Review – Big Fish & Begonia

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When I first watched the trailer for this film, I was instantly intrigued by the story. Based off ancient Chinese legends, Big Fish & Begonia was touted as the animation revolution coming out of China. After watching it, I couldn’t agree more. The story and animation are rich with imagination, story telling and love. Funimation provided us with a screener for the film and below is our review.

Synopsis

Based off ancient Chinese legends comes a beautiful tale of love, sacrifice, and grand adventure.

Beyond the human realm, there is a magical race of beings who control the tides and the changing of the seasons. One of these beings, a young girl named Chun, seeks something more—she wants to experience the human world! At sixteen, she finally gets her chance and transforms into a dolphin in order to explore the world that has her fascinated.

But she soon discovers that it’s a dangerous place and nearly gets killed in a vortex. Luckily, her life is spared when a young boy sacrifices himself to save her. Moved by his kindness and courage, she uses magic to bring him back to life only to learn that this power comes at a serious price.

On a new adventure, she’ll have to make her own sacrifices in order to protect his soul until it is ready to return to the human world.

Review – Big Fish & Begonia

Big Fish & Begonia is a touching tale that follows a young girl Chun as she explores the human world as part of a coming of age ritual. In her world, they control the tides and changing of the seasons in the human world. When they visit the human world, they do so in the form of red dolphins. When she attempts to return home she is caught in fishing nets. A young human tries to help free her and ends up getting killed in the process. Chun is deeply upset by this and sets out to right a wrong that could destroy her world.

Throughout the film we follow Chun, Kun (the soul of the human who saved her, in dolphin form) and her childhood friend Qiu. What I really enjoyed about this film was the infusion of myths and legends of Chinese culture. As difficult as those myths may be, there is always a common thread that connects to everyone from every culture. The idea of balance in the world. The innocence of youth and the sacrifices people make for those they love. The fact that Chun was oblivious to the love that Qiu showed her, yet he sacrificed himself for her was heart breaking.

However, the story also manages to surprise us as well. Despite the fact that the caretaker seemed to be a mean-spirited being taking the life away from Chun and Qiu, he ends up rewarding them in the end. Chun is reborn, without her powers, and allowed to return to the human world with Kun. Qiu, having stuck a deal that would end his life to save hers, finds himself reborn. Given the sacred task of becoming the next caretaker of souls, Qiu lives on. The story was inspired by an ancient Chinese legend, Chinese Taoist classic Zhuangzi. The film also integrates many stories from other Chinese classics such as ‘Classic of Mountains and Seas’ and ‘In Search of the Supernatural’.

Big Fish & Begonia reminded me a lot of the films by Makoto Shinkai and Hayao Miyazaki. The animation was incredibly beautiful and detailed. The film itself is Chinese in origin, and not from Japan. The film has had a rough road to the big screen overseas. However, it is marked by many as the dawn of a new animation revolution for China. Director Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun poured a lot of heart into the story. The film itself took nearly 12 years before it hit theaters. However, when it did, it far surpassed the budget they had such difficulty getting.

Funimation Films licensed Big Fish & Begonia for release in North America and is currently airing at select theaters through April 17th. Visit the Funimation Films site to find a location near you that is showing the film. You can watch it in original Mandarin with english sub or dubbed. The dub cast includes Johnny Yong Bosch, Stephanie Sheh and Todd Haberkorn. It is worth seeing and a true splendor of the great animation work that is coming out of China.

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Robert Prentice