“Do you have a dragonfly on your shoulders? The beautiful moments of youth, are like those moments in the movie where the dragonflies were frozen forever. Even though right now I don’t know what kind of dragonfly awaits me, but after a while, I’ll miss this time”.
Title: In A Good Way aka My Freedom Years
Native Title: 我的自由年代
Genre: Slice of Life, Friendship, Romance, Drama
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Airing Date: November 15, 2013 to May 16, 2014
# of Episodes: 26
Channel: Sanlih E-Television
Lego Lee as Liu Shan Feng aka Liu Chuan
Lorene Ren as Lin Jia En
Jay Shih as Zheng Ren Wei
Smile Weng as Bai Xue
Hello Good Morning, Hard City! Here I am writing about a Taiwanese drama that deserves to be written about. This is a drama that I should have watched back when it was airing except that I was not an avid drama fan when it aired.Even so, I’m very glad that I got to watch this precious gem. Taiwan excels in creating slice-of-life dramas and this one is a good example of it. Read more to find out in this full-length drama review of Taiwan’s SETTV 2013 hit “In A Good Way”.
Note: I may or may not have given some spoilers in this review so I am apologizing in advance. It would be difficult for me to justify my rants and raves if I did not specify the context or situation that they were placed in. Hope you will still enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Feel free to read the usual plots or summaries given when you Google this drama since it won’t be revealing much about the story anyway. Since I don’t want to repeat what you will be reading from other sites, I will just be talking about what I think of the story in general.
This drama is all about freedom. Everyone who has watched (or is still watching) could probably get drunk if they would take a shot whenever the word “freedom” would be uttered in this drama. The setting of the drama started off during the year of 1995 in Taiwan and ended around 1999. It was a period wherein the country was finally free from injustices and dictatorship as the youth are enjoying what their elders have worked hard for. You might say, “Freedom is such a boring concept for a drama! Where’s my romance?” Oh that’s where you are mistaken, my dear friend. The concept of freedom in this drama has encompassed all aspects of the story. From friendship, family, and romance, freedom was able to touch on these without trying hard. We will be learning about it more as we get to know each main character more. As Jia En’s BFF Xiao Wei said, freedom is all about becoming a better person everyday.
Lego Lee as Liu Chuan is Cheng Dong University’s ultimate heartthrob because he’s a complete package. Looks? Check. Brains? Check. Athletic? Check. Personality? Check. He’s capable of solving any problem that he encounters. He sounds to be a very ideal man and the typical perfect male lead in dramas but he is more than that. What makes Liu Chuan so likable is that he has a lot of his own issues — which makes him very human and not just your usual dreamy male lead. He prefers keeping such troubles to his self even if he has his best friends by his side to support him.
Out of the four main leads, Liu Chuan is the one with the most aggressive and intense desire towards freedom. He wants to be free from the hands of his father, a famous legislator in the country. He desires to live independently, away from the perks of being a legislator’s son. With his intellectual skills and abilities, one would wonder why he ended up in Cheng Dong University instead of going to Tai Da (Taiwan’s top university). It was revealed that he insisted on entering Cheng Dong in order to fulfill his beloved grandpa’s request. He then made a deal with his father that he will have his four years of freedom in his chosen university in exchange of his father’s goal of sending him to Germany to pursue Master’s in Law.
Liu Chuan may be excelling in almost everything but he was still learning the basics in the romance department and that even made him appear more charming and perfect in a human way. He fell in love with Jia En because she came into his life who didn’t really understand the concept the freedom — something he has been attaining for. Jia En had the innocence and the never-say-die attitude that Liu Chuan aspires to have. Lego acted so well that I can’t imagine another actor playing in this role. He embodied the perfect boy-next-door charm who had nothing but good thoughts for others.
Lorene Ren as Jia En is a country bumpkin who was already satisfied with her life in her comfort zone in Pingtung and with her childhood best friend, Ren Wei. She was okay in remaining status quo but after learning that Ren Wei wants to move to Taipei in order to start a new and free life, she decided to do the same. “Girl, do you have a life?!” is pretty much what anyone would ask her but she didn’t care because all she wanted was to stay by her best friend’s side.
Jia En matured quickly after spending meaningful days with Liu Chuan. He taught her to stop limiting herself in a castle that she built for Ren Wei and instead, build a new one for herself. She was oblivious to the fact that Liu Chuan was having feelings for her or we can say that she was pretending that she didn’t know at some point. She was also not prepared to face her own feelings as she never experienced having such feelings before. Even though she stopped depending on Ren Wei and eventually learned to become independent, I wanted to pull my hair out when she was willing to sacrifice her future for Liu Chuan. It was definitely because of love but c’mon Joan (her English name), you’re better than that!
Lorene Ren’s acting was simple and pure just like the character. Although there were times when I wished that she could have acted in some scenes better. I forgave her easily because her chemistry with Lego was just off the charts!
Jay Shih as Ren Wei appeared to be some kind of a douchebag in the first few episodes. I was basically rolling my eyes on him. It was annoying how all he did was to pine for Bai Xue and you would also get drunk for drinking a shot each time he said her name. Though I really love how such pining ended with the tables turning around for him.
Just like Liu Chuan, he has his own daddy issues to take care of or should I say, to be freed from. This is the reason why he wants to be free from his life in Pingtung and made him crave so much of studying in a university in Taipei. If I were Jia En, I don’t think I would forgive him right away for what he did especially that it concerned my future. However, I love how Jia En thanked him instead because it was a beautiful mistake (brb crying again). We also have to recognize the fact that Ren Wei let Jia En take his virginity (nope, it’s not what you’re thinking) but it was because of Jia En that he peeled shrimps for someone for the first time, and that he let someone ride his beloved bike and brand new car. It definitely speaks a lot about his deep and enduring friendship with Jia En.
Jay Shih acted the part of Ren Wei well. Despite his obsession over Bai Xue, he remained to be a loyal friend not just to Jia En but also to Liu Chuan and his Three Musketeer friends. He knows his limits in interfering in other people’s affairs. He has grown to become a real man and someone that you could entrust your problems with.
Smile Weng as Bai Xue is basically the female version of Liu Chuan. She is the perfect campus heartthrob and yet she has her own troubles that she keeps to herself. She has been longtime friends with Liu Chuan and has been secretly hiding her feelings for him. This girl hid it so well as Liu Chuan told her that he never got a clue when she confessed her feelings for him.
I remember ranting on Twitter when I was just starting this drama that I found the second female lead annoying – both in looks and acting (pretty harsh of me). Although I’m pretty sure that anyone would at first. She was basically just popping her eyes out and only seemed to care about Liu Chuan in the first few episodes. She even left her xue mei just to attend to an “emergency” when it was nothing close to it. It’s hard to blame her when seeing Liu Chuan is more than an emergency.
She then became very praise-worthy of eventually letting go of her feelings for Liu Chuan and ended up conquering her acrophobia. I wish I could be brave as this girl because I can ride a cable car but I don’t think I’m ready for some intense bungee-jumping yet!
If there is anything that Taiwanese dramas are good at, it would definitely be their excellence in picking the right OSTs. “In A Good Way” was no different and even invited Taiwan’s music legends to perform in one episode.
Adrian Fu’s “Good Morning, Hard City” is currently playing as I’m typing this which was the drama’s opening song. I even play it every morning before going to work to absorb all the good vibes. It’s the perfect choice for a drama that exudes positive vibes because of the powerful combination of youth and freedom. Watching the official MV gives me endless feels so go click the hyperlink 😉
Freya Lim’s “Hidden Love” for the ending theme was just okay. I still listen to it although I think I wouldn’t listen to it if it was not part of the OSTs.
Out of all the featured songs by Taiwan’s iconic legends, Wu Bai’s “On My Mind” gives me an overflowing amount of feels. It has the perfect mellowness for our OTP who was just getting to know each other and ended up developing pure romantic feelings for each other. It was also the song playing when they hugged for the very first time *brb crying*. It was definitely an unforgettable scene and it made me squeal like an idiot. Kisses are not really necessary to show how much a relationship has progressed or how good the chemistry of the leads are. This drama has shown that it only takes the perfect song to play for a beautiful moment to take place.
I will definitely watch this drama again. In fact, I’m finding a way to rewatch Liu Chuan and Jia En’s beautiful scenes. I have to admit that I was playing some games on my phone while watching (short attention span is real) so I have to watch some scenes again so I can savour the moments more. On a more serious note, episodes 20-26 were just disastrous. How I wish I could go back in time and I would have stopped those writers for making those episodes happen.
Let me use Liu Chuan’s romantic words as my description of feelings towards this drama. The drama was mostly uneventful and slow-paced but it was done in a good way (see what I did there). Like I said earlier, episodes 20 up to the ending were just a mess and I had to drag myself in paying attention. It was indeed tiring to watch irrelevant plot lines when all I wanted to see was our wonderful OTP blooming in love. Despite my feeling of “tiredness” with this drama, Lego Lee’s Liu Chuan was just there to save me. How could I even resist this amazing man?!
The development of the characters was done nicely and while there were still some unrevealed aspects in each character, they were shown very subtly. For example, towards the end, we saw how Bai Xue had actually developed feelings (finally!) for Ren Wei. I even shouted at my screen and told her that, “it took you 26 episodes to feel that?!”. Another special feature of this drama is its natural way of veering away from cliches. In dramaland, when the heartthrob likes the average girl, a jealous second female/male lead would interfere and do all that they can in order to break them up. It was never the case in this drama, Ren Wei and Bai Xue’s characters were created to be mature and understanding young adults.
I don’t think people would forgive me if I end this review without talking about the most crucial and hair-pulling moment in the drama which is none other than the ENDING. HOLY?!! A lot of people warned me about it and told me that they just didn’t want to burst my bubble. Despite their warning, what was I supposed to do? I never leave a drama unfinished but to be honest, I was feeling very anxious while watching the last episode. I was scared that it would just end abruptly in which it did, much to my dismay. It’s similar to what happened in Taiwan’s “Hana Kimi” where it had an annoying ending because there was supposed to be a sequel. This drama was supposed to have a movie after but everyone seemed to have amnesia and forgot that they owe so many fans a better ending. Just thinking about it is breaking my heart T_T
Let me just share with you one of my most favorite dialogues in the drama:
Jia En: I feel this is so unreal. We’re actually together.
Liu Chuan: Do you? It’s the most real thing of my life.
It showed how both characters’ perspectives differed from each other but they still complemented well. For Jia En, she was not as prepared as Liu Chuan in dealing with one’s feelings but when he confessed to her, it was more than what she could have imagined. As for Liu Chuan, it could be seen that he has been harboring his feelings for Jia En for a long time and his life eventually became more true and meaningful with her by his side. Such a simple dialogue revealed so much already about the main characters. This is why I want to give all the awards to the people behind this drama. Although I’m more willing to give them if they gave us a proper ending or a movie/sequel as the best option haha!
Putting the ending and draggy episodes aside, I’m giving it an overall rating of 9.7/10 (rounded-off to 10 in MyDramaList). I don’t want to deprive a good drama of a perfect rating just because it had its faults in presenting an ending or some plot lines. I already gave perfect 10’s to some dramas which had draggy or faulty stories like “Autumn’s Concerto”, “The Hospital”, etc. so it would be unfair to a drama like “In A Good Way” not to get a perfect rating when it has fully captivated my heart.
I don’t usually write full-length drama reviews because of time constraint and the tediousness of the process but this drama has unleashed all my drama-writing passion again. I hope I can watch more dramas that can make me feel the same way. Have you watched “In A Good Way” or are you planning to watch it? Hope to see your opinions about it here! Let’s rant and rave together 🙂