Tang San is one of Tang Sect martial art clan's most prestigious disciples and peerless in the use of hidden weapons. With high expectations, the sect's elders believe his future will be bright; yet Tang chooses to forsake this life at the cost of obtaining the sect's forbidden lore—an action punishable by death. Tang, now content with his ascension of knowledge, sees no reason to keep on living and jumps from Hell's Peak, but little did he know that that would not be the end of his existence.
In Douluo Continent, the strong prevail and the weak perish. Each person possesses an innate spirit, some of which can be cultivated and strengthened, bestowing its user with various benefits. Those who were born with such spirits can become Spirit Masters, a profession regarded as one of the continent's most noble.
Tang, reincarnated into this strange world, knows only the life of a blacksmith's son. At the age of six, he takes part in the Spirit Master ceremony, and discovers his spirit is Blue Silver Grass—supposedly the world's most useless spirit. In contrast, however, he possesses strong spirit power. Now, aided by the memories of his previous life as well, Tang's future as a Spirit Master is in no way bleak.
I would say Soul Land is challenging to get into at first, since it looks pretty much like an xbox game, but honestly, the further you get into it the less and less you notice that aspect. It actually works very well for the show. Depending on the translator you watch, there may be some inconsistencies, so take care in being flexible with your reading of the subtitles.
Essentially the main character rises to prominence in his clan, but those among them did not trust his ascent and tried to extricate his position. He chose suicide to prove his loyalty, and is reincarnated
in a parallel world where people gain power by collecting the souls of powerful creatures inhabiting special forests.
The fight scenes are epic, the music and sound works well with the anime, and the pacing seems steady, if not fast in some places, keeping the watcher from becoming bored. The main character is endearing and honest, but at the same time, flashes of his nature as a martial artist spark in his current life where he borders on cunning brutality.
It's worth taking the chance. If you haven't seen a good martial arts fantasy in a while, it is very much something that will satisfy you.
It seems to be translated as "Soul Land" here but the original translators called it "Combat Continent."
Doulou is the name of the continent, and according to Chinese dictionaries, "dou lou" means "to bring to light" to "shake out" or "to squander." Dalu means "continent." So the name of the novel is literally "Doulou Continent." Making my amateur transliteration "a continent which squanders and oppresses but also brings forth the light." Chinese is pretty interesting for fitting all that in a title.
Point is, we know the story is excellent because it originates with Doulou Dalu. A few important
parts from the novel are left out but overall it comes together nicely.
What really sets this anime above the rest are the combat scenes. The way combat is choreographed and animated in Doulou Dalu is the best I've ever seen. I've watched a lot of combat anime! None have managed to reach the level of Doulou Dalu except perhaps Gantz: O, which was a full-fledged movie.
Unfortunately, there are two major downsides. First is the animation. I know, I was just gushing about the animation, right? Sadly it suffers from a major flaw I've seen in several high-profile Chinese animations.
Yes, the animation, great as it is, stutters. For the entire series. Every episode. All the time. Clearly the rendering or encoding is suffering from a major defect but apparently nobody bothered to fix this problem. It's extremely jarring during some of the most important scenes of the anime. This is a dealbreaker.
The second problem with the anime is product placement. Earlier reviews wouldn't have seen this because it didn't start until episode 12. Between episode 12 and episode 15 product placement literally becomes part of the story. There's a minute and a half which are entirely devoted to a weird-looking floating tea leaf. Meanwhile, the main characters are buying or selling "refreshing all-natural green tea."
It's jarring, annoying, and frankly, it's sad that it's so blatant. Luckily, after three episodes the animation team wizened up and switched to a commercial format. Given that the episodes are already very short, adding commercials into the main story would've been the death knell for this series.
Overall this anime has a lot of promise which is overshadowed by some poor choices from the animation team. I personally hope these issues are remedied for the next installment because Doulou Dalu deserves better treatment from this studio. The studio's animators can clearly put out top-quality work if they put their mind to it.