I am ambivalent over this manhwa. I caught up with all 43 available chapters within two days of last week, so there is no denying the entertainment value. Clearly it had the entertainment quality to keep me hooked to my computer. Yet that doesn’t change at all the fact that it is colored with quite a few faults that i can’t help but notice. The best manga and manhwa are the ones that will present me with clear failures during their endless chapters but which i will either ignore or fail to notice, because everything else is that good as compared to the faults. As such i will say right now that i do not hold the same attitude as numerous otaku out their that this is the best manhwa out their. But before that;
The manhwa takes place in a time when the power of the gods acts prominently in the lives of humanity. Acting under the leadership of the mighty power of Tian (not sure if its the humongous dragon or the man himself or a place even) the numerous divisions of deities, distinguished by their various attributes serve under their separate masters in enslaving humanity and seeing their will done. The mighty Shang dynasty is one such empire, that has for years done the bidding of the high ones, trusting multitudes of its people to slavery in the mines, unearthing a mysterious mineral that the gods so desire.
But the Shang dynasty now serves under a new ruler, one that will not stand for the impudence and superiority of the gods in subjugating its people, and it is this leader, in declaring war against these heavenly forces, that sets off a spark of rebellion; humanity will no longer be enslaved to the gods, they will no longer be murdered and manipulated and forced to continue in misery so long as they will to exist outside the god’s influence; humanity will now fight back.
Wu geng, prince of a once mighty empire fights to lead this charge, as a promised one, a future savior, born of god and human, and prophesied to bring about the end of the gods. But is this truly a path that humanity seeks? To see the gods fall? For before the gods, before their glorious power, existed a darkness that once eclipsed all light in the land, a darkness that, with great sacrifices from the elder gods of whom only one, Tian, still lives, were vanquished; and a darkness that has fostered its hate in the underworld and which plots its return. it is this enemy that lurks in the shadows, behind wu geng and the fallen gods attempts to bring about justice and fairness. Before long, he will have to question his resolve and determine if vengeance for all that has befallen him under the gods is worth it, for the price to be paid.
The positives: there isn’t an otaku alive that has come across this manga, who hasn’t been awed by its existence. It is a truly beautiful creation. Of course i am talking about the art. This manga stands at the head of my list of greatest drawn manga and manhwa and it indeed deserves that position. I don’t know how much work goes into making this manhwa or how much time, clearly more than a week, but it deserves a large portion of the praise it attracts. The art is superb; unlike so many manga series that i come across, every character, young and old, male and female, is distinct in their look and nature, where as with most series it is necessary to bring up a name, style of fighting or object such as a weapon they always carry to link them to, in order to jog the memory of the reader. And the human beings always look like human beings; i say this because every manga and manhwa that i have read will have those awkward shots and panels where, maybe it was an exceptionally difficult angel to draw or the situation and surroundings complicated things, but the characters look a bit off, maybe too big or a little twisted. It’s rarely that big of a deal, yet i noticed in this manhwa that all that was absent. It’s like someone takes the time to look at every image within a panel, be it a cup in the distance or a fly hanging in an awkward way, and ensures that everything is perfect.
Maybe its a korean thing. The backgrounds are as they should be, backgrounds that actually create an understanding of one’s environment and clearly convey the idea of movement and change, that the characters in question have changed locations and the each location has enough distinct features to enable one to at the very least attempt to recognize a location if they had ever seen it before. This is why i always said claymore had the best art i had ever seen. No matter how much detail was provided in any manhwa and manga i read, the backgrounds were all too static and generic; feng shen ji avoids this and brings the world around a character to life, be it in a calm situation or within chaos; no matter the occurrence, it is reflected in the world around.
The color is beautiful. I have come across colored manga and manhwa, though maybe manhwa only, the most recent being noblese and god of high school. But here is the thing, both of those have always seemed to me to be of average to low quality. This is manga. it is always black and white so a little color goes a long way to making these two series look astounding. But none the less, neither of them is particularly impressive color wise. Feng shen ji is an exquisite production; the colors are rich and fluid and detailed so as to enhance the purpose of each panel. I haven’t read a series quite as good looking as this one. This kind of material is visually on par with a comic book and those guys put quite some effort, money and man power into making their books.
I can’t heap enough praise to elucidate on just how magnificently drawn this book is. especially the great battles. Sure i love seeing the lush open fields and luxuriant lands, but the battles take it to another level. The powers are displayed in mouth watering detail, you just want to reach out and touch them. The explosions, earth shattering summons, mighty weapons, weather manipulating powers, eccentric moves, they are all a marvelous wonder. This manhwa is simply that good to look at. You just want to drink it in.
The characters: are an eccentric bunch, Wu geng is fun to watch from his ignorant beginnings and the life changing journey he undergoes to become the man he is now. You might hate him at the start but he becomes a character worthy of your respect and support. You want to see him rise higher, challenge his difficulties and become a better man, meeting the expectations of those that follow him. The gods are…intriguing. There is an attempt to play most of them off as simply arrogant and egotistical but many are downright evil and worthy of contempt. Some play the good guy, claim to feel remorse for their actions and even criticize their own kind’s evils, before doing exactly the same soon after. Basically all talk and no action, and thus evil.
It is clear they want to be understood but betray their own selves. The clearly evil gods are fun to behold; they revel in their vileness against humanity and rather than challenge you to like them, will endear themselves to you more easily that the ‘attempting to be good but not really trying' kind. You might route for them during impending danger, to see them put up a greater fight so that their defeat can be that much more sound and satisfying. There is no doubt however that they are all doomed; i expect they will all die cruel deaths, but not before showing us their divine powers. These can sometimes be the most gratifying events to watch, seeing a god unleash his unique ability and unleashing untold devastation. It is worth any chapter just to see this. I think my favorite divine power so far as monochrome, as was performed originally in the first chapters. Then there is wu geng’s uncle’s sword smelting aura technique; marvelous to watch.
The good guys are, well, good. I kind of expected them to exist in more of a grey area considering the kind of cruel world they live in. None the less it is nice to watch them sort of fight to keep their dreams alive by rejecting their former glory and struggling down here with mere mortals. They are just as vicious as impressive as the villains and equally determined to free humanity as the gods are to subjugate them. Wu geng leads the pack; as the protagonist his story and progression will keep you hooked to the pages, especially in the beginning where you are more interested in seeing him become a better human being rather than simply being powerful.
of course within each simple story is a conspiracy. These are the gods after all and, light or dark, they will use every pawn in their arsenal, be it human or fellow god; most operate under a specific philosophy while a few harbor greed and human like lusts that they will kill and betray god and man alike to see fulfilled.
The concept, while not particularly new or unique, is a fascinating one, and possesses a lot of potential. Achieving greatness will lie in Jien He’s ability to tap into this potential and lay it bare. Gods and humans fighting isn’t new. We have seen the whole ‘human rises to fight the gods’ story before, the terrible wrath of the titans being the most recent example. This story focuses on the intricate details involved in the conflict between these two parties, why they are fighting, why neither is willing to yield and why the eventual war will change the face of the land. The story isn’t that clear cut.
When i really like a manga/anime and i am hooked by the story, it pains me to point out its criticisms. For instance i am not keen to point out how appalling i found the fourth great shinobi war to be in Naruto so far. It is a disgrace that the fillers were the best parts i have seen so far in this war besides the asuma business. I am yet to watch any Naruto beyond the Naruto Tsunade raikage contention but i have been assured that the war gets better. I only hope that isn’t a lie. But that aside, that failing is something i will struggle to see and even when i finally accept its existence, i will find a way to enervate the level at lousiness presented.
With Feng shen ji i have no problem with blurting out what exactly the faults are because they are simply so egregious that i can’t ignore them. First;
1. The story- It took me a while to determine the word or statement that i wanted to use in referring to the story in this manhwa. At first i considered the fact that their is really no story, or rather no worth while plot to sink your teeth in. But i decided that that wasn’t the case. There is indeed a story, with gods fighting humans and humans trying to oppose the mighty force.There is a hook as well, to see how far into the realm of the gods Wu geng can reach. I thought i could call it mindless because to a point it is, and that is the first criticism. I finally figured out what my qualms with the story was. It is too shallow.
Remember what i said up their in the positive section. I didn’t say that the series had a good story. I said the story had the potential to be great. It isn’t a unique concept but it is well executed; yet the author fails to fully explore the concepts he introduces in the chapters. He will frequently introduce very vague ideas and plots which, instead of elucidating upon in the future, simply brushes them aside and glazes over, assuming that since this fellow knows that fellow and that fellow hates that other guy for that reason and he has told you that in a few statements, his part is done; now they can all fight again and again and again now that we know. That is why i say that this manhwa is actually mindless. There is a lack of focus on the story. Relationships are simply swept aside with brief introductions. Reasons, objectives and intentions are given scanty attention.
Sure i wanted to see Wu geng finally make it back to see Bai cai, but even if he didn’t make it back, i couldn’t have cared less; and that’s because their relationship doesn’t matte than much 43 chapters in. So what if Wu geng is willing to do anything, go to impossible lengths to rescue his grandfather? I don’t care much because i personally haven’t seen the relationship between them blossom in such a way that i could understand his dedication. Think about God of high school and Jin mori’s relationship with his grandfather.
How many times do you hear Jin mori speak about his grandfather? Not that many times. And even when he talks about rescuing him, their is no weeping or passionate discourse about how he will not stop till he rescues his only family. But even in the few words he uses, you can understand the passion he displays and the lengths he will go to to see the mission completed. And the old man, in one hundred something chapters, gets less screen time or about as much as the old priest does in 43 chapters. And anyone who has read G.O.H knows that it’s story could never be described as deep. Yet there is enough material to realize that the story drives the action and the action wouldn't matter much without the story.
Every opponent Jin mori faces enters the ring against an opponent they cannot beat to achieve a dream and in a few pages of a flashback you understand their souls and what drives them. Feng shen ji fails to do this. The action takes precedence over the story. In fact the story doesn’t matter whatsoever. So long as you know what the good guys want and the bad guys stand for, with this series you are set. And that isn’t enough. I am not asking for endless ridiculously complicated drama. I am asking for a story that matters. If you woke up tomorrow and wu geng had been transformed into wizard that sold insurance while protecting farmer's’ crops from pests, it wouldn’t make one bit of difference so long as the level of art and action scenes stayed the same. IN a series like breaker:new waves, it would make all the difference in the world because the story drives the battles; there are certain factors that make Shion’s victories and losses impact hard, and if those factors where absent, then the fights wouldn’t matter as much.
Things weren’t so bad in the beginning. I was hooked with the first chapter and the rebellion that followed within. And the mine arc was pretty well paced and intriguing in following Wu geng’s growth . Everything after that was just a mess. First of all the arc that followed was paced badly. Too many unnecessary scenes were shown while a number that should have appeared didn’t. By the time Wu geng was calling his new residence home, i was struggling to believe him, because according to him, we had witnessed a considerable amount of months pass during which he had bonded with his new comrades. To me it seemed like two days. Most well executed series don’t have to tell us that two weeks or two months have gone by. Sure it has to be confirmed but in a period of a few chapters we are usually able to tell using events happening that time is passing. Feng shen ji couldn't do that and as such Wu geng’s so called growth was simply not believable to me. IN fact at one point it seemed a little too out of the blue and sudden, yet if you considered the time that had passed it was fairly logical. I don’t like being told that something happened, especially if it affects every facet of a story. I like to be shown. This series fails miserably at that.
I won’t spoil it in my effort to prove how shallow the story is. But even the betrayals that happen are simply ridiculous and unbelievable. Jien simply paces the story horribly. Someone was recently craving for some more Feng shen ji and didn’t care if they were raws with no english translations because according to them, they didn’t matter. I thought they were crazy. One, who read a manga without proper translations and whose story didn’t matter? What was the point? Secondly after reading ten chapters i was certain that there were events that needed to be explained for the chapters to make some sense. 43 chapters later i am shocked to discover that they were right. The words don’t matter. You can read most of the series easily with minimal explanation over what is happening. This is what i did. For most of the last ten chapters i was flipping through pages without paying attention to the words in the page (which i noticed were banal and uninteresting and either badly written or badly translated; either way the dialogue and basic narration is boring as hell) and i still had a basic idea of what was happening.
I don’t know if the author is responsible for both the art and the story but either he needs to get himself a writer and give up on involving himself with the story telling or he should rethink his relationship with this writer. if i compare this series with G.O.H, then i would say that the GOH author is a brilliant artist and storyteller; the feng shen ji author on the other hand is simply a genius artist. The story is the one failing that unfortunately heavily weighs down on the series. He needs to do something about it.
I ranted on far too long about this point. Let me break it down like this. I don’t choose my manga based on how they look. I like a good looking manga/manhwa but so long as the art is bearable and i can follow each the story from panel to panel i am good so long as the story hooks me. If feng shen ji keeps sacrificing a good story for the visuals, i will keep reading it for however many hundred chapters it goes on, but i will seize to respect it.
2. The action: It might be strange and even controversial that i would fault the fault the action of feng shen ji and i wouldn't say that i fault it exactly; with the manhwa so beautifully colored, you could say that there are some failings that are more easily noticeable than they would be if the manhwa was colorless. When it comes to the story it will be hard to find someone that denies its shaloow nature. But with the action, it’s probably more subjective, in that i doubt anyone will share the view.
Either way, in comparing the manhwa with other series i have come across, i find that when it comes to the action scenes, i am not blown away as most people claim to be. The art makes every action seem that much more mind blowing, but here is the thing. I have inferred above that i think Feng shen ji is inferior to the breaker and G.O.H; what i will state unequivocally is that i think Feng shen Ji is far far inferior to those two titles. The reason is partly due to the superior stories of the two series. The other reason is the actions scenes. Both manage to present a totally unique experience with regards to visuals relating to battle.
The battles in Feng shen ji aren’t badly drawn or anything. if i am to try and express my criticism, i would say that they are ordinary and unoriginal. when i come across a battle related series that is said to be spectacular, i look at what new experience it brings to the table. With G.O.H i am yet to read a series that creates images so swift and fluid as those presented in this series. There is a celerity and pliability to even the most ordinary move executed in each page. And with G.O.H we are talking about a series more grounded in reality than Feng shen ji The series will for the most part make use your average martial arts styles found in Asia but with a twist. But the way the author displays the fights, the angles he chooses to attack a panel from and the positions that he displays a character executing a simple kick from are unique in style and execution. it isn’t something you see everyday and each fight seems as fast paced and dynamic as it would be in an anime.
With breaker, you can expect highly destructive battles that affect everything within the panel; the artist displays each shot in such a way that it displays the impact of each action as if you were there and experiencing it first hand. Besides that, both G.O.H and breaker bring a fresh breath of air to two or more opponents duking it out, with a unique means with which each strike and special move looks and is executed. Just like with bleach, both authors want you to get a different experience when witnessing a character unleash a destructive punch from what you would experience from reading other manga. And they all pull it off perfectly. The way Sado unleashes an ordinary attack isn’t the same way Shion would do it; same for the speed effects and all that.
Feng shen ji is ordinary in the way it executes battles. It is a unique manhwa so of course you can expect specifically crafted powers and techniques. But the way they are displayed seems so ordinary and average. I don’t think i can really explain it. it’s probably something that i just happen to see. I mean, all the summoned weapons, monsters and attacks are cool, especially when unleashed, but average blow by blow battle is disappointingly ordinary. Maybe i have been biased by previous series that i have come across. The last series i read before feng shen ji was witch hunter, and watching Tasha dispatch a couple of ordinary goons was as fun to read as it was to watch Xing take on the main villain Lee.
In manga there shouldn’t be such a thing as filler fights, to pass the time, just because someone has to fight the goons. It is the author’s job to keep things as interesting as possible no matter what is happening. While the fights were not boring, they simply didn’t reach the apex of what they could have been, or maybe i shouldn’t be comparing some of these series.
Story- 1.5/5; should have been better
art - 10/5 mind blowing times a thousand
characters – 3/5; managed to shine despite the story but could have been better with a good story; otherwise some of them where way too vapid and generic for my taste
action -5/5 or 2/5; i actually can’t decide; on the one hand, they are mind blowing; on the other hand, he could do more with them.
Overall rating – 3/5
Verdict: This is a manhwa that every otaku must read. I recommend it for its purely entertainment value. Once you start, you might not stop. I will however say that, unlike many that have said it, Feng shen ji is nowhere near the best manhwa. It is a good manhwa.