Jiang Ziya (2020)
First Impression - Feature
Jiang Ziya, or Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification in the U.K. is a Chinese mythological animated feature, directed by Cheng Teng and Li Wei. Jiang Ziya himself is a mythological figure from the novel The Investiture of the Gods. He's usually a 72 year old man but in this they've aged him down to Keanu Reeves. Jiang Ziya is a follow up to Ne Zha (2019) and a hope to begin the Fengshen Cinematic Universe. I don't think we've seen an animated cinematic universe, and I hope they continue because I really enjoyed Ne Zha and equally so Jiang Ziya.
The feature is just gorgeous to take in. I really feel the directing duo understand the power of composition. There are parts of the movie that really took my breath away in terms of dramatic staging and lighting. I was totally surprised in that sense. From the beginning, the story opens with these rich tapestries of traditional animation, graciously describing the history to us.
The story follows Jiang Ziya after he's been cast out of heaven for failing to kill the nine tailed fox. He then meets a young girl who also happens to be a fox demon, and decides to leave the land he was banished to help her find her father, encountering the wild world outside the barriers of his land.
While I may not understand the subtleties of the mythologies at play, I did like the overall arc of the narrative. This is something I'd like to comment on just for a moment, and it's something I think about when watching Bollywood movies. How storytelling in handled in the East is completely different at times. After consuming so many Hollywood movies, in the West our narratives tend to fall into those beats, the same traps that make a story easy to predict. While I do feel Jiang Ziya has elements you can predict, how it gets there is a surprise to me, and that's the real success of a story for me. I heard a quote before but I'm not sure who to attribute it to, but I'll paraphrase it here: "I know where the story needs to end up, but how It got there should surprise me." Essentially its not the destination that counts, but the journey.
Fundamentally Jiang Ziya succeeds on a lot of levels. It shows the creative process in Chinese Animation is getting more and more refined, and soon I think it will be a major voice in the animation world, rivalling western animation and quite possible rivalling the behemoth of anime.