I have sooooo many things to talk about this drama, in fact I’m so overwhelmed with feelings to the extent that I don’t even know where I should start with. It’s just so unlike any other T-drama that I’ve seen before. This heart tugs at my heartstrings in more ways that you can ever imagine. To say that I really like this drama would be an understatement of the year, because love isn’t even good enough to cover it, I am absolutely smitten with this drama. One would argue that the premise is ridiculous. I mean, who would actually advertise a notice to seek potential suitors the old-fashioned way at this time and age? Note that the book was first published in 1989, and the movie adaptation of the book, The Personals was released in 1998. Technology was not as advanced back then as it is now, and society wasn’t as accepting of the idea of a female putting herself out there in the open by marriage-seeking through a newspaper advertisement (almost unheard of in fact). I read about how the idea for the drama came about in the first place. The original author of the book was actually the real life Lee Hai-ning (under another name, of course) as she was the one who actually placed a personal ad on the newspapers looking for potential marriage candidates (how gutsy of her O.O), because she was really curious to find out how other people view love and marriage at that time. Moving back to the present time, Mr. Right Wanted plays on this very same idea with a slight twist, with the advertisement to seek potential suitors to be placed through Facebook instead of it being done through the newspaper, it is set in the 21st century after all.
Lee Hai-ning is a successful thirty-something female editor for a publication magazine who doesn’t want to get married, neither does she crave for marriage. This is something new even to Sonia Sui, who has admitted in the BTS videos that most of the female characters that she’s portrayed actually really wants to get married deep down inside despite claims to the contrary. Hai-ning is afraid of marriage, she doesn’t believe in marriage because she feels like it’ll never last, and people will break up in the end so why risk it? She’s very rational, as evidenced in her determination to not let her personal relationship (her break-up with ex-boyfriend Cheng-hao) affect her work which is both a plus (now that’s true professionalism) and a minus, and I say it’s a minus because you know sometimes being in love requires you the suspend your brain for a little bit and just let your heart take over. The scriptwriter once described Hai-ning as 工作上的強者，情感上的白癡, which is true for a lot of 30-something females today who are fearlessly bold when it comes to work but are unable to see their blind spot when it comes to love.
What started out as a mere research project for Hai-ning’s new book evolved into something more than that as she slowly learns more about love and marriage along the way as we get to know about the various attitudes and perceptions towards love and marriage in today’s society through her dates with her potential suitors. We get to see Hai-ning reflect upon each and every one of her encounters through her inner monologues (as well as the letters she’s written to the various people that she’s met along the way) in the process of obtaining material for her book. The best part though, is how us viewers get to learn something new with each passing episode, which means that we are in effect, maturing and growing together with Hai-ning. After seeing Sonia as Hai-ning it seems to me that her previous role as Ji An-lei in The Pursuit of Happiness just pales so much more in comparison to the richness of character that is Hai-ning. Character-wise I feel like I can relate to Hai-ning the most. Hai-ning feels so real and convincing to me as a character because I actually see myself in her, especially her fear and lack of trust towards the institution of marriage that is widely prevalent in today’s society.
I absolutely love how she ends up being best friends with her first blind date, Yu-zhou (Universe) who completes the BFF-trio: Hai-ning, Tian-xin and Universe. You can always count on him to be completely honest and straight-forward. He only speaks the truth. The things that he says may not be what you want to hear but you know that it’s all for your own good. Zhang Shao-huai is freaking awesome as Universe (he’s a super loveable and adorable oddball) while Tian-xin is a breakthrough role of sorts for Yao Yao (my first reaction was ‘omg I didn’t know that she can actually act’) and I actually quite like how her materialistic side contrasts with Hai-ning’s attitude to love, in the sense that if Tian-xin was in Hai-ning’s position, things would’ve been decided differently. I really appreciate the dynamic interaction between them and how they’re not just friends but also family.
Oh and let’s not forget about Hai-ning’s amazing colleagues who are practically her extended family and her best support system. Even though it may seem that they have minor roles in this drama all of them are really engaging and interesting to watch, and they make you care about them. I love how they’ll get defensive over anyone who tries to hurt Hai-ning. One of the most memorable scenes for me is when they showed up at Hai-ning’s doorstep in their Superhero attire (right after they found out about her break-up) with the intention to help her with the cleaning up of the mess from the renovation work that she did (when she was still with her ex-boyfriend Cheng-hao) , but I think the scene is significant because of the unspoken message which is “we’ll always be here for you no matter what, we’ve got your back girl”. I totally dig their rapport together, and you can clearly see that they truly regard each other as family. The casting for Hai-ning’s colleagues is so on point. In fact, they’re so convincing to the extent that you’d never for a second doubt that they’d fit right in even if you were to place them in an actual publishing office. Another notable mention is also the director’s conscious decision to cast new faces – the girl who’s acting as socially awkward Bei Bei is a newbie, and the amazing actress who plays cheerful ahjumma Ah-Feng is originally a musical actress – which is always a plus in my book.
I also find it impressive how the director sought to bring his vision to life by using an unconventional method of filming that is relatively unheard of in the production of T-dramas by filming each episode with the scale of production that is comparable to filming 20 movies (as we have 20 main male characters – one for each episode), the stand-alone episodic format, …the list goes on and on. You can feel that there’s so much effort put into perfecting every single detail, and this is reflected in the wardrobe (trivia: Universe all-in-one-tone wardrobe was meant to reflect his feelings), the various mannerism that is unique to each character, the little titbits the drama production team has left for loyal viewers of the show – for example, they’d release a letter that Hai-ning has written for her date(s) on Facebook and their official app after each episode, which in my opinion just enhances the whole drama-watching experience because you really get this feeling that the guys that she’s met are people that actual exist in real life who might very well be anyone around us and not just mere caricatures. You feel like the lives of characters still goes on offscreen. This show has done such a good job of bringing us into Hai-ning’s the world and allowing us to view things differently through Hai-ning’s eyes that I sometimes forget that I’m just watching a show.
I know that the title says Mr. Right Wanted but honestly, I am soooooo glad that the show is not just about a girl finding her Mr. Right. In fact, I think this show focused more on her personal growth and development as opposed to just finding her Mr Right. The main point was about how her perspectives on love and marriage has changed and evolved through time, how she’s matured as a person and whether she’s found the answer to the question that she’s asked herself at the very beginning of the episode “What is it about marriage that makes it so attractive to others?”. I love how this show doesn’t try to be all like “oh because finding Mr. Right is the only way for her to find true happiness”. (*COUGH*THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.) I was a little disappointed at TPOH because I feel like the huge takeaway from the show for me was ‘so you’re saying that the only way for her to gain true happiness is to be married’ as if females should be shunned if they are not happily married after a certain age. In Mr. Right Wanted, Hai-ning shows us that it is okay to be thirty-something and not want to get married. The show could’ve taken the easy way out by delivering the usual ‘so they got married and had their happily ever after’ (as if being married automatically solves everything), but they didn’t.
Instead, what we got was that Hai-ning has finally mustered enough courage to try her hand at love again.
We know that she ends up getting into a relationship with cute delivery guy Zhong-wen, but they didn’t go so far as to show us whether they did end up together as husband and wife…which, YAY. Yes, even if she ends up together with him there’s no denying that they might eventually break up due to various factors like their age difference, the vast gap between their financial capabilities etc, it doesn’t really matter to me at this point of time because so what if their relationship didn’t last? The whole point of the show wasn’t to get her married to someone in order to find her happiness, but simply her daring to love again (her answer to the question she’s asked herself in the first episode is “courage”). It’s not about who she ends up getting married to, it’s about how she got there. So I have no qualms whatsoever with her choosing to date Zhong-wen but not ending up getting married to him.
End of spoilers
When I first watched this drama I thought that even if she ends up with no one I would be completely fine as long as the drama made sure to focus on her self-discovery and personal growth, and the show delivered!
I love how the writers made a nod to the typical tropes seen in 总裁小说 (CEO-themed romance novels) – I think the female scriptwriters are trying to live out their fantasies on-screen. :p Both Zhong-wen and Lun Zhe-ming are pretty much complete opposites but they both represent the two ideals: a guy with financial stability that treats you like a princess whereas the other guy hasn’t really got anything against the former guy but you’d be sure that he’ll love you wholeheartedly. Zhe-ming is like fine wine that only gets even better with time. Zhong-wen on the other hand…represents another ideal. Zhong-wen is not as suave and financially strong as the former and is far from perfect, not without flaws but I prefer his somewhat brash confession because it felt way more raw and genuine, all he’s got is his heart and sincerity. When Hai-ning asked Zhong-wen what she is to him, he responds her with this:
妳對我來說 是不管你發生什麼事 我都希望陪在你身邊的人。
(To me, you’re a person that I’d always want to stay beside no matter what happens.)
This is his way of saying that he’ll always accompany her and stay by her side no matter what happens, be it good or bad. This one sentence truly encompasses what every girl truly wants. What this sentence means to a girl is this — regardless of whether I am a successful career woman or just a plain ordinary woman without any special achievements or accomplishments, I can seek comfort in knowing that you will be there for me in good times and bad times all the same, and that you are willing to look past my imperfections and accept me for who I am. I mean, how many girls can say no to that? (Resistance is futile.)
When Zhong-wen got into a fight with Lun Zhe-ming the latter told him that he’s willing to be more accepting towards Hai-ning’s insistence to keep her career (he said it rather begrudgingly in a way that makes me feel that he’s thinks that he’s doing her a huge favour by granting his permission for her to pursue her career)…and once again Zhong-wen delivers yet another awesome line:
可以接受，為什麼是可以接受？ 她本來就擁有自由 誰都沒有權利干涉她。
(What do you mean by your statement that you’re willing to accept her decision to keep her career? She’s always been entitled to exercise her right to freedom to do whatever she likes. No one, not even you, can interfere with that.)
That moment, it dawned on me why Zhong-wen was the right person for her. It was because he never tried to control or change her, not even once. Instead, he gave her the freedom to be herself around him. He saw Hai-ning for who she truly was and accepted her all the same, unlike Lun Zhe-ming who claims that all that he’s done is for Hai-ning’s benefit but the truth is he’s just plain selfish by imposing his standards on her (he told her to quit her job after marriage like UGH that’s just a huge no no when it’s obvious that Hai-ning treasures her job so much because it gives her a sense of purpose as an editor). He thinks that what Hai-ning needs is to be protected in a fancy castle but really, girl doesn’t need a castle, all she needs is someone to support her and give her enough space to allow her talent to truly shine. Come on, not every girl is a damsel in distress waiting to be saved by her shining knight-in-armor or Prince Charming y’know, our Hai-ning is more than capable of doing her own saving thankyouverymuch. Zhong-wen knows how much Hai-ning values her job, understands her passion and prompts her to be the best version of herself. He doesn’t sugarcoat things – he calls Hai-ning out for tricking others into divulging their personal stories to her under the guise of an ordinary female looking for potential suitor for marriage when in fact she was in fact researching (and getting material) for her new book. He knows her inside out, sometimes even more than she knows herself. Look, Zhong-wen may not be as rich as CEO Zhe-ming but he’s got something even more important than that, that is heart and willingness to understand her, which is what matters the most for Hai-ning. No doubt Lun Zhe-ming is extremely charming but character-wise he’s just too unrealistic.
End of Spoilers
If Lun Zhe-ming was to be played by another person wouldn’t have bothered watching but because it was Christopher Lee working his magic and bedazzling us, I actually quite enjoyed the super-charismatic performance from him. As for Hans Zhong there wasn’t that many scenes of him so I can’t really say much about his acting but he was pretty decent. As for the music selection I think I did mention in my First impressions post about how I really enjoyed the nostalgic vibe I that get from the some of the songs featured in the background (oldies but goodies!), and I just love how they fit the relevant scenes like a glove.
Now let me make this clear for you. Mr Right Wanted is not a perfect drama. It never set out to be one. Yes, it is highly unlikely that a dashing Prince Charming as charismatic as Lun Zhe-ming (I feel as if he just came straight out from a 总裁小说 lol) would actually exist in real life, nor is it that possible to meet a delivery guy as gorgeous as Hans Zhong who just so happens to have a massive crush on you (assuming that you’re Hai-ning HA). But hey, a girl can dream can’t she? Certain parts are dreamy in a ‘too good to be true’ way but even so I’d say that the drama is still realistic and very relatable for most parts. This is well-produced drama, with lotssssss of heart in it. What I like the most about this drama is that every single character counts. I know that from the cast list people would think ‘oh so Christopher Lee, Jerry Huang, and Hans Zhong are the three main guy characters’ but no, they couldn’t be further from the truth. The answer is – there is no one main guy lead. Believe it or not, all of the potential suitors that Hai-ning encounters are effectively, male leads as each of them have an entire episode devoted to them respectively. Although it’s true that some potential suitors have made a recurring reappearance in the drama it doesn’t mean that the ones that hadn’t are less important. 徵婚啟事 is not just about Hai-ning, it is about their stories. It is theirs as much as it is hers.
Final verdict: Watch it if you’re looking for a refreshing take on the dating scene.
(Images are taken from Mr. Right Wanted’s Official FB Page, Audio and Video belong to respective owners.)