Love Buffet is an upcoming Taiwanese drama starring Aaron Yan, Yu Hong Yuan, and Calvin Chen. The drama was originally supposed to air last year but has been plagued by a string of delays, not least of which was Typhoon Morakot, which halted filming for so long that the they were forced to change the lead actress and re-shoot the scenes. However, it’s finally gotten off the ground and will premiere December 19th, in about a week. Watch (one of many) previews here.
I’ve been tracking Love Buffet for a long time – there are so many things to get excited about with this drama. Firstly, it’s Aaron Yan’s first high-profile leading role (long overdue in my opinion). Secondly, it’s Aaron Yan (oh wait did I already say something along those lines?). Okay, secondly, Yu Hong Yuan (English name: Reen Yu), who has been playing supporting roles for a while now (much like Aaron), leaped to stardom with a small but striking role in 2009′s Black and White (she was Vic Zhou’s short-lived love interest, affectionately known as “Hamburger Girl”) and is finally appearing as a leading actress in this drama. Finally, Calvin Chen is the third lead, and while I neither find him particularly attractive nor think he’s a great actor, he’s definitely improved as time has gone on, and I have a soft spot for him after all his roles in dramas I’ve enjoyed.
Love Buffet is based on the shoujo manga Parfait Tic!, in which the life of a high school girl is complicated when two new neighbors move in (the drama puts all of them in college instead, a wise and common move with manga-to-drama adaptations). Yu Hong Yuan plays the main character, upbeat freshman Xiao Feng, an academically-challenged, kind-hearted klutz (sigh. cardboard cutout of 90% of drama heroines) who likes to wear her hair in crazy hairstyles. Xiao Feng falls for playboy Da Ye (Calvin Chen), but soon gets her heart broken. Meanwhile, Da Ye’s cousin, the icy class president Icho (Aaron Yan) has begun to fall for her and be there for her. Just when Xiao Feng is beginning to trust Icho and fall for him in return, his old girlfriend returns to win him back. And now, Da Ye has begun to fall for Xiao Feng…
The plot essentially sounds like Peach Girl reversed – this time it’s the happy-go-lucky playboy she falls for first and who rejects her, and then the smart icy one becomes her best friend and the one who looks out for her, whom she eventually falls for. Taiwan is rather hit-or-miss with manga adaptations - Meteor Garden being an example of the former and Momo Love an example of the latter. And I admit, when I initially read the plot of this one, I groaned out loud – so much potential for soap-opera histrionics. But the three leads are so very engaging, and if I were to choose one country to make a drama adaptation of this particular manga, it would be Taiwan – Korea would ruin it for sure (picture Boys Over Flowers on speed – shudder) and Japan would dial the romance way back and lose the story’s driving force (when the plot is so entirely romance-centered, the romance needs to be constantly present).
Aaron Yan, while still not a great actor I would say, has been steadily improving in his performances throughout his acting career. A member of Fahrenheit, a Taiwanese band which has an oddly parallel career track to their forerunners F4, he tends to be the Vic Zhou to Jiro Wang’s Jerry Yan, particularly in KO One, the hugely popular drama which in some ways mirrors Meteor Garden as far as launching the acting careers of a particular group of young actors. Like Vic Zhou, Aaron played a withdrawn but compelling secondary character, while Jiro Wang was the charismatic lead. Aaron followed this up with roles in The X-Family(the sequel to KO One) and They Kiss Again, but it was really in 2008′s Mysterious Incredible Terminator that he caught my eye. He tends unfortunately to follow a pattern in which his acting is awkward in the first few episodes or first half of a drama, really only stepping into his role in the second half, and this was true of MIT. When he did step up, however, he turned in a quietly charismatic performance, reminding me oddly (his career had mirrored Vic’s in its early stages but he himself did not) of Vic Zhou in his younger days. MIT was a relatively low-profile drama, and I think it’s high time that Aaron Yan stepped up to the stage his bandmates Jiro Wang and Wu Zhun have been occupying for a while and tried out a serious leading role. And we know that he can do icy and reserved very well since that’s the character he’s played in most of his dramas thus far, including KO One and Mysterious Incredible Terminator.
All in all, it’s high time we got a good Taiwanese drama – 2010 was a very disappointing year in Twdramas.
Love Buffet will air on Sundays.