After having watched Heaven Official’s Blessing for the first time, I found myself facing a conundrum of sorts: what should I watch next?
In all honesty, my taste is diverse. I enjoy a range of genres, both donghua- and anime series, novels, manga, manhua, and manhwa… simply put, anything that gets my brain cells working instead of dulling them.
The latter has proven to be a considerable issue in the case of Japanese pop culture. Ever since anime went mainstream it’s become increasingly difficult to see beyond the hype as the market caters to the majority.
As someone who has studied ethnology and enjoyed many a myth of various cultures, I find the “hypization” of culture (in the broadest sense of the word) rather repulsive. Profundity seems to be gone never to return and once rich cultural references have become a blend of popular musings often popularized by people without proper understanding of the target culture who are, alas! predominant.
Donghua seem to be resisting the trend to a degree, thanks to them not being globally hyped. Of course, that doesn’t mean all donghua series are stellar — just that there is a choice.
Heaven Official’s Blessing Stands out… By a Mile!
Sometimes, one would chance upon a donghua that leaves a deep impression. For me, that’s Heaven Official’s Blessing (天官赐福, Tian Guan Ci Fu).
“Chance upon” might not be the happiest of definitions, though. I’d read the book when fan translations were still up and running. When the donghua series emerged, I was afraid that the story would take a customary wuxia turn for the worse.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen! In fact, I found the focus to be just perfect — a quality rarely seen in popular culture these days. The Tian Guan Ci Fu donghua adaptation flows seamlessly in the best tradition of Chan Buddhism (禅, better known by its Japanese pronunciation “Zen”).
That’s even more surprising given that the book falls under the danmei (boys love) genre and we all know what the fandom is looking for! However, it’s fair to say that the novel doesn’t feature any explicit content, unlike The Founder of Diabolism (Mo Dao Zu Shi) by the same author, which has a couple of steamy extra chapters even though China’s censorship policies are as strong as ever.
In fact, that might be the reason why I find Heaven Official’s Blessing so appealing. It harmoniously blends rich cultural references with a romantic story, with MXTX’s (the author) usual attention to detail not underlining skinship. That leaves fans with a welcome chance to enjoy thrilling developments contrasting gentle Hualian private moments.
The aftereffect is so profound that it makes pinpointing the next donghua to watch a difficult task indeed!
With Heaven Official’s Blessing Season 2 pending for way too long, the conundrum remains: which title can invoke the same tranquil long-lasting effect?
I honestly don’t know.