If you’ve been on certain corners of the internet in the last year, then you’ve probably at least heard of The Untamed, the Chinese feudal-era fantasy melodrama filled with beautiful, bewigged men. Based on a queer romance web novel called Mo Dao Zu Shi or The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, the live-action screen adaptation (not to be confused with the animated or audio drama adaptations of the source material) follows Wei Wuixan (Xiao Zhan) and Lan Wangji (Wang Yibo), two soulmates and cultivators seeking justice in an often corrupt world of inter-clan rivalry. It’s brilliant, and is available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.
While The Untamed is filled with myriad delights, much of the onus of carrying the 50-episode story arc falls on the soldiers of Xiao, who is more than up for the task. The 29-year-old actor— whose name popped up in international news when a part of the actor’s massive fandom was potentially involved in the events that led to fanfiction website Archive of Our Own getting blocked in China—is asked to carry viewers through the utterly confusing first string of episodes and then into a 30-episode flashback more or less on the strength of his on-screen charisma. And he nails it. As The Untamed grows in popularity across English-speaking fandom, so does Xiao, which means many a western viewer is eagerly awaiting his next accessible project. Douluo Continent might be it…
According to ChineseDrama.info, Douluo Continent is the story of Tang San (played by Xiao), who “overcomes many difficulties to protect his loved ones, bring honor to his sect, help his country and become the strongest and bravest soul master.” It is adapted from a novel of the same name by Tang Jia San Shao.
The historical fantasy drama comes from Tencent, the massive Chinese media conglomerate that made The Untamed, and based on the fact that the trailer has been made available on the Tencent Video YouTube channel with English subtitles, it seems likely that English-speaking audiences will have access to the 40-episode series once it launches. The trailer itself looks gorgeous, epic, and (at least from the limited perspective of this American writer largely unfamiliar with Chinese media) brilliantly weird.
Need more context for what’s going on in Douluo Continent? Here’s the rest of the synopsis from ChinaDrama.info:
“Having lost his mother, Tang San (Xiao Zhan) and his father depended on each other to survive. Because he had to bear heavy burdens since childhood, Tang San grew up meticulous and mature for his age. Tang San awakened his powers when he was six years old and was sent to an academy for training. He becomes a disciple of Yu Xiao Gang and promises to always look after and protect the orphaned Xiao Wu (Wu Xuanyi) as her older brother. To improve their soul power, Yu Xiao Gang sends them to the Shrek Academy where together with five other geniuses, they come to form the Shrek Seven Devils.
As they gain fame, conflicts arise between the Shrek Seven Devils and students from other academies. The young heroes unintentionally become involved in the fight for imperial power between first prince Xue Qinghe and fourth prince Xue Beng. Meanwhile, Tang San discovers the culprit that murdered his mother and their secret plot to destroy the nations. To prevent them from succeeding, Tang San gathers up allies to fight a difficult war.”
Douluo Continent doesn’t yet have a release date, but The Untamed is available to watch and rewatch on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.