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Series / The Advisors Alliance

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The Advisor's Alliance (Original title "大軍師司馬懿之軍師聯盟", or The Great Military Strategist Sima Yi: The Military Strategists' Alliance) is a Chinese television series made in 2017 focusing on the life of Wei Statesman Sima Yi during the Three Kingdoms era of China.

The series is divided into two parts, with part one focusing on his early career under the warlord Cao Cao and his role in assisting Cao Pi in the power struggle with his brother, Cao Zhi, to succeed Cao Cao.

The second part begins somewhere in the middle or towards end of Cao Pi's reign, and focuses on his contributions to the state of Wei following the total dissolution of the Han dynasty. In this part he takes a more active role in Wei by commanding the armies against rival states Wu and Shu, eventually taking on the role of regent under the third Wei emperor.


Part one and part two of the series can be found entirely on YouTube, though the quality of the official English subs leave much to be desired and part two only has subtitles up to the fifteenth episode.

The Advisor's Alliance contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Despite being a mother of two and living in society where women are heavily oppressed, Zhang Chunhua is not above openly taunting a well respected general in front of his men and kicking an arrow back to him.
    • Xiao Yuan, while Lady Bai's personal maid, is also trained in martial arts from the Investigation Bureau and is not afraid to jump into action at the slightest provocation.
  • Ambadassador: Sima Yi serves as one to convince Sun Quan in lending aid to defeat Guan Yu and reclaim the territories of Jing.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Greatly expands on the life and role of Sima Yi and his family.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Sima Yi is significantly more devoted to his wife than in actual history, going so far as willingly disobeying a royal edict and losing his position because of his love for his wife. Historically Sima Yi favored Lady Bai over Zhang Chunhua in later years, which drove the latter into a hunger strike. Sima Yi only apologized to his wife because his sons joined their mother and he didn't want his boys to suffer.
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    • Guo Zhao's character was based on Guo Nüwang, who became the first empress of Wei after heavily undermining Zhen Ji's position as Cao Pi's favorite wife. Lady Guo in the series shares a cooperative, sisterly bond with Lady Zhen.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The two daughters of Liu Xie, particularly the elder one, scheme heavily to become the favorites in Cao Pi's harem.
    • While Cao Hong was historically very stingy with his personal wealth, the series turns his greed Up to Eleven
  • Animal Motifs: Sima Yi is often compared to a wolf due to his extreme patience before making a move.
    • Often lampshaded by Sima Yi himself in his early career, the turtle due to its reluctance with being outside of its shell for too long. Later on in his career, he grew out of his shell so to speak.
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • As a test of loyalty and ways to keep tabs on him, Cao Pi gives Sima Yi Lady Bai. Zhang Chunhua is not amused.
    • Sima Shi and Xiahou Hui are married as a means to ease tension between the two families.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In-Universe. Surprisingly only a handful of characters really fall under this trope, with the large majority remaining faithful to their historical counterparts.
  • Artistic License – History: Numerous considering the series is a historical drama first and foremost
    • Lady Guo is portrayed as a member of the Sima household as Zhang Chunhua’s handmaid, while historically she was attached to the household of one Marquis of Tongdi
    • Cao Pi oversees the Investigation Bureau during Cao Cao’s Guan Du campaign. Historically, he should be around 12 or 13 at the time
    • Sima Shi’s Big Damn Heroes moment to his father and Cao Zhi seem improbable since he should be around 11 or 12 at the time
    • Sima Fang’s death historically occurred in 219, before Cao Pi’s reign.
    • Cao Pi’s ascension from the King of Wei to Emperor of the Wei dynasty seems to happen in a matter of weeks when Emperor Xian’s abdication occurred almost a year after
    • Chen Qun’s Nine Rank System was historically of his own design, with no involvement from Sima Yi
    • Zhong Hui and Deng Ai are portrayed as contemporaries when the former wouldn’t be born for up to another five years
  • As You Know: In one episode, Sima Yi explains the meaning of a ballad to Cao Cao, which is redundant as while Cao may not have known the lyrics beforehand, given his literary accomplishments, he would have been able to grasp the meaning of the song by himself. note 
  • Automatic Crossbows: The archers of Shu come equipped with them during Zhuge Liang's first Northern Expedition to devastating effectiveness. Historically the crossbows were actually pretty weak in long ranges due to a lack of penetrating power.
  • Batman Gambit: Zhuge Liang's Empty Fort strategy managed to scare away Sima Yi's army of around 50,000 men. Zhuge Liang even pointed out how bad a plan it was after Sima Yi retreated as it only works if the deceived general is one who overthinks.
  • Battle of Wits: Effectively the entire story for most of the series, with Sima Yi's opponent changing as the years and conflicts go on.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Zhen Ji is the Betty Guo Zhao's Veronica for Cao Pi
    • Zhang Chunhua is the Veronica to Lady Bai's Betty
  • Badass Grandpa: Even in his advanced age, Xiahou Dun commands the respect and fear of his and the Cao family.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as Sima Yi and Cao Zhi were about to be executed, Xiahou Dun and Sima Shi arrive to the execution site with an imperial edict to stop the trial.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The bid for becoming Cao Cao's heir nearly split Wei in two, even with Cao Cao officially declaring Cao Pi as his rightful heir.
    • To make matters worse, Cao Zhang effectively imposed martial law on the capital to force his brother Cao Zhi to become the King of Wei despite the latter refusing because Cao Pi was the designated heir.
    • Under Cao Pi's reign, his cousins and uncles all try to strengthen and protect their personal power with numerous courtiers privately lampshading the possibility of another war of Eighteen Kingdoms.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Averted with Lady Bai, who has no interest in competing with Zhang Chunhua as Sima Yi's favorite. Played Straight with Elder Princess Liu, who attempted to undermine Lady Zhen's position and is at odds with Lady Guo.
  • The Chessmaster: The series is littered with them, given the constant warring political factions that support Wei.
  • Color-Coded Armies: While most officers wear the same armor, the foot soldiers they leave wear different colored tunics to represent their state. Wei is black, Wu is green, and Shu is red.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Sima Yi at times might come across as a bumbling, goofy courtier, but underneath it all he's taking very close observations of his surroundings and planning out his next moves.
    • Deng Ai is often overlooked due to his meek nature and terrible stammer, but when he's relaxed he's a brilliant orator and agricultural genius.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Ziye dies in Deng Ai’s arms when she interrupted the latter’s execution by Cao Hong
  • Doomed by Canon: Played With. All the characters are fated to die at some point, but the dramatic nature of the show typically gives them a few extra years to live.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Yang Xiu accepts his execution for misinterpreting Cao Cao's message and accidentally violating military law by having a last drink with Sima Yi as a friend, not a long-time rival.
    • Similarly, Ding Yi willingly ties himself up and presents himself before the newly crowned Cao Pi. He loses his composure as soon as Cao Pi extends the punishment to his entire family.
  • Faking the Dead: Sima Yi pulls this off in order to move under Yang Xiu’s nose to get more information about the origins of the Clothes Edict
  • First-Name Basis: It was common practice for men to take "style" or "courtesy" names. For example, many characters would refer to Sima Yi as "Zhongda" or Cao Pi as "Zihuan"
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Zhang Chunhua doesn't take too kindly to Lady Bai becoming Sima Yi's second wife, even if it's by imperial decree.
  • Important Haircut: at the time, haircuts were considered going against filial piety.
    • Subveted with Zhou Fang, who cut his hair in order to deceive Cao Xiu into trusting him.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Averted to a degree. While there's still a dizzying amount of characters, this is a mere fraction compared to other Romance of the Three Kingdoms adaptations due to its emphasis on Sima Yi's life. Many characters and events are typically mentioned very briefly.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: After his ascension to the throne, Cao Pi arranges Lady Bai and Sima Yi to be married as a means to keep tabs on him.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Happens a lot in the series.
    • Xun You’s suicide was both a wake up call for Cao Cao and the perfect opportunity for Yang Xiu to plant a forged letter to discredit both Xun You and Cao Pi
    • Cui Yan’s willing execution bit the bullet for Cao Pi and spurred Sima Yi to find the real writer behind the letter.
    • Xiahou Dun dying of a stroke in Sima Yi’s household turns the animosity between the Sima and Xiahou-Cao clans Up to Eleven
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Due to seeing the face of Lady Zhen during a private banquet, Cao Pi's friends and powerbase for his bid to be the crown prince is exiled to remote positions in the country side.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Numerous characters have this dynamic
    • Cao Pi's suspicious and stricter red to Cao Zhi's easy-going and kinder blue
    • Zhang Chunhua's hot temper red to Lady Bai's refined blue
    • Yang Xiu's hands-on red to Sima Yi's heavily scheming blue
    • Cao Zhen's militaristic red to Sima Yi's political blue
  • Refusal of the Call: At first Sima Yi was uninterested with getting tangled in court politics like his father, going to far as to crippling his legs by running them over with a loaded wagon.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Cao Zhi is a poet and scholar while Cao Zhang a gruff, seasoned general. Cao Pi lays somewhere in the middle, though leans slightly towards Zhang's side due to being fairly temperamental.
  • Smart People Play Go: Guo Zhao's self studying in the imperial palace often involved practicing Go.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Lady Zhen and Cao Zhi fell in love almost immediately during the Guan Du campaign. However due to Cao Cao's Insane Troll Logic in deciding who would be his heir, Lady Zhen was sent to marry Cao Pi in order to test which of the brothers is fit the be the heir.
    • Cao Zhi felt no ill will towards his father's decision, however the fact his wife was actually in love with his rival for the throne and younger brother did not help Cao Pi's massive Inferiority Superiority Complex.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Most male characters grow some sort of facial hair following the time skip between episodes 19 and 20 of the first part.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: A lot of events and scenes are lifted from iconic moments from Sima Yi's biography and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, so it's expected viewers have an idea of what exactly is occurring.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Yang Xiu towards Sima Yi, who in the end lost due to the former's impatience with securing Cao Zhi's position as prince.

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