So you have watched and probably re-watched (Or am I the only one?) the Chinese Bromance series “The Untamed” running on Netflix but want more of these characters? Or are you curious about the story ‘canon’ that was adapted into this very popular live-action televisual feast? Or do you keep hearing the acronym “MDZS” in connection to the show but don’t know the details? This post is just to answer these very questions and to introduce you to various ways you can appreciate and love this story and characters a little more.
—Edited by TheFNGee
MDZS is the acronym for Mo Dao Zu Shi, the original novel’s name, written by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (MXTX). This novel was written between 2015 and 2016 and was first published on an online platform and later converted into paperback. It is also known as “Founder of Diabolism” or “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation” in various English translations. The official synopsis for the novel on Goodreads & translation sites goes as below:
As the grandmaster who founded the Demonic Sect, Wei WuXian roamed the world in his wanton ways, hated by millions for the chaos he created. In the end, he was backstabbed by his dearest shidi and killed by powerful clans that combined to overpower him. He incarnates into the body of a lunatic who was abandoned by his clan and is later, unwillingly, taken away by a famous cultivator among the clans—Lan Wang Ji, his archenemy. This marks the start of a thrilling yet hilarious journey of attacking monsters, solving mysteries, and raising children. From the mutual flirtation along the way, Wei WuXian slowly realizes that Lan Wang Ji, a seemingly haughty and indifferent poker-face, holds more feelings for Wei WuXian than he is letting on.
This synopsis barely scratches the surface when it comes to the scope of this long web novel. There is so much to know before and after Wei WuXian’s death and reincarnation. Before you begin to search for the English translation of the novel, I must inform you that the novel is over 120+ chapters, which amounts to be about 1000 pages long when compared to the average-sized novel. However, there are many compelling reasons as to why one must still read this novel.
There are two sets of readers of MDZS – those who have watched the live-action and those that have not. [Wait. Seriously, why have you not watched the drama?] Those who have not watched the live-action drama, I would request you to watch at least the first few episodes or at least maybe the donghua (Chinese version of manga) or read the web-comic before starting the novel. One of the reasons to watch being the visual mix of color and ornamentation in the clan or sect dress colors. It’ll also help you visualize the main characters and situations as you read along in this very long book. Trust me on this because watching a few of the initial episodes will not spoil your reading of the novel much. Those who have watched the drama, you will still have your moments of surprise and “Ah-ha” moments when some scenarios get new clarity and perspective from reading the novel.
The novel does not run in a linear plot-line and jumps between the present (post-reincarnation) and past (before his death) for the duration of about 20 years – from the age when Wei Wuxian was sent to learn from the Master of the Gusu Sect as a student, and first met Lan Wang Ji. The years of his adventures and what led him to the demonic path, the battle that ends with his death, and the sixteen years that no one knows where and how he was. Finishing a few years after the reincarnation, and being together with Lan Wang Ji. It might get a little overwhelming to think of all this at first, but the novel has all details and the backstories done at the appropriate time to keep the reader hooked and the mystery building.
One of the major reasons to read the MDZS novel is because it is the uncensored version of the story and a proper BL novel. If Lan Wang Ji made your heart melt with all his intense looks for Wei Wuxian in the live-action, the novel shows a completely new dimension of his character. You can read about him stealing Wei Wuxian’s first kiss and then get angry at himself for doing something he felt so indecent. Or the scene where Wei Wuxian is shamelessly trying to flirt with Lan Wan Ji to make him disgusted enough to get rid of him, but Lan Wang Ji calmly traps him in the same awkward pose and makes him sleep on the same bed. Or the moments when both of them have not openly admitted their feelings and attraction for each other but ended up in a really passionate make-out scene.
There are so many small events that the live-action could not cover, but they make the experience of reading the novel feel like a completely new story. I was quite worried about making comparisons between them both. Still, the novel is so different in its timeline and approach to the relationship between Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi, that once I started reading, I enjoyed it immensely on its own and almost binge-read it. The last chapters of the novel have enough romance and sex that are more than enough to cover the frustration of watching these two flirt and doubt their own feelings for about 90+ chapters.
The novel also provides enough food for the imagination of the readers and more for the fandom who love to write brilliant fan fictions on various MDZS characters [which is an addictive world of its own, so enter at the cost of your sanity & time]
The best translation of the novel to read online can be found at the Exiled Rebels Scanlations website (including all the extra chapters that are just too hot to handle, affectionately called the “smut” chapters).
And if you really want to enter the amazing world of fan-fiction, you can start with this list of the expanded universe family tree of Mo Dao Zu Shi.
If reading the text makes you want to sleep or the length of the novel scares you, I suggest you try the MDZS manhua, which is officially being translated to English on the Wecomics site. There are 100 free chapters available on the site + app and more to be updated weekly on the site. From the 50 odd chapters that I read, the comics follow very closely to the original novel timeline and events. So far, the manhua has retained the BL aspect of the story, and one can hope it stays so even for the smut scenes later.
Earlier, I mentioned the MDZS donghua version, which was produced by Tencent, and first aired in July 2018. There are 23 episodes produced in two seasons and all episodes are available on the the YouTube channel for Tencent. The donghua is even more censored than the novel or manhua but might be a little freer than the live-action, It also follows more closely to the storyline in the novel but is behind the events in manhua. Though the third season is already announced, there is no confirmed date. I enjoyed the donghua version a lot even though the music score and the actor voices are different from live-action. It was not a deterrent to the watching experience because the animation is done so amazingly. This version of MDZS has won multiple awards in 2018-19 in the animation genre and even the best fictional idol awards for both the lead characters respectively. The music score complements each scene in the animation perfectly and the high production quality speaks for itself.
It should be noted that the donghua was released on YouTube to the international audience in the same week that “The Untamed” finished airing. Both the web drama and the donghua share the same production company – Tencent Penguin Pictures, and it can be said that the reception of the web drama led to the official subbing of the donghua version for the YouTube channel. The opening and closing credit songs for donghua are different from the ones that were written for the web drama, but both sets are equally beautiful to listen to.
Following the success of the web drama, when a lot of fans wanted to see more of our favorite actors & characters, The Untamed Special Edition was released, which focuses more on the relationship between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wang Ji. In this 20 episodes long edition, there were more hints towards their relationship, and the ending was a bit different as well. But this is NOT the place to start the show/story because the original show was 50 episodes long, and then it was cut, with some extra scenes added but overall shortened to 20 episodes! Only for the love of the original drama, can someone watch this one with equal interest. The Special Edition is available on the WeTV English YouTube channel with subs available for the international audience.
There is also an audio drama version of MDZS, but I have not tried that, so I have not much opinion on the same, as of now.
Apart from these adaptations of the MDZS story, there are two spin-off movies released, which were based in the same universe but focused on other characters. The first was Living Dead (2019), which told the story of the next generation of cultivators from two of the sects. Another one is Fatal Journey (2020), which revolves around particular sect members of which were instrumental in resolving the original mystery in the main story. Both the movies are to be enjoyed only if you have the whole plot of the drama/story known.
I hope this post has inspired you to try the other versions of MDZS/The Untamed. If you are completely new to the story and this universe, dive in from any entry point, and an amazing adventure awaits you as you move through this sea of stories.
If you have not seen the drama and want to know more about it, you can read the detailed plot & review for the same in these reviews of “The Untamed” on our site.