*This review contains minor spoilers for the sake of humour*
China strikes again!
But seriously, there are more and more Chinese animations that are coming out lately and managed to capture an overseas audience which is pretty interesting to see to say the least. So we really should find a better one word representation of this because “Chinese Cartoons” is 1 word too many for my mouth. That aside, let’s actually get on with the review.
We are going to start with sound because ear-gasms are apparently a thing. The music and sound effects are really well done and are used perfectly; melding together the art, characters and story into a piece of stunning visual entertainment. Suffice to say, without this the movie would definitely not be as spectacular as it could have been. Also the movie is dubbed in Mandarin Chinese, so if you really picky with your dubs, then you are going to miss out for sure.
The animation is great, there is no doubt about that. However, some parts of the movie is CG (like one object in one scene) which might put you off the magnificent art style and animation if you are a hardcore “ALL CG IS BAD CG” fan. Character design is also unique, since it is a fantasy film expect to see many different Chinese mythological creatures (many nekos).
You shall meet three mains: 1 male, 1 female, 1 dolphin; let gender equality reign (unfortunately no apache attack helicopters in this film, since the setting isn’t in the modern world).
Female main is called Chun (not cousins with Chun Li), and the story is told through her point of view for most part of the movie.
Male-chan is called Qiu (good luck pronouncing that), and he will be accompanying Chun in her endeavours.
Dolphin-kun is called Kun (no seriously, I’m not lying), 他 is the drive of the plot of the film, so fairly important.
Now the development of the characters is not bad, particularly Qiu undergoes monumental changes from one end of the spectrum (cheeky and selfish) to the other (selfless and super saiyan) in the name of 爱. Chun on the other hand doesn’t change very much which is not surprising if I’m honest since there really isn’t too much of her to change. Kun is a dolphin, that’s ample development.
One last thing before moving on though, the side characters do what they needed to do, none of them were there to “fill the numbers” and all of them has a particular personality associated with them. Chun’s granny is a phoenix for goodness sake!
Ah, the minor pitfall of this movie.
Generally the plot flows, with powerful themes of life, death, love, reincarnation, family, rebellion… as well as philosophical questions like how much are you willing to lose to gain a certain thing. However, some parts of the film was slightly confusing, as it would make you question “why?” or “how?” or “wait, what?” but these don’t detract you from the entire plot point and many are explained/revealed down the line, it’s just the spur of the moment confusion might put some of you off the plot a minute or two. This is coming from a person who understands Chinese to enough of an extent that don’t use the subs so the effect might vary depending on your viewing experience.
All in all though, the plot made sense in the end and it does make you question your existence.
It’s a very stunning looking piece of visual and auditory entertainment. There are only a few minor chips and dents in the plot but otherwise everything is great. It might take you a bit of time to understand everything fully but it is well worth your time to watch it.
Da Yu Hai Tang is like a Ghibli film, but instead of Japanese it’s Chinese, instead of No-Face it’s dolphins but otherwise it’s very similar to Spirited Away and explores many deep themes. So don’t be fooled by the visuals and concept, the film definitely makes you think.