Ode to Joy: Eps 1-12 (First Impressions Review)

Chinese DramasDrama Reviews

Ode to Joy (Huan Le Song) is a spring 2016 chick-flick c-drama starring big names including Jiang Xin, Liu Tao and Wang Kai.  It is by the same team behind Nirvana in Fire.  The drama tells the story of the friendship of five women who live on the same floor in Huan Le Song, an apartment building in Shanghai.  The women are at different times in their lives, and are all of different backgrounds–age, social status, personality, careers, etc.  At first they have a rocky start, but eventually become good neighbors and friends.  Ode to Joy focuses on the characters’ separate love lives, careers, and families, and unites them through their shared home.

Is the drama worth the watch?  For me, the drama is a mixed bag. I like some of the characters and cast members, girl power, the little tidbits of quote-worthy moments, and of course, the sisterhoods.  On the other hand, the drama is also cliched with some larger-than-life characters that are hard to relate to.  Its plot isn’t very strong, and many supporting characters are underdeveloped.  That being said, I still like it enough to watch it for 12 episodes and to write this long review for it.  😉


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^Great moments like these…

The good:

  • It’s a drama for the ladies.
  • Lots of sisterhood with close friendships between the characters.
  • It doesn’t only focus on the characters’ romances.
  • There will likely be at least one cast member or character that will be your favorite.
  • Despite some of the cliches, the dialogue is surprisingly realistic & easy to relate to sometimes.

The bad:

  • Weird narration–You will hear the weird narration the first thing in episode 1.  The narration ruins many awesome moments with its unnecessary explanations of what’s going on.  The voice they chose for the narration doesn’t suit the drama at all.  Why have a male narrator for a drama about women?!  Also, the drama is over depending on the narration to let us in on the characters’ thoughts.
  • Way too many characters
  • Directionless plot–It feels like the drama just threw together the 5 main characters and went, ‘let’s see what happens!’.  While I’m all for spontaneity, Ode to Joy does not have a clearly defined problem or challenge…and thus I find it hard to see how it can move towards a satisfying resolution.
  • Underwhelming soundtrack
  • Lackluster OTPs–This is more subjective; personally I feel like the OTPs aren’t that great so far.

The Characters

Apartment #2202: Fan Sheng Mei, Qiu Ying Ying, and Guan Ju Er

Fan Sheng Mei (Jiang Xin)

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Ode to Joy is a treat for Jiang Xin fangirls like me.  Yes everyone, Jiang Xin is obviously my bias.  She is one of the main reasons why I tried and continued watching Ode to Joy–she lights up the screen with her awesome stage presence and she does justice to her character, Fan Sheng Mei!

“Experienced, worldly, and has a sense of justice. “

Fan Sheng Mei is the big sister and protector of Apartment #2202.  Everyone calls her “Fan jie” and goes to her for advice.  She takes her friends under her wing and stands up for them, but also knows when to let them experience life for themselves.  She is experienced and tactful; her advice is usually spot-on and she is really great at telling people the truth while still being supportive.

“Besides yourself, no one can be with you forever.”

-Sheng Mei

That being said, Sheng Mei is not invincible even though she appears to be oozing with confidence and wisdom.  She actually struggles with insecurity and feelings of inferiority, especially when she’s around people who are richer than she is.  She wishes to have a higher (read: rich) standard of living.  Since she doesn’t have the means to do so, she wears imitation branded clothes and hides the fact that she shares a rented apartment from others.

Sheng Mei is also…a gold digger.  Or maybe she’s just highly selective.  She dreams of marrying rich so that she can have the lavish lifestyle she wants.  She is very pragmatic in that she believes that relationships are based on status and money, not just on emotions.  Her dream of marrying a rich guy prevents her from considering men who are genuine and compatible with her–such as Wang Bai Chuan (Zhang Lu), her current suitor!  All I’ll say is that Bai Chuan and Sheng Mei are so cute together!  And they have good chemistry!  I hope that Sheng Mei won’t pass him up if he’s really “the one”.


Qiu Ying Ying (Yang Zi)

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Qiu Ying Ying (Yang Zi) is one Sheng Mei’s apartment-mates.  She’s the most bubbly out of the five main characters, with a cheerful and talkative personality.  She is straightforward and naive.  To make things worse, she tends not to listen to other people’s advice.  Despite her friends’ warnings, she falls blindly in love with her good-for-nothing coworker.  This leads to a string of unfortunate events including the loss of her job.

It is frustrating seeing Ying Ying walk straight into her doom.  There are moments when Ying Ying gets on my nerves, especially when she blames everyone except for her boyfriend!  I definitely face palmed a lot during Ying Ying’s story arc!  Unfortunately, her ignoring advice, blaming others, going into denial, and wallowing in bitterness are actually quite realistic.   I have seen it happen before.  I love the scene when Sheng Mei gives Ying Ying a good talking to, urging her not to take out her bitterness on her friends and to move forward positively instead:

“If everyone doesn’t care about you, then why did they help you?  True, you broke up and got fired.  Everyone showed you sympathy and worried about you.  But you cannot hold this against all of us.  Everyone has their own life.  They don’t have an obligation to be as sad as you are.”


Guan Ju Er “Guan Guan” (Qiao Xin)

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Guan Ju Er (Qiao Xin), also called by her nickname “Guan Guan,” is the youngest apartment-mate.  Guan Guan is career-focused, interning at a Fortune 500 company in hopes of gaining full employment there.  She has a lot of book knowledge, motivation to improve herself, and a good work ethic.  She lacks in experience and she feels like she’s barely just getting by in her internship.  Guan Guan’s current love interest is her senior from college.  I’m not really feeling these two together.  T_T   Hopefully the drama does more with Guan Guan’s character, because for now she hasn’t gotten as much screen time and character development.


Apartment #2201: An Di / Andy (Liu Tao)

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An Di, also known as Andy, (Liu Tao) moves from the US to Shanghai in search of her long-lost brother.  She takes the position of CFO at a top Chinese company and moves into Huan Le Song in hopes that it will let her live a quiet, low-key life.  She ends up getting more than she bargained for though, because she becomes friends with all her neighbors!  She even becomes a mentor to Guan Guan and Xiao Xiao.

Andy is super smart, rational, and direct.  Although she seems to be one of the calmest main characters, she actually overthinks things and struggles to maintain her composure when she is under emotional duress.  Her past seems to be the key to her current personality; she fears relying on others, has an aversion to physical contact, and believes that she is not normal like other people.  Her experience at Huan Le Song challenges her beliefs about her identity, as she discovers that it is possible for her to make meaningful connections with others.  However, her search for her brother will likely dig up ghosts from her past.

Andy has a budding romance with Wei Wei (Zu Feng), an online friend who starts to pursue her after they meet in person.  Wei Wei is too pushy and insistent; even when he knows that Andy doesn’t like to be touched, he forces her into his arms.  And doesn’t let go when she tells him to.  Not romantic, Wei Wei!


Apartment #2203: Qu Xiao Xiao (Wang Zi Wen)

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We’ve finally reached the last main character!  Qu Xiao Xiao (Wang Zi Wen) is the last new neighbor.  I didn’t like Xiao Xiao at first because she is can easily get under your skin.  She started to grow on me though…because she is always amusing to watch.  Xiao Xiao has just moved back to Shanghai from studying in the States.  She is on a mission: to make her dad give her his company as inheritance.  Xiao Xiao has a fearless, wild and carefree personality.  She has a whole network of people to use for her advantage, Andy being no exception.  She is also a trouble-maker, and she enjoys it!  Xiao Xiao also happens to be Dr. Zhao’s (Wang Kai) love interest.  They’ve only just met around ep10, so I can’t say anything about what this couple is like just yet.


“There Will Always be Happiness Waiting for You” (Opening Theme Song) by the Cast

Sources: Dramawiki, Viki (Quote Translations)

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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  • Thanks for the review. I usually not a big fan of drama circa women (I was ok with Sex & the City so go figure!) but I’m very curious about this one. If I have the time, I might watch it. The plots are not really my cup of tea…. Thanks for the review!

  • feels a lot like kdrama One More Happy Ending except that one has loads of comedy and shorter.. at 50 eps probably gonna read your reviews rather than watch:)

  • Hi Heisui, I am watching this drama now too. I suppose it seems weird for a guy to watch a “woman’s drama,” but I am actually enjoying it. I guess I’m not too picky about what I watch, lol! Anyway, I like the fact that it is different than a lot of the other dramas, and the characters are more complex and developed than in most of the other dramas I’ve watched, especially the “love squares.” An Di’s story so far is really interesting and touching, and I like Qu Xiao Xiao – she is crazy-funny, but watching her mature is interesting. I wish my Chinese was good enough to watch without subtitles – I get impatient waiting for the subtitles to be done!

  • I’m on ep 23 & love love love it so much. I’m a guy but love this ladies drama (-: There are some touching stories behind their smiling face & there are some bitter weakness inside their independent characters. The plot is becoming more & more interesting. I’m addicting now 😀
    I think your review is a bit unfair to the drama but everyone has different ideas. So I don’t take it serious.

  • Thank you for your blog. I have a friend in Hangzhou who absolutely loves this show. I have started it on youtube. I am trying to learn mandarin, so it is alright for me to watch without english subtitles. My friend in Hangzhou, Hualing, wants me to tell her who she is most similar to! Thanks for helping me choose one of the characters (it is Guan Guan incidentally). I actually love the korean dramas/comedies of Ha Ji Won. I just finished Hwang Jin Yi which really moved me; especially the dancing, costumes and beautiful music. Xie xie. Scott

  • now im on ep 27 and still like this drama. despite of the lack here and there, i find this drama is close to real life. i, myself is a single and working girl like them. my job is just like one of the characters in this drama, haha, sooo.. it’s the feeling as i’m watching this drama.

    kinda agree with you in some ‘the bad’. plus one : i hope Andy won’t end up with Qi Dian, lols. am i the only one disliking this QD?? 😀

    overall, i enjoy watching this. rarely fast forward except qi dian’s focus, lols. sounds like i’m QD’s anti but not. i just dislike a pushy man like him.

    perhaps, im gonna make my own review after finishing this one. happy reading your review here ^^

  • I just started watching this drama and remember you blogged about it so I came here.

    I also find it weird that the narrator is a man, like…why???? What a very fundamental mistake to make.

    Ying Ying gets on my nerves big time I want to smack her in every scene she has. But like you said, the situations she finds herself in are also realistic. But I haven’t encountered someone as stubborn, childish and obstinate as her in real life; I’d probably go crazy lol

    I like the rest of the female characters but my faves are Andy and Xiao Xiao; one is too rational while the other is such a character. I gotta admit, I skip Andy’s scenes with Wei Wei, I find him creepy.

    And while there is no clear plot as you pointed out, I quite like the ride so far because perhaps the plot itself is the lives of these five women and how they cope with their own issues?

    Okay, back to the marathon 🙂

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