Love Ain't No Stranger
- Episodes : 98 Minutes
- Genre : Fantasy, Historical, Action
- Airing Date : November 15, 2019 in Los Angeles and November 29, 2019 in New York and additional markets
- Producers : Light Chaser Animation
White Snake [Official Subtitled Trailer] - Opens Nov. 15
White Snake Introduction and Story
The freshman release from directors Zhao Ji and Amp Wong follows the struggle of humans and snake people as they struggle to uphold their ideals in the face of a powerful enemy with evil Taoist powers. How do we know that the villain’s evil powers come from Taoism? Because the movie literally tells us in its first line.
The 3D animated film may wear its heart on its sleeve, but clothes itself in a garment weaved from action, romance, fantasy and social commentary as our leads work to overcome endless resistance to mend their warring nation and their relationship.
1. The One Teaching
Chinese cultural values have historically been inextricably linked to the country’s famous three teachings; Confucianism, which espouses strict adherence to hierarchical structures and social roles; Taoism which preaches simplicity, individualism and the pursuit of immortality and Buddhism, which acts as a complex middle ground.
These facets of Chinese culture are the focus of White Snake’s themes, as you may have guessed from the villain’s evil Taoist magic. He and the Tang dynasty army he leads represent Taoism, but the master of the snake people also acts as a primary antagonist in the story. Her pertinence lies in the distinctly Confucian order she forces upon her subjects, displayed through a rigid hierarchical structure where individuals must fulfill their pre-determined social role. The fact that each half of our lead couple come from these opposite factions thus signals its Buddhist slant, as it’s seen by many as a sort of gray area between its counterparts that while dependent on the other 2 bridges their differing ideals together. It’s a story about finding neutral ground between opposing perspectives, a rare but important moral for a children’s film.
2. Strong Visuals
Anime fans will understandably cock an eyebrow at the idea of good-looking Chinese animation, but this wuxia is a welcome departure from the ugly embarrassments otaku may remember from studios like Haoliners.
Though its character designs lean toward the forgettable, the fluid movement is nonetheless appealing and the cinematography changes styles repeatedly throughout the runtime while executing each one expertly. At times resembling a pastiche of artistic shots from the Shaw Brothers films and at others recreating the kinetic direction of modern 3D animation to an expert degree.
3. Surprisingly Good Dub
We’re not qualified to judge the voicework of Chinese actors, but we are qualified to tell you that White Snake boasts a solid English dub cast. Stephanie Sheh (Hinata from Naruto) seems incapable of a flat delivery as the eponymous reptile, Karen Huie (The PA from Ghost in the Shell 2) hams it up as the snake master, but never to the point of being distracting and Faye Mata (Aqua from Konosuba) steals every scene she’s in as the delightfully twisted fox demon.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Paul Yen in the role of our male hero. This is the man’s first animation role and it shows. His reads give the impression that he’s talking to a microphone and never another character, but at least he’s a blemish on an otherwise strong voice track.
1. Stale Script
As good as the actors in the film show themselves to be, the dub script makes recognizing their talent into a challenge. The film’s lines tell the story in a manner which—though still followable—remains below the standard set by the rest of the production.
Characters habitually state the obvious, certain phrases are repeated verbatim to the point of being humorous and sentences that either feel stunted or bloated are common. It would be reasonable to write this off as necessary sacrifices to match the animation’s lip movement, but the lines don’t even do that consistently.
2. Lacking Support
White Snake’s main couple are decently developed, but the same cannot be said for their supporting cast. Nearly every secondary character is devoid of motivation to be anything but a mouthpiece to their ideology. Almost all their lines can be boiled down to “my side is right because yours is wrong” and “no, my side is right because yours is wrong.”
3. Visual Cohesion
The movie seemingly operates under the assumption that it’s not the journey that matters, but the destination. We see very little of journeying to their objective, instead they just sort of end up wherever they need to go, which makes the setting feel more like a group of small detached video game levels instead of a fleshed-out world.
White Snake is one giant leap for Chinese animation, but one small step for the medium as a whole. It’s culturally-driven themes and impressive presentation help it stand out, but its other storytelling elements prevent it from being especially memorable.