A love-struck teen, Ning, takes his relationship anxiety to the underworld in Tsui Hark’s A Chinese Ghost Story: The Animation with all the profound intensity of legend and an equal measure of Nintendo Game Boy sensibility.
Ning and his dog, Solid Gold, are on a quest to find an ex-girlfriend, Lan. From the beginning, the two seekers are constantly dodging death rays and keeping just an inch away from the razor-toothed, saliva-dripping jaws of death. Brimming with references to Chinese mythology, Ning’s tale is a traditional one that gets a new animated spin with this release. It confuses, clutters, charms and wows with a colorful, wildly amusing plot powered by an army of ghosts and creatures bound and determined to stand in Ning’s way.
In the underworld, Ning runs into a beautiful young woman, Shine. She distracts him from his lost cause, Lan, but gets him into more trouble than he has ever had before. As if run-ins with White Cloud the Most Famous Ghost Buster and his protégé, Ten Miles the Flying Dragon of the Omnipotent White Cloud Temple, weren’t enough. At least this story knows how to laugh at itself; when Ning is introduced to the two, he says, "What humble personalities they have. Using such complicated names we can easily forget."
At one point in a ghost restaurant, Ning’s own telltale heart almost gets him a spot on the menu next to culinary delights such as stinky finger and diced tongue. The young, bright-eyed hero makes it through the perils and dangers of his quest with a level of spiritual wisdom and fantasy that makes Disney’s Mulan seem like nothing more than a Happy Meal toy.
And what the barrage of paranormal occurrences doesn’t do for a viewer, the dialogue will. It’s filled with overblown labels such as Thousand Radiance Magic Ball, Yin Yang Twist and Raindrop Strategy, and hilarious lines such as, "You want more, mean trash?" and "Shall we try to reincarnate tonight?" The latter line pops up when Ning and Shine discover they have fallen from the Reincarnation Train during an all-ghost war in the skies, which knocks the locomotive from its celestial tracks.
Overall, A Chinese Ghost Story: The Animation is a wonderfully creative piece of work that is a joy to watch and read in English subtitles that translate the Cantonese and Mandarin dialogue.
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