Monday, November 12, 2012

Die Sterntaler: Episode 1 - 4

This show is, at its core, a story about two brothers falling in love with one girl (now that I think about it, the brothers' personalities are not unlike The Vampire Diaries' - one self-destructive while the other is... oh yunno. Everybody watches TVD - I'm on Team Stefan btw). The two leading actors, when asked on what they'll do if they ever find themselves in a love triangle, Ryhdian Vaughan replies that he'll probably give up the girl, while second lead Sphinx (funky name eh) Ding begs to differ: "If I really love that woman, it won't matter whose girlfriend she is." Ooh. Now that is what I call spot-on casting.

Characters and the plot aside (more on that later), my, the quality really shows. I think this is a great joint effort by Japan and Taiwan, because the snowy scenes took my breath away, and I really appreciated the Japanese culture they've subtly incorporated into the everyday lives of the characters. I wished the OTP could just stay in Japan forever, safe from the crazy-up-the-wazoo shiz in Taiwan. Alas, as this is a remake, one cannot defy the original jdorama. But nothing is going to stop me from madly crossing my fingers and hope the ending will be different this time around.

Louis Armstrong - "A Kiss To Build A Dream On"


A young woman writes her name on the misty pane of the bus, "Aya" but to her chinese speaking friends and family, she is XIAO CAI (Nikki Hsieh), a 22-year-old who lives in a small town in Hokkaido with her grandfather. She may be deaf, but that doesn't stop her from seeing the beauty in life. Optimist? Maybe.

It's Valentine's Day (a big day in Japan, if mangas are any indication), but instead of celebrating with a special someone, she opts to accompany her Grandpa to Sapporo. Grandpa is sick (an understatement really, since he's dying) and is there to see the doctor, but half-lies to Xiao Cai saying he's there to see an old friend. They'll have lots to talk about, and he doesn't want to bore her, so she might as well go sightseeing whilst in the big city. 
That was their first encounter. In a quaint CD shop where Louis Armstrong croons in the background, CHU YONG XIU (Rhydian Vaughan) sees her smilingly wistfully as the sunlight shone through the window, gracing her face. He just stands there, too mesmerized to move, watching her from a distance.
The man is smitten. He requests for the CD playing in the background, but the store employee tells him the one playing now is the only one left. Xiao Cai is able to read the situation, or more accurately, the employee's lips. The music comes to an abrupt stop as she takes out the CD and hands it to Yong Xiu before she rushes out. 

He hurries out after her, but not before buying the CD. For the lady? You betcha, but he is too late for she's already gone. But that's OK, he's still smiling because he knows dramaland's a small place. They meet again on the very same day, because Yong Xiu's mentor and grandpa's doctor friend is one and the same person. 

He sees her and smiles. She recognizes him too. "When You're Smiling," he says (it's the song playing in the CD store). He realizes that she's deaf when she signs him back. That doesn't seem to be a deal-breaker for him though, because he offers to be the new doctor for their town's clinic (doctor grandpa is looking for replacement under the pretense that he wants to retire). Yong Xiu's offer comes as a surprise to everyone at the dinner table, since he is an outstanding brain surgeon with a bright future ahead of him (seriously, everyone at the hospital praises him like he's the best thing since white rice).  

It's time for grandpa and Xiao Cai to head back to Bihoro, but there's still forty minutes to kill before the bus departs. Grandpa starts to head out, but Yong Xiu insists that they wait in the car where it's warm. He then gets out to buy them some warm drinks, and grandpa tells Xiao Cai to keep Yong Xiu company. So she follows after him.

It's kinda cute because Yong Xiu is clearly enamored, but Xiao Cai is just chill (I don't mean being cold towards him; she's just treating him as she would towards someone she's just met). He writes on her notebook, "So you like Louis Armstrong?" She says that she doesn't know who that is, she's merely enjoying the beats from the speaker. Yong Xiu tells her, do you know there's another way to enjoy music?

At this point, I was genuinely interested to hear what he had to say, him being a doctor and all. What other ways can a deaf person enjoy music? I honestly could not think of any. You know what he did? He took her hand, placed it on his heart and said "Can you feel it?" Buh, I fell off my chair. Smooth, boy, smooth. She smile and nods; he sings the song as they dance under the falling snow. 
Despite being a flight attendant with a busy schedule, XIA XIANG QI (Reen Yu) uses every opportunity to swap schedules so she can fly the Japan route to meet her beloved Yong Xiu, despite the latter thinking they're just friends. I think deep down she knows how he really feels, but that doesn't stop her from hovering, using "good friends" as an excuse. Her colleagues think she has a "mysterious boyfriend" and she doesn't correct their mistaken impression, she even plays along. Out of pride or delusion, I don't know.
Out of all the scenes in this show, there's one that left a lasting impression on me, one that showed Xiao Cai at her most vulnerable. It was a flashback that showed how her mother abandoned her - nothing groundbreaking in terms of drama plots, but the shaking camera (mom's probably a junkie), how mom cried and told little Xiao Cai to "be a good girl and wait for me" made it so real. I think a few days went by before grandpa and social services got to her. She just sat there, like the good girl she is.

This memory came to Xiao Cai because Yong Xiu had asked her to wait for him, but was late due to a medical emergency. Rule #1 when dating this girl, do NOT be late. He returns to see a teary Xiao Cai. She thought he had abandoned her. He hugs her and says, "I'll never ever leave your side." Sob. The fact I know shit will hit the fan soon? Not helping. 

He recites the German fable that gave this show its name, Die Sterntaler (aka The Star Money). It's about this girl who gave away all her belongings, even the clothes she's wearing (it occurs to me that the girl is now naked) to the people in need. And stars fell down the sky, turning into coins for her - while he signs the story to her, a star/coin pendant falls from his hands. Again, smooth. He had bought it when he saw her eyeing it earlier at the shop.

He thinks she's like the girl from that fairy tale. (The naked bit? Of course not.) She keeps giving and giving without expecting anything in return. He signs/asks her: "Like it?" She signs back, "like" then points to him (so ultimately it means: "I like you"). The OTP - I'm calling them that, original ending be damned - share their very awkward first kiss, got married the next day and they lived happily ever after.

Sigh, I wish. When the OTP "officially" gets together, the fall out comes. It always does, especially when it's just the 3rd episode. Yong Xiu gets the dreaded phone call that sends him packing to Taiwan. He promises to send her an SMS when he gets there. They both part after signing "I love you." *sniffle* My babies are so good together. 

You know that uneasy feeling you get when everything's fantastic and you just know it's going to crash and burn? Well I'm getting the prickly feeling right about now.

But he makes it back to Taiwan in one piece, thank god. The horror came later in the form of a petite flight attendant, Xiang Qi (the lady with the unrequited love for him). She spots him at the airport, no doubt with her well-honed Yong Xiu Detector. Rushing towards him, she trips and falls down the elevator. But she's okay, since Yong Xiu dived after her and cushioned her fall. As a result, he's now Humpty Dumpty :(

Pretty sure this was what made him lose his memories - the vigorous shaking of his head OMG

He ends up at estranged dad's hospital, the very person responsible for his leaving Taiwan in the first place. Yong Xiu's brother, YONG TUO (Sphinx Ding) tells Xiang Qi that his brother had damaged his brain, as a result he'll lose part of his memories, if not all. He asks whether that's okay with her, him being a different person from before. He assumes they're together, are they not?

She fibs that they've dated for two years already. Oh, you lying liar who lies. Hold on, I'm having a traumatic flashback to Autumn In My Heart (remember that clingy girlfriend? Oh boy.)

Yong Tuo once looked up to his elder bro, but is left heartbroken when he suddenly left home, never to be heard of again. Until now. He pretends not to care, but he does. Or so says his shrink, LI MEI HE (Angus Chang). 
But Mei He has an ulterior motive for approaching him, she is in cahoots with REN WEN SHEN (Alex To), the Vice President of the hospital. This is all to avenge her father, who died because Yong Tuo's dad refused to operate on her dad, because they didn't have money for the operation. She's developed a soft spot for Yong Tuo though.

As for Vice President Wen Shen, his motive remains unclear. Power, I guess? Oh, by the way, he is also having an affair with Yong Tuo's mom. They have lots of old people sex, which, ugh. Sometimes implying is more than enough, Show.

As for Yong Tuo's mom, she is desperate to please her son, the latter whom hates her. He doesn't say it outright, but you can count on him to reply with a thinly-veiled insult. As to why, we do not know. "Don't think I don't know what you did to brother," he once told her. Hmm...

In Japan, the promised SMS is forgotten, because Xiao Cai is grieving for her grandpa, who has suddenly passed away after coughing blood (I know). With nothing left for her, she heads to Taiwan, in hopes of finding Yong Xiu. That's when she meets Yong Tuo...

Chloe Says

Younger bro Yong Tuo, the verdict's still out on this one. Out of the four cast members, everyone's character had changes done (that differs from the original), except for his. In fact, many of his scenes are exactly the same as the jdorama. He's still the self-loathing casanova who treats people like shit because he feels like shit himself. But it's hard to feel sorry for him when he's moping around driving a Ferrari (not exactly Ferrari, but you get my drift). Boohoo, so daddy doesn't love you. Move the fuck on, boy.

That does mean I should be hating him already. *sharpens scissors* If he ever gets handsy on our heroine...

Ratings-wise, this drama is not doing well, but I don't think that's any indication of how good a show is (especially when the main cast are not well-known). I'm not saying the ratings are wrong, because I can definitely see why that's the case. This show can be hard to relate to, since it's so... surreal. You get a sense that it is a drama, not a could-be real world.
Die Sterntaler alternates between Japan and Taiwan scenes; the juxtaposition highlights the "jun ai" (i.e innocent/pure love) in one and debauchery in another. Gives a whole new meaning to "as pure as snow" doesn't it? The Taiwan characters are kinda out there, and as for the Japan scenes, well, you know how jun ai goes. Not exactly what ratings are made of.

But for what it's worth, it's a GREAT remake. Having seen the original (or most of it anyway), I definitely recommend this for those who couldn't stomach the over-the-top and WTF-uckery that is Hoshi no Kinky Kinka. The makjangness have toned down a whole lot, characters infinitely more likeable, scenes are added to make a more cohesive plot. Having been touted as the classic Second Lead Gets The Girl show, it's definitely recommended if one has a thing for morally ambiguous, dysfunctional hero. Or you can be on the pure love team, like me. 

Now that the story has moved to Taiwan (episode 4 onwards), I'm game to see how the heroine's presence will affect said useless second lead. Xiao Cai will finally meet the dreaded younger brother! I'm already feeling sorry the poor girl is getting sucked into his world, because the man is a crazy weirdo and I'm genuinely worried for her well-being. (Believe me, I wish I was exaggerating.)


  1. LOL to your Vampire Diaries' comment ^^
    I'n actually on Daemon's team but on this I agree with your parting comment, second lead is not only crazy but not worth it conpared to the main lead... And that from someone who often get second lead syndrome ^^
    I've been dying to wacth with subs, so thanks a lot for the reccap :)

    1. Thanks for reading, hope it has helped you in some ways. This show is great, if only it has less old people scenes and corporate (hospital) machinations, yawn.

  2. THANKS for the recap Yay for team Stefan too <3

    1. aw, bless! I get giddy when I meet Stefan supporters he definitely needs more lovin' :3

  3. Hi do you know where I can find this show with English subtitles? Your recapped has me interested in watching it, but I'm having a hard time finding it with subtitles.

    1. Hi dearie, sorry I can't give you a definite answer as I don't actually watch the show with subtitles, but from what I know my mom watches HK dramas from gooddrama dot net and the show subs HK dramas, so the taiwanese ones might be subbed too.