“Immortal Samsara” Opens to Viewer Backlash

Kicking off with five episodes at one go, anticipated costume drama Immortal Samsara <沉香如屑> has been getting flak from disappointed viewers who pointed out its various flaws, including its predictable story, “laughable” CGI and sloppy editing, with many giving it a one-star rating.

Storyline Lacked Surprise Element
Xianxia dramas typically follow a formulaic logic where deities were forbidden from falling in love or would otherwise suffer a terrible fate – thus setting the premise for a torturous romance.

While many felt while Zanilia Zhao (麗穎與) and Wallace Huo‘s (霍建華) love trial in The Journey of Flower <花千骨> had been intriguing to watch seven years ago, the same plotline was becoming predictable and boring. Also failing to elicit surprise was drama’s recycling of the “cold male lead” with “passionate female lead” trope.

Awkward CGI Effects
Where visual effects on set are especially vital to the authenticity of costume idol dramas, Immortal Samsara also failed to make the cut. Given that Immortal Samsara was a S+ level headliner drama allocated with a bigger budget, fans were aghast at the quality of CGI onscreen.

Describing flying stunts as “uncanny”, they pointed out how characters landed “straight” on wire harnesses, appearing as though they were “taking the elevator”, and compared them to budget web dramas.

Poor Aesthetics

The backgrounds of scenes where deities fought each other were also compared to visuals from mediocre internet games, as fans described the background as looking “utterly fake” and wondered where the drama’s budget had ended up. Camera movements were also mocked by viewers; and the terms “more gorgeous” and “ugly” going up Weibo’s top search rankings within two hours of the drama’s premiere.

Many commented that lead actress Yang Zi‘s (楊紫) face appeared bloated, with the actress looking fatigued during close-ups, such that supporting actress Meng Ziyi (孟子義), who plays her younger sister, looked comparatively fresh-faced and more beautiful whenever they appeared in the same scenes.

Meng Ziyi and Yang Zi play sisters in the drama.

As for male lead Cheng Yi (成毅), most felt that his styling was not adequately differentiated from his previous drama Love and Redemption <琉璃>, where viewers felt he  performed better.

Working to Cheng Yi’s disadvantage were wide shots, which revealed his narrow shoulders. Netizens felt that he could not bring out the aura of majesty and power his emperor character should convey.

Sloppy Makeup & Editing

Yang Zi’s fatigue was apparent in close-up shots.

The drama’s post-production editing was further criticized for carelessness and inconsistency, as some scenes revealed the wrinkles of its supporting cast, but yet smoothed out its leads’ faces so much that their facial features could not be clearly seen.

Lighting was another issue as sloppy post-editing revealed the disparity between brightness of the background versus the cast’s faces. Director Guo Hu‘s (郭虎) preference for close-ups did not help as they revealed the cast’s make-up flaws, such as visible powdered stains on Yang Zi’s face during a crying scene.

The drama’s CGI effects receives flak.



Source: Upmedia

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  1. This is Yang Zi last project before she left this company… I really hope she does not regret agreeing to filming this project.

  2. Give me sloppy prod work any day if it means a great storyline and good direction. This hyper focus on production values, artistry and beauty makes me sick. Did Journey to the West use great CGI work? Did any of the past great dramas need great CGI work to keep us engaged? It’s sickening how much aesthetics matter to mainlanders. It’s the number one reason I don’t care for a certain YTber’s assessment of a currently airing drama – because this YTuber thinks the technical aspect of a drama matters more than the innate value of a story.

    1. Yes, good plot and acting are more important. Some dramas are tight in budget but still manage to produce a good drama.
      To some extent, I don’t blame netizens’ questioning the quality of CGI in this because this drama is supposed to be S+ where the budget is substantial yet the CGI is awkward. If comparing to the Chinese JTTW (1986) or TVB JTTW part 1 (1996), would think that JTTW special effects were more impressive given that era when they were made.
      Given the recent quality of the few S+ productions, they seem to be overrated.

      1. @BearBear given their budget, yeah it makes sense that we’d expect more of the CGI/prod values similar to Ancient Love Poetry, but the complaints and lowered rating as a result of aesthetics turn me off. I’m not here for the sets or beautiful wire work. I’m here to be entertained. As long as the drama.does that, it gets a good score. The styling is just decor and icing on the cake

  3. To be honest, I am watching this partly because of YZ and I don’t mind CY. The first few episodes did not leave an impression, the CGI and fighting scenes are awkward and the whole setting of deities cannot fall in love is puzzling (why would it lead to catastrophe?). Although we know CY’s character will fall in love but the whole setup is pushy, it felt like the highest ranking deity was already upfront warning CY about it.
    And…YZ has been playing too many similar roles (Oath of love, Ashes of Love and now this). So I don’t know if she is tired as suggested by netizens or that this role is just too similar to her others that her acting appears repetitive.
    Will watch a few more episodes before deciding to drop or to continue.

    1. Have caught a few more episodes and decided to continue watching for now despite a couple of obvious flaws.

      1. @Hohliu Certain scenes are still very intentional and cliche and I did skip some scenes here and there but it does, in my personal view, get more interesting after the first few episodes. It remains to be seen if it continues so in the later episodes or in “part 2” which is said to begin airing the day after “part 1” ends, haha.
        Been quite a while where a couple of programmes are getting my attention, this being one of them.

  4. Wasn’t there rumors that yangzi was forced to star in this drama bc she’s still missing a drama with her former company?

    1. Yangzi was approached first but she refused as she wanted a change from xianxia. Then the company approached Jing Tian who later backed out close to the start of filming as her fans believed that if she took the role, she would be overshadowed by Cheng Yi’s three characters. Then the company approached Yang Zi again to help out since she did owe one series to the company, I think Yang Zi was under some pressure from management to take on the role which angered her fans since she didn’t want to in the first place.

      But in a way I am glad Yang Zi took the job. I enjoy her work and her cheerfulness. I really cannot imagine Jing Tian in this role.

  5. I like seeing wrinkles but I can’t stand the extreme smoothing filter. However, I can watch something with extreme filter or ugly color/CG as long as the story can captivate me. I drop this instantly, it was boring. Yang Zi is not pretty, but I admire she does know how to act pretty and control her expression to not look too ugly. I enjoy her acting but this is unfortunately another flop.

  6. Some good arguments about quality on screen and quality of script/acting/story. JTTW is unfair comparison because TVB didn’t pay much budget into it, it was decades ago and during those times the effects are considered very good for asian standard and jttw is an entertaining story.

    For this production, story is becoming stale. Same old same old. so what attracts is the styling, the backdrops, the decoration which all complement the acting when the story is same old same old. Usually in china high quality production does come with good acting because they pay good actors and make sure they look good. Usually.

    1. @funn basically the effects in JTTW wasn’t any different compared to how the dramas in that period and older were. There was zero improvement. It was truly a drama based off bare minimum tech, but managed to pull it off due to a great storyline, engaging cast, wonderful chemistry between all characters. Same with exorcists meter. At the end of the day, prod values matter very little. It’s the story and cast that’s at the heart of a drama.

    2. @funn also I’d argue that majority of xianxia dramas have been following tropes for ages. Ancient Love Poetry, for instance, was a big mishmash of several xianxia tropes amongst others. You’ve seen them once, you’ve basically seen them all. But what keeps people engaged is the chemistry of cast and what we anticipate as the payoff for our emotional investment into the storyline and characters.

      Immortal Samsara does fall into some of the unfortunate stereotypes/generalizations of some characters, but the main leads have great chemistry and I’m looking forward to seeing my investment pay out in the future episodes.

  7. I am watching this and I enjoy it. It is not perfect but I am not annoyed by the flaws. I’ve never really cared about CGIs as long as it is not too shoddy. I know people are complaining about Cheng Yi’s bad fighting scenes but he still went up on the wires despite this bad leg injury so I guess his mobility and balance is limited. I am not fussed, my attention is on the story, the chemistry and the acting.

    The storytelling is OK, but it is moving at a fast pace. I am up to their reincarnation already. Ying Yuan’s dad and their cursed blood is probably why the reason his uncle keeps warning him about falling in love as Ying Yuan has some evil innate qualities he inherited from his dad. I am happy for once that the second female lead is not crazily in love with the male lead. If i was a book fan I would have hated this adaption because of the crazy changes but since the series is my introduction to the story, I find it OK.

    I really enjoy the chemistry between Yang Zi and Cheng Yi. They are very good friends in real life since “The Legend of Chusen” and the BTS clips are hilarious and they look like they had lots of fun filming together. Into their reincarnation, the chemistry is still strong despite them being different people and personalities from their immortal past. They are fun together in the sweet bits and they both can cry beautifully in the heartbreaking scenes. I like their costumes as well.

    This series is not the best in the xianxia genre, but it is way better than some other ones I have seen in the past two years. You wont feel enlightened by watching this series, but it is entertaining for those who want to relax. For those who decide to watch, just enjoy it for what it is.

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