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YMMV / Mo Dao Zu Shi

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For YMMV tropes that pertain specifically to the Live-Action Adaptation, go here.


  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Nie Huaisang even in-universe. Is he a sociopathic manipulator on the level of Jin Guangyao who uses people and sees them as tools? Or is he a genuinely kind person who nevertheless is so desperate to avenge his brother that he is willing to use any means necessary to fell a more powerful and dangerous enemy? Did he become The Chessmaster as a result of a decade of scheming or was he always this manipulative even as a child or a combination of both - someone with a natural tendency towards guile and strategy that was forced to become more ruthless and cunning as a result of his brother's untimely death and being thrust into the position of sect leader? Was he only pursing revenge or was taking down Jin Guangyao a step of a larger plan, possibly to gain power for his clan? Did he refuse to learn to fight as a child because he knew about the saber spirits? Did he mastermind the entire novel or what it all an unlikely coincidence? Pinning down Nie Huaisang is made more difficult by the fact that the character deliberately invokes this trope and it's hard to figure out what is a mask and what isn't.
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    • The jury's out on what Jiang Fengmian's deal with his family and with Wei Wuxian's. Did he really favor Wei Wuxian over Jiang Cheng, or did he love both equally but — like Wei Wuxian believed — was only stricter towards Jiang Cheng because he was his heir and consequently acted more accommodating to Wei Wuxian, who had no such responsibilities? Was he really in love with Wei Wuxian's mother and his distance from his wife and son was due to his resentment of being in an Arranged Marriage he was pressured into? Or did he regard Cangse Sanren only as a friend and only got angry whenever Yu Ziyuan mentioned the rumors about his alleged feelings for her and how Wei Wuxian could be his illegitimate son because he found such rumors to be a grave insult to his friends' memory? It's honestly difficult to completely grasp his character.
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    • Yu Ziyuan is also a character whose motives are hard to pinpoint. It's unquestionable that she dislikes Wei Wuxian and often gets into spats with her husband because of it. But one can't help but question: does she hate Wei Wuxian only because she dislikes how her husband seems to favor him more over Jiang Cheng? Or does she also feel threatened since Wei Wuxian is always one step ahead of Jiang Cheng and is also the son of someone Jiang Fengmian is rumored to have feelings for? And if that's the case, does it mean that she's in love with Jiang Fengmian and that's why her sect pressured him into marrying her — which could also explain part of her bitterness about their distant relationship? Or was the marriage arranged strictly for political reasons, but she still dislikes their ongoing family dynamic regardless?
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    • The most common interpretation of Jin Zixuan's initial disdain towards his Arranged Marriage with Jiang Yanli is because she's not his type of woman or doesn't meet his standards as a bride. Although another way if looking at his attitude is that his issue wasn't with Jiang Yanli in particular, but with Arranged Marriages in general because it reminds him of his father's infidelity, and his spiteful comments towards Jiang Yanli are just him lashing out.
    • Everyone has different opinions on when exactly Lan Wangji fell for Wei Wuxian, and vice-versa. For example: some would say that it was Love at First Sight on both ends; some would argue that while their first meeting left a spark, it would take until the Xuanwu Cave arc for Lan Wangji to truly fall in love with Wei Wuxian and it would take much longer for Wei Wuxian to feel the same way. The author even said in an interview that it's up to the reader to decide when both characters had their respective Love Epiphany.
    • Jiang Cheng insulting Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji's relationship is this for some readers. Are his insults born from prejudiced homophobia, an attempt to anger Wei Wuxian by hitting it where it hurts, him lashing out at their relationship out of envy, or a bit of everything?
    • Some fans are left wondering on when exactly Lan Wangji sobered up the third time he got drunk. Yes, that particular detail is important.
  • Angel/Devil Shipping: XueXiao qualifies for the trope, with Xiao Xingchen as the angel and Xue Yang as the devil.
  • Angst Aversion: Neatly averted, actually. Given how many characters die in the story and the trials and tribulations the protagonists had to go in their younger years, it would be easy to assume you'd be turned off by all the death and tragedy. But the author knows how to pace her story such that every moment will always leave an impact on the reader, whether or not it's expected. Fans even pointed out that multiple rereads of the novel or rewatches of the adaptations doesn't lessen the blow.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: While the franchise is a massive hit in China, it has trouble attracting the same amount of viewers outside the country due to the simple fact that it's officially marketed as Boys' Love (or danmei in China), which is a controversial genre. Despite this, the novel and its adaptations rose to popularity in the West, garnering a fanbase for its storytelling and likable and complex characters.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Yu Ziyuan. One third of the fans like her for being an Iron Lady and a powerful Action Mom; another third aren't as fond of her because of her hatred of Wei Wuxian, which also led her to constantly lash out at either him, her husband, or her son; and the last third see her as an interestingly complex character but also have reservations about how she deals with her family. Everyone does agree, however, that her castigations of Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng are unjustified and uncalled for, and that she's not going to win the "Mom of the Year" award any time soon.
    • Consequently, Jiang Fengmian is rather divisive in the fandom. No one's going to argue about the fact that while he's a good person he's in no way a good father. However, there are some who argue as to whether he's still likable in spite of his poor parenting skills or the other way around. And then there's the debate of whether he's worse than his wife or not, which can turn into a very lengthy discussion.
    • Jiang Cheng. Everyone unanimously agrees that he's a deeply flawed character. What everyone doesn't unanimously agree on is whether they love or hate him for it. The former find his flaws to be well-written and feel that they add to his complexity as a character; whereas the latter side thinks that he's too flawed to be likable or sympathetic.
  • Broken Base: For some people (specifically in the Western fandom), the Incense Burner extras are this. And that's all we're saying about that.
  • Cargo Ship:
    • Lan Jingyi and chicken, despite the fact that a scene involving both only happened once in the novel.
    • Wei Wuxian and Bichen, for... reasons. See Memetic Loser below.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Regardless of your opinion on Yu Ziyuan, admit it, you cheered her on when she beat the smack out of Wang Lingjiao. What adds to this is how Wei Wuxian deals with her in every adaptation, whether it's making her choke on wood, have her Eaten Alive by corpses, or compelling her to cut and hang herself.
    • Wen Ning dropping the bomb about how Jiang Cheng really got back his golden core. Is it emotionally painful to read? Yes. Is it also immensely satisfying, whether because it's the first time Wen Ning stood his ground on his own terms or because you think Jiang Cheng needed to be taken down a peg? Yes again.
  • Crack Pairing:
    • Also falls under Ships That Pass in the Night - any of the older-generation pairings except as written in canon. Or Lan Qiren with anyone.
    • Although they're never stated to have met In-Universe, there are some fans who have taken to shipping Mo Xuanyu and Xue Yang together. And speaking of Mo Xuanyu, other fans also ship him with Nie Huaisang given the possibility of the latter's involvement in the former's revenge plans against his abusive family.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Xue Yang is one of the villains of the story, and he's very popular among the fans. To be fair, he's someone the fans either love or Love to Hate. They don't deny how terrible his crimes are, but they also find it hard not to feel for him due to either his past or his complicated relationship with Xiao Xingchen. In fact, he's rather popular among the cast of The Untamed, as several of the actors auditioned to play Xue Yang before they got cast as someone else.
  • Ear Worm: No matter the rendition of "WangXian", one will find themselves humming to the tune before they realize it.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The Yi City group (Xiao Xingchen, Song Lan, Ah-Qing, and yes, even Xue Yang). While they only appear for a few chapters and their story is more of a Sidequest in the overall plot, their complex characterizations and tragic backstories still made them easily memorable among fans.
    • Ouyang Zizhen immediately became a fan favorite simply for being an Adorkable Nice Guy and for being a complete supporter for Wei Wuxian. Fans would also half-jokingly and half-affectionately dub him the "president of the Wei Wuxian fanclub" for the same reason.
    • Luo Qingyang, better known as Mianmian. Her role in the story is very minor, but the readers loves her for being one of the very few who stood up for Wei Wuxian and the only female character who survives the story and gets to have a happy ending.
    • Xianzi, simply for being a Canine Companion who contributes to some of the novel's funny moments where they scare Wei Wuxian. Xianzi becomes even more popular after The Untamed, since the dog portraying them is very friendly and cuddly.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • Wei Wuxian is less of a Villain Protagonist and more of an Anti-Hero. Still, every single fan finds his appearance as the Yiling Patriarch to be extremely attractive, even in moments where he's downright terrifying.
    • This trope is part of why Xue Yang has a sizable fanbase despite being one of the most morally reprehensible characters in the novel.
  • Fanfic Fuel:
    • Since the author never showed the events surrounding Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji's marriage, the fans are given free rein to depict how the wedding went.
    • The novel left the state of Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng's relationship on an open but bittersweet note. Naturally, fans would rectify this with fanworks where the two properly reconcile and reform their friendship post-epilogue.
  • First Installment Wins: Played with. Mo Dao Zu Shi is Mo Xiang Tong Xiu's second novel, but it is the first of her novels to receive adaptations. Hence, it's the most popular and well-recognized among her three (currently) published works; albeit Ren Zha Fan Pai Zi Jiu Xi Tong and Tian Guan Ci Fu are also seen as well-written works in their own right and have their respective adoring fandoms as well.
  • Fridge Horror:
    • According to Lan Xichen, after his parents married, the circumstances behind their marriage caused his father to isolate himself and never share a bed with his wife. If so, that raises questions on the possible circumstances behind Lan Xichen and Wangji's births...
    • In the story's timeline, Wei Wuxian spent around three months in the Burial Mounds. One can wonder how he managed to survive for that long in a place where there's likely no food to be found anywhere. While he might have practiced inedia, there's also the more horrifying alternative.
  • Friendly Fandoms: The fans of Mo Dao Zu Shi and The King's Avatar get along really well, since both the animated and live-action adaptations of both shows are one of the first to become mainstream and catch the attention of viewers outside China. That, and several voice actors from the former show were also cast in the latter.
  • Gateway Series: Mo Dao Zu Shi is the other series besides The King's Avatar that got Western fans into donghua. Although whereas The King's Avatar attracted Western viewers due to its focus in real-life gaming without the isekai and fantasy aspects, Mo Dao Zu Shi introduced many fans to xianxia, as well as danmei genres (which is similar to yaoi since they're both Boys' Love, but danmei works differ in how they play their tropes and ship dynamics).
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: It has quite a following in Thailand and Vietnam. In Thailand, fictional gay romances already enjoy a lot of popularity while the Vietnamese generally enjoy Chinese historical pieces.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: After the finale reveals how Jiang Cheng got caught by the Wens, the part where Jiang Cheng asks Wei Wuxian, "Why did you save me?" becomes much more emotionally difficult to read/watch.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Every interaction between Wei Wuxian and Lan Sizhui become this after one reads the finale since the reader is actually seeing "Brother Xian" and "A-Yuan" bond once again.
  • Ho Yay: See the Ho Yay page for more details.
  • Iron Woobie: Wei Wuxian is one of the biggest Woobies of the nove, suffering so much that he doesn't even get a peaceful death. And yet when he gets brought back to life, he rarely shows outwardly just how he shoulders all the pain he went through and the guilt he harbors for all that happened.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Jiang Cheng, without a doubt. No one can deny that he's very spiteful and angry and has done a lot of reprehensible things, but his backstory does a good job explaining exactly why that's the case.
    • Jin Ling also qualifies. He may be bratty and still has much growing up to do, but he didn't have an easy life due to having neither parents to raise him.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Downplayed, but Wei Wuxian (despite being an Official Couple with Lan Wangji) still tends to get shipped with the other characters, such as Jiang Cheng, Wen Ning, and Jin Zixuan, to name a few.
  • Memetic Loser: For an enchanted weapon, Bichen has been through a surprising number of frankly embarrassing uses. As a seam ripper to cut pants off corpses, as a shovel, as a dildo...
  • Memetic Mutation: While not as prevalent in the English side, the Chinese fandom is teeming with memes:
    • Wei Wuxian's Fan Nickname as Wi-Fi - taken from the author notes.
    • Lan Wangji's "Everyday" (天天).
    • Lan Xichen as Brother-Reading Machine.
    • Jiang Cheng's status as a bachelor is memed Up to Eleven - "single dog" (单身狗) sometimes refers to him, since it's a derogatory way of referring to someone who is single.
    • A series of videos on Bilibili sets up the characters singing their POV to the tune of "What Makes You Beautiful".
    • Rabbits. Not only are rabbits a reference to Lan Wangji's pets, they're also a reference to Tu'er Shen, the Chinese protector deity of homosexual love.
    • Poking fun at Jin Guangyao being one of the shortest man in the male cast is a popular subject of fanarts.
  • Moe:
    • Wen Yuan. Every fan agrees that he's adorable and precious in every adaptation. The audio drama added to the cuteness factor by having a real toddler voice him, and The Untamed pitches in by casting an actor who has the most pinchable cheeks.
    • Wen Ning, both as a human and as a zombie.
    • Young Lan Wangji. Just look at him! And if we're being honest, he still has a lot of adorable moments as both a teenager and an adult.
    • While we're at the main characters in their youth, Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng were just precious when they were kids, having the squishiest faces and the cutest-sounding voices.
    • The papermen Wei Wuxian creates in situations where he needs to sneak around. Admit it, you wished at least once of owning one.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Xue Yang has crossed this repeatedly. Massacring the Chang clan in revenge for one lost pinkie crossed it once. Massacring the White Snow Temple and blinding Song Lan crossed it again. The third time was tricking Xiao Xingchen into killing innocent civilians and Song Lan. Even Wei Wuxian, who had done some unsavory things during the Sunshot Campaign, summarized it best: "Xue Yang must die".
  • Never Live It Down:
    • Lan Jingyi eating chicken then having a chicken wing shoved back into his mouth by Lan Sizhui. See Cargo Ship above.
    • Remember that one time when Wei Wuxian used Lan Wangji's sword as a dildo? It's likely that you do, and the fandom will definitely make sure that you won't forget it.
  • One True Threesome: Many fans tend to ship Lan Sizhui, Jin Ling, and Lan Jingyi altogether rather than ship two out of the three.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name:
    • WangXian, which is also the name of the song that Lan Wangji composed for Wei Wuxian in-canon. Leaning on the Fourth Wall here...
    • ChengXian or XianCheng for Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian.
    • XuanLi for Jin Zixuan and Jiang Yanli.
    • SongXiao for Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen.
    • XueXiao for Xue Yang and Xiao Xingchen.
    • ZhuiYi for Lan Sizhui and Jingyi.
    • ZhuiLing for Lan Sizhui and Jin Ling.
    • XiYao for Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao.
    • XiCheng for Lan Xichen and Jiang Cheng.
    • NieLan for Nie Mingjue and Lan Xichen. This one is an interesting case since the ship name makes use of the two's last names rather than their given names.
    • SangCheng for Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng.
    • NingXian for Wen Ning and Wei Wuxian.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Su She. It's up to the reader to decide whether the author deliberately wrote him to be a Hate Sink or not, but no one will protest if someone says that while he serves his role well in the story, he's still insanely annoying and should just shut up. Even if anyone felt a smidgen of pity when Su She bites the dust, it's only because his death is surprisingly quick and anticlimactic.
    • Sect Leader Yao. He's a very minor character, yet is easily seen as a Hate Sink because no one knows anything about him besides being a brown-nosing bandwagon-rider, a condescending sexist, and having nothing good to say about Wei Wuxian or anything and anyone else for that matter... and that's why nobody likes him. What's worse is that he's a Karma Houdini, although some fans might find some reprieve in the final arc when Jin Ling yells at him to shut up when the bastard chides him for crying.
  • Ship Mates: Majority of the fans who ship WangXian tend to ship XiCheng as well.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night: XiCheng is a very popular ship in both the Western and Eastern fandoms of the novel, despite the fact that that Jiang Cheng and Lan Xichen never had a proper one-to-one interaction and are only seen standing side-to-side in a few frames at best.
  • Stoic Woobie:
    • Lan Wangji. Just because his ordeals aren't given as much focus as Wei Wuxian or Jiang Cheng's doesn't mean he didn't suffer any less than them.
    • Song Lan. Out of grief, he drove away his closest friend, which he quickly came to regret, and he dies before he gets the chance to apologize and reconcile with said friend. It doesn't help that his final fate is bittersweet at best, since he's now a mute, sentient zombie who decides to spend his days Wandering the Earth while waiting for his friend to reincarnate. Even if you don't know much about him, you will cry for him.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Simply put, the fans who grew up in the West are likely going to have a lot of problems with the novel given the difference in standards and opinions of how to raise a family, the importance of full consent in a relationship, referring to a same-sex married couple as "husband and wife" note , and several other reasons. While understandable at times, one should be cautious of when the discussion gets excessively heated.
    • One specific instance occurs when the Chinese fans complained about how the artist for the manhua drew Lan Wangji slapping (instead of merely shoving) Wen Ning in a fit of jealousy the first time he got drunk. At first, Western fans thought that they were merely overreacting because the scene didn't go exactly like it did in the novel; but as it turns out, slapping someone has harsher connotations in China as explained here.
  • The Woobie: Xiao Xingchen. It's a fact that he needs a hug and deserves none of the bad things that happened to him, and it all happened because he just wanted to help and do good. It just gets worse and worse for the poor priest until he literally gives up on life and unlike Wei Wuxian, he doesn't get a second chance.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
    • Xue Yang. No one's wrong in calling him an asshole for what he did to Xiao Xingchen, Song Lan, and A-Qing, and for all the other people he killed. However, it's not hard to feel sorry for him when you know why he became so screwed up, even if you acknowledge that it doesn't justify his actions.
    • Nie Huaisang, if you're going with the interpretation that he did plan Wei Wuxian's return and the events leading to Jin Guangyao's ruin and death. No one will deny that his actions are extremely ruthless and got a few people killed, and there would have been more casualties had the protagonists not interfered. However, one must remember that he did it all to avenge his brother, whom he was close to and whose death he had the misfortune of witnessing.
  • Woolseyism: Jinlin Tower. (金鳞台) reads as "Golden Scale Tower", but the Exiled Rebels translation switched to Koi Tower halfway through the ongoing translation, and the translation in the official subtitles of The Untamed went with "Golden Unicorn Tower". To be fair, Jinlin (金鳞) and Jinlin (金麟) have appeared throughout the online edition, which makes it hard to pin down any specific translation since which is an honest transcription error versus which is the name that was meant, is unclear.

Donghua and audio drama:

  • Adaptation First: Played with. It took a year after the release of the first season for Tencent to start streaming the donghua internationally. However, even months prior, thanks to the help of Fan Translation the donghua had already been drawing in more fans and introduced them to the novel and its other adaptations.
  • Better Than Canon: One of the things that many fans unanimously like about the donghua is that it has the strongest incarnation of Wei Wuxian, since it really drives in why he's the titular grandmaster of demonic cultivation feared by the other cultivation clans.
  • Broken Base: Every fan agrees that they love the audio drama because it's the most complete adaptation of the novel, but there are fans who are torn on their opinions on the donghua, which is unarguably the most contested adaptation. Some see it as another great adaptation that, even with its restrictions due to China's censorship laws and its limited episode count and runtime, still does well in translating the source material into an animated format. Other fans see it as terrible because it's not as faithful as the audio drama and rearranged the order of events that played in the past and present time.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Downplayed, especially when compared to The King's Avatar. Most viewers who are unused to hearing Chinese-dubbed animation are able to watch the donghua just fine because the story is set in ancient China, therefore it's only natural for the characters to speak Mandarin as it adds a layer of authenticity. Additionally, anyone who was initially skeptical about the quality of the voice-acting is usually won over by the cast's powerful performances.
  • Catharsis Factor: The manner in which Wei Wuxian dealt with Wen Chao in the novel might be a little hard to stomach for some readers, although how he goes about it in the donghua leaves all the viewers with no problems in watching Wen Chao get his gruesome comeuppance.
  • He Really Can Act:
    • While the donghua contains an All-Star Cast in terms of Chinese voice actors, the performances are highly praised even by fans who don't speak Mandarin, have never watched a donghua before, or are highly partial to Japanese-dubbed anime due to the actors perfectly delivering the emotion and nuance of their characters in every line.
    • That isn't to say that the audio drama is lacking either. Putting aside the fact that it's the more complete adaptation of the novel — it's also on equal footing with the donghua in terms of voice acting chops, which is noteworthy especially since unlike the donghua, they don't have a visual medium to work with.
  • It's Short, So It Sucks!: Downplayed. Several fans agree that Season 2 is not a terrible season. However, the fact that it's only eight episodes long yet covers so many plot points (particularly from the past events which detail Wei Wuxian's downfall) causes it to suffer from pacing issues and a few rushed plotlines — problems which didn't plague Season 1. It doesn't help that the audio drama and The Untamed had already adapted most or all of the novel's plot, and aren't nearly as restricted as the donghua when it comes to covering the novel's story.
  • Narm Charm: The Cornetto commercials. Watch them and you'll see why.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Because the narrative flow of the donghua deviates from that of the novel's, some fans having this kind of opinion is inevitable. Said opinion becomes even more heated after the second season aired, although the complaints stem less from the narrative changes and more from the past events being noticeably condensed and rushed through.
    • Some fans are not happy when the donghua follows a similar approach as the live-action drama in downplaying the Grey and Gray Morality of the story. Other fans are quick to point out, however, that this is due to the strict censorship laws in China regarding morally grey characters; and that the writing team of the donghua is doing their best to keep the theme while being subtler about it whereas the writing team of The Untamed had to remove it almost entirely.
  • Tough Act to Follow: The audio drama isn't the first adaptation to come out, but it is touted by several fans as the best adaptation of the novel, which inevitably casts a shadow over the other three adaptations, especially the donghua.
  • Uncanny Valley:
    • The animation team did well in blending the Conspicuous CGI into 2D and making it work. Even then, there are a few instances when it just doesn't, with the 3D-rendered Tortoise of Slaughter in the first season as a noteworthy example.
    • The way animals are drawn in the donghua can look unsettling for some viewrs, since the animals are drawn with human eyes instead of the standard animal eyes.
    • The donghua also has any of the characters when they were children can look rather odd. It doesn't have anything to do with Off-Model shots; rather, it's more of how their heads are drawn a little bigger than what's normally proportional for the rest of their petite bodies.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: By BL anime standards, the donghua is the most well-animated. By general anime standards, it's still one of the most well-animated works of 2018, with fans praising every aspect of the animation from the scenery to the battle choreography to the integration of CGI into hand-drawn animation (despite a few missteps).


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