So rather than anime, lately I’ve been spending a lot of my leisure time reading Chinese web novels, Korean, and very occasionally, Japanese light novels. For some strange reason that I’m nonetheless grateful for, there’s an entire cottage industry around people taking donations to translate these posts from the Chinese (or Korean/Japanese) into more-or-less English. Of course, if they’re not Chinese, they’re not Wuxia or Xianxia, two terms which I’d never heard of before I started reading them. Full definitions and a lot more can be found on WuxiaWorld, but the short version is that Wuxia is “low fantasy:” it literally means “Martial Heroes”. Fictional stories about regular humans who can achieve supernatural fighting ability through Chinese martial arts training and internal energy cultivation. Xianxia is “high fantasy:” it literally means “Immortal Heroes”. Fictional stories featuring magic, demons, ghosts, immortals, and a great deal of Chinese folklore/mythology. Xuanhuan is more fairy-tale (though darker); it literally means “Mysterious Fantasy”. A broad genre of fictional stories which remixes Chinese folklore/mythology with foreign elements & settings.
Having ignored the website (except for hurricane blogging) for months now, I’m finally going to write a few reviews of the stories I’ve been reading. Bear in mind that the Chinese stories are extremely formulaic. Some are little more than collections of tropes peculiar to the form. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the hero will be:
- Male (well, there are romance and other stories, but we’re talking about the heroic stuff here)x
- Considered trash by most of his clan, or the village.
- Lucks into fortune that changes his fate.
- Part of a world where everyone advances through “cultivation” (meditation, battle, and/or magical alchemy/medicine)
- Keeps having incredible coincidences that favor him.
- Have a rule-breaking power that makes him able to fight over his level
- Be faced by a succession of ever-more powerful opponents
- If about to be defeated, always lucks out/survives in some way
- Live on planets with a surface area the bigger than the sun
- Measured by an exacting system with ranks and names for each level — which will change whenever the author wants it to.
- Wanted by all the women (well, that could just be the stories I’ve selected)
- Probably reincarnated from our world.
That’s not all. The stories tend to be rather violent, with people fighting to the death at the drop of a hat, even the teenagers (way different from wussy power-of-friendship Japanese heroes!). Some of the worst offending authors must have depopulated their worlds. (Well, actually one did. Several times.) Others merely depopulate the leaders; one just offed about a thousand top experts in the world, but don’t worry, plenty more to be found. Enemies seem to have a limited repertoire: They viciously attack and when tables get turned by the hero, they accuse him of being the aggressor. “Are you seeking death?” “You brat, how dare you!” “I, your father, will teach you not to be so bold!” etc. etc. Logic plays little part, and if the hero actually has to be the evil aggressor, then the author makes sure it’s clear that the targets deserve it. Oh, and the hero’s women are always the hottest babes ever; each one more beautiful than the others. I can’t explain it; I’m rolling my eyes as I read this stuff, and yet read it I do. It’s the textual equivalent of Nartuo, except the quality isn’t as high. And it’s a lot more violent. And sometimes there’s sex.
So, onto specific stories below the fold…