Reviewed by Tempest
No alternate review available
A Chinese animation dating from the end of the '70 isn't something very easy to find. It's not that China never produced animation but few make their way out of the Republic and those that do appear in film festivals usually do not receive the same attention than their Japanese counterpart. However, Nezha Conquers the Dragon King has managed to seduce the audience when it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and the critics considered it bright in color, elegant in style, and rich in imagination. The film was given the outstanding Film Prize in 1980 and the Special Prize at the Second Manila International Film Festival in 1982. I was dubbed in many languages however, those versions are nearly impossible to find today.
The character of Nezha has frequently appeared in Chinese Mythology and ancient Chinese Literature and the animation Nezha Conquers the Dragon King tell the story of one of these Chinese legend. If I need to make a comparison with a more modern animation, it is difficult to not see some parallel between this story and Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998). The base themes are similar in many ways with a story involving a tiny child that mature right before their birth, are determined and possess supernatural powers who have to vanquish an enemy who oppress the local population.
The story begin with the commander Li Jing who is informed that after a three and half year pregnancy, his wife has given birth to something that look half way between an egg and a lotus flower. Before Li could strike the egg/flower with his sword (as he consider this thing to not be very natural), the bud open and reveal a small boy. Not long after, a sage named Taiyi comes to express congratulations. He names the boy Nezha and gives him a universe golden ring and a (magical) red sash and accept Nezha as his disciple.
When Nezha is seven years old, the area where he live is afflicted with severe drought and Ao Guang the Dragon king turn a blind eye to the offering he receive from the people suffering from the drought. Worse, he demands to Yecha (some sort of frog anthropomorphic daemon) to kidnap children so he could eat them. Yecha manage to kidnap one of the children before being defeated (but not killed) by Nezha. In a rage over Nezha defiance to his authority, the Dragon King send his third son, Ao Bing, to capture and kill Nezha.
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After defeating Ao Bing's guard, Nezha manage to kill Ao Bing and also take his tendon as a reward. The Dragon King is infuriated and decide to plead his case with Heavenly King but Nezha is waiting for him there and after pointing out that it was Ao Bing who started the fight and that Ao Guang was lying, Nezha not only prevent him from meeting with the King of Heaven but also manage to beat Ao Guang into submission.
Afterwards, the Dragon king meet with three other dragon kings and together they flood, create considerable havoc where Nezha live and ask for his life in exchange of "peace". Commander Li is shocked and very disappointed that Nezha want to fight back the dragons but he cannot bring himself to execute his own son. Nezha realizing that he is indirectly the cause of much suffering around him decide that the only way to leave innocents out of his quarrel betwen him and the dragon kings, is to commit suicide so he cut his own throat by using his father's sword.
Taiyi, Nezha's master, revive him from death and give him a set of fire wheels and a spear and he goes to destroy the Dragon king.
The style of the animation is a real contrast from the typical Japanese production where the characters more often than not looks a lot more European/American than Japanese. The animation display Chinese characters in traditional clothing and the clouds, waves and the dragons are essentially inspired from traditional Chinese drawings. On the other hand, the images are simplistic and use a style relatively old. The animation in itself is fine even if sometimes the movements of some characters appear unnatural.
Also, if after looking at the screenshots some of you think Nezha is a girl, I can't blame you, he is quite androgynous but I assure you, he is still a boy.
Sound & Music:
The music and sound effects are fine in general. The themes are typically Chinese but again, the fact that this animation is old is self-evident and there is a noticeable soundtrack deterioration.
There is no real acting in an animation so this section is more whenever the characters are credible or not. I couldn't get my hand to a dubbed version and being unfamiliar with the Chinese language (and this is a polite understatement), I am not able to tell much about if the character sound appropriate... They seems so but it's also all Chinese to me (literally).
What I can say however is that the character remains true to themselves until the end. Nezha see thing in term of black and white, which is normal for someone of his age. Commander Li is a person who follow the traditions and concept of honor.
Note: the overall is not an average, but more a general appreciation of the movie as a whole.
R a t i n g
|Images:||(7.0/10) - Good|
|Sound & Music:||(6.0/10) - Average|
|Story line:||(6.5/10) - Average|
|Acting:||(6.0/10) - Average|
|Innovation:||(5.0/10) - Fair|
|Educational Value or|
Level of Wisdom:
|(5.0/10) - Fair|
|Overall:||(7.0/10) - Good
A rating of 5/10 should be considered as something not good but not bad either (# bad points = # good points).