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What can go Wrong when the New Gods: Nezha Reborn Mythology Goes Cyberpunk?

New Gods Nezha Reborn Original Chinese PosterAvailable to view on Netflix
Light Chaser Animation Studio

The release of Nezha Reborn in America may well be late, since the debut doesn’t coincide with any national holiday. In China, it hit theatres for Chinese New Year, and just how it fared was reasonable, raking in approximately 21 million in US dollars according to reports. This post-modern take is confusing. The visual elements are not altogether steampunk and not fully cyberpunk either. Had it been one than the other, I’d be more intrigued with the world building going on. 

Li Yunxiang (Yang Tianxiang) is a reincarnation of the god, and when compared to the other version from the Fengshen Cinematic Universe, I prefer the spunky miscreant child over this young adult. I kept on wanting to shout Kaneda! The dystopian vibe is straight out of Akira, and the plot deals with how a mega-corporation wants to control everything in Donghai city.

The tale is familiar. No matter how many times these deities reincarnate in some future world of China, the conflict remains the same. Part of the story concerns facing a Sea Dragon adversary. The legends name him Ao Guang, and this tale sticks to tradition. A few new characters introduced include The Masked Man (Six-Eared Macaque, Zhang He) who acts like a mentor to Li and Su Junchu (Li Shimeng) as the love interest. I kept on wanting to hear James Hong play the monkey warrior. Instead, the praise goes to Jason Ko for the dubbed version for offering a similarly styled performance. The quality of the English dub is reasonable; it’s on par with Streamline’s release of Akira from a long time ago. 

Ao Bing is voiced by Aleks Le, and those who’ve seen Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon or Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba may well get a chuckle on this purposeful bit of casting. This son of the dragon emperor befriends Li even though father dearest has other plans.

This movie starts off strong with its introductions, but sadly loses steam by the end of the second act. The tale is not the same as other animated interpretations, and I had hoped for more fast and furious motorcycle chases than investiture of historical fantasy elements to this future world. Li’s immortal form as Nezha sees him as a triheaded fire deity–which looks fantastic–but isn’t he supposed to be a god of war? Technically, he’s more of a trickster, to which this interpretation doesn’t realize.

This movie loses its edge as the story direction felt like Highlander 2 at times. A sequel is in the works, and it may re-invent this character again by turning him into Lupin the IIIrd. The post-credits scene heavily suggests this direction. These added content include revealing White Snake 2 is coming! One source confirms it’ll focus on the sister Green Snake’s romantic journey. Maybe this time, the tale won’t take on a similar tragedy, but we won’t know until it debuts later this year.

2½ Stars out of 5

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