The most popular premise for a movie by far is the one where a guy (or in Spirited Away’s case: girl) winds up in a fantasy world, and meets a beautiful girl (or in Spirited Away’s case: guy) who is special in some kind of way, and the two of them predictably fall in love. A Chinese Ghost Story shows the Chinese attempt at this trope, as it’s one of the few anime that has been fully produced in China.
Interestingly enough, the creators did a pretty good at this one. Okay, they didn’t create a blockbuster, but it’s definitely better than Gonzo’s attempt at the trope: Brave Story. There are two reasons for this: the deep roots into Chinese Mythology, and the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously at times. It’s not a pure comedy, and the fantasy does take priority throughout the movie, but the inclusion of quirky characters and dialogue makes sure for a light-hearted feeling to the entire movie. You can especially see this in the fights. Due to their semi-serious nature, in combination with a movie-budget, they turned out to be really fun to watch, and a highlight for this movie. Something that doesn’t happen often.
The roots into Chinese Mythology also made sure that the fantasy-world didn’t turn out to be to be the same like the others. The main character for this story works as a debt collector who just got dumped by his girlfriend. During one of his assignments, he runs into a ghost town. As I’ve seen mostly Japanese mythology in my anime lately, it was refreshing to see the differences in both. For starters, the ghosts can just be seen by normal people and even a bunch of stairs turns out to be a ghost. It’s also been a while since I saw people talk this lightly about reincarnation.
The movie does have flaws, though. The most obvious one is concerning the graphics. This movie uses traditional drawings, combined with a huge amount of CG-backgrounds and animations, and the two just don’t blend well together, and end up looking fake. Another thing is that the animators just didn’t figure out how to synchronize the mouth movements with the voice-acting. It makes for a nice style, but sometimes it’s a bit too obvious. The rest of the animation for the traditional drawings looks excellent though, just like what you’d suspect from a movie.
Another flaw comes with the writing. Through most of its part, it makes the movie fun to watch, but sometimes it’s just a bit too far-fetched. Especially the ending comes with a few twists that just don’t feel right. Be sure to expect a Deus ex Machina here and there as well.
Overall, if you’re looking for something different, you might give this one a try. The Chinese definitely have a different style of dialogues than the Japanese have. It won’t win any awards, but it’s a fun movie.