I’ve been seeking out lighter historical dramas where the comedic elements aren’t over the top, and I loved The Legend of Jin Yan. Is this yet another ‘two princes in love with the same girl’ story? Is the male lead constantly catching the tripping female lead in her arms? Yes and yes. But this drama is very romance-centric and low-stress with minimal political plotting and harem scheming, and no particularly terrible villains. The episodes are around 30 minutes so although there are 34 episodes, they pass very quickly.
The Legend of Jin Yan is available on YouTube and WeTV with English subtitles. To briefly summarize the plot: Jin Yan is a general’s daughter who tries to escape her arranged marriage with the king (the male lead), causing her sister to marry the king in her place. As she begins having dreams that come true, Jin Yan enters the palace as a maid to save her sister’s life. The king’s older brother, who is Jin Yan’s childhood friend, is in love with Jin Yan and tries to help her leave the palace.
Perhaps the actress who plays the titular character, Xu Ya Ting (aka Kabby Hui), is a little over the top and childish with her acting, but I really liked her character. Jin Yan is kind but not overly self-sacrificing, loyal to her friends and family, and somewhat gullible but not unintelligent. It’s understandable that she doesn’t want a life in the palace; she’s not a schemer. She deliberately utilizes her antics to challenge the male lead, Xiao Yu, and she calls him out on his unreasonable actions. I loved when she sassed him. (In a more serious historical drama, she’d probably have lost her head several times over, but this is a lighter drama!) However, she does say “oh” and pout a million times, which does get annoying.
In comparison, Xiao Yu, played by new actor Chen Jing Ke, is rather petty sometimes and it often feels like he has too much time on his hands. In his position, it’s understandable that he’s suspicious. If he weren’t, he’d probably lose his life, but it’s the major obstacle between him and Jin Yan. He loves offering grand gestures, but how about some mature communication? But like I said, I was here for the romance, and they have so many sweet moments. His suspicions aside, Xiao Yu’s heart doesn’t waver and I loved every scene between Xiao Yu and Jin Yan.
Zhang He (aka Ryan Zhang), who I recognized from his supporting roles in dramas like Love O2O, Eternal Love, and The Flame’s Daughter, plays the second male lead here, Xiao Qi. Although Jin Yan cherishes her friendship with Xiao Qi, it’s clear that she never has romantic feelings for him and she makes it clear to him. But of course, he’s yet another persistent SML and any goodwill I felt towards him was cancelled out by his ‘I know what’s best for you’ attitude.
The supporting characters were a treat. Xiao Yu’s guard and friend, Zhong Li, balanced out Xiao Yu’s impulsiveness. The actor, Zhou Yi Ran, is only nineteen! I’m sure we’ll see more of him. It’s also nice to see supporting female characters who aren’t there just to fight for a prince’s affections. The poised and insightful Consort Wen was low-key my favorite character, and I wish she had more scenes! Given how many consorts the prince has, it’s actually surprising that there wasn’t anyone trying to sabotage Jin Yan, but I’m okay with that because it made the viewing experience more easygoing. Even when a new female character was introduced later in the drama, she was really likable.
That’s not to say every single character was likable… let’s not speak of Jin Yan’s sister, Su Yu. The drama never really develops her character, so I never felt sympathy for her and instead dreaded all her scenes. Her character truly gets worse and worse as the drama continues.
The Legend of Jin Yan does have a mystery within the plot: who keeps killing the king’s consorts? But the romance greatly outshadows the mystery. It’s kind of bizarre how no one seems to be actively investigating, and in the end it’s just straightforwardly explained. The murder mystery storyline could’ve helped increase the dramatic tension and urgency. Apparently this drama is adapted from a novel/manga, so perhaps I’ll read it and see how it compares.
In any case, I recommend if you’re looking for a low-stress romance, but if you find the main actress annoying then go ahead and drop it.