International Dramas: ‘Falling Into Your Smile’

Promotional shot of Cheng Xiao and Xu Kai. Copyright goes to ‘LINE TV’ and ‘Netflix’.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Finally, I welcome you to me ranting about another one of my favorite dramas that I’ve ever seen in my life. Seriously, I don’t think there’s any getting over this one and it could just be my favorite drama now. I’m highly debating starting it all over again because I loved it that much. It feels so good to be writing about a drama that I’m absolutely head over heels for again. This checks off a lot of what I look for in dramas. It has a really adorable relationship between two incredibly likable characters, feminism, a group camaraderie factor, an action type backdrop, and no weird twists at any point. Are you sold yet? I’m certainly convincing myself to watch it again. I have so much to say about this drama (I actually took notes this time which I don’t always do), so I’m just going to get into how much I absolutely love it. As always MAJOR SPOILERS ahead. Seriously, maybe watch this and then come back. I don’t think I would be able to recommend it more than I already am. But if you don’t care about spoilers and want to know my full thoughts on it first, then let’s go!

Summary: Tong Yao is a female casual gamer who is gaining immense popularity in the E-Sports community. After breaking up with her boyfriend, she only continues to become more popular; eventually catching the eye of the professional E-Sports group ZGDX who just became short a mid-solo due to a hand injury forcing his early retirement. When Tong Yao joins the group, she must face several challenges being the only woman on any of the Chinese teams. And she must face the surly Captain of the group, who doesn’t seem to want her there. But maybe there’s more to the famously handsome Captain than meets the eye.

The Wins:

Tong Yao- I am absolutely not kidding when I say that she is quite possibly my favorite female lead in a drama. She’s amazing. Not only do they tackle all kinds of issues regarding feminism with this character, they also make her so relatable and extremely capable. She absolutely knows how to stand up for herself, she’s just as good as any of the men at professional gaming, and she doesn’t need to be saved. In fact, there’s a lot more of her working out some of her character flaws within the romance than there is of him saving her. Tong Yao is an adorable lead with an amazing tough streak. It is not often that a female lead in a drama will be my favorite character. She is right up my alley of female characters that I absolutely adore, and I don’t usually get that out of a drama. I wanted her wardrobe (Yay pastels!) and I wanted to be as fearless as she was throughout the drama. I could talk about her for literal days, I love this depiction of a female lead so much. I often find that female leads don’t have a personality so that the supposed woman watching can just project herself onto the blank slate. I really hate that approach; I want my female characters to have an actual personality. She has so much of a personality and it’s fierce. Have I said that I love her too many times yet?

Lu Si Cheng- I am sometimes hesitant with the more surly and brooding type of male leads. Because that is often used to just promote a major masculine feel and not give the main male lead much in the way of emotion. Men have emotions too! Lu Si Cheng takes this overly masculine toxic type of character, and turns it on its head. Because guys can be surly sometimes and still have actual emotions. Lu Si Cheng cries in this show! Let me repeat, they show the main male character crying! Hell yes! There are several moments where Tong Yao cries and Lu Si Cheng comforts her, and they actually do the opposite of this where he cries and she has to comfort him. I was so happy to see that in this, because we don’t get nearly enough of it in any show from any country. Lu Si Cheng is also an incredibly caring individual who is very protective of his teammates. He’s the type of character who will walk on screen and you automatically feel safe or like everything is taken care of. And the drama also addresses how much stress he’s under and how difficult it is to be that type of safety for the people around you. And how much he can go overboard sometimes. No perfect boyfriend syndrome here. He has flaws too! Yay! I want Lu Si Cheng to be real very badly. Just like Tong Yao is probably my favorite female lead in any drama; he’s probably my favorite male lead. Which surprised me because characters like this aren’t always my type. I guess they are now!

The Romance- I simultaneously swooned and wanted to cry at my singleness. This felt like my ideal relationship. Once again, they don’t show their love for each other by making out as much as they do by genuinely supporting each other. I already talked about how they mutually comfort each other when the other cries. Tong Yao is put in a tough situation where fans start attempting to pin things on her because they are uncomfortable with a woman being in the industry. She has a really tough couple of mental health days that Lu Si Cheng completely helps her through, including holding her while she cries. On the other hand, Lu Si Cheng loses a game because of the immense stress he’s been putting on himself to solve all of the team’s problems without asking for help or letting the other members of the team know about it. Tong Yao talks him through it before he finally lets her into his room to cry into her shoulder. On top of this, they slowly develop complete trust in each other as it goes on. And when the two finally get together and she worries about all of his fans who want to date him, he tells her that he likes her and that that opinion is more important than his fans wanting to date him. Not to mention how cute all of their moments together are. There’s an episode where they mutually take care of each other because he’s sick and she’s having bad period cramps. And they never break up! They solve all of their issues together and the show actually shows us how they are as a couple. We get to see the hand holding, the meeting the parents, all of it! This is what I want more dramas to do instead of throwing in a weird unneeded twist because they don’t think that the couple actually being together will keep the viewers interested. And the kissing is cute too and reciprocated, though it is mostly closed mouthed because this is a C-Drama and there are still censorship issues.

Feminism- Women in E-Sports is still not common. This is one of the most male dominated industries that I’ve ever seen. In fact, a few years back there was a woman who played Overwatch who was much like Tong Yao in this. She became extremely popular for being one of the best Overwatch players despite being a casual player. When Overwatch leagues started picking new players, she was eligible and fans felt sure one of the leagues would finally choose one of the first professional female Overwatch players. Every single team passed on her despite her being the best new pick. When they were asked why they didn’t choose her, most of the team representatives said that they didn’t know how dorm situations with a woman would work and thought it would be too expensive. They didn’t even try to pretend that it wasn’t about gender. Of course, in this drama Tong Yao is actually chosen and they delve into how difficult it is for women in this field or any male dominated fields. Tong Yao is attacked for the possibility of her dating players on the team before she even gets into a relationship with Cheng. She is blamed for every single defeat that the team has because of her gender and very closely scrutinized. She is blatantly told on multiple occasions that she’s not good enough because of her gender. One of the things Tong Yao has to learn throughout the show is to stop looking at comments online because of the way they affect your mental health. Not once does the show blame women for being weaker than men or prove any of the people saying that she can’t do it correct. Tong Yao beats all of the odds by herself and proves that she’s the best mid-solo in a male dominated field. And the show also shows a really amazing female friendship between her and her best friend, who is rich and provides for herself. This drama champions women, and I want to see more of this in every drama that I watch!

Tier A Side Characters- So I have split all of the main side characters very evenly into two tiers. One of the groups was amazing while the other group fell pretty flat for me. In this tier I first have Ming, who I wish we would have gotten more of but I understand that it wouldn’t have completely fit to give him more. Ming is the former mid-solo of ZGDX and becomes their coach after his forced retirement. He is the main mentor of this group and, if Cheng didn’t exist, I would have spent this entire drama wishing he was the main love interest. He’s such a sweet character and I loved every time a character would go to him for advice. I also liked K, who is the Jungler of ZGDX. He has an entire episode to himself about how his parents abuse and misuse him because they don’t think of his career seriously. The message here is to respect the careers of young people and let them follow their hearts. He also absolutely has a thing with Cat and you can’t tell me differently. They flirt on multiple occasions. Though Cat wasn’t my favorite and Ming really stood up for K against his parents, which made me kind of ship K and Ming instead. That aside, K was a hilarious and very dry Jungler and I loved all of his dialogue. I also like Jinyang, who I’ve talked about already a little. She is Tong Yao’s best friend who is incredibly confident, self sufficient, and probably the resident badass of the show. When she starts getting flack for her relationship with her E-Sports professional boyfriend, she takes it in stride and buys his company. Yes, you read that correctly. This show wrote some of the best women I’ve ever seen in any drama ever. Lu Yue was the other main side character that I liked. I liked his redemption and how upbeat and playful he was. They made Lu Yue so understandable. And of course, the close camaraderie in all of the friendships is part of what made this drama for me.

E-Sports- Not only did this drama actually focus on making E-Sports highlighted and interesting within the main romance plot, but it also succeeded in making it absolutely action packed. I was on the edge of my seat for every competition and I loved the animation style they used when they were showing what was going on within the game. I also loved how in this gorgeous animation they would show interactions between the characters Tong Yao and Cheng were playing; but the show didn’t care about the genders of the characters they were playing. I was worried that the show would make all of these romantic moments between the animated characters gender specific and they didn’t. It didn’t matter if they were both playing female characters, both playing male characters, or she was playing a male character while he played a female character. I loved that this didn’t matter in the animation. And I would have watched this drama for how beautiful those animation sequences were alone.

Private Lives and Fans- They acknowledge that all of them are celebrities in their own right and have to struggle with online perceptions, not looking at comments, and people trying to pry into their lives. Many times the characters choose not to let this get to them and sometimes you see the very real repercussions of fans attempting to steer their favorite gamer’s private life because of selfish reasons. I was very happy that this drama had the message of leaving your idols alone as well as acknowledging both toxic and non toxic fans. While they showed the consequences of toxic fan behavior, they also showed fans being sweet and supportive. For example, at the end of the show they decide to show this team that we haven’t really followed before as they end up having to leave the national league. At first I questioned this decision until I saw that the show was trying to have a positive outlook on failure while simultaneously showing the support of true fans and how much that really affects the people we support. What stuck out to me most here was a fan telling the former Captain of the group; “I didn’t come to you because you were at the top and I won’t desert you now that you’re at the bottom.” Which is such a beautiful idea and something that I immediately connected to one of my favorite K-Pop groups. If you follow this blog, you probably know the one I’m talking about. I loved the way this drama addressed everything that they did within fan communities.

The Losses:

The Side Plot Romance- This is between Jinyang and her E-Sports playing boyfriend, Ai Jia, who is on a different team than most of the main characters. I just didn’t think this was cute most of the time. There were moments where they threw public opinion aside to openly show off their relationship that I found really touching. But other than that, this relationship felt very one sided and otherwise unbalanced. A lot of the time it felt like Jinyang didn’t even like or care about Ai Jia. When the show starts they are exes and the development to them getting together was pretty nonexistent. Later when Jinyang finally decides to go to one of Ai Jia’s games to support him, she’s on her phone almost the entire time. And he seems really clingy most of the time, which is something she doesn’t appreciate. Neither of them feel comfortable within the relationship; he seems to think it’ll end at any moment and she seems to not care for him as much as he does her. And when she buys his company she becomes his boss, which creates yet another unbalanced dynamic with this couple. So this really didn’t work for me. Which was odd considering that the other relationship in this is so amazing.

Tier B Side Characters- Chubby, the support of ZGDX, was often only there for the other characters to make fat jokes. For a drama that seems progressive in a lot of other ways, this felt disappointing. He also cyber-bullies Lu Yue at the beginning of the show by releasing a video of a fight that Lu Yue got into in his past purposely to get him banned from the team. This is meant to be understandable, but I don’t find cyber-bullying to be acceptable for any reason. Cat, the top-solo of the group, is very temperamental and doesn’t get much time at all. I would have loved for him to have more, especially with K, but he mainly just got angry when they needed someone to be angry. Ai Jia expressed some of the most sexist views for being with Jinyang and he never got much character development aside from his occasionally overly clingy show of emotion. Rui, the team manager, is a character that feels largely unneeded and I wish his entire character had just been given to Ming. Ming could have easily also been the manager as well as the coach or something like that and it would have given Ming more time. Rui just didn’t have enough character for me. But none of these characters were extremely offensive. They just didn’t really hold up compared to the other side characters.

As you can tell, there’s not a lot of bad that I have to say about this drama. It was action packed, swoon-worthy, and otherwise amazing. I don’t become absolutely head over heels for a drama easily, as you can probably tell if you’ve seen some of my other reviews, and I’m so glad to find another drama that I love so much. I could talk about this drama for several more paragraphs but I’ll limit myself and stop here. If you love adorable romances, watch this. It’s amazing! Just note that it will make you feel very very single if you are like me and not in a relationship.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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