screenplay by Kim Moon-saeng & Park Sun-min & Park Yong-jun
directed by Kim Moon-saeng & Park Sun-min
by Walter Chaw Pretty much your standard anime post-apocalyptic master plot, what distinguishes Kim Moon-saeng and Park Sun-min's Korean contribution Sky Blue is the oppressive weight of its visual accomplishment. Blending the character animations of, say, a Satoshi Kon with the environmental concerns of an early Miyazaki, the movie is beautiful. But at the same time, it slathers on such a thick layer of obfuscating dialogue and glowering plot complications that it's hard to muster up much enthusiasm beyond the initial "wow" factor. Still, that "wow" factor: I don't know that I've ever seen a better blend of CGI and traditional cel animation--in terms of how it looks, Sky Blue even trumps last year's astonishing Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. A shame that a person can only really be dazzled for a few minutes before becoming something closer to "stunned."
Shua is the requisite hunky (sometimes babe-alicious) outlander, living on the fringes of the requisite domed city Ecoban (Eco-Ban, get it?) in the requisite nuclear wasteland. Seems that the requisite despot of said requisite city harvests air pollution, therefore tying his own existence in the most literal, ridiculous way possible to the fates of everyone outside of the city--and thus successfully setting up the requisite Industrial Revolution complication. There is of course the babe-alicious (sometimes hunky) member of the ruling class, Jay, who's torn by her allegiance to the machine and her memories of a youth spent with a crush on the prepubescent Shua. Enter requisite love triangle.
Because the film is so stunning, it's easy to be distracted from the narrative, which, although simple and overly familiar, is presented in such a way as to make it an irritation. Action scenes land with real weight (when Shua is thrown against a wall, it hurts) and the blend between traditional and hi-tech animation techniques is, again, at least to these eyes, seamless and logical. The problem with a two-hour lightshow, though, is that as its characters wander around discussing the coming insurrection and the injustice of the world at length and with mock urgency, the sophistication of the art begins to take on the childishness of everything else about the piece. A showcase for technology and for what hopes to be an emerging force in the anime field (although in that respect, it's just an accomplished copy of Japanese innovation), Sky Blue, with its blasted landscapes and dreams of open air, makes a mistake when it doesn't invest at least as much in a story that matters or characters with more to do than look great shooting a gun. Originally published: February 18, 2005.