In Korean, it’s 위장자. In original Chinese, it’s 伪装者 (Weizhuangzhe). I consider this to be one of better ones out there.
Unless you are heavily into Chinese drama, chances are that you’ve never heard of this series, especially if you are from the Western world (America/Europe).
Oh, and, if you are Japanese, you would not be aware of this, either, since this drama focuses heavily on a period where Japan occupied China. Basically, this drama makes Japanese look like a bunch of headless chickens.
This drama was officially translated into Korean and was aired in prime drama hours. This would not happen in Japan. This wouldn’t even be aired there.
As mentioned, the background of drama is set in a period where Japan has occupied most of China. As this drama begins, Japan’s hold on China is strong but it is starting to wane.
The story begins with an assassination of a prominent Japanese figure by Ming Cheong who is Ming Lou’s driver / bodyguard. Ming Lou is the oldest male in the Ming family but the family head is his elder sister.
The Ming is a powerful house, and Ming Lou is a powerful political figure within Japan-occupied China. At the same time, He is also one of the most powerful figures within the anti-Japan resistance force.
Basically, Ming Lou is a double agent. And his younger brother, Ming Cheong, is also apart of it. But the family head, Ming Lou’s sister is oblivious about the truth. While she does not favor Japanese, she does not object them openly, either. She does support the anti-Japan resistance force but she is not a part of them. Supporting them financially in shadow is as far as she will go while her two younger brothers are doing whatever they can to disturb the Japanese.
But they are all supporting characters. The main character of this show is Ming Tai who is the youngest male in the Ming family.
Ming Tai is portrayed by Hu Ge, who is probably my most favorite Chinese actor. This guy can act. He also can speak fluent Japanese in this show.
He, at episode 1, is just a student and has no strong opinions about politics. He is a carefree guy who just wants to enjoy the life. But he is forcefully conscripted into the anti-Japan resistance force to become a secret agent.
Initially, he refuses sternly but is told that he will be killed if he doesn’t join since he has seen their faces. Very reluctantly, he joins.
That is where everything begins.
Throughout 41 episodes (45 minutes ish), you will see each characters acting on their own agenda. Everyone basically has their own ambitions and plans. Only Ming Lou and Ming Cheong share similar goals and ambitions. Everyone else is pretty much on their own.
This creates a rather chaotic but blissful web of events. And, although seem chaotic in the beginning, you may start to see a pattern among them.
Everything will be revealed in the last few episodes, and I won’t spoil it here. There are English translations available freely, and the drama itself is free to watch in 2021.
This drama appears to have two different versions. The one I watched has 41 episodes with 45 ~ 50 minutes each.
Then there is another version that has 48 episodes with 30 ~ 35 minutes each.
About Hu Ge (胡歌)
Like I said, he is my most favorite Chinese actor. He is a very good actor in my book. What he is really good at is, in my opinion, crying scenes.
And, especially in the Disguiser, he has done what I can only describe as a God-level acting of crying in episode 39 where he is told why everything had to happen.
It left a very powerful mark for me. I know it is an act but, oh boy, the guy can wail. I’ve never seen an actor cry like that. He was literally crying his eyes out.
It wasn’t really a sad / sorrow scene but I cried with him because he really sounded he was mentally breaking down.
Good old Chinese drama
Chinese dramas are pretty unique on their own.
For me, the most important factor is length. They are often 40+ episodes. Some go above 70 episodes. One has gone up to 90-something episodes.
With each episode being about 45 minutes of content, that is a lot.
The sheer length allow me to invest my emotions into its story and characters. That’s how I generally enjoy media. Let it be manga, anime or anything, I want it to be long so that I can imagine myself in that series.
Japan has given up on that part in the name of profit, and so has Korea. Everything is short so that they can move onto a next trend. In Japan, drama lasts 5 ~ 11 episodes. A laughable length, I’d say.
Sadly, China has started adopting the season thingy but majority of their dramas have considerably longer length.
Another issue Chinese drama studios has created recently is that they now cast perfect (doll-looking) actors and actresses. They just look too handsome or too pretty, making their shows a bit surreal to immerse myself into.