Not everyone will be aware Light Chaser Animation Studios‘ White Snake has a sequel. It went from Chinese theatres straight to American streaming in 2021 and that’s a shame. In Green Snake, as re-titled by Netflix, the time spent to focus on Tang Xiaoxi searching for her sister in a post-apocalyptic world would’ve looked just as fantastic on the big screen.
And for home video collectors, the wait for a physical release is long; this service doesn’t like to offer it whereas in China, it’s possible to find, and perhaps bereft of a subtitle track.
White Snake 2: The Tribulation of the Green Snake is a good enough tale to recommend viewing during Chinese New Year. Technically, this product wasn’t made with this celebration in mind. It’s more of a winter story because we’re dealing with depression and loss.
Xaiobai (Zhang Zhe; Blanca in the English dub) and Xiaoqing (Tang Xiaoxi; Verta) are sisters who once delighted in a simple life. They are nature elementals who don’t care much about the human world. But in the first film, the older sister meets and falls in love with a bumbling human, Xuan. In what he sacrifices for their eternal love makes her sad. Though years have passed in her search for this man’s reincarnated self, it’s assumed they found each other again. But something happened where she is with a baby and he’s gone. Perhaps the monk Fahai did more than excommunicate him and his soul is truly gone forever. The elder spirit is angry and fights him. From this early act, we can tell he abhors “inter-racial” relations; his disciple knows better and tries to prevent master from doing the unthinkable.
The White Snake can’t win, and the monk seals her within a magical pagoda. This introduction also doubles as an epilogue (of the prior tale), before setting up Xiaoqing as the next to battle the so-called purveyor of peace. He believes he’ll achieve Nirvana, but I think not. Fahei has the power to teleport the younger snake, Xiaoqing to a kind of purgatory. Where she appears is a crumbling (modern) city where various types of human, spirits, and animal-kind live. They constantly fight each other over territory. This place is known as Shura City.
Xiaoqing is quickly attacked, but Sun, a young woman, and a mysterious young man saves her. They form a quick relationship. But when they retreat to their safe house and meet the leader Sima (Wei Chao), that’s when the story turns into Mad Max meets Akira. The Green Snake reveals her abilities and understands what her older sister went through when she meets the man of her dreams, a masked stranger who has no name.
But Sima is no saint, nor is he an angel. He can earn his wings, but, like the first film, it’s at significant cost. Yes, the heavy metal band’s song, “Here I Go Again” comes to mind, because the cycle is ill-fated. It seems anyone from the supernatural realm isn’t meant to experience love at all.
Instead, much of the long run-time is dedicated towards how the Green Snake learns to become independent. It goes by fast once when I got invested in her plight. I’m not too sure why she believes her sister exists in this world, but she is determined to find her. Reincarnation is a theme in this work, and not everybody can recognize past lives.
The spiritual themes become light as this film progresses. Individuals can’t ascend to the Tian (heaven in Western terms) and nor can they reincarnate without letting go of those obsessions which holds them back. The concept is easy to follow even without some knowledge of daoism, and the fantasy representation is nuts when we see who lives or dies by the sword and their willingness to enter the serpent’s mouth. This figure floats over the city, as though it is the all seeing Eye of Sauron.
Not even Baoqing Fox (Xiaopu Zheng) is truly free. This schemer from the first film returns as a trader in this latest. This dual-faced supernatural trickster figure is a delight to watch, and she knows how to help Xiaoqing return to her world. She also has something to face (as revealed in a post credit sequence) which sets up another movie. This might not appear until 2023 because of the pandemic. Story-wise, I suspect Baoqing is the final threat that the snake sisters have to deal with when they truly reunite.
3½ Buddhas out of 5