Heaven Official's Blessing has released on Netflix, bringing the series to a larger international audience. With Season 1 initially streaming on FUNimation, making it the first donghua to do so, Chinese animation is stretching its wings.
The beautifully animated BL (boys' love) donghua follows Xie Lian, delving into his traumatic past, exploring interesting cases he is assigned and tells the story of his blossoming love with Hua Cheng. Here's why fans should watch (and rewatch, if you've watched it on FUNimation before) Heaven Official's Blessing when it comes out on Netflix.
Heaven Official's Blessing focuses on a god named Xie Lian, who becomes a mockery of the other deities because he ascended not once but three times from the heavens after being kicked out twice before. Despite being a god, Xie Lian doesn't have many worshipers, because he seems to bring misfortune wherever he goes. During one of the mysteries that he's assigned to investigate, he meets Ghost King Hua Cheng, who inexplicably decides to accompany Xie Lian.
The series has one of the most eye-catching aesthetics around, and when the story is set in the heavens, you can bet that the animation will be glorious. Elements like the background scenery, the palace of the gods and Xie Lian's robes when he was a Crown Prince, have beautiful detailing. The studio does a fantastic job animating the characters' expressions -- expertly conveying their personalities.
Much of the plot revolves around Xie Lian being given cases to solve to pay off the debt that he has incurred for destruction of property. However, as Xie Lian unravels each case, he realizes that there's a bigger plot brewing in the background that may not have anything to do with the demons but instead the gods themselves -- making for an intriguing storyline. The donghua doesn't fail to include some hilarious moments like Xie Lian's terrible make-up when he goes undercover for his first case.
Underlying the general plot is Xie Lian's mysterious, potentially traumatic, backstory, which he hides away behind carefree smiles and actual bandages. The series prods at viewers' intrigue, causing them to wonder why Xie Lian was kicked out of heaven twice and how he doesn't seem to have much spiritual power even though he is a god.
The opening of Heaven Official's Blessing foreshadows some of the storylines that will appear in the donghua and perfectly encapsulates Xie Lian's story's general tone: gentle, sorrowful and bittersweet. Entitled "Wu Bie," the opening tells of a love story where two lovers find themselves apart from each other. Despite how much time has passed, fate pulls them back together again time after time. The opening speaks of a yearning but enduring love that will wait patiently for when the two lovers can be reunited once more. The ending song joins the opening in being visually beautiful to look at.
With most BL anime and donghua, the relationship between the two male characters is rarely explicit. It is conveyed through more subtle means: moments like Hua Cheng tilting his umbrella on Xie Lian's side to shield him or how protective Xie Lian is of him. But this doesn't mean that the donghua shies away from some more outward displays of their love.
The flashbacks interspersed throughout the series imply that Xie Lian and Hua Cheng have had some connection with each for a long time. But it's throughout the donghua that we see the two of them slowly, gradually, but irrevocably fall in love with each other. It happens in flitting moments when it's just the two of them: how we see Xie Lian's smiles, which often feel contrived, becoming more real, or how we see in Hua Cheng's eyes, there's no one else but Xie Lian.