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Series / Ice Fantasy

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White Hair, Black Heart ... Or is it the other way around?

Ice Fantasy (幻城, Huàn Chéng, literally "City of Fantasy") is an epic 62-episode Wuxia Fantasy Drama made in 2016. It's available on Netflix in Europe and the US. It can also be watched on Viki with English subtitles.

Primarily, it's a tale of two brothers. The story consists of several arcs.

Ka Suo, the prince of the elf-like and magical Ice Tribe (or Clan), despite being one of the best warriors of his people, is also a day-dreamer who really only wants to be left in peace and free from his royal obligations. However, when their ancient enemies, the Fire Tribe, attacks the city of the Ice Tribe and destroys its main protection, the Ice Curtain, his old life is over. Accompanied by his Love Interest, the mortal Kingdom Guardian Li Luo, and his younger brother, Ying Kong Shi (called Shi), Ka Suo must leave his home for the first time and embark on a quest to the Mortal Kingdom to collect the six leaves of the Six Leaf Ice Crystal, the only means to restore his tribe's safety and ensure its survival, which in earlier times have been given to various other tribe leaders. While he's away, the Fire King takes over the throne of the Ice Tribe's City and unifies by force the Three Kingdoms; he also sends his daughter, Princess Yan Da, to stop Ka Suo from finding the Six Leaves and take them for herself by any means necessary.

The second arc concerns the efforts to crown a new king of the Ice Tribe, which brings about a deadly competition between brothers Ka Suo and Shi and their respective supporters; tragedy ensues and leads to the next arc, concerning a new and even larger quest: To find the Hidden Lotus, a powerful object that is the only means by which the consequences of the earlier brotherly conflict can be mended. The last arc, finally, concerns the aftermath of this quest and brings the story back around to its beginning.

Interestingly, the world of Ice Fantasy seems to be influenced largely by Western Fantasy staples such as The Lord of the Rings or even A Song of Ice and Fire instead of by Chinese literature, although Wuxia tropes such as the use of Wire Fu and the presence of Kung Fu Wizards fighting a Red Shirt Army certainly abound. There are mermaids, unicorns and all manner of monsters; there's true love to be found and lots of growing up to do (occasionally very speedily). The series is also notable for its generous use of CGI (the results of which are sometimes gorgeous, sometimes rather less so), sprawling sets, and a pretty, pretty cast. Even so, Mood Whiplash is a thing in this series, and it might not work for everyone.

The series was followed by Ice Fantasy Destiny set in 2020 with some of the actors returning to play the modern Reincarnations of their characters.

Contributions welcome.

Examples found in this series:

  • Cherry Blossom: There is a large and perpetually blooming cherry tree in Snow Blade City and its falling blossoms work as a symbol for both love (the romantic love between Ka Suo and Li Luo and the brotherly love between Ka Suo and Shi) and death (Shi's).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Xing Gui, little sister to the head dreamer Xing Jiu.
  • Cool Old Lady: Ka Suo's grandmother, who's a more formidable warrior than most immortals half her age.
  • Dark Action Girl: Yan Da. And she wields a whip to boot.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Yue Shen is a Toxin Healer, can manipulate poisons, and wears dark clothing, but she's not evil.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Not Ka Suo, who is kind and friendly (though slighty shy) from the beginning. But Shi is this, particularly in his Yun Fei persona. (He's also, at one point, literally the Ice King).
  • Elemental Eye Colours: A classic example - blue for the Ice Tribe, copper red for the Fire Tribe, and a sort of greenish amber for the Ice-Fire Tribe.
  • Emergency Transformation: For the first few episodes, Ying Kong Shi is the equivalent of about 14 years old and magically completely unskilled when he is captured by the mooks of the Fire Tribe and threatened to be tortured and perhaps even killed. Mysteriously, he then transforms into an adult who suddenly knows all sorts of spells (he's confused himself) and easily frees himself, and stays like that for the rest of the series.
  • Flower Motifs: Lotus.
    • The Hidden Lotus is the main MacGuffin in the first season.
    • In the second season, the Blood Red Lotus is even more powerful.
    • Lian Ji (Shi's mother)'s name also means Lotus.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Lan Shang and Li Luo swap bodies after being revived.
  • Hammerspace:
    • Similarly to Loki, Ka Suo has a magical one where he can store and later retrieve things such as weapons, secret items, and kites. Also presumably clothes.
    • Shi stores his Cool Sword in his.
  • Human Disguise: After Ka Suo and Shi have to leave their icy home in a hurry, they quickly realize that their unusual looks draw too much attention among the mortals. Consequently, both magically change their appearance to a more human one, with dark hair and brown eyes.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: Or maybe 30. Ka Suo and Shi and their respective mothers look vaguely the same age, to a somewhat creepy effect. It's slightly better with the Fire King and his children.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: If he's male and a main or recurring character, he'll be this.
  • Love Martyr: Yan Da. Shi (who has serious issues from the beginning) mocks and insults her, grows ever more unhinged and becomes a straight-up murderer - and she endures it all and stays by his side. This carries over well into season two, which is set tens of thousands of years later.
    • Ironically, Shi himself becomes one for Ka Suo. He goes to ridiculous lengths in order to help his brother achieve his dream of being free.
  • MacGuffin: The pieces of the Six Leaf Ice Crystal which in times past have been given to various immortal tribes for safekeeping. Capable of Super-Empowering and other feats even on their own, the pieces are sought after by both the Ice and Fire Tribes and are repeatedly the cause of conflict.
    • The Hidden Lotus. Probably the most powerful object in the Three Kingdoms and at the center of the show's longest arc.
  • The Mistress: Lian Ji, Shi's mother and originally of the Mermaid Tribe.
  • Mordor: The Fire Kingdom is a Lethal Lava Land and the Shadowland to the Ice Tribe's bright and shiny kingdom.
  • Motifs: The magical flute Shi and Ka Suo share (it consists of a flute made of ice and a leaf; if one of these is played, the person holding the other one will hear the melody, even if they're miles apart) symbolizes their love for each other.
  • The Nose Knows: Yue Shen has an unusually good sense of smell, and uses it to work out who poisoned her sister.
  • Playing with Fire: The members of the Fire Tribe have fire-based powers.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The so-called immortals can live for thousands of years. Ka Suo turns 130 in the first episode, which marks his coming-of-age, and looks to be in his late 20s at most.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Ke Tuo, Li Luo's superior who also raised her. He dies early on to give her a motive to carry on his legacy.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: Episode 5 has a Bathtub Scene where the Fire Princess Yan Da talks with an awkward Prince Shi as she bathes, at one point she rises out of the water in an attempt to shock and seduce him Prince Shi (the audience only sees her Shoulders-Up Nudity), but he keeps his eyes averted and just tells her to Please Put Some Clothes On, much to her annoyance.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Ka Suo has never left the Ice Kingdom before the start of the story and has very few ideas about how things in the mortal world work.
  • Shining City: Snow Blade City is a shiny example, given how it seems to be made entirely of ice.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Li Luo and Ka Suo are meant to be (throughout all of history, as the second season shows) and yet the universe gives its everything to keep them apart.
  • The Stoic: Ka Suo and Ying Kong Shi are this most of the time. They probably get it from their father.
    • Ying Kong Shi's soft voice - which he uses so perpetually it becomes creepy - is easily one of his most defining characteristics.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Shi uses his death to give his powers to Ka Suo.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Shi takes numerous ones after he unlocks his true potential, e. g. having power over both ice and fire. Add to that his BFS, and after about half the story he becomes the strongest immortal in all Three Kingdoms.
  • Tragic Ice Character: Averted with most of the Ice Tribe, but played straight by Ying Kong Shi. He's the illegitimate son of the Ice King. Almost everyone looks down on him except his half-brother Ka Suo, and Ka Suo becomes Shi's enemy when his mother forces him to fight for the throne. Eventually Shi decides to kill himself so he can transfer his powers to Ka Suo.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Lian Ji and Yuan Ji in the second-to-last arc.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: This is a power specific to the Fire Tribe.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Some members of Bear Tribe are vulnerable to the ringing noise created by a sort of flower. Shi exploits this in his fight with Hei Feng.
  • The Wise Prince: Ka Suo is well regarded by the court and the people. Even though he's a Martial Pacifist who secretly dreams of living a simple but free life instead of becoming king, he's just too kind to actually rebel against his fate.
  • World of Action Girls: Li Luo, Yue Shen, Chao Ya, Lian Ji - actually, most of the female characters are capable ass-kickers.