Cai-Sheng is a celestial fox demon raised by a group of wild fox demons, who hope she will master the ability to transform into a male and same them from extinction. One day, she befriends a little boy and girl, who save her from a dog attack. Her caretaker marks them with symbols that will not disappear until Cai-Sheng repays her debt. Two hundred years later, Cai-Sheng meets the reincarnated boy and girl and decides to repay her debt by match-making them, but things get complicated when the girl falls for Cai-Sheng’s male form!
Divine Melody is a Chinese manhua that is filled lots of romantic possibilities, but still manages to keep them from getting convoluted. It lays down a good foundation in this first volume, introducing a lot of characters without overloading the reader with too much information.
The main romance in this story is the love triangle between Han Yun-Shi, Su Ping, and Cai-Sheng’s male form. I-Huan is taking her time with it, just introducing all the players in this first volume. Su Ping is under a demon’s curse, and Han Yun-Shi is an exorcist. Cai-Sheng runs into Han Yun-Shi finding his mark first, and follows him to help, and discovers Su Ping. As her male-form is stronger, Cai-Sheng forces the demon, a human-formed cat, to release Su Ping and then help Yun-Shi by appearing to be chased away by him. Thus, the three friends are reunited. Yun-Shi is smitten by Ping, but, Ping is more reserved, most likely thinking of Cai-Sheng’s male form, the man who really saved her, despite being told it was Yun-Shi. For now, everyone are friends, but the seeds are now planted.
There is another triangle brewing, Though I wouldn’t call it a love triangle. It’s more of an antagonistic triangle. While she was being raised with the Fox Demons, Cai-Sheng was teased about reaching her male form quickly, which led her to feel, rightfully so, that they didn’t care about her. She wants to meet someone who likes her for who she is, not what. Enter Wei Zi-Que, a deity who has been searching for Cai-Sheng at her parents’ behest. He makes a far from good impression on Cai-Sheng and she refuses when he tries to take her back to Heaven. But he isn’t giving up so fast. A connection could be made between them. The third side to this triangle is Yu-Niang. She was part of the Fox Demon clan that took Cai-Sheng, but was banished for disobeying the Shifu, leader of the Fox Demons. But, she has found Cai-Sheng, and knows that she has attained her male form. She is just as determined to get her as Zi-Que.
I really enjoyed reading Divine Melody. The characters are well-developed. No one falls into the usual shojo stereotypes, and none of them appear to be dumb as bricks. A big plus in my book. I really liked how the plot was built up too. It starts with the broad base of the past, then moves to the present to be re-introduced to characters that are now completely different. The first triangle is set up before moving to the second with its more overt conflicts, compared to the first triangles’ more inverted conflict.
The art is absolutely stunning! I-Huan draws her characters beautifully, and because it is a shojo, the guys as are beautiful as the girls. Especially Cai-Sheng’s male form, which looks sufficiently different from her female form. Even her clothes change, though only in style, not design. It’s a historical shojo, so everyone is dressed in the traditional Chinese costumes (which I also love!). There is also a two-page extra from I-Huan, explaining the history of the Fox Demon in Chinese folklore, and the origin of a couple of characters.
Overall, I found Divine Melody to be a great read. It’s a good solid romance with great characters and beautiful art. The good foundation this first volume gives, bodes well for more great reading as the series progresses.