Where to begin with The Journey from Tonight is White (aka The Endless Love, 路从今夜白之遇见青春)? (Unfortunately, I don’t have enough interest to finish recapping it — sorry!) I have a lot of mixed feelings about this show. Some parts of it were so good and so unlike a cliché drama, yet some parts were just too much. Ultimately, I find that it reminded me a lot of A Smile is Beautiful in feel. It’s a blend of school, youth, and idol genres, but heavy on the idol. It’s a lot of pretty people living their sometimes imperfect lives, but ultimately doesn’t have as much of a real-world feel as a true school/youth drama like With You or Stand by Me.
The Journey from Tonight is White is mostly about our lead couple, an artist named Gu Ye Bai who has trauma-induced color-blindness, and the girl who helps him see color, Lu You Yan. Eventually, the story also expands to look at the lives of their friends, Ye Bai’s romantic rival Wei Zi Jian, his best friend Lin Zi Yan, You Yan’s best friend Su Shan, and an alumnus of their college and manager of an art gallery, Zhou Huai An. The show gives us a little bit of everything: relationship struggles and petty rivals, workplace drama, personal struggle, illness, and some real-world, transition-to-adulthood struggle.
This “a little bit of everything” approach is where the show lost its way. It tried to be too many things at once, and didn’t really succeed at being any of them. Sometimes our characters were trying to be real people and act in real, reasonable ways with regards to careers, relationships, and the transition to adult life. But then sometimes they were fully characters in an idol TV show complete with grand, unrealistic gestures like public piano performances, giant bouquets, and flower petals. I like my idol dramas, but partly because they are always so completely ridiculous. And I LOVE my slice-of-life youth dramas because they are so realistic and heart-warming. But I did not like this dance between the two genres because I feel like the ridiculousness of the idol parts undermined the more down-to-earth nature of the slice-of-life parts.
The Journey from Tonight is White‘s strength is in protagonist You Yan’s character. You Yan is perhaps one of the most reasonable and rational female protagonists I have seen in dramaland, which is so refreshing. She’s a Mary Sue-type character, as the drama mentions in a meta way at one point, but is also easy to root for.
I thought the drama also did a really good job with some of its character and relationship development. Ye Bai and You Yan’s relationship go through some craziness, but a lot of the struggles they went through were not super angsty or crazy. Instead they had to deal with pretty down-to-earth issues: father’s disapproval, illness, doubts about stability and trust. Shan Shan and Zi Yan, You Yan and Ye Bai’s best friends, also have a great relationship arc. Their romance is even more down-to-earth, perhaps because it’s not the primary relationship in the drama (up until the ending…)
But character and relationship development were also some of the show’s weakest points. I was really disappointed with how the show treated Xiao Cong, You Yan’s other good friend, who seemed to only appear on-screen as a plot device and had zero personality and zero role outside of her crush on Zi Jian and being manipulated by more antagonistic characters. I also didn’t really like the resolutions that Zi Jian and Huai An got. They felt rushed and too much like filler story because the show couldn’t find more story to fill out the remaining episodes of the show.
Gong Zhe Jing, a romantic rival who shows up a third of way through the show, is also another character I wish could’ve been written better. At first, I thought she was funny. She very much followed a lot of classic romantic rival drama tropes, but her character was so clearly childish that she didn’t seem like a real threat. However, I think the childish angle can only be played for so long. Zhe Jing didn’t seem to have any other dimension to her personality or purpose on the show other than to cause drama. And although she ended up making the other characters stronger in the end, I feel her plot arc was artificially extended and could’ve been much shorter.
I really appreciated how the drama avoided a lot of cliché drama tropes, keeping things angst-free and maintaining its light feel. For example, we’re introduced to You Yan’s illness from day one, which usually in drama-land means that this illness will show up sometime before the end of the show and possibly kill off the said ill character. But You Yan’s early illness is a bit of a red herring, because her illness itself never becomes a major plot point. If anything, it’s introduced in order to help show why You Yan is the person she is throughout the show. Her illness helps color her way of viewing life.
But for all I liked about The Journey from Tonight is White, it isn’t enough to weigh out the negatives. Though I felt individual characters were great, I never was able to get fully emotionally invested in any of the characters or relationships. My heart never fluttered and I never found myself really caring if You Yan and Ye Bai got together (although at one point I was definitely rooting for their break-up.) Most of the acting felt a bit stiff, especially Chen Ruo Xuan as Ye Bai, and the performances lacked emotional range. (Although this is my first time seeing Chen Ruo Xuan, so it’s hard for me to tell if I have an issue with the character or the actor.) The Journey from Tonight is White is a good light watch to have on in the background, with its fair share of cute moments, but not a show I would pick to rewatch.