Psych Hunter is a Republican Era (period when Imperial rule ceased in 1911 and China became a Republic, until 1949) mystery and psychological drama adapted from the novel “Haunted Houses Handbook” (凶宅笔记) by Author Er Shi San (贰十三). The show is helmed by the famed Director of “Tomb of the Sea,” Li Ze Lu (李泽露). His vision and experience in creating a mystical world full of fantasies further cemented this paranormal saga’s popularity. I’m a huge fan of suspense thrillers with ambiguous elements of Bromance.
—Edited by TheFNGee
Psych Hunter is an amalgamation of various factors that merge highly intelligent investigation procedures with classic psychoanalysis. Add to the fact that one of the main leads “Jiang Chou” is well versed in Geomancy (Feng Shui) as well as the practice of exploring the psych or Zhuyoushu (Zhuyoushu is quite different from mind-reading practices because it delves deeper into the subject’s subconscious); this show truly brings the Republican Era alive. This period was characterized by folklore mysticism and morbid superstitions that were deeply steeped in society. This drama draws attention to their effects on the general population.
Neo Huo plays the titular role of Jiang Chou. Jiang Chou is an amnesiac and yet retains his innate ability to delve into the subconscious minds of others. He embarks on a highly dangerous Death Game by the antagonist, Liu Zhi, to figure out his lost memories.
Qin Yi Heng
Liu Dong Qin plays the role of Dr.Qin Yi Heng. He is a highly skilled psychiatrist and belongs to the erstwhile rich Qin Family. Dr.Qin returns home from abroad after getting the news of his father’s sudden disappearance. He joins hands with Jiang Chou to investigate the cases that are a part of the Death Game.
Yuan Mu Qing
Popular actress Bambi Zhu plays Yuan Mu Qing. Mu Qing is the daughter of General Yuan, the warlord who rules the city of Changshanzhou. Unbeknownst to her Father, Mu Qing joins the police force. She loves solving crime cases and is also a skilled fighter.
Jiang Shou is the only survivor of the death game that included seven invitees, set on an island villa. Bu Yan, Master of Circus Trope, finds Jiang Shou lying unconscious on the burial grounds and nurses him back to health. On regaining consciousness, Jiang Chou has no memories of his past except for his name. One year later, Jiang Chou is working with Bu Yan’s trope doing odd jobs to make a living. While selling a haunted house, he is framed as a murder suspect and becomes the pawn in the second Death Game planned by the highly mysterious mind reader Liu Zhi. Joining him on this journey is Qin Yi Heng, the heir to the Qin Family. He is investigating his father’s disappearance, who went missing on the island villa. Mu Qing completes this investigative trio as they piece together clues and try to solve several cases within the timeframes set by Liu Zhi. While Jiang Chou uses his distinctive “Zhuyoushu” abilities to delve deeper into the suspect’s mindset, Qin Yi Heng helps with the psychological analysis. After successfully solving several cases, they finally reach the endgame and discover Liu Zhi’s true identity.
Overall Impression of This Series
I went into this show with zero expectations and came out dumbfounded. The added attraction was obviously the handsome main leads. Neo Luo and Liu Dong Qin have a dynamic presence as well as abundant chemistry. The story majorly focuses on their character’s strong friendship and their investigations of the murder mysteries randomly hitting the streets of Changshanzhou. Mu Qing tags along, and honestly, I wasn’t pleased by her character inclusion. The show draws comparisons between their varied family backgrounds and how they gel well together despite the disparity. Jiang Chou is a “Nobody” with no recollections of his memories, while Yi Heng is the Qin Family Heir and a skilled Doctor. On the other hand, Mu Qing plays the rebellious teenager who loves to disobey her father and pushes her way into the police force. Three completely different personalities, and yet oddly enough, Liu Zhi, connects them all.
The storyline could very well do without Mu Qing’s involvement because Jiang Chou and Qin Yi Heng are the star players. The show’s antagonist, Liu Zhi, sets up a gameplan where he creates odd mysteries and dangerous situations to challenge Jiang Chou’s mental abilities. Each case encompasses a different dimension and requires Jiang Chou to use his ability to read the “psych.” This methodology is unique as both Qin Yi Heng and Jiang Chou are met with life-threatening situations instead of the suspect’s psych. You have to understand that each person has a different kind of psych and psychological boundaries. I truly loved watching the dimensional variability because some suspects had an easy mindset while others had pretty strong defenses. So, our main leads are often met with instances where they could end up comatose if they get injured inside a suspect’s psych.
Our main lead’s connection with Liu Zhi or Six Fingers is quite complicated. While it is strongly hinted that Liu Zhi is an occult mind reader and Jiang Chou may be his only disciple, you fail to understand the true motive behind Liu Zhi’s mind games. Why would a Master seek revenge on his only disciple and turn him into a pawn? The answer to this question will leave you stunned and maybe just a bit confused. On the other hand, Qin Yi Heng makes some shocking discoveries that cause major upheaval in his life. From knowing his familial connections to figuring out the bitter truth behind his father’s disappearance, Yi Heng’s character growth will make you sympathize with the character. These two characters are so intriguing and self encompassing that you fall for their easy charm and willingly become a part of their journey. Yes, we have an annoying female love interest that adds to their problems, but that’s the very definition of Chinese Bromance. They need to undermine the strong sensual undercurrents between the male leads by inserting an unwanted female lead. Mu Qing does that job perfectly!
Neo Huo is no stranger when it comes to Bromance. He is already quite popular for his portrayal of Wu Xie in “The Lost Tomb Season 2”. Although, frankly, I’m more biased towards his performance of Jiang Chou. Jiang Chou is a dual character, and Neo Huo embodies all the nuances very well. As Jiang Chou, he is witty, street-smart, and mischievous. At times, you might question his judgment, but he has his heart at the right place.
Liu Dong Qin’s “Qin Yi Heng” was a character very well done, truly phenomenal. He is surprisingly good at giving a controlled performance. His micro-expressions and quiet smiles will make you feel good. Most of the ladies in Changshanzhou are enamored by his handsome looks and intelligence, but the fact that he barely glances at them cements our perception of his sexuality. The only person he is interested in is Jiang Chou, and his affections are as clear as the daylight!
The main highlight of this drama is its high production value. Since Li Ze Lu directs the show, comparison to his other works is inevitable. As the major part of this show is set in Republican times, the lavish sets and costumes are resplendent examples. It could be Jiang Chou’s steampunk outfits, or Qin Yi Heng’s well fitted three-piece suits or Mu Qing’s extravagant evening gowns or bejeweled Police uniform. Each of their costumes is designed exquisitely and will leave spellbound. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Mu Qing, her sense of style is truly amazing. However, I have major issues with the odd sense of fashion that Jiang Chou chooses for Yi Heng while inside the psych. You have to appreciate the camera work when both our main leads switch from reality to psych because the angle is continuous and flawless. The Cinematography is seamless, and you learn to appreciate each angle as they slowly dissect the details related to each murder mystery.
Bromance Between Main Leads
Unlike most dramas, our main protagonists began their journey with doubts and enmity. Qin Yi Heng believes that Jiang Chou might be the reason behind his father’s disappearance and shadows him continuously. Slowly they grow closer and learn to work in sync with each other’s mindsets. Their Bromance is set into motion when Jiang Chou decides to bind them together with his red thread. The thread forms the connection whenever they enter a suspect’s psych. Oddly enough, Jiang Chou is very protective of Qin Yi Heng while inside the psych. He always keeps Yi Heng close and never lets him out of his sight. From doubting each other to quickly developing a strong camaraderie, their undeniable attraction is well portrayed.
The one scene that comes to my mind is where they visit Mu Qing’s psych. She is suffering from delusions, and her psych resembles an old age photo studio. However, this studio is full of Jiang’s photographs, and Qin Yi Heng solemnly points out her attraction. Jiang Chou’s temper instantly flares up, saying:
“If that’s the case, then your psych should be full of my photographs too.”
Jiang Chou is well aware of Qin Yi Heng’s feelings but mostly chooses to ignore them. I have never felt more sorry for a BL character. Qin Yi Heng’s strong feelings for Jiang Chou are truly on the surface, glaringly obvious, and they have blazing hot chemistry. It annoys me that Mu Qing was added as the unwanted third angle, and Jiang Chou spends a lot of time being overtly emotional and making illogical decisions. I could have skipped those parts where he puts his life in danger despite Yi Heng’s constant warnings, and our poor Doctor is left to do the cleanup. I would have preferred if the storyline majorly focused on Jiang Chou and Qin Yi Heng’s ability to solve the mysteries and their underlying romance.
Even though Qin Yi Heng recreates the “Island Villa” murder mystery to revive Chou’s memories, his trust in Jiang Chou is irrefutable. Despite discovering a part of Jiang Chou’s true identity, Yi Heng still stands beside Jiang Chou. The same is true for Jiang Chou. When Liu Zhi locks him up in another dimension, and his memories are lost again, the only person he still remembers is Qin Yi Heng. Eventually, when the episode ends, and Jiang Chou returns to reality, Qin Yi Heng nurses him back to health. Although Yi Heng has strong doubts about Jiang Chou’s involvement in the “Island Villa” mystery, he doesn’t have the heart to hurt Jiang Chou. Jiang Chou is important to Yi Heng, and despite all odds pointing against him, Yi Heng still chooses to trust him.
The finale episodes are resplendent in their portrayed romance because as Yi Heng begins to lose his self-confidence, Jiang Chou becomes his anchor. The Qin Family’s discord hugely undermines Qin Yi Heng’s reputation, and Jiang Chou turns into his Protector. He goes through pouts of panic whenever Yi Heng is in danger, and I’m sure if Mu Qing didn’t exist, these two would surely have ended up together. The undercurrents are so strong yet subtle that you hope for the impossible!
Psych Hunter was one of the best directed Chinese Bromances in 2020 and oddly enough, it reminded me of Winter Begonia. The intelligent storytelling, brilliant cinematography, and stellar star cast make this show a truly phenomenal experience. Though sometimes, the psych situations might get out of hand and scary, they are tolerable. This show isn’t for the faint-hearted who get triggered by the overtly gory scenes. On the whole, Psych Hunter is an entire package of entertainment with its steadfast storyline that encompasses Chinese Beliefs with well-conceived mysteries and brilliantly scripted answers.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. [See our Review Guide]