The awkward moment when the name of your series sounds like a failed celebrity diet

18 07 2011

There are 3 (close to) sure-fire ways to get me watching a Taiwanese drama:





And with point number three is how I picked up the 2010 PTS series, Gloomy Salad Days.

Once you pick your jaw (and lettuce scraps, bwahaha) up from the floor and get past the slightly laughable series title, you’ll realise that the series is nothing like your typical Taiwanese idol drama. Nothing. Zilch. It’s not fluffy, it’s not airy-fairy, it’s definitely not sunny. The tone of the series more than lives up to its title- but not entirely in a good way. From start to finish, the viewer is overridden with this unbearable heaviness- in the grey muted colours, in the dr-OHHHHH-ning soundtrack, in the uber-desolate dialogue-  it’s nothing but a sense of eternal gloom. You never feel like there is a way out, you never feel like there is any sense of hope (and, affirmative, this includes some of the, er, “acting” ><;)

Gloomy Salad Days is broken up into a series of twelve different stories, each dealing with teen-oriented issues derived from real life social cases. Shen Qi (played by Aaron Yan~~ oh Aaron Yan! Aaron Yan! Why the bjesus are you so puuurrrudy>>?) is a student carrying a brain tumor that has resulted in him being able to see something that no one else can see- Du aka Death Girl (played by Serena Fang.) Not that I would say Shen Qi wants this special ability though because Death Girl is not really your Fairy Godmother (to put it nicely.) She’s a guardian, sure, but that is of The Bridge Of Helplessness, which is essentially the bridge between life and death. Her soul lingers inside this mysterious rock, which I’m telling you now, DO NOT ever pick up. EVER. (Who collects rocks these days anyways? ><) As soon as you claim it in your possession, you win the unwanted glory of being able to see Du, and as these troubled students show, you will subsequently be faced with the choice to sacrifice life- be it your own or someone else’s- all in the name of ridding your life of any so-felt burdens. What does it take to give in? And is the link between life and death what it seems?


One of the better things about the series was definitely the cinematography- the camera angles, the frame shots, the lighting, the play between light and shade… it all contributed to being a pretty perfect backdrop. At a glance, the series was pretty visually nice to look at. However, story-wise, I think Gloomy Salad Days tried too hard to achieve something that was beyond the capability of the cast, and when the acting isn’t overly strong, that’s when the flaws in the story become blaringly apparent. From an intent standpoint, I did appreciate and somewhat even applaud the writers for what they were trying to get at- and I totally get where they were coming from- but in terms of the execution, quite frankly, things just didn’t mesh. The twelve individual accounts felt like pretty much just that- twelve individual accounts. I don’t think it would’ve even mattered too much the order in which the stories were told in. Despite that they were all from the same school (and some were apparently affiliated with one another,) the students from each of these stories never really felt that connected to me at all. You never really got the feeling that the misfortunes of one student really affected any of the others, and so if they weren’t connecting with one another, then how possibly could the viewer be expected to connect with them?

That’s not to say though that the characters themselves sucked because individually, quite a few of them did have alot of depth to them. Nicole from story 3 for instance, was a girl who showed signs of great intelligence in her studies but never committed. During the day, we would rarely see her interact with other students, it’s as if she didn’t think that they were worth her time. Come night time, we see her morph into another type of girl, a woman, a figure you would call anything but a good student. We see her live a whole ‘nother life. This was Nicole, the escort. She would give you her time, if you gave her the ka-ching(~!)


In real life, it would be easy to look at a teenager like Nicole and immediately assume her to be your stereotypical, anti-authority pubescent- you know, someone who rebels for seemingly for no reason, a belief not at all uncommon in the eyes of much of the older generation. As a mother of one of  the students is quoted as saying, “Young people are completely incomprehensible these days.” But then again, do youths really act a certain way “just for the sake of it?” Is there not some kind of subliminal message being conveyed or a silent cry for help that they subconsciously want someone to hear? Have I watched too many Oprah and Doctor Phil (and maybe even everyone’s favourite Oprah-wannabe Tyra Banks ) shows  in my lifetime to believe that there is always some underlying reason for people to be acting in such a socially frowned upon way (btw, don’t get me wrong, I do like Tyra, but even so, her talk show has always felt a lil too eerily emulating of the one and only Ms O’s~~)? Perhaps. Maybe. Fine, I’ll admit to sobbing whilst watching the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show *sniffs* But if you look at Nicole, behind all that makeup, behind that punky hair (and behind those very, very nice boots may I say… ;)) there is a child fighting- alone– to stay alive. Her father is a shameless gambling addict, and not only that, he is also an abusive drunk, often taking out his frustration and anger on the mother- and sometimes even Nicole. It’s a family dysfunction nobody would ever wish on anyone else to have to deal with as they are growing up. Du steps in and asks how her life could be made better to which Nicole brashly shoots back, without a second thought, if the father was gone, everything would  be easier. Everyone would be better off. The world would be better off. And whadduya know, Nicole‘s wish is granted. The words that so quickly left her mouth had become a reality. Living for the rest of your life- and having to face your mother- knowing it was your words that summoned that power- in the end, is it all worth it?


One of the other stories that stirred my interest the most featured the rich and mysterious pretty boy student, Li You. It is made known soon enough that he is the illegitimate child of some super powerful and super affluent business man, and we are all left believing that explains his subdued aura, his speak-little attitude- but heck no would things be that straightforward. Come on, we are like, halfway through the series, it’s time for sh*t to really go down.

So from the first moment we see him, I’m thinking to myself ,”WTF, why is this boy’s skin so much whiter and smoother and softer than any other girl that I’ve ever seen in my life? Wait, hang on, hang on… is he… a… a b…boy?” A little dramawiki search-and-enter action later, I discover that the person playing the role is indeed an actress. And a little deeper on into episode 8 we go, it is revealed to the viewer that Li You was born anatomically female- but in his mind, he has always been a male.


By this time, Li You had already become best friends with the gung-ho he-man captain of the school’s basketball team, Chen Guo Hao, and as you would have it, he was also dating Guo Hao‘s younger sister Mei Lei. Upon hearing the news, Mei Lei‘s feelings for Li You do not change. She likes Li You, the person, whether or not Li You is male or female does not concern her the teeniest, tiniest bit. And I’m the kinda person who thinks the same way, as does a growing number of people in the world- love doesn’t have to be between a man and a woman.

A large part of my intrigue in Li You‘s story was due to the fact that in many ways, it reminded me of Ruka in Last Friends– which yes, I’ve said it before and I will say it again- I liked. ALOT. I mean, come on. Ueno Juri + Eita + Mizukawa Asami. You know that’s (one of) my ultimate jdorama fantasy(ies) (my other fantasy? Jin+Kame in a very, VERY special reunion…ahem… >_>;;;…) I am aware that the ending was very… iffy *raises left eyebrow* but from a character and human study approach, both these roles, the relationships and the life events around them… it got people thinking, it got people debating- when you find that you can not accept someone, is it because of them or is it because of you?

Gloomy Salad Days suggests that there are still parts of society that find it difficult to accept love between the same gender, or accept people who have gender identity disorders- which, to me, is fine, it just means we all look at things differently. Tradition is tradition, yes. Opinion is opjnion, yes. I’m all cool with that. What isn’t fine is when you turn your inability to agree with something or someone into an energy that can or does generate hatred or hurt.


When Guo Hao finds out about Li You‘s gender, he flips. He flippin’ flips big time. But it’s a little more complicated than him simply finding out that his BFF is actually not a guy (although, to realise that he had been being shellacked by a girl in basketball all this time along would’ve bruised the ego a tad~~) For Guo Hao, it was the thought of the person he felt like he could trust the most had actually been lying to him all this time along- call it betrayal, call it being played- whatever way you look at it, it is something very hard to swallow. And to fuel the fire even more, the rest of the school is talking and even sneering behind both Li You and Mei Lei‘s backs- it’s not completely unfathomable for Guo Hao to demand that Li You leaves her. As much as some of us believe they shouldn’t have to separate just because of the way others look at them, as the big brother, I feel like Guo Hao‘s reaction is justly within line. The two “brothers” fight it out- literally, in a physical punch on- but at the end of it, it dawns on them that they are only responding this way because they do truly value each other. No way in this world would they ever want to see something bad to happen to the other. Du sees this with  her own eyes and roams away as Shen Qi chases after her, “You’re really not as cruel as I thought.” Du replies softly, “If people can work things out, why should I interfere?” For the first time, the viewer sees, as does Shen Qi, Du does have compassion. She is a living soul, and perhaps has alot more to her story than what meets the eye.


There were probably just the one or two stories where I found myself rolling my eyes and gaaaaahing, “Seriously, dude, in comparison to your fellow schoolmates, your problem really isn’t even a problem!” (*coughs*Xiao Dao*coughs*episode12*coughs*) but on the whole, I did foster some level of concern for the bulk of the characters. It’s just that as soon as one story was over, they would move straight onto the next, barely even mentioning or ever referencing the previous students’ fates. It really is a shame the writers didn’t find a way to weave these characters into one other’s lives more intrinsically- or perhaps, I am wishing, more karmically. I dunno, given the supernatural element to the story, I guess I would’ve like to have seen the actions of each student affect and spiritually bring down the rest of the school. After all, there were student deaths after a student deaths- you think the entire troop of students and teachers would’ve fallen into a screaming chaos, living in angst of an unknown and unfathomable power tearing their lives apart. Heck, even the community should’ve gotten in on the fear. I know the name Death Girl may sound a lil lame and you may not believe in her initially, that’s fine- but as every misfortune frighteningly stacks up, you would surely have to begin to question that perhaps, just maybe, there could very well be something extraordinarily powerful from the other world that is looming over your every move.


As a result, it was difficult for me to get myself to say I even liked this series as a whole. Objectively, there was potential galore but it was so very frustrating seeing things kinda go half-boiled. And it didn’t help that some of the acting let things down, too (to be diplomatic.) Not all of the actors failed miserably, but quite a handful did make me… wonder. Wonder what could have been (and wonder how can anyone be that bad?) I mean, can someone say, m.o.n.o.t.o.n.e.v.o.i.c.e al.rea.dy? *bangs head against brick wall* I know you guys aren’t supposed to be acting as if you are on prescription-only Arashi Happy Pills, but can you not change the tone in your voices some of the time? Seriously, the more I am typing here, the more I have no idea how I managed to stick through all 20 freaking episodes.

No, wait, that’s right. Please trace back to dot point #3 on my “How To Get Me To Watch A Taiwanese drama series” list. Darn it, it’s Aaron. Aaron Yan. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a Taiwanese series with idol stars with the expectation of being blindingly wowed by anyone’s acting. There are rare occasions where I am left a teeny bit gobsmacked, like in My Queen (Ethan, you are da man <3) but for the most part, when I watch Tw-drama, I’m really just there for the couple chemistry- it’s something I’ve always felt the Taiwanese are superb at creating. And I want to see pretty. I want to see the super pretty! So, for goodness sakes, if you’ve paid for a Fahrenheit member, go ahead and milk your money’s worth. Gimme. Aaron‘s mug. In EVERY.SINGLE.FRAME. Hurt my eyes with THE PRETTY! But they didn’t. And I didn’t get it. I think he appears for a grand total of 18.239 minutes in the first, like, 15 episodes, yet, his pretty face takes up more than a million per cent of  the promotional art work for the series *feels used*


And the same goes for Serena, too. It’s a shame because the part I enjoyed the most was her character’s back story… or was it her brother that I was more happy to see?~~ *clears throat* Fine. Okay. It was BOTH. Everything. Seriously *twitches eyebrows* But it wasn’t until the final four episodes when I felt like my time invested in this series was somewhat paying off as they began to tell the story of Du, who, like many of us, was once a young girl who simply wanted to follow her dream.

[ !!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! Bail now if you are planning on watching this otherwise you will be hearing something you don’t want to~~~ ]


Du, known as Du He five years ago, was a bright and promising manga artist, and also a part of the manga club at the school- she had a gift that was truly one in a million. After catching a glimpse of her work, a renowned manga artist flies to Taiwan all the way from Japan and invites her over to The Land Of Lip-Synching Metallic Dressed Boyband Boys The Land Of The Rising Sun to further mature her skills. Sounds like the girl’s dreams have come true, ne, but you know this will is only the beginning of all her gloom and doom.

For her to be able to accept the offer to go to Japan, Du He must raise NT$3million to cover the tuition fees, and this is where begin to see that the relationship between her and her brother, Du Ji, (played by James Wen) is extra special. And when I say special, I mean it all gets very Autumn In My Heart… and definitely not in a chaste or pure way (quick shout out to Tae Suhk. Oh Tae Suhk, where for art thou, mon amour? <3) We learn that their parents had passed away some time ago, and through all this time, Du Ji had been toiling hard to provide a living for himself and Du He. They had grown up together, they had shared everything together, they loved each other. There was nothing Du Ji wouldn’t do for his dear younger sister.

As if working around the clock wasn’t enough already, as soon as he realises Du He is in need of the money, he forces his own self into some good old-fashioned illegal narcotics smuggling deeds. But as he is selling his soul, he sees his sister begin to drift away from him. There is an equally talented student in the manga club, Gao Chan (also played by Aaron Yan. Yep. There are TWO human beings in this world who look like that. Sure. That’s believable… okay, okay, if I choose to believe, can I have one please?) who, bit by bit, is becoming an undetachable part of Du He‘s life. It is obvious these two like each other, and Du Ji sees all this, but he can not stop it. He can not stop what appears to be his overflowing feelings of jealousy- he does not want to let Du He go.


While it did creep me out beyond any other Korean drama I’ve ever seen before that toyed with the brother/sister love thing, I really did enjoy watching James Wen (who was by far in my opinion the standout) flex his chiseled cheekbones and jawline bring to us a character who was painfully conflicted with facing his own feelings as to what was morally right versus what felt emotionally right. What do you do when your feelings for a person is so strong that it exceeds the power of your mind? Was it really Du Ji‘s fault that he was feeling that way? Was it something that he could have controlled? Was it something that he should have controlled? Perhaps he was simply confused about his love for his sister? You know, maybe he’s just kinda feeling like a Dad not wanting to see his little girl go? The innocence in me was kinda hoping that too, but at the end of episode 18 when Du Ji stands there, frozen, watching Du He and Gao Chao, er, getting busy on their wedding night (YES you read it right- Aaron Yan flesh + canoodling action in ya face baby xDD I think the scene is on youtube, just hit “Aaron Yan sex scene” in the youtube searchbar or something~~)… if you were in any way ever unsure, it all gets spelled out for you right  here. Admittedly the man was intoxicated but still, there is no way you can lie to yourself anymore, just as there is no way Du Ji can lie to himself.


What follows is a string of events (suicide attempts, natural deaths, comas, father cashing in on son’s misfortune etc etc) that barely constituted much of my respect let alone felt like it made sense to me. As cool as her black hooded cape was (not ( ̄□ ̄;)) I did not buy that Shen Qi could’ve genuinely fallen in love with our lovely little Death Girl– at least not with what had been illustrated to us. But I guess this was the most straightforward way to rescue Du back from The Bridge Of Helplessness and bring her spirit back down to Earth.

Either way, I was just glad the gloom was finally over.



5 responses

24 08 2011
Ender's Girl

First off, can I just say how cute Photo 1 is?!!? :-) Reminds me of that famous piccie of Young Kimura with his own doggie friend, heh heh.

Re Photo No. 2: Ahhhh F4 how I’ve missed you so!!! Poor Jerry, you heard about his recent on-set injuries and chronic depression? Then a short while back I think ZaiZai admitted he got depressed for a time or something. What is UP with these dudes??? x_O I just wanna bring them to Ying De rooftop and hug them and sing “Oh baby baby baybeh” or “Can’t Help Falling” until Jerry stops punching the wall and Vic starts smiling again and Ken stops eating his donuts and Vanness stops flipping his hair — oh wait, Vanness can flip his hair ALL HE WANTS! Man I wish it were 2001 again. *sigh* @___@

Re Photo 3: Okay I see Wu Chun on the right, but er, which one’s Aaron?

Anyway, Gloomy Salad Days sounds really interesting and depressing at the same time. Props to the writer/s for the concept, though. I mean Taiwan must be the last country I’d expect a drama of this sort to be made in, give the glut of post-Meteor Garden popcorn idol dramas coming from that happy little island.

It’s just too bad the individual threads didn’t tell a cohesive enough story. So I guess it’s just the Death Girl that’s the common denominator, huh? And speaking of which, does Taiwan do alot of ghost-themed dramas? I mean are they obsessed with the supernatural the way Jdoramas are (regardless of treatment, i.e. drama/thriller or slapstick)? The only other similar Tw-show I can think of was the drama where Barbie Xiu played a tree-inhabiting ghost or something.

The Li You character interested me the most, too! I was hoping you’d mention Juri as Ruka — and you did! (Portrayal-wise, does Juri take the cake? I mean everything about her characterization nailed the mannishness or Ruka without becoming exaggerated or cliched. How’d the Taiwanese actress fare?)

Also, that was a fine commentary you did on gender and society. V. insightful and well-put. ;-)

(And bwahahahahahahaha @ the JE references and your Jin+Kame reunion fantasy. MOAR MOAR!!! xDDD Plsplspls make it involve Jin singing “Eternal” to Kame? I am seriously so in love with that song!!! And having Kame dance in response… er scratch that lolz. “The Land Of Lip-Synching Metallic Dressed Boyband Boys – tee hee hee! If *that* ever became the official description of Japan, I shudder to think what (or whose) pictures they’d be replacing the red sun with on their national flag!hahaha)

31 08 2011

I think this pretty-looking men + cute animals formula thing is a sure-winner! The above piccie of Joe is one of my favourites EVER, and YES that shot of Young Kimura with the Golden Retriever is one for da aaages. Why he had to trade him in for Ms Gatsy Poochie we will never understand~~~~~

I definitely recall Zai’s bout of depression, I think it was around the time when one of his former girlfriends Beatrice Xu passed away, and also around the time he was making MARS. Apparently he was unable to withdraw from the darkness of his character. But I haven’t kept up to date with Jerry’s news. Wouldn’t surprise me though since if you think about it, the guy really has been struggling to find success as great as his MG Dao Ming Si days. That said, I still adore him (AND all the F4 boys!) and hope that he recovers soon >…

Not sure about if Taiwan do alot of supernatural themed series since the only ones I pick up are the idol, high-schooly, love-dovey ones. But I know quite a few Taiwanese artists do tend to join in on Mainland productions where there can be alot of ancient Asian fantasy themed stories going on. Btw, is that Barbie series you mention worth a watch?

In terms of ability, no question Juri was better (& this is nothing to do with my bias for her, lol.) Chao Li Yan, the actress who played Li You, is far from being a seasoned actress (I think this was her second acting gig?) Like much of the rest of the cast, when it came to being dramatic, it was… a bit uncomfortable to watch. But when her character was being cool and calm, I found it really worked. And I absolutely do credit her for committing her appearance so much to her role… I honestly had no idea she was an actress at first!

18 09 2011
What would Yankumi do? « [Candy.Me]

[…] listening to each other? Are we listening to our children? My point is, just as I mentioned in my Gloomy Salad Days review, children don’t rebel just for the sake of it. There has to be something to Student A and […]

8 03 2012

aaron yan ya lun <3
its a great show to learn about peoples life and u should learn to care more bout ur friends

17 03 2012

Hi HanKeLaMaHan,

its a great show to learn about peoples life and u should learn to care more bout ur friends
^^Totally agree! It’s easy to be focussed too much on yourself these days so yep, it’s definitely something we all need to learn to do better :)

And hells yes so many love hearts for Aaron Yan xDDDD (Are you a Fahrenheit fan too? ;P)

Anyways, thank you for dropping by.

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