idarklight’s 2015 in dramas

Despite a weak first six months, 2015 produced some of the best dramas in years. Here are some of my top picks. What are yours?

Best Make-up and Styling: Empress of China: Wu Zetian

As the woman with probably the  most outfits in drama history, Wu Zetian’s stylist also does a great job of making Fan Bingbing look gorgeous in all outfits and ages, many of the stylings being based on history.


Best production design: Nirvana in Fire

Even their lanterns are gorgeous.¿≈Á∞Ò20-4

Best costume design: Nirvana in Fire 
Prince Jing is one of the best dressed ancient characters in a long time. Elegant and intricate, his wardrobe consists of a whooping fifteen outfits (three armor outfits!).  It helps that the historical accuracy of the series are done under the guidance of Central Drama professor Zhang Xiaolong of The Legend of Zhenhuan fame (fun fact: Zhang Xiaolong was Wang Kai’s posture professor at Central and was the one who recommended Wang Kai for his first drama.   )


Best cinematography: Nirvana in Fire
With every scene carefully designed and some of the most decent CGI around,   every screencap of Nirvana in Fire is wallpaper worthy. I especially love their use of doors to frame the scene. See here for an analysis and here for a movie-styled MV.


Best animated (?) feature: The Monster Hunt (the movie)
From the director of Shrek 3, The Monster Hunt is hilarious, cute, and even a musical! It also has probably the best animation in China in a long time.

Best supporting actress: Dilireba in Diamond Lover

The only actress who made her name this year is the adorable Dilireba. Thanks to her decent acting, solid line-reading, cute face, killer body, and fun personality, she  already has three dramas as the female lead lined up next year.


Best supporting actor: Wang Kai in The Disguiser
Wang Kai took a highly-educated servant and made him one of the most beloved and complex characters of the year.  Ming Cheng is literally a different person to everyone in the show, and often must balance multiple emotions in one scene.  Given that he was able to shine through in a series of small roles, I hope Wang Kai will be nothing but brilliant in the future.

Call me maybe? cr: Weibo

Call me maybe? cr: Weibo


Best actor: Jin Dong in The Disguiser

Triple agent, multiple disguises, what more can I say? It takes a lot to make Ming Lou believable or even likable, but Jin Dong did it and made Ming Lou one of the most successful characters of the year. May I also add that back in 2009, Hera said she had hoped he would be famous by 40, and he’s 39 this year?


Shoot me please.


Best actress: ??? Recommendations?


Best writing (original screenplay): Ban Shu Legend (Zhang Weiwei)

Ban Shu Legend is one of the best scripts coming  from Yu Zheng workshops in a long time. The female lead is sassy but not annoying, the romance trusting and not melodramatic, the jokes funny but not cliched.    Plus, Zhang Zhehan is beautiful here.

Sample dialogue (paraphrased):

Banshu: I’m going to steal something.
A: Why are you dressed in all black?  Everyone is going to know you’re a thief in that outfit.
Banshu: But all the thieves in books wears black.


Best writing (adapted screenplay) : The Disguiser (Zhang Yong)

Believe it or not, the biggest ship of the year did not exist in the original. It’s hard to believe the same characters full of conviction, compassion, and trust in each other were written by the same person who thought it was laudable for her protagonists to adopt someone, send them to receive the highest educations in the world, only to treat them as a servant.

Regardless of whether you ship them or not ( because I also ship Ming Lou X Me and Ming Cheng X Me),  it is hard to find a pair who places so much trust in each other, not just because of a romantic love, but because of a common love for the world.


Best dramas (in alphabetical order):

Ban Shu Legend –  The best romantic comedy of the year. Cute, original, funny, and not too melodramatic. Plus, the male cast is gorgeous.

The Disguiser – Ming Lou and Ming Cheng broke through fandoms, uniting fans of American movies, Japanese animes, Korean idol dramas, and Chinese melodramas alike. The drama and the ship became the biggest surprise of the year, with no one expecting it to blow up until it was everywhere.

Nirvana in Fire – An intriguing plot, a gorgeous cast, and a meticulous crew made this epic  the only adaptation that did not disappoint this year.

WuXin: The Monster Killer  –    With a unique set-up of a ghost hunter in the Republican era, quick wits and believable romances,  Wuxin saved the drama world from its six-month drought


18 thoughts on “idarklight’s 2015 in dramas

  1. i really really really enjoy reading this article, and cant stop laughing at the disguiser shipping thing, lols. i love those siblings so much. while in NIF, i love the bromance. ah, everything! so everything!

    NIF and the disguiser are the best drama in 2015! no doubt. Asian award needs to give them some awards hmm.. is there any award for Asian dramas? hehe.. i mean, not only for C-dramas, K-dramas, Doramas, or south east asia dramas, but all Asia cuz this two deserve it. love it.

    ban shu has not engsub yet :( hope it will soon :D thanks ^^

    • No :( There aren’t even any good drama awards in China. Basically you get an award iff you show up. That’s why it’s almost awkward when you see Wang Kai going on all these award ceremonies and pours his heart out as if it was a legit award, but he’s so sincere that you can’t help but feel like he really deserves every award he gets.

      • How about the Flying Apsara (Feitian?) Awards and the Golden Eagle Awards? I thought they’re considered prestigious, and perhaps can be comparable with the Emmys, no?

        • They’re considered to be more “serious”, but in the same way that a CCTV show is more “serious” than a Hunan TV one. They all have a black box voting system.

          If you just look at the nomination (and award list) for recent years, it’s pretty clear both have plenty of awards that they seem to just give out randomly to people who can’t act and to dramas that no one watches. I’m not sure those people even watched the dramas they nominated.

      • but he really deserves it. and i see Wallace Huo and Hu Ge got some awards too. And they also attended those award ceremonies, hehe…

        ah, i see. no wonder, when i saw Tang Yan got an award for her ‘performance’ in My Sunshine, while Wallace Chung got nothing. Sigh. i thought, they gave that awards for W.Huo, Hu Ge, Wang Kai, Jin Dong etc cuz their dramas did well. and they deserved it. sad heard that it was because they attended the ceremony. huhu…

        ah.. it’s just about time when Wang kai will shine like the other popular actors. he already found his own spot. so happy for him. can’t wait for his next projects <3

  2. Ban Shu is, in my opinion, the best drama coming from Yu Zheng’s workshop thus far. He needs to collaborate more with Zhang Wei (screenwriter).

  3. Nirvana in Fire has been my favourite drama of 2015 (and possibly 2014). It’s one of the very few dramas that I watched without fast-forwarding through anything! My mum also watched it, and it’s her favourite (she hasn’t picked a fave drama since watching Bu Bu Jing Xin (the drama that introduced her to Mainland Dramas/ Historical Dramas)) and Legend of Zhen Huan)!

    I’m looking forward to marathoning NiF for the second time hehe

  4. Apparently, we are watching the same dramas in 2015. I, too, will hand Best Drama and Cinematography to Nirvana in Fire. The show was solid from beginning to end. Best Actor and Actress go to the siblings of The Disguiser: Liu Min Tao and Jin Dong. Best supporting actor and actress to the Wuxin sidekicks: Wang Yan Lin and Gina Jin. I will also award Best Costume Design to Wuxin: The Monster Killer. It is next to impossible to make 1900s cotton-padded jacket look fashionable. Somehow, they did it. As for Banshu Legend, I love the heroine and her legally blind buddy, but not much else. Overall, it was a great fall of 2015.

    • Nope, I still refuse those padded jackets. I would rather they just have Han Dongjun shirtless for the whole series, because you know how that’s very important to catching demons.

  5. Right?? It’s also difficult for me to find an outstanding performance in the leading lady categories. But I have only seen a few dramas this year.

    My picks for best dramas: Nirvana in Fire, Wu Xin, The Great Protector. Interesting that you include Ban Shuang Legend. It’s quite under the radar. Maybe I should give it a try, but I’m helpless without English subs.

    • There aren’t even good female lead roles :( Both NIF and The Disguiser really had three male leads and a bunch of supporting female leads. Wu Zetian and Miyue are the only two major dramas with any female lead characters who had room to act, but neither scripts are very good …

      Ban Shu is not among the top of its category (whereas NIF and The Disguiser can probably take a place in history of their category, and Wuxin is in its own category), but it’s the only rom com this year that I wouldn’t mind rewatching. It’s finally airing on CCTV soon, so maybe someone will sub it then.

  6. I dislike use of modern makeup and false eyelashes in Empress of China and in many other ancient dramas. A few over-exaggerated empress/emperor costumes made it seem like cosplay. In spite of the flaws, Empress wasn’t total trash as a great number of Chinese bloggers claim.

    Yes!! Nirvana on Fire is the best!! Rewatched it multiple times like so many others.

  7. Love the analysis post on Nirvana in Fire’s cinematography! Still have yet to check it out, but it’s on my to-watch list for sure.

  8. Great year review! Sadly (and surprisingly) we didn’t watch the same thing this year for most of the above projects!! :( But Monster Hunt was definitely great: a bit silly, but so well done!! And I did enjoy the Empress of China costumes until the whole cleavage scandal came in to ruin everything :( Also, didn’t realize that Nirvana in Fire had so many great cinematography moments!

    • A lot of the NIF directors started off as cinematographers, so they’re really particular about it. They also designed the set to add layers and to frame the picture, making scenes of even regular face-to-face conversation pieces of artwork. There are several scenes from it that I remember purely for how much I loved the filming.

  9. I agree that Fan Bingbing’s makeup and styling looked fabulous… the colors and hair styles were very “hip” if that can be even used in this context. I also never thought I would fall in love with Nirvana in Fire so much (even though Hu Ge is one of my fave actors). I also gradually found myself looking at Jing Wang (Wang Kai) a lot and their brotherly love/friendship was just so touching. The cinematography for Nirvana is also one of the best I have ever seen for any drama in Asia not to mention the music and soundtrack… Thanks for the review! :)

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