I’ve had a lot of time to think lately. Like many of you, I’m not a huge fan of too much mental downtime, though I would love if my brain would let me spend a little more time sleeping. I’m surviving, though, in part by deep diving into old manga, in part by changing careers (somepony just submitted a nonfiction book proposal and is still waiting to hear about that horror novella), and in part by keeping up with these comics A–Z challenges. So far we’ve done emotions, the arts, heroes, and folklore/mythology. Where to next?
I think the villains deserve a chance to shine. After all, they’re the ones who keep things interesting, aren’t they? What fun would the heroes be if they didn’t have anyone to challenge them?
X: Xue Yang
Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation by Mo Xiang Tong Xui and Luo Di Cheng Qui
Xue Yang is one of those truly reprehensible villains who does horrible things to innocent people because he enjoys it. And he does it with a smile and so much glee you have to appreciate his commitment.
You also want to go through the screen and kick him in the face.
His main appearance in Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is as part of a side quest featuring wandering warriors and doers of good Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan (it does smack into the main plot at various and sundry points).
After his difficult childhood (goes without saying), powerful nobles (assholes in pretty clothes) discover Xue Yang is a talented demonic cultivator (necromancy, dark magic) and offer him legal and physical security in exchange for his (secret) services. This puts Xue Yang at odds with Xiao Xingchen, who ultimately captures him and takes him to the nobles for judgment. Xue Yang’s allies disavow, etc., promise to punish him most heinously, then let him go. Xue Yang immediately sets off to avenge himself upon Xiao Xingchen by destroying his friend (husband) Song Lan; Xue Yang burns the temple in which Song Lan grew up, massacres its inhabitants, and blinds Song Lan. Xiao Xingchen gives up his own eyes to restore Song Lan’s sight at which point Xue cackles “hold my Emperor’s Smile” and fucks off to make the duo wait for whatever he has planned next.
Alas, unable to go long without shenaniganing, Xue Yang is injured and gets thrown in a ditch. Who should come along but Xiao Xingchen with the young woman who helps him. Xue Yang’s throat has (conveniently) been damaged to the extent Xiao Xingchen doesn’t recognize his voice and he takes the younger man in, healing him and then allowing him to stay. Xue Yang takes the opportunity to use demonic cultivation to trick Xiao Xingchen into massacring the villagers. Just for fun.
When Song Lan, who has been searching for his friend (husband) eventually shows up, he does recognize Xue Yang and engages him in a duel. Song Lan should win but Xue Yang throws the whole “Your sweet, gentle best friend (husband) slaughtered a whole village *maniacal laugh*” thing at Song Lan, which throws him off. This gives Xue Yang the opportunity to cut out Song Lan’s tongue so Xiao Xingchen can’t recognize his voice (perhaps a bit extreme) and, masking Song Lan’s humanity with more demonic cultivation, convinces Xiao Xingchen his friend (husband) is a living corpse. Xiao Xingchen murders Song Lan. Then things get really bad.
If it helps, Xue Yang totally gets what he deserves.
To my continuing agony, the Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation manhua isn’t yet available in a legal English translation. You can, however, watch a live action interpretation on Netflix (in the U.S.) and the donghua on YouTube.
Y: Yu Hojo
My Hero Academia, Vol. 16 by Kohei Horikoshi
If you’re a My Hero Academia fan, you’re familiar with the arc in which Midoryia, Mirio, Amajiki, Kirishima, Tsu, Ururaka, and Nedjire join forces with a group of pro heroes to rescue Eri from Overhaul. Feel free to skip ahead.
For those of you who aren’t, the quick and dirty version: smol bean with extremely unpredictable and powerful quirk is being held prisoner by evil dude with a regeneration power; he experiments on her and then heals her so he can experiment again. The kids and their teachers are not going to stand for this. The bad guys put up a fight; turns out they really should have just gotten out of the way.
Yu Hojo is one of those bad guys. A loyal hench of Overhaul and the Yakuza family he thinks he’s earned the right to inherit, this dude’s simple business casual is deceptively chill. Yu’s ability is flashy and powerful, a Crystallize Quirk that can be used as both battering ram and sharp, many pronged, stabby restraint. Yu has excellent quirk control and endogenous strength. He is also an excellent multi-level strategist and has copious experience working as part of team.
The only thing Yu fails to consider is that Amajiki, who can manifest anything he swallows, might take a bite of the sharp shinies holding him and toss them back at their progenitor.
RG Veda, Vol. 2 by CLAMP
Zouchouten helped Taishakuten take the throne from the previous God-king, shattering an era of peace in the heavenly realm. He has since been General of the Southland since, killing at Taishkuten’s command, massacring villages, wiping out entire tribes who displease his master.
Nothing can change that past.
Zouchouten, however, has started to question his future.
Taishakuten’s small cruelties are somehow worse. His deliberate torture of a girl with a beautiful voice, removing her from her home, the only place she can survive, forcing her to sing for her beloved sister’s life. Refusing that sister the girl’s remains for a proper burial.
Defending a throne Zouchouten can understand.
Senseless disregard for life is something else.
We may not understand how and where the general draws his line but we can respect that he has one. We can see the pivot point of his redemption arc. Whether or not he’ll have a chance to complete it is another question.
And so we reach the end once more. Where to next? I’ll have to consider carefully. Something wonderful? Something strange? Something unexpected? If you have suggestions, hit us up on Twitter @BookRiot!