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The Blue Lotus picks up right where Cigars of the Pharaoh left off, with Tintin still staying as a guest of the Maharajah of Gaipajama. The story begins when Tintin is visited by an unknown Chinese man wanting to discuss matters of great importance with him. However, the man is hit by a dart containing the madness serum from the previous album and before losing his grip on reality only manages to tell Tintin he must go to Shanghai and seek a man named Mitsuhirato.
Once in Shanghai, Tintin quickly becomes involved in a struggle between another branch of the opium-smuggling operation from the previous book, led by Mitsuhirato, and a resistance movement called the Sons of the Dragon, led by the benevolent Wang Chen-Yee.
The Blue Lotus is notable for being the first album for which Hergé actually did a degree of research, being aided by a Chinese art student named Zhang Chongren, with whom he formed a close friendship and based one of the characters in the story on. As such, it is generally considered the point at which the series fully grew its beard.
- Affably Evil: Mitsuhirato.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The opium ring ambushes the headquarters of the Sons of the Dragon near the end.
- Axe Crazy: Mr. Wang's son. It's not his fault, though, as he's been infected with the Rajaijah juice.
- Big Bad: Mitsuhirato is actually subservient to Rastapopoulos.
- Bigger Bad: Mitsuhirato's Japanese superior, seen conversing with him on the phone several times.
- Big Good: Wang Chen-Yee.
- Corrupt Cop: Mr. Dawson, the Chief of Police of the International Settlement, being influenced by Gibbons and bribed by Mitsuhirato to persecute Tintin.
- Deus Ex Machina: This book is not nearly as bad about this as some of the earlier ones, but an agent of the Sons of the Dragon having replaced the insanity serum and tinkered with Mitsuhirato's gun and knife just when Tintin is captured is pretty darn convenient.
- Evil All Along: Rastapopoulos.
- Off with His Head: Mr. Wang's crazy son is obsessed with doing this.
- Find the Cure: Part of the story revolves around finding the scientist who could develop the antidote to the Rajaijah juice.
- Goldfish Poop Gang: Tintin and Chang easily escape Thompson and Thomson every time they meet.
- Karma Houdini: The Fakir from the previous album becomes this in the redrawn version, escaping offpage, firing a dart filled with the insanity serum at Tintin's Chinese visitor and then never being mentioned again. In the original serial version, he is offhandedly mentioned as having been recaptured soon after.
- Happily Adopted: Chang towards the end.
- The Heavy: Mitsuhirato is the main villain, but he's working for the Japanese goverment and Rastapopoulos.
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: There's the Thom(p)sons, of course, but also, one of the Japanese military officials looks almost identical to Mitsuhirato, just with a more hooked nose.
- Inspector Javert: Thomson and Thompson have to chase Tintin again, though in fairness, they're really Just Following Orders. They themselves claim at the end that they didn't really believe Tintin was guilty.
- Instant Messenger Pigeon
- Kidnapped Scientist: The bad guys kidnap the only scientist who could develop a cure to the insanity serum.
- The Man Behind the Man: Rastapopoulos to Mitsuhirato.
- Mysterious Protector: Mr. Wang's son briefly acts as this to Tintin, but then he's poisoned with the insanity serum...
- Outdated Outfit: In the first and arguably the funniest instance of the Thom(p)sons doing this, they show up wearing 17th century Manchu era clothes, confident that they will blend right into a Chinese town. They then fail to notice an entire town parading behind them and laughing.
- Politically-Incorrect Villain: Gibbons.
- Psycho for Hire: Mitsuhirato.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The books depicts Mitsuhirato as staging the Mukden Incident, thereby paving the way for Japan's occupation of Shanghai.
- Red Herring: The Fakir at the beginning of the story warns Tintin to watch out for a dark-haired Asian man with glasses, whom Tintin briefly suspects may be his Chinese visitor. But no, that guy loses his mind as soon as he appears. Funnily enough, Tintin isn't at all suspicious when he first meets Mitsuhirato, who also matches the description.
- Seppuku: Mitsuhirato commits it after being captured.
- Tagalong Kid: Chang.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: Subverted. At one point, a man with a large, bushy beard and wearing sunglasses and a coat enters the bad guys' opium den and is immediately recognized by them as Tintin in disguise. Only when they beat him up, it turns out it isn't Tintin, just a man who happens to look like him with a large beard.