I originally checked out “White Snake” when it was at the Fantasia Film Festival last year, and it’s not what I’d call the best anime movie to open 2020 with. While I love and appreciate the brilliant animation, “White Snake” is somewhat of a shallow and dull anime epic that packs in a lot of sub-genres and themes involving demons, war, the supernatural, dragons, and a very exhaustive reliance on ancient mythology. It would probably help the experience of “White Snake,” but having to do research to enjoy a movie is not appealing, even for movies that garner my interest.
Found in human form by the handsome, hapless snake hunter Xu Xuan, beautiful snake demoness Blanca awakens in human form in a humble village of snake-catchers. Without her memory, the two forms a bond and begin to fall in love, and as she attempts to reclaim her memory of her failed assassination attempt on a powerful general. Suddenly other beings come looking for her, including the general’s second hand man, other demons and Blanca’s fellow snake demon sister Verta. Along with their wits, Blanca’s magic, and their trust dog Dodou, the two hope to escape the clutches of the conniving army of the general, and a snake spirit clan, while hoping to stay together forever.
I’m a big fan of fantasy epics and supernatural tales, but “White Snake” is kind of a slog to endure, even when it’s at its most exciting. Directors Amp Wong, and Ji Zhao go in to all kinds of narrative directions with “White Snake” making it almost impossible to keep up with at times. The convoluted pacing is also kind of jarring with inclusion of all kinds of magical monsters that never manage to draw enough interest to contribute to the mood of the narrative. Even with talking dogs, giant snakes, snake demons, and snake tricksters, and themes about reincarnation and political intrigue, I just had a tough time sinking my teeth in to what was unfolding. That doesn’t negate the inherently excellent animation style, granted, as it will assuredly attract hardcore anime buffs, I just wish there was so much more substance and relatable themes.
The new release from Shout! and GKids includes a DVD Copy along with the Blu-Ray. Both discs include a fourteen minute interview with Co-Director Ji Zhao, who explains in depth about the creative process for the film, et al. There’s a twenty six minute director Q&A at the 2019 Animation is Film Festival with director Ji Zhao, as well as a Music Video for the song “Origin” by artist Zhou Shen; it’s a song promoting the film’s themes and plot line. There’s the original theatrical trailer, and finally four Minutes of Selected Storyboard Clips comparing the film’s animation to the storyboards.