[MANHWA RECAP / REVIEW] To Be Or Not To Be

[MANHWA RECAP / REVIEW] To Be Or Not To Be

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I’ve read so far: [Ch. 01 – 59]

Xiao Yu An in the modern world was a CEO diagnosed with cancer. Among lots of his other hobbies, he liked reading a web novel called The Four Kingdoms.

The novel was about the teen emperor of the Northern Kingdom. He was a cruel and useless leader. He Qing, a prince from Southern Yan, was captured by the emperor. Princess Yong Ning, the emperor’s sister, secretly helped him to escape. He Qing comes back for revenge. The emperor was captured and killed by He Qing himself. Yong Ning, He Qing’s true love hung herself out of guilt. He Qing ended up being an asshole and had his harem as the ending.

Xiao Yu An was transported to this novel as the teen emperor. At this point, He Qing was currently in captivity. Xiao Yu An, as someone who took control of the emperor’s body, set him free. He also broke up with Qing Yu. Qing Yu was a loyal concubine and in love with the emperor. In the novel, he never left the emperor til they were both captured and killed.

Xiao Yu An focused on protecting He Qing from getting beaten up by anyone in the court. He even sent home all his harem to protect him. Xiao Yu An was also the number one fan of He Qing and Yong Ning. He played cupid a few times and failed.

The emperor helped in strengthening his military forces. Li Wu Ding and Xie Chun Gui opposed each other in the novel. However, due to Xiao Yu An, they started working together in harmony.

He made an alliance with Xiao Ping Yang of West Shu. In the novel she was a garrison general of West Shu. He Qing conquered the Eastern Wu and the Northern Kingdom. She married him to keep the West Shu citizens safe. This made her the empress of He Qing. Also, she was Xiao Yu An’s favorite female character in the novel.

However, it looked like the He Qing x Yong Ning love team would never happen. Ping Yang and Yong Ning fell for each other. She told Xiao Yu An that they will eventually become family. He Qing’s supposedly first and second love of his life would neither be his.

Meanwhile, Prince Wu Ning, the emperor’s brother, aggressively pursued He Qing to form an alliance against the emperor. He gave the plan to He Qing. Upon seeing his uncle, He Qing was tormented between his loyalty to his family and his friendship with Xiao Yu An. Of course, he chose the Southern Yan kingdom. His family was slaughtered in front of his eyes. While he didn’t actively participate, he didn’t retaliate either.

Li Wu Ding warned Xiao Yu An against a brother but he didn’t name anyone. Xiao Yu An was reluctant to trust Li Wu Ding. In the novel, General Li betrayed the emperor and formed an allegiance with the South.

When General Sun died, General Li was appointed as the new head of the military. There were no better candidates. This sparked the rebellion’s attack. Arrows flew during the burial of General Sun. Hong Xiu sacrificed her life to save the emperor. General Li was able to defend and imprison Wu Ning and his men.

The Emperor suspected He Qing’s involvement. Wu Ning’s letter in He Qing’s robe confirmed his suspicions. He found it by accident. The emperor confronted He Qing about it. Realizing that they have a forbidden friendship, the emperor gave him a poison. He Qing willingly took it and he was sent back to the Southern camp. The south prepared for attack.

Meanwhile, the emperor wallowed in misery and let the military train by themselves. This was not a bad strategy because they were able to defend their stance for a a year. This was longer than it should have been in the novel. However, he knew they would be outnumbered. I thought he would plan to defend the North from Southern Yan’s attack with General Li. Why didn’t he ask West Shu’s aid to defend their territories. GIRL??? WHATCHU DOIN?!? You wanna end up hanging yourself, too? Like Yong Ning did?

After ten months, General Li died in Southern army’s camp in a failed attempt to steal food. Xie Chun Gui were tasked to defend the North. Eventually, they lost to the southern army two months later. These events increased the casualties compared to the book.

The North was captured. Yan He Qing spared the emperor and took care of him. He asked Xiao Yu An to stay with him. Obviously, that was not possible. Every chance a Southern soldier got, one of them tried to kill him or castrate him. Liu An and Xiao Ping Yang went back to extract him from the palace. Then, they met up with Xiao Feng Yue and Yong Ning. Ping Yang and Yong Ning informed Xiao Yu An of their relationship and their intention to get married.

Yan He Qing followed Xiao Yu An during his escape to give his mother’s hairpin as a symbol of their friendship. When Xiao Yu An refused this, He Qing looked heartbroken and broke the hairpin. After this, they found Xie Chun Gui along the way. He was still looking for General Li on the pile of dead Northern soldiers. It seemed he’s lost his mind.

One year later, Xiao Yu An became a doctor’s apprentice in some village. He lived with Feng Yue, Liu An and Chun Gui. Then, he met the third female lead in the novel, Lin Shenling. He ran into Yan He Qing again the way the third female lead should have met He Qing. HeQing becomes temporarily blind and does not see anything. He helped He Qing.

Reactions:

I like that Xiao Yu An has a back story. After reading a few isekai manhwas, the pattern was MCs assumes a character in the world they live in. They do not have a sense of self. This one, since he was a CEO in his previous life, he knew who he was and can navigate based on his own background, moral compass and values.

I liked that when Xiao Yu An became the emperor, he went to the prison cell and treated He Qing with kindness. If he wanted to, he could have killed him. This was why it surprised me when he broke up with Qing Yu. Obviously, Qing Yu loved him. He left him without any sort of affection and on top of that, he mentioned that he will still be compensated. That was cruel. I was heartbroken for Qing Yu. I would not be surprised if he attempts a revenge on He Qing or the emperor. Or worse, pledge allegiance to the south. Although, we all know the ML is Yan He Qing. How come lots of isekai manhwas MCs fall for the person who’s supposed to kill them in the world they got transported in?

Qing Yu tried to setup Feng Yue and He Qing. He succeeded. What I did not get was why he didn’t let Feng Yue and Liu An stay. Liu An was his guard and he was loyal. With so many people trying to kill him, it’s difficult to find loyalty in the palace. Although, this came in handy when he was rescued from captivity in his own palace.

I like that he did something to strengthen his military forces. That seemed to be his side job. It should have been his main focus, not just making He Qing happy the whole time.

However, there were a few things that I didn’t like about him, too. Here we go:

  • The only time he exerted his authority was to defend Yan He Qing. His desire to protect his people and his background as a CEO was contrary to his next moves.
  • If he knew that Prince Wu Ning would betray him, why didn’t Xiao Yu An sent a spy to keep him informed?
  • If XYA didn’t want to die, he could have at least increased the numbers of his men.
  • He had 0 knowledge when it comes to war. He knew that Ping Yang was a garrison general in the novel. They became allies over his birthday celebration. So, why didn’t he get her as an ally during war from the beginning? She could have advised her on how to deploy their army. If the men were deployed strategically, there would have been less death count.
  • Also, he seemed to be well aware of the dates when the attacks would happen. Shouldn’t he have listed it down and strategize on how to prevent the rebellion or at the very least, defend themselves? As a former CEO, I expected more from him. Ok, I don’t really know what a CEO does but in my head they supposed to keep the company afloat. Isn’t this the same?
  • Ok. Let’s assume he’s just really slow. When they started losing the war after ten months, why didn’t he call to West Shu for backup? Nothing was set in stone. He could have asked for backup and still have better chances at defending the North.

Hating on dumb decisions aside, I gotta say I really like the art on this one. They all look like shampoo commercial models. The characters were mostly likeable. I’m hopeful this gets better.

I like Xiao Yu An as a lovable cinnamon roll. He’s worth all He Qing’s concubines combined and more. I mean, c’mon all the ways he fell for the female leads happened to them. Plus, I’m also proud of him defending the North for a year. I just wish he had better decisions during the damn war.

They are the modern-day Romeo and Juliet. I signed up for romcom / action historical war story. This is not what I signed up for. Chapter 59 was sad.

P.S.: I got greedy and read the web novel translation I got no theories on this one since I know what’s gonna happen. Well, sort of. The web novel translation was incomplete.

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