Name: Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
Writer/director: Yuan Zi Dan / Ringo Yu
Date: August 2021
Number of episodes: 50
Genre: Wuxia, Historical, Romance, Adventure, Friendship, Romance
Based on book/manga?: Yes, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils by Jin Yong
Why did I press play?
Since this is a classic story, I wanted to watch it. I couldn’t get into the 2003 – the old school production detracted from the story. It was exciting when a new version came out!
This drama has become one of my favorite dramas of all time. I do not particularly care for the storyline in the first 4 episodes, but after that it becomes a whirlwind of perfect pacing, acting, characters, and storyline. Because I have only seen Tony Yan in romantic dramas and movies, (even in supporting roles, he stood out) I was skeptical of him portraying a warrior, but boy did her deliver and did a phenomenal job! It simply goes to show that some actors have far more skill than the roles they are typically cast in. It’s a true pleasure to see an actor give an outstanding performance, especially so unexpectedly.
This drama is 50 episodes long, and it NEEDS all 50 episodes. There are no fillers, the story simply takes this long to tell, the fights scenes are wildly amazing, and plentiful, and can take up a large part of an episode.
The Fighting Scenes
The fighting scenes. Not only are the fighting scenes some of the best I have ever seen. But there are so many of them and all are top-notch. The film crew were tenacious with never dropping the ball or compromising on this. One can only imagine the immense about of effort that went into this. that orchestrated the fighting, deserves a standing ovation – and kudos to the producers and director, for allowing what could have been an insanely huge budget.
It seemed like all of it was very real. The actors must have pushed themselves hard to shape up and complete those scenes. I can’t imagine it was easy by any means. Staying in character and doing such physical fighting, making sure you do all the correct moves, stay safe and acting, it’s no easy feat. I wonder how many takes different fights took, or were they rehearsed so much, that in filming, it only took a couple of takes.
Duan’s fighting style was so weird that he was one of the few ones that didn’t have the impressive vibe to it.
Thoughts on main cast
Qiao Feng / Xiao Feng (Former beggar chief)
This is a perfect performance. He blew my socks off. Never for one moment did it feel like an actor was acting. But only Qiao Feng existed. The best way to describe the essence or the undercurrent of who he is: ultimately he actually goes with the flow. So many things happen to him, and he deals with it as it comes, not always looking ahead, but looking at the big picture. Part of his values, he doesn’t seem to hold on to things tightly. Such as, after all the martial parts he’s learnt, and diplomacy, he is perfectly content to retreat from the martial art world and farm with his beloved. I honestly don’t think he would miss the martial arts world that much.
Despite plans, if something comes up (because of his “go with the flow” attitude), he will take a detour and deal with that. This sadly often prevents him from getting to that original goal, and then he simply goes in a different direction that changes the trajectory of his life. Such as going to look for Duan Zheng Ming instead of just starting his new life with A Zu .
Often he does things against his own, but out of duty or pressure. An example (it was a bit of a shock), that he caved under the immense pressure and became the leader of the army. He is not a pushover, and as long as it doesn’t clash with his values, certain people can easily persuade him. This is the biggest contradiction and perhaps his greatest weakness of his. Another example is A Zu’s crazy sister, A Zi (who is the second most annoying character), he doesn’t like her and wants nothing to do with her, but eventually easily agrees to look after her for a lifetime (as a sister-in-law).
Xu Zhu (The Monk)
I have mixed feelings about the actor (Zhang Tian Yang) playing this. The main issue that he fluctuating between being brilliant and cringe. The first occurred, the character was rich, and his story immersive. However, when the latter occurred, the actor and not the character are seen – it took me out of the story. He is better at playing with intense emotions. Xu Zhu wears his heart on his sleeve. When the scene calls for intense emotions, such as him being distressed, emotional, in love, and fighting scenes, his acting is strong, raw and powerful.
Zhu is quite dorky and naïve. It was when this side of Zhu is portrayed that Tian Yang fell short.The standout moment of his acting and one of the best scenes in the drama is towards the end when he accidentally meets the princess.
As for the character himself, he didn’t feel defined. I haven’t read the novel, and am not sure if this is how he was originally written and has little to do with the script, but something felt inconsistent and sometimes even off about Zhu. He was deeply rooted values, and becomes very distressed when circumstances and temptations force him to go against them. Even the temptations were presented to him at his weakest moments. Despite his intrenched values, consistent pressure can eventually sway him. Most of the drama is quite emotional and lost.
His fighting was excellent, though, and some of my favorite of the drama. His style of movement, especially as he becomes more skilled are smooth, and efficient. Two of best fights is when he runs up to those guys in the forest and rescues the “girl”. The camera angle, music, and his movements are awesome. The second is when he yet again becomes the leader of another sect. At the temple, the guys try to kill him, and he easily defeats them, while trying to not hurt them. (Sorry I can’t recall the names of the sects, but you’ll know if you watch it).
Prince of Duan
Duan Yu is an endearing character, who initially seems rather silly, but he has a serious side to him. He is loyal and truly cares for those who are close to him. He is the most empathetic character. If there is a conflict, he always tried to pacifiy it (mostly unsuccessfully). By nature, he is a free spirit and goes wherever the wind blows him – and always lands on his feet. Essentially, he lives in the moment, making the most of where ever he is. Although his joy and contentment is shaken by his misery while pinning for Wang Yu Yan.
On a personal note, the tone of his voice is swoon worthy, sometimes simply enjoyed listening to him talk. As a bonus, it added a depth to his whimsical ways. The styling of the character was on point, adding some pizzas to the drama – the black earring is nice touch.
Can we just mention the poor guy’s predicament at all his unexpected half sisters! What a nightmare. Would he have been happy if he married Mu Wan Qing? I don’t think so. Plus her character was a little too arrogant for my liking, and I had no complaints when she fell off the plot until the end.
A word of warning, you may melt at having to endure his acts while pinning for Wang Yu Yan, after she clearly turned him down. It’s some major second hand embarrassment and a lot of it!
Initially, he’s likable, and slightly boyish with affection towards Wang Yu Yan. But unfortunately, due to bulling parents, he has low-self esteem, and little resolve that comes from within, rather from pressure to please others in this clan. Sadly, the latter overpowers him, and he stops resisting, and hardens any softness, and simply becomes an arrogant and unstable man. Till the end he was little self-confidence, and spirals into an unstable, dangerous, and obsessive man. Slowly his grip on thinking critically, and realistically, slips away. He never received acceptance and love from his parents, and in turn, never accepted or loved himself. Even throwing away the one person who cared deeply about him, Yu Yaun.
His character is unique because he starts of decent, and slowly reaches a crossroad for either pursuing his happiness and purpose, and or fulfilling his father’s unachievable dream. Sadly, he chooses the latter, and we watch his journey to self-destruction.
I did like this actor (and even looked up other dramas he was in), and overall he did a good job, not outstanding, but he was consistent in his acting and portrayal. But ironically, my favorite scene with him, is where he is disguised and fights Duan at the silk house – and that was a different actor. Perhaps that actor was more subtle in carrying out the essence of Murong.
On a side note, he is doing a fantastic job as Ning E Mei in Sword Snow Stride.
Most frustrating characters:
First up is Kang Min. Zhu Zhu’s acting leaves much to be desires. It barely differs from in role/acting in “My heroic husband”. Part from a few character differences, there are no nuanced differences in her acting. All she seems to do, it appears out of nowhere, act entitled and important and casts an endless slew of glares or has an arrogant expression. I am honestly baffled at her casting. I often skipped scenes she was in – she became that annoying. During episode 15 (or 16) she goes forward to take the first sip of alcohol, instead of it being an intense moment, it’s more like, why are you even here, go away, you’re not even that important in the sect’s hierarchy”.
Jiu Mo Zhi
This guy’s entire plot line is sloppy, the character makes no sense and honestly doesn’t add much to the plot. It feels like hurried writing. To make matters worse, his acting is… dismal. He’s not believable or has any on screen presence. Eventually, I forwarded or muted most of his scenes. He made the plots surrounding dull. Such as, he becomes the new beggar chief was so anti-climatic and the whole tournament didn’t even make sense. Zhu Xiao Yu’s acting didn’t do any favors, he is also 41, which I presume is about 20 years older Mo Zhi is supposed to be.
A Zi, is just annoying, everything about her is. Perhaps a combination of different actress and slightly softening A Zi, could have salvaged the character. I couldn’t wait for her to get off the screen.
On a side note, you can’t help but wonder what happened behind the scenes for these three to get casted. They are not near the calibre of acting as other others, and this also makes their characters feel undeveloped. When they are on screen, it feels more like a typical idol drama.
The last quarter, can get draggy, but it all comes together, and the ending really is perfect. It’s worth hanging in there, (even if you skip some of the boring parts) to see and appreciate the ending.
Who are the main characters? Which actors play them?
Qiao Feng / Xiao Feng played by Tony Yang (original head of beggar’s gang)
Duan Yu played by Bai Shu (prince of Dali)
Xu Zhu played by Zhang Tian Yang (monk)
Murong Fu played by Gao Tai Yu (wants to rebuild Yu kingdom)
Wang Yu Yan played by Janice Man (Duan Yu’s main love interest)
A Zhu played by Su Qing (the love of Qiao Feng’s life)
A Zi played by He Hong Shan (A Zhu’s crazy sister)
Kang Min played by Zhu Zhu (wife of the one beggar sect leaders)
Theme: The lyrics of the intro songs says it all!
What is it good for? Settling in for a good old and long story.