Review: Go Go Squid (2019)

I watched this drama as it aired in July, but I wanted to think about it more before writing my review. Surprisingly, I found Go Go Squid! enjoyable from beginning to end. It’s really Han Shang Yan’s story, a young man approaching the age of 30 who holds grudges and regrets, single-mindedly pursuing his dream of winning a cybersecurity competition for China. The romance storyline helps him let people into his life again and let go of the unhappiness he’d bottled up in his heart. There are much more flashback than I expected, but I loved all the team and competition scenes.

This 41-episode drama is available on Viki with English subtitles and YouTube.

Li Xian had caught my eye last year with his supporting role in Only Side By Side With You and he didn’t let me down in Go Go Squid. I thought he played the serious, determined, and difficult-to-approach main character Han Shang Yan really well. Han Shang Yan returns from Norway to lead the Chinese division of his company because it’s his dream to bring that championship trophy back to China, even though he no longer competes himself. He is stubborn, proud, and has such an attitude, but he’s also a big softie who cares about the kids on his team. It’s because he cared about his former Solo teammates so much that he’s carried the grudge in his heart for so long.

As for Yang Zi, I’ve mentioned before that I find the overly-naive characters she’s played really annoying. I found her character, Tong Nian, to be so unbelievable. Not only is she a smart and talented computer science grad student but she’s a well-known singer online and my biggest disappointment with this drama is (shockingly) that Yang Zi’s character doesn’t get her own storyline outside of the romance. She falls for Han Shang Yan at first sight and becomes obsessed with him. I don’t mind a ‘fall in love at first encounter’ storyline but he comes to the place she works and shows literally no friendliness towards her. Also, in order to emphasize the age difference between the main characters, which is about 10 years, they dressed Yang Zi in these ridiculous outfits like the one pictured above. Yikes.

While initially the drama shows Tong Nian speaking to students and signing autographs for fans, soon her every scene is centered around Han Shang Yan. A storyline where she sings an online game’s theme song is hinted at but never comes to fruition—I spotted a clip from the beginning of this music video that suggests the scene was filmed and cut! WHY?!

In the beginning, it feels ridiculous for Tong Nian to be so obsessed with Han Shang Yan when he makes it clear with her time after time that he’s not interested in her or a relationship. He’s straightforward and offers no warmth towards her, so when she’s “heartbroken” I don’t feel bad for her. (By the way, this restaurant dinner scene above is one of my favorites but I won’t spoil it for you.)

Regarding their relationship, I do appreciate that later on in the drama, Han Shang Yan straightforwardly asks her why she likes him, and also says that he wants her to pursue her own dreams, too. But anyhow, I personally found their relationship just tolerable. Tong Nian was cringe-inducing at times and overly childish but since she felt like a supporting character, it was bearable.

My favorite part of the drama was Han Shang Yan’s scenes with the KK team members, especially the ones that were featured heavily in the drama: 97, Demo, and Grunt. They were hilarious with their gossiping, but also heartfelt because they work hard to compete in these competitions, sometimes without the support of their parents, who think they’re wasting their lives playing games.

These two were a treat! Ya Ya is Tong Nian’s best friend and one of her roommates. Unlike Tong Nian, Ya Ya is not naive and she’s a supportive friend. She’s a really energetic character, who happens to have been a huge fan of Han Shang Yan and his teammates back in the day. She’s delighted to be able to meet her idol, Xiao Mi, and they develop a friendship. Xiao Mi is one of Han Shang Yan’s former teammates and he’s also filled with a lot of regret. I really, really loved his emotional storyline.

And of course, there’s Hu Yi Tian’s special appearance in this drama as Han Shang Yan’s cousin Wu Bai. He appears in a limited number of scenes, and brings a quiet humor to every scene he’s in. His scenes with Han Shang Yan are so fun, and I actually wished we’d seen more of their relationship. Wu Bai is the captain of the team but trains by himself instead of with the team (an excuse as to why he’s not there in a lot of the team scenes). Honestly this seems kind of strange since they participate in a lot of team competitions and he’s the CAPTAIN, but whatever.

Also, I LOVED Appledog/Ai Qing, who rocked some fantastic outfits. She’s so composed and kind that I was bummed there wasn’t more of her! The storyline with Solo was not what I expected but I thought it was a very mature storyline (what a contrast to Tong Nian, lol).

Lastly, I’m obsessed with the theme song, ‘无名之辈’ (‘Nameless Generation’). It definitely reflects the drama’s theme of chasing your dream and it’s so catchy!

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