There will be spoilers for the novel or novel series Little Mushroom: Judgment Day | Little Mushroom: Revelations.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to murder, major character death, genocide, prostitution, gore, poisoning, drugging, and prejudice as they appear in the novel or novel series.
The world has become an unrecognizable habitat for monsters. Since the disappearance of the magnetic poles over a hundred years ago in the year 2020, the Earth has been in a state of chaotic flux. Finally, after generations and generations of trial and error, the remaining humans of the world have restored the magnetic field. Still, the areas surrounding the few remaining human bases are inhabited by creatures known as xenogenics, made up of various body parts, including human parts, animal parts, insect parts, etc. These creatures also have the ability to spread their deformation to humans through open wounds, but the change isn't immediate. So, to prevent these infected humans from entering the bases and spreading the infection, there are people designated as Judges who are given the right to judge if a person is a xenogenic or not. If found guilty, the person can be killed on the spot.
In one of the most dangerous areas out in the wild, a tiny mushroom tries to raise his spore. Unfortunately, one day, a human being exploring the wild for materials comes upon the mushroom and steals his spore. Desperate to get his spore back, the mushroom encounters a dying human named An Ze. They become friends, and An Ze allows the mushroom to use his body to take on a human form of his own. Once the mushroom can take human form, he accumulates all of An Ze's memories and essentially his identity. Before An Ze passes, he gives the mushroom a name: An Zhe. With the ability to now integrate with humanity, An Zhe travels to a human base with the sole goal of getting his spore back.
Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to survive the Judge's test, and An Zhe's first encounter is with none other than the most accurate Judge of all: Lu Feng.
This is the best written and translated danmei I've read thus far, which gives me a ton of hope for future danmei I plan to read, especially from the same publisher. I was especially impressed with the quality of the translation since this is science fiction, and it goes in pretty deep with technical terminology. I think this is a perfect danmei to start with if you've never read any in this genre before. Unfortunately, for my first foray into danmei, I read one that was not translated well, nor was it generally edited very well, so I had little hope for this genre. If you are like me and had a poor first experience with danmei, please give this one a go. I really think it will turn your opinion around.
With that being said, this is science fiction, and there are many technical terms and walls of text and dialogue where it tries to explain the science of what is going on. That was a bit tiresome for me. I enjoy the science fiction genre, but I don't necessarily care to know exactly how the science works. For this already being translated from another language, I think it made the walls of text that much worse. Don't get me wrong, as I said, it is very well-translated, but I've noticed with danmei that the dialogue isn't always smooth and is often choppy. Combined with long-winded descriptions of complicated scientific concepts, it made my head spin. Sometimes, I wanted to skip whole sections just because it was too much.
Now, let's talk about this concept. It is amazing. Who would have ever thought I would fall in love with a mushroom? Our main character, An Zhe, is a mushroom that has gained the ability to take the form of a human man, and how his thoughts and actions are depicted is precious. He's described as being childlike, and that is perfect. For a creature who has never lived among humans and is reliant on the memories of the person whose identity he has assumed the way he explores his world in this clumsy and childlike manner works and helps hide his identity as a xenogenic. Meanwhile, the man who is supposed to be hunting these non-humans is actually less human than An Zhe. He's described as being cold and unfeeling even as he kills people indiscriminately. I am so jealous of this concept because I didn't think of it first. An Zhe is a precious bean that must be protected.
Finally, I have to talk about how nice the romance is. It is a slow and gradual burn. There is nothing heated or passionate about it at first, but there is a scene in the novel where Lu Feng finds An Zhe in the wild. They should be enemies at this point since it has been confirmed that An Zhe is a xenogenic, but instead, Lu Feng embraces An Zhe after falling to the ground, and An Zhe weeps in his arms. It's a heartrending scene that punctuates the end of this tug-of-war battle An Zhe has had with Lu Feng from the beginning: he is my enemy, but I want to get close to him. I am not sure I could call this a true enemies-to-lovers because the enemy portion isn't explored all that much, but they are certainly on opposing sides before falling in love with one another. I love it so, so much.
This wasn't perfect by any means. I wish it hadn't tried to explain the science so much, but that is such a minor blip in an otherwise beautiful and subtle story of the romance between a mushroom and a man. You won't see anything quite like this, and I feel like you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you don't give it a try. I highly recommend this, especially for anyone who has yet to give danmei a try. This is a great one.
Have you read Little Mushroom: Judgment Day | Little Mushroom: Revelations? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!