If I were to say to you “Chinese animation”, you would almost certainly begin thinking about anime, which is basically the biggest animation style in that part of the world (and quite possibly worldwide as well). What you would not, likely, think about first, is CG animation. That has traditionally been more of a Western style. But that is not the case for 2019’s Ne Zha. In fact, Ne Zha is one of the highest grossing animated films to come from China, despite it being the first film from Director Yu Yang and the first film from his animation studio.
Ne Zha, or sometimes NeZha (possibly a translation thing?) tells the story of two heavenly beads. One signifies a savior, and the other, a demon. Ne Zha, a young man, grows up his whole life believing that he possesses the Spirit bead, and is tasked with hunting demons. But in truth, he is, despite his efforts and immense powers, a demon who causes a lot of harm. In fact, it isn’t until he faces is greatest challenge that he doesn’t discover his true nature..
It’s not hard to see why this film has amassed greatness through connecting with audiences in the East. Ne Zha tells a story that connects to Chinese Folkore in a fun and interactive way. While the animation style is very recognizable to Western audiences, the story is pretty unique and it’s great to get some culture as well. Unfortunately, the 3D version of the film didn’t make it in this release, which does make it feel a bit gimped, but then again, we are lucky to have a distributor like Well Go Usa to bring us Asian cinema at all.
Overall, the movie has heart, and definitely stands out as a fantastic start to what is to be an exciting career for Yang and his studio (a sequel is already in the works). They already have the heart nailed down, and with time I think that their animation and overall presentation could end up on the AAA list worldwide. Keep an eye out for them in the future and give this one a watch!
Don’t let the fact that this is the first film from it’s studio give you any misgivings to it’s quality. It is incredibly strong in the audio and visual front. The art and animation style are quite good but what really shines is the color. This is probably one of the most colorfully exciting discs that I’ve seen in some time. Ne Zha and HDR were made for each other and if you’ve invested in the set up you should probably give this one a go just for the dazzle.
Similarly, the Dolby Atmos track is a real treat to listen to. There are several fight sequences in the film that make very satisfying use of all the available channels and are exciting as hell.
I should note again here that the lack of 3D is very disappointing, especially since this movie was very obviously made for the 3D experience.
This release comes in a typical black UHD case with a nice slipcover. Unfortunately the only special features included are three trailers for the film.
Our Recommendation for Ne Zha:
Ne Zha is a very exciting and fun first effort from a new film maker and a new studio, but its real value is in its visually stimulating and culturally unique presentation that is both entertaining and has a heart. Kids will definitely be in awe and have fun watching this young demon go to town.