Spoiler warning for this summer’s Taiwanese puppet show Thunderbolt Fantasy ahead.

Thunderbolt fantasy is like gathering your nerdy friends and indulging in a giant nerd party without worrying about anyone judging you. The characters shout the most Chuuni attack names, the story is thick with plotting and betrayals, and the creators are always happy to poke fun at the characters’ over-serious attitudes. It’s in general a lot of fun.

I have complicated feelings toward the trickster and thief Lin Xue Ya. On one hand, I’m fascinated by his wits and schemes, but at the same time, I’m repulsed by those same manipulative schemes and his ability to weasel his way out of taking responsibility. In fact, when he fights the principal villain Mie Tian Hai, I found myself unsure who to root for.

Mie Tian Hai may be the main villain, but at least his motivations are pure: he aims to become the most powerful sword-fighter in the world, consequences be damned. He is relentless in his pursuit of Dan Fei’s Heavenly Retribution Sword, but he never resorts to underhanded tactics to do so, and with his power and arrogance, I don’t think he ever needed to.

Long story short, Mie Tian Hai obtains the Heavenly Retribution Sword, never mind that it’s needed to seal away an apocalyptic demon. Lin Xue Ya, after realizing that Mie Tian Hai’s arrogance comes from his absolute confidence in his sword-fighting supremacy, decides the best treasure to steal is his arrogance, and the best way to steal it is to defeat him in a sword fight. He then crushes Mie Tian Hai’s ego by fighting him to a draw.

Enraged and humiliated, Mie Tian Hai gives Lin Xue Ya (and the rest of the world) the ultimate middle finger. He destroys the Heavenly Retribution Sword and then commits suicide, ensuring that he has the last word in this fight. It’s a petty, childish gesture, but there is a certain nobility to see him die as he lived: doing everything for his own sake, everyone else be damned.

And for the first time, we see Lin Xue Ya lose it. The seasoned thief and trickster, always in control and never the puppet, has just been bested. The opponent who should have been humiliated has instead died in defiance, with no way to force him to acknowledge defeat. And so Lin Xue Ya, who has always kept his calm even in times of greatest peril, is reduced to raging at a corpse.

raging at a corpse
raging at a corpse

It’s always nice to see someone put an arrogant jerk back to his place.

You can read about the 12 Days challenge in the intro post here.

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