Apologies for the delay in new posts this week. One goal I have for the re-booted IVFF is to explore alternative streaming resources, apps, and websites. I started looking at Viki, a Singapore-based resource, when its Viki Premiere app appeared at the Samsung Smart Hub app store. One of the more interesting things about Viki is that the subtitles for its programming are crowd-sourced (its slogan is "powered by avid fans") Depending on the quality of the source video, the Samsung Smart TV app looks very good, and I have also been successful flinging the Viki website to a television using Chromecast. The Samsung Viki Premiere app is free and it does not feature advertisements. Video streams at viki.com, however, will feature ads unless you purchase a "Viki Pass."
The Magic Blade from China and Darna from the Philippines. The Magic Blade is an old-school wuxia pian serial in the tradition of the Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong. (But this should not be confused with the 1976 Shaw Brothers film with the same title). While the production values do show the limitations of a television series budget, I was actually surprised by the overall quality of the production. (The location scout should have top billing, the outdoor scenes are often gorgeous.) One weak spot is the actual fight choreography (which requires a lot of time to do well) but other wuxia conventions like wirework are handled pretty well, relatively speaking. In what I've watched so far, The Magic Blade does not hesitate to swing from broad humor to somewhat messed up near-torture scenes. The main focus of the plot is, of course, revenge, but there are several interesting subplots begin to emerge even in the first episode.
Darna should tell you whether you want to explore the rest of the series. The brief opening scene previews the kinds of super-villainesses we can expect later on, and some of them seem so over-the-top that I won't even pretend to understand what is going on. But one challenge to sticking with the show is that the origin story is dragged out over the entire first episode. Another challenge is the truly awful gender politics in the first episode, but that actually makes me curious about how those attitudes towards gender roles will mix with an empowered female superhero and female villainesses as the series moves forward. The production values for the show are not great, the video quality of the Viki stream is not ideal, and even the shows fans on Viki make fun of the special effects. But the show has a certain charm that makes me want to explore it for some more episodes. [Edit: Shortly after posting this I watched another Viki episode, which I now believe combines 2 30-minute episodes; Superhero Darna still hasn't appeared, and she is unlikely to appear for a few more episodes. So another challenge to sticking with the series is how tolerant you are of poorly treated child characters.]
For more information about the history of Darna, consult The Darna Wiki.
Posters and Synopses from Viki.com
The leader of the martial arts world is killed mysteriously and the crime goes unsolved. Fu Hong Xue (Wallace Chung), the leader’s son, is determined to avenge his father’s death 24 years later. But a number of people, including Yan Nan Fei (Zong Feng Yan), who wants to become the new leader of the martial arts world, plot to get rid of Hong Xue. Will Hong Xue be able to overcome Nan Fei’s gang and solve his father’s murder? What will he do when he discovers the shocking truth about his own life? The Magic Blade is a 2012 Chinese drama series directed by Gao Xian Ming and Huang Wei Jie.
Darna is a Philippine drama/fantasy series adapted from Mars Ravelo's fictional superheroine of the same name. This latest adaptation was directed by Dominic Zapata and Don Michael Perez and developed by Jun Lana, based on the Darna graphic novels by Mars Ravelo. It stars Marian Rivera in the title role and her alter-ego Narda, Iwa Moto as her main nemesis, Valentina, as well as Dennis Trillo as Pancho and Mark Anthony Fernandez as Eduardo.