Newest Reviews
Flag Day
Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster
Nest, The
Martin Eden
Halloween Kills
Sun Shines Bright, The
Last Thing Mary Saw, The
Mon Oncle d'Amerique
Wild Strawberries
Runner, The
Don't Look Up
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Forever Purge, The
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Legend of La Llorona, The
Perdita Durango
Commando, The
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Boiling Point
Deadly Games
Voyeurs, The
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
In the Earth
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hotel Poseidon
No Time to Die
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Power of the Dog, The
Newest Articles
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
  Big Fish & Begonia Spirited Romance
Year: 2016
Director: Liang Xuan, Zhang Chun
Stars: Stephanie Sheh, Johnny Yong Bosch, Todd Haberkorn, JB Blanc, Cindy Robinson, Greg Chun, Erika Ishii, Yuri Lowenthal, Cassandra Morris
Genre: Animated, Romance, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: As a rite of passage young Chun (voiced by Stephanie Sheh) leaves the spirit realm to explore the human world in the form of a red dolphin. Unless she returns home in seven days the doorway will close leaving her trapped. But on the seventh day Chun ends up caught in a fishing net in the midst of a raging storm. Handsome young fisherman Kun (Todd Haberkorn) dives heroically underwater and sets her free but drowns in the process. Upon returning home a guilt-ridden Chun strikes a deal with the Soul Keeper, trading a portion of her immortal lifespan to grant Kun a new lease of life in the spirit realm as a mystical fish creature. Aided by the resourceful white-haired Qiu (Johnny Yong Bosch), who pines hopelessly for Chun even while she remains oblivious, the young girl struggles to hide the newly-reincarnated Kun from her increasingly suspicious spirit family. Only to discover their star-crossed love has a cataclysmic effect upon the spirit realm.

Inspired by the ancient Chinese Taoist folk tome Zhuangzi, though also incorporating several other traditional tales into its narrative, Big Fish & Begonia was a big deal for a Chinese animation industry looking to forge a distinct identity away from the domineering shadow cast across Asia by Japanese anime. Lavishly animated with spectacular and, at least to western eyes, surreal images of floating whales, ghosts, goblins and all manner of supernatural beings cavorting across a kaleidoscopic otherworldly realm the film, together with recent hits Monkey King: Hero is Back (2015) and Ne Zha (2019), was heralded in some quarters as heralding a bold new wave of Chinese animation. However, just as many, including some Chinese critics, lambasted the film for what they saw as ransacking choice motifs from the works of Japanese maestro Hayao Miyazaki.

While it is true certain plot and visual components in Big Fish & Begonia seem to have been styled after key components from Princess Mononoke (1997) and especially Spirited Away (2001) the film still manages to achieve its own identity. Upholding a tradition in Chinese fantasy yarns dating back to Huangmei Opera tales like Madame White Snake and encompassing cherished live-action outings like A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), what starts out as a simple supernatural love story slowly evolves into existential musings on the nature of existence. Touching on life, death, fate, god and the precise definition of love and goodness. At the heart of the film rests a deeply Buddhist view of interconnected lives and how a seeming act of love could unintentionally visit calamity and suffering upon others. What in the hands of the Disney studio would end up a feelgood fairy tale comparable to The Little Mermaid (1989) unfolds instead as a melancholy fable of unrequited love, loss and tragic self-sacrifice as poor idealistic Chun learns the high cost of following her heart. Qiu's plot thread is especially haunting as he repeatedly risks all to help Chun even as his own dreams prove increasingly hopeless. It ends with a post-credits denouement that were it not for the pervading lyrical tone would prove as downbeat as any horror film.

If all this sounds like a bitter pill to swallow, particularly for a young audience traditionally drawn to animated films, frankly it is. But with an aching romantic sincerity likely to charm seasoned Asian fantasy fans. The plot meanders along with an odd lack of urgency, dragging on even beyond the story's obvious climax, but is laden with heady ideas and charming, genuinely inventive incidental details. While the character designs lack personality and come across a trifle bland, Big Fish & Begonia weaves an arresting and richly detailed fantasy world with some stunning set-piece visuals.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 1031 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: