“Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire (Lie Huo Jiao Chou)” First Impressions (Ep.1 to 4)

Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire (Lie Huo Jiao Chou) is as emotionally complex and blazingly hot as its title promises it will be. Adapted from Priest’s web novel of the same name, Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire is a Chinese CGI-animated BL supernatural thriller with a lot of heart.

Intricate storytelling and complex emotions are two of the most impressive things about Chinese donghuas and the danmeis many are adapted from. Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire is no different. Brought to the screen by Bilibili and studio Shenying Animation, it tells the action-packed story of recruit Xuan Ji and an awakened emperor, Sheng Lingyuan. The backdrop of this donghua is the Center of Management and Prevention of Abnormal Phenomena and Special Species. Their job is to protect humans while also protecting the supernaturals’ existence. Xuan Ji is assigned to the Aftermath Response Team, which cleans up after the field teams.

The first four episodes weave a tantalizingly complicated tale. From human sacrifices to parasitic butterflies and a conjured demon that ends up trapped inside a sword, Drowning Sorrows of Raging Fire is fast-paced and exciting. But even more interesting than the story itself is the characters.

The characters bring me back to my favorite thing about this donghua. At only four episodes in, the characterization is so relatable and strong that even the villains leave an impression on the heart. While the bright and talkative Xuan Ji is the main focal point, Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire makes it a point to connect intimately to the other characters through him, especially Sheng Liyuan.

It takes an exceptional character and an extraordinary story to place viewers inside the head and heart of its main character. Watching Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire feels like virtual reality. Even though it’s CGI Animation, I feel like I’m inside Xuan Ji when I’m watching. I see his world and those around him through his eyes. I feel his emotions. I feel his heart. I experience his distress over his ambiguous past and his confusion over Sheng Liyuan. I feel his surprise and empathy when he encounters characters like Bi Chunsheng.

I was Xuan Ji for four episodes, which is why the cliffhanger at the end of each episode always throws me for an emotional loop.

The main character in any book/film/drama/animation is only as strong as its supporting cast. It’s apparent when a writer or producer takes the time to flesh out every character. Doing so takes what could be a basic 2D story and turns it into a 3D experience. Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire gave me this kind of experience.

After seeing the first four episodes, I have many more questions than I do answers, and I’m somehow thrilled by that. I haven’t read the novel this donghua is adapted from, but I look forward to doing so. I feel like the animation is undoubtedly doing it justice.

Rather than break down the first four episodes with all of their plot twists, surprise storylines, and crazy cliffhangers, I will avoid major spoilers and simply say it is worth every minute of viewing time. The characters are strong, the story is intriguing, and the growing chemistry and connection between Xuan Ji and Sheng Liyuan is addictive. I feel the pull between them, a force that becomes even stronger once they’re connected.

I love that I was thrown straight into the thick of things. From the first moment, the viewer is dropped straight into the action, from fight scenes to crazy supernatural realizations. The fight sequences are brilliant, and the individual characters’ personalities shine through. You won’t be disappointed.

It will be interesting to see exactly how this donghua plays out and precisely what role the mysterious Sheng Liyuan will play in both it and Xuan Ji’s heart. I am entirely invested. To watch, check out Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire on Funimation and Bilibili. You won’t be disappointed. For those used to traditional animation, the CGI may feel very different, but it works in this series favor.

Rating- 4 out of 5

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