Ice Fantasy (幻城)

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mr friendly guy
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Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby mr friendly guy » 2016-09-13 07:19am

I have been catching up on the Chinese fantasy series 幻城; Huànchéng which I would translate as fantasy wall (presumably in reference to the magical wall in the series which strengthens the power of the Ice Tribe). The powers that be have given it the English title of Ice Fantasy, hence what I will be referring to it as such. I am still behind and the show is still currently being broadcast in China. On the plus side they release 4 episodes each week, so by November we should finish the series.

Now I know, people are going to say, wait I don’t understand a word of Chinese. No problems, the fine folks at Viki has translated most of the episodes released so far, and by say episode 10, you would most probably get a feel for whether you are going to enjoy this or not.

https://www.viki.com/tv/28842c-ice-fant ... %20fantasy

Note that unless you’re a viki member, the best resolution you’ll get is 480p, however I have managed to download these, play it on a reasonably size television using my HTPC and it looks pretty nice at 480p. This should be no problem if you’re streaming it on a PC.

Back to the intro. Apparently this is based on a novel by a Chinese author has is a very polarising figure to say the least. This author Guo Jing Ming apparently was a teenage pop idol back in the day before becoming an author (don’t see that everyday) and has some bestsellers but has also been found guilty of plagiarising (with a different novel).

The setting is a fantasy world (duh) where there are 3 realms, the mortal realms, the realm of the Ice Tribe and the realm of the Fire Tribe. Its not clear whether the mortal realm is a fantasy version of Earth, and for all I know its an original fantasy world where Asians instead of Europeans predominate.

Aside from the aforemention two tribes, its populated by other mystical tribes, namely the Mermaid tribe (who can take humanoid form), the Dreamers, the Bear tribe, the Sprites and the Healers, who all live in the mortal realm among or hidden from humans.

What’s it about?
Before I get into that, for fuck’s sake don’t read Wikipedia because it spoils it. Seriously, when it says after <insert event here> we get to the present story, and the first third of the series is still dealing with <insert event here>, it’s a big spoiler. That being said, I will try and minimise spoilers.

Firstly its supposed to be a whopping 62 episodes (currently up to episode 22), however to my mind, its best to think of it as separate acts, and if this was say a western production, episode 1-18/19 would arguable constitute one season, as the episodes after that so far constitute a different act.

So the first 18 episodes deal with the war between the Fire and Ice tribes, and how the protagonist, the Ice Tribe prince Ka Suo must gather magical artefacts to counteract the Fire tribe’s own magical artefact. When I first say this, I thought, ok its going to be the standard fantasy trope of finding the magical artefact and beat the bad guy which reminds me of the David Eddings novels I read as a teenager…. But the author turns this trope on its head. That’s all I am going to say on this.

Moreover during this, the antagonist, the Fire King isn’t just trying to stop Ka Suo finding the artefacts, he himself has also put his own plans in motion and Ka Suo must also try and stop his plans at the same time finding artefacts.

Each place Ka Suo goes to collect the artefacts have their own internal political problems, made worse since the Fire Tribe has sent their fiery Princess Yan Da to stop him. Yes I know, bad pun.

After these episodes, it becomes more soap opera like, which makes it more awesome. It deals with the theme of not marrying who you love (which occurs a lot in Chinese Wuxia novels, so its only natural they take it for fantasy novels as well), and the competition to choose the successor to the Ice King. Here we see a lot of internal politicking and character’s motivations are made clear.

Now lets talk about what’s good about it and what’s not so good.

1. Asian Elves. Yeah.

Ok the Ice Tribe looks very LoTR inspired, while the Fire tribe looks quite different. Both have the Elf phenotype, although in Chinese the word use to describe them could be translated as spirit or god. The translators have opted to use the term god, although the term immortal might better describe them. The two tribes would be similar to traditional elves or fey in Western fantasy stories.

I must say though, the style of clothing and hair style make the Ice Tribe look serene, while the Fire Tribe looks the opposite, like they’re hungry. Which I think conveys the motivations of the respective tribes.

2. CGI
It seems for a television budget, they don’t do a bad job for scenery. Clearly CGI because actors would freeze in the icy environment of the Ice Kingdom. That being said humans don’t feel that cold in snowy environment so they are obviously badass too. The scenes of the castle looks nice.

The use of magical powers doesn’t look quite as “real”. It looks about as real as a Babylon 5 CGI ship. For example when a character shatters an ice prison, the ice shards just do not look real. However they do seem to be aware of their limitations, so for transformation sequences they use a simple flash of light and then it’s a different actor. Simple yet effective.

3. Plot

So far I am liking it, after it starts veering from the “find the magical artefact story.” The heroes are willing to do things like assassination or what would traditionally be considered “underhanded methods” to win, so none of this goody two shoes bullshit.

As mentioned there is a lot of soap opera elements, which makes this very nice as the motivations, combine with the usual theme of forbidden love.

Also there is an element of the “master manipulator,” someone pulling the strings from behind the scenes. However a lot of the characters do scheme in their own way even among the “good guys.”

4. Firearms. Whoopee.

As someone who likes black powder fantasy, its always nice to have firearms in fantasy. On the downer, only one of the characters Li Luo has a primitive version of firearms which she uses against the immortals. But it still looks cool, although it becomes wanktastic when she can freaking hit bull’s eye’s pointing the guns backwards.

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If anyone has questions, I will try to answer them. I know that the Chinese box office has taken off in recent years and they are making more fantasyesque television series, so as a fantasy fan its great that we get more variety to choose from.
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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby Vendetta » 2016-09-15 07:45pm

Attempted to watch this. Watched the first 10-15 minutes of something else (Descendants of the Sun) because viki player is super unclear (to drunk people). Tangent continues from the thing viki plauer thought was next.

This is a tangent now: I cannot differentiate sarcasm from sincerity in Chinese. In the scene in the coffee shop at the start of episode 1 of the other thing the two characters are talking in a way that would be tonally represented as super sarcastic in English, but I cannot identify it tonally in the spoken dialogue in Chinese.

Also in books translated from Chinese like The Dark Forest there are things which seem like they should be sarcastic in English but I do not have the frame of reference to decide whether they would actually be regarded as such by a Chinese audience. I can tell when it's childishly simplistic like it tends to be in movies like Shaolin Soccer, but maybe TV/novels are direced at an audience more totally familiar with the language.

PS there is an option to turn off timed commments in the viki player. Do this otherwise deal with maximum distraction at all times.

PPS the opening theme of Ice Fantasy is p. good isn't it?

PPPS Descendants of the Sun was quite funny if you assumed sarcasm where an English writer would put it. Might end up watching.

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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby Vendetta » 2016-09-15 08:02pm

On the other hand fire tribe guy has such an obvious bad guy face. It is delicious, Some things it seems are totally culturally transmissible.

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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-09-16 02:08pm

I kinda liked 無心法師. It was... unusual, for a fantasy drama-type TV series. In the good sense.

So I may give this one a go, too.
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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby mr friendly guy » 2016-09-26 10:45am

Ok, so I have finished episode 38, so about 60% through.

The second third of the series is much better than the first third. This is because it focuses more on the characters and the political machinations they go through with the build up coming to a head with a pay off for the audience. I feel that some stories work best by focusing on individual characters rather than ones where the war itself is as intriguing as any character. My take is that if your story is not going to be determined by elaborate military ploys etc, then when the story focuses in on the characters its more interesting. The first couple of episodes as mentioned, deals with the war between the Ice and Fire tribes and the "must find magical artefact" plotline.

I want to make a few other observations.

1. According to Chinese media initially it wasn't well received. However the numbers on wikipedia, particularly the more recent ones suggest that its now garnering good ratings.

2. Figured out why they have lord of the rings style hair for the Ice Tribe. They hired the same guy who did the LoTR costumes, Dan Hennah. :D

3. I must admit, I did not see the revelation about who a particular character's father is. That's because they dropped hints that it would be someone else, although now that I think about it, the clues were there to cast doubt on the obvious candidate. In fact, they almost did a "Luke I am your father" moment, except the revelation shouldn't be out of nowhere because they actually dropped hints. You just to have to remember the details because the hints don't occur in the same episode, and occurs several episodes after.

4. Some of the magical fight scenes are decent. There is one where they showcase how much superior one character is by having him strike ridiculously fast with a short burst of speed, which doesn't look good. Since this is China, and they do great wire fu, it would have been better if the characters fired projectiles at each other, and they dodge while firing back. Which was then what they did several episodes later for a different fight scene.
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Vendetta wrote:
This is a tangent now: I cannot differentiate sarcasm from sincerity in Chinese. In the scene in the coffee shop at the start of episode 1 of the other thing the two characters are talking in a way that would be tonally represented as super sarcastic in English, but I cannot identify it tonally in the spoken dialogue in Chinese.


Funny you should mention sarcasm. I try to explain Chinese tones to an English speaker by using sarcasm as an example, since English doesn't naturally have tones most of the time. For example if you consider the English phrase "Oh really," spoken sarcastically with emphasis on the word "really," gives some sort of tonal variation which occurs consistently in Chinese.


PPS the opening theme of Ice Fantasy is p. good isn't it?

Yeah, its quite nice.


PPPS Descendants of the Sun was quite funny if you assumed sarcasm where an English writer would put it. Might end up watching.

I find that there are lots of shows which look promising on viki. The thing is, depending on your views on licensing and pirating, some shows are not supported officially. That is viki hasn't formally acquired the licence to broadcast it, and its supported by fans who are on viki. That isn't an issue with Ice Fantasy since they acquired the rights from Hunan television to broadcast it.
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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby Vendetta » 2017-01-05 02:42pm

BTW this is on Netflix now. At least in the UK.

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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby mr friendly guy » 2017-01-05 07:35pm

K. A. Pital wrote:I kinda liked 無心法師. It was... unusual, for a fantasy drama-type TV series. In the good sense.

So I may give this one a go, too.


I would also recommend Legend of Chusen. You find it on viki if you search. Season one is addictive and season 2 should be on youtube and nearly done.

Season one on viki has subtitles, while season two on youtube has not as of yet. Fortunately I understand enough Chinese to follow season 2.

I have no idea who its romanised as "Chusen" when it refers to the magic "Zhu Xian" sword.


Vendetta wrote:BTW this is on Netflix now. At least in the UK.

I didn't realise Netflix shows foreign shows.
Never apologise for being a geek, because they won't apologise to you for being an arsehole. John Barrowman - 22 June 2014 Perth Supernova.

Countries I have been to.
Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, USA.
Always on the lookout for more nice places to visit.

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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby Vendetta » 2017-01-06 06:48am

UK Netflix has plenty of anime, Chinese cinema/TV and Bollywood stuff on it.

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Re: Ice Fantasy (幻城)

Postby Elheru Aran » 2017-01-06 11:25am

Even US Netflix has a lot of BBC, French, Swedish, German, Bollywood etc. on it. Some Aussie and South African stuff too. Anime, of course.

It's a surprisingly international flavor. Of course I'm sure part of that is the machine-learning tailoring my page to my viewing tastes...
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