A VCD marathon over the weekend has led me to renewed tender feelings towards My Date With A Vampire.
For those unfamiliar with the 1998 ATV television series, my one-line summary would be; think of a lower-budget Asian version of Buffy.
MDWAV goes the extra mile by throwing in figures of lore that most Chinese kids growing up had to be acquainted with; it’s really hard for me not squeal when you see a present day Madam White Snake opening a Waiting Bar for Xu Xian and still running from the ever-pesky Fahai with her loyal sister, Green Snake in tow. Add new weaponry, familiar Chinese imps, ghouls and modernised Taoist ghost-busting weapons galore; it’s a dorky, bizarre mix of these characters into one big wonderful gooey mess, spilled across your screen.
As always, the bit of any show that gets me truly addicted; the One True Pairing.
Meet my One True Pairing (henceforth known as OTP) in My Date With A Vampire; Fong Tin Yau, a police officer and Ma Siu Ling,the owner of a cleaning company.
They were the couple whom I knew were meant to be together since their first on-screen interaction. At every hint of a romantic inclination I found myself ridiculously concerned, poring over the endless possibilities.
I watched them endure pain, angst, a love rectangle involving a best friend and an arch-enemy and other equally insurmountable obstacles towards their being together till I wanted to scream, weep and basically started threatening to fly to Hong Kong to beat up the director, screenwriter, anyone, someone who was responsible for this madness…
A little introduction to our star-crossed lovers.
Fong Tin Yau, the last undead Boy Scout who is a powerful but under-nourished first generation vampire. A former guerilla fighter against the Japanese who masquerades as a regular cop in modern day Hong Kong. He refuses to consume live human blood due to his self-imposed strict morals and principles. So instead of being Lestat, he becomes a Clark Kent like officer of the law, the contemporary knight in shinning armour who simply must charge to the rescue for every drowning puppy or damsel in distress around the corner.
Overtly Emotional Vampire really just wants to be left alone to wallow in misery over the loss of his first love from old age and his own cursed immortality. Reluctantly coaxed out of his shell after moving next door to Siu Ling, he gets thrust, time and time again into her business. Eventually giving in to her (and literally half the building’s tenants) match-making machinations, he ends up dating Siu Ling’s best friend, a fellow tenant in the building; sweet school teacher, Zhen Zhen.
Ma Siu Ling on her part, looks on all fronts to be an enterprising small business owner of a cleaning company. Her modest outfit however is not quite of the normal sanitary variety; the “cleaning” involves the dispensing of malicious, lingering spirits. (The twist in the double meaning of her operating a cleaning company is a little rib into her work in dispensing “unclean” spirits for a living. Siu Ling also has an amazing ability to turn up in mini-skirts in whatever the situation or weather; neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor hordes of vampires thirsting after her tasty self will convince the strong-minded fashionista on a style change.)
For a fee, she arrives, make-up box and slayer baton in hand to clear up your problems with the afterlife. She takes a check, cash or even a wire transfer, but a discount is not in order for the money-conscious lady. But if you inform her of a possible vampire hovering around, the feisty gal will come around immediately to do the job for free.
Because Siu Ling is more than your average everyday ghost buster; she is also the 40th head of the Ma family, a clan renowned for their female monster hunters. Equally notorious are the two creeds passed on to every generations; the first being that each Ma’s heaven-sworn duty is to work towards eradicating monsters, specifically vampires. Second, unexplained but most prickly; no female of the family is to ever shed a single tear for a man or risk losing all her powers. Given that the males have no such orders, I’ve struggled with this; Mr Scriptwriter, are you saying that women generally cry more often but are yet tougher than men? Siu Ling’s toughness plus vulnerability has been played up in the series due to this, so I’ve veered between sympathy and also little side-eyes to accepting it as a Plot Device To Generate More Tension.
This key point is also something that the astral form of her great-grand aunt is always quick to drum into her disgruntled niece whenever she pops up for a visit in her dreams. Deceased Great-Grand Aunt is also quick in handing out guidance and gossip to a grumpy Siu Ling who resigns herself to her solitary single existence and expends her energy on drumming up more business to finance her shopping sprees.
Clearly, my OTP have issues.
As with the laws of attraction, our couple have sparks flying from their first meeting in Japan. She is there on request from a local corporation, in pursuit of a particularly vicious ghost. He is there on police business, following up on a suspicious death. When their investigations are curtailed together, and they are forced into an uneasy alliance. They shake hands and barely acknowledge each other. But they are merely antagonistic, but no, not, never attracted.
But Fate will deny us nothing.
After a series of Fortunate-For-Said-Viewer incidents, they end up becoming neighbors. Somehow, whether they like it or not, they seem to be constantly running into each other.
But when Siu Ling discovers what Tin Yau really is; they have to work through the entire I-will-kill-you-if-I-see-you by-law mandate on Siu Ling’s end while Tin Yau has his soul-crushing I-really-hate-being-immortal-and-want-to-die-but-as- something-always-crops-up-such-that-I-can’t-right-now can of worms.
Over and above, my favorite thing about them?
Not through their many adventures, where they come to learn more of each other than they would expect.
He sees beyond the prickly, cold materialistic facade is a girl with a heart of gold who cares too much. She sees that behind the stoic, dispassionate front is a emotional, sincere man who always tries to do the right thing.
They both care too much, but pretend not to.
And they are not attracted.
No, not even in the slightest.
Even when confronted of her hidden desires via a special wine;
Or when he is seduced in a challenge that promises to make all his dreams come true;
Not even when her subconscious hidden desire is actually this:
When his dream come true is actually this:
(I rejoice in these small victories of the subconscious, but both parties remain steadfast against their wants and longing and I am always disappointed.)
Denial is strong in the both of them.
They are just good friends who end up choosing to hang out with each other before going to endanger their lives to change Destiny and possibly save the world. They share karaoke, laughter, conversation and exchange meaningful genuine smiles when they think no one else is watching.
They are NOT in love.
In the course of attempting to change history, Tin Yau gives up his chance to lead a normal human life to save her from being dragged into unknown space and time. Even as Siu Ling begs him to release her, he declares as he ties her securely to himself, he will not let her go. Later in the midst of a heated quarrel, she berates him again on his choice, he declares, I would do the same, even if it happened again. She stops, short. She has no answer for him.
Following a vicious confrontation with Yamamoto that takes the life of his girlfriend, Zhen Zhen, Tin Yau is forced to change her to keep her alive. He tastes live human blood for the first time and loses his senses. Unable to curb his blood lust and hankering for more, he lunges for Siu Ling, intent on taking his next drink.
She pulls out her weapon but finds herself unable to strike him.
Even at Siu Ling’s pupil urging, she can’t bear to subdue him even while he threatens her. They stare at each other in a hand hold lock where she begs him to kill her rather than to turn her too and commit more wrong. After holding out all of her life, she loses control and sheds tears for the first time after seeing him go mad.
The tears shock him to his senses. The very same tears which had saved him from the seduction challenge in the cave brings him back as he struggles, fights to regain control. Because he knows the meaning, the cost of those tears, twenty years in the coming. Eventually, he succeeds but recedes into a coma, overwhelmed.
It’s Not Love… Or is it?
A year in the coming, Siu Ling has relinquish her life on the frontline and allowed her pupil to step up. She manages day-to-day adminstration at her office and it seems for all the world that she is finally able to become a “normal” girl.
Then Tin Yau awakes. And everyone awaits with bated breathe for his decision.
He chooses… But before the choice. A phone call. I’m still not sure who called who first, but in a voice over, she tells him quietly before he can say another word, “Choose her instead. Be good to her.” My heart breaks a little as I watch her, in turn congratulate her best friend, a genuine smile and best wishes on the impending nuptials and then retreat to her office to break down, crying as silently as she can.
Is this truly the end of my OTP?.
Even as Tin Yau and Zhen Zhen begin the walk down the aisle with Siu Ling behind her as a bridesmaid, I want to yell, this is wrong! Never, ever was I so glad to see their nemesis, the deranged former Japanese Lieutenant vampire Yamamoto revived and returned in time to create havoc at the church. This is unassailable proof in dramas that one does not mess with the Provincial Will Of The OTP.
Leading up to their final confrontation with Yamamoto & his red-leather fetish henchman, Tin Yau gets stabbed by the possessed ex-girlfriend and Siu Ling warns him, she will leave him behind if he slows her down. He understands. Something unspoken passes between the two in this seemingly acrid exchange; it’s almost like a love confession; I don’t want to see you die before me.
(Throughout their non-relationship, I really enjoyed her feisty proclamations of, I will kill you if you act out of line and his return testament, I will be ready and willing. They just sounded to me like love admissions to each other. I’m sick that way.)
After the final battle, he rushes to her fallen side and picks her up amongst the rubble, cradling her in his arms where they first muse over the possibility of reincarnation for their dead friends and themselves.
Thus starts the beginning of the end, the most romantic and honest exchange between the duo in the series and justification for shippers like myself, who hung on as long as they did;
Siu Ling: I never thought that I would be watching the moonlight in the embrace of a vampire. If great-grandaunt knew about this… She would be so mad. Do you remember that I said that the day I die, I would bring you with me?
Tin Yau: Yes, I remember.
Siu Ling: Forget those words. I don’t think I have the energy to do so.
Tin Yau: Don’t close your eyes. Don’t close your eyes! *shaking her awake* Don’t close your eyes!
Siu Ling: If I die in front of you. Would you turn me into a vampire?
Tin Yau: No, I won’t.
Tin Yau: Because I love you. I won’t turn the person that I love into a vampire. To become me… Someone who’s not human, but not a ghost either. Reduced to sucking blood to live… But I don’t want you to die. Tell me…Tell me what I should do.
Siu Ling: In Our next life…We’ll definitely meet again. Definitely.
Tin Yau: We definitely will…
The End For Now.
Until I find the time to do another marathon viewing and review of MDWAV II…