From the beginning, one of the biggest themes in this story is Qingqiu's inability to understand that Binghe is different from the original novel's. Even after creating a more positive relationship with him in hopes of saving his own skin, Qingqiu still thinks of Binghe as the original, with the original's tastes, eventual personality, etc. This is the root of basically all of their misunderstandings.
This can be seen early on through how he observed the original novel's members of Binghe's harem even when Binghe and the plot has deviated from that already. I would say that Qingqiu is at least somewhat able to see Binghe as slightly different from the original novel's when he was still a young untainted sheep, though as Binghe pointed out later in the Huan Hua, nothing he does personally after falling into the Abyss could make Qingqiu change his mind, because at that point, he already saw Binghe as the carbon copy of the original. I personally don't believe this started after the Abyss, but rather right at the moment before he pushes Binghe in. Even though the System forces Qingqiu to do it with the threat of his own life (20, 000 points overkill), the fact is that as Binghe pleaded him to listen, Qingqiu was looking into the future and not at the present Binghe.
Sure, Qingqiu could have probably handled it differently. It's possible he could have told Binghe that he is in danger now with his demonic blood released, and if he wants to be able to get more powerful and control it while also staying out trouble from the human world, he must go down the Abyss. But I doubt those ideas even crossed his mind. Qingqiu was already thinking too far ahead, with a concrete idea of who Binghe should be already in his head. Qingqiu even said it himself, that he never really considered himself as part of the story, but rather an outsider looking in. Even when he grew attached, he never truly differentiated novel verse and his verse.
This isn't necessarily criticism, as I'm just stating that these are all the reasons why Qingqiu acts the way he does, and it's part of the story inherently. And I personally cannot fault Qingqiu for it entirely. After all, to him, all of this was just a novel, all of these characters are part of that novel, and all he wanted to do from the beginning was to survive. To him, it was all inevitable. A flaw perhaps, in his character. But that's a pretty understandable flaw.
Especially after Qingqiu died which... uh, yeah. Pretty much expected.
One part of the story not to my tastes was the non-con scene, which was non/dub-con for both characters essentially. Warning, it's at chapter 80. Context is that Mo Xin (Binghe's sword) starts to muddle his mind and that happens. However, Binghe stopped in the process and started crying when he realized Qingqiu was in pain which caused the latter to go "... why are YOU crying??? Why am I, the victim, now comforting the assaulter???"
It made sense, or at least had some relevance to the plot/story (Binghe's sword is a bit of a beep) but yeah. Still might be triggering to some so warning right here.
I do wonder why non/dub-con is such a popular thing in the bl community is. I see it in yaoi manga, in c-novels, in webtoons. Wonder why it has become the norm almost? History and society influence? Especially in the Eastern hemisphere. Like, its almost celebrated to an extent, or just very common.
Even more so, a good deal of the point of this story was following We WuXian's rebirth and figuring out the present using his spotty memories. The guy has the memory on par with a goldfish. The flashbacks are just such an important literary device that I love dearly in this book, especially when repeatedly implied past events are finally revealed. A good example would be the events of the Night before going into the present, directly referencing that mess of a past event by mentioning how some people presently in the Demon-Slayer Cave were either there during that massacre or were descendents of those in that massacre.
Another would also be Xichen revealing that Lan WangJi apparently confessed his feelings (? kinda, it was just very obvious even if he didn't say it directly) before in the past, but because Wei Ying didn't remember, it explained part of the past misunderstandings between the two.
At very inopportune time what with them being at the complete mercy of end antagonist, but I digress.
Like, look. I can feel that Lan Zhan has so much potential in complexity, not just in his obligatory tragic backstory, but his present actions as well. His sides are just not shown well through the novel itself and partially due to perspective, and from Wei Ying's point of view:
I actually think that their relationship development itself is fine. It's not anything complex and dynamic like with Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng, but I think that that's... also fine. Them having a relatively chill relationship after the initial ups and downs in their youth is completely good for me. I genuinely don't really have as much of a problem with that as others do. To be honest, it's slow burn more on the confirmation of mutual feelings than "push and pull" which was pre-novel stuff. Some people are stuck in the pre-relationship part of a relationship rather than the actual relationship... if that makes sense. I think it's important to note that a character doesn't need to complete their arc simultaneously with getting romantically involved. The "not wanting a character being defined by who they end up with" would ultimately become useless if they just, y'know, actually get into a relationship before they complete a character arc... anywho, semantics. I just think that them having a stable, mutually loving, simple relationship after finally getting their heads out of their asses is a good thing.
I just mostly wish that we got to actually witness Lan Zhan's struggles and mistakes and growth, especially in his youth and within those thirteen years. Like his chosen drunk adventure leading to nearly hurting himself and others (possibly even sober), regrets, the realization of missing his chances and getting used to grief. I want to SEE THAT. But the story really isn't his and Wei Ying's story, it's mostly just Wei Ying's, Which may negate everything I'm saying but, anyways. And by the way, Wei Ying is a dumpster fire of emotional instability and extreme PTSD from all sides. So uh, Lan Zhan being perfect in comparison (in his point of view) is valid because Lan Zhan is at least more stable mentally and by pure nature than he is.
Now, disregarding all of that... I also think that even though Lan Zhan is portrayed less compellingly than others, he's a good character. More importantly, I freaking love him even with him being not as "relateable". To be honest, my biggest gripe is simply I want to see more of him outside of Wei Ying. Not necessarily meaning "without Wei Ying there" but more "him doing something in the presence of Wei Ying that doesn't relate to him at all, but is still Lan Zhan through and through, and is not something perfect like his writing posture or something". I think that he did indeed go through some changes and self-reflections, but we weren't able to see it that well. And the reason for that is actually pretty simple (and I also already said this multiple times already but this is the main point) : he's completed his character arc before the novel. By the novel, he has already become a (reasonably) stable adult. His personality has already evened out by then. Which makes him flat by novel story standards, but a normally functioning human adult by real life standards (not his high level cultivation stuff, but personality wise). He didn't NEED to go through any major character development because he's already completed it off screen, and what happens next for him most importantly is Wei Ying. Which is fine. He's still a good character, and he fulfills his purpose within the story about Wei Ying.
If you watched the dongman... the first season has the majority of Lan Wangji's character development, all in the younger days. And I really loved it. As I thought, his character really does have so much potential, even though it was used mostly unseen or in flashbacks in the novel. The dongman does a good job of showing the depth and conflict in his character, so I greatly recommend it.
Sometimes r*pe and also underage (but oh-hoh actually consensual but still mcfracking r*pe in ML's mind, like he hid his identity purposefully). Also creepy stalker behavior that usually is way more creepy than sweet.
Also a god-level hacker, meaning after gaining control of the system, he is LITERALLY A GOD and can change a crap ton of stuff, including his physical looks, his aura, downloading and plagiarizing songs from other worlds, creating flawless audio files, and basically anything else learned through the countless worlds he already experienced like, cooking, acting, singing (with tweaks to his data for superhuman range), business, etc.
So uhm, he had no real flaws before nor after his experiences other than "normal talent" to "overpowered talent" and being a bit of a bastard (but he's still ALWAYS right).
Since that's also the one ML repeatedly drugged then r*ped him while hiding his identity because "he loves him and dat's all there is to it :D"
"oh he kissed me while drugged (ignoring MC's awareness) ? ok better drug him constantly and r*pe him now and THEN try to ACTUALLY kidnap him"
Main villainess in the supermodel world was such a weird one. Like, she was abused during childhood and r*ped when she was a young adult by her stepdad with the approval of her mom to sustain a financial marriage, but she's villified for almost all of the story 20% for her scheming ways (as if she doesn't have good reason to want to escape, even if she was a terrible person) and then 80% for her CURVY BODY which is glaringly body-shaming in the name of Chinese beauty standards of human-noodle proportions, especially for females. The standard of "youthful child" silhouette with a either a great metabolism or eating one meal of a fruit a day. Then she becomes a porn star as punishment. This story portrays an abused r*pe-victim (btw with non-con already being a huge problem in cnovels already) as someone who will inevitably be objectified as a CURVY female. What the fudge nuggets.
This isn't even mainly about her as a character (yes she's a terrible person and irl r*pe doesnt justify... cheating I guess) and more what her character stands for. These people are already represented extremely poorly especially in c-novels, so it's just annoying as all hell.
Also MC in the autistic artist story just pretending to be autistic because okay fine. Original character died, and MC needs to be not OOC.
And possibly autistic and definitely 0-degrees-empathy brother character in the twins world being more sympathetic is the best example where a marginalized group is more positively portrayed, except maybe gays??
The fact the people of the town are all extraordinary is showed through hints and protagonist observations, with the ultimate secret being that the people are essentially chosen ones, special ones.
I consider that place to be literally Paradise for Nan Ge Er, as he died twice already. Paradise in the way that the place, as the last few lines of the book say, is untouched even as the rest of the world is in chaos. Paradise in how the people are chosen, and outsider mortals are considered beneath them, ants beneath Mo Shu's feet. Its a bit of a twisted paradise but the point stands, and its not like the book ever tried to convince you otherwise. From the beginning to the realization of Mo Shu's complete disregard of human life, and own trained inability to understand why he should care, brought up as a beast since birth, hidden behind a smile, Nan Ge Er notes how terrifying and unnatural it is, but accepts it eventually. Because he is finally in Paradise.
I will say though, that the surrealist aspect is a bit of a double edged sword. It creates a weird environment for the main character to fufill basic slice of life activities in, which is a plus for me. But can be considered a bit dissonant with the overall theme of the story. I think that Mo Shu's backstory is almost satirical? The intentions of the author is a little unclear on that point, though I personally interpreted it as a sick twist and acknowledgement on selfishness of hapiness and being ignorant to a world that wouldn't be able to understand you either. A lot of moral ambiguities in this, and I'm not sure if it's done intentionally or not. But I still did enjoy the story overall.
There are a lot of similarities that have, with her three works thus far, become a sort of trademark for this author. Mainly one-sided devotion under precieved death/separation for at least a good number of years, whether it was two, thirteen, or eight hundred.
Honestly, I was still fond of Hua Cheng and Xie Lian's relationship and their characters. Hua Cheng from birth was extremely downgraded, and thus the only light he could see from literal the depths of depression was Xie Lian due to him being saved by him. This becomes his sole characteristic apart from fearing his own ugliness, which is something that at times puts him at odds with being around Xie Lian due to self hatred. It makes sense, I guess, in a literal way. But it honestly also makes him less compelling, or less... coherent as a character.
I'll be using Lan Wangji from MDZS as an example, since they have more in common in terms of character builds compared to the ML Luo Binghe from Scum Villain. Both Hua Cheng and Lan Wangji went through a sort of "transforming character arc" behind the scenes away from the narrator protagonist. There's a notable difference in their personalities contrasting the years away from the narrative compared to the flashbacks of their past selves. Both are also very much devoted to the protagonists, and their role in the story is to literally be there for them when no one else is.
Some of the differences in character arc:
Lan Wangji's transformation occurs at the time of no return, where, due to the differences in the major antagonists and conflicts of the story, it alters the way Hua Cheng and Lan Wangji's roles are represented in the story. Hua Cheng is "the only one" for Xie Lian and will do anything for him point blank from day one. What made Lan Wangji compelling, or at least extremely endearing to me, is how in the past he had a crap ton of internal conflicts that led to him being "too late", which is interesting, coupled with inherent traits that become legitimate flaws hel later regrets dearly, like being unable to say or show what he really means, backfiring on him badly, and directly leads to an emotional drive to "be there for him". What Hua Cheng lacked when initially trying to help Xie Lian was simply "not being strong enough", which is definitely tragic but also really highlights how he really didn't have an actual character arc. Ever. And his relationship with Xie Lian suffers a bit too, not between them as characters necessarily, which is a main story development that had very very disproportionate emotional investment from the two sides, but rather the weight and value it has as a story device. Which is, also flat. Lan Wangji's failure in protecting Wei Wuxian was a problem with him as a person, Hua Cheng's failure in protecting Xie Lian was a problem with him as a sword. And this has nothing to do with the outcome like "oh but really Xie Lian is the one who has to kill the antagonist anyways" but rather how to do with how the characters perceived and changed themselves. Lan Wangji started actively supporting and showing Wei Wuxian he cares despite being naturally bad at showing emotions. Hua Cheng became a butterfly whisperer (after conveniently being brought back by Xie Lian's luck) and became stronger in all the superficial ways possible.
Lan Wangji has completed his arc essentially by Wei Wuxian's death, or at least in the thirteen years without him, but Hua Cheng's major growth was all rather superficial such as "stronger" and "is less nervous". Lan Zhan, who is notoriously called flat by some people (which I disagree with) has nothing on Hua Cheng, a character who was pulled out of suicide by Xie Lian and... and that's it. I still do like him (ish) but he's definitely not my eternal son Lan Wangji. Of course, this is subject to opinion based on people's taste in personality. Character wise though, he's probably the flattest out of all of MXTX's devoted MLs, with Binghe perhaps being the most subversive and complex, and Lan Wangji being my favorite (and perhaps less complex in the main story line, but does his job and is a damn fine character).
Thus, this difference in how Lan Wangji and Hua Cheng has failed in the past and their differemt character arcs leads to a less resonant main story for Hua Cheng and Xie Lian in regards to Hua Cheng's character and their relationship. Because of how lacking in emotional/personal repercussion other than seeing Xie Lian die because he physically was incapable of helping him, the actual effect Xie Lian had on Hua Cheng also feels... superficial? Despite it obviously being not? The reason is because other than directing his entire existence on Xie Lian literally, Hua Cheng doesn't have much else to go off of in terms of... anything else. Which inadvertently makes it feel superficial. Perhaps I'm being hyper critical for no good reason, but the emotional payoff just isn't as strong because of the lack of a character to even speculate on.
I do have to say that chapter 124 by itself made me bawl every time I read it quite literally, and it's mainly because Shi Qingxuan is my baby and I, like every other reader, am mad about how he was handled afterward. I mean sure, you can give reasoning that it has to do with the whole theme of "losing everything due to external sources of conflict that involves you anyways" but character wise it wasn't handled very well, with his portrayal basically falling flat by the time he was reintroduced as plot device. It's not unreasonable in the setting, but is very anticlimactic and has very low impact, which means narrative wise it's very weak.
Her minor characters are as always well likeable and interesting, but many fall to the wayside I'm assuming for theme building rather than plot AND theme building. I guess the worst one in this case would be He Xuan's arc, which tackled a lot of interesting things that made me think, but was also jarringly disconnected after the ordeal. I wish the aftermath was expanded upon and directly affected the rest od the story without it being little convenient plot devices.
where she decided to give up on forcing Chu Kong herself to become an immortal.
Also he kills someone because of their extremely evil and irredeemably selfish/sadistic deeds. Won't say their name, but it happens relatively early on in the story, and it is because of their evilness. It was expressively stated before that he did not hold any strong urge to go against Yan Wushi at that point in time was because he did not see him do anything particularly bad yet. So Shen Qiao is someone who is gentle and compassionate by nature, but also understands that there is in fact evil in the world, at times irredeemable.
The little spoilers I've seen told me that there's a big betrayal in the future, so I am definitely looking forward to that. Currently, I have a feeling I know what it is, if Yan Wushi's behavior and actions at this stage is foreshadowing it. I'm wondering how exactly their relationship will progress to and beyond that point. I'm also a little like... how in the world did they actually end up falling for each other??? So far they're pretty... I mean, tolerant, but love? I'm curious but also worried. Hope the development is good...
I'm genuinely at loss on how would they fall in love but... well, its only the halfway mark so. We'll see.