‘Scorpion-Tailed Snake Shadow’ brings us closer to the Kingdom of Bayue (Crescent Kingdom), and also brings to life a fan-favorite moment from the Tian Guan Ci Fu novel.
‘Scorpion-Tailed Snake Shadow’ picks up immediately where ‘Lost Crescentian‘ left off. Xie Lian has been sucked into the tornado and torn away from his companions. I was pretty iffy with how the scene cut last episode, but my worry ended up being for naught because we got way more eye-flirting out of it than I expected. They didn’t cut the precious sky-cuddling out as I had feared, but actually added to it. The way Haoliners chooses to have these two characters look at each other just kills me every single week. Thank you for the gift.
Something of note during the tornado scene (besides the continued eye-flirting, of course) is just how much our Xie Lian and San Lang have given up any pretenses and don’t seem to bother hiding the reality of their identities with each other anymore. When San Lang is pulled up into the storm, he shows no fear. Any normal mortal would be rather freaked out by being sucked into a tornado, but they would also have freaked out at the sight of ghosts or having a ball of energy blasted at their head. None of this phases him, even if he halfheartedly says otherwise.
But Xie Lian has also let his guard down, blatantly referring to Nan Feng and Fu Yao as ‘Heavenly Officials’ when he’s commanding Ruoye right in front of San Lang. Their cover for their powers around mortals is that they are Daoists, which is the exact excuse they use when they meet mortals a little later in the episode. Their identities as Gods is supposed to be kept secret, but Xie Lian refers to them as such quite openly.
Once again, neither of them really call the other out for these oddities. Xie Lian continues to comfort San Lang in these scary situations, even though it’s clear he doesn’t need it, but that almost reads as flirting at this point. It’s incredibly precious. They are flirting. This is how I will choose to interpret these moments now and you can’t stop me. They flirt via hidden-identity.
The tornado scene is resolved before the opening credits even begin and we dive into the heart of the episode immediately after. When Xie Lian pulls our fearsome foursome to safety with Ruoye, they end up in a cave with a group of weary travelers and some artifacts from hundreds of years ago before the fall of Banyue. This involves a serious history lesson about Banyue and a whole cast of new characters to get to know.
The group finds an old tablet with Banyue characters written on it, which not many people would be able to read 200-years after the kingdom fell. Both San Lang and Xie Lian can read it, though, and they set to work on translating the story. Xie Lian states that he’s familiar with the language because he collected scraps from there before the Banyue Guoshi (Evil Crescent Taoist) was born. San Lang, however, is much simpler with his reasoning; he learned it ‘out of interest.’
The General depicted on the tablet is from the Central Plains, which was the opposing army against Banyue at the time. Why people from Banyue would create a detailed tablet outlining the life of a General from the other side is already strange, but his history is even weirder. This General, who was actually a Lieutenant, kept ‘getting in the way’ during the war while attempting to prevent the two sides from fighting.
While this bit of the story makes the General a praise-worthy figure in the eyes of the wanderers, Fu Yao points out the flaws in this from a military standpoint. His side would resent him while the opposite side would view him as a ‘laughingstock.’ It’s obvious the story can be read quite differently depending on your world view. To the common people, this is heroic and kind, but a God views it through the lens of battle strategies.
The way he died, however, changes how the wanderers react to the story. The General’s shoelaces came untied in the middle of a battle causing him to trip, then get trampled and slashed to death by the soldiers. Suddenly, despite the fact they were praising the General’s willingness to save innocent lives before, the wanderers find the story absolutely hilarious and worthy of ridicule.
San Lang sees them laughing at this unfortunate story and pulls a trick on them. He convinces them that kneeling to the General three times will grant good luck to those who cross the desert. This is obviously completely fake, which leads to THIS delightful bit of translation…
I consulted with a friend who is fluent in Chinese about how this line got translated the way it did. Apparently ‘调皮’ does mean naughty or mischievous, and is typically used ‘with fondness’ towards a kid or a pet. So it’s a lot less saucy than the initial English translation of it initially implies. It’s actually quite a bit sweeter. I would have gone with ‘mischievous’ as that’s a bit less saddled with innuendo in English, but it’s not an incorrect translation either way.
Our wanderers and quartet aren’t alone in the cave, however, and we soon get introduced to the scorpion-tailed snakes from the ‘Scorpion-Tailed Snake Shadow’ episode title. These creatures are creepy and incredibly dangerous. Their deadly venom can be transmitted by either bite or stinger, which means you have to grab both to keep yourself safe. What’s worse is that they seem to actively chase people, instead of using these deadly features purely for self-defense like other similar creatures would do.
These creatures give Xie Lian a chance to show off his badassery yet again as he grabs a snake that was lunging at San Lang…
… but then he promptly gets stung by the scorpion tail. He’s a badass Martial God, yes, but he’s also incredibly unlucky. Grabbing a snake from harming someone is within his skill level, but getting stung by the tail matches his unfortunate luck. It sums up his existence pretty damn well.
This situation leads to one of the most iconic moments from the book which I refer to as the ‘venom-sucking’ scene. We got this scene adapted in the manhua just a few short weeks ago, so seeing how the two contrast has been a super interesting experience.
These tweets summarize the contrast pretty well, but be aware that they contain language that can be considered a spoiler for San Lang’s identity. I think you guys have filled in the blanks by now, but if there are any questions in your mind about this detail, please jump to below the tweets for the rest of the review!
the manhwa is just a fanficition of himself that hua cheng wrote and the donghua is what he actually looks like pic.twitter.com/r4XYAflK1I
— hua chengzu’s wife city (@mxtxandchill) December 5, 2020
xie lian was like devastatingly horny over san lang kissing his hand in the manhwa but in the donghua he looks like he’s feeding a small barnyard animal at the petting zoo pic.twitter.com/caZoyKOicQ
— hua chengzu’s wife city (@mxtxandchill) December 5, 2020
— соurу ❍ tgсf ер 7 sроilеrs!! (@weisizhui) December 5, 2020
starember was like ‘i have the freedom to make tgcf as sexy and horny as possible’ and ran with it while donghua team was like….’ok..we cant do that………..but we can give you beat-down-puppy-eyes san lang and guilty heartache’ and ran with it
— checa (@checayy) December 5, 2020
Donghua-only folk hoping to avoid ALL spoilers can safely jump back into the review now!
Both the donghua and the manhua are taking different paths with how they choose to adapt the story, but neither of them are wrong. These are stylistic choices and each has its own benefits and canon backing. While STARember’s art in the manhua is incredibly sensual, the donghua feels more like a story about an innocent first-love. Both of these interpretations are totally valid.
The donghua team also decided to go with the most romantically-toned song on the whole soundtrack to accompany the scene. The first few sweet piano tones chime in just as San Lang puts his lips to Xie Lian’s skin. And then, once again, Haoliners delivers an incredibly sweet look exchanged between the two that left me dead from feels.
It’s a far cry from the incredibly sensual scene in the manhua, but again, neither are wrong, just different. I’m grateful for both of them. We can have our sweetly romantic cake and sensually eat it, too.
We’re almost to the point where the donghua is going to pass the manhua, so we won’t be able to keep comparing the two for much longer! Hopefully, any potential gap between season one and a potential season two will give the manhua time to get ahead of it again so I can keep comparing them. Right now there’s no word of if we’ll get another season or when it’ll happen if it’s given the green light, but it will likely take a bit of time. Perhaps the two adaptions could even stay on pace with each other for a while! Who knows.
Shortly after the infamous venom-sucking scene, we get another bit of donghua interpretation. San Lang’s eyes go red and he blows up the scorpion-tailed snake that stung Xie Lian. In the book, San Lang’s eyes do not flash red when he does things like this, but I can’t really complain about this. I have a thing for characters with strange eye colors, so I’m totally fine with this! In fact, the manhua makes a similar decision just a bit later on in the story, and I love it there too. More red eyes, please!
This is also another moment where San Lang just doesn’t care about hiding his weirdness anymore. He fires up his powers and blasts the creature that harmed Xie Lian to pieces. The last time he used his powers to scare the ghosts away back in ‘Ghost King Hua Cheng,’ he had the benefit of doing it while Xie Lian’s back was turned. This is done right in front of everyone, though it doesn’t elicit a reaction from those standing by. It was still a rather open use of his powers and says a lot about him as a person.
This venom incident also propels our group towards Banyue, where an herb that acts as an antidote to the venom supposedly grows. They decide to leave Fu Yao behind with the wanderers (which is slightly awkward considering their disagreements over the General story) and take the group’s guide, A-Zhao, with them to the city. A-Zhao is also weird, but nobody quite knows what to make of him just yet. He knows the way to Banyue, however, so he’s more of an asset than a hindrance.
After a bunch of desert wandering (again), we finally make it to the city of Banyue. Trouble soon finds them again, though, as it seems the two women that were running in the sand storm have also arrived at the city ruins. This causes our quartet to scatter among the ruins and hide, with Xie Lian and San Lang naturally running off together, while A-Zhao and Nan Feng run in the other direction.
The episode cuts just as the woman in darker clothing seems to spot them, leaving us on a cliffhanger. The Tian Guan Ci Fu donghua sure loves its cliffhangers! This one is a bit less stressful for me than the last one as I was seriously distressed that we weren’t going to get the sky cuddling scene as it played out in the book. Everything here is keeping on track here and I can rest easy.
Once again these two characters put me in a tricky spot when trying to discuss things with both the donghua-only crowd and book readers. I want to say more, but saying literally anything else about them will be a spoiler, so please find me on Twitter to scream about them and try to keep the comments spoiler-free for the donghua-only crowd! I want to continue to create a space safe for all viewers, but yeah, I want to scream about them too. I get it.
As always, I can’t wait until next week. This time, however, I think one of my favorite scenes is incredibly close to happening, so I’m even more hyped than usual. My natural state for this story is already pretty dang hyped, so I’m basically vibrating with joy right now.
See you next week!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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