There will be spoilers for the manhua series Me and My Zoo.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to animal neglect, starvation, religion, coercion, violence, blood, embezzlement, attempted animal poisoning, breaking and entering, suicide, suicidal ideation, mental illness, hostage situation, mentions of quarantine and the pandemic, ageism, fat-shaming, death, attempted kidnapping, and mentions of lolis and shotas, as it appears in the manhua.
Duan Jiaze has recently graduated from college. Unfortunately, the job market isn't all that fruitful for a fresh graduate, but his luck takes a turn when a relative passes away, leaving behind a derelict zoo in the hands of Duan. While it isn't much to look at, with most of the facilities in disrepair and the animals on their last legs, Duan has no choice and takes the opportunity to take over the zoo and bring it back to greatness.
Thankfully, Duan isn't alone. He is inexplicably chosen by the heavens in the form of an app on his phone to take on the zoo under the Lingxiao Hope Project. This zoo will not be inhabited by just zoo animals but by deities needing vacations or punishments in the mortal realm. As Duan works at the zoo, he is given missions by the app to complete, and in turn, is gifted with feed from the heavens, free facilities, and, better yet, gods with animal forms to draw people to the zoo.
Duan is sure his Wonder Park Zoo has every chance in the world to succeed if only he can wrangle these godly animals dispatched to him. That's easier said than done when his first divine animal, the three-legged crow Lu Ya, sent there as a punishment, acts more like a lord than a prisoner. Can Duan find the courage to command the great Lu Ya, or will he lose the zoo and what little pride he has left?
I was pretty pumped to read this. I am really drawn to these base-building, civilization-builder-type stories, and to see there was one with the BL tag, I couldn't resist. While this was the standard civ-builder, I'd hardly call this BL. It isn't until the last 40 episodes that that becomes somewhat relevant, though hardly so. It's a similar issue to Offering My Neck to You, where there are some hints at something, specifically between Duan Jiaze and Lu Ya in this case, but nothing ever comes from it. Really, the hints don't become apparent until those last 40, which had me really excited that we were finally settling into the BL portion, but then the series just ends. There's no closure on the zoo, we never get closure on Lu's relationship with the Heavenly Court, nor do we get clarity on Lu's feelings toward Duan, among many other things.
This is based on a webnovel; from what I can tell, this comic barely scratches the surface of the novel's content. I checked to see if it was maybe on hiatus or canceled, but everywhere I checked confirmed that this is just where it ended – super open and, in turn, super disappointing. It does seem that the novel actually does take the time to develop the relationship between Duan and Lu, so I think this was intended to be a true BL, but it just never got there. So, if you really want BL, this isn't the one. There are some cute, shy, and flirty moments, but very, very little. I wouldn't call it BL from what we have, but it is advertised as such, so here we are.
It's also worth noting that the translation for this is rough. I can only assume it is the translation rather than the writing in the original, but either way, this is a challenging read. It doesn't help that the UI of the app Duan uses is abysmal. It can be very confusing to follow conversations, which loses all hope of humor that the series desperately tries to present. Follow that up with very specific references to Chinese mythology, and this becomes a web of content that's impossible to unweave. It probably doesn't help how unfamiliar I am with Chinese mythology, so some of that is probably on me for sure. Still, I am confident that even those well-versed in that topic would have difficulty discerning the meaning of some of these panels just because of how poor the translation is.
Usually, I like to start by talking about the art since that is the first thing we see as comic readers, but I got a bit carried away with all of the other elements of this series. So, this time, let's end with the art. The art is ok. It's clear that they reuse many of the drawings over and over again rather than drawing something new, and it's very inconsistent. The giant phones placed into their awkwardly positioned hands are hilarious, and the heavy outlining that turns them into stickers (and that probably makes it easier to reuse them over and over again) is a lot to look at. That's not to say it can't be pretty. There are many pretty moments, but they're surrounded with terribly designed UI, sticker-like poses that are reused time and time again, and just inconsistent proportions. It's a sour cherry on top of a melted sundae.
This is a pretty big miss. Inconsistent and poor translation aside, if the series is unfinished but still considered complete, that is an instant fail for me. I hope this one is picked back up because I think the romance between Duan and Lu has great potential, but as it stands, it looks like it is completed as is. If we don't get the comic picked back up, I'd love the novel to be picked up and translated instead. This has so many elements that I really enjoy, but that makes it all the more disappointing in its current state.
Have you read Me and My Zoo? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!