Warning: this review contains minor spoilers from the first episode.

The King’s Avatar was originally written as an online Chinese web novel. Due to its immense success and popularity, it was later adapted into a manga and then an anime that spanned for two seasons at the time of this writing. A few months ago, it was also adapted into a live-action TV series, starring Love O2O’s Yang Yang as the main character.

The King’s Avatar tells the story of Ye Xiu, professionally known as “Battle God” Ye Qiu. He is the captain of the fictional professional e-sports team, Excellent Era, and is known in the professional e-sports world for his encyclopedic knowledge of the game, Glory, and for his first-class technical skills. Using these advantages,Ye Xiu led his team to win three championships which placed Excellent Era on the top of the pyramid. Ten years since the establishment of the league championships and Excellent Era‘s first championship win, the team is now on a losing streak and has become one of the lowest-ranked teams in the league. The upper management blames Ye Xiu and thinks that he has gotten too old, replacing him with the young and rising superstar, Sun Xiang. The executives offer Ye Xiu a position as the team’s coach, but Ye Xiu declines, declaring that he will retire instead. It is later revealed that even though he’s one of the best, as well as most popular player in the league – the real reason for Ye Xiu’s replacement was because he rejects all public appearances. Therefore, the company is unable to make full use of Ye Xiu‘s popularity. On the other hand, Sun Xiang is a super rookie that the media is paying close attention to.

Contrary to the opening scene of the web novel, manga, and anime, the drama does not start off with Ye Xiu being called to the boss’ office to be replaced by Sun Xiang. Instead, the drama starts off with a professional match between Excellent Era and Tiny Herb, one of the top professional teams in the league. This change brought about many good points that the original and previous adaptations did not. Since the drama was about gaming, it gave the viewers a taste of what the gaming scenes would look like, and the viewers got to know what to expect from those kinds of scenes.

This also poses a risk, since the gaming scenes are an integral part of the story. If they fail to meet the viewers’ expectation, this change would have ruined the whole drama in only the first few minutes. It can be said that it was an action made with full confidence by the director, and they have every reason to be confident because those scenes were truly spectacular. The computer graphics, the cinematography, the colors, the players’ avatars, and even how the drama was able to capture the atmosphere of a professional match, with the loud cheers, the focused gaze of the players on the computer screens, the grand theatrics of the event, and the suspense of the match. Everything was almost perfect. There was only one flaw.

The drama spent the first half of the pilot developing Ye Xiu’s character, and the match between Excellent Era and Tiny Herb was a part of this strategy. In the match, due to Ye Xiu’s detailed plans and timely directions, their team held a slight advantage over the opposing team. Excellent Era forced Tiny Herb to retreat, and gave chase to ensure their win. At one point, Tiny Herb set up a trap and one of Excellent Era’s players, eager to get the spotlight, disobeyed Ye Xiu’s orders and walked into the trap which later put the team at a major disadvantage. However, Ye Xiu did not give up. Through excellent teamwork with his best friend, Su Mucheng, the pair was able to eliminate one of the opposing teams’ players and reduce their disadvantage. Then, in one suspenseful showdown, Ye Xiu was able to eliminate another player at the last minute and Excellent Era won the match.

This short scene showcased three important points in the background of this story. The first point is Ye Xiu’s teammate disobeying his order. This was one of the major reasons why Excellent Era, who used to be one of the premier teams in the league, fell to the lowest ranks. The players, save for Su Mucheng, did not respect Ye Xiu as their captain which made their teamwork suffer. The second is Ye Xiu and Su Mucheng’s teamwork, which was praised as being the best in the league. Despite being at a disadvantage, their teamwork turned the tables. The last point is Ye Xiu’s individual skill as a player. It was due to Ye Xiu‘s impeccable skills, alone, that Excellent Era was able to win the match.

However, it is also in this last point that the flaw can be found. Because the team was able to win through Ye Xiu’s individual skill rather than by the team’s effort, the viewers will wonder; with such a god-like player who can turn the tides even when they’re losing, why would the team fall to the bottom of the ranks? Although Ye Xiu was an incredible player, he could not beat a professional team alone. While Ye Xiu had an epic showdown and defeated his opponent, his team should have lost to show that, despite Ye Xiu being the best player, he still cannot win alone.

The aforementioned short scene actually also had a hidden fourth important point: fanservice. In the web novel and its two adaptations, Ye Xiu’s original avatar, One Autumn Leaf, was immediately given to Sun Xiang at the start of the story. Therefore, the viewers never see what One Autumn Leaf looks like except in flashbacks much later in the story. However, the drama immediately gives the viewers, and the fans, a look at One Autumn Leaf right from the start. Therefore, it can be seen how much planning and thought was given to each scene in this drama.

After spending some time developing a good foundation for Ye Xiu‘s character, the drama’s plot begins to follow the original web novel’s plot progression, with some minor differences like the insertion of flashbacks here and there. This served to build up the hype on Ye Xiu‘s history. There were also some minor differences between the drama’s and the web novel’s pacing. Like grinding in games, the web novel progressed the plot little by little which made the story stable but, at other times, boring. On the other hand, the drama skips the repetitive grinding and progresses the plot much faster. This hooks the viewers because the boring aspects are already eliminated. It can also lead to confusion as it sometimes skips some details and leaves the viewers wondering what has happened in between. Nevertheless, the drama strives to give as much important information as it can so the viewers can still deduce the in-betweens. The drama is also not free of “useless” scenes. There are many scenes where, even if you remove them, it will not affect the story at all. However, I believe these were all intentional to build the other characters.

The drama does not make it only about Ye Xiu, but also about the people who support him. This can be seen from how the drama slightly changes Ye Xiu‘s character, compared to the web novel. One of the most noticeable difference is that in the web novel, Ye Xiu always smokes and is not comfortable when he isn’t smoking, but in the drama, he never holds a cigarette. Ye Xiu is also aloof and sarcastic in the web novel, but bright and jokes around in the drama. This gave him a more approachable image to the viewers, contrary to the web novel where the readers are in awe and admire Ye Xiu.

When I heard that Love O2O‘s Yang Yang was playing Ye Xiu, I was worried about the series since I did not like Yang Yang‘s acting in Love O2O. However, Yang Yang‘s portrayal of his character in Love O2O was very close to Ye Xiu‘s original personality in the original web novel, so I thought it would be okay for him. The actor surprised me in how he gave Ye Xiu a completely new interpretation which was not, in any way, inferior to the character in the web novel.

In summary, The King’s Avatar drama has successfully lived up to the name of its predecessors and was even able to exceed expectations. I have only watched two Chinese dramas in my life: Love O2O and A Love So Beautiful; and while I loved the start of both series, I lost my interest as the episodes grew in number. However, in The King’s Avatar, the interest was kept fresh in each episode and the viewers can look forward to the next one. I think this is a series that will beloved by both viewers, who know nothing about The King’s Avatar, as well as the fans who have followed every adaptation of the story closely.

Plot: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
OST: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Cinematography: 10/10