Kmuse & Kdrama Jen have been on a massive drama binge and have discovered one of the best Chinese dramas ever! Come join them as they share their top ten reasons you should be watching the political/historical/romantic juggernaut The Rise of the Phoenixes.
# 1 Ning Yi is both brilliant and hot
Kdrama Jen: Chen Kun (Ning Yi) is an amazing actor. I love how he is able to play the smart guy playing the fool and then pull off one of his smoldering looks as well. He is an established actor and producer, and it really shows. He is over forty, but he seems able to play a much younger character.
Kmuse: I think that Ning Yi is very interesting physically. When you just take a screenshot of Ning Yi he is very traditionally handsome. But then when you watch him act his mannerisms/facial expressions are all over the place. Something we don’t always get when it comes to Chinese dramas since they usually tend to go with a more stoic leading man. But this more elastic acting style totally works since Ning Yi is pretending to be a drunken buffoon who only cares for clothes. When in reality he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and is out to destroy so many people.
#2 Ni Ni is our girl crush!
Kdrama Jen: I love Ni Ni as an actress, but I adore her as Wei Zhi! If you have been looking for a drama with a strong female lead who is smart and witty and resourceful, then this is the drama for you! She is also stunningly beautiful. I am not sure how anyone could mistake her for a man, but it does seem like all you have to do is put your hair up and plop on a hat and suddenly nobody knows who you are in dramaland.
Kmuse: Yet again we have a character that isn’t our traditional Chinese beauty and it is wonderful. Her features are so strong which benefits the drama since she stands out among the rest of the women. I love this actress so much! I also have a serious case of eyebrow envy. How does she get them to be so expressive? In the words of my daughter Aspen, Ni Ni is a pro at speaking eyebrow.
#3 Women are equal to men
Kdrama Jen: I love that Wei Zhi, the princess (even though I don’t like her very much), Wei Zhi’s mother, and the various mothers of the princes are all intelligent and deeply involved in moving the plot forward. These are not pretty pieces of pottery on a shelf to be admired. The women in this drama are at the heart of the action, and it is often their machinations behind major plot twists and turns.
Kmuse: This is one of the reasons I love Chinese dramas. They don’t make the female characters less important politically & emotionally to men. It is by far one of my biggest issues with Korean sagueks. So often men keep secrets from the poor little woman for their own good and it drives me nuts. No weaker sex in this drama. The girls kick butt and take names.
#4 Let’s give them an award for styling!
Kdrama Jen: I feel like they must have had an enormous costume budget. The fabrics they use look luxurious and you can almost imagine how they would feel. It also feels like they attended to every detail from finding the perfect white linen for Ning Yi’s “nighties” to the polished buttons on the guards’ uniforms.
Kmuse: I was shocked at how elaborate the costuming was. It isn’t like they are wearing the same thing for all 70 episodes. No, they change wardrobes one to three times an episode. That is INSANE! And the quality is very evident. High-grade looking silks, authentic looking linens, rich embroidery, and textured brocade fabric was used in everyone’s wardrobe. You can also notice that the stylists often layered the fabrics as well. You will frequently see the glimpse of a secondary pattern inside the sleeve or collar of the various princely garments. Most dramas do not go into that level of detail.
It is obvious that these are very intricate and beautifully crafted one of a kind outfits. Half the time I literally am thinking that I want to pet Ning Yi’s chest to check if his clothes feel as good as they look.
Kdrama Jen: Yeah. Me too. You know, just to check the quality of the linen…
#5 Brilliant politicking
Kdrama Jen: Some of our fellow fangirls avoid Chinese dramas when there is too much politicking, but I think this drama is different. This is not a lot of men in back rooms rubbing their hands together maniacally as they plot the downfall of the other side. Sure, there is a ton of plotting of downfalls, but the women are just as involved, and no side really seems smarter than the other. Everyone is just brilliant, so it is a constant chess game (or would that be Go?) to see who will win each time.
Kmuse: The Rise of the Phoenixes has surpassed Nirvana in Fire as my favorite Chinese politicking drama. It is so intricate and fascinating and I can’t get enough. I also love that all the political characters are so intelligent. There is no one that is a dullard that has his position just because of his/her birth. You really don’t know who is going to win the various battles until everything is finished.
#6 All the shades of grey
Kdrama Jen: Politics are messy and people do all kinds of things in the quest for the throne. I am not sure there are any characters that can be seen as truly black or white. The lines between what is right or justified and what is wrong are blurred–and it makes for brilliant storytelling.
Kmuse: When it comes to Chinese politics there is no true white and black. I even found myself feeling for the Crown Prince once in a while and that guy is pure ruthlessness in Prince form. It makes for a very entertaining drama.
#7 Weaving is sexy……so is playing Go
Kdrama Jen: OK. So, this has nothing to do with the quality of the acting or the pacing of the plot, but I think I could just watch Ning Yi weaving for hours. He can wear his white nightshirt with his flowing mane of glory and I can just watch him toss the shuttle and weave his magic.
Kmuse: The only thing that could make this sexier is if Ning Yi did the weaving shirtless. Maybe they could do a sexy men of weaving calendar (Rise of the Pheonixes edition) so we can really enjoy it all year long.
Kdrama Jen: Weaving is hot, but seeing smart people playing Go is also super sexy. I love that Ning Yi doesn’t just let Emperor Daddy win.
Kmuse: I agree that Ning Yi was very attractive when he was doing his politicking over a Go board. Someday I really need to go find out the basic concepts of this game. I know that it is something like chess but I am completely lost when I watch people put their stones down.
#8 Sexy OTP (One True Pairing)
Kmuse: Oh my word they have the most amazing chemistry! I love whenever they are arguing and it is almost better than seeing them make out. Not that I will complain when they finally consummate their love.
#9 Strong and silent bodyguard
Kdrama Jen: I have a feeling we are going to find out he is her twin brother, but for now, I just love how he follows her around and does whatever has to be done to protect her–even if that means dressing up as a lady.
Kmuse: He is a great character. I laughed over his cranky hijinks while they were in the school and his loyalty to Wei Zhi is pretty cool. If they end up related I will also be happy with that turn of events. Regardless of their familial connection, these two are friendship goals.
Kmuse: I love that when I am looking at the various characters doing their acting thing, I can be amazed at the backgrounds at the same time. It makes everything seem so much more rich and beautiful. I know that a bit of this is the talent of the stylists and set designers but the director takes advantage of what he has to make every scene unique and beautifully crafted.
Kdrama Jen: It is the lighting and the camera angles and the attention to detail that help bring this story to life. There was this one scene when they are together in the shadows and just the way it was captured made my heart race. It felt so intimate. I applaud the director and production quality!
There you have it. All the many reasons you should be checking out Rise of the Phoenixes. Let us know your thoughts in the comments and be sure to check our past Chinese drama reviews HERE if you are looking for other great Chinese dramas to binge watch.
Til next time,
Kmuse & Kdrama Jen
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi