Thoughts On: Joy of Life

Joy of Life is one of those cdramas I was looking forward to ever since it was announced back in 2017, mainly because of Zhang Ruo Yun. I don’t generally pin dramas up because of who the actors are but when it’s someone whose work I’ve enjoyed before, I do tend to pay more attention than usual. In this case I started reading the novel to see what it was all about and based on that, decided to check Drama out when it finally airs. Which I did and ended up loving Joy Of Life a lot. It was the only drama I followed week to week this year. The original web novel is by Mao Ni, who also wrote Ever Night and like that one, JoL is a wordy, looooong ass novel (some 740+ chapters). Hence the story is going to be told in three parts and what just aired was Season 1. When it comes to Chinese productions you never know if the promised additonal seasons are actually going to materialise but the 1st instalment of JoL was big enough success that at least S2 is going to be made, hopefully with the same cast.I’ve never been much of a fan of dramas with a lot of politics, palace or otherwise but somehow Joy of Life managed to sweep me along and keep me intrigued all the way through. What helped was that Drama isn’t confined in the royal palace and thus never gets overly stuffy. Instead the palace is just one of the places our hero gets to do his stuff. Most of the story is set in the capital of Qing and couple of other areas inside the nation, except that one portion set in Nothern Qi, one of the neigbouring countries. As adaptations go, the screenwriter of Joy of Life did a VERY good job. He streamlined the plot without loosing anything essential and the changes actually made the story flow better. Drama is pretty faithfull to the original content, with few tweaks here and there, both small and couple of more extensive ones. Some are due to censors I believe, others for a better flow and some probably due to technical reasons, as this wasn’t a production that had oodles of moolah to use. It still manages to look beautiful. JoL doesn’t have the sweeping location shoots Ever Night had but the sets are pretty well done and I liked the costuming and props as well. I also LOVED the more humorous take on the story. Drama is laugh out loud funny in places but never OTT or slapsticky. Going forward things get more serious as stakes get higher but I’m hoping they won’t totally do away with the humor. Besides the writing and directing what stands out is the acting. Zhang Ruo Yun is a perfect fit for the character, he totally nails it. He made the role his own and I just can’t see anyone replacing him. Drama Fan Xian is somewhat softer and less ruthless than in the novel but I believe that’s a conscious choice by the writer and fits well with the overal feel of the drama. The veteran actors are all great and make a good counterpoint to our hero. All the different tiers of supporting actors are very well chosen as well, all the way to the bit parts.
Drama is populated with what seems like gzillion characters but all are meaninful and have a proper place in the story. There are no cardboard characters in JoL. They are interesting enough that you keep wishing you’d learn more about some of them. Even though the writer did a good job balancing the different character storylines, JoL is based on a typical male centric web novel and it is foremost Fan Xian’s story. If that sets your teeth on edge, you’ll better move on as no amount of winging will change that. Among the things the writer did tweak, was making Fan Xian’s lady love Lin Wan’er a bit more fleshed out than she originally was. For someone who is truly important to Fan Xian, she was pretty much a non entity in the novel. There are other ladies who are more interesting and who have more of a presence when it comes to moving the story forward. What they do matters. Even if Wan’er seems to be ‘billed’ as one of the mains, I can’t see her as one, the true main characters besides Fan Xian are Chen Dao Ming’s Liu Yu (the Emperor) and Wu Gang’s Chen Ping Ping (Director of the Investigation Center and a master schemer). The comic relief mantels seem to have landed on Gao Da (Commander of the Tiger Troops, Fan Xian’s guard) and Wang Qinian (originally a clerk of the Investigation Center ~ he’s a crafty one πŸ˜‰ ). Both are very good at what they do though, so there’s more to both than meets the eye. They are the first of Fan Xian’s close circle of friends and associates.
Now about that ending. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not too bothered about the cliffhanger, although I must admit I didn’t particuarly care for it and Drama sure didn’t need the dramatics. I know it it’s a fakeout. But you see, the cliffhanger and most of the stuff leading up to it, are not in the novel. It almost looks like they are going to bypass the “mini arcs” that in the novel happen right after Fan Xian retuns from Nothern Qi and lead up to the reveal we now got in the last epi. If that’s the case, there are several other future story threads that are probably going to go a bit differently or not happen at all. This may also mean that the bit I call “assassination attempt at the temple” is going to be left out as well. It was important going forward, so… I’m a bit flabbergasted here. Guess we’ll have to wait for S2 to find out.
AvenueX has couple of very nice YT videos about the drama. She always has something interesting to add, things we often did not even notice.
First Impression
Final Review
Annnnd this may come handy too: Joy of Life Jokes Explaned πŸ˜€

The drama OST is perhaps not as memorable as in some of the other cdramas I’ve liked (most of it is quite modern but it fits, oddly enough). I do like both the opening and closing songs.

Opening song // δΈ€εΏ΅δΈ€η”Ÿ Yi Nian Yi Sheng by Li Chian (not sure of the translation of the song title but maybe A Thought of a Lifetime)

Closing song // δ½™εΉ΄ / Remaining Life by Xiao Zhan

A gallery of characters.

11 thoughts on “Thoughts On: Joy of Life

  1. I absolutely loved this drama, after Nirvana in Fire it is a close second. Like the girl who posted earlier I struggled to get into cdramas from Kdramas because I watched love 020 first and her legs were two distracting plus they just had no chemistry whatsoever but for some odd reasoning I watched it till the end. However after about two years I discovered Kdramas then I wanted to watch moon lovers but read somewhere that it was adapted from Scarlet a CDrama so I decided to watch them together. I watched an episode of moon lovers then when to try scarlet heart and tbh I finished the whole season before going back to moon lovers and I preferred Scarlet heart. I started searching more cdramas and I watched So many then along the way came across Nirvana in Fire and I’m still looking for anything that can top it but haven’t found it. I watch Japanese, Taiwanese, and Kdramas still but nothing compares to Nirvana in Fire. I loved the story of Minglan before Jol and I was getting bored with love and destiny plus pillow book so I decided to try something else and I found Jol and what a pleasure it is. I love it, I hope they make the second season with the same cast, intact I hope they just film everything at once so that we actually get all the content. What a drama I love it. I don’t like the character in book as he is a bit different so I stopped reading…. but thank you for your review.

    • I believe my way to cdramas was via Scarlet Heart too. Then couple of years after that, when I was looking for something else than kdramas to watch, I discovered wuxia and xianxia dramas. Most of which were pretty bad, LOL! It’s still kinda hard to find cdramas that I like enought to finish them. It’s not often I get past the beginnings without loosing interest. Most are just far too long and full of filler to bloat up the epi count.

      Sadly, I couldn’t get into Nirvana in Fire, though I do concur it’s a really well made drama with great acting. I think there might have been too much ‘palace politics’ in it for me. Joy of Life is one of the dramas where the politicing didn’t make my eyes glaze over, so they must have done something right, ha. Around the time every one was watching NiF, I got totally obsessed with another historical cdrama, Of Monks and Masters. It’s still my favorite cdrama to date. πŸ™‚ Still not subbed though.

      I do like the the drama version of JoL more than the novel. They did such a great job condensing the plot and the added humor was a blessing. Drama Fan Xian is much more likeable as well. I also think it was a good idea to age up the characters.

  2. Yay for another drama that you loved! It sounds like a well done story. Probably not my cup of tea, but it was interesting reading your thoughts on it πŸ™‚

    • Yup, this was a good one. I love it when a good yarn has competent crew to bring it alive. I’ve got the notion that Chinese costume dramas don’t generally appeal to you. Especally if the probablility of romance is low. πŸ˜‰

      • Haha, well, I seem to struggle with cdramas as a whole πŸ˜‰ Considering how much I LOVE Korean sagueks, I want to like the Chinese historicals in the same way. I think the fantasy historicals may not be working for me though since I can’t seem to get into them at all (which is weird because I generally love fantasy, but not so much high fantasy type stuff like seems to be in cdramas).

        Since Chronicle of Life was one I really enjoyed, I think I may try some more traditional style ones to see if I can find another that clicks with me.

        As for romance, I definitely don’t need it if everything else is good (usually lots of thrills or a good bromance preferred in its place), but I will certainly never say no to it and do generally prefer to have it whether it be modern, historical, kdrama, cdrama, American drama. I’ll always take it, lol πŸ˜‰

        • Hmmm… I think you could maybe… possibly find JoL to you liking. They downplayed the fantasy aspect in the drama and it wasn’t all that prominent in the novel either. The fantasy part can be considered as a special ability you can cultivate to become a better fighter. A bit like obtaining different belts in taekwondo or judo by practising hard. πŸ™‚ The inner strength or ‘chi’ also gives you enhanced healing but these characters are not immortal and can be badly injured and killed. They all age as well (apart from Uncle Wu but he’s a special case, ha). Imho it makes better sense within the context than magically surviving life threatening wounds multiple times in some other (non fantasy) dramas *cough*mycountry*cough*. πŸ˜› There’s also time travel added to the mix but they downplayed that too because of the censors.

          JoL is more about smart people scheming to try one-up each other in a power game, with some fighting in between. πŸ˜€

          • That might work if the fantasy is a bit downplayed. I usually just hate having to spend a ton of episodes confused and trying to figure out how the world and magic works on top of a typically large cast of main characters to learn also. I may have to give this one a look though just to see if it may work for me because you just never know which drama is going to be the one that clicks πŸ™‚

          • Yes, sometimes dramas do surprise you by turning out differently than you initally thought. Of course it can be either in a good way or bad way. I’m always glad when the outcome is positive. πŸ™‚

  3. It’s very encouraging to hear that the humor doesn’t get OTT or slapsticky – that’s something I often struggle with, with drama humor. πŸ˜€ Time to bump it up the list! Also, yes, AvenueX is very informative! Would you believe, it was my mum who found her first on YT, and recommended me to check out her channel? πŸ˜€

    • The humor is mostly rather low key and sometimes based on wordplay, which I of course don’t get, because… no can do Chinese. The subbers did their best but as we all know, stuff gets lost in translation. πŸ™‚ The main draw for me were the characters and how they were depicted. I already knew the story (for the most part), so it wasn’t quite as important as it otherwise probably would have been. I do have to say though that I was surprised how much I enjoyed the intrigue, political and otherwise. Your mom knows where the good stuff is, I see. πŸ˜€

      • Sounds promising indeed! I suggested the show to my mum and she’s started on it. So yes, she knows where the good stuff is, but doesn’t always know about the new shows πŸ˜‰

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