“DongFang Xiang! DongFang Xiang!” the cheering echoes throughout the little compacted gym, making the atmosphere more stuffy than ever. The score is 76:79, and the time remaining is two minutes. DongFang Xiang is sitting on the bench, head down, eyes closed, appearing to be asleep.
“Yuan DaYing… Yuan DaYing…” the half hearted cheering is somewhat audible in the empty park basketball court. A group of kids stand idly around the court, watching as Yuan DaYing dribbles.
Time continues to tick away. Xuan Wu team’s coach steals worried glances at his best player DongFang Xiang, who, is in another world. WuJi Zun sits in the audience bench, pensively observes. His brother, WuJi Wei, is holding a camera, intently capturing every shot from all possible angles. The coach calls for a break.
So do the kids. So far, all Yuan DaYing have been doing was dribbling and wasting time. The kids want their court back so they can play. Besides, Yuan DaYing’s grandmother forbids DaYing from playing basketball anyway.
The coach walks towards DongFang Xiang. He kneels down before DongFang Xiang. (Talking about exaggeration.) DongFang Xiang is unmoved. (…and, stubbornness.) The coach holds his hand up and makes a vow: If I were to yell at you or make personal attacks again, I will volunteer to transfer to Pi Li College and become their coach for the remainder of my lifetime. Even if I will be humiliated and mocked to no end. I swear. (What did I say about exxxxaggeration? A coach making a vow for a competition to a student because the same student doesn’t want to play?)
“…We swear we will not tell on you (playing basketball against grandma’s will). If we did, we will be punished to play basketball in Pi Li College.” Feeling more secure, Yuan DaYing emphasizes the crucial part of the vow – the punishment to end up on the Pi Li College’s basketball team – before returning to the middle of the court with the ball.
The cheering grows louder. DongFang Xiang finally raises his head and stands up. The white towel on his shoulder slips casually with the motion, accentuating his height. On the audience seats, WuJi Wei leans towards his brother, “Finally, he’s up. He better put up a good fight, otherwise…” “Tell me,” his brother cuts him off, “Who can do the DongFang Three basketball moves better than him?” Unconvinced, WuJi Wei antagonizes in a low voice, “I can.” His brother shoots him a you-should-look-in-a-mirror look. He presses his lips and corrects himself, “I mean, you can.” Reading his brother’s expression, he makes the final correction, “Fine. Only DongFang Xiang can.” WuJi Zun turns his gaze back to the court and says, “No one else can beat him.” As they speak, DongFang Xiang scores two points, shortening the difference to one. 15 seconds remain.
Time. To. Use. The DongFang Three moves: Kang-Long-Wu-Hui. (亢龍无悔 / 亢龙无悔. It’s literal translation is The Proud Dragon Doesn’t Repent, which, in my opinion, loses the power of the original language. Consequently, I am going to refer to its PinYin name hereafter. Same with the other two moves.)
DongFang Xiang jumps up, Yuan DaYing follows suite. WuJi Zun’s imagination jumps with them as the image of his countless practice of the move comes to mind. DongFang Xiang successfully penetrates his opponent’s defense and scores. Wuji Zun mentally follows the move in his head and slams the ball into the basket the precise moment Yuan DaYing’s grandma spots Yuan DaYing and aims her shoe at him.
The shoe fliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiies across the the court at 90MPH, heading straight at his face. It hits him on the cheek and falls to the ground, suddenly lifeless. Yuan DaYing drops to the ground face first, before his grandma can hop over to retrieve her shoes, he runnnnnnnnnns for his life.
He crosses streets, cuts through parks, climbs trees, jumps over walls, and finally stops behind an old house to catch his breathe. A hand appears and hands him a cup of water. He takes it without a second glance and drinks everything in one gulp, then realizing it’s grandma who handed him the drink, he spits everything back out.
What follows is a beating and a grandson to grandma confrontation. DaYing couldn’t understand why each time he plays the basketball, his grandma would always award him with a beating to keep him away from the sport. He doesn’t think he is wrong. Is it because he is an orphan? Is it because he’s not Grandma’s biological grandson? Grandma becomes more infuriated at DaYing’s questioning, she raises the stick to beat him, and , falls in his arm. Then a series of unfortunate events happens too fast for DaYing to react. All he knows is, before his grandma died from the heart attack, she told him to concentrate. On what? He doesn’t yet know.
DaYing returns home in the rain, a small key dangling on one of his fingers. He opens grandma’s treasure chest with the key. Inside is a thick stack of newspaper articles following a basketball player – his grandma. DaYing spots a letter addressed to him, he opens it up. Grandma had written it in preparation for this day. She reveals that she was once a famous basketball player. Why an exceptional player like her would prevent her own grandson from playing basketball? She explains that it’s going to be a mystery she will take to the grave with her. But, now that she is gone, DaYing can play basketball freely. Not only can he play it, he must play it well. And, eventually, surpass her. She left him with a basketball and an address, DaYing is to follow the address and show the man the basketball.
With a heavy heart and a basketball, DaYing left town.
On the bus, stuck in major traffic, DaYing starts to play with the basketball grandma left him. It bounces out of the window, causing DaYing to jump out and chase after the precious ball. The ball seems to have a life of its own as it bounces off the hood of a taxi and shoots HIIIGH UP into the sky. DaYing chases after the ball, jumping over motorcycles and car tops. He steps on the back of WuJi Zun’s motorcycle and fliiiiies, I mean jummmmps into the sky to reach the ball, and lands on DongFang Xiang’s car hood, face to face. (Jordan!)
And then, DaYing falls face flat onto the car window. lol.
Returning home, which, is the same house Romantic Princess lived in. But that’s besides the point. Returning home, DongFang Xiang breaks the news that he wants to take a leave of absence from college. His father strongly protests, but suggests that Xiang remains on the basketball team even if he were to refuse attending school. (For Asian parents, he is one of a kind.) But to Xiang, the point of not going to school is not to play basketball or be on the team. Instead, this strong willed star decides to transfer to Pi Li college, the worse college for basketball. Spiteful young man huh?
DaYing follows the address his grandma left him and rings the door bell. (Kind of reminds me of Corner with Love) After a jumbled introduction, DaYing lets himself in, leaving the owner of the house suspended in thoughts. The man DaYing’s grandma Tie Lan wants DaYing to look for is the current resident’s long deceased father. Before the old man dies, he uses his last breathe to tell his son that if a basketball with the name Tie Lan printed on top were to ever appear, he must comply to the ball owner’s request, even if it meant bankruptcy. The current resident is the chancellor/principle of Pi Li College. Now, it’s DaYing’s turn to look dumbstruck: why would grandma send me to a school with the worse basketball team?
Xiang has a mysterious friend who plays ball with a hood and mask on. To hide her identity, (oops did I just use “her”?) (s)he signs to Xiang. (Which is rather entertaining to watch, since some of the signs (s)he does mean different things in ASL. 😉 ) Xiang plays basketball with his mysterious friend for the last time, (s)he blocks his Kang-Long-You-Hui but almost reveals her (or his) identity. After the mysterious friend leaves, Xiang laughs to himself, “He is the first to block my Kang-Long-You-Hui. Even though I helped.”
Li Ying, whose name stands for victory (or W for win), is Pi Li College’s principle’s daughter. She used to be an NBA coach consultant after receiving her PhD in sports management. Although successful at what she does, she has asthma, which prevents her from participating in the actual sport. She returned to TW (only yesterday) in hope to recreate the Pi Li team that swept across the nation some good 40 years ago. (Why does this sound like a resume written in 3rd person?) DaYing is the first on her list. In actuality, she was supposed to get married on the third of the very month, but her finance married his assistant on the first. Li Ying had to find out about the marriage through newspaper. Facing shock and humiliation, she chose to run away and return to TW.
To form a basketball team, you need at least five people. But so far, including DaYing and the only active team member Du Fei, there are only two people. Anyone knows that’s not enough, so the first team member anyone would try to recruit is DongFang Xiang. Of course Xiang wouldn’t join just because a little nobody tells him to do it. But Yuan DaYing is not your ordinary nobody. He is one of these guys you would stop and look back on the streets because he is so incredibly Odd. An odd guy has his eccentric ways. He, who must not be named holds and dribbles the ball for n hours before he can even shoot, challenges Xiang to a basketball game. If DaYing loses, he will buy Xiang beef noodle. But if Xiang loses, he must join the basketball team. Xiang coldly replies, “If I want to play basketball, I would do so in Xuan Wu College. Why would I need to transfer all the way to Pi Li? Are you stupid?” He walks off.
Zhan JieEr is DongFang Xiang’s chauffeur’s daughter as well as Xiang’s childhood friend, possibly his only friend. Just to get a love triangle going, JieEr resembles DaYing’s childhood friend AKA first love. First love in the sense of best but unforgettable childhood friends. You know the drill. In any case, JieEr is looking for an affordable apartment near school, DaYing sees her at the bus stop looking over room postings. Having mistakenly confused her as his childhood friend, DaYing .. walks up to her and hugs her. Told you an odd ball’s logic is different from ours. She pushes this “freak” away and takes a couple steps back. Fortunately, Xiang pulls over and claims his woman picks JieEr up before DaYing can do anything. Not like he wants to do anything in the first place.
In the car, JieEr inquires the reason she would see Xiang at this part of the world. Xiang says nothing, JieEr continues to ask questions. 10 questions later, Xiang has still not opened his mouth, but JieEr deduced it all. She keeps jabbering that Xiang’s transfer means he’ll be closer to her. Just because her father is his family’s employee, it does not mean she will obey his orders besides… Xiang cuts her off, “Ok, the-only-reason-I-even-transfered-to-Pi-Li-College-is-because-they-have-a-terrible-basketball-team, that-way-I-don’t-have-to-play-basketball-anymore, do-you-understand-me, you-little-pig?” (Wow! That’s the most he’s said in.. an hour! Let me go tape it. *runs off*) Having done enough explanation to shush JieEr up, Xiang gets back on the road.
A moment later:
Xiang: You haven’t found a place to live?
JieEr: I’m still contemplating.
Xiang raises his voice: Then that means you haven’t found a place.
As a result, JieEr follows him home. Xiang is at the door looking for the right key, it suddenly occurs to JieEr that she has been obeying Xiang’s order rather submissively. Just to be a little rebellious, for the sake of being rebellious, she tells him she’s going to visit her aunt near by and walks away. Xiang is apparently unaffected, he lets out a short and casual, “ok” and continues to try for the right key. JieEr takes a couple steps farther and turns back to look. This guy is still looking for his key. Thinking her leaving him has no affect, a slightly deflated JieEr walks back and finds herself an excuse not to leave. A knowing smile creeps onto Xiang’s face. (Wow, first time he’s smiled!) He opens the door and lets her in. Voila, she has found herself free housing. Rather, free housing found her.
Having seen JieEr at the bus station, DaYing’s thoughts wander back to his childhood friend who is nicknamed Chicken: he and Chicken were best friends. She knows DaYing’s grandma never leaves the house during noon so she would stand guard for DaYing. One day, grandma unexpectedly leaves the house in search for DaYing, she stumbles across Chicken. Chicken runs to the basketball court afterwards to warn DaYing of grandma’s arrival. Unfortunately before she could cross the street to get to the court, a car takes her life away. Now the two most important people of DaYing’s life are dead because of basketball related accidents, he is more determined than ever to play basketball.
The next day DaYing arrives in class late, to his “surprise”, JieEr sits next to him. (We know that’s just the typical seating arrangement in all Taiwanese school dramas) He genuinely offers her some fries and burger (Fast food for breakfast, what in the world?) JieEr politely refuses. DaYing takes out a package of ketchup and starts to eat. Don’t dismiss this tiny package of ketchup, this little package initiates a chain of events that lays out the groundwork for a invincible basketball team.
DaYing tears the package open and pushes the content. The ketchup gushes out of the package and lands on JieEr’s face. DaYing leans over to wipe the ketch up off JieEr’s face only to give the professor a chance to invite them out. Once outside of class, DaYing attempts to wipe JieEr’s face, Xiang walks by and witnesses it. He in response, accepts DaYing’s challenge.
The rule of the challenge is simple: If DongFang Xiang scores 10 pts then Yuan DaYing loses. But, if DaYing were to make one shot, then Xiang loses. The first nine points were achieved with ease. In fact, Xiang scored the very first shot with his back turned against the basket. But when DaYing sees JieEr, who has ran up the court to watch the dare, he is suddenly empowered with the memory of his childhood friend and blocks Xiang’s shot. Good for him, except he broke the rule. By then Xiang has lost all desires to continue with the silliness. Instead of finishing the last pointless shot, he dares DaYing to catch the WuJi brothers who have been hiding in a warehouse afar in the woods (weird place to build a warehouse, no wonder it’s abandoned) stalking watching them. Whoever catches them first, is the winner.
The basketball match turns into a chase and inadvertently, a kung fu show down, which admittedly, looked pretty impressive. In the end, no one catches the two brothers, the challenge is therefore, inconclusive. For now.
Overall reaction: First episode is hilarious. But that’s just the first episode. And, I still need to work on ignoring Wu Chun’s accents.
As a character, Yuan DaYing bears too much resemblance to Hanamichi Sakuragi, whether its the way he runs, jumps, or sets up his defense. (Hopefully, not Sakuragi’s habit of drooling over Akagi Haruko, or JieEr this time. And, where is my most favorite Anzai-sensei?!?) I don’t particularly like Show Luo’s exaggerated acting style that rings false on many accounts, but Yuan DaYing is a breath of fresh air that lives only in mangas and animes, so I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. But we’ll see.
As for DongFang Xiang, very much DaYing’s foil. Cool but not emotionless, which makes him an interesting character in terms of emotional display (and subtle acting). Definitely the kind of person that makes you want to figure out.
In terms of execution, I do like the way the two main characters are juxtaposed in the opening scene. A clear contrast, and an unavoidable comparison early on. Many things are established within the first few minutes of the drama: the main characters, their basic personality traits, their skills, and the general situation. Finally, the cinematography is simply awesome and pleasing to the eye (which isn’t hard to be considering the number of eye candies in the drama.)
Of course the plot is way too predictable to make the story appealing, but the special affects may make up for it, if we don’t grow tired of seeing the same things.
That’s all for now. Bear with me, when Fated to Love You finishes broadcasting, I’ll have more time to write better recaps for Hot Shot.