As a young boy, Xu-Xian is forced to free his pet, a small snake. Unbeknownst to him, the snake is actually a young snake goddess named Bai-Niang and she is in love with him. Many years later, when they are both adults, the princess is magically transformed into a human and sets out to find her love. But the local wizard believes her to be a vampire, and banishes Xu-Xian from the village in order to save him. Xu-Xian's pet pandas Panda and Mimi set out to save him and bring him, in the process becoming leaders of an animal gang.
The story is a classic one, I believe it is based on a folk tale. Love between a human boy and a spirit girl, sadly to be disrupted from mankind's general intolerance of spirits. But ultimately, one where love triumphs supreme.
One can also interpret the story as a criticism of institutions (such as religion and society) and the sweeping, preconceived judgments they pronounce without any actual knowledge of the situation; but ultimately again, while a powerful and often disruptive force, one that is overcome by true love.
The subplot with the animals searching for Hsu Hsien is very funny and cute too! Especially when Panda
challenges all the bandit animals.
For a 1958 show, the art was beautiful. Many of the backgrounds especially looked like paintings...thoroughly enjoyable! The festival scene was beautiful as well.
My only complaint would be that some of the animations for the fighting and spells were crudely done.
Sometimes the Japanese was hard to understand (maybe it's a dialect of some kind in places?). My subbed version also had poor subs, so regretfully I missed out in places.
But overall, the narrative voice was well done, especially in the parts where its half-sung, which was flowing and sonorous. Some of the voices quavered a lot, and generally the voice acting style is not my favorite; but it was suited for a children's folk tale I think. The music was generally high quality with traditional instruments.
A gem from the 50s. Classic folk tale story. Beautiful art and music. Nothing that makes the adrenaline rush, but peaceful and enjoyable. Highly recommended.
If you are looking for a very old anime to watch for, let's say, a challenge or simply because you are curious, this is a very fine specimen. I t works too if you are looking for a movie to watch with a kid. It's a fairytale with an oriental setting instead of a European one.
First of all, I'd like to say don't panic. The movie starts with a song in shadow theatre style. It's only the opening of the movie giving the background of the story then comes the lovable old animation style. The
story is that of a forbidden love between a human and a youkai. The world does not care about them and left them alone except for one annoying monk. The art is very beautiful. The animation is smooth. The colors are from dull. The music is a mix of traditional Chinese music and scores from black and white movies. The characters are lovable. The supporting characters are mainly animals and their action is found adorable, although ,personally, I liked watching the humans more.
This is based on a Chinese fairytale that I have never heard of before, so I have no idea how faithful this adaption is. As a romance, I found it well done. It's easy to root for the main characters to get together in the end. I don't know if these animals were in the original tale, but they do a good job as filler material. Slightly annoying however was the narrator, who kept describing what we see. Do we really need this?
To put this in historical context, this was made one year prior to Disneys
Sleeping Beauty. If we look at Disney as the nonplusultra in animation at that time, Hakujaden does not look much worse. Sure, there are some things one might find odd nowadays, like the character design, which is closer to traditional Japanese art than to what we recognize as anime art today, but for a country without a high profile history of animation, this movie looks amazing (for 1958).
The sound quality is not very good, which is not that surprising considering its age. Some of the voice actors sounded quite...let's call it odd. The traditional Chinese music was great for setting the mood and the woman who did the singing in the beginning (I guess she's the same who voiced Pai Niang) was really good. Fair for its day, but nothing to write home about.
As I said, the main couple were both likeable people. Their sidekicks were not that bad and did something noteworthy a couple of times. The bad guy (if you will) was interesting, as he saw his actions as righteous and justified. All in all, quite the interesting cast.
I was a little worried that I might end up having to force myself through this, but to my suprise, this movie ended up being pretty entertaining. There were barely any drawn out scenes, or rather, they didn't feel like it. If you're interested in the history of anime or animation in general, The Legend of the White Serpent should be an easy pick.
Hakujaden is an interesting case, the very first Japanese animated feature film in color and somewhat of a hallmark in Japanese animation. So much so that the thing that actually got me to watch it was it's being selected as the no.1 anime of all time by the anime magazine Animage.
Dated is probably the best way I can describe the film, it has some quite wonderful, fluid animation, stunning even. Interesting use of colour, blurred objects in the foreground, and baring a few jaring cuts and character expression it looks simply great, often taking much from both traditional and modern art creating a unique aesthetic.
The other aspects however lag behind significantly.
It is an adaptation of an old Chinese legend merged with a book name of which I can't remember and as a result, the story comes of as rather basic. The characters act as is usual in a legend or a fairy tail of that period and that is to say that they lack said character, they simply move along with the plot as the plot moves along with them. The villain of the story is somewhat of an exception, as he really is only the assigned villain, never really operating from malice or any kind of evil intention, but rather trying to help our hero Xu-Xian with what he sees as a haunting and a problem, where a problem is really not. The story is told primarily through rather intrusive naration, detailing things we already know on several ocasions and in that sense again feels like a relic of it's time.
The sound is all rather choppy and unclear due to the movie's age, and the voice acting ranges from passable to bizzare. Music however is quite nice, if not very memorable.
With the main cast all being bland and uninteresting, genuinelly the most engaging characters are the animal comic relief, quite obviously inspired by disney. Their designs are great, their animation allows for a wide range of movements and unlike the main cast they exert at least a little character of their own. There is one genuinelly wonderful and entertaining fightscene where a tiny panda beats up a bunch of animals and becomes their leader, and the movie is worth a watch just for that, and as a case study to see how anime has developed.
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