White Cat Legend, a Detective Comedy Costume C-Drama: Our First Impression

White Cat Legend drama review 

White Cat Legend just premiered last night on iQIYI, dropping six episodes. There are few costume Chinese series currently airing that attract me to follow episodes so I gave this new drama a try last night, finishing all six episodes in one setting lol! 

And so far it's good! This is a costume detective comedy series so expect plenty of humor and funny scenes here and there, while the five dudes try to resolve mysterious crimes in the imperial capital.

White Cat Legend drama review
Ding Yuxi as Li Bing
White Cat Legend drama review
Wei Zheming as General Qui Jingzhi

Starring Ding Yuxi as Li Bing, Zhou Qi as Chen Shi, Ding Jiawen as Cui Bei, Zhang Yicong as Sun Bao, Feng Man as Wang Qi, Wa Er as Ali Baba, Ren Min as Vice Minister Shangguan Qin, Wei Zheming as General Qui Jing Zhi, He Fengtian as Lai Zhongshu, and Yang Gen as Hu Si.

White Cat Legend drama review
Ren Min as Shanguan Qin

I am just so surprised that Ren Min and Wei Zheming are playing supporting roles. This is my first time seeing Wa Er again after playing Ashile She'r in The Long Ballad (2021). 

White Cat Legend drama review

Chen Shi, played by Zhou Qi, is my favorite character in this drama. He is naive, innocent, and gullible, but loyal, kind, and generous. A type of friend who is willing to go to the end of the world to defend and protect his friends and loved ones. Zhou Qi is so amazing in his portrayal of the naive Chen Shi. 

I love the dynamic of Li Bing and Chen Shi. I remember Li Lianhua and Fang Doubing in them. The only difference is that Li Bing revealed his real self (white cat) to Chen Shi early on (episode 6).

White Cat Legend drama review

Also known as "The Journal of Dali Temple" in English, White Cat Legend is based on Chinese webcomics or manhua and was adapted into a donghua (Chinese cartoon) in 2020. 

White Cat Legend drama review
Li Bing and Chen Shi

This drama adaptation is closer to the events in Donghua, although many events were changed, the basic concept was retained. Here's how they differ:

Opening episode: The story begins with Chen Shi (Zhou Qi) arriving in the capital looking for his long-lost brother whom he has not met in person ever since. 

Out of the blue, while wandering his senses, Chen Shi sees a white cat jumping on the rooftop. Then he bumps into a child who steals his money and food. He chases the girl but is surprised to see the white cat again.  

The chase leads him to swindlers and they chance upon two investigators from the Court Judicial Review, Ali Baba (Wa Er) and Sun Bao (Zhang Yicong). The swindlers are captured with the help of the white cat.

White Cat Legend drama review
Zhou Qi as Chen Shi

Plot Summary in the live-action (drama) adaptation:

During a banquet at the Tang Palace, Li Bing (played by Ding Yuxi), who is highly regarded by the empress, is appointed as the Assistant Minister of Dali Temple. 

Within Dali Temple, Chen Shi (played by Zhou Qi), Wang Qi (played by Feng Man), Alibaba (played by Wa'er), Cui Bei (played by Ding Jiawen), and Sun Bao (played by Zhang Yicong) work together under the guidance of the newly appointed Assistant Minister, Li Bing, to unravel the layers of crime mysteries in the imperial capital. They support each other and defy their fate while upholding their inner sense of justice.

Plot Summary in the Donghua version:

The story takes place in China during the Tang Dynasty, under Empress Wu Zetian. One simple peasant named Chen Shi arrives in the city of Luo Yang in search of his older brother, whom he has never met before. 

Being a poor man with little money to spare, Chen Shi applies for a job at Dali Court as a factotum (an employee/assistant responsible for doing all kinds of work given to them). 

Unbeknownst to him, his first task is providing food and water for a prisoner, a demon in the form of a human-sized cat. 

According to legend, once every nine years, a cat grows a new tail. Once it has grown its ninth tail and reached the age of 81, it transforms into a vicious cat demon, capable of devouring its prey and taking on their form. 

When a cat demon has consumed enough human beings, it can shapeshift into anything it wants and plunge the whole world into chaos.

Chen Shi is absolutely terrified of what he’s guarding, but he refuses to give in to his fear because he needs the money. 

A few days later, he checks up on the prisoner, only to find the cell is unlocked and the captive is nowhere to be seen.

 Suddenly, Chen Shi is attacked by the cat demon and forced to give him the key to unlocking the chains around his feet, but the factotum stands his ground and swallows the key, which catches the demon off-guard. 

A man named Lu Na then enters the dungeon and speaks to the escaping prisoner as if he were an acquaintance. It turns out it was all a test to see if Chen Shi had what it takes to be a loyal servant of the Dali Court, and he passed. 

The cat demon’s name is Li Bing, who is atoning for the sins of his family. Because of his loyalty to the empress, he is appointed Vice Minister of Justice and declares Chen Shi his assistant. Together with the rest of the Dali Court, they solve various cases left unfinished. 

White Cat Legend drama review

First Impression: 

The story quality and production quality are not as outstanding as most highly budgeted costume dramas and they have problems with film editing, but the greatest asset of this drama is the comedy aspect which offers so much fun and entertainment. 

For drama fans who don't like slapstick comedy (you know the film action genre in the 1980s in the Hong Kong cinema where Jackie Chan's films were known), this might not be your thing, but for people who are looking for fun and endearing naive character in the drama, this is a good drama to watch.

I enjoyed the first six episodes. So full of fun! The brotherhood of Li Bing and Chen Shi is both funny and emotional. I love Chen Shi's character. He is naive and innocent (you know a typical provincial guy who goes to the city for the first time), but loyal and devoted. 

Li Bing revealed his mysterious self to Chen Shi early on (episode 6) perhaps because he has full trust in this guy. He also knows Chen Shi is a cat lover and very protective so he convinces him to be his assistant as he fulfills his new duty to head the Dali Court (Court Judicial Review). 

This is also a detective drama that tackles many mysterious crime cases in the imperial capital and Li Bing will be assisted by the funny gang - Chen Shi, Wang Qi, Alibaba, Cui Bei, and Sun Bao - who are both careless and clumsy ahahaha! - in solving crime cases. So expect many funny moments as they try to fulfill their missions.

White Cat Legend versus Judge Dee's Mystery

So which is better - White Cat Legend or Judge Dee's Mystery? Both are detective dramas set in the Tang dynasty court. \

Well, the approach of White Cat Legend is a comedy with less wuxia or fight scenes among the investigators. It remains to be seen if the dudes know how to hold a sword or kick an enemy, they seem to be just displaying their clumsiness. Except for Li Bing who is the only serious dude among the Dali Court investigators, and the one who has a mysterious bloodline (that is something we need to find out).

Ren Min and Wei Zheming's characters seem to be in a cat-and-dog fight. They seem to be in a tense relationship and far from being buddies. So their dynamic is also another interesting arc to watch out.

Judge Dee's Mystery is a highly-budgeted drama so expect a great production value. It also has a good cinematic appeal. Zhou Yiwei is good in martial arts so his fight scenes are amazing to watch. 

This drama's approach is somewhat serious and lacks humor, and I did not enjoy the first six episodes. But I am planning to resume watching the rest of the episodes soon.

So it's up to you to decide which one is your bet. If you like comedy in a costume detective drama, go for White Cat Legend, but if you're up for some serious detective story with good wuxia scenes, then watch Judge Dee's Mystery.

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