“For you, I’ll become invincible!”
The symbolism behind the scene depicted in the banner might be lost to many, but avid readers of the novel Tian Guan Ci Fu (TGCF) will most possibly understand the significance.
This scene is the culmination of 800 years of love, devotion and longing. A yearning so great, that it drove a common human child to strive hard, fight battles and even incarnate his whole being. Driven by his desire to protect his Beloved God, the seemingly distraught devotee becomes the Supreme Demon Lord! Human nature might be fickle, but even Gods and Demons aren’t beyond the limits of heartache.
Funimation’s Heaven Official’s Blessing is adapted from a 2017 webnovel of the same name by Mo Xian Tong Xiu (MXTX). Unlike her previous work “The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation” which was adapted into the highly popular “The Untamed”; in TGCF, the author has certainly toned down the explicit romance which is viably deciphered with subtle gestures. Despite that, the novel is hugely popular on the social circuits and the announcement of the Donghua was met with much anticipation. The first season of the Anime has successfully completed its run and as such, let’s take a walk down the memory lane to collaborate on some details that might leave you bewildered!
Xie Lian (谢怜, Xiè Lián), His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Xian Le, is the protagonist of Heaven Official’s Blessing. After multiple unfortunate events, he was twice banished from the Heavens. 800 years later, he ascends for the third time.
As one of the Four Great Calamities, Hua Cheng is known as the most dangerous of the three Devastation Class Demons. One learns to fear the silver butterflies and blood rains for they are the heralds of his presence. He is also known as the Crimson Rain Sought Flower.
Nan Feng is a Heavenly Official of the Middle Court and subordinate of Feng Xin (Martial God). He often accompanies Xie Lian on his missions in the mortal realm.
Fu Yao is a Heavenly Official of the Middle Court and subordinate of Mu Qing (Martial God). He also accompanies Xie Lian on his missions in the mortal realm.
Ling Wen is the foremost Civil Goddess in the Heavenly Court and one of the notorious Three Tumors.
Xuan Ji is a powerful female ghost of Wrath rank and a former lover of Pei Ming (Martial God).
An Unlucky Protagonist with a Devilish Deuteragonist
I have read my fair share of Chinese Gay Novels which are quite popular for their explicit sexual content. And yet TGCF leaves you astounded with its simple romance and devotion that spans across centuries.
Xie Lian might be the most flawed protagonist in the Chinese BL world. Nicknamed as the “God of Misfortune”, Xie Lian is terribly unlucky yet eternally optimistic. He might sound naive and entirely too calm in the most dangerous situations, but don’t let that color your perception wrong.
In the first episode, we get a montage of the trials and tribulations that Xie Lian has encountered in his lifetime. Starting from his life as the Crown Prince, to his ascension as a Martial God, to the downfall of his Kingdom and his banishment from Heavens, Xie Lian has lived a tumultuous life. As such, he is variably humble and entirely humane as compared to the other Heavenly Officials.
Hua Cheng on the other hand has all the makings for a fearsome antagonistic and in certain situations he is. He challenged the Heavens by bringing down 33 Heavenly Officials. The Officials’ refusal to admit their loss led to Hua Cheng burning down all of their temples, which depleted those Gods of their powers. Despite his intense animosity with the Heavens, Hua Cheng displays innate gentleness when it comes to Xie Lian. He is first and foremost Xie Lian’s protector and his obsession stems from centuries old devotion (their backstory will probably be explained in the sequel). Hua Cheng has several forms when he is in the mortal realm, and yet he chooses the most pleasing one when he decides to meet Xie Lian. Why? Because even the Devil has inferiority complex!
Xie Lian’s Tryst with a Serial Killer
After being banished from the Heavens twice, Xie Lian’s third ascension is met with mockery and disbelief. As such, he is immediately tasked with capturing a Ghost Groom who has been terrorizing Brides at Mount Yujun for almost 100 years. Only the serial killer Ghost Groom turns out to be the lovesick Ghost Bride. Xuan Ji was once a famed female General of her Army. When her country fought with General Pei Ming’s army (currently Martial God Ming Guang or Pei Ming), she was captured and ends up falling in love with General Pei. To gain his favor, she discloses her Army’s military secrets. Pei might be a womanizer, but he follows a moral code of conduct when it comes to battles. As such he denounces her for her disloyalty and Xuan Ji commits suicide.
This love story is fraught in deception and highlights basic human tendencies. Xuan Ji’s fall of grace is entirely believable, and yet I didn’t feel sorry for her. She was entirely responsible for her wrong choices and killing innocent brides to take revenge on Ming Guang might validate her Wrath status. But it doesn’t make her right. I wasn’t expecting that the Donghua would recreate this storyline, but I’m certainly shocked with the similarity.
The Unlikely Romance between Two Realms
When Funmation announced the premiere of this Donghua, the news was met with skepticism. Loyal fans of the novel were worried that due to Chinese Censor Board’s restrictions, the storyline would majorly focus on Xie Lian’s trials and sideline his romance with Hua Cheng. I’m pleased to say that did not happen. Funmation managed to entirely capture the essence of their romance. It might be largely attributed to the fact that Xie Lian and Hua Cheng’s love story is devoid of frivolous or explicit content. Their romance is more centered on soft touches, longing glances and mystique countenances.
When Xie Lian dressed as a Bride, is caught unaware in the forest, a mysterious figure rescues him. As Xie Lian walks with the figure dressed in red, the latter holds a red umbrella to shield them from the blood dripping down from the corpses hanging in the trees. This scene spells romance. The aesthetics might seem odd and gory, yet Xie Lian feels a sense of security walking beside his mystery man.
The incident with Xuan Ji sparks fear in the minds of the Heavenly Officials when Xie Lian describes the advent of silver butterflies. As the Officials paint a scary image of the Butterflies Owner, Hua Cheng, Xie Lian is left with an odd sense of foreboding and intrigue. So while returning to the mortal realm, when he meets a young man named San Lang, his curiosity is piqued. San Lang’s youthful appearance is a stark contrast to his knowledgeable expanse. Although Xie Lian has his own doubts, he still gives shelter to the homeless kid.
I wasn’t expecting Funmation to be true to the original script, but they managed to shock the audiences with the ardent depiction of their love affair. It could be the scene where Xie Lian’s magical shackle Ruoye binds them together in a sandstorm or when San Lang pulls Xie Lian to safety and ties his bamboo hat. The animation studio has managed to depict their romance in exactly the same way as it is portrayed in the novel. Their love story isn’t sidelined as “Bromance” or “Brotherhood”. The way San Lang lovingly gazes at Xie Lian mirrors his lifelong devotion and affections. To be loved so entirely is a blessing and Xie Lian has no idea of how blessed he is!
Although San Lang follows Xie Lian under the pretense of being homeless, it is merely a disguise to safeguard Xie Lian. During the Ban Yue adventure, Xie Lian has a confrontation with the Ban Yue’s Ghost General Ke Mo (“Millstone”). Just as Xie Lian decides to jump into their Sinners Pit, San Lang jumps into the Pit in his place. Xie Lian goes hysterical and his shocked expression betray his true feelings. Although they start their journey as strangers and Xie Lian has his own doubts on San Lang’s true identity, being in close proximity wrecks havoc on Xie Lian’s delicate sensibilities.
The turning point in this relationship occurs when Xie Lian jumps into the Sinner’s Pit to rescue San Lang and is instead met with his mystery man. Xie Lian has to feel up the mystery man to confirm that it is San Lang. This scene is important because Xie Lian has spent a lifetime practicing cultivation and as such never had any romantic entanglements. With San Lang holding him close, Xie Lian realizes two things: San Lang is not breathing, and neither has a heartbeat. While Xie Lian asks to put down, San Lang hoists him closer and proceeds to fight with Ke Mo. San Lang is left surprised when Xie Lian doesn’t question him about his inhuman nature. Xie Lian’s deflection will leave you astounded because, although he has figured out San Lang’s true identity (that he is Hua Cheng), he solemnly announces that it doesn’t matter. He likes San Lang nevertheless and his feelings won’t change!
Hua Cheng’s devotion to Xie Lian spans over 800 years and although I’m not sure about the sequel’s premise, I’m hoping that they stay true to the original storyline. This love story is truly encompassing and teaches you important life lessons. It will leave you shell shocked and emotional. You will also wonder how one man could possibly love so deeply and without any expectations!
The Ban Yue Adventure
You have to understand that TCGF majorly deals with Xie Lian’s life expanse and as such his present trials have enviable ties with his past encounters. When he leaves for the Ban Yue adventure, Xie Lian would have never imagined that he will experience a blast from the past. Gods in this storyline are actually Human Beings who ascend to the Heaven because of their good deeds or brave acts. As such they gain immortality and become Heavenly Officials. Xie Lian was born as a Crown Prince and quickly ascended to the Heavens because of his loving nature and bravery. However, the sudden downfall of his nation made him commit some irrefutable mistakes. As such he was banished and relegated to the mortal realm. The erstwhile Crown Prince lost his nation, his powers as well as his Followers. Although he was banished and his powers were restricted, the fact remains that he is immortal.
As such, Xie Lian has spent a lifetime traveling through different lands. His connection with the Ban Yue’s Imperial Perceptor is humane and endearing. The little girl who grows up to become the vengeful High Priestess was rescued by Xie Lian when he was disguised as a Military Lieutenant. TGCF will keep on shocking you with surprising plot twists that are unbelievable. Although Ban Yue’s childhood was fraught with pain and humiliation, her downfall was scripted by someone close to her heart. This chapter leaves you with the valuable lesson that love can be a very powerful weapon effectively used by twisted minds. Each adventure in the book is neatly tied to Xie Lian’s past and is clearly affecting his present. The clever play of emotions as Xie Lian’s untangles the variant deceptions will surely keep you entertained.
Heavens Official Blessing is the story of one man’s rise through centuries of pain and separation. As Xie Lian’s morality is put to test, it affects his resolve. Despite that, Xie Lian never loses sight of his ethics or principles. Xie Lian has witnessed humanity at the best and its worst. His compassionate nature never falters and his humility is astounding. His simple attire attests to his kindness and his calm demeanor will leave you astounded. In contrast, Hua Cheng is the perfect candidate to act as Xie Lian’s silent protector and potential love interest. Both have experienced lifelong sufferings and emerged victorious to stand beside each other. TGCF is truly a love story that has moved the Heavens and the Hell!
Rating- 4 out of 5