Zhen Dao Ge — A Chinese cartoon with a focus on fighting

Jeffrey McGee
4 min readAug 2, 2021

I have no idea what the plot is about

I want to dedicate this article to writing something other than video games, albeit still focusing on languages (as is my duty). Another thing I also enjoy is animation, whether it’d be American or Japanese. But this one has its origin in China.

This Chinese animation called Zhen Dao Ge, which according to Google Translate, means “Pillow Knife Song”, which is about… well… honestly, I have no idea what it’s about. I mean, I guess it happened when China fought the Mongolians, since I recognised some characters as Mongolian, judging by their choice of armour. But other than that, I have no idea what’s going on since I only ever watched it in Mandarin (or maybe it was Cantonese?), with no English whatsoever. Bullocks, one character had two pupils in one eyeball, and as weird as it was, I had no context of what was happening… at all. Except for the fights, the fights tell a different story.

It was the sole reason I chose to watch it since I was looking for recommendations on “anime with good fight scenes” (although it’s not an anime but close enough). And was I satisfied? Honestly, it was somewhat enjoyable. Even though I didn’t understand the story, I enjoyed watching the very well-choreographed fight scenes, which, for enjoyment, do not require one to understand Mandarin (or was it Cantonese?). But what about the story?

“Zhen Dao Ge” is not a proper Romanisation!

While one can still enjoy the choreography of the fight scenes, as I did, and also not have to understand a word, about those that do? The ones who watch it for the plot, those types of people. I don’t know who those people are, but either they watch it with subtitles, unlike me, or understand Mandarin (or was it… never mind). In any case, I didn’t get jack, and I was left wondering why that guy had two eyes in one eyeball. But I don’t care; it’s those that want to know what’s going on. So why does the apparent protagonist hate Mongolians so much?

I have no idea at all! The way I write “Zhen Dao Ge” isn’t even the way it’s supposed to be romanised, since Mandarin is a tonal language, the phrase “Zhen Dao Ge” can be pronounced in multiple ways unless it is written in Pinyin (that’s how you call it, right?). I don’t know how to install that on my computer.

In any case, those that wonder about the plot, which is not me, are left scratching their heads trying to figure out why this guy is so strong. But they can’t, because they don’t understand Mandarin… or probably don’t watch it with subtitles (honestly, I never bothered searching). But hey, they fight a lot, so that’s a plus.

I should probably bother searching for subtitles

The solution to this problem is very simple: get subtitles. They solve all those problems, even though someone had to make an effort to translate. But hey, at least now you know what’s going on.

In the scenario where you don’t want to watch with subtitles because you don’t care enough, learn Mandarin. I’m sure it’s an awesome language, considering how hard it is to learn (at least that’s what most people say). Interestingly, it’s also the most spoken language in the world (last time I checked). I’m already in the middle of learning a 3rd language, so that’s not for me right now.

If you don’t have the patience to do either, I don’t know what to say… except just watch it because it looks nice.

What say you, Mandarin speaker?

Of course, not speaking Mandarin myself, I shouldn’t say what is and what isn’t. I think that Mandarin speakers have a say in how this should be conducted.

Is the plot really important? Since I have no idea what’s going on, if you tell me that the plot isn’t necessary, maybe there wouldn’t be any consideration even to understand it.

Regardless, Mandarin is a tough language to learn. But I also think that the people translating know English and Mandarin, and I think it must be tough. And that English speakers should have a say in this too, if the plot is really important to them or can this just be enjoyed for the animation, without understanding anything? I can’t imagine that many people watch this outside of China since it seems esoteric in design.

In Conclusion…

If you like animations influenced by anime (known professionally as “anime-influenced animation”), or maybe you just like to watch stuff that has good fight scenes, then maybe you should give this a try. It’s enjoyable even if you don’t understand what’s happening. Bullocks, sometimes it’s just fun listening to the characters speak.

In any case, first, you need to decide whether it’s important for you to know the plot or not? If it’s the former, you simply either get subtitles or learn Mandarin. One is easier than the other, but that’s not for me to decide.

I, personally, think that this show should just be enjoyed for its movements, rather than understand why the opening and ending are so damn long. It’s a cool watch just for the fight scenes. And honestly, sometimes it’s just better not to know the language at all since it makes you feel like you’re actually visiting the country for the first time.