Though this series was released in 1994, I had actually never heard of it previously and only discovered the series a few years ago when it came out on DVD. I was attracted to the series because of the cast (Julian Cheung, Kenix Kwok, David Siu, Betsy Cheung, etc.) and the setting, and after reading the summary of the plot, it sounded very interesting. So I bought the series, watched it, and it has become one of my favorites ever since -- in fact, just like with my other favorites, I've seen this series multiple times already (for me, favorites = repeated viewing) -- I think my last count was like 5 times, but I honestly lost track already.
What do I like about this series? Too much to list -- but I will attempt to highlight a few of the things that really stood out for me:
> The time period / setting -- the series is set in the 1930s/1940s Shanghai, which is a very popular era historically because of everything that went on during that time leading up to World War II. Most of my favorite pre-modern series (whether Hong Kong or Taiwan series) have been set in this era, so obviously that was one element that attracted me from the start. I guess part of it too is the 'East meets West' thing and how the 2 cultures must assimilate and co-exist, which I find interesting. True, alot of series like to use this time period because there are plenty of ideas and storylines that could be easily developed from the rich history of that era, however not all series are able to do it well -- this particular series is one of those rare gems that is able to utilize the time period in the best way possible, yet not let it overwhelm the storyline.
> Julian / Kenix pairing -- I LOVE THIS PAIRING!!! These 2 look so good together and the chemistry they had on screen was absolutely AWESOME. I fell in love with this couple right from the start and was rooting for them throughout the entire series.
The main reason why I enjoyed the pairing so much was because of the emotional factor -- the storyline involving the relationship between Julian's and Kenix's characters was quite complex and covered a whole range of emotions. Simply put, the relationship basically goes from admiration to love, then to hate, and back to love again -- but what makes the relationship stand out is all the 'other stuff' that is thrown in such as: regret, sacrifice, loyalty, unwavering love, war, conflict, etc. etc. I would say that the best way to describe the relationship that Julian and Kenix have in this series is with one word: 'bittersweet.'
With all the series that I've seen, it's rare for me to get emotionally attached to an on-screen couple, but I certainly did with this one, primarily because of the chemistry -- I could really feel the love that these two had for each other in the series and the pain of their separation, plus everything that they go through and the sacrifices made -- which made their reunion at the end of the series so touching; even though I've seen this series so many times already, to this day, each time I watch the ending to the series, I still get teary-eyed -- which is definitely rare for me, since there are only a handful of series that have affected me emotionally to that extent.
> Storyline / plot -- on the surface, the storyline sounds simple: romance against the backdrop of a country on the verge of war.....but it's actually quite complicated because thrown into the mix is the 4-way love triangle between Julian, Kenix, Jenny Chou, and Hong Chiu Fung; the 'brothers turned enemies' relationship between Julian and David; the irony of Julian's past and his subsequent relationship with Jenny and her family (and how the 2 are interrelated); the conflicts between Julian / David and Jenny's father (the dark triad society); and during the second half of the series, the struggle between patriotic loyalty to the country versus one's own beliefs and values. Basically the series delves a little bit into everything -- action, romance, light comedy (only a few scenes), good versus evil struggle, family relationships, brotherly friendship, triad (jiang hu) society, etc. etc. -- and weaves all these elements intricately into the storyline.
The series handled the complicated plot and sub-plots extremely well (in my opinion at least) and it did not feel cheesy at all. Also, I felt that there wasn’t a single boring scene in this series (which is rare for any series, let alone a TVB one)....it was actually quite face-paced in the second half especially and -- like a good book -- I didn't want to put it down. When I first watched the series several years ago, I finished the entire series in 2 days (definitely a record for a 20-episode series)!
> David / Betsy pairing -- I've always felt that David is a talented actor and he is definitely best suited for these kinds of 'jiang hu' roles, as he plays them extremely well! The smart but selfish and brazen 'tough guy' big brother character he plays is actually a bit complex because he is essentially a 'good guy' in the beginning (though not THAT good compared with Julian's character, who has a good heart, but can be tough when he needs to be), but lets jealousy and envy get to him, which eventually puts him on the path of no return. Betsy plays his love interest who is very loyal and devoted to him from the beginning....what I like about her character though is that she is not the usual 'sacrifice everything for love' type of woman -- she's very intelligent and has this 'righteousness' about her that enables her to handle tough situations in a way that is very mature and logical. David and Betsy are a very well-matched couple as well and I also liked seeing them together -- their chemistry is of a different kind and the way it is handled is very appropriate to the storyline. Unfortunately, neither artist is actively involved in the HK TV industry anymore, which is a bit of a shame, since both are good in terms of acting and can beat out today's younger generation artists in terms of skill and talent any day!
> Julian / Betsy friendship -- Also worth mentioning is Betsy's relationship with Julian in the series. Their relationship is actually a very interesting one -- Julian regards her as his sister-in-law (since David is his 'sworn brother' in that they grew up together and she is David's woman), however she is also his closest confidante. Julian's character really admires her strength and intelligence (especially for a woman in that era) and so whenever he encountered a difficult issue or problem, he would talk it through with her and seek her advice....plus they would always watch out for each other like true friends always do. The one part of the storyline that I thought was stupid (but was able to forgive the scriptwriters because they made it very brief and were actually able to turn it into something different that eventually played into the plot) was when Betsy and David had a major argument because she was very disappointed in his selfish actions and they (the script writers) made it seem like she was going to betray David and be with Julian instead. It doesn't end up happening (thank goodness) because Julian's character is too righteous, for one (meaning he would never steal his brother's girlfriend) and he is so fiercely devoted to Kenix that he can't bring himself to love any other woman besides her (even the woman he eventually marries).
What do I dislike about the series? Not a whole lot, but even with the best of series, there will always be flaws. Below are a few that stood out:
> Length of the series -- at 20 episodes, I personally felt that the series was too short and as a result, some parts -- especially in the 2nd half -- felt very rushed. I think that there was definitely enough material for 25 episodes and the plot could have been handled in a way where more time was given to the development of certain parts -- especially the ending, which seemed a bit rushed and choppy. This is very important, because there were certain segments of the series that didn't make sense (for example, what happened to Betsy after she tried to prevent David from killing Julian and he locked her up in that house? How she managed to escape is a mystery to me because the next scene with her in it jumps to 3 years later and they never explain what happened....). It just seemed to me that the production team was trying to cram everything into 20 episodes and so sacrificed some details of the plot.
> Editing and cut scenes -- this sort of relates back to the first point I made about the length of the series and the 'rush job' with certain parts of it. After watching the series multiple times, I am absolutely certain that some scenes were cut from the series -- it's actually quite funny, but I seem to have a knack for identifying these types of things with series that I've watched multiple times. There is one scene in particular where I could tell a scene was cut because of the dialogue that goes on between 2 of the characters -- in the scene, Kenix's character and Hong Chiu Fung's character bump into each other after a long separation and sit down at an outdoor cafe to reminisce about the past. Without going into too much detail, basically there is one part of their dialogue where Hong is recounting how the 2 of them met and tells Kenix that if she hadn't hidden the government seal that she had discovered when they were both being questioned by some triad groups with ties to the Japanese, he would have been dead (he's a high-ranking government official working for the Chinese military). When he said this, I was scratching my head because I surely did not recall that situation happening in the series at all. The first time watching it, I thought that perhaps I had missed the scene somehow (though highly unlikely) but after the 2nd and 3rd times, I was pretty confident that what he described did not happen -- or at least it wasn't in the series. I even went so far as to 'slow-motion' through the episode where they met just to see if perhaps I missed something and when I did, I found that those particular scenes were sort of choppy and didn't really flow as nicely -- which indicates to me that something was cut.
Overall, this series was great and I highly recommend it. I'm not sure how it did in the ratings back when it aired, but I'm guessing it probably did average because the series doesn't look like a tremendously big-budget production....plus I wouldn't exactly call the cast all-star either. Julian was pretty popular back then, but Kenix was a newbie -- my understanding is that "Remembrance" was only Kenix's 2nd series since joining the acting department after coming out of the Miss HK pageant (which is pretty amazing given her great performance in the series with very little training). And since I was actively following HK entertainment back then, I would have heard about the series if it were truly a grand production. This proves once again that just because a series is not a grand production or doesn't have an all-star cast does not mean that it can't be a quality production -- with the right combination of good script and great acting, it can still become a great, quality series.