The Legend of Hei (2019)

The Legend of Hei (2019)

A cat spirit learns about harmony in this Chinese animated fantasy drama

7.0

Movie

China
Mandarin
Action, Animation, Fantasy
2019
MTJJ, MTJJ MUTOU
Ding Dang, Hao Xianghai, Li Lu
102 min

TLDR

Possibly the cutest cat in 2D animation right now…

What it's about

After his forest home gets destroyed, wood sprite Xiao Hei transforms into his cat form to roam the bustling, urbanized human world, where he meets a group of spirits who dream of reconquering their land and a human executor sent to hunt them down.

The take

With a forest home destroyed, leaving an adorable cat spirit child displaced, The Legend of Hei seemed like a Studio Ghibli-esque tale, at least in themes, child protagonist, and fantasy flying. There’s charming moments where Hei appreciates the day-to-day– moments where he diligently learns his powers, enjoys the simple human pleasures present in the modern world, and of course, feels at home in the stunning natural spirit places. However, it’s not quite Ghibli as there are plenty of wuxia-inspired fight scenes, with as many flying kicks involved. That being said, there is a pro-peace message here, that at face value, is probably a good message for children, but this film’s peace comes without clear details about Hei’s displacement, or the general condition of the spirit world at large. The Legend of Hei’s charming animation is lovely, but this push for peace could have been more meaningful if it also considered justice.

What stands out

The animation is just so lively and adorable. The character 2D designs doesn’t quite have the level of detail plenty of Japanese anime have, but the detail of the backgrounds are right there, and the action sequences, especially that fight scene circling atop the train, look so fluid, it could have rivalled plenty of other artists if creator MTJJ was free to discuss more challenging, less safe ideas.

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