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My grandpa told me that a person’s freedom is as big as the depth he understands himself – Liu Chuan

TW - In a Good WayNumber of episodes: 26
Year of Broadcast: 2013-14
Broadcast Network: SETTV
Plot source: DramaWiki

In the summer of 1995, childhood friends Zheng Ren Wei and Lin Jia En took their college entrance exam. Zheng got into a college in Taipei and was ready to start an exciting life in the big city. Lin, unfortunately, failed the test and was stuck in the countryside. Bored out of her mind, Lin decided to go find Zheng and spend her 4th year of high school in Taipei as well.
T  H  O  U  G  H  T  S

“I want you freedom, like a bird~”.

Most of the kids far away from the city proper (well, I did) always thinks that going to the Metro to study college is the ultimate “independent” thing to do.

Story

In a Good Way (IaGW) is a coming of age story about two childhood bestfriends (Jia En and Ren Wei) who discovers more of the world after going to college in Taipei.

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Having spent all his life in their village, Ren Wei only has one goal in mind: to attend college in Taipei. For him, going to college equates to having his freedom and achieving independence. After passing his college entrance examination, Ren Wei finally goes to Taipei, leaving Jia En behind.  Jia En, feeling bored without Ren Wei behind, decided to follow her friend to Taipei, and it is here where she meets friends that would change her life.

And because I don’t want to leave you with just this summary, I’ll bore you with more details regarding IaGW (because this series is a bit long and it will need more convincing on my part to make you watch it).

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After stepping foot in Taipei, a series of misfortunes happened to her. With her being robbed, her parents suddenly going on vacation, finding her friend, Ren Wei was her only hope of making it in the city. However, due to her “luck”, she ended up going to the wrong dorm and here was where she met the campus hearthtrob, Liu Chuan. And so begins Jia En’s journey to self-discovery.

Overall Opinion

Truth is, I have a lot to say regarding this show but I thought that it would be better if I first lay out my opinion of the series in general.

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I have mixed feelings regarding IaGW but if I were to be objective, this would be a 4.5 star-5 star rating for me. IaGW started out so damn great that I wanted to let anyone who watches Asian dramas that they should stop whatever they are watching and watch IaGW. As I’ve told my friend (rather enthusiastically at that), my heart just jumped out of my chest because of this drama. It was beyond great. I may sound like a fangirl but I tell you, after watching the first episode, there is no turning back. It was as if I was watching the first episode for an entire day (it was the kind of experience that you wanted to last) and my emotions were at an all time high.

I never got the chance to watch any of the Answer Me series, but I have an inkling that IaGW is similar to them. The nostalgic feel of the 90s (even though I was five when the events in this show happened) and the simplicity of life back then (no internet and cellphones to complicate things/storyline) contributed to how much I like IaGW.

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I think IaGW is a show that one would love or not love (there really isn’t a grey area when it comes to this show). For us, old people (lol), watching Jia En and the gang go through college will touch something within us. I could not tell you the number of times that I wanted to rewrite my past and to experience college the way Jia En did. I can totally relate with her character because college taught me a lot in life (still my experience is small compared to hers). If there is one thing I regret, I wish I could have made the most out of my college experience and met people that could change me (there were people who influenced me but I wish I have socialized more)

On the other hand, I were to be subjective, I would give IaGW four stars. The first half was great but the spark kinda died down during the latter half (still there were parts that brought back the feels of the first half). This series is long, spanning 26 episodes, with more than an hour dedicated per episode. I am someone who prefers watching a series in one sitting, but I found myself stopping at certain episodes to catch a break (I recommend doing this). Toward the last few episodes (22-25), I decided to just read recaps and it was only during episode 26 when I switch back my video player on.

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The reason I decided to persevere in the end is because I have felt an attachment with the story and the characters. If I were to base my opinion on the first half, IaGW, clearly makes it to my favorite dramas list, I just couldn’t throw all of that away, right? If there is one word that best describes IaGW, it is IaGW has heart.

Characters

I went into this series not knowing anything about its characters but I finished it developing admiration for said characters.

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Another factor that made me love IaGW is its characters. When I first saw Jia En, I thought that she was a breath of fresh air, there’s this thing in her appearance that you’ll instantly love. As I get to know her, I knew that I’ll like her unconditionally.

Then there’s Liu Chuan.

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I could write a ten-page essay about him and it still would not be enough to express how much I love him. I would like to applaud whoever has conceptualized his character, thank you for introducing Liu Chuan to us. Never did I imagine that a person like him existed (even in dramaland). And if ever I meet someone who majored in History and Law, I would honestly befriend him (even if I’m not friendly with guys).

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I have watched my fair share of dramas but I can count on my fingers the ones whose introduction has deeply left its impact on me. Liu Chuan belongs to those few elites (I can’t even name you one person other than him aotm). After my first glance at Liu Chuan (him playing basketball), I was immediately captivated. The thing is, I tried searching about him before watching IaGW, and he did not stir anything in me. After seeing him act, I know that he isn’t the photogenic type, you’ve got to see him to love him. Oftentimes, campus heartthrobs are portrayed as jerks and players but Liu Chuan is their antithesis. He’s low key, cool, smart, athletic, gentleman, rich, and any positive adjectives you can think of.

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His presence may not be that loud all throughout the series, but it is his calmness and small gestures that make him endearing. He is a prince charming personified. A guy that any woman would fall for. Without him there, there is this void. Although I have to admit that I have this love-hate kind of thing for him. I love him for who he is but I hate him for being a noble idiot at times. But that’s the thing with love, without hate, there won’t be love.

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Ren Wei, Jia En’s bestie. I loathe him during the first half but I have learned to appreciate him during the latter half. In terms of character development, I think his character is the most improved. Setting him beside Liu Chuan made me realize the similarities IaGW has with Skip Beat! (one of my favorite mangas/animes).

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The other two of the Three Musketeers, A Qing and Ri Qi. A Qing the cutie playboy and Ri Qi the buff softie. Initially, I really really like Ri Qi more than A Qing (I can see Emmett Cullen in him) but as A Qing matures, I found that I love them equally.

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The other girl, Bai Xue. If this was your typical drama, Bai Xue would be the second lead that would impede the happiness between the main couple, at first I thought Bai Xue would be like that but she proved me wrong. I was reading recaps and comments from those who have watched IaGW and almost all of them love Bai Xue. It’s such a pity that we didn’t see her find her true love but I love how she becomes the most mature person in the group.

There are still so many characters that I should be talking about but I leave them for you to discover.

What I love

It’s hard to pinpoint what I love best about IaGW and I have been sitting in front of my laptop (doing this review) for almost two hours now, yet my thoughts are jumbled.

As a hopeless romantic, I would say that the love aspect of IaGW has helped won me over.

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The relationship between Liu Chuan and Jia En took its time but when it finally happened, I was not disappointed (I swear, the Christmas dance and Concert Part made me a violent fangirl, poor pillows).

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Part of the reason why I continue to eagerly watch this series is to see the development between these two. It was a long journey but I was glad to be a witness to it (though really, sometimes I wanted to strangle Liu Chuan for being too slow, haha).

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I have also learned to wait whenever A Qing-Tracy and Ri Qi-Xiao Wei light up the screen. They made up for Liu Chuan and Jia En’s scarcity of sweet moments.

In A Good Way - Treasure Hunt Club

Love relationships aside, what I love best about this series is the way the writers depicted friendship through the Treasure Hunting Club.

I think the feeling that I missed most during the second half was the light heartedness of the first half. During the latter part, it was more about Chuan’s struggles. We got to see more of politics and less of the club. It would have been okay if this was a 16-episode series or something but when it’s 26 episodes long, there’ll surely be lackluster episodes.

Final Note

Despite my misgivings, I still encourage to give In a Good Way a try. During these days where idol dramas are the trend, In a Good Way is a breath of fresh air and I believe it is better than most of the dramas that aired as of late. It’s a gem among its contemporaries. Though I should warn you that it has an open-ended ending. Don’t fret though, there will be a movie coming out.

p.s. I am now a fan of Lego Li🙂

Subjective rating: 4coffee

Objective rating:   45coffee