Big Fish & Begonia

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Big Fish & Begonia Movie Poster Image
Mystical anime has deep themes, some peril.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages thinking about the meaning and purpose of life. Chun demonstrates compassion for a child whose brother drowns, taking responsibility for her role in his death and then courageously attempting to trade her life to restore his. A secondary message intends to counter that feeling of immortality that can exist among headstrong youth: The world is a beautiful but dangerous place.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All four main characters behave selflessly, putting others' needs and lives before their own. But in trying to do the right thing, they make choices that put others in grave danger.


Teen characters are frequently in peril, although mostly bloodless. One teen drowns and another faces certain death from a snakebite. One upsetting scene depicts dolphins caught in a fisherman's net; blood gushes when one is speared.


Male and female teen characters are drawn nude to depict a type of rebirth; the figures aren't anatomically correct but are drawn genitalia-neutral, similar to small-breasted Barbie and Ken dolls.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult smokes. A 17-year-old orders a potion to help with his emotional pain and then asks the apothecary whether he "has something for a hangover" because the potion will be his "first drink."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Big Fish & Begonia is a deep anime fantasy that blends Chinese myths with big themes, including life, death, love, and sacrifice. Characters are frequently in peril, and there are mildly scary and upsetting scenes. While the tale presents death as "a stop on the way to eternity," the characters go to extreme lengths to save others' lives, including giving up their own. Some characters say that the young don't appreciate the value of living, but those who sacrifice their lives are portrayed as selfless, noble, and brave. It's troubling that the main character chooses to give up years of her life instead of her beauty. The film presents but doesn't clearly explore the idea of unintended consequences. A key character defies the laws of nature to resurrect a beautiful young stranger who lost his life saving hers; in doing so, she sets in motion circumstances that lead to death for others. While the film avoids rude language or behavior, a horse does defecate on a character's head. The movie has made a major impact in anime: It's one of the highest-grossing Chinese animated movies of all time.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWorldhugger April 24, 2021

Correction to the review

In the “What Parents Need to Know” section, it says a troubling part was that the main character chooses to give up half her life over her “beauty” and that is... Continue reading
Adult Written byT J November 17, 2018
Teen, 17 years old Written byangelcollins17 January 16, 2020

god friend

went god tell you do good
Teen, 14 years old Written byfilipino1500 June 29, 2018

Very emotional fantasy anime movie

It's a very nice anime movie from the mystical world.

What's the story?

BIG FISH & BEGONIA takes place in a spiritual world that controls time and weather in the human world. It's also where human souls are kept and protected after death until they're reincarnated into fish (if they're "good") or rats (if they're "bad"). While participating in a rite of passage to live on Earth for a week as a dolphin, 16-year-old Chun (voiced by Stephanie Sheh) makes a connection with a handsome human teen (Todd Haberkorn). As Chun leaves to return home, she's caught in a net near a whirlpool, and the boy drowns while saving her. She can't bear the idea that she cost him his life, so she strikes a deal with the Keeper of Souls: She'll give up half her life to allow the boy to return to the human world. As Chun raises the tiny soul, she also raises the ire of her village as it becomes clear she's defied not just the community's rules but also the laws of nature -- which slowly puts her world into chaos as it tries to restore balance.

Is it any good?

The animation in this film is visual poetry: beautiful, flowing, and intelligent. Big Fish & Begonia may very well become a favorite film of preteen anime fans, particularly because of its exploration of love and bravery among young people with powers. Creativity is boundless, presenting an exciting world that exists between Heaven and Earth, one in which animals can fly and grandmothers can become enormous birds.

That said, the Chinese script may have been adjusted to accommodate Western audiences, leading to a somewhat confusing story with mixed messages, especially for Westerners. In Western cultures, teen suicide prevention is a top concern, while other countries' traditions and cultures can sometimes consider it noble to allow yourself to die so another can live. The script tries to play both sides, with throwaway comments tossed in to balance the two philosophies. Beyond that, the story comes off like the filmmakers read an old Chinese philosophy book, only understood two-thirds of it, and then tried to explain it to people who hadn't read it. Bottom line? This one is more about the visuals than the storytelling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their beliefs regarding an afterlife. Big Fish & Begonia offers the idea that when people die, their souls are brought back to life as fish in the ocean. Do you like this idea? Do you think life continues after death?

  • Do you think Chun's actions to restore Kun's life are out of gratitude, compassion, or guilt? Can unselfish behavior actually be the wrong choice?

  • "Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going?" are the opening lines of the dialogue. How would you answer those questions?

  • Is Chun is a positive role model? Why or why not?

  • Were any parts of the movie scary to you? If so, which ones, and why?

Movie details

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