11 February 2020 | kevinxirau
A lovely piece of Eastern fantasy.
Here's a flick I've been looking forward to seeing for a few months, the 2019 Chinese animated feature "White Snake". It's a collaborative production between Light Chaser Animation and Warner Bros and is a prequel to a classic Chinese legend that's been adapted many times before in different media. The trailer did well to hook me in with its great concept and visual style, so the day the Blu-ray came out I wasted no time getting it. Worth. Every. Cent.
Plot: This tale is about Blanca, an amnesiac woman found by Ah Xuan, a free-spirited young man from a snake catcher village. As the pair travel together and develop feelings for each other, Blanca soon discovers her true identity. She is a snake demon caught in an epic struggle between her clan and a power-hungry general dabbling in the dark arts. Can a human and demon truly be together in the face of such hatred and darkness?
Snakes are often negatively portrayed in Western media and while there's more of a push to have them outside antagonistic roles (like Master Viper from "Kung Fu Panda"), Eastern cultures always had more respect for them. The legend of the White Snake in particular had me intrigued and this movie made me love the character. The art style bears some resemblance to Disney's, cartoonishly expressive while having enough detail to go around, though it still feels like its own thing. The vibrant colors, no matter the setting and mood, always grab your attention, so you get your eye candy's worth from the vast mountains to a hidden demon marketplace. The landscapes, magic, and creatures are brilliantly brought to life with stunning designs, especially Blanca's majestic snake form. There are also a good number of fast-paced action scenes, complete with martial arts, cool-looking magic each character brings, and a bit of monster fighting with the fluid animation allowing for some really great angles and moves live-action couldn't achieve.
At the center is the romance between Blanca and Ah Xuan, which is executed wonderfully. They have a precious chemistry, their personalities and conflicts complementing each other and providing something missing in their lives, leading to a very heartfelt conclusion. It also plays into the film's themes of love and change as well as pointing out the contradictions and mutual hatred of their species; neither side is entirely good or bad. I also like the other characters like Blanca's fierce sister Verta, Ah Xuan's comedic dog, and especially this playfully seductive fox spirit who has a great design. The voice acting is pretty spot on with the English dub in particular featuring Stephanie Sheh (Hinata from "Naruto") as Blanca and James Sie (Jackie from "Jackie Chan Adventures") as the evil general.
I should note that, despite its appearance, this film is PG-13. Some people do die a bit brutally (albeit not much blood) and there's also a love scene (the most you see, though, is a topless back). This is a story told in a more mature manner, a demonstration that just because something is animated doesn't mean it's exclusively for kids. For me, this works to the benefit of "White Snake", letting it live up to its full potential in storytelling. It's a beautiful, alluring, and refreshing fantasy worth checking out.