MARS. A Riveting Asianovela Masterpiece We Almost Miss To Watch

 

While doing a series marathon with The Flame's Daughter (Fire of Eternal Love), a  Chinese period drama topbilled by Dilraba Dilmurat and Vic Zhou, I was searching for another Vic Zhou (swooning over him during Meteor Garden days as Hua Ze Lei) starrer to watch over the weekend. 

That's when I landed on MARS. Uhmm, not the red planet. 

Vic Zhou and Barbie Hsu in Mars

Mars is a Taiwanese psycho-drama series released in 2004 starring Vic Zhou (Zhou Yumin in pinyin) known by his nickname - Zai Zai) and Barbie Hsu, two of the popular casts of Meteor Garden, a phenomenal hit that took Asia by storm in 2003 and sets the popularity of Asianovelas in the Philippines.

It is a story of love and tragedy, finding healing and redemption. It tackles some sensitive issues in the society like mental illness, depression, suicide, bullying and sexual abuse. But more than dark drama, Mars is a story of finding love that protects.

This drama scores big in solid plot, emotional depth, rich dialogue and fantastic story line that addresses issues on unresolved emotional trauma, and the internal demons we are all silently fighting but scared to face.

LINK to the complete episodes of Mars is at the bottom of this article.

Vic Zhou and Barbie Hsu performed the ending theme song of each episode, Rang Wo Ai Ni (Let Me Love You). Although I did not understand the lyrics, I could feel its  sweet melody warming my soul.

We miss a masterpiece!

Though this series is kinda slow paced, which made me sigh every episode due to the slow-moving scenes, the storyline is riveting and touchy with compelling characters. 

The plot handles darker schemes that really happening in the society. And I love the thought-provoking dialogues of this series. Awesome! It hits me hard.

Chen Ling pestering the extremely shy Han Qi Lou

Mars shows how personal denials to face internal demons can destroy our relationship to the people we love, how it can suppress gaiety towards a beautiful life and how it damages our self-confidence.

It hits me to the core, I mean, yeah, it really affected me somehow. Makes me wonder if I am hiding some emotional wounds too.

What is it that really affected me? 

Perhaps the emotional battles the protagonists gone through. The issues are real and really happening in the society today. Mars shows that if these issues are not properly addressed, it has disastrous consequences that can destroy lives. 

This series has well-written dialogues that confront logic. Its delivery is really depth and can stir emotion. Episodes are not easy to watch if you are currently undergoing emotional struggle because it will force you to confront yourself if you are ready to face your own turmoil. 

But somehow it will help open your eyes on so many things.

Are you ready to commit your life to a person who is in a very complicated situation dealing with his or her own emotional battle? 

What are the sacrifices are you willing to embrace to help this person overcome his or her own traumatic past and find ways how for healing and redemption.

It will really challenge our logic. Mars indeed is a drama masterpiece we all miss to watch.

Background of the story

This is a story of two beautiful wounded souls, two broken people who are trying to fix the shattered pieces of their core beings. A story of facing fears, finding courage, overcoming personal tragedies. 

Two emotionally-vulnerable individuals who are drawn to each other due to the same personal struggles they experienced. 

Vic Zhou and Barbie Hsu in Mars

Mars is a story we all can relate. 

Those who suffer from painful untimely death of loved ones that they still cannot get over. Those who are trying to hide the scar of their soul due to painful experiences, those who lost self-confidence, those who experienced bullying, those who are sexually abused but do not have the courage to raise their voice because they are scared.

In an extraordinary circumstance, Mars tackles sensitive topics we are all too aware, but ashamed to share to others or discuss in public because we are scared to be judged.

Mars shows how genuine love can change a person for the better. And how personal tragedies can help a person developed its protective nature.

Why the series is titled Mars?

It is a metaphor of Mars, the Roman god of war. A mythical figure that binds the protagonists together because it's on how their sense of connection was established.

Han Qi-Lou, an art student, is working on her art masterpiece for the school exhibit and the subject is Mars, a figure in Roman mythology. 

In order to work on a giant Mars painting, she needed a model to act as the human representation of Mars. That's when Chen Ling (Vic Zhou), a happy-go-lucky motor rider playboy who has been pestering her in the classroom, volunteered to be her model.

In the Art room, Ling gazes at the plaster statue of Mars. 

"M-A-R-S", Ling reads. "The planet"?
"No", Qi Lou replies. "The God of War". Ling ponders, then continues, "Was he the coward who the Greek people say was bloodthirsty and belligerent, and yet was afraid of failure? Isn't he supposed to look mean and ferocious"?

Qi Lou smiles, "I heard the Romans described him differently. They said Mars wore a shining armor, looked grand, and was unstoppable, He was a dark hero who led people to overcome tragedy".

Ling seems in deep thoughts. "A hero who overcame tragedy", he repeats to himself.

It is through this scene that I become so intrigue with Mars due to its rich dialogues.

The synopsis

Han Qi-Lou (Barbie Hsu) is an extremely shy Art student who is afraid to meeting people. A social recluse, she refuses to talk to anyone and has fears of interacting with boys. She does not have friends and just keeps things to herself. 

Barbie Hsu as Han Qi-Lou

She does not like also to be in the company of anyone, even her classmates. She is an introvert who dreaded life in the crowd. Her classmates thought she is weird and eccentric because she is so scared with boys, so they began bullying her. 

Unknown to many, she has a traumatic past she has been trying to hide.

Vic Zhou as Chen Ling

Chen Ling (Vic Zhou) is a liberated dude, a reckless playboy who dated all attractive girls in their school. He is a passionate rider who drives his motorbike like a daredevil rider. 

He finds joy and freedom in the race track and dreams to be a great racing motorbike rider champion. But he has an intriguing personality, he is afraid to look at the mirror and paintings.

He had an unresolved emotional trauma that continues to haunt him. He is trying to hide it by appearing cool, tough and carefree.

Vic Chou portrays twin brothers in Mars

Then one day, fate brought these two broken souls together. 

Chen Ling stumbles on Han Qi Lou in the park bench where she sits silently doing her sketches. He asked for the direction of a rehabilitation center where he is scheduled to visit his motor racing trainer.

She refuses to talk and just handed him the sketch direction of the rehabilitation center at the back of her drawing of a mother and a child.

The sketch of a mother and a child intrigues and impresses Chen Ling. So he began pursuing and pestering Qi Lou, tailing her in the school wherever she goes.


However, they are two different individuals who have an opposite approach in life. 

Ling is an extrovert who talks offensively and loves to be the center of every girl's attention. While Qi-Lou is an introvert who wraps herself alone in her small world, afraid interacting with boys.

Qi-Lou finds Ling annoying and avoided him at all cost. She resented his playful behavior and reckless lifestyle. But Ling pursues her relentlessly, increasingly intrigue with her timid behavior. 

He would pester her to talk, follows her wherever she goes. His curiosity towards Qi Lou brings him to the Art room where he witnesses the sexual advancement of their English teacher to Qi Lou.

He rushes to the scene to rescue her. They then strike a deal. He will protect her from abuses in school and she will give him her oil painting of a mother-and-a-child.

Ling also volunteers himself to be her model of the Mars painting she is working for the school exhibit.

Barbie and Vic in Mars

This build-up of their connection annoys one of their classmates who is smitten with Ling, and Qi Lou begins to experience bullying.

However, Ling, who earlier declares to protect her in exchange of the painting, rushes to her side to save her from the bullies.

Qi-Lou for the first time realizes there's a man she could trust. And that Ling is different from the reckless playboy she knows in school. He has a protective nature and in fact, a gentleman who cares for vulnerable people like her.

Finally, Ling breaks the invisible barrier and able to strike a friendship with Qi Lou. 

She realizes that not all men are like her stepfather who is abusive and disrespectful. With Ling, she learns to trust again and finds excitement in life.

Vic Zhou as Chen Ling and Barbie Hsu as Han Qi-Lou

Unknown to her, Ling has a dark past. He comes out from a psychiatric facility because he is battling with depression and other mental health issues brought by a family tragedy. 

Ling tries to leave his past behind, including the trauma of watching his twin brother committed suicide, by leading a carefree life, and finding freedom in the race track. 

When he rides his motorbike he feels a limitless existence, a happy life away from the ugly world he knows in the past.

His broken soul leads him to get closer to Qi-Lou whom he feels a very vulnerable person who needs his protection. 

With Qi-Lou, Ling feels he is a man again with dreams for a sane life. And with Ling, Qi-Lou learns to trust again, she slowly comes out from her shell and realizes she too is capable of falling in love.

They sense a deep connection. 

Realizing they have common struggles that pull them together, they started to form a relationship. But Qi-Lou is still haunted by the sexual abuse she suffered, which Ling knew nothing about. 

She fears intimacy. And going on with their relationship, Ling becomes intrigue with Qi-Lou's weird behavior. Until he discovers the reason behind her fears towards men.

However, Ling's initial attraction towards Qi Lou is due to the fact that she reminds him of his twin brother, Chen Sheng, who, like Qi Lou, a deeply introvert person who spent time alone painting.

Ling feels that with Qi Lou constantly on his side, his longing for his twin brother and mother is pacified. Her presence brings comfort on his agony for the loved ones he missed. She becomes a figure that mollifies the guilt he feels for failing to save his twin brother from committing suicide.

This fallacious impression leaves Qi Lou extremely brokenhearted. She confronts Ling to face his fears and stop looking at her as a replacement of his deceased brother.

This sensitive argument leads to the fracture of their relationship, and Ling's discovery towards Qi Lou's fears of intimacy and her battle towards her own emotional trauma too.


Together, they set on a path of personal confrontation to break free from the internal demons they are scared to face. And finding healing along the way.

My Review 

Pros: 

Honestly, at first I thought Mars is just another hyped romance flick, sort of an extension of Meteor Garden because fans are requesting for a Vic Zhou and Barbie Hsue drama. 

But this is hugely different! More depth and touchy.

Mars is a dark drama that pinches the core of the viewers' soul. At least on my part. It pulls two broken individuals together to be each other's protector and instrument for healing. 

I love the concept and plot of Mars. 

A unique one because it tackles sensitive social issues we considered taboo to be discussed openly. Issues which victims are dreading to face - the mental health issues, emotional scars and depression. And how these issues can be destructive to people's lives if left unresolved or not treated.

The storyline of Mars raises awareness on emotional trauma, depression, suicide, bullying and other mental issues people are scared to admit.

This is a drama of the eccentrics and people who are always scared to face their internal demons. A story of fear facing life in the real world. It is also a story of finding light and normalcy. 

A story of finding courage, rediscovering inner strength, and finding ways to heal the shattered pieces deep inside, mentally and emotionally.

Mars has rich dialogues that confront logic, very thought-provoking, it helps us to think of our personal battles too and makes us to question ourselves if we are hiding emotional wounds too.  

Vic Chou, Zhou Yumin or Zai Zai in Taiwanese

The situation of Ling will help us realize that unresolved emotional trauma trapped a person in the limbo of self denials which have destructive consequences.

However, it's through this character's broken self also that teaches us how true love can change a vulnerable person to a better individual. 

I might be biased because I adored Vic Zhou but he is perfectly cast here as a lady-killer, with his shoulder-length hair, trademark red leather jacket and heart-pumping smile.

Barbie Hsu has matured in her role, far from the cute San Chai we admired in Meteor Garden. She portrayed the role of Han Qi-Lou deeply convincing. 

A scene in Mars

I love this concept of relationship conveys by Mars. A once reckless playboy who treated women like toy objects, a man who lives in guilt due to a tragic past. finally meeting a woman who encourages him to face his fears, a woman who inspires him to embrace change and leads him to the right path. 

Though in the first few episodes I find Qi Lou's too timid personality very annoying, I love her transition from a shy student who refuses to talk to boys and fears intimacy, to a confident woman she finally becomes.

I love the development of her character. From an introvert girl who does not trust anyone due to the sexual harassment she gone through at home to finally finding a guy who helps her realize her self-worth, who inspires her to find her courage and who brings her back her self-confidence.

I like how Ling inspires her to find her voice and learn to trust again. And I love the way Ling acts as a gentle protector. Moments where he rushes to the scene to save her from bullies. 

It helps me realize that men are naturally protective, even those who we think are weird, rugged and playboy.

It's pretty amazing how true love can change a person to a better individual. The kind of love we all wanted - protective, respectful and devoted. A kind of love that does not coerce and does not force us to do the unbelievable. A gentle love that endures.

One character I find creepy is Fan Tong Dao, a mental patient in a psychiatric facility where Ling was previously treated. His obsession to be like Ling turns him into a destructive monster.

His appearance on screen gives me some chill as if I am watching a horror film. But he is a vulnerable person too who suffers depression and has terrible experiences in bullying which left him a broken person.

I love how the character of Ling's stepfather and uncle (you will find out in the series why he is a stepdad at the same time uncle), a rich CEO, wraps up in the final episode. Instead of railroading his stepson to his ways, he allows Ling to live the kind of life he wants.

Ling and Qi-Lou, inspired by their love and devotion towards each other, finally find healing by  getting rid of the internal demons they once refused to face. They finally find redemption and resolved the emotional trauma they hid inside. 

Mars teaches us so many great lessons in life. It shows how personal tragedies affect one's perspective, And how a person's willingness to embrace change that will make a difference. 

We can always change the course of our destiny for the better if we are willing to try. 

The final scene where Ling prepares for a motorbike racing competition might not be the kind of ending I expected in Mars. But somehow leaves a self-pondering premise.

It shows that indeed, love makes the world go turning.

Vic Chou in the final scene of Mars

The final episode shows Qi Lou trails behind Chen Ling on his way to the race tracks, donning his motorbike gear. She smiles as she catches him in the staircase.

"Do you still believe the world will going to end?", says Qi Lou. Ling turns and releases a sweet grin, staring at Qi-Lou. "It is inevitable, but the question is when"

He then continues, "Qi-Lou, you have to stay with me". She rushes to him and gives him a hug.

This drama is all about finding courage and freedom, is all about finding light after darkness, finding healing from the emotional wounds of the past.

Just like the Roman god of war, we all have the capacity to win our personal battles, we can be redeemed from brokenness and be triumphant against adversity if we are willing to do what it takes to be victorious. 

Indeed, our fate is in our hands.

The lesson of their struggle is massive. It reminds us that we can rise above misfortune if we are willing to believe the promises of a better tomorrow. 

The story of Mars is timely especially in this difficult moment of our time when we are all suffering from anxiety, uncertainty, sadness in so many levels.

Cons:

But I'm warning you that scenes are slow paced, however the compelling dialogues will pin you down to finish the series.

One thing I find lacking in this series is the building of the relationship between Ling and his stepdad. At least in the conclusion of the series, they could have rebuilt what was lost in their relationship. 

They could have given a chance to be closer to each other again or have a conversation to make up with the lost time. Although it was revealed that they had a serious sit-down conversation. The encounter seems lacking as emotions were not really established.

On Qi-Lou and Ling. The last episode reveals they have been married for a year. Darn!

It could have been the highlight of the final episode. Marriage. Wedding. That is. But it looks like it had been cut. The sequence was so weak, emotions, or even logic, that they already got married, were not fully established. 

Makes me shaking my head if missed the final cut of the episode. The wedding thing could have been highlighted. Anyway, overall, Mars is a fantastic drama series that we all must be watching.

Mars has 21 heartwarming episodes.

WATCH COMPLETE EPISODE OF MARS IN YOUTUBE HERE


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