The Way We Were (16 Summers): Eps 1-3

Drama ReviewsTaiwanese Dramas

Taiwan’s rom-coms may be spazzy and addicting, but its slice-of-life dramas are on a whole different level.  Taiwan makes some amazing slice-of-life dramas, and The Way We Were is no exception!  This drama is a pleasant surprise for me because it evokes the feelings of summer–nostalgia, warmth, freedom, melancholy..–and it always leaves me feeling refreshed after each episode.

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^16 Summers has great scenery!

The Way We Were is a story about the friendship of 5 people that spans for 16 years.  It covers the time period from the 1990’s up to the present day, hence the original title, “16 Summers”.  I prefer the original title since it really captures the spirit of the drama.  (It’s also easier to type than the long title HEHEH.. *true motives revealed*)  So from now on I’ll be referring to the drama by its original title, rather than its English title.  😉

Well, the first thing you may notice about 16 Summers is that it has a retro/vintage theme, with part of the story being in the 1990’s.  Lately this theme has been all the rage both in k-dramas and tw-dramas.  I haven’t really  gotten into this trend, since I never watched the popular vintage dramas such as In A Good Way and Reply 1994.  So although comparisons between 16 Summers & dramas like In A Good Way/Reply 1994 are bound to pop up, particularly from those who watched & loved these dramas…I cannot make these comparisons.  And I don’t really want to anyways.  I think it’s better to go into this drama without any preconceptions of what it should be like, and without its predecessors overshadowing every aspect of the story.  I’d say that you should give 16 Summers a fair chance, without comparisons & expectations that it’ll adhere to the golden standard of vintage dramas.

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Of course Ruby Lin is the big draw of the drama, because after all, she’s both the lead actress and the producer of 16 Summers.  I was a bit nervous about Ruby’s role as a young student since she’s already far past that age range. And I hate to break it to you, but she isn’t the kind of actress that never ages.  >_<  I know she looks like she hasn’t aged a day here, but her aging is more apparent in some of her previous dramas such as Qing Shi Huang Fei.  (In which she was playing the role of an unmarried princess..erm..)  But surprisingly, Ruby looks SUPER youthful here!  I don’t know if it’s the lighting or heavier makeup or what–Ruby looks the part of a woman in her 20’s.  And guess what–her wig actually looks real!!

I’m loving Ruby’s character, Jia Ni, because she’s a hoot to watch with her no-nonsense attitude and wry sense of humor.  She has some traits that seem stereotypical on the surface, but at a closer look, there’s something about her that differentiates her from the stereotypical heroine.  Sure, Jia Ni is assertive, tomboyish, and unimpressed by the male lead–some of the staple hallmarks of a drama heroine.  But at the same time, it never feels like she’s defined by the drama stereotypes.  Jia Ni is her own person, someone who feels real and unattached to the drama tropes.  I’m impressed by how Ruby has portrayed Jia Ni so far because she really loses herself in her role and makes me forget that I’m even watching Ruby on screen.  IMO this is a great feat that both Ruby & the drama has accomplished–that every character is humanized and made into someone we can really connect to.  This may seem like a given–I mean, shouldn’t all dramas humanize their characters?–but unfortunately, if you look at the popular tw-dramas as of late, it’s easier said than done. =_=

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So, the basic premise of the story is that Jia Ni breaks up with her cheating ex-boyfriend and ends up making an unexpected friend along the way–Wei De (Leroy Young).  OK is it just me or is it a huge surprise that Leroy is collaborating with Ruby??  For some reason I just never imagined this pairing before!  Leroy is a fairly consistent actor, but he often gets the playboy roles so…it’s no surprise that Wei De is, in fact, a playboy.  T_T”   But don’t worry–Wei De isn’t a total jerk, he actually cares deeply about his friends and is sweet towards Jia Ni. The bad part about him is that because of his capricious nature, Jia Ni never takes him seriously and can’t see him as a potential love interest!

As for the Jia Ni x Wei De OTP, these two are really funny together and they already feel like a natural couple.  They are so open and comfortable with each other that they act like an old married couple that just skipped over the honeymoon phase, haha.  I also like how their relationship gradually develops until they are already so close to each other that it feels normal for them to be by each other’s side.  Wei De is obviously aware of his romantic feelings towards Jia Ni, but I think Jia Ni is the one who’s the most out of touch with her feelings.  Her besties can see right through her and they obviously think she’s falling for Wei De, but Jia Ni is probably the first to deny any romance with him.

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The main supporting characters are Jia Ni’s two best friends, Rui Rui (Tiffany Hsu) and Jun Jie (Melvin Sia).  They are Jia Ni’s constant and loyal supporters, the ones who are always there for her during her hard times & protect her from getting hurt.  Rui Rui is observant and sensitive to Jia Ni’s unspoken feelings, while Jun Jie is always caring for Jia Ni.  I like these two because they are more reserved in nature and they don’t always wear their heart on their sleeve.  Rui Rui in particular is an enigma because it seems like she’s always thinking more than she’s telling us.

Both Tiffany and Melvin are experienced actors so it’s great to see them collaborating with Ruby & Leroy.  I think that Tiffany is an underestimated actress who’s often given supporting role.  Her subtle acting as Rui Rui is great so far.  I last saw Melvin in Dragon Gate (he’s new to tw-dramas but has been in lots of Malaysian Chinese dramas), and at first I didn’t even recognize him here because he looks so different!  O_O   I prefer Jun Jie to Wei De because he’s so sweet and dorky, HEHEH. Plus have a bit of a bias towards Melvin, although I like Leroy too.  I’m trying hard not to have 2nd lead syndrome though!!!!!  *shakes fist at 2nd lead syndrome*  That being said, I’m not looking forward to the love triangle (or square!) at all because I don’t want anyone to get rejected.  :'(

Overall

Eps 1-3 are a great start for 16 Summers.  Episode 2 is what really drew me into the drama, so I would recommend that you at least watch the first couple episodes before you decide whether or not this is for you.  Also be sure not to watch the long preview for 16 Summers because it has MAJOR spoilers.  X__X  I wish I could unsee what I saw in that preview!

I didn’t talk much about the themes of the story, since I mainly wanted to introduce the characters.  But the main theme is, of course, friendship, which runs deep throughout the first few episodes.  Love may be the second main theme, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the friendships that are formed between Jia Ni & Wei De, Rui Rui, and Jun Jie.  (There’s also a 5th friend Ah Qing but he’s not a major character at the moment.)  That’s partly why I’m so scared that the romance might end up breaking this circle of friends apart someday. >_<

Don’t Be Friends Anymore in the Future (Ending Theme Song) by Zhou Xing Zhe

Where to Watch: The Way We Were is subbed on Viki.

heisui

I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
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  • The theme song is so good! I’m definitely downloading this track.

    I’m a little worried about this being a Ruby Lin show because I did not like Qing Shi Huang Fei at all where everybody was in love with her and she very much looked her age (plus the nonsensical plot). I’ll wait for your next post about ’16 Summers’ (it is easier to type this way!) before trying it XP

    But otherwise, I like shows set in the past and slice-of-life dramas.

    • I know, I love the ending theme song! It’s already stuck in my head! Same here, I didn’t have very high expectations based off of QSHF. But Ruby has outdone herself with 16 Summers. Really a great surprise.

  • <Taiwan makes some amazing slice-of-life dramas, and The Way We Were is no exception.

    Can you give some examples? Between Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese dramas, it's the Taiwanese ones that are just about always a fail for me. Slice of life sounds good (it's probably my favourite genre), but I can't really think of a TW drama that fits that description. I want something without contrived situations and, if possible, without love triangles and evil exes, which are the bane of just about every Asian drama out there (let's say, of 90% of dramas).

    • One of the problems is that most of the really good tw-dramas are not subbed and are unavailable to international fans. Ironically they are the ones that get nominated for the Golden Bell Awards but they are also unknown to international fans.

      Anyways admittedly I’m not super experienced with lots of tw-dramas. For slice-of-life I’d recommend An Innocent Mistake, although I haven’t finished watching it yet. There are also a lot of human tw-dramas; I have heard good things about Falling. I really enjoyed the human drama A Good Wife but I doubt you would like it. >_<

  • Omg! I want to watch this! Will it have english subs?
    I’m so heartbroken over BoCS. I am aching to watch it (and sampled an episode here and there but it was raw) 🙁

  • I think I fell in love with this in episode 3, and watching the latest episode I either had this silly grin on my face or feel heartbroken. Even though the story seem to focus so much on Jia Ni and Wei De, the supporting characters are a joy to watch and all the situations the characters go through seem so real.

    • It was episode 2 for me. I already love the friend group so much! I feel kinda bad for Ah Qing though, because he’s (probably) not gonna end up with anyone heh.

      Yes I hope that the drama will devote enough time to the supporting characters! Both Melvin & Tiffany are impressing me with their performances.

      • Ohh but (it’s not a spoiler if it’s in the story outline right?!) in the present time, Ah Qing wanted to gather everyone for a reunion because he was getting married. So at least he ends up with *someone*?!? He’s so cute and clueless though even in his limited scenes.

        Have you watched ep 4 yet because there’s a lot more of Jun Jie!!!!

          • I am so glad this show is being subbed on Viki so that I can understand it as well. I think the last time that I enjoyed a “small” Asian drama like this was Miss Korea, even though everyone else was watching The Man Who Came From the Stars. But this one is just so … real, as you put it … you can relate to the characters so much, and it truly broke my heart to see Jia Ni and Wei De part ways but it was done so realistically … and I enjoy all the other supporting characters as well. So glad that there are other people enjoying the show as well 🙂

            • I’m glad you’re watching this drama too! 😀 I also like the subs since they subtitle the song lyrics hehe. I’m not sure how the ratings are for this drama in Taiwan, but currently I guess it is low on the radar in the international drama community. That is often the case with the slice-of-life tw-dramas. >_<

  • Hope I’m not too late in the party (okay, it’s a month late. Sorry..). I’ve been withdrawn from the K-drama and T-drama scenes since nothing have really captured my attention. Accidentally stumbled upon a Chinese song on Youtube and I just couldn’t stopped listening to it. Because I am not Chinese, I couldn’t read the Chinese title so out of curiosity, Google Translator kindly helped. Found out it is an OST to this drama. Decided to use Google again for reviews and your blog post came up. Will definitely watch this tomorrow since it’s getting late now. Sounds very interesting. I’ve always liked Ruby Lin but am never a fan. I guess I’ve only seen her in 2 dramas and I didn’t like those dramas. Lol. Leroy and Melvin are super hot!!! I think I might choose Melvin over Leroy cuz he is such a dork and a cutie. 😀 And Tiffany Hsu is an underrated gem. But at least, she’s dating a hot actor so she got that going for her. 🙂

    • It’s never too late! The drama is great so far, very introspective and fun to watch. Ruby is really outdoing herself in this drama. Tiffany, Leroy, and Melvin are also doing a great job.

    • @Darla : I agree with you with the lovely song. Hope you have started watching. It’s so frustrating coz it’s only once a week… I’m watching via gooddrama coz Viki not available in my region.
      I fell in love with this drama since the very first. Hooked by the song in the beginning and the one used for the ring tone (stop being friends). aaaahhh…. so melancholy indeed…

      If you are looking for rom-com and with happy ending but prepared for some silliness, try K-drama “Marriage Not Dating”. And the one just ended that touched on sensitive issue of mental illness but cleverly written and amazing performance by Jo-In Sung & Gong Hyo-Jin via dramabay. Happy watching!

  • Ohhhhh….. How happy I am to have found this forum to share my love with this drama!! Thankssssss Heisui in the recap / review. I will lookout for more. This drama is only once a week and really killing waiting and having to rely on subs, geeeeez…. I just have to be extra patience.
    Yeah, I think the rating is pretty low, I’m not surprised since in compared to K-drama recently been flooded with young k-pops singers as the 2nd leads which are more candies to the eyes rather than their acting ability… hence the casts for 16-Summers, whoaaaa…. are just superb with experience talents!

    Do write more ok, to the blogger and to the viewers too.
    cheerion to all and “see” you again in the replies for future reviews… 😉

  • Thanks for your reviews Heisui, im glag to find out this forum. it may not be popular in terms of international fans, but it got a high rating in tw

  • this drama is so good! saw fan fan (wei qi) recommending this show and whoa, it is good. at first i felt that the male lead wasn’t handsome but he is really charming in his own way 🙂

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