Demi Gods Semi Devils- A Review
Posted on October 22, 2012
I forget how impactful Jin Yong’s storytelling could have on me. From the adaptations of the Condor Heroes Trilogy in the 80’s and 90’s, as well as the Heavenly Sword tale, these epic series opened me to a world of wuxia; its heroes, heroines, values and relationships. In essence, it molded my young mind and set the standard for excellence in dramas to come. It made me forlornly wished that I could read Chinese so that I may endeavor to read JY’s masterpieces. Yet, witnessing the book come to life certainly has its own merits. I may not know what will happen next, but it makes getting swept by its epic-ness all the more worthwhile.
This latest adventure (latest in my book, not reality)- Demi Gods Semi Devils 2003- a CCTV (mainland China) production, is another first for me. I’ve seen TVB (Hong Kong) productions and their take on Jin Yong’s wuxia novels, and I notice one striking difference: the theme song. It is missing from CCTV. To me, having a powerful theme song brings forth anticipation and promise of a wonderful adventure ahead. But instead, CCTV showcased a poignant score with a matched ferocious theme. Even though I felt the production was lacking in that category, they did live up to the expectations of wuxia genres, with its complicated heroes, engaging martial arts and so many twists and turns to the plots that I find myself always guessing and then proven wrong.
The story surrounds three heroes, Qiao Feng, Duan Yu and Xuzhu, whose lives are inextricably woven. These three protagonists were originally created to model after the demi gods “Tian Long Ba Bu,” the “8 races of non-human entities.” But I’m grateful Jin Yong decided to make them human, because complicated human traits make the theme more profound and resonating to us lowly mortals.
The series starts out with Duan Yu, the Crown Prince of Dali who abhors violence due to his Buddhism beliefs and upbringing. His survival mechanism is to run away from his problems (lol) and thus unceremoniously runs into a new set of problems, all spawn by his virile father whom in the past sired many half-sisters. Even if he has no desire to learn martial arts, it eventually falls into his lap and he discovers (during tough times) its life saving benefits. He falls head over heels for Wang Yuyan even though she only has eyes for her “brother cousin” Murong Fu, but Duan Yu doesn’t give up. In the midst of his adventure, he becomes blood brothers with Qiao Feng and later, Xuzhu. This ties the story together, as their brotherhood and oath brings us to the climax.
Qiao Feng, a hero that has stolen my heart, is one of the best martial artist warriors in the pugilistic world, and has the saddest story of them all. Following my earlier post, Qiao Feng gets tricked into believing that Scarlet’s father, Duan Zhenchun was responsible for his parent’s death, and he ends up killing his beloved who disguised as her father. He proceeds throughout the series trying to “take care” of Scarlet’s sister, Purple, to honor Scarlet’s last wish, as well as uncovering the true murderer 30 years ago. And deep down, he could never forget, never move on from losing is beloved.
It’s funny how I can get so invested in a hero’s story and when he goes through a painful time, I could feel my heart breaking for him- and crying for him, from the injustice of it all. But things happen to teach our hero a poignant lesson. I was angry and frustrated with the ending, but finally made peace with it because it is the best ending for Qiao Feng. Like J said, “don’t you think it’s best for QF to be with Scarlet i/o [then] being alone in this world?” Indeed, how could he continue to live on without Scarlet? I only wished the ending showed Qiao Feng in the heavens, reunited with his beloved. I am glad that Qiao Feng ended- at least for the moment- a warring bloodbath that would have ensued if he didn’t sacrifice his life to protect Sung and Liao empire.
The character that irritated me the most is Purple. Good gad, I felt bad for Qiao Feng to have to be responsible for her. She is truly evil. But in the end, she did have one redeeming quality: she is capable of love. She has always loved Qiao Feng and could never measure up to her dead sister- which is a bane in her existence- especially when Qiao Feng said that he only took care of her because Scarlet told him to (hah.) So as she holds Qiao Feng’s body in her arms and recalling that he wanted her to “take care” of the “ugly guy” iron faced man who sacrificed his eyes for her, she refused to. She didn’t want to be indebted to the iron faced man, she wanted to be free to be with Qiao Feng- so she gave those eyes back and ended her life. Talk about traumatic!
Our final hero is Xuzhu, an orphaned Shaolin monk whose mission in life is to follow Buddha’s ways. This gets challenged when he is forced to become the leader of the unorthodox sect and encounters the Elder Child who makes him break every monk rule to the point of getting exiled from the Shaolin sect. He also uncovers his true parents and learns that it is ok not to be a monk- that as a man, he can still abide by Buddhism beliefs. He becomes a powerful leader and prince of Xixia due to his marriage with the princess whom he had an indiscretion with during his “testing” phase.
No matter what these heroes choose to believe in or run away from, they are fated to do what they are meant to do.
Overall I felt the storytelling profound. It was easy to get through the 40 episodes as I love watching martial arts and learning the fates of the characters, if you will, not to mention that it was very fast-paced. I adore each heroes- although I wanted to smack Xuzhu upside the head several times- but he too warmed up to me. Qiao Feng on the other hand gripped me the moment his story took centerfold, especially his formidable martial arts skills, compelling acting, chemistry with Scarlet, and his inevitable sacrifice.
I’m one to prefer watching only happy endings- a la the Condor Heroes Trilogy- because no matter what obstacles and fucked up things the protagonists had to endure, they would still end up together. And my time spent exploring these adventures with them, is worthwhile. But with Demi Gods, at the end of the day, I must say that I felt satisfied. Even though my favorite couple could not be together in the wuxia world, they can still be together in the wuxia heaven. It is an exception I have made for this bittersweet, wonderful series. And alongside other Jin Yong’s fabulous masterpieces, Demi God sits very close to the top.
Tagged: Chinese Drama, Demi Gods Semi Devils
I can’t find it in playlist version but here’s the link to the first ep of Legend of the Condor Heroes 2003 with e-subbed (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4l54rlQxFM). I’ve only watch bits of this version but at the very least I prefer Zhou Xun over Ariel Lin of the ’08 version.
Re: DGSD. I have found a couple of new wuxia writers whose works I enjoy but still nothing beats the epic and breathtaking worlds crafted by Jin Yong. It’s no surprise his works keep getting re-made over and over again (even more than the classic lakorns. lol)! Ah Zi (Purple) is probably more hated by readers than the actual villians but through Ah Zi, we actually get to see how deep QF’s love for Ah Zhu runs even after her death.
I don’t feel very strongly about Xu Zhu but his incredulous encounters are always a welcome relief after I sob through QF’s parts and help calm me down a bit! XD
Jin Yong is a well crafted writer indeed. I’m reading the translations of “Legend of the condor heroes” and thanks to you, have pdf’s of the trilogy to read to my heart’s content. My favorite version (or remake if you will) is the version with Julian Cheung. He’s sooo handsome. I really like tall leading men, if you can tell 🙂 well, I’ll make an exception for Aum Atichart.. As far as “the return of the condor heroes,” I really like both Andy and Louis’ version. Obviously I’ve only ventured in the tvb sector.
Thanks for the link dearie, I will check it out after work!
Are you missing BKK yet? Find any goodies? I always end up bringing home too much stuff!
Yes, definitely missing BKK! I must say I’m a more rational buyer this time round, stopping myself from just grabbing anything that’s cheap but I still end up spending all my money. lol. And for the first time I talked about lakorns with someone face to face (my manicurist)! :p
Julian Cheung’s version was the first and only LotCH that I watched full. I do enjoy the novel but guess I never felt strongly enough about the characters to check out the dramas.
I’m sort of cheating with this 2003 version. Since I already know the storyline, my main interest lies in the portrayal of the romance between Gua Jing and Huang Rong, so I’m just ff’ing through the episodes. Makes for a very quick watch. Lol. I still think Julian Cheung’s version is better. I was curious about this 2003 version since everyone has been saying how good it is.. I did think that the leading characters have good chemistry though. Now I must find something else to keep me occupied 🙂