Cloud and Wind are two martial arts disciples on the path of revenge. Each of their families were murdered by a powerful master and warlord called Conquer, so to learn what they need to defeat Conquer they become Conquer’s disciples. But realising they’ll never learn enough, they instead make a deal: Wind allows himself to be posessed by a demon, giving him the strength to defeat Conquer, but when the time comes Cloud must kill him.
The above is approximately the plot of the 1998 martial arts movie Storm Riders (or rather of the comic it was based on – the film missed out the demon bit). This Chinese animation is a sequel to it: all of the above happens in the first few minutes, and is followed by further events: Wind loses control of the demon and the two fight; Cloud is defeated, loses his memory and winds up in a strange town with some thieves. Wind regains his mind, at least temporarily, and starts looking for him – both as a friend, and as the man who must kill him when the demon next takes control. A local warlord also starts looking for the two of them, believing he can extract the demon’s power and use it to rule the world.
I really wanted to like this film more. The production values are impressive, it is gorgeously pretty with fluid motion and convincing supernatural effects – as long as you don’t mind that the men are big muscly detailed men and the women are weak and sketchy and not up to the job. But the story was lacking something important: context. It jumps into the first two huge fights without more than a glance at the story leading up to them. It assumes you know and care about people you’ve never met before. There is a little character development, but it builds on a foundation that isn’t included in this film.
Sadly, it seems to have fallen into the same trap as so many adaptations: it assumes you know the original comics. Even the previous film didn’t include all the back story you need to follow this – I was only able to piece together the plot by reading up on the difference between the comics and the film. The comics have been released in English, but since the publisher went bust they’re only available second hand.