REVIEW: ‘Heaven Official’s Blessing’ is a Fantastic Journey Into Eastern Fantasy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Heaven Official's Blessing

Heaven Official’s Blessing is a fantasy adventure/romance donghua (Chinese animation) produced by Bilibili. Crown Prince Xi Lian has ascended to Heaven for the third time. But his arrival causes a few problems he must make up for. To clear his debt, the Crown Prince returns to the Earthly realm to help others. While on Earth, his journey will lead him to a fateful meeting with someone he never could’ve expected, as well as opening doors to a past he has largely forgotten. 

As one of my few forays into Chinese fantasy Heaven Official’s Blessing delivers a fresh and captivating story that steeps itself in mythology and fantasy. If like me, you are a newcomer to this style of fantasy there will be a lot of elements that will initially confuse you. As long as you are capable of accepting what is presented as simply how things work though, the alien feeling of the world’s structure soon replaces itself with a human story of a well-meaning outcast whose concern for others far outweighs how people view him.

As the show opens, we find ourselves in the Heavenly Realm as a person arrives freshly ascended from Earth. The power of this individual’s arrival is so great that it causes a bit of chaos and destruction for some of those already living in Heaven. Initially excited to see who might be arriving in such glory, the denizens of Heaven are soon disappointed to see it is Xi Lian. Again. 

We quickly learn this is Xi’s third time ascending to Heaven. The first two ended in his being sent back to the Earthly Realm. While it seems virtue, goodness, and the love of the masses are key to gaining entrance into Heaven, staying there requires one to play within the rules and order that Xi has always struggled with.

Due to his reputation, the raucousness around his arrival turns sour quickly. With the damages done to some of the estates in Heaven in his arrival, Xi must find a way to pay for the several million worth of merit credits of damage that has been done. 

Merit credits are kind of a measurement of how much worship a God has. When people pray to/make offerings to a god, the god gets merit. Xi, unfortunately, has no followers, and therefore no merit credits to repay the debt. However, there are situations back on earth that require the attention of the Heavenly Realm. If Xi attends to these matters he may be able to work off his debt. And so, as quickly as he arrives, Xi is off to begin his journeys. 

Heaven Official’s Blessing then follows its main protagonist as he sets out to restore peace to areas plagued by supernatural struggles. In the first, shorter of the two arcs, Xi must free a region from the terror of a ghostly bridegroom that preys on brides that pass near the creature’s haunted mountain. 

In the second tale, where the real meat of the season lies, Xi, accompanied by his newly acquainted companion San Lang, sets out to discover what monsters haunt the Half-Moon Pass. Both of these stories blend intriguing supernatural storytelling with wonderful animation and rich characters. Though the second story easily outshines the first thanks to the slow-burning, sometimes awkward, always cute romance between Xi and San. 

The show-stealing element of Heaven Official’s Blessing, this romance is instantly obvious, though it is never outwardly addressed or brought to fruition. Instead, we see a series of touching moments of kindness, compassion, and near brushes between the two that silently cement their mutual attraction to each other. It is a beautiful display of romance delivered with a feather-light touch. 

The animation in Heaven Official’s Blessing gorgeously delivers its settings, characters, and numerous magical elements. The combat moments put a wide array of eye-catching magical abilities and kung-fu style martial arts on display. 

A final note and something I hope won’t scare you off of checking out this beautiful series but needs to be acknowledged is the series subtitling. Which suffers from two particular troubles. The first is a lack of a background for the subtitles themselves. (At least on Netflix where I viewed the series.) There were numerous times where white text on white backgrounds made reading difficult. I never lost more than a line or two at any given time to this, but it was still frustrating.

The other problem comes with the difference in cadence and how lengthy certain sentences are in English compared to the Mandarin the audio is in. It seems to take a far fewer number of words/syllables to express many of the lines spoken in Heaven Official’s Blessing in its native tongue than in the English it’s being translated into. Because of this, in several moments throughout the show lines were removed from the screen before I could finish reading them to make way for the new dialogue that follows. As someone who has watched dozens of hours of subtitled anime and never had this kind of struggle, I am left to assume it has to do with the differences between the structures of the two languages.

While these difficulties never kept me from understanding or enjoying the series, they did take me off guard. I hope that by being aware of them you can just be prepared to focus a bit more to keep up with the wonderful story the series presents. 

When all is said and done, Heaven Official’s Blessing delivers an adventurous story filled with action, emotion, and striking visuals that more than make up for a few technical hiccups. If you are looking for something different in a fantasy animation to check out I cannot recommend this series enough. 

Heaven Official’s Blessing is streaming on Netflix and Funimation.

 

Heaven Official's Blessing
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

When all is said and done, Heaven Official’s Blessing delivers an adventurous story filled with action, emotion, and striking visuals that more than make up for a few technical hiccups. If you are looking for something different in a fantasy animation to check out I cannot recommend this series enough.