New Things in the New Mulan

Over the weekend I sat down to watch the new live action Mulan on Disney+.

There were two things I liked about the remake. One was referencing qi, and the other was additional character of Xianniang, the shape shifting witch.

What interested me most about the film was how it incorporated qi (ch’i), a principal used in many Asian belief systems that is described as a vital force forming part of any living entity.

As someone who’s interested in spirituality and exploring similarities and differences between belief systems of other cultures, I was excited that a mainstream film used it as part of the story to explain what makes Mulan, Mulan.

However, I think they could have gone deeper into explaining it, or how Mulan connects to it spiritually, instead of just physically with her fighting moves.

It felt like they were too busy trying to make sure they hit all the same plot points as the animated film, rather than exploring this new aspect to Mulan’s character they added in and what it means to her.

As an example of what I’m looking for, in Avatar: the Last Airbender, there’s an episode that shows Aang learning how to connect to the Avatar state by unblocking his chakras. Chakras are another spiritual principal that is used to help someone connect to their energy force. The episode does well in explaining what chakras are and what Aang has to do for each one in order to unblock it.

I understand that a film can’t spend thirty minutes on explaining a whole new belief system, but there could have been a way from them to explain it better, and have us get to know Mulan in a way we’ve never seen before.

The second new thing I liked about the movie was Xianniang. If you remember in the animated film, Shan Yu had a pet falcon that acted like his eyes and ears. In the live-action, Xianniang replaces the falcon as a witch who can shape shift and works along side with Khan.

I love that Xianniang was meant to be Mulan’s dark counterpart. They both have powers that they’ve developed by remaining true to themselves, but have been judged and shunned by others when they use them.

This is why I wished they showed Mulan connecting to her qi in a more spiritual way, so that we can see how it compares and contrasts to Xianniang.

Obviously Xianniang has accepted who she is already, while Mulan is just learning how and what that means. But what choices did she make to get her to where she’s at? And how do those differ to Mulan’s choices?

Again, I felt like the issue was the pressure of hitting those same plot points as the animated film. It didn’t feel like there was room to explore this new character and what qi means to her.

At it’s core, the story of Mulan is about a young woman being true to herself in order to fight for what she believes in. I think adding the concept of qi and the character of Xianniang would have deepened the theme and made the live action more satisfying, if they were given more time to breath.

And I’m going to say it, I don’t think we need Mushu and the songs to fully enjoy the retelling of this story.

What did you think of the new Mulan? Are you looking forward to any more of the live action films? The Little Mermaid is the next one for me!

ATLA Drawing Inspriation

I wanted to share some drawings I did earlier this year that were inspired by Avatar: The Last Airbender. I was excited to rewatch this series, and Legend of Korra when they became available on Netflix. (Here is a post I wrote earlier this year about the show.)

In these drawings, I wanted to highlight some under represented cultures. It was also fun imagining what the Avatar universe fashion would be like in modern times.

Enjoy!

Fire Nation
Air Nomads
Earth Kingdom
Water Tribe

Avatar: The Last Airbender is on NETFLIX!!!!

The Netflix gods have finally deemed the US worthy of having access to this piece of amazing culture!!!

I am on my way to binge the show and here’s some of what I’m most excited to relive (not in any particular order):

1. The breaking down of sexism and featuring strong female characters. All the women in The Last Airbender are freaking amazing and no one can tell them otherwise. Just look at how Katara proved that to the Northern Water Tribe bending teacher. She proved that she belonged there, not because she was a girl, but because she was already an excellent water bender and desired to learn more. Toph is, of course, another one of my favorites. She’s stubborn, but just as dynamic. And I have to shout out Azula. She’s scary but she makes a great villain for both Aang and Zuko.

2. I love seeing how The Last Airbender incorporates eastern religions and beliefs. It’s a fun and interesting way of getting exposed to them and learning about how other people across the world tap into their spirituality. One of my favorite episodes is the Chakrah episodes, in which Aang has to learn to align his chakras in order to control how he goes in and out of the Avatar state. I also love seeing how each bending principle is derived from moves of different martial arts. Needless to say, I love when a show does its research.

3. Zuko’s transformation. He easily as the BEST character arc in the show. He went from believing his destiny to be capturing the Avatar so that he can gain back his honor and be welcomed back by his father (and, albeit, a super angsty teenager) to realizing his true destiny involving the Avatar (befriending him and helping him defeat his own father, Fire Lord Ozai).

4. Uncle Iroh, his infinite wisdom and his pursuit in tea and all his leisures! I freaking love Uncle Iroh. He has so much patience with Zuko and truly loves him, even at his angsty-est. Sometimes I wish I could have an Uncle Iroh in my life. Not to mention, he’s another great comic relief character.

5. Watching this show as an adult has me appreciate Aang’s kid perspective. I love how he’s always looking to have fun and doesn’t mind talking back to adults if need be. It’s really refreshing to watch, even though he does have this big task at hand. It’s like a reminder to not take life so seriously all the time and find the fun in life every once in awhile.

If you’re finding yourself bored during this quarantine, I highly recommend this show. Even if it is technically a kid’s show, there’s a lot to learn. The story and the world it takes place in is really well thought out and planned. I guarantee you’ll be satisfied at the end. And for fellow fans who are also rewatching, what parts are you looking forward to?