NEW GODS: YANG JIAN — Blu-ray Review

The second installment of Light Chaser Animation’s mythological saga flies to home video

Review disc provided by GKids. Images subject to copright.

The follow-up to 2021’s New Gods: Nezha Reborn, New Gods: Yang Jian is the latest film from Light Chaser Animation, a production studio that’s been pulling inspiration from Chinese mythology and folklore and re-imagining these tales in ways to showcase the studio’s growing visual pedigree. This latest entry is easily the peak showcase for the studio’s animation talent — a rollicking steampunk-inspired fantasy adventure that’s an audio-visual treat, but something of a narrative hodgepodge once the dust clears.

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Based heavily on the exploits of characters from the 16th century novel Investiture of the Gods, New Gods: Yang Jian is set many years after a heavenly catastrophe and re-imagines the realm of the immortals as a bustling skyway of flying ships and cities in the clouds. Erlang Shen (a.k.a. the titular Yang Jian) is a god who’s fallen on hard times, now working as a disgraced bounty hunter who can barely access his superhuman abilities and chases down petty criminals for bounties with his ragtag crew.

Yes, there’s more than a little Cowboy Bebop in this stew (that music ain’t no accident), but the film carves out its own identity early on, both in the visualization of this world and in the way it bounces between different sub-genres with wild abandon. Yang Jian is sent on a quest to find a young thief named Chenxiang who’s after a magic lamp. Before long, Yang Jian discovers that there’s much more to this job, including complicated familial connections and the reason for the loss of his powers.

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Director Zhao Ji (in his second solo directorial outing) is a sure hand at the fantasy-infused swashbuckling adventure and noir-ish bounty hunter skullduggery. The film is at its strongest in its front half, where it’s whizzing through a ton of setups and complications in between impressive set pieces (either of airship chases or fight sequences where gods hurl powers at each other in the form of gigantic divine manifestations). Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of the second half having to do a lot of heavy dramatic lifting after throwing a lot of narrative fastballs that are only tangentially connected to a lot of what’s come before. It seems like one too many cases of “another set of new characters and more stacks of double- and triple-crosses” getting piled up on top of each other.

Fortunately, the finale manages the one-two punch of satisfactorily paying off the impressively complex dynamic that evolves between Yang Jian and Chenxiang, but also gives the medium an impressive kick in the pants. There’s a sequence involving shifting dimensional perspectives that shifts styles hard to replicate the look of traditional Chinese ink wash paintings, and it’s a genuinely arresting ending statement on an already visually impressive film.

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It may not hold together as well as you’d like, and it’s assembled from a lot of parts you’ve seen other places before, but New Gods: Yang Jian still delivers a rousing flight of fantasy that creates a vibe all its own — and one that’s a treat to lounge in.


GKids has a very handsome transfer here, with not only a rich range of color, but also a sharpness that almost makes it too easy to spot the (very occasional) beat where an object’s animated physics will feel “off.” The blending of animation styles in the finale and the multiple set pieces of immortals unleashing their divine combat abilities would make this a game demo disc even “only” in HD, with a sound mix that knows when to let the music or the Foley be the star. While the English dub is serviceable, the original actors were cast early in production and the characters were animated around them, and easily provide the better experience.

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Bonus Content:

With so many studios all but abandoning the concept, the extras on this release look solid at first glance and provide some solid insight to the film’s creation as you go through the various featurettes, from overall inspirations that led to Zhao Ji adapting this story in the way he did to amusing anecdotes about which take made it all the way from an actor’s audition all the way into the final film.

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Interview with Director Zhao Ji (15:38) — An interview with the film’s director about the overall creative process for the film and continuing the New Gods world from the previous film, as well as how they went about adapting the mythology.

Animating New Gods: Yang Jian with Zhao Ji (6:17) — Brief interview and video overview of Lightchaser Studios on animating the picture.

Original Cast Interview (16:24) — An on-site interview with director Zhao Ji as well as voice actors Kai Wang (Yang Jian) and Guanlin Ji (Wang Luo) delving into the collaborative nature of creating their characters.

Arts and Culture Spotlight (13:04) — A featurette exploring the making of the film from various angles, from animation techniques (of note, the film’s evocation of Chinese ink wash paintings in a key sequence) to character and production design to casting and music.

Art Gallery (3:58) — A slideshow of 44 art stills of character and environment concept art

New Gods: Yang Jian is available on streaming platforms and on Blu-ray and DVD.

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