Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: MTJJ Mutou
Writers: MTJJ Mutou, Kevin Peng
Actors: Kei Gambit, Youji Wang, Kana Hanazawa, Jenny Yokobori
By Joan Amenn
Hei (Kei Gambit) is a cat-sort of. He lives in a forest that is being destroyed by humans and flees to look for a new home. His journey begins a series of discoveries about himself and a world he didn’t know existed while he meets many strange, magical beings who seem very interested in him.
“The Legend of Hei”(2019) was a huge feature film hit in its native China based on characters created for a webtoon. It is beautifully animated with many creatively designed creatures but its plot can be a little difficult to follow. However, this doesn’t detract for the most part for a fun-filled adventure that an entire family would enjoy.
Hei is quite the shapeshifter but he’s not the only one. It can be a little confusing with so many characters to keep track of who is on who’s side but there are many unexpectedly enjoyable moments too. One especially clever running gag is how both the magical and human world are obsessed with cellphones. An epic battle between two arch enemies in an urban mall is riveting because the animation is so well executed. Hei is adorable as a cat with enormous eyes and as an equally large eyed waif with what appear to be furry ears. Well, he is a magical being, after all.
The plot is a little odd in its subtext that mankind and the spirit world need to coexist peacefully, but when nature is harmed by humans, magical creatures are not supposed to interfere. Hei was living among forest animals in the beginning of the film but is later encouraged to enjoy living in an urban setting with others like him and never mind about those deer, birds and other living things that were displaced by chainsaws and fume spewing excavators. If you don’t think too deeply about the implications of who the villain of the film is and why, “The Legend of Hei” is a stunningly beautiful treat that should be enjoyed the way Hei himself relishes every snack that comes his way.