“Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire (Lie Huo Jiao Chou)” Series Review (Ep.5 to 12)

Chinese donghua Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire (Lie Huo Jiao Chou) has ended.

For now. I, for one, am sad to see it go. Its weekly cliffhangers and fast-paced storytelling left my mind reeling and my heart longing for more. Adapted from Priest’s web novel, Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire is a Chinese CGI-animated BL supernatural thriller that takes viewers on a captivating adventure.

Brought to the screen by Bilibili and studio Shenying Animation, Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire follows our male lead, Xuan Ji, as he joins The Center of Management and Prevention of Abnormal Phenomena and Special Species as a recruit. Part of the Aftermath Response Team, he comes face-to-face with an awakened emperor, Sheng Lingyuan, the meeting revealing many revelations and unexpected feelings.

The story is complicated, but the donghua uses each episode to slowly untangle the confusion, especially for viewers who haven’t read the danmei this donghua is based on. One of the things I enjoy most about donghuas, especially if I have yet to read the book, is the puzzle these shows present. My mother loved jigsaw puzzles, and when I was a child, she always kept one sitting on our kitchen table. For weeks, she’d work on it, stopping for a moment to find where one of the pieces should go before moving on to whatever she needed to do that day. As I grew, I joined her, quickly fitting a puzzle piece in before heading to school and another when I came home. Donghuas feel a lot like working on these puzzles. The more pieces that fall into place, the more exciting and beautiful the picture that gets revealed.

Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire is a puzzle that shouldn’t be missed. Because part of the fun of watching this is trying to figure it out, I won’t spoil the story. Instead, I will focus on two of the main reasons for watching, Xuan Ji and Sheng Liyuan.

From the start, viewers are taken on a crazy ride full of parasitic butterflies, human sacrifices, and emotional dreamscapes. And while this seems alluring enough as a viewer, it’s following Xuan Ji and Sheng Liyuan as they take this adventure together that makes this show worth watching.

The characters in this donghua are strong and well-developed, especially Xuan Ji. Through him, we get to know and understand each of the other characters. What I love most about Xuan Ji is his ability to understand the hearts of those around him, whether it’s friend or foe. From antagonist Aluojin to his own team members, Xuan Ji has an innate way of sympathizing with others. Because of this, I found myself empathizing with everyone, even the villains. Aluojin, especially, hurt me. Although I found him frustrating at times, Aluojin lived a life of disappointments. He loved Sheng Liyuan and the wu people. The sense of betrayal he felt over everything that transpires is relatable. Seeing Aluojin’s pain and seeing Xuan Ji’s reaction to it is why I found myself so empathetic toward him.

But it’s Xuan Ji’s connection to Sheng Lingyuan that stands out the most. From the witty arguments to the poignant moments, the feelings that grow between them are palpable. While Xuan Ji is bright and talkative, Sheng Lingyuan is guarded. Along with Xuan Ji, viewers are taken on a compelling journey through Sheng Lingyuan’s memories, a journey that emotionally connects our two male leads while also revealing more puzzling mysteries.

Oddly, despite Xuan Ji’s bubbly, positive, and open personality, his character manages to remain the most mysterious. Although there is some explanation about where he comes from and how he’s connected to Sheng Liyuan, most of Xuan Ji’s character is shrouded in mystery. And strangely, I prefer it that way. Maybe it’s that childhood fascination with puzzles my mother ingrained in me, but something is satisfying about being inside the head of a character who isn’t quite sure of himself.

From the beginning, the action in this donghua is non-stop. From forest to dreams to caves and cities, Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire is a fast-paced puzzle with enough growing chemistry between Xuan Ji and Sheng Liyuan to keep me completely enthralled. The highlight of their relationship is a bathroom scene where Xuan Ji is washing Sheng Liyuan’s hair. It’s not only intimate; it emphasizes the unspoken trust between them. And when they part at the end, the sorrow they feel over it is palpable.

Like with every episode of this donghua, the finale felt unfinished. Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire specializes in cliffhangers, and the conclusion is no exception. An end credit scene points toward a second season, and since the first season only touches on the larger story this is meant to become, I am certainly here for it.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, and Xuan Ji and Sheng Liyuan’s apparent feelings for each other made this parting that much more unbearable. I need more.

To watch, check out Drowning Sorrows in Raging Fire on Funimation and Bilibili. You won’t be disappointed. The CGI may feel very different for those used to traditional animation, but it works in this series favor.

Rating- 4.5 out of 5

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