Sunday, July 24, 2016

Best Gender Bender Chinese Dramas

Eternal Happiness 再生緣 (2002)

Rating: 10

Episodes: 32

Genre: Ancient, Romance, Drama

This is a TVB classic featuring Michelle Yip, Raymond Lam and Joe Ma. Michelle Yip plays the rich and smart Man Lai Kwan who aspires to contribute to her country but born in ancient China, her options are limited to marrying another rich guy and procreating. When her parents arrange for her to marry Wong Po Siu Wah (Raymond Lam), a man she has never met, she runs away and dresses up as a man to create a future for herself. On her adventures of righteousness, she inadvertently meets Teet Mok Yee (Joe Ma) the crown prince and Wong Po Siu Wah and become sworn brothers with them. Ironically, everyone travels incognito status so no one knows the other's true identities.

As sworn brothers, they form a close relationship but what happens when Teet Mok Yee finds out about Lai Kwan's gender? And will the righteous Wong Po Siu Wah be able to hold himself in when he starts to fall in love with the male Lai Kwan?

I absolutely love love love this drama. Among all the dramas on this list, if you only have time for one, watch this one. It's on a different level. Besides being a great romance story, this one also addresses a lot of gender barriers faced in ancient times in a way that it's seamlessly incorporated into the drama plot. This drama also has a very strong cast, besides the three main actress/actors, there's also Myolie Wu, Tavia Yeung and Kenneth Ma who have become A List actresses/actor in their own right now.

Hana Kimi 花樣少年少女 (2006)

Rating: 9

Episode: 42

Genre: School life, Drama, Romance


This Taiwanese adaption of Japanese manga, Hana Kimi, was so successful, it spawned similar dramas in Korea and Japan. Ella Chen plays Lu Rui Xi, a girl who travels across the world and enrolls into a special school to see her idol, Zuo Yi Quan (Wu Chun). The only problem is it's an all boys school so she disguises herself and ironically ends up as Yi Quan's roommate. Unfortunately, things don't go as smoothly as the school doctor finds out her true identity on the first day and her brother tries to drag her back to the states.

 This was one of my favorite dramas growing up. Ella really pulls off the prepubescent male look plus Wu Chun and Jiro make me wish I went to an all boy's school.

Bromance 愛上哥們 (2016)

Rating: 9.5

Episodes: 20

Genre: Modern, Romance, Gender Bender


"She must live as a man until her 26th birthday or else she will die." Following the fortune teller's advice, Pi Ya Nuo (Megan Lai) has grown up to become a kind and healthy man. Her handsome face and aloof personality sends flocks of girls confessing everyday. Used to her life as a man,she even tells her parents it's ok if she stays a man after her 26th birthday.  

One day, she comes upon Du Zi Feng (Baron Chen) a triad leader with "ultimate manly pheromones." She saves him when he was being ambushed and inadvertently becomes his sworn brother. They grow close but with only 99 days until her 26th birthday, can she keep her identity a secret? Will he bring out the girl in her? Or is this the event that will bring her last 25 years of hiding to light and ultimately her death?

I've been out of the Taiwanese drama craze for a few years now but this drama pulled me right back in. Although there's a lot of gender bender dramas nowadays Megan Lai plays a suave guy (at least in the first few episodes) and it's very refreshing. Baron Chen also has become smokey hot since his premiere as Dylan in Fated to Love You.

Mischievous Princess (My Bratty Princess) 刁蛮公主 (2005)

Rating: 8.5

Episodes: 36

Genre: Ancient, Romance, Royalty, Comedy 

Situ Jing (Jang Na Ra) is the daughter of a general but she spends her time cross dressing as a hoodlum to con money out of bad men and give it to people in need. On one of her cons, she gets involved with Emperor Zu Yun (Alec Su who is better known for his role in Princess Returning Pearl). and Bai Yu Fei, the fiancee of Zu Yun's sister, Princess An Ning. They become sworn brothers but under their pseudo-names as everyone was out incognito pretending to be someone else.

Little does Situ Jing know, she's the last remaining daughter of the previous royal family. As the mystery behind her background unravels, she must choose between her country and the family she lost.

Light and comedic, this drama is a great past time.

Fabulous Boys原来是美男 (2013)

Rating: 9

Episode: 13

Genre: Music, Drama, Romance

Summary:When her brother runs off, Gao Mei Nu (Lyan Cheng) a nun in training, travels to the big city to take his place as the main singer of popular band ANJELL. Their leader, Huang Tai Qing (Jiro Wang) is a taciturn and neurotic grump who makes it his goal to kick her out of their group.  

This is a direct remake of the Korean drama You're Beautiful. If you liked the Korean one, this one you will definitely like.

Love at First Fight 武十郎 (2007)

Rating: 8.5

Episode: 32

Genre: Martial Arts, Family, Historical

Wu Shi Lang (Miriam Yeung) descends from a long line of martial artists. At birth, her mom (whose already given birth to 9 daughters and was facing mother-in-law troubles) announces her as a son. Following her mother's wishes, Wu Shi Lang grows up to be a prodigal martial male artist but on full moon nights, she secretly ventures out in a dress. Depressingly, her nightly awkward outings only serve to scare the neighbors as they think there's a female ghost haunting the streets. Lei Sheng Da (George Hu) recently moved into the city and instantly falls in love with her "ghost" alter ego. He's a rich chaebol who also descends from martial artist family but Wu Shi Lang only has eyes for her childhood friend Li Ya Shou (Wallace Huo).  

This is one of my favorite gender bender dramas. Miriam doesn't make a very convincing gender bender but she's definitely a funny one. It's also great to see Wallace Huo prior to all his recent suave and cool roles such as in The Journey of Flower and Love Me if You Dare. On a fun side note, congrats to Wallace Huo and Ruby Lin who have confirmed their relationship and are getting married this year!

Legend of Mulan 花木蘭

Summary-wise I'm pretty sure everyones familiar with the Hua Mulan disguises herself as a man to join the army in the stead of her aging father story so I won't bore you with that. Instead, here's a list of the remakes of this story. Aside from the Disney cartoon version there's also:

1) A Tough Side of a Lady 花木蘭 (1998)- This is a Hong Kong remake starring Mariane Chan
2) Hua Mu Lan 花木蘭 (1999)- Made in Taiwan, this drama stars Anita Yuen
3) Once Upon a Time (2012)- This U.S. drama series incorporates all Disney stories and Mulan is one of them. Jamie Chung plays Mulan in this one. 
4) Mu Lan 巾幗大將軍 (2012)- Mainland china production starring Elanne Kong
5) The Legend of Hua Mulan 花木蘭傳奇 (2013)- Another Mainland China production starring Hou Meng Yao. 

Butterfly Lovers 梁山伯與祝英台 (2007)

Rating: 8

Episode: 42

Genre: Epic, Drama, Ancient, Romance


This epically long drama is based on one of China's four great folktales. Zhu Ying Tai really wanted to go to school but in ancient china that was just not allowed so she strikes up a deal with her father- she can go if she disguised herself as a male. After three years in school, she falls in love with her classmate Liang Shan Bo. On numerous occasions, she tries to hint that she's actually a girl to him but he never gets it. Eventually Ying Tai gets sent home as her parents have arranged for her to marry another man. Shan Bo finds out she's a girl but it's already too late. He gets critically ill and eventually dies from love sickness. On her wedding day, Ying Tai runs to Shan Bo's grave to weep when at that moment, his grave opens. She jumps into the grave and a pair of butterflies fly out signifying their souls are finally free.  

On a side note, there's a movie out, also called Butterfly Lovers, based on the same story line but with a martial arts twist starring Wu Chun and Charlene Choi. Definitely worth a look.
The Butterfly Lovers (2008 film).jpg