The Legend of Chusen 诛仙青云志 also known as Noble Aspirations has been trending for weeks. I approached it with curious optimism and it turned out to be everything I expected, full of high-flying action and magic in a typical xianxia adventure about an atypical hero.
Zhang Xiao Fan is the protagonist that is downright lacking in talent and I find it refreshing to be rooting for such an underdog.
Episode 1 begins with a taste of the show's overarching theme of good versus evil where the Qing Yun Sect obliterates the Evil Sect.
A hundred years later, Zhang Xiao Fan (TF Boys Wang Yuan) and Lin Jing Yu (TF Boys Wang Jun Kai) are teenagers being teenagers. They stumble upon an abandoned cottage where a man holds a red stone that compels Jing Yu into strangling his friend.
The man eventually intervenes but Jing Yu remains cautious, suggesting that they leave immediately. Not far behind, a hooded figure is silently lurking.
After dinner with his parents, Xiao Fan heads out and runs into the hooded figure carrying Jing Yu on his back. He chases them all the way to the cottage to find the man from before helping a poisoned Jing Yu.
During this critical moment, the hooded figure reappears and calls for the man to surrender what he wants so that he may spare the boys, or else.. the village is full of people too, cue villainous laughter.
Given the looming threat, the man quickly absorbs Jing Yu's poison, warns Xiao Fan to stay inside and rushes to face the enemy.
Like the curious young lad that he is, Xiao Fan sneaks out and witnesses an epic combat that culminates with the man defeating the hooded figure.
The man decides that it is safest to send Xiao Fan and Jing Yu to Qing Yun for fear of their lives. Interestingly, his eyes blaze a glaring bright red and his expression turns eerily sinister as he mentions that teaching one of the boys his Tian Yin Technique may be the key to fulfilling his lifelong wish.
He looks at the unassuming Xiao Fan and smiles at being able to accept a student before his death. He tells Xiao Fan to never speak about him or his abilities and also bestows the red stone to Xiao Fan, telling him to find a quiet place to throw it away.
Xiao Fan and Jing Yu return to the village completely horrified at finding everybody dead.
They beg to be taken under the tutelage of the Qing Yun Sect whose masters clamor over a gifted prodigy like Jing Yu. Unfortunately, there is no similar interest in Xiao Fan who is assigned to a very unwilling Master Tian.
First Impressions: What becomes of the last kid picked for gym class? Xiao Fan is such an earnest character that I wonder whether he will become the titular lead, forever kind and good or will he become jaded and angry because that would be such an intriguing development, especially now that he has the red stone.
I'm also secretly rejoicing that tragedy struck so fast. After all, there's hardly a martial arts hero without a past and the loss of an entire village fulfills that basic setup. In spite of a plot that feels predictable, I liked this jam-packed episode that leaves a number of unanswered questions.
There was no need for groundbreaking acting and I think it's obvious that casting TF Boys is a good bet to boost popularity but I have to admit, Wang Yuan and Wang Jun Kai capture the essence of their characters quite well so props to them for that. That said, I still cannot wait for the adult cast though.
Last but not the least, Legend of Chusen is another picture perfect c-drama with such marvelous use of colors and hues. In hindsight, it really reminds me of Novoland, even the teachers are the same. See episode 2 recap.