Taikoubou is a young Sennin (a class of supernatural beings) charged by his mentor to seal up all of the rogue Sennin causing trouble in the human world, the chief of whom is Dakki, who has brainwashed the current emperor and causing all sorts of grief for the citizens of the Yin Dynasty...The plot thickens when Taikoubou discovers that his mentor has ulterior motives, and the conspiracy encompasses all of the Senin world.Houshin Engi, the Japanese rendering of Fengshen Yanyi (which means The Treatise of The Gods, itself already Very Loosely Based on a True Story) took the same direction as Saiyuki. Whereas Saiyuki revolves around four guys riding a dragon jeep to the west, Houshin Engi revolves around the gods (who are also mostly Bishōnen) altering the course of history and helping the Chinese Dynasty transfer from Yin to Zhou in the 11th Century BC.
Asshole Victim: Suukouko, the king of the northern region. While the other three kings deplore the state of the citizens from the capital, he shows no sympathy and finds no problem with their state as long as they are still alive. Although he too is shocked by Dakki's "party", he quickly grovels before her and begins to flatter her in order to save his own skin. In the end, Dakki has him locked up and he starves to death.
Nobody felt sorry to see Ryogaku squashed by his own son.
Badass Pacifist: Fugen Shinjin hates conflicts and will always attempt to reason with his enemies before attacking. When he does attack, however, his enemies will instantly regret they didn't choose the peaceful way of resolving things.
Beware the Nice Ones: In the manga, Suupuushan gets frustrated with Taikobou's reluctance to take advantage of Dakki's seemingly vulnerable state (she was taking a bath and did not have her paopei with her) so he picks up a large rock and attempts to sneak up behind her so he can kill her with it. It fails, and the scene is treated as being funny, but that doesn't change the fact that nice, reasonable Suupuushan was ready to bash Dakki's head in.
Break the Cutie - Tenshou. I mean, his mom and aunt both kill themselves, he watches his dad die by acid rain right in front of him, and his older brother kicks it soon after. It is seriously no wonder the kid developed an abandonment complex.
Possibly Ou Eki too, although we never see what specifically broke him.
Breaking the Fourth Wall - Taiitsu is so camera-savvy he always poses facing the panel. Other characters lampshade this endlessly.
And there are dozens of references to the readers and the publisher made by the characters.
During his duel with Taikoubou, Raishinshi is aghast to discover the format of the page has changed into a four panel gag manga.
Cast Full of Pretty Boys - All the main characters are dashing young-looking males. Explains all the yaoi doujinshis out there. It doesn't help that the only females are either evil, Clingy Jealous Girl (see below), or otherwise make no impact on the story.
Cast Herd - The sennin at Konron, Taikoubou's team, Shuu (which Taikoubou joins), and Yin, just to name a few.
The Chessmaster - Taikoubou, much to the surprise of those around him, who usually see him in his default "lazy" mode, Dakki, Bunchu and Fuuki
Chivalrous Pervert - Chuu Ou, until Dakki got to him to make him a lust crazed tyrant. Somewhat arguable though, because he had shades of I Have You Now, My Pretty even before Dakki got her hands on him. So Go, Dakki's father, laments his ruthlessness when it comes to acquiring new women for his harem. After hearing that So Go has a very beautiful daughter, Chuuou threatened to make his country suffer unless he brought her to become his concubine.
Ki Hatsu. He reforms fast enough to lead his armies, however.
Cooking Duel - Taikoubou arranges one in an attempt to get Ki Shou eating again, but it backfires in his face when the combatants turn it into an all-out brawl.
Cool Horse - Variation, Taikoubou rides Suupuushan, which looks more like a flying hippo. Later, after Suupuu's Heroic Sacrifice, he gets temporarily upgraded to a dragon. Even later, Suupuu gets a permanent upgrade that allows him to transform indefinitely.
Crapsack World - At least inside the Imperial Capital, where lavish parties are held at the expense of the poor people.
Not to mention all of the worlds before the current one are completely destroyed just because they didn't match up to Jyoka's standards.
Demoted to Extra - Raishinshi. Lampshaded when he shows up at the end of the war demanding to know why no one waited for him to get there; his mentor blankly asks, "Who are you?" (The anime never caught on to this.)
Disproportionate Retribution: Dakki has the imperial painter's eyes gouged out because he drew an abstract portrait of her instead of a traditional one.
Doomed Hometown - Taikoubou became a sennin because members of his clan had been press-ganged into being buried with an emperor; later, almost all of anyone who's even remotely related to him perish to a pit of poisonous snakes under Dakki's orders.
Turns out he's actually one half of an alien, so his original hometown is a planet far away
Dub Name Change - A slightful inversion in the Mexican Spanish dub of the series: Instead of using the "original Japanese" names, the Spanish dub uses the original Chinese names from the original novel the manga and the anime is based from (or translations to English and minstranslations of some ones) of many of the characters. Per example, the main hero Taikobou becomes "Tai Kung" in Spanish (a minstranslation of Jiang Taigong from the original Chinese classic), Nataku becomes "Nazha" (his original name in the classsic) and the villainess Dakki uses her original Chinese name "Daji", plus many others.
Dumb Blonde: Despite being more than a thousand years old and ridiculously powerful, Kibi's intellect is equal to a nine year old's. Even her older sister Dakki jokingly remarks that she is stupid.
Face Death with Dignity: Emperor Chuuou does this no less than three times after he becomes free of Daki's influence. When a desperate woman wants to exact revenge upon him for the pain his disastrous rule has caused her and her family by killing him, he calmly accepts this. However, when the knife wound does not kill him, he realizes that he cannot die easily, so he returns to his palace where he duels Kou Tenka. Chuuou is severely wounded in the battle and accepts his defeat with dignity, instructing Tenka to cut off his head and end the Yin dynasty. Tenka changes his mind and refuses to deal the final blow, leaving everything to Taikobou. Finally, Ki Hatsu arrives to execute Chuuou and the Emperor acts no different than the last two times he thought he will die.
Funny Afro - The result of Taikoubou getting hit with Raishinshi's thunder attack. Supushan, more ridiculously, had Funny Ojou Ringlets instead. It was ridiculous enough that Raishinshi stopped the battle so that the two could fix their hair.
Gambit Pileup - First, the Yin dynasty must be overthrown by the Zhou dynasty. Before that, the sennins must engage on a slugfest to severely reduce their number, and hence do not alert Jyoka. Then, the remaining Sennin goes on a hunt for Jyoka. What for? Jyoka, with the help of Dakki herself, is reshaping the world over and over again for her own convenience while Dakki herself, after learning from Jyoka's former crewmates that fused themselves with Earth, wanted Jyoka's powers so that she can become Mother Earth herself.
Gambit Roulette - The entire Project Houshin which involves subtly altering history so that the Big Bad Jyoka, who had been shaping and reshaping the earth every time history does not suit her liking, does not notice, while at the same time collecting enough souls to aid the main protagonist into battle. To this end, Taikoubou must ensure that The Zhou dynasty must rise to challenge Yin, and that capturing Dakki is never to be attempted, and the move must be regarded as human progress as opposed to sennin interference. Incidentally, The Plan itself starts with Genshitenson manipulating Taikoubou into executing a soul hunt, which later turns out to be a more complex, secret plan to create a separate world to store the rebel souls to be hunted, which later turns out to be a large scale prediction of causalities in the upcoming war which is to an extent triggered by Taikoubou's actions, a prediction which is secretly meant to be the gathering of souls to execute a Combined Energy Attack. Taikoubou's nemesis, Outenkun, is revealed to seem to be cooperating in a roundabout manner suggesting they may be being manipulated by Genshitenson all along, only to find out he was just following instructions from the real mastermind, who ends up being? Taikoubou and Outenkun's merged self.
God Save Us from the Queen!: Dakki's supernatural influence over the Emperor has allowed her to drive millions of people to starvation and subject others to gruesome deaths and tortures. She also enjoys driving people to commit suicide, tearing apart families and spitting on everything good and holy.
Happy Flashback: Toward the end of the anime, we are treated to flashbacks of the Emperor and his family during much happier times: the Emperor's ascension to the throne, the birth of his first son and various family scenes.
Heavy Sleeper - Taijyouroukun (Roushi), who is so lazy he gets his paopei to breathe for him. He basically sleeps for years at a time.
Heroic BSOD - Taikoubou gets one early in the series when Dakki destroys his clan in retribution for hurting her sister. He gets over it.
He gets this again when Chou Koumei kills Suupuushan, and in fact, blue screens so hard the rest of the cast thinks he's dead as well and Chou Koumei declares victory and runs the end credits.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Unchuushi realized a little too late that giving the power of flight and to summon lightning from the skies to a kid who hated him was not a bright idea.
Hope Spot: Every time Dakki's evil influence over Chuuou is reduced or eliminated and he goes back to the diligent and wise monarch he was before, Bunchuu either goes away or Dakki returns and things get worse...
Hostage Situation: Several take place during the manga. Taikobou holds Dakki's sister Oukijin hostage in order to gain access to the imperial palace, Dakki takes advantage of Hikou's sister Koushi being married to the emperor and uses her as a hostage to ensure Hikou's loyalty, Hikou's father is held hostage by Dakki's underlings and Crown Prince Inchao holds some Zhou soldiers hostage in his battle with Taikobou.
The entire arc taking place in Chou Komei's ship is this.
Hot Consort: Chuuou has two: Kyouhi initially, then Dakki.
If I Can't Have You: Ryuukan wants to pull this on Tou Sengyoku, the woman he has been stalking, after realizing that she is in love with someone else.
I'm a Humanitarian: In one scene, Dakki is shown gorging herself on human remains from the snake pit.
Ki Shou was also forced to eat hamburger made out of his own son.
Impossibly Cool Clothes: Most of the sennin wear them. Dakki's clothes take the cake, though - several of them are actually paopei.
Improbable Weapon User - Given that the paopei are magical items, you end up with people fighting with shoulder throws and genie-style lamps, among other things.
This is true in the original Fengshen Yanyi as well. One of the most improbable attacks makes a flaming pagoda appear and drop on an opponent's head, but there are so many other examples that it almost seems like it's normal weapons that should be considered unusual.
Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain - For being a sister of Dakki, Ou Kijin has the unflattering distinction of being defeated by Taikoubou first, and after resurrected, she gets blown apart again, this time by Nataku. She recovers in the end, though somewhat pissed off.
I Surrender, Suckers: A tragic example happens with Kashi and Chuuou in the manga. When Chuuou is blackmailing Kashi, threatening to punish her husband if she refuses to join his harem, Kashi formally agrees to become his concubine... and promptly flings herself out the window.
Konami Code - Called out as instructions to perform a complex aerial maneuver (at which point Suupuushan simply throws his head in despair). Later, after Suupuushan gets an upgrade, he is able to perform the maneuver flawlessly.
Lack of Empathy: Unchuushi put Raishinshi through some very harsh training when he was a young child and fed him a fruit that made him grow fangs and wings when the boy was merely eight years old. Raishinshi was understandably very angry and ashamed by his new, monstrous body, but Unchuushi did not seem to care at all.
La Résistance - The Duke of the West plus his sons (i.e. the Duchy of Shuu) and an ever increasing roster of Sennin and disgruntled former Yin citizens.
Licking the Blade: A manga example: during the first confrontation between Taikobou and Oukijin, the latter licks the blade of her dagger.
Limited Wardrobe: Used straight with some characters such as Youzen and Bunchuu, averted with others such as Nataku or Dakki's sisters Kibi and Kijin. Worth noting is that Taikobou receives new clothes on several occasions, some of which are identical to what he was previously wearing.
Man Behind the Man - Dakki, the woman behind Chuu Ou. Jyoka is later revealed to be the alien behind Dakki.
Much more noticeable in the case of the Houshin Project, whose executors and masterminds seem to change with every revelation. Played for all it's worth in the end when it's revealed that the man at the top of the long chain of command manipulating Taikoubou is... Taikoubou, or rather Fukki, Taikoubou's true self.
Market-Based Title: The anime was renamed Soul Hunter when localized into English. The manga stayed Hoshin Engi.
Inconsistent Dub: Early episodes also translate the names of the Paopei and a few other terms concerning the Seinnen. Later episodes use the Chinese names instead, though a few original Japanese names make it though. Also, one spirit beast, despite not changing voice actors, suddenly gets a Southern accent.
Memory Gambit - Fukki plans the whole Houshin project, hands it over to Genshitenson, splits himself into Taikoubou and Outenkun, while simultaneously sealing his memories. Genshitenson then commands Taikoubou to begin the Houshin Project.. Which kicks off the manga.
Moral Myopia: When the two princes of Yin escape the capital and meet up with Taikobou, Shinkouhyou shows up and goes on a rant over how the princes should have fulfilled their duty as royals and remained in the capital to support their father and their people, and how the people will pay for their actions. He goes as far as to forbid Taikobou from taking them and is perfectly willing to use force. Leaving aside the fact that the two princes are defenselesss in Dakki's Deadly Decadent Court and will most certainly die if they return to Chouka, Shinkouhyou seemingly forgets that he himself lives in the palace as Dakki's guest, enjoying a luxurious lifestyle provided at the expense of the very people whom he rants about. So the princes aren't allowed to leave the people and must remain and face certain death for the sake of their title and the people's morale, but Shinkouhyou can go around enjoying luxury and aiding Dakki while she torments and starves the people at her whim.
Ko Kibi giving up her hagoromo in exchange for Suupuu's safety and saying "Life cannot be restored." This is the gal who watched with a smile on her face as men burned alive, celebrated the thought of going to war and gleefully helped Dakki make hamburgers out of Kishou's son.
More Than Mind Control: Dakki has a paopei that gives off pheromones which cause anyone to breathe it to fall madly in love with her and bend to her every whim.
Really 700 Years Old - Most of the sennin in general; specifically, Taikoubou, and even moreso, Fukki.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: A rather dark take on this trope. Being the empress of the Yin, Dakki is technically royalty, but instead of working for the people and the country, she focuses all her energy in coming up with more creative torture devices (to the point where she is shown racking her brains) and on two occasions she is shown aiding in their construction by doing hard manual labor.
Royal Harem: Chuuou has a harem consisting of two hundred concubines.
Shock and Awe - Taikoubou's first on the list is The Trickster Shinkouhyou. Fitting his trickster type, Shinkouhyou's Raikouben is styled as an ice cream with long ribbons. Taikoubou learned the hard way not to challenge someone that can wield a super paopei.
Shout-Out - One of the sennins training in Konron Island is shown using an A.T. Field. Fujisaki Ryu has said himself to be a fan of Evangelion.
Shout-Out: When Taikobou and Raishinshi are ready to begin their bare fists battle, the scene is very similar to fighting games, complete with timer and health bars.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Buseiou's wife Kashi is a renowed beauty. Unfortunately, her stunning good looks are used by Dakki to tempt the Emperor into breaking an old custom and looking at her face. After gazing upon her beauty, the Emperor decides to keep Kashi for himself, which leads to her jumping to her death.
Spared by the Adaptation: Many important characters who die in the manga are left alive and well in the anime: Kou Hikou, Kou Tenka, Bunchu.
Spell My Name with an S - In general, the official translation transliterates names as shortly as possible. For example, Taikobo instead of Taikoubou, or paope instead of paopei. For that matter, Hoshin Engi instead of Houshin Engi. Doubled consonants are the only exception; Dakki is the same in all regions.
The anime uses transliterations from Chinese instead of Japanese, since it is about the real life Chinese Yin Dynasty. Suupuushan is Sibuxiang, Konron is Kun Lun, etc.
Split Personality Merge: This happens with Taikoubou and Ou Eki. They later merge together to become Fukki. Although Taikoubou is the main, dominating personality.
Stalker with a Crush: Ryuukan is a very creepy example of this. He is an obsessive and deluded individual who has been stalking Tou Sengyoku for a long time and seems to be convinced that she is in love with him, despite having no evidence to support his belief. He is the reason why Sengyoku is terrified of birds, as he uses a fire bird paopei.
Stay in the Kitchen: Tenka has a brief moment of this with Sengyoku while on Chou Komei's ship. Sengyoku is understandably outraged. Worth noting, however, is that Tenka had a point: Sengyoku had not proven herself to be a strong fighter and her paopei is very weak, so Tenka's concerns were legitimate.
Stockholm Syndrome: Arguably, Chuuou. After Dakki's temptation spell wears off, he claims that although nobody would believe him, he still loves her, and she is the last thing he thinks of before being executed by Ki Hatsu.
The Stoic - Shuukoutan, so stoic he barely expresses anything except mild annoyance/amusement at Taikoubou's and his brother's hijinks.
Took a Level in Badass - Chou Kei, the generally competent paperwork-wise right hand man to Bunchuu, in the later stages of the manga, saw fit to wield Bunchuu's Kinben, after he died. Of course, he needs a lot of finesse wielding it, but he still comes as really helpful.
Tournament Arc - The party faces off Dakki's selected fighter in Jyoka's artificial planet.
Wicked Stepmother: Dakki is this for the Emperor's sons, as she is trying to bring down the Yin dynasty.
What Could Have Been - An omake chapter showed a version of Houshin Engi with completely different designs and characterizations—Taikoubou as a femaleCloudcuckoolander whose inept bumbling end up causing the atrocities attributed to Dakki, for example.
Why Did It Have To Be Heights?: Taiitsu Shinjin is afraid of heights. If living on a floating rock is not enough, he often finds himself in situations where he must confront his fear.
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Bukichi's main occupation is that of a woodcutter, but it is revealed over the course of the story that he has had many part time jobs: zoo employee, lifeguard, elephant rider etc.
Yamato Nadeshiko: Kashi, wife of Buseiou Kou Hikou. She has long, dark hair with full bangs, is of medium height and wears something similar to a kimono. Lady-like and feminine, Kashi is very loyal to her husband and would rather die than be taken away from him by the Emperor. In the anime, she is shown to be very protective of the two Yin princes and willing to stand up to Dakki.
Yandere: Ryuukan. He will viciously attack anyone who intrudes on his "personal time with Sengyoku."