Danmei Review: THE SCUM VILLAIN’S SELF-SAVING SYSTEM Vol 1 by Mo Xiang Tong Xio (illust. Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)) (2021)

Genre: Transmigration Fantasy Danmei
Year Release in English: 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Injury, demons, body horror

I forgot why I picked this one up because I’ve seen art, I’ve seen thoughts, and once it finally landed on my to-read list, I started reading and had a hard time keeping myself away.

Shen Yuan is an inappropriately passionate fan of a fictional web novel, Proud Immortal Demon Way. Upset at the ending, his biggest hope would have been to be transmigrated into the body of protagonist, Luo Binghe (LBH). Instead, he’s the scum villain, Shen Qingqiu (SQQ). (For those like me more familiar with Japanese light novels, this is essentially an isekai). And being the scum villain comes with a literal digital assistant making sure he doesn’t do anything out of character else he forfeits his life. While the characters around him function like normal human beings navigating their demon-battle-filled world, SQQ tries to course correct as if he too doesn’t have his own flesh to worry about it.

There’s a reverence for the genre, while pointing out the ways in which SVSS plays with subverts tropes and expectations. I think what kept me reading and in stitches is the fact that SQQ maneuvers the story as if it’s fiction or a video game, strategizing for points rather than taking into account that the people around him might also be human. His own unawareness of the machinations around him makes him a colossal idiot in a way that is just fun to read. He’s committing to fixing his problematic fave instead of being a character. The absurdity of his own obliviousness is incredible.

The world building and big chapter set pieces are so cool, but I do not have the familiarity with danmei or the cultivation fantasy genre to speak to its execution. I enjoyed myself nonetheless. My favorite sequence had to be the literal dream sequence in which Meng Mo tries to trap both LBH and SQQ. The demonstration of the different magic that permeates the realms really worked for me. The way MXTX threads emotional and system-stakes really works for me, and kept me so invested in the story, in addition to SQQ and his various relationships.

Now that the characters have gone off script and the System itself has shut down, I’m so excited to see how SQQ weasels his way through the shenanigans to come.