsui Kam Kong), a magician and the leader of the Lunar Sect Cult. For years the king blindly
trusts Bai Yue and steers his country right into ruin.
Li Xiao Yao promises Ling'er to bring her back to Nan Zhao to stop the decay of the country.
Due to the evil doings of the Lunar Sect Xiao Yao loses his memories of Ling'er and their engagement, but still wants to accompany her to Nan Zhao out of compassion. The two are attacked by the Lunar Sect and get saved by Drunken Sword Immortal Jiu Zui Xian (Tse Kwan Ho), a drinking sword fighter who eventually becomes Xiao Yao's master.
On their journey Ling'er and Xiao Yao also meet the scholar Jing Yuan (Wang Lu Jiang), who through odd cicumstances becomes the disciple of Xiao Yao. Another one joining the party is the "cousin" of Jing Yuan, Lin Yue Ru (An Yi Xuan), whom the scholar secretly has fallen in love with. Yue Ru and Xiao Yao make each other's life a living hell, but it soon becomes obvious that Yue Ru has fallen in love with Xiao Yao. After the bond between the two has become more and more tight, since they battle against monsters and undead side by side, Ling'er decides to leave her husband to go to Nan Zhao on her own. When she one day suddenly turns into a being half human, half snake, she simply vanishes withough a word of goodbye, because of fear that she might be seen in her demonic shape. What Ling'er isn't aware of yet is that she is actually the descendant of the divine Nü Wa.
At the same time the girl Ah Nu (Liu Ping Yan) gets manipulated by sorcerer Bai Yue to go on a search for Ling'er. Moreover, the son of Nan Zhao's general, Tang Yu (Peng Yuyan), is assigned the mission to bring back Ling'er to his father, the king.
Many adventures and encounters later, Li Xiao Yao, Ling'er and their companions realize, that the root of all the evil in the country is Bai Yue's dark magic. And so they decide to finally confront him...
Review: "Chinese Paladin" is the screen adaption of a very popular Chinese PC role playing game. And it shows.
Personally, I found this to be the biggest strength of the series. However, at the beginning it might turn off some
viewers. This is mainly because of the special effects, which all look, apart from very few decent exceptions,
incredibly cheap and ridiculous. Nonetheless, if you can overlook this and some initial problems/flaws, you will get
rewarded with quite some entertaining fantasy series. Of course, the show puts strong emphasis on drama, and therefore
the many love stories are oftentimes in the center of events, but as it is often the case with Chinese (fantasy-)
series/movies, they mainly stand out with a poetic style, and thus never feel contrived or cheesy. Except when suddenly
a modern popsong accompanies the events very inappropriately, which sadly happens every now and then.
Apart from that "Chinese Paladin" can score with its fantasy story and some nice characters.
The series sticks pretty close to the original video game of the same name. Only towards the end there are a few major divergences, which provoked outragous reactions of some fans of the video game. At first, I was sceptical concerning this TV show, but the nice ideas kept me going and aroused my interest in how this whole series might play out eventually. Even though the technical realization of those ideas were seldomly convincing. Still, somewhere throughout the series you learn to overlook this. And you definitely should, because otherwise you might miss a fantasy series that is pretty good in its core.
However, "Chinese Paladin" has one big problem. It spends too much time on side stories. We know this from video games, of course. There are additional quests, that will give you the opportunity to gain some extra levels or find some specially mighty equipment and weapons. Yet, transfering this to a series doesn't work out. The several side quests distract from the main plot. Nonetheless, there are also a few cases where these side stories provide us with more background information about the side characters. These insertions are welcome, even though this still leads to the same problem. The series loses focus too often.
Li Xiao Yao and Ling'er therefore aren't always in the center of action. There are some episodes, in which they are only granted little time on screen. Thus, it's hard to proclaim, that the series centers around these two individuals, even though you actually can't deny that they are part of the story's core, as this becomes more and more apparent towards the end.
Hu Ge, who plays Li Xiao Yao, delivers a nice performance as the young barefaced, yet smart swordfighter. At first we haven't much confidence in him portraying the character convincingly until the end, which is mainly because of Xiao Yao's childish nature. Yet, Li Xiao Yao grows as an individual, which is also due to several strokes of fate he has to overcome. Hu Ge can convey this transformation into an honorable man quite credibly, and he does so while also staying true to his original character.
Liu Yifei ("Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils", "Return of the Condor Heroes") is China's rising star at the horizon, and her work in TV shows like this one is the reason for it. Anyway, I have to say that her acting skills didn't really impress me. She is too reserved und insecure in her portrayal. The character she is playing may be a little bit more reflective and tragic, which is due to her past, but Liu Yifei still could have put more effort into her role. She can only convince in some of the grieving scenes, and with her beautful look, of course.
Fortunately, the show also has some more skilled acting talents to offer. One who made quite an impression on me is Tse Kwan Ho, who is playing a wandering, drunken sword fighter in a refreshingly off-beat and funny way. Also, it seems that he can sleep in any place and under any circumstances. Although we may be lead to believe that his character is more or less the obligative funny supporting act, we realize soon enough that there is more to this individual than first meets the eye. Later on, when we dive deeper into Jiu Zui Xian's background story, Tse can show off his whole acting talent.
Wang Lu Jiang also delivers a great performance as the quiet, literate, poetic and shy scholar Jing Yuan, who has fallen in love with his cousin Yue Ru and who keeps this one sided love a secret. Wang radiates inner strength and wisdom, that looks very noble, and which interestingly doesn't really stand in contrast to the rather childish characters around him.
An Yi Xuan, who plays Yue Ru, also deserves to be mentioned. Yue Ru is independent, spoiled, brave and always says what comes to her mind. Despite that (or maybe even because of that), she really wins a special spot in our heart, especially since it turns out that she is a self-sacrificing and kind girl in her core. She can convince us in the the dramatic scenes, as well as in her more humoristic scenes. We even grow so fond of her, that we hope until the very end, that she might become a couple with Li Xiao Yao, instead of Ling'er.
There is also Ah Nu, an innocent and incredibly childish girl, which is supposed to be cute as hell, but somewhere along the way becomes just plain annoying. Liu Ping Yan plays her character too trite, and so her comic-like facial expression can't win us over anymore later on. She doesn't seem to grow at all, which is not easy to get along with.
Peng Yuyan, giving Tang Yu a face, delivers a mediocre performance, but we still learn to like him, mainly because of his unyielding love for Ah Nu.
As the main villian Bai Yue, Tsui Kam Kong does quite a credible job. Still, he is a bit too reserved at times. Nevertheless, it's especially the snaky and manipulative character of his, which comes along with this reservedness, and which stands in contrast to his wise and noble appearance, that arouses some real hatred in the audience towards him. What's interesting, though, is that all of the games Bai Yue plays with our heroes only aim at disproving that there is (undying) love on this planet. Therefore, in a sense, Bai Yue himself is a tragic character, too.
Naturally, there are also some fights in "Chinese Paladin". They are choreographed quite decently and are pretty fantasy-loaden most of the time. There are many unusual special attacks, which all have strong role playing game character and stand out with many lighting effects, resp. shiny and colorful special effects. Li Xiao Yao is also quite fast at picking up new special attacks and even gets "Experience Points" through his fights, as we are told in a roundabout way. The way the final fight is depicted makes this video game feeling become especially evident.
Moreover, the series gets enhanced by a wonderful score, which also awakens the feeling of playing a video game. Especially during the more dramatic scenes, the music can be quite touching. To some degree it's thanks to the music that the series actually feels like a cross-over between "Grandia" and "Breath of Fire". But the fantastic and colorful sets, as well as the beautiful costumes add to this impression, too.
Except from some painfully embarrassing cloth costumes, with which some actors every now and then try to look like demons or something similar, it's the drop-dead gorgeous supporting acresses and their beautiful dresses, as well as the inventive make-up, which accentuate the fantasy style.
"Chinese Paladin" can be quite moving at times. More than anything else, some of the side stories, e.g. the monk who fell in love with a female demon, or the butterfly demon who self-sacrificingly cares for Jing Yuan, are really touching. Sadly, the series doesn't manage to be as moving when it comes to some more story-important tragic scenes. The show might be quite cheerful in tone, and there are even some episodes, especially the ones taking place at the inn, that are hilariously funny, but towards the end "Chinese Paladin" becomes really sad and dramatic. There are quite a few characters that don't see the end of the fight and simply die off. The producers are really uncompromising when it comes to this. So be warned! Still, it's just that these scenes could have been more touching and should have put an end to things less abruptly!
Sometimes, the series can also be quite poetic and reflective. Particularly the insertion of the principle of "Dao", which is something like the universal way/teaching, stands out with impressively profound dialogues. At other times, however, the show simply wants to be funny. Because of the hit-and-miss humor it sometimes succeeds in delivering some successful jokes, and at others it simply doesn't.
When all is said and done, "Chinese Paladin" is quite appealing and entertaining on several levels. The pictures are often nice to look at, only the special effects flaw the good overall picture. Furthermore, as already pointed out, the series loses focus too often. Still, if you get over the 5.- 8. episode, you will really grow fond of the characters and get rewarded with some nice touching love stories. Fans of fantasy, who don't have anything against a bit of drama and romance, really should check out this series!