Thoughts On: Ancient Detective

I’m still making no headway with the kdramas on my roster. Neither is anything on The List of Doom beaconing enticingly. So when AvenueX’s review on Ancient Detective popped up on my YT suggestions, I took that as a sign to watch the drama, ha. I’d already had my interest piqued after reading some postive comments earlier on and had Drama lined up for a looksee.

Well, I got thoroughly hooked and watched all 20 episodes (of 24) available at that point within few days. I believe Drama has flown under the radar for most as it has a cast of relative unknowns, so no buzz and there has been no real attempt to market it either. As far as I can tell. Which is a pity as it’s actually darned good! 😀 This is no sweeping epic with something ‘important’ to tell but Drama has lots of heart, characters to root for and a story that kept me interested all the way through. That’s enough for me. The first thing that struck me was how gorgeous the drama looks. Both the opening and ending sequences are SO pretty. Picture quality is crisp and the person at the helm sure knows how to frame his/her shots and yet it doesn’t feel like they are just grandstanding. The attention to detail is quite evident from the get go. For once we have an original script and not an adapataion of some IP novel. That in itself is almost a reason enough to at least check out the drama. There aren’t too many original scripts in dramaworld anymore.
Ancient Detective is a wuxia detective story with some romance thrown in and what it mostly reminds me of is them vintage Aghata Christie whodunnits. Which I LOVED! E.g the first case is set in a mansion with several people gathered there for a martial arts competition and then people start dying. The second case location is a creepy island, which made me think of Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ but with a lower body count, kinda. The cases weren’t particularly intricate or exceptionally clever but I enjoyed watching the progression of each. I’m not really interested in solving puzzles myself, though sometimes I do happen to get all the clues before the titular detectives. 🙂 Wowen within all the seluthing is a longer story arc about our lead Jian Bu Zhi’s search for answers to what really happened 8 years previously in the bloody battle of Shenji Valley, where his father Jian Jin Huan and many other heroes from the martial world perished. Bu Zhi himself woke up after the battle with no memories of his past or who he was, the only clue a jade pendant with the name Jian engraved on it. Later on he also realised that he didn’t know any martial arts nor could he learn any even if he tried because of his head injury. Jian Jin Huan had been a famous detective and aded by his manuals and letters Bu Zhi became a competent detective himself. Yup, the lad is smart. Whatever thumped his martial arts ability did not mess with other parts of his brain, apparently.
It was rather ballsy of Bu Zhi to venture out to the world on his own with no means of protecting himself. Martial world is cruel and no place for the weak. Which is why it’s a good thing that he soon makes friends with people who know how to fight. The first being Zhao Wo Huan who eventually becomes his best pal and protector. Wo Huan is adorable! He’s not very bright but loyal and with a heart of gold. He is strong and a natural fighter who only gets better as the story goes on. Wo Huan is probably my fave character of them all, though I really liked everyone in the Team Good Guys.
Next in line is Zhan Shi Qi, a deadly ex assassin who decided to quit but as it’s always with these assassins guilds, you don’t just up and go. Once you join it’s for life thus Shi Qui has a bunch of ex colleagues hunting her. She is a lot better in her ‘craft’ than anyone knew though, so killing her has proven a tough job. Bu Zhi was totally smitten with her at first sight and it didn’t take long for her to fall for him either. I think it’s his kindness and humanity that initially got to her.

The fourth person to join our little group is Ye Xiao Xiao, a famous doctor who’s pretty good with his knifes even in other situations, ha. He’s got another handy ability as well, one he’s relied on all his life. Dr Ye’s services are needed because Bu Zhi got afflicted with a curse during the first case and needs a doctor keep him alive till they get to the person who has the proper cure. Only Bu Zhi stubbornly decides to go on with his quest first and nearly dies as a result. Yes, the lad can be stupid for all the smarts he has. Guess everyone has their blind spots.
There are two more people to add to the circle of friends but they only join for part of the journey. Sima Dang is a historcal officer who travels around to collect stories and data on people and all sorts of happenings. Historians are not allowed to practise martial arts but they have ace levitation skills to get them out of tricky situations. Then there is Xiao Ya Nu, another doctor and healer who is famous for her treatment of wounds and acupuncture. Her stitching and herbal remedies will get one up and running in days rather than weeks. Her dream is to become the best doctor in the world. She has a one sided crush on Bu Zhi but thankfully isn’t turned into an annoying 2nd lead.
Bu Zhi and his group of friends meet all kinds of adversaries on their journey but the most persistent one is the assasins organisation, Ten Killing Gate. They were already after Shi Qi but target also Bu Zhi because he unknowingly aquires something important and detrimential to the organisation. Ten Killing Gate is divided into two branches, the assassins and the spys who live among the populance under false identities and gather intelligence for the use of the organisation. One such spy is Ming Ye whom Bu Zhi and Wo Huan meet on the 2nd case and she gets tangled with Wo Huan, who falls quck and hard. That is one doomed romance if there ever was one as she is the daughter and successor of the leader of Ten Killing Gate. One of the things that I appreaciated is that everyone, even the antagonists get back stories, so we actually know what their motive are. They aren’t there just as token ‘bad guys’ for the ‘good guys’ to beat. The cases are also linked because the people at the center of each of them are those Bu Zhi set out to meet. Besides him, they are the only survivors of the Shenji Vally tragedy.
I found the ending of the drama quite satifying with everything tied up to finish off even Bu Jian’s quest. It may perhaps feel too neat to some but I don’t care, I liked it. Towards the end of the last epi we get a reveal, one that I’d already sussed out couple of episodes earlier. Then right at the end there is a scene that possibly gives TPTB an option for a 2nd season. Whether that ever happens is another thing entirely. I game if it brings something new to the table.

The ending song 再见你 See You/Goodbye by 刘沁 Liu Qin, which is kinda sad but lovely

Viki version of the official trailer

I was tempted to cap just about every other scene but thankfully managed to talk myself out of it, LOL! Here’s just a few samples of the visuals.

12 thoughts on “Thoughts On: Ancient Detective

  1. I just finished Ancient Detective and came across your post after searching for info about a second season. Great write-up! You mentioned you were able to guess the big reveal in the final episode a few episodes earlier. I was completely blindsided! Just curious, were there particular scenes in the earlier episodes that hinted at the reveal? Or did you just have a feeling about what was coming?

    • Thanks! My writing has sadly been VERY sporadic in the past few years – mostly due to real life issues, but some dramas just ask to be written about. 🙂

      It’s been a while since I watched Ancient Detecitve, so my recollections of the details were pretty hazy. To refresh my memory I decided to rewatch most of the drama. 😀 Based on that, I doubt I had sussed out the secret before ep 22, which was the first time we actually got more detailed info on what happened 8 years ago. That’s when I connected the dots (going by the YT comments, it seems like that’s when many others got it too). The previous episodes were more or less about the various cases they were solving and didn’t really delve on Jian’s past. On hindsight, the only real hint was already in ep 1. The Beggar was clearely very surprised to see Jian and despite of denial, definitely recognized him. I guess it just didn’t really register at the time as everything was new and there was so much other stuff going on.

  2. Hi Timescout

    I was really happy to see that you posted this review. I really enjoyed reading it. This was my CDrama sleeper of the year.

    I am a fan of Wuxia as well as whodunits. I managed to catch AvenueX’s video (thank God I had the mindset to stop her review when she warned of coming spoilers and I am glad I was so disciplined 😊). I found it immediately and promptly non-stop binged it.

    I also thought the cinematography was gorgeous especially the fight scenes. I think Wang Ruo Shan is right up there as one of the most beautiful women in the world. So glad they used bare minimum makeup as she really does not need it.

    The one thing that struck me with this drama was that it felt like the actors felt more like real human beings than normal wuxia characters and, for lack of a better adjective, “fresher”. I was pretty bummed to read of the issues between the writer and director. Hopes for a season 2 and a more thorough look at what really happened 8 years in the past is looking pretty dim. There also may be no hope of keeping that, as you say, “Good Guy” cast together. It drives me bonkers when they have a season 2 (Ever Night e.g.) and main actor|s are replaced. While Dylan Wang did his best I was still emotionally attached to Chen Feiyu and his chemistry with Song Yiren.

    Thanks for bringing attention to this great drama Timescout!

    • You are welcome. 🙂 There sadly aren’t many dramas I feel the urge to write about these days, so it’s always a happy occasion when I do.

      This was one of those dramas I picked up almost on a whim after reading some good things about it. AvenueX’s vid was just the final nudge to make me watch. I’m really glad Drama didn’t go to pot at some point, like so many do. It was pretty filler free as well. Oh yes, Ruo Shan was… ethereal and girl can fight. There was a certain kind of realness about the characters, which I liked too. One factor could be that they didn’t use that overly saturated filter that many cdramas seem to abuse.

      Issues within the production are always sad. Ancient Detective thankfully doesn’t need S2 to finish off the story but it would have been a nice addition. I didn’t watch S2 of Ever Night because I just couldn’t really see anyone else than Chen Feiyu as Ning Que. Besides, that part of the story was kinda boring. 😉

  3. Wow….this show looks like a painting! I have yet to see a Cdrama (I did try one modern Cdrama called Well Intended Love and well, it was completely a mess!).

    • Yes, it is a very pretty drama. The cinematography is outstanding for something this low budget but it just goes to show that it pays to use your funds where they matter. 🙂

      There is plenty of rubbish floating round in the cdrama land but some quite good ones too. You’ll just have to look hard for them, ha. If oldfashioned murder mysteries are to your liking, you might enjoy Ancient Detective. It’s available both at Viki and YT with subs, so try it out and see if it fits. Oh, most modern cdramas are pretty generic and bland with lots of filler. I’ve yet to find one to watch all the way through, I’ve so far dropped all I’ve tried. Annnndddd you happened to pick one of the worst ones out there. 😀 There are some rather nice youth dramas but they all feel kinda similar. Guess they’ll do if you are just looking for some cute fluff. China also produces loads of crime shows, most of which unfortunately have no subs. E.g Burning Ice was very good and it’s subbed. Personally I’ve found that what I’ve liked best are the wuxia themed costume dramas with or without fantasy. But only a selected number of those as well. It’s still pretty much trial and error when it comes to cdramas for me.^^

        • I think I’ve covered most, if not all cdramas I’ve watched and liked (at least to some degree) in my blog. Those with proper posts can be found in the Index. 🙂

          As for wuxia… this will probably give you a proper explanation. 😀 There are not many “traditional” wuxia dramas produced anymore as they’d require more work and actors/productions well versed with the fighting techniques. It’s much easier to do stuff with CGI against greenscreen, but that hardly ever looks quite as good as the traditonal way of doing things would. Some come quite close though and these are the better dramas, like Joy of Life and Ever Night (S1). My own ‘measuring stick’ is Of Monks and Masters but as it’s still unsubbed, there aren’t many who have seen it.

          • Wow…thanks for this information!
            I can totally understand the charm of filming and watching such scenes the traditional way. I should start with any show of the genre as I hear so many good things about it all the time.

  4. The visuals look stunning!! Not usually a fan of wuxia but your review makes this show sound intriguing, plus I’m itching for a historical c-drama as a break from k-dramas.

    • Yes, it is a visually gorgeous drama allright. I must say I prefer wuxia to xianxia as wuxia doesn’t have the heavenly realms and it’s annoying gods. 😀 This one also feels more like oldskool wuxia in it’s execution, which is something I tend to like as well. Take a look and see if it works for you, despite of the genre.

      • Oh, right. I always get mixed up with xianxia and wuxia 😂 I’m usually a harem political drama person. But ever since NIF and Ten Miles, I’ve become more open to the other subgenres of historical dramas. Will definitely give this a try!! Am in a slump at the moment so hopefully this will pull me out of it.

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