Three Body Animation (2022) – BiliBili
I suspect almost nobody has seen this series as there is no proper way to watch it with English subtitles. Three Body Problem is one of my favorite books so when this animated series was announced it quickly got my attention. The trailer was magnificent in my opinion and did a great job of showing the very subtle and scary nature of how Trisolaris is always observing and plotting against humanity. Once it actually began airing I discovered that there was no way to watch it and that it was in fact an adaptation of the second book, The Dark forest, rather than the first book Three Body Problem. The Dark Forest is what I believe is the best part of the trilogy so that was great news. After waiting weeks and then months for some kind of translation or way to watch this I lost my patience and decided to do whatever it takes to translate it and create subtitles myself. Knowing absolutely no Chinese myself this was a bit of a difficult task. In the end I found some software that was able to process the video file itself and identify text on screen and extract the Chinese text and the timing in the video into a series of images. Then after feeding the images to OCR software to convert it into Chinese text I used a combination of Google translate and ChatGPT to translate the text into English. After a lot of grammar editing I combined everything back into a properly timed subtitle file and muxed it together with the video. Then I was able to properly watch the episode.
After putting in so much work I was rather disappointed in the end. For the majority of the series they focused on what is arguably the least interesting part of The Dark Forest. On top of that the pacing was awkward and the tone made it feel like a comedy when the source material was much more serious. The plot starts by showing the climax of the first book which involves the destruction of the ETO ship by slicing it into dozens of thin pieces using wires made of nano material. I enjoyed seeing this scene animated as it was quite the spectacular moment in the book. They also did this scene at the end of the recent live action adaptation of the first book. While that version was nearly all CGI for this scene as well I believe the animation did it far better. Another aspect of the animation that I believe they did a great job with is the character design. I don’t know how, but all of the characters are essentially exactly as I imagined them to be. I watched the live action adaptation prior to this one, but I think the actor they chose for Da Shi is not how I imagined him. Without the limitations of finding an actor who can play the role the animation is better able to characterize exactly as the book describes.
One of the aspects of the animated adaptation that I have seen get criticized frequently is the art style. Both the characters and the scenes seem to not appeal to many people. Personally I think the art is my favorite part of this adaptation and possibly the only redeeming quality. Without spending an obscene amount of money to make CGI at the level of Wandering Earth II this is the best that could have been done. With the amount of technology depicted such as space stations, futuristic cities, particle accelerators and alien space ships that are in the book I don’t think it would have looked quite right to use a more realistic style of CGI. The emotions that are able to be expressed by the characters with this style can also a bit more exaggerated as well as subtle which I think suits this show well.
I think this series had a lot of potential that it squandered with poor pacing and choosing the wrong aspects to focus on. The show only adapted a small portion of The Dark Forest so without another 4 to 5 seasons the slow pacing does not make a lot of sense. A lot of plots were clearly set up for later, but their plots went nowhere because the show ended before it could make much progress. Instead it spent a disproportionate amount of time on Luo Ji trying to get away from his responsibilities as a Wall Facer and abuse his position to find a woman from his writing and imagination. Then it turns into an out of place love story that goes on for much longer than it did in the book. They also changed some key plot points compared to the book which ended up devolving into a weird quantum time type nonsense. I didn’t entirely dislike the story they told, but I would have much preferred they stick to the source material more closely as I don’t believe the writers are as good at coming up with as fascinating fictional science as Cixin Liu.
I believe this show could still redeem itself with at least a couple more seasons as long as they resolve a couple of key issues. First and foremost the pacing needs to be sped up if they want to have any chance of making it to the most interesting parts of the book. In the next season they need to have Luo Ji come to terms with his role as a Wall Facer as quickly as possible and get to the part of the book that takes place in the distant future. Secondly the tone should be more serious rather than what I can only describe as a romantic comedy. And lastly and maybe most important of all is the plot should stick to the source material and adapt the story that people want to see. This adaptation could be great and I hate to see it in such an awkward state.