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Blu-Ray Review: Shout Factory’s New Gods: Yang Jian (GKIDS) 

New Gods Yang Jian

Mix equal parts Cowboy Beebop, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Chinese Mythology and you get New Gods: Yang Jian.  New to Blu-Ray from Shout Factory

The Film 

New Gods: Yang Jian continues director Zhao Ji’s series which began with  New Gods: Nezha Reborn with his fresh approach to oft-told tales in Chinese Mythology.  

Yang Jian has become a low-end bounty hunter more than a decade after he imprisoned his sister in a mountain.  The once powerful Yang now scrapes by chasing down lesser imps and demons for survival.  That is until a chance (not really because in Chinese mythology there is never chance) encounter with a mysterious woman.  Her simple task leads Yang down a rabbit hole of family secrets including a long-lost Nephew and the possible end of the world as they know it.  

Director Zhao Ji and animation studio Light Chaser Animation have delved deeper into the world they’ve created in the first of the series New Gods: Nezha Reborn.  There is an accomplished and beautiful finish to the animation and the world-building.  The production design and character work are detailed and smartly designed.  The marketplace is a standout here which recalls the type of deeply detailed work that Bladerunner and The Fifth Element are known for.  

New Gods: Yang Jian plays fast and loose with the Chinese Mythology it’s creating a world out of but that’s not a bad thing.  By creating a world that’s equal parts Cowboy Beebop and Guardians of the Galaxy it gives younger audiences and older audiences unfamiliar with these myths an entry point.  The attitude and tone perfectly match there with the sort of smart-ass witty tone that endears those series to audiences.

The Transfer

The biggest compliment one can give to Shout Factory’s transfer of New Gods: Yang Jian is that one wishes that they had released a 4K UHD version. The animation is so beautiful and accomplished that one wishes that there was even more detail to be weaned from the image.  As it stands the Blu-ray is reference quality.  The image is sharp, the colors bold, and the contrast levels perfectly modulated.  There isn’t a single fault in the image and is a standout example of what other countries are doing with animation currently.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Interview With Director Zhao Ji
  • Animating New Gods: Yang Jian With Zhao Ji
  • Original Cast Interview
  • Arts And Culture Spotlight
  • Art Gallery

Interview With Director Zhao Ji (15:38) – animation director Zhao Ji discusses the film in what appears to be a YouTube style and opens by discussing the plot of the film.  Some of the other details covered include the origins of the film after the success of New Gods: Nezha Reborn and White Snake, how he wanted the film to push himself and his artisans technically and elevate the entire film, how he approached creating and designing Yang Jian, how they approached the other various character’s design and purpose in the story and how he wanted to buck those conventions set in their mythology, the approach to the design of the entire work and how it differed from the first film, and much more.  In Mandarin with English Subtitles.

Animating New Gods: Yang Jian With Zhao Ji (6:17) – taken from another web-based Chinese series called Movie Hunter/Mini Cinema host/Movie Hunter Editor Booka discusses New Gods: Yang Jian with Director Zhao Ji. He discusses how he came to start the New Gods series, how he’s adjusting timelines to where the myths would have taken place, the inspirations from various artists he took from and how that changed the film from a technical perspective, and much more.  Director Zhao does take the crew on a small tour of the production company’s offices, which is a bonus. In Mandarin with English Subtitles.

Original Cast Interview (16:24) – the two primary Chinese voice actors – Wang Kai (Yang Jian), and Ji Guanlin (Wanluo) – sit with animation director Zhao Ji to discuss the film for the same YouTube-style show of the first interview.  Some of the details the trio discusses the differences between this and the other film New Gods: Nezha Reborn White Snake, how they approached the famous Cutting the Mountain down for modern filmmaking, the casting process for the voice actors, the working relationship between the actors and directors, and much more.  In Mandarin with English Subtitles.  

Arts And Culture Spotlight (13:04) – this appears to be pulled from a larger TV program in China.  The interview focuses on Director Zhao Ji and his crew of artists and technicians putting a new spin on this very old tale to the big screen for modern audiences.  The TV featurette is surprisingly in-depth giving us a look at the various stages of production and completion of the animation and b-roll footage of the artists at work with Director Zhao and also from the voice actor create their performances including interviews with the various voice actors and voice actor director Yang Tianxiang.  In Mandarin with English Subtitles.  

Art Gallery (3:58) – This art gallery contains 47 different pieces of production art ranging from concept designs, production models, reference art, and more. The gallery runs automatically but can be paused and navigated with your next and back chapter stop buttons on your remote. 

The Final Thought 

New Gods: Yang Jian is a visual delight.  Shout Factory has given it a beautiful Blu-Ray Release.  Recommended. 

Shout Factory’s Blu-Ray edition of New Gods: Yang Jian is out now

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