'The Yinyang Master' brings mobile game to the big screen

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, February 9, 2021
Adjust font size:

The main protagonist of "The Yinyang Master" is half-demon and half-human. In much the same way, the movie itself is an exotic mix of cultures — half Chinese and half Japanese.

A still from "The Yinyang Master." [Photo courtesy of CKF Pictures]

The novel "Onmyoji" was written by Japanese author Baku Yumemakura and centers around the Chinese legend of the yin-yang master, who specializes in divination, exorcising demons and performing rituals. This profession is said to have been brought to Japan during the Tang Dynasty (618-906) when many Japanese went to China to study the culture.

The Japanese novel won the hearts of readers in both countries. Chinese game developer NetEase Games, a division under internet giant NetEase, decided in 2016 to adapt it into a 3D role-playing game (RPG). The game became a hit after its release in September 2016, achieving more than 200 million downloads worldwide .

Set in the Japan's Heian period (794-1185), the game follows the onmyoji Abe no Seimei on a quest to retrieve his lost memories, during which he is joined by shikigami spirits — beings which the master can conjure to help him. 

Director Li Weiran on the set of "The Yinyang Master." [Photo courtesy of CKF Pictures]

At almost the same time, in December 2016, Huayi Brothers Media and CKF Pictures announced they would be working with NetEase to adapt the game into a TV series as well as a feature film directed by Li Weiran and starring Chen Kun and Zhou Xun.

Producer Chen Kuo-fu and screenwriter Chang Chia-lu reunited to executive produce the film after having collaborated on the Detective Dee franchise. A team of international talents was also brought on board, including Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi and art director Yoshihito Akatsuka. 

Despite containing many Japanese elements, the director knew his film would need to first pass the examination of his fellow countrymen. "The movie will face Chinese audiences first. So, we felt that we should adapt it into a pure and more complete Chinese story into the world of humans and demons — that was the top priority," he explained. "Although, we didn't want to depart too far from the framework of the original story."

"The Yinyang Master" is not the first film based on "Onmyoji." Late last year, Guo Jingming's "The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity," adapted from the original novel, was a hit in China and debuted on Netflix earlier this year. 

A promotional poster for "The Yinyang Master" [Photo courtesy of CKF Pictures]

According to Li Weiran, "The Yinyang Master" features 2,833 visual effects shots. He and his team also challenged themselves in digital character by creating 702 digital characters and 63 full-CGI shots.

Actor Chen Kun was excited to see the finished result, having spent much of the shoot interacting with "blue men" in the motion capture studio: "I always use my imagination, and I believe everyone will be delighted to see these cute and vivid characters."

A demon character from the movie created using CGI technology. [Photo courtesy of CKF Pictures]

The film crew also made every effort to show the charm of Eastern aesthetics. They spent three months building an elaborate Qing-Ming courtyard on the 5,000-square-meter set, as well as various other spectacular scenery.

Chen was amazed: "The scenes in 'The Yinyang Master' are beyond imagination."

At a promotional event in Beijing on Feb. 5, Li noted that the entire production team was focused on appealing to the emotional experience and memories of the game's players. "We have to find ways to connect with each other. This path is difficult to walk, but we challenged ourselves and kept trying," he said.

The cast and crew of "The Yinyang Master" pose for a group photo at a promotional event in Beijing, Feb. 5, 2021. [Photo courtesy of Huayi Brothers Media]

Wang Zhonglei, CEO of Huayi Brothers Media and producer of the film, also pointed out at the event: "Chinese filmmaking has encountered many ups and downs over the past few years, but it is improving. The storytelling is improving, and the ways of expression are getting better, while technologies are also advancing. 'The Yinyang Master' is a remarkable achievement, and has made huge breakthroughs in digital characters."

He added, "I also like the emotion and spirit delivered by the movie. Despite all the difficulties and setbacks, the filmmakers' hearts are still together, just like the movie's theme: the heart has a home to return to."

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter