Another title that I’ve had on my Netflix watchlist for about a year and am only just now getting around to is Love O2O, a college-set drama about gamers that offered a very refreshing story in the sense that the main couple was actually allowed to be consistently happy.
Love O2O (Online to Offline), based on a web novel by Gu Man, is about Bei Wei Wei (Zheng Shuang), a sophomore majoring in computer science. She spends much of her free time playing a wuxia-inspired MMORPG called A Chinese Ghost Story, where she is one of the top players. When her in-game spouse wants to annul their marriage, the game’s top player offers to pair up with her instead. Eventually, she learns that this player is Xiao Nai (Yang Yang), the most popular student at her university. Naturally, they start dating in real life as well as in the game.
As is my custom when I finish a new series, I took to Tumblr in search of gifsets to reblog. Scrolling through the posts, I saw that some people thought that this show was boring because they felt that Bei Wei Wei and Xiao Nai had no personalities other than “attractive and popular” and that there wasn’t enough drama. I was quite surprised at this, as I thought that both main characters had distinct personalities. And I was extremely pleased that, contrary to what usually happens with television couples, these two were solid all the way through.
Yes, Xiao Nai is essentially perfect, and I understand how that may turn some people off, but that’s been a factor in many of the modern dramas that I’ve watched. They did make it a point to mention that he’s not actually flawless (he can’t cook!), and I loved how absolutely savage he could be when the situation warranted it. And Bei Wei Wei was a genuinely kind-hearted person, and I was really happy that she was lauded for both her grades and her gaming skills and not just her appearance. I did think that, for someone who was runner-up in a “campus belle” contest, she could have used a little more confidence, but self-esteem issues plague everyone and imposter syndrome is real.
But the best thing about the two of them is that they actually trusted each other. There were multiple instances where I was fully expecting the typical misunderstanding that would lead to an argument or a breakup (let me show you this completely out-of-context video that makes it look like your girlfriend is cheating on you), and it just didn’t happen. They put their faith in the other and communicated when there were issues. What a novel concept! I am so glad that there exists a show that doesn’t subscribe to the premise that happy couples are boring.
And there was drama, it just didn’t exist in the main couple’s relationship. Bei Wei Wei is constantly dealing with people who don’t like her for whatever reason and try to discredit her. Xiao Nai has started his own company and has to work against competitors using underhanded tactics. Various supporting characters had their fair share of stuff going down, and more than one of them sought to cause issues for the main couple (it just didn’t work).
Another thing I really loved is how much Xiao Nai’s friends also loved Bei Wei Wei. They were eager to defend her even before they met her in real life, and they truly respected her and eagerly welcomed her into their group. I do wish that the series had spent some more time with her friends, although I did like her friendship with Zhao Erxi (Mao Xiao Tong).
The problem is that many of the female characters in Love O2O are petty and shallow and mean, and I kept waiting for Bei Wei Wei to channel Regina George and ask why they were so obsessed with her. This is one of my few complaints about the show, because it’s so disheartening to see female characters reduced to catty backstabbing just because someone is prettier or dating the guy someone else likes. This is why I wanted to see more of Bei Wei Wei’s friendship with her roommates.
The secondary pairings were fantastic (Hao Mei and K.O.) and not-so-fantastic (Zhao Erxi and Cao Guang). Both of these couples develop late, as is customary for secondary pairings, and both hit differently. Obviously, Hao Mei (Zheng Ye Cheng) and K.O. (Zhang Bin Bin) is subtext only, but their dynamic is incredible, because I am a sucker for the “grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one” trope. Hao Mei remains delightfully oblivious even as K.O. stealth moves into his spare bedroom, but what’s really great is that everyone else knows what’s going on and they’re totally cool with it. There’s even a scene where one of the other guys fakes sick so that he can leave the two of them alone.
In contrast, Zhao Erxi and Cao Guang (Bai Yu) was almost painful. I really wanted to like Cao Guang (mainly because it’s Bai Yu), but he made it damn near impossible. He’s prone to snap judgments and has a very unhealthy view of dating; when he confesses to Bei Wei Wei and she politely turns him down, he gets angry that she won’t let him try to date her, even though she’s not interested. He and Zhao Erxi had some legitimately adorable moments, but those were soured by his awful behavior.
Like The King’s Avatar (which also stars Yang Yang), Love O2O spends a considerable amount of time in-game, but instead of creating a realistic-looking game, this show dresses the actors up in period costumes and inserts them into CGI backgrounds to simulate gameplay. This is a pretty neat concept and it fit the tone of the show well (and led to some humorous moments when characters would step away from the game), although I preferred the graphics in The King’s Avatar.
Love O2O is an older title (released in 2016), so anyone who is familiar with C-dramas may have already seen it. But for those of you who, like me, are new to this, I wanted to recommend it. If you’re looking for something cute and fun with a minimum amount of romantic drama and a sweet couple that actually trusts and talks to each other, then you should definitely check this out. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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