Heaven Official’s Blessing (Tian Guan Ci Fu – 天官赐福) is a Chinese danmei novel written by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (墨香铜臭). Bilibili and Funimation launched an exciting LGBTQ romance series in October 2020, based on the novel of the same name. The first season of the donghua is also available on Netflix, and a second season has already been announced to much fanfare from fans of the series. The novel first debuted in 2017 and it was soon adapted into a manhua illustrated by STARember. Furthermore, there are English translations of the novel made available by Seven Seas Entertainment in addition to a live-action film being currently developed.
Summary of the Donghua
The story of Heaven Official’s Blessing revolves around Xie Lian, the Crown Prince of the Xian Le Kingdom, a God who had ascended to Heaven and was previously banished to the Mortal Realm twice. After ascending to the Heavens for the third time, Xie Lian is yet again the laughing stock of all three realms (Heaven, Ghost and Mortal Realm). As part of his first mission, he meets the mysterious Ghost King Hua Cheng, who rules the realm of ghosts that intimidate and terrify Heaven’s officials. Unbeknownst to Xie Lian, Hua Cheng has been watching and waiting for him for an extended period of time. Having completed his first mission, Xie Lian decides to live in the Mortal Realm to build a shrine dedicated to himself as he has no worshippers for the time being. In the midst of his journey into the mortal realm, he meets a mysterious young man called San Lang who knows a lot about the Heaven Realm, the Mortal Realm and the Ghost Realm. Assisted by Nan Feng, Fu Yao and San Lang, he encounters many challenges on his journey as a God in the mortal realm — including ghosts, fallen kingdoms, and unexpected re-encounters with people from his past lives.
Introduction of the Characters
The protagonist, Xie Lian, is an unlucky God who ascended three times to the Heavenly Realm. The Crown Prince of Xian Le is also known as Dianxia (Your Highness), a Martial God, and a Scrap-collecting God. He is a kind, gentle, and humble God who is committed to helping people while doing his best to pursue his missions. Despite having superb abilities, he remains very down-to-earth. He respects everyone equally and never elevates himself above others. Moreover, he demonstrates great compassion and does not allow what others think of him to determine the conditionality of his kindness. Even though he possesses the “perfect” protagonist qualities, plenty of mysteries remain about his past lives regarding the reasons for his banishments and ascendance remain unknown in season 1 of the donghua.
San Lang, the protagonist’s love interest. His meeting with Xie Lian is very coincidental and unexpected, leaving viewers and readers intrigued and excited. Throughout the donghua, even from the beginning, it is quite obvious that San Lang is a mysterious character as his identity remained undefined for the most part. Who is he really? Well, that is something you need to discover yourself in the donghua *wink wink*. Aside from his charisma and intelligence, he has a laid-back demeanour. While San Lang sometimes appears childish, he is sincere and protective when it comes to Xie Lian. His general demeanour usually consists of being apathetic towards others and is primarily concerned with himself. In contrast, he is very gentle with Xie Lian, treating him with respect whilst never failing to shower him with unconditional support and loyalty.
Our Overview of the Donghua
This is an enthralling story that gets you hooked right from the beginning. A story so touching that it will surely make you sob. As expected of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, the danmei stories she has created are pretty as a picture, such as the tale of Mo Dao Zu Shi, Heaven Official’s Blessing is reminiscent of a very historical Chinese genre (Xianxia). This is not an ordinary story where one of the main characters turns out to be condescending, overbearing, has a hugely inflated ego and expects every God to worship him while the others pine after him. In fact, Xie Lian is the complete opposite of a typical protagonist. San Lang however, is cloaked in mystery and possesses the charisma that he only shows to Xie Lian. From the start, you can sense the unbound loyalty from him towards our beloved Xie Lian.
Having read all five books of the Tian Guan Ci Fu series, it is safe to say that the production team has created a masterpiece, with the donghua being concise and covering a lot of ground despite its short runtime. Of course, the novel includes more detailed explanations in addition to more plot developments. Based on numerous experiences, it is almost impossible to compare original novels to their movie/series adaptations as they will never be identical. In any case, this donghua has covered most of the story, leaving us wondering if the unresolved scenes and character development will be addressed in the second season. If you haven’t read the books yet then you will find yourself asking questions like “Who is San Lang? Why is he helping Xie Lian? Does he have an ulterior motive?”. The list goes on and it can definitely be said that this anime will surely evoke your curiosity.
Review on the Plot
Let’s dive right into the plot, shall we? This donghua is not purely about love as it possesses lots of other elements as well like mystery, horror and comedy. This story weaves into a beautiful storyline that keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you swoon all at the same time. The plot ventures into a dark and gritty territory which surprisingly isn’t off putting to the viewer as the gory and dark theme isn’t excessive or overwhelming. Some of the characters have their own backstory that interconnects with the main character’s story as well which makes this story unique.
This donghua does an excellent job of not only giving importance to the main characters, but also managing to portray the supporting characters well. Hence, giving good character development for not only Xie Lian and San Lang but for the others too as each character has a distinctive personality that is characterized by their individual charm. There is so much more to this story than meets the eye. Even though it’s fast-paced, the story definitely has the slow burn trope to it. The flow and fluidity are seamless and simplistic which enables viewers to easily dive right into the story without having to read anything prior to watching this donghua.
It is, without a doubt, the romance that makes the story totally and utterly breathtaking. Devotion? Loyalty? Flirting? Excitement? Everything you could possibly want is all present here, in one single story. As a whole, Heaven Official’s Blessing transcends the storyline and conveys the feeling of longing and enduring love. There’s something about this donghua that makes one wish for that fantasy-like world of romances with the perfect, trouble-free, and healthy relationship of a lifetime.
In keeping with China’s censorship in films, where portraying queerness on television is highly controversial, this romantic relationship is barely explicit in comparison to most Japanese boy’s love anime. The sweet moments in Heaven Official’s Blessing are packed into bromance scenes, which is of course as light as the Shounen-ai genre. The bromance, or as we would put it, the flirting between the main couple, is expressed through small gestures such as hand touching, long stares, and tender silences that last for quite a while. As a result, they seem to gradually fall in love in brief moments, creating a believable and authentic romance.
Review on the Animation
Do not even get us started on the animation. The graphics are amazing, each scene is well thought out and carefully designed to compliment the story and characters. Obviously, the animation is not up to the same standard as seen on a few Japanese anime series such as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba or Your Name the movie. Nonetheless, it is still stunning in its own right. This 2D anime contains refreshing pastel-palette scheme colours and realistic design. The scenery and details seem to be a part of a real-life setting which sets the moods accordingly ranging from melodramatic to dark and brooding. It is not uncommon for certain high-quality animation to include low-resolution scenes to create a chibi effect in certain scenes to emphasise their facial expression to make the characters appear cuter. This was well executed in this donghua as it was accomplished without disrupting the overall aesthetic and polished theme of the series.
Despite its great animation, there are still noticeable flaws. We had considerable difficulty distinguishing Xie Lian’s friends, Fu Yao and Nan Feng, the two supporting characters who look a lot alike. Other than that, it is hard to see the difference in facial expressions displayed by the characters. Most anime series portray facial expressions better than this donghua but in all honesty, it does not really affect the overall viewing experience which is aided by the strong storylines.
Review on the Soundtrack
The next best thing about this donghua is the soundtrack. Every song in the soundtrack is beautifully arranged, with vocals and instrumentals perfectly aligning with every scene which succeeded in evoking a sentimental and romantic feeling. The anime by itself is packed with so much raw emotion but with the addition of an impassioned soundtrack, it makes it the best boy’s love anime/donghua we have seen so far. The music really tugs on your heartstrings, captivating you even further. As an added bonus, it is even enjoyable to listen to as lo-fi study music, which is often what we do due to its calming tone.
Here is the Youtube playlist of the donghua’s soundtracks:
Review on the Lessons Learnt Portrayed in the Donghua
Besides the romance and the action, the most prominent thing that we noticed from watching this anime is how they challenge the social construct that we created as a society. For instance, we are all taught that Gods can make no mistake and devils are ought to sin but this donghua questions this archaic belief. It makes a point to show that Gods can be sinners and Demons can attain salvation as shown from the scene in the second episode. The conversations between Xie Lian and the supporting characters are both funny and sarcastic which tackles philosophical issues such as equality in a digestible manner, allowing the audience to relate to them in a lighthearted way.
Apart from that, the English idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” fits in well with the donghua, since each character has their own perspective on certain situations, which you can find in episode 3 and episode 10. Whether one is a fallen God or the most revered God on earth, one should not point fingers regardless of their status.
This 13-episode animated series was entertaining and suspenseful. We can take away many of the moral principles it touches upon, as well as the suspense that keeps us eagerly anticipating the second season. There are likely to be differing viewpoints on the donghua and the overall story, which makes the discussion even more interesting because there is room for all perspectives. Nevertheless, if you enjoy slow-paced romance set against a backdrop of Chinese history, you are guaranteed not to be disappointed by this thematically stunning show. Overall, we will definitely give this amazing anime a 10/10 because what’s not to love? Stay tuned for season 2 as you will get to see more of Xie Lian and San Lang’s adventure together with Fu Yao and Nan Feng.
Official Trailer: https://youtu.be/lrW6brHdOpA
English version of the Novel Series: https://sevenseasdanmei.com/
By : Yasmeen and Loshene