Trinity CineAsia brings Chinese animation DEEP SEA will be available across Picturehouse cinemas via its famous Kids’ Club.

★★★★☆ 4/5

Tian Xiaopeng concocts a bizarre yet visually appealing blend with the Deep Sea.

The journey starts with a shipwreck not unlike the one in Life of Pi. The similarities extend to a lifeboat which in this case, arrives in the form of the Deep Sea Restaurant (the head chef, Nanhe, desperate for Michelin approval).

It becomes more apparent that Shenxiu (the little girl) is a stand-in for Chihiro from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Nanhe, a reworked Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. From the clothes she wears to her spirit mentors, Shenxiu is almost exactly Chihiro.

Shenxiu, however, does not want to go back.

In fact, the world under the sea is not the Miyazaki informed fantasy, but an extension of the subconscious. To this effect, Life of Pi appears to be the primary influence. The ambiguities of Pi‘s story, both past and present, can be paralleled with Shenxiu’s. The zoo is replaced with the storybook as the anchor into our protagonist’s latent memories of a formative experience.

3D animation provides Xiaopeng with a medium uniquely positioned to take advantage of the blurring lines between reality, memories and phenomena. The resulting set pieces are a breathtaking reflection of Shenxiu’s mental state.

I would highly recommend Deep Sea to those interested in 3D animation or the direction of mainstream Chinese animation. Also, fans of Miyazaki’s work will find it rewarding to see his sustained influence.