Next Stop, Happiness

3 06 2010

Firstly, »»»!!!!!!!!!!!Potential Spoiler Alert!!!!!!!!!!!«««

Secondly, I predict a v. long post, so prepare yourself ^^;;



Autumn’s Concerto.

Autumn; Autumn in poetry has often been associated with melancholy. The possibilities of summer are gone, and the chill of winter is on the horizon. Skies turn grey, and people turn inward, both physically and

Concerto; a concerto as a musical work is a composition usually in three parts or movements.

I like the official English title, as for starters, the story is kinda broken down into three defining segments (i.e.; 1. main protagonists fall in love; 2. memory loss period; 3. main protagonists trying to make up for lost time post memory recovery.) And the thought of a concerto in the middle of Autumn, to me, brings some kind of beauty & hope amongst the darkness (am I making any sense?? A bit more about the title later on in the post!)

However, I think the title in its native tongue, 下一站,幸福 (directly translating to; Next Stop, Happiness, thus the title of my post) is even more perfect.

Happiness, which stop do I alight at? -dramawiki

I know alot of people will say that the series was full of cliches but honestly, what is truly & fully original these days? It’s what you do w/ these “cliches” that counts. For all I care, you can use every single idea in the book that’s been tried & tested, used & abused, wrung & juiced out to its v. last drop… so long as you do it well, truth be told, I really don’t give a flying damn.

So congratulations to Autumn’s Concerto for making me feel this way! (It’s a mighty good feeling I tell ya.) If you dissect it apart, it does to seem to be one big gigantic blend of other Tw-dramas (the buying the village thing ala Prince Turns Into Frog; the finding another love after memory loss thing ala Meteor Garden II; the kid situation ala My Lucky Star; the meeting after x number of years & changing into a different person thing ala Fated To Love You.) It also had every melodramatic moment stationed at every predictable interval to rival the most vintagely authentic Korean melodrama we’ve ever seen but what can I say…

Thank goodness for Vanness‘ cleavage (!) lol No seriously *clears throat* The writers & the actors managed to find that magic formula & not let it go wayward (see, epic fail: MGII.) AC truly excelled in delivering heartwarming quotes that flowed naturally into the story & creating unpretentious characters & relationships that you uncontrollably cared for. You know how sometimes there is one (or more) character(s) &/or relationship(s) you could probably take or leave (or fireball punch in the face)? No way in AC. Every relationship was uniquely sacred. You really, truly wanted to see these people reach their final stop. No more messes, mutilations & mishaps; just perfect happiness- that’s all that I was wishing for them.

“I remembered a girl playing by the piano, but I can’t remember who she is.”Ren Guang Xi

Ady An as Liang Mu Cheng


My first impression of Ady, “Is that Angela Zhang?” A few scenes later- “Er, no wait, it can’t be, this girl can actually act.” ^^;;

To think that Ady wasn’t even the first choice to play the role of the kind-hearted, riches-to-rags heroine makes me sick. In a role that I could’ve easily screeched, cursed & bulged my eyes at (seriously, why the heck can’t you just be semi-selfish for once already, guurl ??) Ady managed to deliver Mu Cheng as a person w/ the purest of souls. Sometimes you watch a series & the heroine is written up to be the goodest person on the face of this planet (thus why all the good men fall for her & all the bad ones “change” because of her) but you watch the actress & it’s like, “Really?? You really don’t give a hoot’s bleep that the richest & hottest guy in town is giving you some good old-fashioned lovin’ attention? And oh really? You’re just perfectly happy w/ being stupidly dirt poor?? Yeah right.” *rolls eyes @Geum Jan Di*

But this is when acting skills differentiates the good from the bad (to the downright ugly at times =_=;) Ady used her every breath, every word, every glance & every limb faultlessly to bring Liang Mu Cheng into our hearts. There were many parts of her dialogue that, for most others, would’ve been “please shut the heck up already” moments, but both the strength & vulnerability in her voice brought an incredible authenticity to her character. Even though she accepted Tuo Ye‘s (i.e. Chris Wu‘s character) help on a couple of occasions, in a way giving him false hopes of them being together, I couldn’t help but like her. Yes, Tuo Ye did alot for Mu Cheng but her support for him was just as unconditional. She loved w/o remorse & would run to the aid of those closest to her irrespective of what others thought. Mu Cheng was someone you couldn’t help but to root for.

And for goodness sakes! She’s struggled against so many odds, too! Yet she never turned feeble. She worked as hard as she could for herself & for her son. Seriously, I would consider trading in my prized F4 poster (that I literally begged for) to guarantee her living happily ever after w/ Ren Guang Xi (i.e. Vanness‘ character.)

Speaking of, I also liked how Mu Cheng never got flustered by Guang Xi‘s high & mighty ways. She definitely held her own by keeping in her own space yet still doing her own thing, unlike, say, in Meteor Garden. As much as I love Shan Cai, she did retreat to being a complete wallflower before finally bursting out at a certain bomb-head guy’s face. But Mu Cheng was herself, from beginning to end. The girl is the real deal.

“Thankyou. Thankyou for Xiao Le. This child is the greatest gift of my life.”
Liang Mu Cheng

Vanness Wu as Ren Guang Xi


Well, well, haven’t we come a long way since the silky hair-flicking Mei Zuo days?

I wouldn’t say that Vanness took my breath away using his technical acting ability but he did take my breath away w/ his sincerity in being his character. And that has nothing (much^^;;) to do w/ the numerous topless, abs-tastic moments (& the cleavage I alluded to earlier- THANK YOU for deep-V low-cut tees, wootwoot !! xD), it’s because Vanness is, well, Vanness. He’s completely engaging & exudes overflowing amounts of boy-ish charm & it all worked here, it really worked. It made me forgive Guang Xi‘s arrogance & unwillingness to listen w/ his heart during many stages of the story.

I also accepted the fact that his character seemed to only ever see things in black or white, never really wanting any part to do w/ the grey areas that those closest to him often couldn’t help but find themselves treading in. I guess after all, everyone was toying w/ him, claiming that they were hiding the truth from him for his own good. I did empathise w/ him. I really, really wanted to stand in the rain holding an umbrella waiting for him xDD

To clarify though, I definitely don’t think his acting was bad. In fact, that’s far from the truth. He is actually good, v. good. I did decide long ago that the guy does have some acting chops after watching him in the 2003 movie Star Runner (opposite one of my major girl crushes, Kim Hyun Joo (*´ー`*)) but I just feel he’s still a tad inconsistent.

There are many instances of brilliance from Vanness in AC (cue; being an awesome father, his lovey-dovey moments w/ Ady) but there are still times when I feel like he overcooks it a little. It could be one movement too many, or one facial twitch too inappropriately (though he never affects the quality of the drama.) Once he learns how to pull these back, he’s gonna be the absolute bomb.

“Tuo Ye, no matter what you think, in my heart, you will always be my most important friend.” Liang Mu Cheng

Chris Wu as Hua Tuo Ye


In the beginning, I kinda felt like this guy was too angry & too brash for my liking. But my, did he grow on me. The anger I soon saw as an admirable, fiery passion. The brashness I soon saw as his unyielding heart to protect his loved ones. This is the first time I’d seen Chris Wu act & I’m surely not the only one who’s mega-impressed. His emotions were raw & his actions seemed like pure reflexes. In the flow & completely believable. Sure I wanted to give Tuo Ye a “what the heck are you doing” smack in the head at times but I most definitely wanted to see him in a happy ending of his own, because through all his determination, he truly deserved one. I’ve never seen such a devoted second man who had balls as great as he did.

And perhaps I was too distracted by my homeboy V-Wu at first but I eventually realised that this Chris guy is actually not to bad to look at himself (^U^)

“You’ve been the only one in my world for the past six years.” Ren Guang Xi

Tiffany Xu as He Yi Qian


I don’t know what it is but I can’t get myself to fall in love w/ this girl. Maybe it’s a case of her being faaar too pretty for her own good. No, no– wait- I’m not that kinda hater!

I think she has shown leaps of improvement from what I’ve seen of her previously. I did feel that she fit the role as the beautiful & intelligent doctor, Yi Qian, but at times her conveying of emotions felt a little too “acted.” Not overacted per se, it’s more like… you can see her trying to act. I don’t see her as a natural crier in front of the camera & I feel like something did fall short in her connecting w/ the audience.

Her character Yi Qian really should’ve been someone you sympathised deeply for. I hated how they made her character go along w/ “the lie” (I guess this was to somewhat legitimise Guang Xi‘s decision to end their relationship so ridiculously abruptly after being together for such a long time) but regardless, Yi Qian was, plain & simply, a good person. She was loyal, she was filial & she was modest. And to have supported a man through those tough times & invest 6yrs of herself w/ him, convinced that they would grow old together, then all of a sudden losing this entire dream… every woman watching should have cried a river for her in their hearts. But I didn’t. The character I liked but for me, her emotions just didn’t transcend through the screen.

“Do you know what the meaning of the daisy is? It means, ‘to guard silently.'”Hua Tuo Ye

Amanda Zhu as Hua Ci Xin


This role confused me the most. Well, initially at least. For the first part of the series, Ci Xin was depicted to be a super ditzy, bimbo-esque girl from the village who spoke as if she was on a permanent diet of diluted helium & also someone who gave a whole new meaning to push-up bras. I thought she was just the typical comedic relief character. Then out of the blue, we discover she had actually always painstakingly wanted to be Tuo Ye‘s woman but he, only having eyes for Mu Cheng, had only ever seen Ci Xin as a sister. How sad ><” Then Ci Xin runs off & like a volcano, her deeply-rooted self-esteem issues erupted all at once. WTF ???

I thought & thought about it & well, it does make sense. Being an orphan, she’d probably grown up w/ the feeling of being “the oustider” constantly playing in her psychology. She was the one who was not connected by blood. Her early light-hearted, carefree ways were a defense mechanism to conceal these insecurities she held inside. She clearly seemed to think that family should be something spelt out on paper, but the Hua family is beyond that (heck, everyone in this series is beyond that.) I think her role challenges us to define the meaning of “family”- is being related by blood really as important as being connected by the heart?

In regards to her acting, this is the first time I’ve seen Amanda Zhu & I can’t say I loved her. She was somewhat amusing when she was acting like a bubblehead but as soon as her life turned dramatic, I lost interest in the girl & her (over) acting (though I must say, once she shed off the dippy, skanky attire, make-up & hair, I did see that she is actually v. pretty.) You could partially blame the incoherent writing of her role but the transition of her character was a “flick-of-the-switch” situation & I don’t feel Amanda was able to make Ci Xin ONE character. It was like as soon as the kooky one vanished, the emo twin emerged.

“Is this the Ren Guang Xi you truly want? He originally had an unforgettable love but it has been hidden by all of us.” Lawyer Lin

Liu Rui Qi as Fang De Rong


I loved President Fang! There was so much depth to the role & I feel like Liu Rui Qi portrayed the character w/ immense class. The evolution of her character was pretty much seamless & she made sense. It was moving to watch her come out from her shell of a stern-facade, business-minded mogul; gradually revealing a vulnerable woman who simply wanted to be a mother to her son. I normally don’t care too much for the parental figures in most drama series (step the heck outta the way & just let your children BE already! ) but I really appreciated the fact that this woman had a backstory to explain- & justify- why she was acting in the maliciously crabby ways from the top of the story. All is definitely forgiven, President Fang. I would turn biatch too if I had a husband who decided to go cradle-robbing.


And now for the ultimate scene stealer, the show stopper…

“MISHU! MISHU!” Liang Xiao Le

Xiao Xiao Bin as Liang Xiao Le / Ren Xiao Le


This kid pwned. Absolutely PWNED.

There is no way AC would’ve been what it was had it not been for Xiao Xiao Bin. In all the series I’ve ever seen, his importance to the production definitely ranks right up there amongst the best of them. He helped make AC stand out amongst the sea of Asian melodramas. Whatever an x-factor is, he was it.

There’s only been (under) a handful of child actors who have made me laugh & moved me to tears (from the top of my head, the lil girls in Burning Flame II [TVB, 2002] & in My Girl [TVAsahi, 2009]) so it’s always a wondrous joy to see one who makes a loud enough statement w/o screaming B.R.A.T. And Binny really nailed every single emotion in the book. Anyone who wasn’t moved, inspired &/or captivated by his portrayal of Xiao Le is surely an alien from Planet Dahra (lame pun intended xP)

Xiao Le was as witty as he was sensible, as considerate as he was naive, as grown up as he was child-like… put simply, he was the perfect child. And his cheeks were so pinchable!!!!! Seriously, I say, Mu Cheng‘s parenting skills FTMFW. She should totally run parenting courses (-_-;) And if they were to ever be made scientifically possible, Xiao Le would most definitely be THE face & ambassador of The Ultimate Design-Your-Own-Child project (^_-)—☆Wink

Can’t get enough of this kid. So hey, don’t let us stop!



Without a doubt, one of the most well-written aspects of AC is Xiao Le‘s relationships w/ each one of the main characters. Every connection was just as special as the other & everyone became a happier person after the magic touch of this little kid w/ the huge heart. Xiao Le was definitely working it :))

“I want to hurry & grow up fast so I can protect you.” Liang Xiao Le

Xiao Le + his Mu Cheng


Not once in the entire series did Xiao Le refer to his mum as, well, er, mum. He always, always called her by her name. I actually liked this. For one, it illustrated that Xiao Le wasn’t just “a child.” He was mature beyond his years, & was fully able to give you the same amount of comfort as any adult. Maturity is really a state of mind.

It was also a burning indication of the relationship btwn the mother & son. There was a mutual respect & dependency on one another. They would laugh together & they would lean on each other. You could absolutely say that these two were simply the best of friends.

“Instinct right? It’s like, if I was a father, what would I want to teach my own son? “ Ren Guang Xi

Xiao Le + his Alien Daddy


If I haven’t said so already, may I do my lil rave now- Vanness Wu made it look like he would be a frckn awesome father xD My heart would dance w/ joy seeing these two boys just chill out together & trying to make one another eat carrots (I understand guys, I totally understand >_<;;) No matter how rough of a mood Guang Xi was in, Xiao Le was always able to bring peace to Guang Xi‘s heart. My favourite moment came in episode 19, as Guang Xi was heading off after a short visit to Hua Tian Village, Xiao Le shouts out;

“Daddy, I know you are so busy but don’t forget, Mu Cheng & I love you very much.”

I seriously thought I had to hurl my box of tissues through my TV screen to the man! “Yo! V-Wu! It’s okay, you can cry, I know they are man-tears!!”

“Just call me whenever you like… because I will always be there to listen to you.” Hua Tuo Ye

Xiao Le + his Da Zai


If someone was picking on Xiao Le, you knew Tuo Ye would be there to kick some major butt. He was most protective w/o being a controlling, demeaning moron.

Xiao Le referred to Tuo Ye as his Da Zai, which, according to my (not-always-too-strong) understanding of Mandarin, equates to “big brother.” And that was how I perceived their relationship. Tuo Ye was definitely the big brother who looked out for his lil bro, & when the lil bro needed help, he knew his Da Zai would be there for him to count on; rain, hail, shine or freaking torrential downpours.

There was a scene when Xiao Le secretly calls Tuo Ye (following Xiao Le & Mu Cheng‘s move to Taipei to live w/ Guang Xi) to ask him what a phrase meant (which someone at school had called his Dad):

TY: “You have your spaceship to care about so you’ve probably forgotten about my old van by now.”
XL: “No way! I still remember your van & the floral scent, & also how we sneaked out of the house to play when Mu Cheng wasn’t home… Da Zai, I miss you. I really miss you.”

This moment really established how much Xiao Le confided in his Da Zai, & Tuo Ye‘s emotions at the other end of the phone (brilliant acting btw) showed us how much he loved his lil bro. Again, the series here makes us think about what it means to be family. With or without Mu Cheng, there’s no question that Xiao Le meant the world to Tuo Ye.

“I hope that I can have the chance & the fate to continue to be his relative.” President Fang

Xiao Le + his Fairy Grandmother


Deep down, we knew President Fang was simply a motherly soul who wanted the best for her succeeding generations (too bad she went about it the wrong way at first.) So who better to excavate this nurturing side out of her than the adorably fun-loving Xiao Le, hey~~!

Xiao Le‘s existence was a redemption opportunity for President Fang. Her running into him was a wake-up call to what she had missed out on btwn her & Guang Xi during Guang Xi‘s childhood. You could tell that for so many years now, President Fang had become used to being over-calculating towards everything & everyone. She had completely lost sight of the simplest, most beautiful pleasures of life. Xiao Le‘s candid innocence re-opened her eyes to the importance of the things that she had buried deep in her heart (ever since her husband shot off to play sugar-daddy to some little university student bimbo.) He said things in such simple terms & pointed things out that President Fang had forgotten how to appreciate. He made her realise that the path to happiness is only complicated if you make it out to be.

Best scene, undoubtedly, is when they were at the beach together. The moment President Fang took off her shoes & went barefoot on the sand was, I feel, her moment of release. She was finally getting back in touch w/ nature, both literally & metaphorically.

“Thankyou, my sweet wife.” Liang Xiao Le

Xiao Le + his Tang Tang


Like mother, like son, some might say. Xiao Le already being brave enough to want to protect someone, even though physically he may not be the most obvious person to do so. The start of episode 10 when these two were having pretend dinner together was just cute as pie. Maybe some day Xiao Le & Tang Tang will star as the leads of a romantic drama of their own ;O

Other things I liked, didn’t like (or didn’t get)

I loved the opening theme song. I LOVED the ending sequence (watch HERE.) I also loved that everything came “full circle” in the end. Mu Cheng taking a stab for Guang Xi, redeeming the stab he took from her evil step-uncle, how they reunited their relationship at the same chapel Guang Xi informally made his proposal six years ago & of course, the cellphone snap ^_^ All the loose ends were tied up. It was the ultimate feel-good ending, not just from a romantic standpoint but from a family & friendship standpoint as well. Everyone had all reached their stop! Everything felt complete.


I would’ve liked to have seen the relationship btwn Mu Cheng & Guang Xi during their university years developed a bit more though. I didn’t feel like they’d known each other long enough (darn those 90s / early 2000s melo-K-dramas!) to warrant how undying their love was for each other. I sometimes wondered if it was just puppy love disguised as fate.

I also wasn’t a fan of the court room action. It felt a little law-show wannabe w/o any technical substance. Guang Xi also won his cases far too comfortably for my liking. A bit more of a challenge from the rest of the law world would’ve convinced us more of his credibility as a lawyer.

But the two things that I most wished they had elaborated on was the musical theme & Mu Cheng‘s childhood. Mu Cheng had been forced to give up her music as a child so it would’ve been atonement to see her re-live her childhood dream & succeed as a pianist (no I am not trying to recreate Long Vacation, peoples^^;;)

I guess if I think of it as Next Stop Happiness, then leaving the music in the past is probably more appropriate as it teaches us to look at what’s ahead of you.

But if I think of it as Autumn’s Concerto in its literal sense, then a smidgen more piano key twinkling would’ve been more romantic. Then again, not everything is literal, right?

“No matter how difficult life gets, you can still play the most touching melody.” -Liang Mu Cheng


This would be why they called the series Autumn’s Concerto. The entire reference to Bach‘s Air On A G-String is testament to the fact that even when you are stripped of what you initially had, you can still find ways to “compose your own happiness.” The picture may not be what you originally imagined it to be, but if you allow it, it can be just as beautiful.

“No matter where we go, as long as I am with you, it’s happiness.” -Liang Mu Cheng


Well, whether they were out in the middle of Hua Tian Village or out in the heart of Taipei living the high life, Guang Xi, Mu Cheng & Xiao Le just looked like a family. A v. v. good looking family. The kind of family that you dream of in fairytales.

I’m not going to leave you w/ a “should you or should you not watch it” conclusion, as the path to happiness is after all, your own path to choose (see, I wasn’t only staring at Vanness‘ chest, I was paying attention to the rest of the series!) Instead, I’m going to leave by spamming you w/ a bunch of pictures of the happy family xDDDDD

“Photography is the magic to make a moment last an eternity.”
-the photographer @the 6th stop