There’s this Chinese anime film that came closest to Studio Ghibli level and it’s Big Fish & Begonia or Da Yu Hai Tang from 2016. Its artstyle, animation, emotionally resonant and mythical story that weaves a tapestry of folklore, sacrifice, and love. The film beautifully explores themes of life, death, and the consequences of our choices, all against a backdrop of breathtaking animation.
About Big Fish & Begonia
Big Fish & Begonia (2016) was a labor of love directed by Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang. The film was a collaborative effort between B&T Studio and Enlight Media, with the animation production handled by Studio Mir, known for their work on The Legend of Korra. The production process involved a mix of traditional hand-drawn animation and computer-generated imagery, resulting in a visually stunning and meticulously crafted world. The film’s art direction, led by Kun Chen, showcased meticulous attention to detail, bringing to life the mystical realms and underwater landscapes. Composer Kiyoshi Yoshida’s evocative score further enhanced the emotional depth of the story. The film’s production was a pioneering effort in Chinese animation, blending cultural elements with a universal narrative that resonated with audiences globally. Despite some challenges, the team’s dedication and creativity resulted in a visually captivating and emotionally resonant animated feature.
What to like
Big Fish & Begonia boasts intricacies in its narrative structure and world-building. The film blends Chinese mythology and folklore to create a fantastical realm beneath the human world. The intricate rituals, such as Chun’s coming-of-age ritual and the Soul Keeper’s bargains, add depth to the narrative. The consequences of Chun’s actions ripple through both worlds, leading to environmental disruptions and moral dilemmas. The film’s exploration of the balance between life and death, the consequences of choices, and the interconnectedness of beings provides a layer of depth that invites viewers to reflect on the complexities of existence. The use of symbols like the begonia tree, red dolphin, and ocarina weaves a tapestry of meaning, contributing to the film’s overall intricacy.
Big Fish & Begonia Plot
The plot unfolds as Chun bargains with the Soul Keeper to resurrect a human boy, leading to unforeseen consequences for both worlds. The narrative skillfully intertwines themes of environmental balance, personal responsibility, and the interconnectedness of life and death. The journey spans across mystical landscapes, underwater realms, and the human world, creating a captivating and emotionally charged storytelling experience.
Big Fish & Begonia Characters
The characters in Big Fish & Begonia undergo significant development, contributing to the emotional weight of the narrative. Chun, the protagonist, evolves from a curious and impulsive being into a selfless individual willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Qiu, Chun’s childhood friend, plays a crucial role in supporting her on her journey, showcasing themes of friendship and loyalty. The Soul Keeper, a mysterious and morally complex character, adds layers to the story with her bargains and revelations. The rat matron introduces a nuanced perspective on the souls of sinners. Each character contributes to the film’s exploration of morality, sacrifice, and the consequences of one’s actions. The emotional depth of the characters elevates the storytelling, making the audience empathize with their struggles and choices.
Themes & Symbolisms
Big Fish & Begonia is rich with symbolism and themes. The begonia tree represents sacrifice and rebirth, while the red dolphin embodies change in everyone’s character. The ocarina serves as a powerful symbol connecting the two worlds, and the rat matron’s collection of souls adds an intriguing layer of moral ambiguity. The film uses these symbols to explore complex themes of responsibility, love, and the cyclical nature of life and death.
One thing that strikes me most is that Big Fish & Begonia‘s artstyle is heavily influences from Studio Ghibli anime. The animation and visuals look great, there’s no doubt in that. But it doesn’t have anything distinct about it to make it memorable and stand out as a Chinese anime.
Big Fish & Begonia tells a mind-boggling story that can leave you speechless. It’s a story about someone trying desperately to save a person as a repayment for saving theirs. And that endangered their whole world in the process. It’s an issue that doesn’t have a simple answer and that’s something we audience can’t comprehend. The bittersweet ending leaves us with unresolved feelings. In the end, nothing can’t be achieved without sacrifice. This film gets a 7.9 out 10 from me, which is pretty darn awesome and definitely worth checking out.
Thank you so much for reading ♡. Check this out if you need more anime recommendations. Until next time, take care.