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Recap / Tintin: The Blue Lotus

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The Blue Lotus picks up right where Cigars of the Pharaoh left off, with Tintin still staying as a guest of the Maharajah of Gaipajama. The story begins when Tintin is visited by an unknown Chinese man wanting to discuss matters of great importance with him. However, the man is hit by a dart containing the madness serum from the previous album and before losing his grip on reality only manages to tell Tintin that he must go to Shanghai and seek a man named Mitsuhirato.
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Once in Shanghai, Tintin quickly becomes involved in a struggle between another branch of the opium-smuggling operation from the previous book, led by Mitsuhirato, and a resistance movement called the Sons of the Dragon, led by the benevolent Wang Chen-Yee.

The Blue Lotus is notable for being the first album for which Hergé actually did a degree of research, being aided by a Chinese art student named Zhang Chongren, with whom he formed a close friendship and based one of the characters in the story on. As such, it is generally considered the point at which the series fully grew its beard.


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Tropes:

  • Accidental Hero: In the Nelvana cartoon, the Thom(p)sons catch Rastapopoulous by accident when he crashes into them while escaping Tintin's capturing his goons.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Several parts of the album did not make it to the Ellipse-Nelvana animated series.
    • The fakir and racist American businessman W. R. Gibbons don't appear.
    • Tintin does not meet Dawson (the Chief of Police of the Shanghai International Settlement).
    • The part when Tintin is held in custody by British authorities, delivered to the Japanese and condemned to death has been left out as well.
    • There are no comings and goings of Japanese armored cars.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The opium ring ambushes the headquarters of the Sons of the Dragon near the end.
  • As You Know: Usually the exposition throughout the series is at least a little more subtle, but during Dawson's first appearance, he tells a gathering of his friends "Since I'm Chief of Police of the Shanghai International Settlement, that shouldn't be difficult".
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  • Axe-Crazy: Mr. Wang's son. It's not his fault, though, as he's been infected with the Rajaijah juice.
  • Bigger Bad: Mitsuhirato's Japanese superior, seen conversing with him on the phone several times. Ultimately, the Japanese military leadership.
  • Black Blood: When Tintin gets shot in the shoulder. Partly explained as the story was originally published in black and white.
  • Character Development: For Tintin (and in Real Life for Hergé) from Tintin in the Congo, as Tintin is now lambasting ethnic and racial stereotypes. And the fact that that bit made it in implies either Character Development or replacement for the editor of Le Petit Vingtième.
  • Character Witness: Tintin defends a rickshaw driver from Gibbons. Later, when the Japanese put a price on his head, he manages to escape the town with the help of the driver's brother.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: The Rajaijah Juice or "poison of madness" pops up again, though at the end, Dr. Fang develops a cure for its effects.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: A Chinese businessman is hit by a dart dipped in Rajaijah, the poison of madness. Later in the story Didi has also turned insane after being poisoned with Rajaijah. Tintin is injected with appears to the stuff by Mitsuhirato, but a Sons of the Dragon swapped it for water.
  • Corrupt Cop: Mr. Dawson, the Chief of Police of the International Settlement, being influenced by Gibbons and bribed by Mitsuhirato to persecute Tintin.
  • Deus ex Machina: This book is not nearly as bad about this as some of the earlier ones, but an agent of the Sons of the Dragon having replaced the insanity serum and tinkered with Mitsuhirato's gun and knife just when Tintin is captured is pretty darn convenient. Much less so in the Nelvana Animated Adaptation of the episode, where it's revealed that Mitsuhirato's butler is actually an undercover member of the Sons of the Dragon.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Gibbons and Dawson become firm enemies of Tintin after he called out Gibbons about his racist and brutal behaviour.
  • Diving Save: Tintin is saved this way from the bullets coming from a Gangland Drive-By in the streets.
  • The Dragon: Mistuhirato is this to Rastapopoulous, managing the local Chinese affairs of the latter's opium-trafficking ring.
  • Gangland Drive-By: Happens to Tintin but he is fortunately saved by a young man working for the Sons of the Dragon.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Mitsuhirato uses alliterative curses (such as "seventy-seven suffering samurais!") before Captain Haddock made it famous.
  • Emergency Impersonation: Tintin as a fat Japanese general.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Despite getting some of his guards to beat up Tintin, Dawson makes it clear that he doesn't want Tintin to be seriously hurt, just to be taught a lesson about sticking his nose into other people's business. Not that it really matters, since Tintin ends up putting the guards in hospital instead.
  • Evil Brit: Dawson, the head of the International Concession police. See Corrupt Cop above.
  • Exact Eavesdropping:
    • Tintin learns everything he wanted to know when breaking into Mitsuhirato's house and listening in on a discussion from behind some curtains.
    • Later he hides inside a vase at the "Blue Lotus" and can overhear Mitsuhirato dispatching important information.
  • False Flag Operation: Mitsuhirato staged the sabotage of the Shanghai-Nanking railway "by Chinese renegades", giving the Japanese a pretext to invade China.
  • Find the Cure!: Part of the story revolves around finding the scientist who could develop the antidote to the Rajaijah juice.
  • Flashback Cut: Tintin when he realizes that it was Mr. Wang's son who saved him from being shot in the streets and drinking poisoned tea.
  • Fortune Teller: The Fakir reads Tintin his future.
  • General Ripper: Tintin pretends to be this when he impersonates a Japanese general—it gives him an excuse to be The Voiceless as he doesn't speak Japanese.
    • Drill Sergeant Nasty: How he gets away with his act, he holds up a number of fingers equal to the number of days of punishment for various offenses like not shaving (four days) or a piece of paper blowing in the wind ("Four days? But general, it's just a piece of-eight days!? I- yes, general! Thank you, general!").
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The story was redrawn and colorized later, but much of it remained unaltered. The only major alteration was a scene where Tintin is threatened by three English guards in his prison cell. Under pressure of British publishers this was changed into three Sikhs.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar and Public Secret Message: Hergé's friend, a Chinese foreign exchange student named Zhang Chong Ren, told him a lot about Chinese culture and society, including the then current situation in Asia, where Japan had military occupied China. He also wrote all the Chinese signs, billboards, ideograms and texts seen in the backgrounds. As a Bilingual Bonus only Chinese people could read these. This also might explain why the book wasn't censored from the start because many of these texts are anti-Japanese slogans, like for instance: Boycott Japanese products, Abolish unfair treaties and Down with Imperialism. Upon realising the anti-Japanese tone of the story, Japan's diplomats stationed in Belgium issued an official complaint and threatened to take their complaint to the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague. Zhang congratulated Hergé, stating that it would only further expose the actions of Japan in China to further international scrutiny and would make Hergé "world-famous".
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: Tintin and Chang easily escape Thompson and Thomson every time they meet.
  • The Heavy: Mitsuhirato is the main villain, but he's working for the Japanese government and Rastapopoulos.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Zhang Zhong Ren, who wrote the Chinese texts in the story, signed his name twice - in Chinese - on two billboards.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: There's the Thom(p)sons, of course, but also, one of the Japanese military officials looks almost identical to Mitsuhirato, just with a more hooked nose.
  • Inflationary Dialogue: After Mitsuhirato's attempts to shoot and then stab Tintin go awry, Tintin retaliates by punching him to the ground. We then see Mitsuhirato angrily claiming to some Japanese officers that he's been "half murdered," and later on find out that Tintin has been charged with attempted murder.
  • Insane Equals Violent: After being averted in Cigars of the Pharaoh, it's played with here. Poison darts drive people insane, and the resultant m2admen are childlike, silly and harmless... except for that one guy who develops a fixation with decapitation.
  • Inspector Javert: Thomson and Thompson have to chase Tintin again, though in fairness, they're really Just Following Orders. They themselves claim at the end that they didn't really believe Tintin was guilty.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: Mitsuhirato is shown receiving and sending messages by homing pigeon.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The Fakir from the previous album becomes this in the redrawn version, escaping offpage, firing a dart filled with the insanity serum at Tintin's Chinese visitor and then never being mentioned again. In the original serial version, he is offhandedly mentioned as having been recaptured soon after.
    • Dawson isn't shown to receive any comeuppance at all for his actions in collaborating with Mitsuhirato, while the worst Gibbons gets is his cane snapped by Tintin, and a night in the cells for supposedly giving misinformation to the Japanese.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: Wang Chen-Yee has his men kidnap Tintin while the latter is enroute to India because he needs Tintin's assistance.
  • Kidnapped Scientist: The bad guys kidnap the only scientist who could develop a cure to the insanity serum.
  • Last Grasp at Life: A non-lethal version where Tintin notices Chang's stretched-out hand out in the flood water.
  • Look Behind You: Tintin dupes the British guards this way.
  • Loophole Abuse: How Dawson gets away with handing Tintin over to the Japanese. Normally turning a fellow European citizen over to a foreign power would not be cool in the slightest, but since Tintin's in the European zone without authorization, Dawson can simply say he's removing a trespasser, and what the Japanese do with him isn't his problem.
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: At one point, a man with a large, bushy beard and wearing sunglasses and a coat enters the bad guys' opium den and is immediately recognized by them as Tintin in disguise. Only when they beat him up, it turns out it isn't Tintin, just a man who happens to look like him with a large beard.
  • Mysterious Protector: Mr. Wang's son, Didi, briefly acts as this to Tintin, but then he's poisoned with the insanity serum...
  • National Stereotypes: Subverted. The story pokes fun at the Europeans' perception of the Chinese, debunking many clichés. Similarly Tchang Tchong Yen asks Tintin why he saved him, because he always heard that all white people are evil and racist. On the other hand the story is very anti-Japanese. Hergé balanced this by introducing a Japanese man, Mr. Kuraki, in The Crab With The Golden Claws, who is shown as a good character.
  • News Monopoly: The Radio Tokyo news are shown to be received worldwide, at each location with a different piece of the story.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Tintin defends his rickshaw driver against a rude pedestrian.
  • No Time to Explain: After having overheard Mitsuhirato, Tintin tells Chang that he cannot explain and they have to hurry.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Tintin pulls this to get away from his captors after they inject him with an insanity-inducing serum called "Rajaijah juice" (which had actually been replaced with harmless colored water). Notably, Tintin himself had no idea the serum had been substituted at the time, only perceiving that he didn't feel any different, which makes his loony routine a gesture of supreme quick thinking.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Three big and muscular soldiers are planning to beat Tintin up while he's safely in jail. We only see the aftermath: three soldiers in a hospital, covered in bruises and bandages.
  • Off with His Head!: Mr. Wang's crazy son is obsessed with doing this.
  • One Steve Limit: Oddly enough, there are two Tchangs in the story. Besides Tintin's young friend, there's the agent of the Sons of the Dragon who steals Mitsuhirato's poison.
  • Opium Den: The titular Blue Lotus.
  • Overly Stereotypical Disguise: In the first and arguably the funniest instance of the Thom(p)sons doing this, they show up wearing 17th-century Qing-dynasty Mandarin robes, confident that they will blend right into a Chinese town. They then fail to notice an entire town parading behind them and laughing.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Gibbons, a racist white man who mistreats every Chinese person he meets (though he was politically correct for the era, which had a different zeitgeist).
  • Red Herring: The Fakir at the beginning of the story warns Tintin to watch out for a dark-haired Asian man with glasses, whom Tintin briefly suspects may be his Chinese visitor. But no, that guy loses his mind as soon as he appears. Funnily enough, Tintin isn't at all suspicious when he first meets Mitsuhirato, who also matches the description. The joke is that the warning is almost completely useless, because practically everyone Tintin meets in China is a dark-haired yellow-skinned man with glasses...
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The books depicts Mitsuhirato as staging a thinly-disguised version of the Mukden Incident, thereby paving the way for Japan's occupation of Shanghai. And at the end it shows the fallout at the League of Nations, and Japan's delegates walking out.
  • Secret Passage: Through a safe.
  • Seppuku: Mitsuhirato commits it after being captured. As was usual for the time in western sources, this is instead called 'hara-kiri'.
  • Shown Their Work: This album is often called Hergé's first real masterpiece. Compared to the previous albums it's well documented and researched, a strong and logical plot, beautifully illustrated and also takes the opportunity to debunk some inaccurate western stereotypes about China.
  • Sneeze of Doom: A loud sneeze from Tintin leads to his capture after he witnesses the False Flag Attack on the Shanghai-Nanking Railway.
  • Spanner in the Works: Rastapopoulous runs for it when his thugs are captured. In the Nelvana cartoon, he would have gotten away once he reached the Blue Lotus...if the Thom(p)sons hadn't been there for him to accidentally crash into.
  • Staircase Tumble: Happens to one of the servants carrying Tintin's luggage downstairs. It helps to discover that Snowy was locked in on of the trunks.
  • Tagalong Kid: Chang, albeit he's apparently not that much younger than Tintin himself, and his local knowledge proves vitally important throughout the last third of the story.
  • Thwarted Coup de Grâce: Chang and allies save Tintin as well as Mr and Mrs Wang in the nick of time before Didi could decapitate them.
  • Villain Has a Point: When Dawson turns Tintin over to the Japanese, Tintin protests that he is on neutral ground. Dawson then makes the perfectly legitimate point that since Tintin does not have papers allowing him to be in the settlement, Dawson has every right to throw him out - evil, yes, but he is correct.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Tintin learns from a poster in the street that they put a 5,000 Yen bounty on his head.
  • A Way Out of a Cave-In: The imprisoned Tintin notices a mouse disappearing between the cracks of the floor panels of his prison cell. He then tries to lift one of the panels but realizes that it's too heavy. Cue the panel being lifting from below where his allies dug a way up to reach him.
  • Weaponized Camera: A camera with a built-in tommy-gun is used to try and assassinate Tintin but the assault fails because the gun jams up.

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