Nirvana in Fire (Lang Ya Bang) is 54 episodes long and was adapted from a novel from the same name, written by Hai Yan. It's period drama about politics, revenge and justice, but for once, it's not about the behind the court intrigues (harem's politics), but front court politics! Trust me, that's very refreshing! LOL
I'm going to try my best to summarize the story... without giving too much away ^_^;
Su Zhe aka Mei Chang Su aka Lin Shu (Hu Ge)
The hero and main character of Nirvana in Fire is Mei Chang Su. With the help of Langya Hall (an organization skilled at ferreting all kind of information), he established the JiangZhuo Alliance and leads the pugillistic world (martial arts society). Very little is known about Mei Chang Su except for the fact that he, himself, doesn't know martial arts and is a sickly person. In recent years, he's also built a reputation of kingmaker. It's because of that reputation that Prince Yu and the crown prince, Prince Xian, of the Southern Liang dynasty - both locked in the same battle for the throne - reach out for Mei Chang Su's guidance. To escape them, under the alias of Su Zhe, Mei Chang Su accept his friend's invitation and heads for the Liang capital in the company of his bodyguards.
Above: Prince Yu (Victor Huang), Prince Jing (Nick Wang) and Crown Prince Xian (Gao Xin)
Below: Emperor of Liang (Ding Yong Dai)
**Credits for pictures: My Drama Tea - My Cup of Tea
Lin Shu vs Mei Chang Su, before and after
And there you have it, the synopsis for Nirvana in Fire. There are a lot of interesting characters in this series such as:
Princess NiHuang (Liu Tao) - Lin Shu's betrothed
Left: Fei Liu (Wu Lei) - Mei Chang Su's bodyguard
Right: Meng Zhi (Chen Long) - General Commander of the Imperial Guard
Yan Yu Jin (Guo Xiao Ran) & Xiao Jing Rui (Cheng Hao Feng) - Nobles and Lin Shu's childhood friends
Consort Jing (Liu Min Tao) - Prince Jing's mother
I never read the novel, so I wasn't really aware of the TV series being made. Nirvana first caught my attention when the 21-minutes long trailer was released. Yep, you read that right, 21 minutes!! LOL. From then on, I was hooked. Luckily for me, I didn't have to wait too long for the TV series to release... and when it did, I was in heaven!! Because it was 2 episodes a day, every day of the week except for Saturday IIRC. Once I started watching, I was truly hooked. I would watch the episodes as soon as they were released online - even though I didn't understand anything. Then, I'd watch all the different subtitles versions - just in case there were differences ^_^; It got me back into visiting forums and discussing it with others. I even got my father hooked on it LOL. For 3 weeks, I lived and breathed Nirvana in Fire :)
What was so great about this series?
1) The story
The story was truly a captivating one. If you enjoy court intrigues, this is for you. The foresight that Mei Chang Su had in his plotting was just phenomenal. Every step of the way was planned minutely. Also, the production team asking the author of the novel to adapt the novel into the TV series herself. It was genius because they ensure the faithfulness of the adaptation!! Changes that were made were minor and at least, made sense, because who understands the plot better than the author? Furthermore, the pacing of the TV series was perfect and the story never dragged. Every day or other day, something important would happen.
2) The acting
The cast for Nirvana in Fire was on fire! Everyone played their roles so well!! If I had to give out awards, it would be to Hu Ge who played Mei Chang Su and Ding Yong Dai, the Emperor. I always thought Hu Ge was an idol actor... Many of his past roles were very similar and I felt he coasted on his popularity. However, in Nirvana in Fire, Hu Ge's portrayal of Mei Chang Su was very subtle. He needed to convey so much with simply a look, an expression or a gesture. He proved to me and everyone else that he had matured and was a top-notched actor. As for Ding Yong Dai, I didn't know him before this series... but he really impressed me. The Emperor was a crucial character in the series and Ding Yon Dai nailed it - the good and the bad traits. His portrayal evoked so many different feelings in me... One minute, I loved the Emperor. The next, I despised him and then, pitied him... The series wouldn't have been the same if he didn't give such a strong performance.
3) The humor and action
Thanks to the 21-minutes long trailer, I knew what to expect story-wise from Nirvana in Fire. However, what surprised me most was the humor in this drama. It was the perfect amount of humor in order to diffuse all the intensity and seriousness of the political aspect of the series. What I particular like is that there was no character whose purpose was to be the comedic relief of the series. Instead, the humor came from everyone, through funny situations or reactions. Another thing that surprised me was the amount of action scenes and the choreography! Finally, some hand to hand combats!! Minimal special effects and close proximity fights... Made me nostalgic :)
4) The romance
This is actually one of the changes the author made for the TV adaptation... and I'm so glad she made it! Just like in my books, I enjoy romance in tv series. It doesn't have to be the focus, but I need something... and the romance between Lin Shu and Nihuang was just perfect for me. Hu Ge and Liu Tao had a lot of chemistry and they made me root for this couple. Because there were so few, each romantic scene meant more.
5) The OST
I loved the OST for Nirvana in Fire. Hu Ge, Liu Tao and Nick Wang each actually sang a song.. One was even composed by fans of the novel! The background music was also awesome and suited the series so well! .
Finally, a last word about the look of the series. Compared to a lot of periods dramas, Nirvana in Fire's costumes and colors could be considered subdued. I mean, it definitively didn't have the vibrancy of Yu Zheng's dramas such as Song in the Clouds; still, the costumes and settings were gorgeous and meticulously chosen. Plus, that restraint actually fit the mood of the series perfectly and it helped set the drama apart.
Nirvana in Fire has definitively become one of my favorite TV series and I hope if you have the chance, you'll give it a try! This drama can be easily found on the net with English subtitles :)