OP: 「醉梦前尘」 ( Zui Meng Qian Chen ) by Terry Lin (林志炫)
You might be reading this, somewhat curious. Yet you’ll invariably give this a pass because it’s Chinese. Let me tell you, don’t make this mistake. Mo Dao Zu Shi might just be the best Chinese animation ever produced, and is easily on par with some of the greatest anime to have come out of Japan. There’s a reason it made it into MAL’s Top 50 shows, before being 1/10’d into oblivion by anime purists. If you give it a chance, it has a bit of everything — amazing characters, mesmerising magic, exciting martial action, political intrigue, and ultimately a tragic story that tears at the heartstrings. I highly recommend watching it! But don’t start here. Where to begin? Season 1 – which comprises of 15 episodes. Without further ado, let’s get to work with diving into Season 2!
I know there was a triple episode release. But I’m pretty much illiterate in Chinese, so forgive me on delays as we await the slow trickle of English subs. Fortunately translations for the first episode dropped pretty recently (Hint: To the high seas you must go), so that will serve as a great starting point. I can’t say I was too pleased that the open ending left by Season 1 was rushed to a conclusion within the first few minutes of Season 2. Namely, the primary antagonist was defeated pretty quickly thanks to the combined efforts of an allied force comprising of the four other major cultivation sects: Lanling Jin (Gold/White), Gusu Lan (Light Blue/White), Yumeng Jiang (Purple Black) and Qinghe Nie (Green/Grey). Together, they stormed the Nightless City and put an end to Wen Ruohan’s tyranny once and for all. The action scenes were epic and the fights flowed seamlessly — think of martial art films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with a touch of fantastical elements. That said, I definitely would have liked some more build up, perhaps a minor recap to refresh us on events from the past season and a more extended lead into the Sunshot Campaign. Nevertheless, that plot point has been resolved, meaning the story can move back to the present once again.
A new generation of clan leaders have risen up, consisting of the brave young men who led their respective clans in the Sunshot Campaign to overthrow the Wen Sect. Fraternities are a thematic cornerstone within Chinese culture, echoing back to the Oath of the Peach Gardens, where Chinese literature’s most famous brotherhood between Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei came to life. They are almost as ubiquitous as flying swords, so it comes as no surprise to me, seeing a brotherhood between the leaders of the Lanling Jin and Gusu Lan clans, who have each other’s backs no matter what in remembrance of their deceased oldest brother, the previous head of the Qinghe Nie clan. Their collective vision was to protect the continent from the hoards of undead unleashed by the Yiling Patriarch unto this world. Only people are beginning to view Lanling Clan’s efforts as potentially having the ulterior motive, such as amassing wealth through offering protection services. Reminds me of America being the world police and making coin along the way. I think that the Gusu Lan patriarch is far too trusting of his sworn brother, but whether these allegations are truly the case remains to be seen.
Speaking of brotherhoods, we also have the odd one between Wei Wuzian, Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng. Though the passage of time changes a lot of things. Where they used to be inseparable, having been raised as non-blood related siblings, Jiang Cheng now hates Wei Wuxian’s guts while Lan Zhan seems to have become much more tolerant to him. In this way, the brotherhood seems much deeper and more complex than it appears on the surface. I bet fangirls got their reckoning, when Wei Wuxian peeked on Lan Zhan in the hot springs. The dude has quite an impressive body. As a heterosexual guy, I can’t say I felt excited. But it would be extremely interesting to hear a fangirl’s perspective down below, so let it be known! Sadly, their moment got interrupted thanks to disruptions caused as a result of the demonic hand. By himself, Lan Zhan could not stop the demonic hand. But together with Wei Wuxian, in a duet of flute and zither, they could suppress its demonic pulsations. Again, beautiful synergy harking back to the one time they were trapped in the cave together with that monster.
As Wei Wuxian points out, these arrangements smell too fishy to be a coincidence. That he was resurrected despite being a renown practitioner of the dark arts, as well as the demonic hand appearing within nearby proximity alongside his zombie servant Wen Ning, there might be a mastermind at play behind the scenes with an ulterior motive. One trip to a nearby village, where a lone woman was driven insane by something she saw, the rabbit hole only runs deeper as we’re left to ponder on the growing mystery at hand. Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss this week. As always, thanks for reading my post and see you soon for more, because I’ll definitely be covering this show for the rest of this season!
ED: 「少年如故」 ( Shao Nian Ru Gu ) by R1SE
I never even heard of this before you posted it, this shit is lit, last chinese cartoon i watched was Quanzhi Gaoshou that shit was awesome.
Same studio. Having read both original novels, they’ve done decent for these two series.
i binged first season, i was so disappointed when flashbacks started not even halfway into the show i kinda skipped until they stopped, heres hoping season 2 won’t do this.
I think you’ve misunderstood. The ‘flashbacks’ are the whole season and the basis of the show. If you’ve ever seen Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, which darts back to the past for an entire season from the present, it’s got a similar structure to that.
So Zaiden you are saying i need to expect another season of flashbacks from season 2?
It jumps back to the present in Season 2 after exploring the historic context to present ongoings, not dissimilar to Rakugo.
You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head when you said:
“I can’t say I was too pleased that the open ending left by Season 1 was rushed to a conclusion within the first few minutes of Season 2”
I’ve watched a few chinese animes and invariably they all end really abruptly as in funding got cut and studio went bankrupt abruptly. It’s never a good sign when you need to check on anidb to find out it’s over. It’s all the more frustrating when all the loose ends are cleared up 1 episode into the second season when it’s clear that they could have cut a filler episode and had a proper standalone season with an ending.
I guess the justification is that in leaving an open ending they to try to get funding for a extra season and somehow call ending story 1 episode early a cliffhanger. However as a result it’s left me unwilling to get emotionally invested in any chinese anime as it actually harms the storytelling.
Generally any plot has a plant and a payoff. Problem is if you arbitrarily cut it short then plant is present but payoff isn’t so viewer feels empty at the end of it. Problem is that even if season 2 resolves season 1 you’ll get same problem at end of season 2.
It’s a little strange that they even went back to the conclusion of the campaign against the Wen Sect at the start of season 2, since the end of season 1 went back to the present, but the lack of material presented is not likely to be due to funds.
In the novel, the final siege of the Nightless City and the big conflict itself was not covered even in flashbacks; we only saw Show Spoiler ▼
Show Spoiler ▼
It might not be the funding, but censorship. The regulations have been tightened in recent years and now scripts of each episode have to be sent for approval well in advance. Or something. How they manage to stream seasonal anime in China in the current climate is beyond me. Do Japanese companies have to send scripts with iceberg-size spoilers to Chinese streaming contractors? Or is everybody just bullshiting through and through? So many mysteries!
My main problem with these shows is a lack of interesting…. or any… female characters. How’s the situation with this particular series?
There’s one other important and cool female character who’s integral to the arc that this season is either gonna end with, or lead into, but for the most part, Jiang Yanli is one of the few remaining female characters with meaningful roles in this story. Mianmian should show up again, and while she has a cool thing to do, she doesn’t stick around, and another female character has an important, albeit posthumous role in informing another character’s past.
Mo Dao Zu Shi and the author’s other two published novels for the most part don’t really have much in th way of important female characters, but the few that can be counted as part of the tend to be quite significant to the plot or else strong support characters. If Madam Yu and Jiang Yanli didn’t get your interest or fondness, I’m afraid you might be disappointed, but I would say that Yanli still has several great moments to show.
There is a hot MILF (https://modao-zushi.fandom.com/wiki/Yu_Ziyuan), a cute sister (https://modao-zushi.fandom.com/wiki/Jiang_Yanli), an autocratic sister (https://modao-zushi.fandom.com/wiki/Wen_Qing) and another hot MILF from the Jin sect (https://twitter.com/curdbun/status/1160074618994081792).
to be honest, the art looks great and i’ve heard the story is good. but 2 things put me off:
1) the homosexual overtones
2) the poor quality of chinese VA (though this may be just a result of the language, just sounds harsh and unpleasant on the ears coming from japanese VA)
my biggest issue personally is number 1 – would someone who has watched the series be able to comment how significant/prelavent the homosexual elements are?
Homosexual overtones? Have you watched any shounen over the past 25 years? It’s harder to think of a shounen without homosexual overtones.
The original novel is straight up BL done right by not focusing on romance. Ballsy actually for them to adapt it into animation and a live drama against the current anti-everything not mainstream and approved by the party political climate. VA is inconsistent. Some deliveries are very good, bits and pieces are too dramatized.
The VAs of the important characters do great job. Girl C or Villager A – who cares.
As homo as Naruto.
Thank you a lot for covering this! I’ve seen comments here and there with people refusing to watch this show because of the language – you’re missing out on a great story, with amazing direction and visuals, folks! It took me a while to get used to NOT hearing Japanese, but in the end the adjustment was totally worth it!
Pretty much. Thanks for going around and clarifying things to others in the comment section! I’m not as knowledgeable on the series so I appreciate another person weighing in and clearing up the record for others.
When will this notice ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation.’ be removed from my comment?
I guess the most amusing thing about these first three episodes is that despite consisting of more original material than usual which possibly makes up for how the rest is adapted from a plagiarised story, the actual storytelling is even messier than the trainwreck of the first season. Wonder if it’s the producer messing around with the direction again?
I didn’t even know there was a season 1 of this. I usually check out Chinese animation whenever I see one poke through, but I tend to find a lot of them have weird issues with pacing or things making sense at all. A lot of them seem to run off the idea of a derivative of bad Japanese animation and the first episode spirals out of control. Cheating Craft had a really fun premise and an entertaining first episode, but it quickly lost focus. My one issue with BL anime is that they derail and get drunk on the notion of two boys in love. Togainu no Chi and No. 6 started off quite interesting, but get bogged down in boring shipping tropes. Currently watching Given, and so far it seems good, though I’m not one for anime about bands. Sakamichi no Apolon was the only one I really got into.
The Chinese animations you have in mind are probably the (in)famous Haoliners/Emon cooperation projects with Japan (dubbed in both Mandarin and Japanese) – yeah…I understand why somebody would be wary of Chinese productions after seeing some of those. The studio behind Mo Dao Zu Shi is GC May Animation (they did King’s Avatar), none of their works have been dubbed into Japanese so far. Also calling it a ‘BL anime’ is a stretch (China’s paranoid censors would not allow it). (Sakamichi no Apollon was not BL either.)
loli enjoy a lot this donghua , after finishing in winter wen’t straight for the novel, was worthy
Yeah I get why you would be disappointed about the lack of focus on the sunshot champaign, and why it seemed rushed. Its an expectation thing I think. In most stories the wen clan is the primary antagonist so then beating them is a big important build up scene. In Mo Dao Zu Shi, the conflict with the wen clan is more of a backdrop to understand the history between characters as the actual main conflict is in the present and is about what happened in the aftermath of the massive power vaccum left by the wen clan. (And to discover what actually happened in the sunshot champaign- which is why they can’t just do everything in chronological order)