My first attempt to watch A Love So Beautiful was a total failure. Even though I was intrigued by the cast and premise of the drama, I simply could not handle the tonal cadence of the Chinese language; it sounded so weird compared to the Korean language, which I had grown to love. Another reason for my DNFing the drama was the stupid subtitles on KissAsian. The sentence structure was all wrong, and there were Chinese subtitles below the English ones. These two factors combined to eliminate my interest. Temporarily, at least.
However, when I perused Netflix last week, I discovered that A Love So Beautiful was already on the catalog. I was delighted because that meant I didn’t have to deal with crappy subtitles. Plus, I could watch the drama while enjoying the big couch and flat-screen TV in the living room. Surprisingly, when my brother, Maui, noticed what I was watching, he became intrigued enough to join me. And so began our 2-day marathon.
The plot of A Love So Beautiful is similar to a typical YA contemporary novel. It is about a kinda unintelligent girl named Xiao Xi, who has an unrequited crush on her neighbor and classmate named Jiang Chen. When Jiang Chen finally returns Xiao Xi’s feelings, an an annoying dude named Wu Bo Sung gets in the way. However, it’s pretty obvious who’s gonna end up with who. To make things more fascinating, the drama features an awkward romance between Lu Yang, a perverted bookworm, and Lin Jingxiao, the prettiest girl in school. The stories of these five characters intertwine to create a cute, funny, and nearly addictive drama.
The plot of A Love So Beautiful was indeed formulaic, so I was a little jaded, especially during the climax. Xiao Xi and Jiang Chen had broken up because of their lack of communication and quality time, but I didn’t feel the intended sadness since I knew that they would eventually get back together and prove Taylor Swift to shame.
Among all of the characters, Jiang Chen was the most relatable. Like me, he was introverted and academically inclined. Kuya Maui, who had unwittingly stolen the affections of his friends’ crushes, was also able to connect with Jiang Chen. Interestingly, Kuya Maui said that Xiao Xi reminded him of his girlfriend, Ate Kyleen. Come to think of it, Kuya Maui probably liked Jiang Chen more than I did. The latter was frustrating sometimes because of his jealous behavior that bordered on pride, cowardice, and insensitivity. More often than not, mean boys in fiction get on my nerves.
Ate Charita, one of my friends at work, said that Xiao Xi should have been a smarter protagonist in order to break the stereotype of female frivolity in today’s media. I agreed with her statement because it wasn’t nice that Xiao Xi’s ignorance was one of the drama’s sources of humor. In one of the episodes, Lu Yang himself criticized her for being uncultured. To be fair, she wasn’t that pathetic. Xiao Xi was actually a talented artist. And with Jiang Chen’s help, she was able to publish an autobiographical comic book. Furthermore, Xiao Xi might have sucked academically, but her emotional quotient was relatively high. I often wondered how she was able to ignore everyone who said that she wasn’t good enough for Jiang Chen.
Wu Bo Sung, the second male lead, was a hopeless case from the very beginning. His father didn’t want him to have a girlfriend, and Xiao Xi’s mom overtly disliked him. It was pathetic how he pursued Xiao Xi knowing that he practically didn’t stand a chance against Jiang Chen. At the end, Wu Bo Sung’s efforts to win Xiao Xi were to no avail, making him a mere plot device. Oh well, I guess I should give him some credit for his unfailing kindness.
My favorite characters were Lu Yang and Lin Jingxiao. I expected Lu Yang to be the one to come between Xiao Xi and Jiang Chen, so I didn’t expect him to be paired with Lin Jingxiao. It was funny how Lu Yang caused Lin Jingxiao to get over her somewhat petty crush on Doctor Li Shu. The best thing that I liked about Lu Yang and Lin Jingxiao was their relationship with Jiang Chen and Xiao Xi respectively. Lu Yang taught Jiang Chen to be more sensitive, while Lin Jingxiao was Xiao Xi’s ultimate cheerleader and defender.
I cannot end my character analysis without ranting about Li Wei, the most annoyingly coquettish (pabebe in Filipino) character in the drama. I got pissed off every time she showed up and asked Jiang Chen to help her with an assignment or whatever. She just had this pretentious, high-pitched voice that never failed to trigger me. I particularly disliked how she used her depression as an excuse to get closer to Jiang Chen. To make things worse, she caused Doctor Li Shu to lose his job and move to Africa. I honestly felt bad about hating a character with a mental illness. After all, people with depression should be understood, not criticized. With that in mind, I found it weird that Li Wei suddenly became an irrelevant character after she was diagnosed with depression; she was gone for a long time and only reappeared in the last episode. This phenomenon was kinda ableist, if you ask me. Nonetheless, Li Wei was such an irritating character that I couldn’t find any gif of her. xD
In regards to its thematic content, A Love So Beautiful had a wonderful depiction of friendship. Xiao Xi and the other protagonists had different degrees of closeness, but all of them were realistic and meaningful. Each of them had distinct personalities that almost any viewer could relate to. I also appreciated how this drama illustrated the stress caused by college applications. Xiao Xi and her peers were pressured to get and maintain high grades in fear of being rejected by their dream universities. They had to take two major exams: a general exam mandated by the government and a specialized exam issued by a particular university. Plus, the characters had to deal with the occasionally unfair and irrational expectations of their parents. In my opinion, the academic drama in the show accurately reflected what could happen in real life, particularly in Asian countries like China and Korea. Thankfully, Xiao Xi and the other protagonists helped each other overcome their academic struggles.
With all that said, I gave A Love So Beautiful 4.5 out of 5 stars. The plot was fast-paced, most of the protagonists were very likable, and the overall content was realistic and relevant. My only major pet peeve was the character arc of Li Wei. It was my first time to complete a Chinese drama, and my experience turned out to be very enjoyable. Thank God for Netflix and siblings to binge watch with. ❤