Photos - Hakujaden
Yes, those red fish are really spitting on the blue fish. Don't ask.
Closing out my late-late fury of posts on Toei's landmark anime Hakujaden (The Legend of the White Serpent), here is a series of excellent screenshots to share with everyone.
Originally, I was just going to post the Youtube links to the American version, Panda and the Magic Serpent. If there's anyone who has heard of this movie on our shores, it would be this dubbed version. That video is ripped from and old VHS copy, and it (painfully) shows. The upload also resulted in the loss of many animation frames, making the whole exercise choppy and jerky. You really have to look hard to see the great movie that lies underneath. Fortunately, I've found the download link to the complete Hakujaden with subs, so you won't have to settle.
Hakujaden (1958) is a telling of a Chinese folk tale, and it's a love story between a boy and a girl. Or more specifically, it's a love story between a boy and a girl who's also a snake spirit. There is a fiery monk who battles spirits who comes between them, and we are left to guess whether she is good or evil. And there is the panda and fox, who get caught up in some misadventures of their own. It's a great movie, an excellent showpiece for the Toei studio, and there's something for everyone.
I found myself gripped all the way to the end. I couldn't tell which side is right or wrong. No doubt most of that is because of my unfamiliarity with the Chinese story, but there's a great deal of suspense in this movie, not only what happens between the two lovers, but ultimately which person is right: the monk or the girl. Oh, and I really liked Panda.
Oh, and I should add one more thing. There's a sequence near the end that involves a storm at sea, a giant fish, and an army of smaller fish. I immediately saw a direct parallel to the similar scene from Ponyo's trailer, and it seems Miyazaki might have seen Hakujaden as a source of inspiration. After all, it was this movie that convinced the young asipring manga artist to become an animator. He would join Toei in 1963 after graduating college, and the rest is yadda yadda.
If you are still fooled with the stereotype that old anime is cheap or low-budget, Hakujaden will seriously change your mind. In the late 1950's, this movie was giving Uncle Walt a real run for the money. Give this movie a chance and see what it does for you.