Mo Dao Zu Shi/The Untamed

Discussion in 'Fan Town' started by prismaticvoid, Aug 5, 2020.

  1. prismaticvoid

    prismaticvoid Too Too Abstract

    I've been seeing some other folks around here get into this novel and its adaptations so I am creating a space to yell about gay sword wizards. Will likely contain spoilers.
    I finished watching The Untamed a few weeks ago and am slowly working my way through reading MDZS, I've been low on motivation recently but these characters have me in a vise grip and I gotta keep reading. Also, any other children of complicated families really vibe with the Jiang siblings or is it just me lmao
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  2. aetherGeologist

    aetherGeologist Well-Known Member

    I've seen a lot aboutthis from people I follow and I have a couple of questions. What kind of media is it, are there different versions, where can I actually find it, that kind of thing.
  3. Verily

    Verily surprised Xue Yang peddler

    The familiarity I have with it is the TV adaptation "The Untamed" which is currently available on Netflix.
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  4. aetherGeologist

    aetherGeologist Well-Known Member

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  5. Artemis

    Artemis i, an asexual moron

    I WATCHED THE ANIME I LOVE THIS SHIT i want to read the book and see more than the first episode of the untamed but life keeps happening

    But yes 800% here for mdzs and its other forms Let Me Tell You About Flute Magic
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  6. spockandawe

    spockandawe soft and woolen and writhing with curiosity

    Oh no, you've triggered a helpful infodump an infodump, apologies in advance. Backstory! This was originally a Chinese webnovel, by an author (mxtx) who has two other webnovels and is working on a fourth. I'm going to give information on all of them, because I also recommend the other properties to people who enjoyed the untamed/mdzs and are looking for more similar content. These are all gay stories with a central m/m ship, but in some ways... less progressively gay than one might hope. I love them anyways, and I've read some thoughtful things about the author's background (she's a young lady, and her first book was written while she was still in high school, and China isn't the most consistently progressive culture when it comes to lgbt issues. the sex scenes tend to be... Less Than Ideal), but there are still occasionally moments where I sigh heavily. But, I cannot stress this enough, I love all of these books to pieces regardless.

    (and as a general helpful thing, for anyone who wants to read the fan-translated webnovels, novelupdates is an excellent central resource for the whole webnovel scene, with links to different translators and websites and google documents)

    First of all, The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System (SVSSS). This is a genre that I wasn't familiar with, called transmigration, where the idea is that a person in the real world is reading a novel, then wakes up inside the plot of the novel, like Lost In Austen or something similar. Afaict, this is a much larger genre in China than it is in America/Europe. The plot of this book is that Shen Yuan has been reading this terrible, terrible webnovel, where he loves the premise and worldbuilding, and is furious about the shoddy plot and character development. This in-story webnovel is a stallion harem novel following a blackened protagonist (Luo Binghe), who started off as a kid with a tragic backstory, but grew up into a sexy, sexy, overpowered, dark lead character, who gets all the ladies, and doesn't afraid of anything. Shen Yuan goes to bed furious at the novel, then wakes up inside the novel, as an early villain....... Luo Binghe's abusive teacher. If the story goes along its original tracks, he's going to die horribly, which he would really rather not do, and he also would really not like to abuse this sweet, good-natured kid, but there's also a System governing his actions that deducts points for OOC behavior.

    This is the shortest of the novels (I think it comes in at slightly under 300k), has the most manageable cast, and is the most linear. It has a bit of a rough start, but I'm unsure whether that's the translators finding their footing or the novel assuming the readers are already familiar with genre conventions. Mxtx was still in high school when she wrote this, and was still finding her footing in a lot of ways. But I love it so, so, so, so much. This has the fewest adaptions, I think, there's a donghua that's due out... soon? There's a trailer, but no release date. I think coronavirus might have disrupted it, as it's done with so many things. I have been screaming nonstop about this story since I read it, more than any of the other webnovels I've tried.

    Then, The Untamed/The Grandmaster Of Demonic Cultivation(GDC)/Mo Dao Zu Shi (MDZS)! This is where things get longer, and much less linear. Also it has the hardest plot of any of these things to describe. The story starts basically in the middle of two separate stories, one in the present, one in the past. You don't know like ANYTHING about the past story at first, while all the characters are already up to their eyebrows in baggage and history, so I promise that you're supposed(???) to be as confused as you'll probably feel. The general idea is that Wei Wuxian, the notorious Yiling Patriarch, the most notorious villain in the world and the grandmaster of demonic cultivation.... died. A decade a half later, he wakes up! In someone else's body. He's not sure exactly what is going on, and sure never asked for this, but it sure seems to be happening. He runs into his old.... friend(?????????) (yes) and they go on a mystery-solving road trip together, and do a romance along the way. In the original story, the romance is ABSOLUTELY a central fact. In the live action show, they had to dance awkwardly around gay romance and necromancy, which makes it kind of hilarious that they chose this particular story to adapt, but, like...... they did a fantastic job, and it still turned out super gay, so what do I know

    This has so many adaptions. So many. There is at least one audio drama for this, a donghua, a manhua, and now the live action tv show. I think there's also a chibi donghua being developed, but I don't know for sure, and I'm trying to hustle this post out before I have to attend a meeting. The live action show is available on a number of platforms with subtitles of variable quality, so I know some people have shopped around to find a version they liked. BUT, in terms of finding this thing easily, the whole show is up on youtube and on netflix both. I've heard the best complete set of subtitles is on Viki, but I haven't checked that out myself yet :P I think the show is probably an easier entry point to the story than the book itself, but it can be a little hard to find your footing in either one. The cast is large, and they all know each other, even if you don't. And everyone has between two and three names. If you're better at keeping track of names, the book might be easier, or if you're better at keeping track of faces, the live action show might be easier. I'm guessing the donghua and manhua are easier than either of those, because you can get more distinct character designs than you get with real human actors, but I haven't tried them myself.

    THEN. One more. Heaven Official's Blessing (HOB)/Tian Guan Ci Fu (TGCF). This book is. So long. I love it SO MUCH. Right up front, I will say that I think this is the best of the mxtx webnovels. And where the other two were low fantasy books (there's magic (cultivation) but humans are humans), this book is high fantasy, where a human can ascend to godhood and live in the heavens, or, on the flip side, ghosts can sometimes linger on after death with full consciousness, and there's a ghost city ruled by a ghost king. But the plot! Eight hundred years ago, the beloved Crown Prince Xie Lian ascended to the heavens. Then he fell. Then he rose again!! Then he fell again. Eight hundred years later, he ascends to heaven for the third time, and everything is profoundly Awkward. I don't want to go into the plot too far beyond that, because this is a story that unfolds beautifully, and I recommend reading it with as little additional information as possible, avoiding spoilers or looking anything up. I'm on pins and needles waiting for mxtx's fourth book, because her craft has evolved SO. MUCH. just over the course of her three finished novels, I don't know where things are supposed to go from here. This book destroyed me, in every possible way. I'm just starting my first full reread of it, and I'm already blown away by how rich it is and how much foreshadowing it lays out from the start.

    This one doesn't have much in the way of adaptions, as far as I know. There's a manhua that's still in the pretty early stages, but it is S T U N N I N G. It's not a bad introduction and gets you through the first two story arcs, if you're looking to sample the premise. I think there's a donghua planned, but it's not released yet, and I haven't heard too much buzz about it.

    I will cut myself off there, and not go into the rest of the webnovel scene, though I do recommend meatbun if people are hungry for More and are also cool with stories that can get pretty intensely dark. I haven't read too much past these two authors, because a lot of these books run intensely long, and also wring me dry emotionally, but I love every moment of it.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2020
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  7. Verily

    Verily surprised Xue Yang peddler

    It is a crime that I cannot rate that as informative and winner. Thank you, that is extremely useful. (Oh crap I actually need at least three ratings.)
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  8. Artemis

    Artemis i, an asexual moron

    It took me *repeated viewings* of the animation to figure out everyone had multiple names, I admit. It's still a huge cast, but not QUITE as huge as I thought going in blind the first season.
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  9. prismaticvoid

    prismaticvoid Too Too Abstract

    Names! This google doc is very useful for people first going through any adaptation (the translated webnovel has a thing about character names as well). Courtesy names aren't a thing really in modern China but they are a real historical thing so you see them in a lot of wuxia/xianxia, and you can tell a lot about each character by how they refer to each other! The Netflix subtitles are absolute garbage at this, so what you hear isn't always translated directly (f'rex Jiang Yanli calls Wei Wuxian "A-Xian", indicating closeness and affection that the subtitles just translate as "Wuxian". You also see this a lot with familial terms getting translated into names, I guess because Netflix thought Western audiences would be too dumb to understand familial honorifics. Sighs)
    The tl;dr is essentially that characters will use courtesy names to indicate formality/distance, and usually only family and very close friends will use given names. Wei Wuxian starts calling Lan Wangji "Lan Zhan", like, inappropriately early because he just dgaf and he knows it'll get Lan Wangji's goat.
    edit: also you will see the live action show called The Untamed or CQL interchangeably (Chen Qing Ling is the Chinese title)
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  10. Artemis

    Artemis i, an asexual moron

    unrelated: how do I sew so I can make a wei wuxian costume because we stan

    okay i stan like everyone b u t flautist necromancer gay xianxia protagonist
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  11. rats

    rats 21 Bright Forge Shatters The Void

    i was just abt to make this thread. thank u. i am in untamed hyperfixation hell and just finished episode 32, aka wwx can go little a feral, as a treat,
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  12. tentaclegremlin

    tentaclegremlin i'll drop the freakin' moon

    people watching the untamed specifically: How bad is it if you're a white guy unused to east asian Real Actual People Faces on top of being... kind of face blind... like my impression from tumblr gifs is that I have trouble identifying people a lot but I also don't really know the characters to start with, so
  13. prismaticvoid

    prismaticvoid Too Too Abstract

    It will take you a bit! The fact that nearly everyone has the same haircut doesn't help, tbh, but body language and expressions do help a ton. WWX and LWJ both have very distinctive ways of carrying themselves and even of speaking (also most major characters get a nameplate when they're introduced, though depending on where you're watching they may not get directly translated, Netflix subtitles are again Bad About This). Each sect has a distinct fashion style and color scheme as well, which helps.
    Lan: white and light blue
    Jiang: dark blue and purple (WWX wears his own color scheme though lol)
    Jin: pale yellow and white
    Nie: green and brown
    Wen: red and black
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  14. spockandawe

    spockandawe soft and woolen and writhing with curiosity

    The color coding helps a LOT, and most of the characters are fairly consistent with how they wear their hair, which wasn't always distinct, but helped when it was (wwx never wears an ornament, just a ribbon, for example). I still struggle to link a lot of not-in-costume actors to their characters (what is a man? a miserable pile of features), but I can consistently identify the cast when they're dressed up. The first flashback arc, circa episode 3, will be hard mode, because everyone goes to summer camp together and wears matching white clothes, but like... There's tasty character content if you recognize side characters, but you can totally follow the central plot even without it. And after that, the color coding gets extremely consistent.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
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  15. Verily

    Verily surprised Xue Yang peddler

    I'm pretty face blind as well. Episodes one and two are going to be very confusing. Watch them and put a pin in that. Episode three begins a flashback that will last tens of episodes. When it ends, my advice is to go back and rewatch the first two episodes.

    There are a couple characters of particular note in the first two episodes. Three of them are introduced immediately in a clifftop tableau. Wei Wuxian (familiarly Wei Ying) is the main character. The man in white is his love interest, Lan Wangji (familiarly Lan Zhan, but he will also be called by the title Hanguang-Jun a lot right at the beginning). He normally looks pretty placid even when he's upset, so the amount of emoting he does in this scene actually really threw me. The third guy joining them on the cliff is Wei Wuxian's brother, Jiang Cheng (I forget his courtesy name, but it's less important to know). He usually looks pissed off. That's just how he is. Both of these characters will appear again before the flashback.

    So moving on from the cliff scene forward quite a bit. The fourth important character introduced before the flashback is Jin Ling (courtesy name Jin Rulan; I'm basically giving these names in the order I think is most useful to know rather than listing courtesy names or not-courtesy names first), an excessively bratty young man who will quickly be revealed to have an important connection to Wei Wuxian. He's young enough that you won't see him again until after the flashback, but his existence is still of note in the meanwhile. The fifth character, seen only briefly in sort of memory vision, is Wei Wuxian's sister, Jiang Yanli.

    The last character I can think of, Wen Ning (again usually not addressed or referred to by his courtesy name), will show up in a spectacle that you would be very hard pressed to miss. It's not necessary to know who he is at this point beyond what the show tells you. He won't look the same when you see him next, but he will have different but very distinct body language, which should help.

    The clan names are important; it's okay if you don't pick up on them immediately. There will be plenty of time and story devoted to fleshing that out.

    If you can more or less recognize Wei Wuxian fairly reliably by the time you get to the flashback, you should be okay even if you're still struggling with everyone else.

    Wei Wuxian almost immediately falls off the cliff and dies. Because the TV show I guess has to skirt around the whole necromancy thing because of censorship, they spend an excessive amount of time muddying the waters about whether he actually died or just mysteriously vanished for sixteen years. We get a bit of a story about it, with a bunch of confusingly dressed young disciples looking on and asking questions. I wouldn't worry about them for now.

    Wei Wuxian wakes up in the present time, sixteen years after the cliff scene, and is confronted with the mostly offscreen spirit of a character called Mo Xuanyu. Mo Xuanyu is an illegitimate child of the powerful Jin clan. You don't really get all that much about him except that he was sent back from studying with the Jin clan to the Mo family in disgrace. He's being abused so badly he can't bear it any longer, and so he has reluctantly decided to sacrifice his body to bring back the spirit of the scariest person he's heard of to seek vengeance on his behalf. I believe in other properties Wei Wuxian is visibly inhabiting Mo Xuanyu's body rather than his own, though they don't look completely dissimilar. In the TV series Wei Wuxian looks exactly the same as he did before, and seems concerned that people who know what Mo Xuanyu looks like will notice that he's not Mo Xuanyu, and anyone who knew Wei Wuxian will recognize him immediately if they see his face. Just roll with it.

    What you should get from this is that Wei Wuxian has a reputation as basically the worst war criminal in recent history, and that something fishy is up with the Jin clan. Which may be a lot to remember, so again I highly recommend rewatching the first two episodes when you finish the flashback.

    Mo Xuanyu will not be important again for quite a long time.

    When the flashback starts, I think you will immediately see almost all of these characters again except Jin Ling (not born yet) and I think Wen Ning (introduced a bit later). Unfortunately most of the cast is soon going to be wearing uniforms that look very similar for a little while. But most notably, Wei Wuxian's siblings, Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli, will be there with him. You can now start working on recognizing the two of them, and Lan Wangji, whom Wei Wuxian will very quickly begin calling Lan Zhan because he's presumptuous like that. Also maybe Wei Wuxian's friend Nie Huaisang (nervous folding fan guy whose posture and body language make him look even less physically imposing than he already didn't).

    Wen Ning and his sister Wen Qing should probably not be too much of a challenge, again because Wen Ning's awkward, shy body language doesn't look like anyone else's, Wen Qing is the proud, self-assured young woman who is probably not too easy to confuse with the other young woman present at that time, the very gentle Jiang Yanli, and I thiiiink I recall that both the Wen siblings are wearing the distinctive bright red colors of the Wen clan?

    If you can't tell the other Wens apart you'll still be fine. Same with the high ranking Lans that aren't Lan Wangji tbh.

    After the absolute shock of the first couple episodes with so many actors I'd never seen in my life and the hairstyles and then the bloody uniforms, I thought it was actually surprisingly easy to tell most of the characters apart as the show went on.
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  16. rats

    rats 21 Bright Forge Shatters The Void

    yeah i definitely had the same issues especially bc they all have similar hair but the more familiar with the characters you become the easier it gets and also the more heartbreaking
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  17. PotteryWalrus

    PotteryWalrus halfway hideous and halfway sweet

    I am mainlining every version of this story I can find at an ALARMING RATE okay I literally haven't hyper fixated on a fandom like this in YEARS and it's a little scary. I to, am up to Untamed ep 32 aka 'now you see what happens when wwx ACUTALLY stops giving a flying fuck about your stupid-ass society and toxic fucking rules'

    I have watched up to ep 23 of the mdzs anime and can't seem to find any more on YouTube? It seems like the story ain't finished and yet?? Is it there elsewhere or did it get cancelled or is it ongoing? I am Addicted and Confused.

    Also I've finally found a character I want to cosplay again who won't murder my dysphoria! Gotta trim the old waistline but that is fine because cons are a bad idea until the Rona buggers off but in the future Wei Ying will be a thing!
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  18. rats

    rats 21 Bright Forge Shatters The Void

    i have reached the stage of hyperfixation where im tying my favorite music into MDZS characters and i realized that one of my favorite albums is just. is just wei wuxian. it's all him.
    so i did what any sane person would do and made a google doc breaking it down.

    for those interested, this was the song that sparked the realization for me, it's just a very tasty WWX going feral type of song
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  19. prismaticvoid

    prismaticvoid Too Too Abstract

    ohhhh this song rules
  20. rats

    rats 21 Bright Forge Shatters The Void

    thank u for the validation........its such a good song.......
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