ISSTH - Cultivation levels & other nonsense rant

(Spoiler warnings for chapter 444). 

This will be something of a rant, as well as a question to those who've read all the way through ISSTH. I'm up-to chapter 444 at the moment, and I'm thinking about dropping it because the story is so consistently frustrating / arbitrary. I'm also really struggling to fathom why ISSTH is so highly rated amongst Xianxia... it seems to be repeatedly suggested by people when I look up stories, and yet... I'd have to say it's overall one of the worst of the more than dozen xianxia stories that I've read, in a lot of ways. I mean I know everyone likes different flavors, there's something for everyone and whatnot, but there are basic issues with ISSTH that I can't understand how anyone can enjoy. There's a similar thread like this, here; http://forum.wuxiaworld.com/discussion/3783/loopholes-in-issth all of which I agree with, but these are other things on top of that. 

1. Teasing romance that never happens. Throughout the whole story the author has built up relationships between Meng Hao and beautiful ladies that he meets, starting with Xu Qing, but invariably including pretty much any other pretty girl he comes across. The author intentionally hints at some kind of romance between them - or at least the girl likes the MC - but then invariably rips it away at the climatic moment. To me, this is basically the same as the author pissing in your mouth. I don't care if there isn't romance, seriously, but the author intentionally builds it up and then denies it. It's sadistic. Either make a harem or don't, but don't constantly hint at the possibility and then deny it. It is SO irritating, and a theme throughout the whole story.

The worst part of this is that isn't a single valid reason as to why Meng Hao denies these girls. He isn't even busy - he spent over 10 years just studying alchemy. He is attracted to these girls, they're attracted to him, so... what is the issue? Originally it was some BS about how he was a scholar (which he wasn't; he literally failed repeatedly to become a scholar), and then later in the story it was mentioned that as his cultivation base grew his lustful feelings died down. But he never had any lustful feelings to begin with. If we casually found out that Meng Hao was actually a eunuch, it would actually make more sense than it does now. It's to the point that I actually feel bad for the girls who like him, and roll my eyes every time a new one shows up. I mean seriously... just stop! 

2. Gimmick bloat. Meng Hao picks up so many legacies, items, abilities and so forth that I actually can't even remember them all (and by all accounts it gets even worse later in the story). Like, he has a black net that he got early on which was specifically said to grow with his cultivation base. But by ch. 444, he hasn't used it for at least 100 chapters. He just picked up this gold magic from the divine crow, which he is now using in battle... and, basically, he just picks up abilities constantly, forgets some of his old ones... it's like instead of actually mastering anything he just keeps picking up new shit all the time. I know the author might think that makes it more interesting, but what it really seems like to me is that the author doesn't take his own story seriously at all. Everything is arbitrary. Meet a new opportunity, pick up a new ability, silently forget about an equally good old one you had but barely ever used... it's all totally pointless. Less is more, but no one told the author! 

3. Cultivation. This is my primary criticism/frustration with the story, because it is so central to the story and xianxia as a genre, and done SO badly in this story. I was thinking about the contrast between this story and ATG, because I think they are fairly similar, at least superficially. Both have MCs who start out totally weak and alone, go on a long journey where they get legacies, items and cultivate and then become (ostensibly) OP. The primary difference is, Yun Che actually becomes strong. Like, genuinely overpowered. Meng Hao by contrast has just as many rare and outlandish opportunities, and capitalises on them, only... the result is essentially nothing! Or rather, the result is usually more trouble than it is worth. If one were say the pro's outweighed the con's, then it is only very, very barely! And if not for the MC's plot armour, then pursuing the route that he has is in no way worth it. It is at least five times worse than just cultivating normally. 

I am talking specifically about his entire schick of 'cultivating against the heavens'. It's like the core axis of the story - I shall seal the heavens. This begins with him cultivating the Qi Condensation realm to level 13, a feat not seen since ancient times as we are told. Author furiously masturbates over how awesome MC is for a while over this. It is then casually pointed out how MC can now, barely fight a person in the next realm of early formation level. 

Then he goes to Formation realm, where he eventually forms 10 Dao Pillars - a never before seen feat! Again the author masturbates over how awesome MC is. It is mentioned again how he can barely fight against the next realms early Core formation. How amazing! 

Then he gets to Core formation realm, and forms a perfect gold core. At the peak of the Gold core (this is where I am at, 444 chapters in), it is shown that, alongside immortal legacies, tons of items, with 30,000 neo-demons as pets, with his 13 levels of Qi Condensation, his 10 Dao pillars, Perfect Gold core, totems from Wood and Divine Crow, etc... he can now... fight against the one step higher early Nascant core!!! Isn't that incredible? With numerous immortal legacies, an absolutely perfect foundation from the ground up, Meng Hao, the protagonist, the guy who is pretty much worshipped by all around him as unfathomably strong... can just barely defeat ANY AVERAGE SCRUB in the next step above him. Are you seeing the theme yet? 

This is after being hunted by most of the world for having the sublime spirit scriptures, undergoing almost impossible to survive heavenly tribulations, acquiring numerous legacies that the entire world salivates over... all of it culminates in the MC being able to defeat a person a mere half step above him. It is immediately pointed out that he has no chance against a mid-Nascant core cultivator. Because apparently all of the gaps between levels in this world, completely trump any and all opportunities/legacies/abilities/etc one might otherwise have - you know, 90% of the focus in this story, all the things we as readers are supposed to care about, all the things the author constantly exclaims are so amazing and extraordinary! All of it is COMPLETELY pointless due to the way cultivation trumps everything else. 

What is so annoying about this to me is that the cultivation is actually done pretty well in this story, narratively. His pursuit of breakthroughs is interesting in itself, the methods used, etc. The problem is... no reward! The MC is eternally a chump who can barely fight someone one step above him. It doesn't matter if all the immortals in the land came to Meng Hao's house, prostrated themselves before him, taught him everything they knew, even transferred all their life force to him. He still wouldn't be able to fight someone two steps higher! By all means, Meng Hao SHOULD be like Yun Che - able to fight someone a whole realm or more higher than himself. Even two realms. Because they have similar opportunities, legacies, it makes sense, it's actually a sensible manifestation of his supposed 'awesomeness'. Instead you have the opposite - Meng Hao buries himself in mountain loads of trouble from all kinds of high powers in the world, just so he can have the barest of advantages over completely average people. 

So I guess my question to those who've read more is, does this ever change? Because I can't stand it. I can't read another chapter of how awesome Meng Hao is, only to then watch him struggle like a bumbling infant against average-joe-2-steps-higher. It's just insulting. Either the MC is strong or he isn't. Either you want a harem or you don't. The author needs to make up his damn mind - he wants the MC to be admired by ladies, but doesn't want to ever write romance. He wants the MC to be super strong and awe inspiring, but never wants to actually jump levels/realms and make MC actually fight those stronger than himself. No, usually he just runs away. 

I think I can guess the answer, but ranting about it made me feel a little better anyway. 

Comments

  • I really enjoy rading ISSTH and i think its one of the better xianxia here but i agree which all your statements. Point 1 bothers me the most, its so irritating (Meng Hao is irritating there).
  • Simple answer: no, none of those things you mentioned will ever change hahaha

    1. I think this is actually not so bad. basically, he likes someone and is faithful to her. the annoying thing is, as you said, the "teasing". the author constantly presents new goddesses that are just waiting for Meng Hao to take action. moreover, he actually spends a lot of time talking about those girls and how they feel about Meng Hao, which lead us to think something might happen, but... it does not. I don't say it is a totally bad thing because I hate the stupid brainless harem fetish many xianxia have, but it is indeed kinda frustrating watching Meng Hao ignore women for hundreds of years.

    2. yes, that's what ISSTH is all about. the thing is, the author simply loves describing how Meng Hao acquires/conquers/steals each and every trasure/legacy that exists in that world. if you remove the parts where Meng Hao is fighting for these things, the novel would probably be 80% shorter. the result is, as you said, accumulating so much stuff that 95% of them are mentioned only once or twice. whatever he acquired 50 chapters before will be completely forgotten because now there is something even more awesome in front of him, and so on.

    3. again, that's just as you said. this is also related to the previous comment. since he acquires trillions of awesome, godlike, legendary stuff, the old ones are simply disregarded. if you think about how much stuff he accumulated along the way (weapons, treasures, legacies, magics and even "hidden" levels of cultivation") and added up everything, he should indeed be a god compared to his peers. but, unfortunately, that's not how the author thinks. only the most recent stuff are considered when "calculating" Meng Hao's power. e.g. the fact that he reached the 13th level of qi condensation is important when he is still at foundation establishment, but then will be completely forgotten later on. the fact he had a perfect foundation might be somewhat important until he is at core formation, but loses importance when he is at nascent soul. same goes for his treasures and everything else. no matter how many trillions of legendary stuff he acquired along the way, only the most recent ones count. that's why he always seem to be just slightly above others who are at the same level (although he is always stronger than them).

    This is my own list of ranting about ISSTH: http://forum.wuxiaworld.com/discussion/3783/loopholes-in-issth
  • Actually, I don't quite agree with point 3, the two others are admittedly annoying (the one that busts my chops is no. 2, I don't really care about Haowie walking around with blue balls).
    At the point you're at it's true that he's quite weak against those above him in cultivation levels, but seeing as there is a huge difference in power between core formation and nascent soul, it makes sense, that line does grow rather blurry and then nonexistent after he gets to the severing realm, so I recommend hanging in there if no. 3 is your real turn off, cuz he becomes obscenely powerfull later on
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