Thought Wuxia was restricted to ancient times? Contemporary high school settings are commonplace in many popular fictional genres, and Wuxia is no exception to this! As many of you know, we are passionate about bringing Wuxia to a modern setting, so let's go over a few series that really showcase Wuxia's potential to transcend time periods:
The Legend of the Brown Sugar Chivalries黑糖群俠傳
The Taiwanese TV series The Legend of Brown Sugar Chivalries (AKA Kung Fu Macchiato) was released in 2008. This is a romantic, contemporary parody of the Wuxia genre, with many characters named after multiple, unrelated Wuxia characters written by Jin Yong & Gu Long. These characters attend the West Side School where they cultivate martial arts to prepare for battle against Dong-fang Bu-Bai (based on the character from Jin Yong’s The Smiling Proud Wanderer, AKA The Swordsman of the State of Divinity). While the series is Wuxia inspired, it is a romance series at its core, with most of the cast members being pop idols from former Taiwanese boy and girl groups Lollipop, Hey Girl, and Choc7. Due to the focus on romance, there isn’t much emphasis on the fight scenes, to the point that they end up being very short and minimalistic. It is still worth a watch, especially for fans of traditional Wuxia stories who appreciate parodies. Unfortunately, there are no official English subtitles for this series, so you may need to brush up on your Mandarin!
K.O. 3an Guo 終極三國
Another Taiwanese TV series, K.O. 3an Guo, was released in 2009. This is a contemporary parody of Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms, with the characters being high school students. Guan Yu (George Hu) and Zhang Fei (Bo Yan) are friends who have been expelled from their 24th school for starting many fights, purely due to their sense of justice. When they encounter and swear brotherhood with Liu Bei (Shu Chen), they are able to enroll in the Dong Han Shu Yuan school as long as they pay for his tuition. This is no ordinary school, as there are many pitfalls in their school life, as well as warring schools to compete with. While a few members of former Taiwanese boy group Fahrenheit appear, this series places a heavier emphasis on parodying Romance of the Three Kingdoms than it does on star power. As a result, the fights are primarily comedic in nature, and there are many jokes based on the events of the original novel. While it isn't necessary to be familiar with the original novel here, it definitely helps! The entire series is available on the studio's official YouTube page (see the link above) with English subtitles, and a follow-up was released in 2017.
Volcano High 화산고
The Korean film Volcano High was released in 2001. Kim Kyung-soo (Jang Hyuk) transfers to Volcano High School after being expelled from many schools for being unable to control his extraordinary martial arts skills. He discovers that this school is full of extraordinary martial artists who keep getting into fights for the last 17 years. Legend states that whoever acquires the Secret Manuscript will be able to stop this and bring peace to the school. Unlike the aforementioned titles, this title is not based on any pre-existing material, and is not a parody. The only parody here would be the 2003 US English dub released through MTV’s Kung Faux, which featured the voices of hip hop artists Snoop Dogg, Method Man, and Lil Jon! Many traditional Wuxia elements are present in this series: a martial arts school, secret manuals, and the cultivation of extraordinary martial arts. The journey of Kim Kyung-soo is definitely that of a Wuxia hero who learns martial arts in his journey and becomes a better person. The fights are exciting & furious, and the characters are relatable. Would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to watch a Wuxia series in a contemporary setting, without having to know any pre-existing material. Jang Hyuk would go on and star in the 2020 Korean film, The Swordsman (also featuring Joe Taslim of Mortal Kombat 2021 and The Raid fame).
High school is an unforgettable time for many, and Wuxia is a genre that makes high school settings in media even more unforgettable. These examples prove that the Wuxia genre can transcend time, culture, and even language barriers. Check these out, and be sure to let us know if you come across other high school Wuxia stories!