So, You Want To Get Into MO DAO ZU SHI (MDZS)/The Untamed…

Hello and welcome back to an episode of Silvia Gets Everyone Into Her Latest Obsessions.

First of all, an introduction, because I don’t want to assume that everyone who finds this post has even heard of this. Or maybe they have but they’re still as confused as I was when I saw my friends on twitter get into it.

So, what is MDZS?

Mo Dao Zu Shi is the title of a Chinese novel by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, and it translates to “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation”, and it’s also the title of some of its adaptations (except for the live action, which I’m going to talk about later).

Here’s the synopsis from goodreads:

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 WangJi, 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 WangJi, a seemingly haughty and indifferent poker-face, holds more feelings for Wei WuXian than he is letting on.

I would say this description is not 100% spot-on, but it does mention a lot of its strong points.

Before we talk about the different adaptations, I’m going to tell you…

Why I love this series so much

(in bunny-points)

🐇 canon gay happy ending

🐰 non-linear storyline taking place over many (20) years

🐇 so many different plotlines and they all come together beautifully by the end (while realistically leaving a few things unsolved or bitter-sweetly solved)

🐰 music magic!!

🐇 great cast of characters

🐰 beautiful relationships & found families

🐇 fascinating world and magic

🐰 bunnies!!

🐇 it’s dark but it’s balanced by a lot of funny and cute moments

🐰 good balance of shallow + deep villains

🐇 strictly-followed typical villain arc but SUBVERTED

🐰 zombies and ghosts (psst, they’re not all bad!)

🐇 blurred line between right and wrong, does the end justify the means, etc

🐰 adopting children along the way

🐇 lots of beautiful heartbreak

🐰 investigating a mystery while falling in love

🐇 oblivious bisexual main character

🐰 …and so much more!

If everything I mentioned above sounds like something you’d also like, read on to learn about the different adaptations!

The basics

There are a few rules I feel are best to follow if you want to get into this fandom and enjoy each adaptation at its fullest, but of course this is just my experience with it and you should do what you feel like. In any case, here’s my general advice:

Start with something visual, doesn’t matter if it’s the comic or the animated version or both. I’d advice against starting with the novel because there are a lot of characters and you’ll be able to better tell them apart if you remember how they look (also, the different sects/clans are color-coded, which is nice).

• You can probably binge all the available comic chapters in a couple of hours or less before you start the novel, and to be honest you should. However, I don’t think it matters how far you’ve reached into the animated version, but by now it’s pretty far and you will be spoiled for a lot of things that happen in the novel if you watch the full two seasons. This is up to you, my personal advice would be to either stop watching at a point you feel right for you, or stop after episode 15 (where the first season —and a huge flashback— ends).

• If you’re planning to read the novel, absolutely leave the live action for last. It is an adaptation I absolutely adore and it is in some aspects an improvement from the novel, but it does get pretty canon divergent. So if you don’t want to get confused about some plot points, read the novel first, and preferably finish watching the animated version too, so that the canon plot gets solidified in your head before you get to enjoy the more canon-divergent version.

Again, this is just based on my experience and how I got to enjoy this series of adaptations, but if you’re like, “You know, I really only care about the live action”, then go for it and watch it first! And it won’t come in the way of your enjoyment of the novel if you end up wanting to read it anyway.

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The novel

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The novel is the original version written by MXTX and it’s unfortunately not yet officially translated in English (although, as you can imagine, there are fan translations on the internet). You might be able to purchase it if you can read Chinese, but I’m not sure if that’s possible because I heard of issues with censorship due to the M/M content. I know the author has had to write many different versions to appease Chinese censorship before but I’m quite honestly lost as to where it stands now and can’t find the information I want. But chances are, if you can read Chinese you can find this information better than I can (and if you do or you know about it already, please let me know!).

Anyway, the novel is very long and very beautiful. If you want to know more about it you can DM me on twitter @ verelaurent and I’ll try to answer your questions.

The manhua

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The manhua (Chinese manga) is structured like a webtoon and there are currently around 80 chapters, as far as I know. It’s also not yet officially translated in English, but of course there are fan translations.

I think as far as I know this is the second-closest adaptation that follows the novel, only second to the audio drama (which is the only adaptation the author herself has any supervision on, afaik, but I’m not covering it in this post because I haven’t listened to it -but I know it’s beautifully acted from snippets I’ve heard online).

Explanation time: the novel has many flashbacks (I told you, non-linear storyline), alternated with chapters in the present. The past timeline follows Wei Wuxian’s life before his death, and the present chapters follow him after his resurrection (this is not a spoiler since it tells you in the literal prologue of any adaptation, and it’s also in the synopsis!) Because some things work differently in different formats, the flashbacks don’t always interrupt the present story at the same time throughout all adaptations, but the manhua is more or less closer to the novel in this regard.

Here’s some fun screencaps from it:

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Wei Wuxian getting flustered
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drunk!Lan Wangji

The donghua | watch here!

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The donghua (Chinese anime) is one of two adaptations you can consume legally because it’s been officially translated!

It currently has two seasons (or, one 23-episodes-long season) and it will be a while before the next one comes out, but now is a good point to start it. Since it’s literally on YouTube, you really have no excuse not to start watching it (…unless you don’t want to, but then why did you get so far into this post? eheh), and if you don’t like it you can always close the tab and no harm done!

I think this adaptation is very well done, it keeps things a little more superficial compared to the novel or the live action, but that’s to be expected. It changes some things slightly, too, but less than the live action does. And the animation itself is so good, you can clearly see how much thought the creators put into each scene.

The live action | watch here!

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The live action is called Chén Qíng Lìng – The Untamed (usually people in the fandom just refer to it as cql), and sees Xiao Zhan as Wei Wuxian and Wang Yibo as Lan Wangji. The fandom loves them both and with good reason. I think they did their roles perfectly and truly became their characters and did them justice. Especially Yibo, who had the difficult task of portraying Lan Wangji, did such a masterful job (and keep in mind this was his first time acting!). The other actors were all amazing as well, and I love them all so much. I now see their faces when I reread the book or read fanfiction!

I like to see this adaptation as its own canon divergent universe. It did some things I preferred compared to the novel, especially how it gives more space to a few characters that in the novel have a smaller role, especially the female characters. Then there are things that I personally didn’t care about but I can sort of understand why they changed (especially in the past timeline, giving more scenes to the Wen clan, the yin iron…), and then there’s stuff I’m neutral about (the present plotline and what they did with the investigation plot).

There’s also the fact that because of Chinese censorship they had to formally no-homo the main relationship, but if you know me a bit you should at least trust me, lover of making things GAY, when I tell you that they did everything they could to convey how much the two main characters deeply love each other. Especially if you’ve read the novel, you’ll be able to tell exactly what’s going through their minds (especially Lan Wangji) at any given scene. I truly appreciate them giving them some of the most romantic, cheesy scenes I’ve ever seen in any live action ever (and, minor spoiler alert, they might not be able to show them as a couple, but the word “soulmate” might or might not have canonically used, so…)

I could honestly wax poetics about this adaptation for hours, but I promised myself this post wouldn’t be a review so I’m keeping this short(ish).

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The warnings

I would love to give y’all a full trigger warning list, but the fact is the novel is very very long and I wasn’t taking notes when I read it, so my list is going to be lacking. And as always, you should never count on only one person to spot all the triggers in any given work anyway.

This is a very dark story that sees major character deaths (although the most important one you know from the start, and you know he gets resurrected), grief, war, and so much more. If this was a western novel we’d label it Adult, and if you don’t normally read dark, adult fantasy, I would recommend you procede with caution.

A most definitely not complete list of content warnings (note: not all warnings may apply to all the adaptations, and not all warnings apply to the main characters/relationships and have the same importance throughout the story):

(highlight the paragraph to read): multiple major character deaths, loss of parents, grief, effects of trauma, self-sacrificing for others in more than one way, eye horror, betrayal, gore, walking corpses, monsters etc, war, mention of incest, murder, mention of torture, portrayal of work/death camp-like setting, mention of rape, mentions of extreme poverty and homelessness, dubious consent, child death, presumed child death, corporal punishment, mutilation, dismemberment, explicit sex scenes, alcohol consumption, mention of parental abuse.

Another no-context warning from the bottom of my heart: if you read the novel and you finish it, you will see there are extra chapters. They’re mostly good to very good, but don’t read the one that’s called Incense Burner (you will thank me).

The disclaimer

Like every piece of fiction, this is not perfect. If I were to review it like I do other books or shows, I would give it five stars because my ratings tend to focus more on my emotional response than anything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of its flaws. But the fact is that this story has consumed my time and thoughts for more than a month, thanks to the different adaptations (and fanfiction), so much that I’ve been in a reading slump ever since and I don’t even care about forcing myself to get back to reading until I get it out of my system.

It’s a fantasy story set in a world and a culture I knew nothing about (and still can’t claim to understand beyond what MDZS showed me), but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the page although the novel is 113 chapters long (and something that would probably be around 1k+ pages of a print book), and I honestly can’t say that many of the books I read were able to do the same.

Also, all my friends who have spontaneously (after seeing me talk about it all day on twitter…….) started to watch/read it are now in hell and can’t stop talking and thinking about it, so I guess it’s one of those things that once you start you kind of get obsessed with. I take no responsibility for your book slumps, y’all.

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I hope this post was useful to those of you who have been wanting to get in on this fandom because I know it can be hard to understand where to start with. And if you didn’t know about it before, I really hope I have piqued your interest! If you need more information / links just shoot me a DM on twitter @ verelaurent (please mention you came from this post if I don’t know you, so I know why you’re writing me).

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TV-Show Review: Everything Sucks!

Today I want to do something different since I don’t think I’ve ever done a TV show review on my blog, but I liked this one so much I thought I should try!

Everything sucks! is about a group of kids attending high school in 1996. While at the beginning it might seem that the show will follow a typical “the nerd kids are bullied by the school bullies” storyline, it’s far from that.

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In fact, a lot of the show is centered around art and creativity. What initially looks like a typical plot revolving around a school play actually turns out to be this big quest to make a movie, forcing the A/V club and the theater kids to stick together and form unlikely friendships.

While that’s what drives the story forward, the best part of the show in my opinion is the individual character arcs, especially those of the two main characters, Luke and Kate.

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Luke and Kate

Luke O’Neil is such a good male main character. He’s definitely not your typical “(white) boy thinks he’s entitled to everything” character. Luke is a freshman who starts high school together with his best friends McQuaid and Tyler, and they’re basically the outcast group.

One of the reasons I like Luke as a main character is that he definitely knows he has to work towards his goals, whether it’s about getting a girlfriend or directing a movie. That’s something I feel often is missing in male main characters. He makes mistakes, like all fourteen year olds do, and he’s sometimes as selfish as he is protective of the people he loves, but he never takes anything for granted.

His relationship with his mom was the most precious (his mom is also awesome and I’m so glad that she’s more than just a supporting character) and of course I loved his friendship with the other boys and with Kate.

Kate Messner is the other main character and she’s a girl coming to terms with the fact that she’s a lesbian. She develops a crush on school “bully” Emaline Addario, which also happens to be the protagonist of the movie they’re making (Kate is in the A/V club).

Kate’s arcs was so good to see on screen. Obviously a lot of it is about her sexuality but it’s not just about that. She’s a well-rounded character that just happens, on top of other things, to be a lesbian. She is very mature and a loyal friend. I also liked her dad (which is also the school’s principal) a lot, and I like that his own storyline and character arc were given space even though most of the show revolves around teens.

There were a lot of other random things I loved, like how when the two groups first joined, the cool theater kid basically took one of the outcast kids under his wings. They kind of reminded me of Steve and Dustin from Stranger Things.

Another thing I liked is how even the characters that were portrayed as being shallow and mean (especially Emaline) were given depth as the season went on. There was truly nobody with irredeemable qualities and there was no unnecessary girl hate.

It was also really funny, it didn’t rely on harmful tropes, it really got the whole “nineties feel” right, with all the songs and the pop culture references, and it was very bingeable. It’s only ten episodes of 20 minutes each, so it’s easy to watch it all in one afternoon. You won’t even notice how much times has passed.

I don’t know if this will get a second season but the creators definitely made it so a second season is possible. The main plotline is over, but there’s still enough open doors when it comes to character arcs.

So, I definitely recommend watching it if you can. Whether you’re looking for representation, for a nostalgic nineties feel or simply for something easy and funny to watch, you’ll most likely enjoy it.

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Have you watched this show? Do you plan on watching it? Do you think I should I write more TV series reviews (and get better at writing them lmao)?

November Wrap-Up

READ

Well, what a weird month reading-wise this has been for me! I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been a little more relaxed with reading lately (in the past few months), but that was always because I was too busy. This month however, I totally feel like I was in a legit slump because even though I had many books that I was excited for, I rarely felt like reading them. But I did feel like reading something, and maybe it was the anticipation for Fence, but I was so in the mood for comics that I started reading some and ended up reading a lot of them (well, at least a lot more than I usually do). I’ve had these comics-streaks in the past but it was mostly for manga, whereas this time it’s been more for webcomics (they’re awesome and they”re free!), specifically for lgbtq+ ones.

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As you can see, I’ve only finished two novels this month (Evenfall: Volume I by Santino Hassell and Ais, and Gemini Keeps Capricorn by Anyta Sunday), and everything else is webcomics (yes that’s right, except for Fence everything else is available to read online for free!).

You can check out my individual reviews on my goodreads, but because they’re so many and there are really a few gems among them that not many people might know about, I’m going to make a separate LGBT+ webcomic recommendation post soon, so I hope you’ll look forward to that.

CURRENTLY READING

Given what I said before, it’s no surprise that I’m in the middle of reading another LGBT+ webcomic, plus I’m also reading two novels that I’d been looking forward to for a while.

 

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff (sequel to Nevernight) came out in September I believe but I still hadn’t finished rereading book one, and because these books aren’t exactly easy to read I kept postponing it. I’m still only around 20% but I love it and I only wish I had time to binge read it within a couple of days but I sadly don’t.

And… can you believe that The Sword of Summer is my first Rick Riordan book?? I’ve been meaning to start reading his books for ages but I still hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m not very far into it because of my slump but what I did read was awesome! It’s definitely written for the younger side of YA but it’s super enjoyable by adults as well! I’m really looking forward to finishing it and continuing the series, but the way it is at the moment I’m keeping it for when I need a light read before bed or something. Maybe I’ll binge it in the holidays but we’ll see!

 

TV SHOWS

I started watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine (I guess that’s also why I had less time for reading…ahem) and I love it! Jake Peralta is a gem of a main character and I love all the other characters too (Rosa Diaz owns my heart).

I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a more diverse TV show and that’s part of the reason why I started watching it (besides all my friends telling me to…and now I know why they did!). I’m pretty sure everyone else is watching it already but if you aren’t I definitely recommend it!

I also started Stranger Things and it’s possible that by the time this post gets published (I had to schedule it because I’m away for the weekend) I might have finished it, but as of now I’m in the middle of the second season and I love it. I’m also too scared to watch it alone so that’s why I haven’t managed to finish it yet.

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I also totally forgot to mention it in my October Wrap Up but I binged Voltron: Legendary Defender and it’s now easily one of my favorite shows. I’m just carefully avoiding the fandom though because it’s a mess and I don’t want anything to do with it.

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GAMES

I installed Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and it’s just a silly little game but it keeps me entertained for a few minutes a day and I love that you can add your IRL and online friends.

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Add me if you’re also playing!

I wish I were still playing Persona 5 but I haven’t touched it in months and I don’t know when I’ll be able to continue it so I’m a little sad about that, but there’s enough on my plate already.

 

Well this post was long but I really like including other things in my Wrap Ups whenever I can, I hope you all don’t mind!

Let me know how this month was for you and what your plans for December and for the holidays are, I’d love to hear that!

Until next time!

December Wrap-Up

Has really another month passed? It felt really short this time around. Oh well.

BOOKS:

(All titles lead to my reviews, either on goodreads or on the blog)

  • Le cose così by Labadessa: this is a short graphic novel by an Italian artist who has become really popular on Facebook, posting his ironically philosophical comics whose main features are the yellow background and the fact that its characters are birds. It’s a must-read for any Italian millennial.
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  • L’amore di Audrey by Alessia Esse
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  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: this book took me a very long time to read, as I explain in my review. I really liked it and its characters, but I’m also pretty sure I won’t continue this series.
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  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: it was my first RR book and I loved it so much! Her writing style really resonated with me and I’ll make sure to read more of her books.
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  • Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
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  • Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
  • Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
  • Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

    I reread (okay, I’m still currently reading Kings Rising, but whatever, I’ll finish it before the new year) these for the 3rd time wihin the past six months. That’s perfectly normal, right? Yes, yes it is. It’s my favorite series and I wanted to finish the year on a good note. Also I’ve been buddy-reading them with a friend (it was the first time for her) and she loved them so much, and there’s no better feeling in the world than having your friends love your favorite books!


SHOWS/ANIME/MOVIES:

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Yuri!!! On Ice and Skam were really the only things I’ve been watching, so nothing really changed from last month. Sadly the current seasons are both over, and while I’ve been able to let Skam go, I’m still riding the YoI wave, in form of fanfiction (reading and writing), obsessive fanart search, countless re-watches. Tell me I’m not the only one.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so involved in a fandom (which is, btw, so amazing and supportive), and the feelings Yuri!!! On Ice has given me are so real and positive. It’s exactly what I (and many of us) needed.

MUSIC:

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Not much has changed for me in December, with the only exception of the YoI soundtrack having being released. I’ve been listening to it for weeks now and I love it. It has so many different genres and if you don’t feel like listening to the whole thing you can just loop one or two songs that go well with your current mood (or for whatever activity you’re doing).
Basically, it’s safe to say that YoI has taken over my life in every possible way, but I don’t regret it at all.

 

How has your month been? Did you find any last-minute favorites for 2016?

#T5W: Series That Got Worse with Each Book/Season

Phew, I’m so glad this week’s topic specifically says to pick our answers from TV shows too. To be honest I’ve had a hard time with this because almost all of the book series I’ve read so far have actually gotten better with time.

In no particular order:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

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I really enjoyed this first book but I remember being extremely disappointed by the next two. They weren’t all bad (there were many things I still enjoyed in the last two books) but there were definitely things that I didn’t enjoy about how the plot developed.

Once upon a time

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I really love this show and I think I enjoy it more when I know the story that it’s trying to retell, so there are some seasons or half-seasons that I enjoy more than others, but other than that I think a lot of the recurring characters’ (those that were there since Season 1) stories are getting old and I don’t enjoy them anymore. Rumpelstiltskin has been going from bad to good to morally grey to definitely bad since the first episode and it’s just boring. If it wasn’t for books occupying all my free time I’d still watch the show (and maybe I will at some point) but right now I can’t bring myself to try watching the newest season.

The Walking Dead

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I’ve loved this show a lot in the beginning. I’m not overly-obsessed with zombies (but somehow I’m pretty sure I’ve watched almost all of the zombie movies out there -how did that happen?) but I think the premise in this show was great. I didn’t exactly plan to stop watching this but somewhere along the way I did (I think I’m missing two seasons?), but maybe I’ll try picking it up again.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

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This series didn’t exactly get worse with each book, but I’m really struggling here to find books that fit. I loved each book from this series, but there’s something about this first book that was too precious and interesting not to be dearly missed in the next two: I’m talking of course about the mystery surrounding who the Prince and who the Assassin were. Of course the reveal needed to happen within this first book, but I have to say it was just too much fun to keep guessing and second-guessing for most of book one. So it’s not that the next books were inherently worse, it’s just that they necessarily lacked this element that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I don’t really have a fifth one (even though I’m sure as soon as I post this I’ll come up at least ten more).

November Wrap-Up

I can’t believe this is already my second wrap-up here on the blog! I still have a long way to go with my blogging, but I really enjoy having my own platform and it’s something that doesn’t stress me out (yet?). If anything, it has helped me with some difficult times I’ve been having, so I’m grateful for it.


BOOKS:

 Reading-wise, it was a great month! I didn’t get to read as many books as I usually do, but the All for the Game series has taken me very long to finish. I just had to go back often and reread some parts of it, so that must have been why. If you keep up with my blog, you must be wondering “But what about Locke Lamora and The Demon King?”. Well, my friends, I have majorly failed #tometopple. I am still currently reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and I’m really enjoying it, but I’ve been more busy than expected, and thus haven’t been able to finish it by the time the readathon finished. It’s all good though, I’m not going to let myself feel disappointed. I’ve done other things and that’s okay.

MUSIC:

This has been playlist-month for me! I generally prefer full albums to playlists, but once you discover book playlists I feel like you can’t go back, and that’s exactly what happened to me.

SHOWS/MOVIES:

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I haven’t been able to watch any TV-show in the past few months because all I wanted to do in my free time was reading. But then, I started seeing a lot of people talk about Yuri!!! On Ice on twitter, and when I saw C.S. Pacat was among them, I was like “I’m sold.

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I started watching it two weeks ago and I’m total trash for it. My twitter has basically become a YOI fanart collection and I don’t regret it one bit. It’s possible I might do a full series review here on the blog once all the episodes are out because I have strong opinions about this show (like, it’s also mostly fangirling, but I feel like this show has also such an amazing objective cultural/societal value).

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Another show I started watching is Skam and I’m obsessed *sighs*. I started with the third season but I think I will give the first two seasons a go, too.

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As for movies, I’ve only seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and I loved it. I’m a Hufflepuff and I feel like I finally have a hero from my own house that I can worship and it’s awesome. There is just one thing I didn’t particularly appreciate and that has to do with the casting of a certain actor, although this didn’t play a major role in this movie (but it will in the next ones).

LIFE/GENERAL:

Um, better not go into my IRL life to be honest. However, I do want to mention that this is a month where I’ve made a ton of new online friendships (on Goodreads and Twitter), and I’m very grateful for it. (shoutout to my messy bitches Amber, Caitlin, Em, Jen, Jiana, May, Pragya, Ry, Sarah, and my friend Maud that finally started Yuri!!! On Ice so we can cry together. You all have no idea what an amazing support you have been to me these past weeks without even knowing about it) ❤