While suffering from some serious withdrawal symptoms after reading “Heavens Official Blessing” and “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation” by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, I decided to embark on this new journey-The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System.
The storyline is being adapted into Donghua and the first season was rather a nail-biting experience. Quite different as compared to her other two popular novels, The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System (Rén Zhā Fǎnpài Zìjiù Xìtǒng) is a xianxia romance set in a transmigration universe. This was my first time reading a book in this particular genre and although the storyline does have some glitches, Mo Xiang Tong Xiu impoverishes quickly. The storytelling might not be on par with both of her other novels, but the author’s attempts to try something new must be applauded. The novel is deviation from most of her usual works, which focus on serious issues and are justifiably life-changing experiences. The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System is Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s unorthodox approach to poke fun at the fantasy books, famously known as “Stallion novels”- where the poor abused main protagonist raises to power and seeks revenge, while harboring a harem of beauties. The romance though angsty, is coupled with a hilarity that leaves you baffled and surprised. If you are looking for some light, fluffy read that will make you laugh endlessly, then this book should be on your “Reading List”.
Shen Yuan is a young adult who has just finished reading the novel “Proud Immortal Demon Way”. The novel is about an adolescent boy by the name of Luo Bing He who starts from being naive and innocent boy into becoming the Demon Lord with a harem of beautiful women. Soon afterwards, Shen Yuan finds himself transmigrating right into the novel and becoming one of its notorious villains, Shen Qing Qiu, who also happens to be Luo Bing He’s master.
As Shen Qing Qiu, Shen Yuan decides to change his fate by nurturing and being a good master to the weak Luo Bing He, before he eventually turns into the Demon Lord. With Shen Qing Qiu’s sudden change in personality, the young Luo Bing He finds his master even more attractive and swears to follow him through life and death.
Shen Qing Qiu/Shen Yuan
The main protagonist in this story is Shen Yuan, a proud anti fan of the novel “Proud Immortal Demon Way” . After his death, he transmigrates into the novel, inhabiting the body of Shen Qingqiu, Peak Lord of Cang Qiong Mountain, Qing Jing. Shen Qingqiu is the master (Shizun) of the novel’s protagonist, Luo Binghe. In the novel, Shen Qingqiu is portrayed as an evil character and serves as one of the main villains. After taking Luo Bing He as his disciple, Qingqiu becomes jealous of Luo Bing He’s talents and often abuses him. As Shen Yuan transmigrates into Shen Qing Qiu’s body, he decides to take care of Luo Bing He and be more attentive towards him.
Luo Bing He
The stellar protagonist of the stallion novel “Proud Immortal Demon Way”, Luo Binghe is an orphan who becomes a disciple under Shen Qing Qiu’s tutelage (after his adopted mother’s death). At first, he is timid and naive, kindhearted, yet brave. He often gets bullied by the other disciples from Qing Jing Peak, under the original Sheng Qing Qiu’s orders. But once Shen Yuan becomes Shen Qing Qiu and has a change of heart, Luo Bing He starts to admire his master and develops feelings for him.
Storyline and Plot Development
The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System at its heart is a paradox or rather an odd mix of “Stallion novels+ BL trope”. In experimenting with something new, Mo Xiang Tong Xiu has created a subjugate universe where the main characters and the storyline are under the control of an all- oppressive “System”. The novel focuses on Shen Yuan, a self-described semi- otaku/anti-fan of the novel “Proud Immortal Demon Way” . Although he loves to curse at the author “Airplane Shooting Towards the Sky” for formulating such a ridiculous plot, he is still well-versed in the universe and its characters. So, imagine his surprise when Shen Yuan dies from poisoning and transmigrates into the same universe; into the body of Shen Qingqiu, one of the worst possible scum villains.
The novel ‘Proud Immortal Demon Way’ is a story about Luo Binghe, Shen Qingqiu’s disciple who eventually becomes a powerful Demon Lord. According to the original script, Luo Binghe is continuously bullied and tortured by Shen Qingqiu before being pushed into the “Endless Abyss”. Betrayed by his own Shifu, Luo Binghe returns to take revenge on the entire cultivation world. Shen Qingqiu’s fate is especially torturous as he has his four limbs removed and is brutally murdered.
To avoid the same fate, Shen Yuan decides to take matters into his own hands and train Luo Binghe with care and concern. Unfortunately, the story arc is managed by a computer like “System”. The system has an executable control over Shen Yuan’s actions while it gives him a second chance to redeem himself. Each of his actions causes an addition or deduction of points, as the System deems fit. The worst part is that Shen Yuan can’t avoid the “Endless Abyss” arc where he is forced to kick Luo Binghe down the bowels of hell.
The novel is thus based on Shen Yuan’s ardent efforts to befriend Luo Binghe and guide him, so he doesn’t turn into a negative character. Although Shen Yuan does everything to save his own skin; his kind and caring nature draw Luo Binghe out of his shell. In time, Binghe’s affections for his Shifu slowly morph into something more substantial. The plot twist happens when Shen Yuan is forced to push Luo Binghe into the Endless Abyss. As per the original storyline, Luo Binghe returns for vengeance; but this time around, his entire focus remains on possessing his Shifu (instead of trying to kill him). As against the norms, instead of forming a harem of beauties; Luo Binghe spends his time tailing Shen Yuan, trying to force him into submission. Mo Xiang Tong Xiu does a clean sweep as she inserts the BL trope into a heteronormative stallion novel that had supposedly straight characters. The parody is obviously hilarious, as Shen Yuan’s running commentary on his inner thoughts provides the much needed comic relief. Frankly, The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System is refreshing in terms of its execution and although at times, the main characters act annoying; you learn to live with their abundant flaws.
The Very, Very Angsty Romance
If you are looking for a sweet love story where the main leads inevitably fall in love with each other, then you should totally avoid The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System. The story has two infuriating characters, so hell bent on plotting and scheming; that romance takes a back seat. Of course, Shen Yuan is quite different from Shen Qingqiu; so his characterization is a total contrast to the dreaded scum villain. For two-thirds of the novel, Shen Yuan is completely oblivious to Luo Binghe’s growing affections and obsession (which is pretty obvious to everyone in this universe). As the story progresses, Shen Yuan tries his level best to train Luo Binghe in an attempt to redeem Shen Qingqiu’s past mistakes. Initially naive and innocent, Luo Binghe is starved for affection. So when his arrogant Shifu suddenly takes an interest in him, Luo Binghe forgets his past misdemeanors and turns into a loyal puppy. From cleaning and cooking for his Shifu, Luo Binghe does every chore ardently. The lines begin to blur as Binghe inevitably falls in love with Shen Yuan (with is in contrast to his depiction of being a stallion novel protagonist). After his return from the Abyss, Luo Binghe is endlessly possessive of Shen Yuan, which results in various battles with the other Lords of the Qing Jing Peak. The romance here is quite atypical, as Shen Yuan shows no signs of having any kind of affection or love for Luo Binghe until the penultimate episodes. Although he does care for Binghe and makes infinite sacrifices, they are glossed attempts to gain points and save himself. It was actually quite shocking when Shen Yian readily agrees to have sex with Luo Binghe towards the end. I was a little disappointed with this quick progression, because we never got to learn about Shen Yuan’s true feelings for Luo Binghe.
Memorable Side Characters
Since The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System is Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s first novel, the casting is pretty minimal. As such, you get to learn about each character in depth as they become a part of Shen Yuan and Luo Binghe’s incredulous journey. It could be the Cang Qiong Mountain Sect’s Peak Lords Yue Qingyuan or his subordinates Liu Qingge, Mu Qingfang, Qi Qingqi, Shang Qinghua; each of them has an intriguing personality and their dynamics with Shen Yuan is riveting. Yue Qingyuan is obviously the older brother, who always sides with Shen Yuan, despite his incredible flaws. Liu Qingge and Shen Qingqiu were on relatively bad terms. But after his transmigration, Shen Yuan manages to earn Liu Qingge’s trust and appreciation. Qingge becomes one of Shen Yuan’s staunch supporters and also his best friend. His over-protective nature often clashes with Luo Binghe’s obsessive nature (at times, I had doubts if Qingge had feelings for Shen Yuan). Qi Qingqi and Shen Yuan’s relationship doesn’t change much and they are pretty much passive-aggressive most of the time. Shen Yuan’s relationship with Shang Qinghua is vital, because it is revealed in the latter half that Qinghua is actually the author Airplane Shooting Towards The Sky. For some strange reason, the system transports the author into the novel as well and he inhabits Shang Qinghua’s body. As the only two people who know the entirety of the storyline, Shen Yuan and Shang Qinghua bond together in their attempts for survival. The important members in Luo Binghe’s harem like Ning Yingying, Liu Mingyan and Sha Hualing also make an appearance, but obviously their significance is subdued considering the fact that Shen Yuan is Luo Binghe’s love interest in the current scenario.
☆Luo Binghe- “Shizun believed in me; not only did he give me the opportunity, he even encouraged me during the match. And in the end, I truly did win.”
And a last sentence he silently said only to himself.
To save me, Shizun blocked two attacks for me. His goodness towards me is genuine.
☆ Shen Yuan- “If you cannot become strong, I will stay by your side and protect you.”
His thoughts were this simple, but to the other person’s ears, it did not sound that way.
Luo Binghe was already completely dumbfounded. No one had ever made such a promise to him.
☆ Shen Yuan- “I’ll repay it all to you today. It could be considered a final act of kindness”
☆ Luo Binghe didn’t react for a short while. “Leave?”
Shen Qingqiu nodded. “Didn’t you say that you weren’t welcome here? Then go, to somewhere that will welcome you.”
He added, “This time, no matter where you want to go, this master will accompany you.”
☆ Luo Binghe smiled vaguely and shifted his gaze “Did Shizun sleep badly last night?”
How can I sleep well when I’m holding you in an embrace?
Shen Qingqiu replied in a light tone. “Just some dreams of the past.”
Luo Binghe said, “Then, how about I hug you to sleep the next time?”
The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System is definitely one of the most hilarious smut novels that I have read in recent times. In keeping with Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s writing style that borders on tragedy, this novel is full of angst and painful recurrences. But Shen Yuan’s painfully optimistic personality shines throughout and his inner monologues are comic gold. Also, the “System’s” inherent tendency to stump Shen Yuan’s happy overtures is truly entertaining. Apart from the added fallacies, Shen Yuan’s relationship with each of the characters is truly inspiring. In his own misguided way, Shen Yuan attempts to save the world as well as his disgruntled disciple, while seeking redemption and world peace. His gentle and caring nature is always at odds with the System’s nefarious plans and their differences drive the narrative forward. Unlike Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s other popular novels, The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System is an easy read. It isn’t exactly warm and fluffy, but the characters are endearing. If you are looking for a lighthearted comedy, then this novel is a must-read. Or you can read it, while waiting for the second season of the Donghua to premiere online!
Rating- 3.5 out of 5