Sunday, August 03, 2008

[DVD] Wonderful Days aka Sky Blue (2003)

Don't Shoot Me Down

When science fiction-fantasy animation comes to mind, no doubt you'll look towards the land of the rising sun for definitive versions of the genre, and there are plenty of quality material to choose from, given the wealth of material and works by animators and filmmakers alike. Wonderful Days will mark my first Korean movie in this genre that deals with ailing worlds and its fair share of mecha-like vehicles to tickle the visual senses with its eye for detail.

Visually, the movie is stunning, especially when it combines 2D animation with a 3D world built from realistic models to give it visual depth, and spruced up with computer graphics. As mentioned, attention to detail is remarkable, and the fight sequences, even though the characters aren't using any fancy weapons, with very ordinary looking handguns as weapons of choice, they manage to thrill with its three-dimensionality and sheer energy that got translated seamlessly for the screen, and I can only imagine watching this on the big screen, where I will likely duck from objects being thrown about.

Impressive set action pieces that glue the movie together, but the story fell a bit short, as anime fans will likely be a little bit bored with the same-old storyline involving oppressive societies, exploitation of the weak masses, the arrival of a messiah to put things right, a love triangle, and something which I thought was topical for today, that of pollution. In the year 2142, the world is destroyed by an ecological disaster, and the remaining few of humankind live in an outpost known as the Ecoban, which curiously enough, pollutes the environment outside more as it maintains survivability inside.

The story felt a little bit like Vexille as well (along with a lot more other anime of this genre), with the rebels trying to infiltrate the Delcos system to stop further annihilation of slaves and their land in order to keep Ecoban running, and this brings our heroine Jay to come into contact with brooding ex-Ecoban colleague turned rebel Shua, You'd come to be one step ahead along the way as you slowly learn of their respective back stories, and just when you thought you could forgive its many plot elements which got introduced sans explanation, and bear with the characters for a bit, then came the operatic tragedy of a finale which somehow took away a lot of its shine, and dragged on so much that it's easy to condemn the movie thereafter with its clumsy dealing of the caricature-like antagonists, despite its superb animation.

But there's a saving grace. Ever since The Fountain, I haven't been able to be swayed that much by a movie's score, until now. The Wonderful Days soundtrack just carries the movie on its own, never mind the relatively weak plot, which received a tremendous boost by the emotive tracks that spoke volumes. In particular, I enjoyed the track "A Prayer", which surprisingly was in English and played at apt moments in the movie, and especially "Mars Theme", even though tracks of such nature are likely necessary to provide that additional emotional oomph which it delivered more than proportionately to the story.

You can sample the soundtrack over at this link.

The Bitwin 2-disc Code 3 edition has only the movie in the first disc, presented in pristine anamorphic widescreen transfer, and audio is in Korean only, with options to choose between the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, or in DTS. A commentary by the filmmakers like the Director and various crew members is also available, but in Korean language only without subtitles. Otherwise, the movie comes with subtitles in English or Korean, and scene selection is split into 6 parts.

Disc 2 contains the special features, but like all Korean Code 3 releases, the language for the features comes in Korean only, with no subtitles. While that won't mar your enjoyment for some of the features, things like the Making Of will be sorely affected because you can't understand half of what's being said. Running a total of 48:48, this feature charts the long drawn production of the movie, starting from the Preproduction of the film's story, its miniatures, cell animation and computer graphics, before looking at some raw sequences done in the Multimation section, and then going on to Post-production activities like music and sound, before rounding it up with a summary of the Marketing effort. Split into 5 sections, there is a play all option that you can utilize.

The Production Notes autoplays a timeline with selectable details presented in Korean text only. However, when you hit to year 1999 and month 4 (April), then you get a bonus of an unseen show reel which featured extremely different artwork and a slightly different storyline, which runs for 4:08.

The Gallery consists of 4 sections, the first two which will autoplay, presenting the Landscapes (3:23), and vehicles and weapons (2:14). The other 2 sections consists of mostly stills from the movie, and pictures of scaled models used in the design.

A bunch of Promotional Material is presented as well in a separate section in anamorphic widescreen, and contains the Theatrical Trailer (1:43), Trailer 1 (3:02), Trailer 2 in English (3:04), Music Video (4:25) and 9 still images of different Posters used for the movie.

Rounding off the special features are the various bibliographies of the Filmmakers involved in Wonderful Days, and is presented in Korean text only.

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