Prior to the release of Ne Zha, I had little experience with Chinese animation, more familiar with the more commonly distributed Japanese and French variety. Ne Zha was distinctly Chinese in the adaption of a classic folk legend, but it was also widely distributed with broad appeal. It also follows the recently popular trend of Hollywood, creating a shared cinematic universe for a series of animated films, with the second being Jiang Ziya.
Initially I was under the impression that Jiang Ziya was a direct sequel to Ne Zha, but it is merely the second installment in the Fengshen Cinematic Universe, which all seem to involve gods living amongst mortals on earth. Like Ne Zha, Jiang Ziya is a character taken from the 16th century Chinese classic novel, "Feng Shen Yan Yi." Ziya is fictionalized as a god in this film, but he is based on a real historical figure who helped overthrow the emperor of the Shang dynasty.
We join Jiang Ziya as a fallen god, having failed in an effort to dispatch Nine Tail, an evil fox spirit that has an innocent maiden in her clutches. Su Daji is intertwined with Nine Tail, and Ziya sets out on a mission to separate them and save Daji. More important to him than his deity is the innocent life that he feels responsible for failing. The plot of the film is surprisingly esoteric (though I suppose the same could be said of Pixar’s Soul), slowing the pace down from Ne Zha. There are plenty of cutesy moments along the way, but there is a higher regard for realism in many of the sequences. Some of this has to do with plot, but the animation has also stepped up the quality.
There are multiple ways in which the animation seems to have matured since Ne Zha. Shifting the focus away from the comedic often allows for the film to be grounded a bit more. It goes beyond simply being more realistic, however. The animation in this film is simply beautiful, to the point that I would go so far as to call it poetic. Even the moments of the film where I was less than invested in the story, I found myself still captivated by the images onscreen. Regardless of narrative direction, Chinese animation looks to be heading in a positive direction.
The Blu-ray disc is the way to go when choosing a viewing method, if only to fully appreciate the high-definition presentation of these spectacular images. If you can see it in 4K, I would recommend that as well. Unfortunately, the higher quality is all that the Blu-ray disc has going for it, containing no special features to speak of. The post-credit scenes do contain a brief appearance by Ne Zha though, which is about as enjoyable as you might imagine.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Special Features: 0/10