REVIEW Web Novel Review: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System

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WEB NOVEL REVIEW: SCUM VILLAIN'S SELF-SAVING SYSTEM
Written by: Polaris_Tae

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Title – The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System (人渣反派自救系统)
Genre – Transmigration, Xuanhuan, Yandere, Xianxia, Boys Love
Format – Web novel
Author – Mò Xiāng Tóngxiù
Release – 2015
Chapters – 81 + 20 Extras
Publisher – JJWXC
Rating – 15+ (Extras – 18+)



"Everything that's happened in the past, I'll repay it all to you today."
- Shen Qingqiu to Luo Binghe, Ch. 43




Disclaimer: The main protagonist in this story was originally named Shen Yuan; he has since adopted the name of the body he inhabits, the 'Scum Villain' Shen Qingqiu. It has to be noted that whenever the main protagonist is mentioned, it refers to the original protagonist of 'Proud Immortal Demon Way', Luo Binghe


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The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System’ is a Chinese Xuanhuan-BL¹ web novel written by Mò Xiāng Tóngxiù. The story is about Shen Yuan, a self-described semi-otaku*, who⁠—after dying from food poisoning²—transmigrates into the novel ‘Proud Immortal Demon Way’ as the ‘Scum Villain’, Shen Qingqiu. The latter is the Peak Lord of Cang Qiong Mountain³, Qing Jing Peak, and Shizun (teacher) to Luo Binghe, who is destined to die a horrible and gruesome death⁴ at the hands of the novel’s main protagonist (Luo Binghe).


Prior to his initial death, Shen Yuan was a proud anti-fan of the novel, yet still found it in himself to complete the 1000+ chapters of the original story. He continuously curses the Airplane Shooting Towards the Sky⁠—the author of ‘Proud Immortal Demon Way'⁠—for creating a story with such a nonsensical plot and two-dimensional characters, only to find himself now transmigrated into the novel inhabiting the body of the worst possible character, Shen Qingqiu —a character bound for death.


Once he is inhabiting the body of Shen Qingqiu, he is greeted by a computer-like ‘System’. This System is similar to a computer guide that navigates the user through a video game, however for Shen Qingqiu, the System is guiding his life and major decisions. It operates with the design concept of ‘YOU CAN YOU UP, YOU CAN NO BB⁵; basically now that he’s been given a second chance at life, he has the authority to change the direction of the god-awful storytelling. However, if the plot falls short, the fault lies with him. There’s only one problem, there’s an OOC lock on his interactions and he can only act the way that the original Shen Qingqiu was known to act—which was extremely ruthless and cold—especially to the novel’s main protagonist, whom he would often single out to bully. This is until he passes the first stage, where he unlocks freedom of movement and choice, following which, Shen Qingqiu wants to prove that even Scum Villains can live—and live coolly at that!



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Shen Qingqiu and Luo Binghe in promotional art for the 'Scumbag System' Donghua adaption.



The novel ‘Proud Immortal Demon Way’, written by Airplane Shooting Towards the Sky, is a story about Luo Binghe, a powerful demon lord. Following injustices committed towards him by the Cang Qiong Mountain Cultivation Sect, especially by his Shifu, Shen Qingqiu—he takes it upon himself to eradicate the entire cultivational society, building up a triple digit harem in the progress. The fate of Shen Qingqiu is especially gruesome—he has all four of his limbs torn off by the protagonist to become a human stick (reference image). Therefore, following the transmigration of Shen Yuan into the body of the scum villain—using his vast knowledge of in universe events and characters— he attempts to prevent Luo Binghe from turning into the dark character that will eventually succumb to killing him. He does this by acting as a mentor and Shizun to Binghe while he’s still a young child and studying under the Qing Jing Peak at the Cang Qiong Mountain Sect—the most powerful cultivation sect within the society of ‘Proud Immortal Demon Way’. There’s only one problem… the unavoidable reality: Shen Qingqiu has to throw Binghe into the ‘Endless Abyss'⁶ during the chaos of the ‘Immortal Alliance Conference’, as it is the catalyst for turning Binghe down the dark path to become an all-powerful demon lord.


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Shen Qingqiu, as depicted in promotional art for the 'Scumbag System' Donghua



Throughout the first arc of the story—following the removal of the OOC lock—Shen Qingqiu acts as a teacher and mentor towards Luo Binghe. However, his kind acts towards the protagonist cause Binghe to develop a childhood crush on Shen Qingqiu, who fails to notice this, as he’s trying his best to help keep Luo Binghe from becoming the demon lord that will eventually succumb to killing him.


Following his return from the demon realm; however, Luo Binghe acts extremely dark and at times obsessive towards Shen Qingqiu—behaviour bordering on Yandere tropes—the exact thing that Qingqiu was looking to avoid. I found that, through my initial read of the novel, following the blackening of Luo Binghe into an all-powerful demon lord, the character acts more as an antagonist towards Shen Qingqiu rather than the main love interest. This is most likely due to the fact that Shen Qingqiu is an unreliable narrator, as he is seeing his life through the rose coloured glasses of already knowing in-universe knowledge from having completed the novel prior to his transmigration. Therefore because he thinks he knows details regarding Binghe's romantic history, he is dense and doesn't realize that Luo Binghe is developing romantic feelings for him.



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Luo Binghe after embracing his demonic heritage, as seen in the 'Scumbag System' manhua



If there is one aspect of the story that I think the author, Mò Xiāng Tóngxiù excels at, not just within ‘The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System’, but in all of her novels—it would be tragedy. The tragedy angles that are explored within ‘The Scum Villain's Self Saving System’ feel extremely realistic—at least in regards to the world-building within the novel. So during strong emotional scenes between the characters, you can feel their emotions brutally hit you. This can best be seen in chapter 43, where following the sacrifice of his Shizun, Luo Binghe finds out via his former martial siblings⁷ Ning Yingying and Ming Fan that Shen Qingqiu never actually hated him and instead deeply cared for him, more than any master should for a single disciple. This causes Luo Binghe to eventually break down from regret and heartbreak due to the perceived loss of his teacher.


Later on we learn that Binghe did not actually despise his Shizun, but he loved him all along. However, he felt betrayed when Shen Qingqiu professed his hatred for demons (which by extension includes Binghe, due to his demon blood) and tossed him into the 'Endless Abyss'. Throughout the latter half of the novel, Qingqiu constantly finds himself experiencing a sexual identity crisis because he finally learns of Luo Binghe's true feelings towards him. Having thought that he was straight through out the entirety of his life as Shen Yuan, he initially rejects Binghe's feelings towards him, as he can't find it in himself to accept the feelings of a person who is—in his eyes—a hyper-masculine demon lord who should have women throwing themselves at him.



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The Thai Edition of 'The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System'



The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System’ relies on the subversion of many tropes common in both BL and YY Stallion (Harem) web novels, one such example is the depiction of the tearing of his clothes, which happen on at least two occasions. One is when Shen Qingqiu—after consulting with the System—gains access to the 'Small Scenario Pusher', a program that causes a portion of Shen Qingqiu's clothes to be torn from his body in an attempt to lessen Luo Binghe's anger (he instead becomes embarrassed thus lessening his anger towards Qingqiu). Another instance is within chapter 42, where Shen Qingqiu—after growing tired of the threat of capture—places a number of movement controlling talismans onto a number of minor cultivators, which forces them to uncontrollably tear each other's clothes off.


It also includes the use of the 'Protagonist's Halo' cheat throughout the white lotus period of the novel, where Shen Qingqiu quite literally manipulates the 'protagonist can't die' plot Armour to solve a number of major conflicts within the development of the story, while at the same time breaking the fourth wall due to his out-of-universe (and in-universe) knowledge of the story 'Proud Immortal Demon Way’. At one point the novel even goes as far as establishing in-universe fan-fiction about the main pairing⁸ which Shen Qingqiu hates with a passion.


One of the major factors that I enjoyed within the novel was its use of humour to progress the plot of the novel. One such instance is where Shen Qingqiu—after essentially being reborn into a new body—is basically playing catch with Liu Qingge, throwing his corpse, that was preserved for 5 years, at him. A running gag in the story is when Qingqiu uses Liu Qingge as his personal flying Uber driver on a sword, as well as his inner monologues basically annihilating the 4th wall at certain sections within the novel. Almost all of the side characters within 'The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System' are fleshed out throughout the progress of the story, and go from being disposable and incomplete cannon fodder to being three dimensional characters that the audience will come to care for and relate to. The side characters that I found to be the most compelling were Liu Qingge and Gongyi Xiao; the latter of whom was an absolute sweetheart. Liu Qingge went from justifiably hating Shen Qingqiu at the beginning of the novel to becoming one of his greatest friends and allies, though his over-dramatic and hot-headed personality often clashes with Luo Binghe's similar attitude.



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Luo Binghe, as depicted in promotional art for the 'Scumbag System' Donghua



Overall, I found 'The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System' to be one of my favourite web-novels and one of Mò Xiāng Tóngxiù's best works (this coming from someone who has yet to read TGCF). The comedy was absolute gold, and I would recommend this to anyone wishing to try their hand at a mid-level Xuanhuan/Xianxia novel for the first time, before delving into their high fantasy counterparts (which the author's other work, 'Heaven Official's Blessing' is a part of).

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Read for those who enjoy:
Transmigration; breaking-the-fourth-wall; Eastern fantasy; plot-heavy Shounen Ai; subversion of both BL and Harem literary tropes

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Endnotes:

¹ BL is the acronym for Boys Love: a genre of fiction about homosexual romances that usually is catered towards women.


² The author has changed the circumstances surrounding his death following the initial publication and final edit. In one version of the novel, it's implied Shen Yuan keeled over dead from a rage induced heart attack because of the ending of 'Proud Immortal Demon Way', after being bedridden for the past 10 years.

³ Cang Qiong Mountain is the most powerful cultivation sect within the novel of 'Proud Immortal Demon's Way'. It consists of twelve mountain 'peaks', which are each ruled over by a 'Peak Lord', charged with training the disciples of their respective peak. The current sect leader of Cang Qiong Mountain is Yue Qingyuan, who also acts as Peak Lord for 'Qiong Ding Peak'.

⁴ "Within the dark, gloomy room, a metal chain hung from a beam. At the end of the chain dangled a ring. The ring was fastened around a person's waist. If that could be considered a 'person.' This 'person's' appearance was filthy and disheveled, like that of a madman. The most frightening thing was, all four of his limbs had been severed. His shoulders and thighs were bare knobs of flesh. When touched, he would let out a hoarse 'ahhh' sound. His tongue had been torn out too, rendering him unable to form complete words" - the fate of the Original Shen Qingqiu, 'Scum Villain's Self Saving System' Ch. 01, translation via BC Novels.

⁵ English for "你行你上,不行别比比", basically, “If you’re capable, then you can do it; if you’re not, then ST*U."

⁶ The partition that separates the human realm from the demon realm, by pushing Luo Binghe into the 'Endless Abyss', he was effectively transporting the boy into the demon realm with little hope of survival.

⁷ his peers within Qing Jing Peak, while was studying in the Cang Qiong Mountain Sect.

⁸ The Fan-fiction is titled 'The Resentment of Chunshan' (春山恨), an erotic novel presumably written by Liu Mingyan (sister of Liu Qingge, the Bai Zhan Peak, Peak Lord) about the forbidden relationship between the pair.

* Ch. 01 of 'The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System'

*Only beat in authority by Yue Qingyuan, Leader of the 'Cang Qiong Mountain Sect.'


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Hotlinks:
for the Novel:
OG Chinese version:
https://www.luoxia.com/zhafan/
English translations:
BC Novels (Main Novel + Extras): http://bcnovels.com/the-scum-villains-self-saving-system/
PizZiCcato (Extras): https://pizziccato.tumblr.com/post/180786497951/translation--masterpost
Faelicy (ch. 1-31): https://faelicy.tumblr.com/post/185035206852/scum-villain
Honeymoon Daybrook Extra (Ch. 92): https://fimyuan.tumblr.com/honeymoondaybook
Translation Masterpost Google Doc
Find the now cancelled Manhua, 'Scumbag System':
https://mangakakalot.com/manga/wg920330
Catch the Tencent Donghua adaption in the first half of 2020




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Story: 9/10

Setting: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Themes: 8/10

Writing Style: 10/10

8.8/10
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PROOFREAD BY: @AKIDOKI

GRAPHICS BY: @yerimmie
 
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