By: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting
This is already a pretty well known Webtoon series, but I haven’t seen any long-form reviews about it or analyses yet, so here I am, filling the potential void. Perhaps it’s a bit timely to do so now too, as tomorrow marks the Spring Equinox, meaning that–this week–countries are holding their annual flower festivities and celebrating. There is the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Festival beginning in Japan, and the Plum Blossom Festival in China, and many more. As I try to get into the flower spirit (I’m highly allergic to pollen so I’m not the biggest fan of real ones being close to me), nothing seems better than to settle in and re-read the available chapters of Return of the Blossoming Blade.
The story takes place in a murim world where there are a lot of martial artists on the journey to improve their cultivation. Unlike some of the other murim-world stories that I have read where it’s all about the special ingredients that let the main character jump levels while meditating, or the ones that go into a quick revenge plot against old rivals–Return of the Blossoming Blade’s main character spends his time as a newly awakened reincarnated person trying to rebuild his fallen sect. The official description is as follows:
“When Cheongmyeong of the Mount Hua Sect awakens a hundred years in the future, his last memories are of a bloody battle against the Leader of the Demonic Cult, the evil Cheonma. The battle almost saw the end of the Ten Great Sects of ancient China, when Cheongmyeong ended the hard-fought struggle by striking down Cheonma. Soon after, he succumbed to his wounds, filled with regret at their pyrrhic victory. All is not lost, however, as he awakens to his second chance at life. Shocked to find his beloved Mount Hua Sect reduced to a mere shadow of itself in the present day, Cheongmyeong embarks on a journey to restore Mount Hua to its former glory.” (LINK)
Despite my phrasing above, I can assure you that, thus far, the story’s premise and chain of events is not entirely original. Almost every plot point so far is something I have seen several times in other works from the same, or similar, genre. However, there is something about this story that really grabs me in a way that many others don’t. (I mean, you rarely see me reviewing murim isekais, right? The reason is that they’re pretty straight forward. Generally, fun reads but not filled with unexpected chains of events.)
What is it that grabs me? Maybe it’s the art. I certainly find it aesthetically pleasing, particularly in the use of bolder colors and thick lines as apposed to the usual subdued color palettes I find in other works. It also tends to be a bit brighter, thereby adding an element to the tone and mood or the story that lend to the comedic moments, with a similar reflection of darker tones adding to the more series periods.
As an example of what I mean, I would point you to the images above and below this paragraph. Above are two panels pulled from Chapter 10. The background is on the brighter side, with the different characters featured having bold colors as well as clean and thick lines. As it is a more serious moment, the background is on the darker side. Not very dark, but enough so that you feel the difference of moments or scenes that are funnier (an example of which can be seen below), where one of the merchants from above has just received a threat. The difference in the background really lends to the difference in setting the mood. Above is more somber, fitting the somber speeches given by the central characters of the chapter. In the below, taken from Chapter 14, the background is a light blue which makes the childish approach our main character, Cheongmyeong, takes while threatening the merchants more funny than terrifying.
Another potential grab is the comedy. A lot of which is found in the extremes that Cheongmyeong takes, which is fitting for his childishness and child-like form despite his spirit being much older. One scene I particularly love is from Chapter 45, in which Cheongmyeong decides he’s going to beat up the seniors and all of the juniors in his tier have to chase him down the hall and catch him to prevent it. The scene lasts for several panels, with roughly eight much-larger children having to hold down the enraged Cheongmyeong to keep him from running off. It’s the kind of struggle where you need a special strength to hold down this tiny ball of rage that reminds me a lot of trying to give my cat a bath or my sister trying to get the socks back on her screaming two-year-old…
It adds a lot to Cheongmyeong’s characterization and helps to define him not as an adult trapped in a child’s body–but a child with memories of his past life and a similar personality. He thinks he’s mature and an adult, but realistically, much of what he does is very telling of his current age. (As a side note, reading the scene in Chapter 45 of the manhua was a lot funnier than reading it in the novel, likely due to the visual element that helps suspend one’s disbelief.)
Perhaps the best example of what I’m talking about would be Cheongmyeong’s re-entrance into the Mount Hua Sect. While traveling to the sect, he plans out an elaborate lie story meant to help set him up for re-entrance to the sect at a higher tier. However, the story goes to waste when he’s welcomed to the sect without any questions.
Instead of telling his story anyway, Cheongmyeong becomes frustrated but accepting of his newly acquired position as the youngest disciple of the sect. He quickly establishes dominance in the all too funny way that overpowered brats tend to do, but he remains in his role–gaining privileges and benefits along the way through his helpful feats in his goal to rebuild the sect.
That said, I think what really draws me in is the character design for Cheongmyeong, featured below:
Several times throughout the series, Cheongmyeong’s eyes will change color–in moments of anger, they are exaggerated to red and sometimes, for simplicity’s sake, they’re a dark grey or black, but primarily they’re the same dull pink of the flower featured on his Gi (I’m referring to his martial art’s robes here–Gi is perhaps the Japanese name for it, but I’m not sure what the difference would be in Chinese).
As this is a Chinese-based story and setting, we can assume that the chosen flower for the sect is a Plum Blossom (the national flower of China). The Plum Blossom is traditionally a “symbol of winter ending and a herald of spring. The tree’s pale pink blossoms are cherished because they bloom vibrantly and so bravely amidst the winter chill” (Source). “They also symbolize perseverance” because they bloom in winter and tend to be the first flower of the new year (Source). They are regularly associated with a new beginning or rebirth, which I find fitting for Cheongmyeong’s character and his current role within the sect.
I sense a lot of potential in the story, and in how it may branch out. I like the art, and I have a feeling I’ll be doing an analysis of this series at some point in the future because of it, though I have nothing planned or thought up yet.
Regardless, I wanted to write this review as a means to introduce some of the things that have really pulled me into it so that maybe, if you haven’t given it a chance yet, you all might pick it or add it to your reading list too.
10/10 – Should read and currently available on Webtoons.