Heaven Official's Blessing Season 1
Xie Lan is "the most anticipated official to be cast out of Heaven Realm" (the last time, he got banished from there within 30 minutes), but nevertheless he's returned to Heaven again- and THIS time managed to trash some palaces in the process of arriving. It seems that to be allowed to keep his gig in the Heavenly Abode he will have to "get rid of evil ghosts" in the mortal world- but it may turn out that some of those evil ghosts are connected to some wicked deeds of his fellow gods- some from before they ascended into Heaven, but maybe others from continuing malfeasance.
FINALLY, Chinese/Japanese animation consortium Haoliners gets it right. This is the best show from them I've ever seen. The art and score are lush, stylish, and to put it in one word, gorgeous. And unlike Psychic Princess (the other Haoliners show I've looked at with an ancient-China kind of setting), everyone in THIS show always acts more or less like an adult- though some of them ARE engaged in bitter quarrels, and often ordinary mortals are the collateral damage from these spats. I don't remember many stories of the Greek gods actually regretting the horrible things they did to humans- the Babylonian gods, in The Epic of Gilgamesh, DID feel kinda bad about the Flood (after they'd done the damage, of course); and even in the present show there's a line that "In the eyes of a Heavenly Official, humans are no more important than ants."
But our hero here, Xie Lan, clearly shows more conscience about the loss of innocent human life from these deity disputes than any of his godly compatriots, even if his reckless arrival DOES collapse a Heavenly Palace or two. Besides, something troublesome even to the gods may arise from their callousness toward humans- namely vengeful ghosts called Wraths, which are usually the proximate problem Xie Lan is assigned to eliminate. To determine the ultimate issue he often has to dig pretty deeply into the past. (The spiritual complexities of these supernatural events reminded me of the ones in Ghost Hunt, so I've included that as a Rec despite the shows' very different times and places.)
In the cosmology of this show, as previously noted, the gods were once ordinary mortals who were basically "promoted" to godhood (they even get to keep the titles they bore as mortals), but, as Shakespeare said, the evil men do can live on after them- apparently even when they become gods. Grudges very literally take on lives (or at least existences) of their own here.
I WAS a little surprised about Xie Lan himself. Despite his careless reputation, he seems calm and very competent during crises, and when NOT having to deal with an immediate crisis he's soft-spoken and cheerful, with an endearingly self-deprecating sense of humor. Indeed, perhaps if he were more self-aggrandizing he'd have more worshippers. He returns to Earth at one point to work on this lack of followers, and encounters someone calling himself San Lang. The relationship between San Lang and Xie Lan clearly becomes a yaoi ("Boy's Love", or BL) one- this is the most blatantly yaoi show I've ever watched. I've never been a devotee of the BL genre- and I'm still not- but I have to admit that San Lang and Xie Lan as partners nicely complement each other, right down to their very natures (when we finally find out who, and what, "San Lang" really is.) While watching this I recalled Hanako's line, from Wotakoi, where she asserted that BL was basically shojo in disguise. I can kind of see her point, here.
There are some interesting side characters. Yan Feng and Fu Yao are "deputy gods" who somehow always wind up accompanying Xie Lan in his quests. (I suspect either they themselves, or THEIR bosses, don't trust him to do the job by himself), but whose own rivalries with each other sometimes get in the way. But most of the show's pathos is reserved for its humans (or their ghosts); especially poignant is a character who was forced to make a choice that basically condemned them to eternal damnation whichever way they chose.
A beautiful show with intelligent dialogue, but the plots are sometimes a bit TOO talky, as well as complex and slow-moving. Still, this is light-years beyond anything I've ever experienced from Haoliners before. Good job. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: The gods seem to leave a lot of dead or wounded humans in their wake here (and the humans are no slouches in mass murder themselves), but I don't recall any fanservice per se. Netflix rates TV-14; I agree.
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix stream
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Heaven Official's Blessing Season 1 © 2020 Haoliners Animation League
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