Xiao Qian was released in the late 90s from the studio Triangle Staff. That’s right, one of the studios behind Uchuu Kaizoku Mito and the studio we have to thank for Serial Experiments Lain. It’s based off of the short story Nie Xiaoqian. So, let’s see how it holds up as a film.
We follow a young debt collector, Ning as he takes a journey to forget his former beloved Lan Siu who left him on account of his ignoring her in favour of earning money. Dude, we get it you need money but a successful relationship is built on communication. You can’t just ignore your partner. In any case, he encounters a pair of ghost busting monks who purify some evil spirits in front of him. While he runs and waves his arms about like a right useless bastard. After the excitement, he continues on his journey only to find himself in city filled with spirits and uncertain how to survive.
Let’s dig right into the primary issue that plagues this film. The pacing. And this isn’t like yesterday’s subject either where the pacing could have been better but wasn’t that bad. In this it’s an absolute mess. Once the film’s gotten going we can’t get a couple minutes between one long action sequence involving a lot of shouting and the next. Its like Ning’s whole shtick is getting carried into absurd situations where he’s completely useless. He’s like Yamcha. There’s also the big romance plot. Which is complete tripe. Our leads have no chemistry, seemingly nothing whatsoever in common and no apparent reason behind one being attracted to the other. He basically looks at her and thinks “wow, she’s pretty.” then she sees him and thinks “I’m going to steal his life force” but then changes her mind and falls for him for no apparent reason. Which is a general problem with the film. A lot of the “motivations” are nonsense. The ending is pretty shit too.
In addition to the motivation problem, one of the big character issues has to do with consistency. I touched on that with the romance, but it goes deeper than that. There are characters who will quite literally switch their positions in five minutes without any compelling reason to do so. But the worst element of the characters has to be Ning. Not only is he pretty damn annoying, but he’s a completely useless character. This isn’t like Spirited Away where an everyday protagonist goes to a world of spirits and does well for themselves. This dude is completely out of his depth the entire time. And that type of character only really works in a comedy and even then you don’t want them as the lead.
The art is a bit more mixed than the other elements. On the positive side, some of the supernatural designs look pretty good and the film does do a good job with making the city of spirits look pretty vibrant and unique. On the negative side, the animation is very clumsy and the designs for the more ordinary parts of the world are crap. There’s also the issue with the CG elements not meshing well with the more traditional animation.
The acting is, at best, barely passable. Maybe it’s just that the script involves a lot of frantic shouting and it’s really grating. Maybe it’s that the actors, as a whole, sound like they don’t give a shit but the consequence is that the performances just aren’t very good. The music is okay.
There is none. Which suits me fine because, judging by what they do with the romance they do have, it wouldn’t have been good.
Xiao Qian is pretty bad. It’s riddled with story problems, characterisation is weak and inconsistent, it doesn’t look or sound good. I’m going to give it a 3/10. Tomorrow I’ll end the week with a look at Aki no Kanade.