Sunday, November 17, 2013

TwDrama Review: Devil Beside You (2005)

Devil Beside You

Another "classic" lets me down. Lured on the promise of extra lovey-doveyness and that always sought after 'chemistry' between leads, I got to cracking on this 20 episode monster.

Verdict: It's 18 episodes too long.

Now, before I'm murdered in my blogger-sleep, I could try to explain some of my reasoning. It might even be as simple as, I was never in the mood for what this story was trying to tell. Or, the old drama bad quality meant nothing ever looked good on screen. However, after dropping it several times, and then redetermining to finish, nearly 4 months passed between when I started and when I stopped. And I was never in the mood for it. 

Here's the Story in a Nutshell

Qi Yue (Rainie Yang) loves Yuan Yi. He kind of likes her back. But devil boy Jiang Meng (Mike He) takes an interest in her as well. They fall in love. However, their parents have already fallen in love. They're about to become step-siblings. Kissing happens.

Before I start in on spoilers, and my disgust of the leads' romance, let me disect a few other plot points. I realize that Devil Beside You has a wide cast that is supposed to leave viewers loving all the connections and friendships/frenemies/family trials/etc. but to me side plots were nauseatingly boring, mostly for their lack of subtlety. Our show here is adapted from a manga, and I've already discussed some reasons why these plots usually don't entice me. Creepy clingy girls and totally stalkerish perverts (most of whom are completely redeemed by the end) do not make for a good story of human emotion. They're plot devices, through and through. So they make the leads grow and learn. Good for them.

Drama, if you want to get my attention - you need something better than caricatures. I'll take the devil concept any day. It's hot, and it usually works in a lead drama male. I don't even mind him teasing the girl in devilish fashion. I also have a relatively high tolerance to whiny spineless females. Bbbut...

Read on if you dare. I look at what's wrong with the lead couple, why I usually love this kind of concept, and confess at least one thing I thought was good. After all, I did finish it..

The romance between the soon-to-be-step-siblings in this drama frankly disgusts me. I'm no prude. It may sound a bit contradictory, but I've nothing against a good fauxcest or possible incest drama angle. When those angles explore at least a hint of angst or consequence. My problem with Devil Beside You is that it feels like the main leads are part of two separate storylines, where there should be one.

Story 1: Two lovers - featuring the standard good girl/bad boy relationship - meet up and go through many difficulties involving stalker-ish love rivals, and genuinely creepy perverts. They have to overcome this as a couple.
Story 2: Two lovers are actually sort of incestuous, they know it, and there are the obvious difficulties to overcome.

What's wrong with this layout? The plot points never mesh. They are treated as totally separate issues, the consequences of living together underneath their engaged parents' noses only explored every 5 to 10 episodes (where they stress for half a second, and then resume kissing). So while the drama wants me to get all giddy watching scene after scene of cuddly lovers, I'm sitting back rather bored of the nonchalance of these characters. 

Bratty kids - Never even considering their parents' feelings.

Why Fauxcest Is Usually Fun 

Because this is a drama, and drama lovers love it when 'drama' is created for our entertainment.  Look at any good old fashioned Kdrama. The only obstacle to love greater than artificial rivals and overbearing parents, is the possibility that you might actually be related, by blood or marriage, to the person who makes your blood boil. It's license to let all that angst hang wide open. It's license to feel doom and depression, to agonize over how you're going to get out of this. That clinching sense of despair, or the mystery of whether what you know is really true. Are you related, or aren't you? I dislike That Winter the Wind Blows, but here's a classic example of the tension such an unknown-relationship-status makes. For even more "are we, aren't we?" and "regardless of blood, is this morally right?" shenanigans, there is Winter Sonata and Autumn in My Heart respectively. 

Okay, those are super dramatic examples. My point is that Devil Beside You steals such excitement away from the viewers by telling us right away that these two are destined through their parents. And then, nothing for over a dozen episodes. When they do start to freak out, it's far too late to feel like a genuine transition. I'll leave you to decide whether you think it resolved well enough. By then, I was watching about 15 minutes of every 45 min episode. 

Okay - I'll be honest. They're cute. Super cute together. And they create a lot of shippy moments. In another drama, I might have loved them.


  1. I find every Taiwanese drama is just too long. I've decided every country should just make their dramas the same length as Japanese, lol. 12 episodes of 45 minutes each. Perfect.

    I don't remember most of this drama because it was one of the first dramas I watched when I discovered Asian dramaland, but I remember wondering why it even mattered that they were together. Like, they weren't blood related, who cares if they have a relationship? And you're right, it was only about their normal relationship and then occasionally they'd have an issue with the sibling thing. I hadn't thought about that til now.

    I think I would have enjoyed the manga.

    One thing I did appreciate though? They had sex. And you know, I never cared about that in Western dramas, but now that I never actually see it in Asian dramas, whenever it does happen I'm like "thank you for being realistic!", lol

    1. The length of most TWdramas tests me almost each time (except for those super awesome ones I'd gladly watch for 10 years straight - well, then they wouldn't be good). I like the length of most Jdramas. It's usually about right, but for the good ones I always wanted more. To me they're almost not long enough to get truly invested in, especially the short ones running around 9 or 10. The pacing though is usually way better than in all other dramas.

      As for DBY - Yeah, from a blood-standpoint, they're not all that taboo. But when you set up a story to have such a conflict as this, I want there to be a little conflict. I think me and this show just weren't destined.

      But yes! When I said they were "cute" before.. I guess I should also have mentioned that they were.. you know... sexy too.... :P

  2. This review begs the question: Is there a 4 minute kissing fanvid on YouTube I could watch instead of the drama? Because that sounds like it would be great...unlike everything else about this show.

    I need to find a good TW drama to watch. I'm in the mood for one, but I've been burned so badly by not-good ones that I don't know where to start.

    1. Amanda, even the stills are better than watching this. Just type it into a search bar and you'll get pics of a Mike He in his boxers. Way better than a full drama version.

  3. UMM I remember that I loved this drama when I first watched it back in the day. But currently I barely remember what happened so I don't know why I liked it back then O_O I don't even remember the fauxcest. OOPS.

    1. Haha you don't even remember that? Lol well it's not too hard to miss it sometimes :P

  4. I watched this a long time ago after reading the manga and though I liked the manga at the time, the drama was way too long. I think the only thing I liked in the drama was seeing how her friend and the guy she had a crush on first actually got together (even though it was a little weird). And the make-outs. Other than that, I struggled to finish it, I can't believe I watched all 20 episodes.

    1. I've never been able to get into manga (I tried too!) so I often think I'm biased against dramas based on them - if they're not done to my taste, whatever that means. Lol. Still, I have enjoyed plenty of dramas with that as their origins. Devil was just.. LONG.

      Oh yeah, I liked the side couple too - their decision to date or not based on a red umbrella was all sorts of adorable. :)