Ode to Joy: A Contemporary Romantic Drama

I start Chinese dramas on several occasions and usually, I give up about halfway through. Not because I don’t like long dramas (an average of 40 to 50 episodes). Yet, I usually find other things to watch that hold my attention longer. Until Ode to JoyWhen the five vastly different women in Shanghai end up as neighbors on the 22nd floor of the Ode to Joy apartment complex, their business and personal lives intertwine. Cue the drama, romance, and most importantly, friendship that goes above and beyond being a neighbor.

Five Women with Their Own Stories

Andie He – Adopted from China when she was young, CEO Andie He returns to work in the business world. You may recognize actress Liu Tao from the historical drama, Nirvana in Fire. Adopted myself, I was immediately intrigued at how the show approached the issue of domestic/international adoption from an adoptee’s perspective.

Super smart and independent, Andie is not used to relying on anyone but herself to accomplish her goals. Her aloofness can be off-putting, but as her friendships with the other girls grow, she reveals a sensitive heart. Another reason she returns to China is to find her biological brother and we wait in anticipation to see what happens when she does!

Qu Xiao Xiao – She is the charismatic but spoiled daughter of a wealthy family. You either love her or can’t stand her! Wang Ziwen portrays a fierce and bubbly personality with equal candor. The thing about Xiao Xiao – she can be totally annoying in one scene, but look out for her friends’ best interests in the next. While on one hand, she has led a sheltered life, she has an awesome group of friends and street smarts.

Xiao Xiao combines a streak of attitude and a quirky fashion sense. At times, I was annoyed by her definition of “helping” others by meddling. However, she became one of my favorite characters throughout the series. I rooted for her to succeed in her business and love. Oh, yeah –  did I mention her love interest is Dr. Zhao, played by shuaige (handsome guy) Wang Kai? He and Wang Ziwen appear together as the main characters in the series When a Snail Falls in Love.

Ode to Joy; Wang Ziwen

Qu Xiao Xiao Photo: Dragon Television and Zhejiang Television

Qiu Ying Ying – Ah, Ying Ying. I admit, when I started the show, I could barely get through her scenes. I initially disliked her childlike behavior. However, the transformation she undergoes throughout the show made me love her by the end! Naive and innocent, she is quick to speak without thinking and believe the best in people. These habits get her into trouble with work and relationships. However, of all five girls, she is one of the most genuine, who considers her roommates her sisters. She truly cares for others. Seeing her make her way in the working world is like watching a flower blossom.

Fan Sheng Mei – Wow, Fan jie (sister, as she is affectionately called) carries the most surprising backstory. Sheng Mei looks like she has it all together – she is the head of Human Resources in her company, and supports her family. But about halfway through the show, we see where her vulnerability comes from.

Veteran actress Jiang Xin (Empresses in the Palace) gives an emotional performance in a string of episodes dealing with the heavy situation Sheng Mei finds herself in. But don’t worry – there are lots of lighter, sisterly moments, too. Sheng Mei gives advice to her younger sisters and looks after them. Jiang Xin also sings her own OST for the show, “Cinderella.”

Guan Ju Er – The youngest of the five girls, everyone I talk to finds Guan Guan the most down-to-earth character. Throughout the show, she remains a steady presence who supports her friends. Guan Guan faces dilemmas at her work as an intern and discovers what it means to fall in love. She struggles with following what her parents want for her, a dependable and safe choice in marriage and life, versus following her own plans and asserting her own independence.

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Forming (Fictional) Friendships for Life

I cannot recommend this show enough to those I meet! It’s a must-see, especially if you are looking for an introduction into the world of Chinese Dramas. One thing which makes this drama distinct is how the characters’ likability constantly changes based on the situations they get mixed up in or how they choose to react. I found different moments of their stories resonating with me at different times. Not only can viewers identify with the girls, the show offers moments of wisdom and advice that hold true to our lives today.

To top it all off, if you can’t get enough of the girls from the 22nd floor, don’t worry – just get ready for Ode to Joy 2!  With the same cast, the story picks up a few days after the first season ends!

Ode to Joy; Wang Kai

Three of the leads: Andie, Sheng-Mei and Doctor Zhao. Photo: Viki

Did I Mention… the Romance?

A review of Ode to Joy would not be complete if I did not mention the supporting cast of actors that make up the romantic interests for the leading ladies! There’s Lao Tan, Andie’s friend and boss who knows her story more than anyone else and is always there for her. Or Wang Kai, whose charisma as Dr. Zhao and smile alone is enough to melt hearts!  There’s also sweet Wang Bai Chuan who works to prove himself worthy of Fan Sheng Mei, and Wei Wei, Andie’s first love interest. Not to mention gallant and playful VP Bao Yi Fan – who makes his entrance later in the series as a potential suitor. The relationships of the different men in this drama are just as diverse and captivating as the women’s friendships.

You will have a blast with all the different relationships in the show (and you may change your mind several times of who to root for!) The variety of contemporary, realistic relationships portrayed is what makes Ode to Joy so compelling.

Related: ‘She Was Pretty’ Review – A Fun K-Drama About Following Your Dreams and Falling in Love

Where to Watch: Watch the Ode to Joy on Viki and DramaFever.

Content Note: Ode to Joy ranges from TV-PG to TV-14.

Have you seen Ode to Joy yet? Did you have a favorite character, couple, or plot line? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts below!

OVERALL RATING

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”

ROMANCE RATING

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

I have loved none but you.”

(scroll down for the full Old-Fashioned Romance Breakdown)

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