Monday, April 15, 2013

The Ravages of Time (undignified fangirling time)

This is me.
Alas! I find myself in danger of disappearing off the face of this blog (not that I update much anyway). You can blame this almost entirely on the Three Kingdoms 2010 drama, which is a ridiculous 95 episodes long, each episode being twice that of your typical anime episode. Goodbye, life. 

Speaking of which, before I turned into a horrible anime/manga obsessed freak, I was a Romance of the Three Kingdoms obsessed freak first. Chinese history, awesome battles, battles of wits etc, what is there not to love? I'd like to think I'm a lot less obsessed now than I was, but every now and then (like now), I'm hit with this utter, uncontrollable fit of Three Kingdoms fanaticism that basically destroys my patience for anything else until I somehow find something more interesting to distract myself away from it. 

There are Three Kingdoms adaptations all over the place, and they vary unbelievably widely in interpretation and quality. The 2010 drama is really quite enjoyable, lengthy though it is, but by far my favorite adaption is the Hong Kong manhua Ravages of Time.

Considering who's on this cover, it's kind of remarkable how un-spoilery this volume cover is.
SO. BADASS. *____* I simply cannot describe my adoration in words. Ravages of Time is a loose, loose adaptation of RoTK, ostensibly following the progress of Sima Yi from the eccentric but clever young master of a merchant clan to the fiendishly ambitious and cunning warlord who overthrows his liege to take all of China. 

I say ostensibly, because after the first few storyarcs, the manhua expands to go far beyond just Sima Yi and the assassin group he commands. The first 5 volumes are a largely original, somewhat wuxia-like storyline, taking place during Dong Zhuo's burning of Luoyang (RoTK ch6). However, afterwards the plot mostly follows the events in the novel, beginning with the collapse of the Guandong Alliance. There's the rise of Cao Cao's forces, then the assassination of Dong Zhuo and its aftermath, all sorts of LiuGuanZhang shenanigans, and so on. Sima Yi and his group are involved in a lot of these events but they don't take center stage necessarily. It covers the novel material pretty consistently, albeit very, very slowly, and stuffs tons and tons of material in between. If I'm not mistaken, I think the most recent chapters of the manhua (~389) correspond to chapter 41.

I'm calling this a "loose, loose" adaptation because despite rather closely following the events of the book and the (informed/nerdy) reader basically knowing exactly what's coming next, everything is made 500x more complicated by a ridiculous amount of mind games, inhuman feats of calculation, back-and-forth political and moral philosophizing, unexpected reversals, devious scheming, and a healthy dose of just monstrously badass asskicking. 

I really like Ravages Zhang Fei, ok? He's the best. He is a classy painter and really sneaky and ridiculously badass

Also Ma Teng and his noodles are great

And then there's this gem
Of particular note is the kind of outrageous amount of strategic and tactical back and forth carried out by various characters, particularly the group known as the Eight Genius. These consist of Yuan Fang (fictional illegitimate son of Yuan Shao), Xun Yu, Jia Xu, Guo Jia (who finally kicked it a few months ago), Zhou Yu, Pang Tong, Zhuge Liang (who finally showed us the bottom half of his face recently too, after only 40+ volumes of wearing a mask and a couple extra chapters of trolling just for the hell of it), and a still-undisclosed eighth. These dudes and Sima Yi carry out the biggest portion of the mind games and ridiculous reversals that are distinctly characteristic of Ravages of Time. In some story arcs, they have a tendency to eat the plot entirely, being both fan-favorite characters and the type of characters who would be in control of all of the events going on anyway. Also it's always interesting when extremely intelligent characters and going up against other extremely intelligent characters. 

The logical conclusion to a discussion about structural integrity of buildings. Of course.

Not shown: bitchslapping Sima Yi for being a sneaky bastard. So ~dramatic~.

drama drama drama drama drama. Strategist drama is the best drama. Well, most special anyway.

Which isn't to say that the generals/warlords/etcs don't get a lot of their own epic moments of action -- it's just that I would say the extra extra focus on the strategy and the strategy drama is what makes it really stand out from a lot of other Three Kingdoms adaptations (and action/war stuff in general?).

Basically, this is a series where, if you're familiar with the story of Three Kingdoms, you know more or less what the conclusions to everything is, but everything is still really exciting and awesome because of lots of plot twists and novel character interpretations. Oh, and by the way, Diao Chan is a dude. 

Xiao Meng is actually a eunuch, but that doesn't explain those hips. He is still cool anyway.
So yeah, I love this stuff. The first time I read this, I ended up going through all of the scanlated stuff by the now sadly defunct Fifay and Remnant Warriors groups in about a week or two, then spent the rest of the month clicking back and forth between Chinese scans that I couldn't understand a sentence of and text translations done by the incomparable Merc, who is still doing them today and who has my eternal adoration, seriously. Nowadays, I'm still reading Ravages and every year or so I feel the need to reread the entire freaking thing, all 300+ chapters, since sometimes I can't keep up with so many plot things going around (and sometimes I just want to reread it just because). But I have no regrets. In fact, this time around I'm actually taking notes so that I can better figure out where to start from next time I lose track of the plot again and need to go back to review everything. 

....and this is why I have no life.

oh my god why doesnt she just shut up nobody cares
orz orz orz

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