A gaiden rather than another retelling, New Gods: Nezha Reborn depicts the boy-warrior’s latest adventures, in an alternate, dystopian future.
New Gods: Nezha Reborn (哪吒重生) Synopsis
The epic story of Nezha, boy-warrior god from Investiture of the Gods, is known even among non-Chinese. However, what happens if the fiery warrior wasn’t resurrected after his dramatic suicide in the original tale, but instead reincarnated? In this creative re-imagination, set in an alternate future, Nezha is reborn as a talented mechanic and racer. Once again, he faces off with his mortal enemies too, i.e., the Eastern Ocean Dragon Tribe.
Since the mid-2010s, guo man (国漫), or home-grown animation/comics, has been a promising cinematic development in the People’s Republic of China. While overall growth hasn’t been even, there have been several noteworthy productions, many of which set box-office records.
New Gods: Nezha Reborn comes from Light Chaser Animation, i.e., the Beijing studio behind the animation for White Snake. While it shares the same protagonist, this is not another retelling of the classic tale.
Instead, the story throws the rebellious boy-god into a dystopic future, one that is as grim as it is gorgeous with its 1930s Shanghai art-deco inspirations. Reborn as a mechanic and racer, Nezha then faces off against the unscrupulous De Family. The latter, in truth, the Eastern Ocean Dragon Tribe.
It’s an oriental take on the western dystopia formula. As a Chinese, I find it to be an incredible homage to the Nezha mythos too. For a start, the warrior god is today, still worshipped as a patron of racers. The re-imagination of the Eastern Ocean Dragon King as the dragon head i.e. triad leader of the De clan is also another intelligent touch.
Even the great Monkey King received a substantial supporting role, as well as an outrageous makeover. Befitting his classic persona, Da Sheng i.e. Sun Wukong’s gangsta portrayal is every bit as absorbing to watch as the combat sequences. He fills both roles of comic relief and motivation too.
Technicalities-wise, the 3D renditions are sheer eye-candy, an immense treat especially for a Daz-3D fan like me. Magical combat with awesome Chinese artifacts, on the flipside, trends toward the choppy and over-enthusiastic. While I could still make sense of what’s happening, most engagements happen too quickly to leave a clear impact.
The flawed combat aside, this is in all, still a superb trophy for Beijing in the crowded arena of cinematic animation. Watching it on the second day of the Lunar New Year was also, to me, a celebration of my ancestral heritage.
Whether you’re fond of the Nezha myth, or not, I strongly recommend you to watch this futuristic adventure.
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