How to Read Manhua on Bilibili: Legal, Free, and in English
In my posts on this blog, I keep sharing screen caps from manhua I've read on Bilibili, along with the link to read it yourself, but I know:
This blog doesn't have all that many followers.
It's one thing for me to post the link and quite another for people to realize just how easy this is to do.
Considering how often I see English-speaking MXTX/c-novel/c-drama/donghua fandom peeps screaming and begging for more content, I'm now begging you in return:
STOP SLEEPING ON THE BILIBILI APP!
If you want more danmei content, fully legal, entirely free, already translated, you literally c.a.n.n.o.t. do better than using the Bilibili app to read manhua. That's not to say this is a perfect method - their translations are...um...wanting sometimes? (Shout out to the four pages in a row I recently read where someone broke in to a residence and every time the breaker-inner was mentioned they were called "the intrud") But it's still ALL THERE, FOR US, ANYTIME, and the more eyes the manhua in the apps gets, the more content we'll get, so please, PLEASE, if you're out there thirsting for danmei content, DO THIS.
Well, I've got you covered.
WAY 1: The Bilibili Manhua Website
I know I said "get the app" but honestly you don't even need an app to do this! You can read on Bilibili using any web browser.
The website is Bilibilicomics.com.
It looks like this:
Yes, you're reading that right: there's an entire section of BL.
There's also an entire section of GL!
There are 38 titles in GL and 121 titles, yes ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE titles, in BL.
AND there's het stuff, and non-romance stuff too!
New episodes general come out weekly or biweekly, though a few things are daily. The website is often a few chapters ahead of the app (which I actually didn't realize until just now - Chapter 55 of Legend of Exorcism, for example, came out today on the app, but it lists 60 episodes as available on the website. Which, considering the cliffhanger I just read... *eyes emoji*...though apparently in other cases there are more chapters on the app than on the website, so ymmv.)
The best-known title available (again: FOR FREE. OFFICIALLY. LEGALLY. IN ENGLISH) is Tian Guan Ci Fu. When you go to a specific title's page, you get this...
...and reading it is as simple as selecting the chapter you want, clicking it, and et voila! Just scroll down and read to your heart's content!!
NOTE: SOME CHAPTERS WILL HAVE WAIT TIMES. More on this shortly.
WAY 2: The Bilibili App for Android
I personally have been reading primarily from the Android app, since I have a Samsung Galaxy phone and a lot of time sprawled on my couch while my kids watch cartoons.
You can download the app from the Play store - here's a link, for what that's worth.
It looks, essentially, like this (I'm logged in so mine looks a little different than non-logged-in, I made an account even tho you don't actually need one):
If you don't want to make an account, you don't have to. If you choose to, as you see it'll try to guess what other titles you might like. tbh I have no idea how good these recommendations may be; I'm still reading/catching up on the specific titles I wanted to read so I haven't had to try their recommendations yet. But, there's definitely some stuff that looks interesting (that top middle one definitely looks up my alley...)
You can also "favorite" things (again: EVEN WITHOUT AN ACCOUNT) and it'll store them in your library and make a red dot (like you can see on the above screen cap) when something has an update you haven't read yet. For example, here's my Favorite list, which helps me keep track of what I'm reading and enjoying (or, well, in one case I'm more "wtfing" than "enjoying" but hey that still counts).
There's even a weird, like, "dress up" side game??? So like, every chapter you read there's a chance the app will drop a "card" and you can use the cards to dress your avatar up, and there's a whole crafting system built in? It's. A little odd. But, considering I recently quit my Love Nikki addiction after 3+ years, it's nice to get a small hit of pointless dress up.
Yes, my avatar is currently wearing San Lang's shirt.
The point is, again: this app is free to download, and incredibly easy to use, and even has a fun pointless side game.
BUT. There is one "but" here. See the Coins: 0 Top Up right below my randomly assigned username?
There is an optional pay system. What does it do? It reduces wait times.
Some titles, but not ALL, have a "built in delay" that kicks in at some point. On some, it seems to start when you're "within 5 chapters of the most recent" (that's what's happened with Global Examination and TGCF, for example). For others, it seems to be arbitrary - for A Single Strike of Shimmering Frost, it kicked in at chapter 40 even tho there are, like, 80 something chapters up. Regardless, it always works the same.
The system functions using wait times, and it has 5 tiers that are always the same.
Tier 1: You must wait one minute before you can read the next chapter. This tier is rarely an issue; the count down sometimes (but not always??? it's weird) starts when you start a new chapter, and it almost always takes more than one minute to read a full chapter, so this tier is often "satisfied" before you even get to the next chapter.
Tier 2: You must wait six minutes before you can read the next chapter.
Tier 3: You must wait one hour before you can read the next chapter.
Tier 4: You must wait six hours before you can read the next chapter.
Tier 5: You must wait twenty-four hours before you can read the next chapter.
I initially thought this system functioned as "once you reach Tier 5, you're just stuck there and can only read a chapter a day" but it's turned out that's not the case - A Single Strike of Shimmering Frost having 40+ semi-locked chapters has given me the chance to actually test this a bit. In fact, what happens is:
The first time you hit a "wait delay" chapter, it puts you at Tier 1 and you have to wait a minute. The next chapter, you up to Tier 2, the next to Tier 3, then Tier 4, then Tier 5...and then it cycles back to Tier 1. So, with a little care and planning (which I almost always fail at) I can time reading something with many wait-delayed chapters such that I can read 5 chapters in one day, then I have to wait a full day, then I can read 5 more chapters.
Here's how it looks when you've done your waiting in purgatory and can now read on...
...and here's how it looks when the sad trombones play...
Now, I mentioned I'd circle back to the coins? THE TIME HAS COME! Because, look - for 17 coins, you can read on instantly!! Alternatively, if you're willing to share on social media, you can also skip (I have no if that's something you can do over and over, or just once, cause I haven't tried - you can skip the wait time once for free). This begs the question, then...is 17 coins a lot?
And the answer is...
...eh not really, no. Ten bucks will get you the ability to pay 17 coins many, many times (58, to be precise), but honestly? I haven't spent a penny yet and I've caught up on 7 different titles and am steadily reading through two more (one of which hasn't had wait times kick in yet, I just can only read so fast).
All of which is to say: yes, there's a pay system, and tbh, I'm probably going to throw them a few bucks not because I care about the wait times but because I'm getting so much enjoyment out of reading these titles and I want to support them a little (I also bought the print version of the TGCF vol. 1 and will likely buy the other volumes, and I once-upon-a-time paid to watch TGCF s. 1 streaming as they came out). With a little patience there is absolutely zero call for spending even one penny to read as much of this cornucopia as you want.
WAY 3: Download the Bilibili App on Apple
I don't have access to an iPhone and don't feel like grabbing my tablet rn and I've hit the Tumblr image limit anyway, but the Apple app looks about the same as the Android app, and you can download it HERE.
Basically: use the website, or download the app for whichever platform you're using, and READ, READ, READ!
So, what is there to read?
I'M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!
(okay, cutting to a read more)
I've been reading on the app pretty regularly for like two months (prior to that I was only reading TGCF, and only when I remembered, which was rarely), but I'm juggling a lot AND reading other stuff too so I am far from having explored the wide range of options. I can, however, highlight a few I think are likely to be of interest to a danmei-reading audience. Note that of these, I've only read the novels for TGCF, TYQHM, and Daomu Biji, which means that I only know as far as the manhuas have covered for the rest - I haven't read farther than that yet.
A. Tian Guan Ci Fu by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. The one, the only - this is the official manhua with art by Starember. It tells the story of newly ascended god Xie Lian trying to navigate the intricacies of the heavenly bureaucracy, figure out his place in the world, and understand why a sexy guy in red keeps showing up in his life. (Worst synopsis ever award goes to: ME!). The English translation is currently on episode 77, which has Xie Lian and Hua Cheng in the gambler's den. A volume just ended, which means it's on hiatus temporarily - there's usually a month or two break between volumes - so it'll be back soon!
B. Global Examination by Mu Su Li. Based on the book Global University Entrance Examination, featuring art by E Zi. Global Examination is a story set in a dystopian near-future about a world where groups of people are randomly selected (read: kidnapped and forced) to participate in an "exam" where they have to answer extremely complex puzzles. If they succeed, they get to live and become one of the people who administer the exam. If they fail, they die. Despite the premise sounding dark, it's really not been so bad and I've been reassured it won't become so. The story itself focuses on You Huo, a recently selected examinee with amnesia, the other people in his examinee group, and Examiner 001, who clearly has some kind of history with You Huo. If only he didn't also have amnesia, we might even know what that history is...
C. Dinghai Fusheng Records and Legend of Exorcism, both based on the books of the same names written by Fei Tian Ye Xiang. The art for Dinghai Fusheng Records is by Qianerbai (who has also done a lot of work for the Mo Dao Zu Shi audio drama) and for Legend of Exorcism, it's by Warp. These stories are set in the same 'verse, at least several hundred years apart; it's a xianxia high-fantasy setting, and the main enemies are resentment monsters and demons (...or are they? dun dun duuuun). Dinghai Fusheng Records takes place, chronologically, first, and occurs a couple hundred years after a calamity caused all qi to fade from the world - there are only mortals, and no one can cultivate. It follows Chen Xing, a young man born with a gift, as he seeks his protector - Xiang Shu - and others, and they encounter (surprise!) unspeakable evil. Legend of Exorcism takes place in the "future" of Dinghai Fusheng Records, and focuses on Kong Hongjun, a half-demon boy who has received a summons to join the Exorcism Department, as he explores the mortal world for the first time and gets to know the others who have summoned to join the Department, especially the mortal leader Li Jinglong.
D. Daomu Biji titles, originally by Nanpai Sanshu. There are two DMBJ titles on Bilibili right now, though both only have a few chapters, and the website lists them as "on hiatus." I've read them both, and am not entirely sure what's up with one especially, but... Grave Robbers' Chronicles starts where Book 1 starts, with changes of course but it's quite recognizable as the initial "Wu Xie is brought a silk scroll and gets curious and then Wu Sanxing gets involved" plot line. The Grave Robbers' Chronicles Seven Dreams is...odder...and as far as I can tell is an alternate canon/AU which starts with a "what if" of "what if the Zhang's were incredibly abusive, raised child!Zhang Qiling themselves, and Wu Xie and he met as kids." It's. Um. Extremely weird. And not for those sensitive to kids getting beaten bloody. But I'm still hoping they'll release more than 9 chapters, if only because I'm curious.
E. A Single Strike of Shimmering Frost, based on the novel A Sword of Frost by Yu Xiao Lanshan. This one opens with the Prince Ji Yanran approaching Sect Master Yun Yifeng, who runs a sect of spies and information collectors, to ask for help finding an item that has been stolen from the palace. In exchange, he promises to give Yun Yifeng the cure to an ailment that plagues him. Problem 1: he doesn't actually have this cure. Problem 2: everywhere they go people start dying. Problem 3: catching feels for the pretty Sect Master. Despite having the trappings of xianxia, this story has actually thus far been a sequence of murder mysteries with politics-related causes.
F. Saved the Public Enemy By Mistake by Liu Muqiao. If this is based on a novel, I haven't been able to track it down. It's xianxia; demon immortal cultivator Liu Jianghe shows up, nearly dead, on the doorstep of famed doctor Lu Jiu who is just trying to live a quiet life in seclusion. Not knowing who Liu Jianghe is, Lu Jiu saves him, and thus stumbles into a mess of politics and history he doesn't understand...but nothing is actually how it seems, there's amnesia and hidden back stories galore, there's a heavy side plot of sword lesbians, and honestly I've read like 50 chapters and I'm still a little lost but the art is pretty and I really need to read the reveal on the two MCs history together so I'm sticking with it. Warning that it's got a fair amount of blood and gore.
G. Those Years in Quest of Honor Mine by Man Man He Qi Duo. A historical (non-cultivation) setting focused on politics, machinations, and the long history and deep love between Zhong Wan - former top-scorer on the national exam who lost his position when his adopted father was accused of treason - and Yu She, of dubious parentage and believed by most people to be the bastard son of the Emperor. I loved the book for this, and finding out that the manhua was on Bilibili is a lot of what drove me to download the app.
So - that's everything I'm currently reading: 6 titles inspired by explicitly BL danmei titles, 2 based on other books I like that aren't BL, and 1 BL that just looked interesting and my taste.
There's SO MUCH MORE, seriously. I'm going to be reading on this app for months and still finding more, I'm positive of it.
But unforth, I hear you say, there's some other manhua I want to read! What about Mo Dao Zu Shi? What about Erha? Are those on Bilibili? Can I read them? And the answer, sadly, is no. Those two are published by Kuaikan, which does not offer free legal English translations at this time. But! I am holding out hope that if the audience for Bilibili grows, other manhua publishers will see the profitability in emulating them. I cannot guarantee that anything we do will result in this happening, but I do feel pretty confident that if we don't read with the options currently available, we sure ain't likely to get more options.
SO. GO FORTH. READ THE THINGS I'VE MENTIONED. READ OTHER THINGS. COME BACK AND TELL ME WHAT YOU LOVED SO I HAVE SOME IDEA WHAT TO READ NEXT.
I'm begging. GO READ MANHUA!!!
(and signal boost this post to get other people to do the same!! help the small fandoms grooooow! I really just wrote all of this so I'd have someone to scream with about the current awful that is the recent chapters of Legend of Exorcism PLEASE WE ALL NEED SQUEEMATES COME READ!!! THE THINGS! THEY'RE GOOD! WITH PRETTY ART!)
Chinese Animation Recommendation List
This is a list of Chinese animated series that I personally enjoyed but which are lesser-known for Western audiences, and they mostly belong to wuxia/xianxia/fantasy categories. I hope whoever reads this can find something of interest from this list too! :)
1) 百妖谱 Fairies Albums (season 2 currently airing)
Fairies Albums is about the journey of a peach fairy, a baby monk and a snake demon, and the stories of other humans and demons they witnessed and involved themselves in along the way. The animation of this series may seem simplistic and there’re no exciting fight scenes, but it’s the story that really grabs my attention, and season 1 made me tear up basically every other episode. Fairies Albums is essentially about the emotional bond between people, and between humans and demons. The demons in Fairies Albums are, in a sense, purer creatures than humans, and act as a mirror to the good and evil, the greed and desires of the human heart.
2) 少年锦衣卫 Young Imperial Guards (2 seasons, both aired in 2017)
Young Imperial Guards is set in Ming Dystany (1368 to 1644 AD), much of the show is grounded in actual history and there isn’t really any fantasy element (but it doesn’t lack imagination, the Ghost Street in the show is just as colourful as the Ghost City in TGCF). The series has been praised for its smooth, well-paced and deft storytelling. Young Imperial Guards is quite typically about the bildungsroman of a bright but rash noble-born young man and the loss and political turmoil he faced (and there’re other interesting storylines). I feel like the show is structured around the long-standing dichotomy of the imperial court and “jianghu” (the martial arts world) in wuxia stories, and the choices that the characters make is often about which side they fight for.
3) 画江湖之不良人 The Degenerate: Drawing Jianghu (4 seasons complete, season 5 in production)
This is the show that Western audiences don’t know about but which I keep gushing over on my blog :P The show is set in the aftermath of the fall of Tang Dynasty - China became war-torn and fragmented, but the warlords and ambitious politicians saw it as a golden opportunity for themselves to rise up and grasp power. The main character turns out to be the last of the royal bloodline of Tang Dynasty (surprise surprise), and he needs to decide whether to face or evade the responsibilities and destiny of a royal family member.
This may sound a bit clichéd so far, but The Degenerate: Drawing Jianghu is so much bigger than the struggle of the main character. The show has long been praised for creating a wide array of interesting and memorable side characters, and their diverse and colorful personalities greatly added to the richness of the show. The overall tone of the first three seasons is quite dark and gritty, and doesn’t shy away from the cruelty of politics, of war, of jianghu itself, and especially the cruelty and tragedy of blighted and twisted human nature.
The first three seasons of the show sometimes tend to get lost in its own complexity and it’s a bit of a marathon to watch them all, so it would also be a good idea to watch season 4 only. Season 4 was written and directed by a different team and it's the best season so far in terms of animation and storytelling.
4) 少年歌行 Great Journey of Teenagers (season 2 currently airing)
Great Journey of Teenagers is adapted from the novel of the same name, and I definitely have a quarrel with the official English translation of the title, because the original Chinese title is a lot more poetic and should be something like “Song of Wandering Youth”...Some would say that it’s a case of the adaptation being superior to the source material, and it’s overall a good show with interesting characters, emotional depth and some quite unexpected humour.
The show is about a group of young people trying to find their place in the martial arts world, about their friendships and romances, and the love stories of the older generation. And more importantly I feel like overall the story is about...trying to hold onto the people you love - sometimes one succeeds with it but sometimes one inevitably fails (ok this is my very personal interpretation).
5) 罗小黑战记 Legend of Hei (season ongoing, currently on hiatus)
Legend of Hei is probably the most beloved Chinese animated series of the recent decade, and it’s the story of a little cat demon’s adventure in the modern human world. It’s created by a very small team and as you can see from the poster, the animation is very simple, but at the same time the director of the show pays a lot of attention to narrative and visual details, and that’s partly what makes the show good. Legend of Hei is imaginative, heart-warming, and funny, witty and quirky in a very refreshing way. There’s also a movie of the same name that serves as a prequel and a manhua series (which I haven’t read but should).
6) 眷思量 Island of Siliang (season 1 currently airing)
The animation of Island of Siliang is simply gorgeous, and for me that’s the main reason to watch this show. The premise of the story is that the gods who’re punished for their misdeeds are banished to an island called Siliang, where they’re trapped and live and age like mortals. The gods only have a chance to leave the island once every 500 years.
The pace of this show is pretty slow and the mysteries surrounding the island and its inhabitants are unfolded only bit by bit, which means that season 1 is only the very beginning. We have to wait for future seasons to learn more.
7) 天宝伏妖录 Legend of Exorcism (2 seasons complete)
Legend of Exorcism is another beautifully animated show and it’s adapted from the danmei novel of the same name by 非天夜翔. The story is set in Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD) and it’s about the love story between Li Jinglong, a smart and conscientious army official who apparently doesn’t have very good luck, and Kong Hongjun, who’s half human and half demon and very cute and bubbly. The show deals with some serious themes of war and politics but overall it’s pretty light-hearted. If you like this show, you might also want to check out another animated series called Dinghai Fusheng Records, which is adapted from another danmei novel by the same author.
8) 两不疑 No Doubt in Us (season 1 currently airing)
No Doubt in Us is about an emperor and an empress who, by some magical mishap, swapped bodies with each other. The couple originally didn’t get along, but learned to appreciate each other more after they literally had to put themselves in each other’s shoes. So the show is ultimately about their love story. No Doubt in Us is unrealistic on so many levels besides the body-swapping part (man I wish politics in ancient China were this cute), but it is really fun and goofy and quite hillarious, and it has an interesting premise. So watch this show if you want light comedy with some court intrigues thrown in.
9) 雾山五行 Fog Hill of Five Elements (season 1 complete, season 2 in production)
Like Legend of Hei, Fog Hill of Five Elements is created by a very small studio, and the first season is really short with only three episodes. But it is a labour of love (I put the OP of the series here because it’s just beautiful). Fog Hill of Five Elements is essentially about the conflict between the human world and the demon world, and the consequences that humanity incurred when they immorally take advantage of the demons.
10) 灵笼 Ling Long: Incarnation (season 1 complete, season 2 in production)
Ling Long: Incarnation is a post-apocalyptic science fiction series and it's often been hailed as god-tier by Chinese viewers. The animation is great and the story gets darker and more and more interesting as it progresses. The worldbuilding is complex and thorough and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in season 1. What I love about this show is that it eventually goes beyond the “humanity fighting against apocalyptic zombies and monsters” narrative that pervades sci-fi of this kind, and it’s ultimately about bridging and merging the human and the monster and using such hybridity as a way to survive and understand the post-apocalyptic world. (ah I feel like I’m writing an academic essay here because I study science fiction...)
Where to Watch Them:
I believe all the shows can be watched for free on the animezone247 website , but the quality of the English subtitles can’t always be guaranteed.
Fairies Albums, Legend of Exorcism, and No Doubt in Us can all be found on the official YouTube channel of Bilibili (although I think you have to pay to watch the first season of Fairies Albums). Season 2 of Great Journey of Teenagers is on the official YouTube channel of Youku Animation. These should all be easy to find on YouTube. I’m pretty much a computer illiterate, so I bet people can find better places out there to watch these shows haha.