Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei (怪侠一枝梅)
Synopsis: Li Ge Xiao is skilled in martial arts and has the brain to match it. In his former life, he was a high ranking Marshal with great law enforcement authority. But after his enemy framed him with false crime and executed his family, he went on the run. Years later, he came out of hiding to help a former colleague recover stolen gold for disaster relief. With his new partners, thief Yan San Niang, grafter He Xiao Mei, and muscle Chai Hu, they formed a bandit called “Yi Zhi Mei” that robs the rich and the corrupted and gives to the poor and the helpless.
Genre: Wuxia, action, adventure, romance
Duration: 45 min
Casting: Wallace Huo, Liu Cecilia, Siu Edwin, Xing Yu, Ma Tian Yu….
I had lots of expectations for The Vigilantes in Masks because:
1/ great comments, great grade on dramalist
2/ another drama with Wallace Huo
3/ another wuxia to quench my curiosity about that genre
4/ a story similar to Iljimae (didn’t really enjoy that Korean drama but still liked the plot per se).
Imagine my disappointment when I saw the firsts episodes: all the character were cliché and all the actors overplayed.
As for the making it wasn’t glorious either. I still don’t understand why The Vigilantes in Masks is considered as a wuxia on dramalist, cause except from one
ugly setting nothing looked fanciful. Even the fights were quite normal, if we put aside the excess of high speed -which was a weird to not say a silly choice. The few special effects were awful to watch not because they were badly made but rather because they were exaggerated without being enough exaggerated. I think I would have preferred a univers similar to The Journey Of Flower rather than this poor mix of reality and super human power. In other words it was far from what I had thought. The plot wasn’t as good as Iljimae either. It broadly followed the same pattern- an Asian Robin Hood fighting against injustices and helping the poor- but it was too manga-like. I’m ready to partly excuse the scriptwriters on that point, if it was a real adaptation (like the Chinese painting style manga put in-between scenes suggested it) ….but I’m not sure it was-or at least I couldn’t find any informations about that on the net. Plus even if it was, they still could have taken more care of the overall writing.
The characters could have hardly been less original, just like the story could have hardly been less thrilling. Most missions bored me and unfortunately some of them (the worst ones) were spread over several episodes. They did try to make the story less dull by revealing the character’s past -which was a good idea per se- but since I felt nothing for most of them I never managed to be at 100% into their stories. The main flaw of that drama was in short the lack of regularity in its writing. The romance for example almost completely disappeared after a while -or at least seemed to have completely disappeared. I don’t understand why they didn’t stretch it throughout the whole drama instead of only bombarding us with “romantic scenes” at the beginning and the very end of the drama. It weakened completely the credibility of their couple. In the end I think I would have preferred to see the drama focused more on a well-built romance than on anything else -even if it would have been at the cost of the other characters. Cause ultimately the only episodes that really excited me where the last ones when the romance was a bit more challenged because of the villains.
Somehow, Li Ge Xiao (Wallace Huo) reminded me a bit of Dae Gil (Jang Hyuk) in Chuno. Just like him Li Ge Xiao was released from his well-off position, lost his first love, drank to forget it and always wore a smirk on his face. The similarity between the two characters wasn’t flagrant as they were both really different deep down, but the important point to retain was that Li Ge Xiao gave me a feeling of déjà vu. That might partly explain my disinterest for our hero. He was too easy to read and his character trait were too accentuated, making him most of the time rather laughable (Wallace Huo’s performance wasn’t of a great help in addition). He rose in my esteem only near the end when he hide less behind his “I’m a badass, I don’t care about death” ‘s façade and showed his feeling in front of San Niang. We also got to know his past and the explanation behind his long-lasting argument with Ying Wu Qiu, making him much more bearable (even though he was still laughable at times).
Yan San Niang (Liu Cecilia) was a strong heroine but not an unforgettable one. Just like Li Ge Xiao (and Chai Hu -the next character) she gave me a feeling of déjà vu. She is the kind of heroine you can easily find in a novel for teenagers: a beautiful independent thief who is never at a loss for words, especially in front of men. I can’t say that I completely disliked those features of her but I still think she would have been much more interesting if she had been at times a bit weaker (in term of fight abilities) and indifferent to Li Ge Xiao. Cause in the end that made her character more frustrating than anything else. She was always raring to go and a busybody when it came to Li Ge Xiao which didn’t help the romance -as she was the only one pushing and pulling. I would have liked seeing her more proud and being less concerned about him once she had seen how indifferent he stayed towards her feelings. That might have reversed the tendency and made the romance more exciting.
On the other hand, if her relation with Li Ge Xiao wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed the one she had with Xiao Mei. We barely saw them together but the few times we did I liked the sisterly relation they had.
Chai Hu (Xing Yu) was the character the most cliché. Open any manga involving a team and you’ll find him. Very boring -even when they tried to look deeper into his personal background I didn’t manage to see him otherwise than just a blockhead. He only knew how to use his fits and was always ready to rush in without thinking. Fortunately he had smarter teammate with him cause otherwise he would have long died because of his stupidity. He was the less engaging character in other words. I remained perfectly indifferent to him.
He Xiao Mei (Ma Tian Yu) might have been in term of writing the most original (even though it’s rather common to have one guy preferring to use his head than his fits in a team). I liked him as he was smart, rational and scary-cat. He was the one who seemed the most human. He was afraid when he was in danger and more keen to run away. He wasn’t a complete coward for all that. He always fulfiled his missions and was ready to kill when needed. In other words he cleverly counter-balanced Chai Hu the blockhead and San Niang the inflamed girl.
Ying Wu Qiu (Siu Edwin) might have been the character that disappointed me the less in the end. I didn’t like him but at least he met all my expectations. I admit that his evolution could have been better built (throughout the whole drama I wondered why he only sought revenge against Li Ge Xiao and not the other guys responsible of Ruyi’s death- his first and only love) just like his writing could have also been more complex. It was a bit too easy to make him the victim of so many injustices just to explain the turn of his character. It was also too easy to build a “bromance” with Li Ge Xiao to destroy it then, because of a woman (I’m putting bromance into inverted commas cause for me it wasn’t one. They never had a good relation. Wu Qiu never digested the fact that he was weaker than Li Ge Xiao nor Ruyi’s marriage with this latter -normal! Li Ge Xiao’s brotherhood was imposed on him and I rolled on the floor when I heard our hero said to him “we were once the best of brothers”). But in the end I was nonetheless satisfied by him. His last sentence was incidentally beautiful! SPOILER- ‘I’m finally ahead of you…. to see Ruyi”– SPOILER Perfect to close his character on a good note.
Like you probably understood by now, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the watching of The Vigilantes in Masks. It wasn’t whole bad. The plot was rational and the character kept their consistency throughout the whole drama. But it wasn’t as thrilling as one could have wished. Knowing my opinion, the choice is now yours!
Note de Dushbadou: 7/10
Note finale: 7/10