Sunday, March 14, 2021

REVIEW: Scumbag System, Season 1 (CGI donghua TV series)

Scumbag System is based on a Chinese BL fantasy web novel I've generally seen translated as The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System. I watched it on Tencent Video's Youtube channel, which I'm fairly certain is official, since Tencent is listed as one of the show's producers.


The protagonist (Shen Yuan) is a contemporary Chinese guy who's just finished a very long web novel and is looking forward to trashing it in online forums. However, in the middle of typing his comment, he chokes on a meat bun and is transported into the novel.

The novel's villain, Shen Qingque, is the Lord of Qing Jing Peak and master of Luo Binghe, the novel's protagonist. He not only stands by as his other disciples bully and beat Luo Binghe, he also beats Luo Binghe. Binghe eventually masters demonic cultivation and, long story short, hunts down anyone who ever abused him, beats them, and makes any young and attractive women in their lives (their daughters, female childhood friends, etc.) fall in love with him and join his massive harem. Eventually he traps Shen Qingque in a pot and, I think, tortures and/or kills him.

Shen Yuan's problem is that he wasn't reborn as Luo Binghe, the protagonist with invincible plot armor. No, he was reborn as Shen Qingque, and if he can't figure out how to change the story, he's going to end up a broken man trapped inside a pot. Unfortunately for him, the mysterious System that transported him into the novel also has a few rules for him to follow. At least initially, he's not allowed to behave out of character without losing B points, and if his B points drop to zero, he's dead.

I'll start by saying that I'm not a fan of the CGI animation, which is a bit stiff and occasionally laughable. Although the Ghost Head Spiders were fabulously creepy, I wish it had been done more like the animated adaptations of MXTX's other works, both of which are beautiful. The background music could be better, and some of the sound effects could use some work (there were a few scenes in which boulders fell, and they sounded like wooden blocks tumbling down).

But I got over all of that, because this series was surprisingly entertaining and funny, particularly if you know how things are eventually going to turn out. I haven't read the novel yet, but I've read enough about it to know that, as Shen Qingque does his very best to win Luo Binghe over so that Luo Binghe won't eventually kill him, he accidentally causes Luo Binghe to fall in love with him. The disconnect between what Shen Qingque thinks is going on and what's actually going on is hilarious. For example, any time he pays particular attention to a female character because he knows that, in the original novel, she'll end up in Luo Binghe's harem, Luo Binghe immediately wants to look into whoever his "shizun" (master?) has shown an interest in. It's almost certainly jealousy on Luo Binghe's part, but Shen Qingque thinks Luo Binghe is already off flirting with members of his future harem.

There's also Shen Qingque's frustration and horror as he deals with System's restrictions, fairly arbitrary point additions and subtractions, and the plot points that he is not, under any circumstances, allowed to avoid. He manages to put up a good front and usually act cool in front of the other characters, even as he's internally screaming. For example, although he really has to get on Luo Binghe's good side in order to stand a chance of surviving the novel, the one plot point he's not allowed to skip is a scene in which he shoves Luo Binghe into a fiery abyss.

From what I've heard, the original novel has some pretty explicit (and terrible) sex scenes that are integral to the plot, so I'm wondering how the series creators plan to adapt this while still working around Chinese censorship. I guess I'll eventually find out, because I plan on continuing on once Season 2 is available and has English subtitling. Season 1 was a lot of fun.

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