Animated films are always a treat for me. It’s always interesting to see different animation techniques, styles, and the stories that can only really be truly told through the medium. Anime has played a large role in shaping some of my tastes over the years and I even became familiar with the studios behind the medium, but Big Fish and Begonia was something from left field for me. This crowd funded feature film was a passion project from a pair of directors and after a few years of struggle, they brought their vision to life. I must say, it’s an intriguing film!
Big Fish and Begonia is based on a classic Chinese tale named Zhuangzi. Set in a world full of spirits and creatures of mythology, we meet our protagonist Chun. Having turned 16, she is to perform her coming of age rights and visit the human world to become more enlightened about the world as a whole. During her travels, she assumes the form of a red dolphin. On her way to return home at the end of her trip, she gets caught in a net. She is saved by a human who sadly loses his life in the process. Chun returns home and after some thought, decides to repay the human who saved her. This is where many of the themes are then explored, love, sacrifice, family, and a resounding question of how much would you give to keep the ones you love? The main cast, Chun, Qie, The Rat Queen and The Mistress of Souls are all great vessels to propel things forward and elaborate on the drama. I was actually rather captivated by Chun. Not only that she is pretty, but because of her willingness to accomplish her goals. Everything is more or less wrapped up in an hour and a half runtime, but the pacing is kind of awkward. The stop and go is a kind of unusual parallel to the fluidity of the art. The ending also leaves a few questions open because of the events.
I’ll just get this out quick because it’s pretty obvious, the animation is absolutely gorgeous. It is colorful, fluid, and while not overly detailed, still very eye catching. The early parts give you a lot to chew on at first and while the rest of the movie is a bit more subtle, there’s still much to take in. The usage of red is one of the strongest colors used in the film, but the movie as a whole has a strong color usage through out thus making it really pop. While watching Big Fish and Begonia, I began to wonder if they animated everything with modern TV screens in mind. How everything flows is like clean water in a fast stream. It was almost unsettling at first but after about 15 minutes or so, I felt comfortable with it.
I watched Big Fish and Begonia in both available languages (English/Mandarin dubbed with English subtitles) and I found that I preferred the Mandarin dub despite my unfamiliarity with the language. The English dub was quite good, but of course with direct translations, there were a couple of parts parts that were a tad awkward. The composing was also done by Japanese composer Kiyoshi Yoshida (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Kaiba) and it is a wonderful score. Quiet, and then triumphant as the need arises it never overstays its welcome. It’s a really nice touch to round out the overall package that big fish hopes to deliver.
Despite the minor hiccups with pacing and the occasional odd line choices with the English dub, I hope Big Fish and Begonia finds its roots here in the USA as well as other parts of the world. It has a great art style, animation, an intriguing cast using Chinese mythology, great composing, and a story that is heartwarming. Big Fish and Begonia will be available in theaters here in the US on April 6th and I will be there to see it again!