Japanese animated works are still the most well-known ones, but other anime-style works are also gaining popularity, with Mo Dao Zu Shi being one of the highest-ranking Chinese fantasy anime or donghua. For any newcomers looking to pick it up, is Mo Dao Zu Shi worth watching?
About Mo Dao Zu Shi
For the uninitiated, Mo Dao Zu Shi is the non-linear story of Wei Wuxian, the titular Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation.
In a world where magically-gifted and trained individuals known as cultivators protect the world from restless, zombie-like dead, Wei Wuxian founded the Demon Sect.
In doing so, he used the zombie-like monsters his people would fight, committing many taboo acts.
While his intentions were largely good, as he gave his people a fighting chance against the treacherous Wen clan, Wei Wuxian unintentionally caused great pain through the unorthodox path he forged, resulting in his death at the hand of someone he considered family.
13 years later, he was summoned by a young man who had been horribly abused and dismissed by his clan as mad.
Having a body once more, Wei Wuxian must come to terms with his past. When he reunites with Lan Wangji, a co-student from his cultivator days, with whom he always had a complicated relationship, the two embark on a journey to untangle a mystery that might shed light on many past events – including the death of Wei Wuxian.
Is Mo Dao Zu Shi Worth Watching?
Mo Dao Zu Shi is very much worth watching, as the anime tells a gripping non-linear story that perfectly combines comedy and tragedy.
Of course, no great plot can stand on its own without great characters. The show's brilliance largely relies on the main character Wei Wuxian.
Wei Wuxian's journey from a reckless, fun-loving, and unconventional student to a master of Demonic Cultivation is a joy to watch. The reason why he went down a dark path is initially unclear but progressively makes more sense as more plot points are masterfully revealed.
More importantly, Wei Wuxian is a character that actively drives the plot and always had reasons even for his most questionable actions making him a tragic character.
His relationship with Lan Wangji would merit its own article but for this one, it suffices to say that their progression from rivals to friends to more is fun and occasionally hilarious to watch.
The world they inhabit is also a great one, especially if you love works based on ancient China, and it's all accompanied by great music and worldbuilding.
While the character designs are a bit basic according to some fans, the art, overall, is also stunning, making for a great viewing experience.
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Are There Any Negatives?
Mo Dao Zu Shi is a really great donghua, with amazing characters and plot. But being an adaptation, it does have a couple of shortcomings compared to the Mo Dao Zu Shi completed manhua.
The first season is an almost perfect adaptation of both web novel and manhua but, as no Mo Dao Zu Shi Season 4 was made, the final two seasons ended up being a bit rushed, missing some key plot points or only referring to them momentarily.
Boys' Love anime elements were also toned down in comparison to the printed media due to censorship, meaning that if you want the full romance you had better read the manhua or web novel.
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In conclusion, the anime might not be the best of the Mo Dao Zu Shi media, especially compared to the novels and manhua, but it's definitely a great one to get started. If you are going to watch one Chinese donghua, this should be it!