Anime-Breakdown: Satellite Girl and Milk Cow (2014)

Korean animation, much like India animation industry, are things I know almost nothing about. They usually get overshadowed either by Hollywood, Japan, and heck even the French in that area. While South Korea do have their success story like The King of Pigs which is a generally well received movie. Anime fans on the other hand know South Korea for their work on trashy knockoffs like Super Kid, Diatron 5, and Blue Seagull. All three which are infamous for their bad quality, and in the case of Diatron 5 a classic among the so bad it’s good anime. The general public on the other hand is unlikely to clearly name you a Korean animated movie, or TV series they like from the top of their head. Would you believe me that AKOM, a South Korean animation studio actually animated over 200 episodes of The Simpsons, and also worked on Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, Bob’s Burger, and several other series. Shocking I know South Korea animation industry contributes a lot more than what the average person probably think they do. Today’s movie likely won’t cause that huge wave of exposure Korean animation desires to match Hollywood, or Japan, but the strange, and charming movie might get you more interested in checking out their stuff.

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Wizard toilet paper, not the strangest thing you’ll see in the movie

Satellite Girl, and Milk Cow tells the everyday story of KITSAT-1, a satellite, who wants to learn about human emotions, and crash lands on Earth. After crash landing on Earth, she is transforms into a girl, and tries to help Kyung-chun who has been transformed into a milk cow. As unusual as the premise sounds, don’t worry this is only the setup to a strange, but charming love story. Offering a strange cast of leading characters to follow; you have a satellite who falls in love with a musician after hearing one of his songs, you have a musician who turns into a milk because he’s broken hearted, and magical wizard named Merlin who got turned into toilet paper. Once you accept the strange story the character themselves are a lot fun to be around. KITSAT-1 is trying experiencing human emotion for the first time, and Kyung-chun is trying to sort out of his life, and his love life. The film does a good job exploring both of these characters conflicts. Giving both characters a fair amount of screen time tackling their issues together, and on their own to reflect what they’re looking for in life. Providing a full understanding where each is coming from, and taking the time to slowly show how they change.

A consequence of the film’s runtime is parts of the film are rushed, and in some cases lead to some head scratching moments. One of these happens late in the movie where a woman calls the police on Kyung-chun in his Milk Cow form suspecting him of attempting to abduct a child. During the scene, Kyung-chun acts out of character, and instead of sorting out the situation he goes to eat grass letting KITSAT-1 calm the angry citizens. Parts of the story aren’t properly explained like the organization the villain works. A minor complaint about the writing is aspects the world aren’t clearly explained. You’ll be left wondering where in the world did the Incinerator come from, and how widespread is the problem of broken hearted human being turned into animals is. Part of it remedied by keeping the conflict confined, and the villain’s motivation simple. Yes, it’s all about money. However, a lot of it charm seeps through the weaker aspects of its writing. Everything about the film feels sincere in its efforts to have fun while touching on the theme of love in its unique way. Not shying away from taking advantage from the strange world it created, even if the results is all over the place.

As individual characters both KITSAT-1, and Kyung-chun have satisfactory arcs, but in the romance department the bonding moments are rushed at times. One moment it’s all lovey dovey, and the next moment it’s the sorrowful we can’t be together. It still works since the story puts effort into ensuring they have plenty of bonding moments, but if allowed to play out more naturally it would have end up feeling more meaningful than it did.  Lastly, wizard toilet paper Merlin appears in frequently in the movie. For the first act he’s on screen, but after that his appearance is random. Given he has magical abilities some of the film conflicts could have been resolved easier if he was present his is made more noteworthy because of it. Although, Merlin is given some great, over the top dialogue which makes him a pleasant whenever to see on screen.

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Ah, the magic of toilet paper

The studio behind this is Now OR Never Studio, with animator/director Chang Hyung-yun handling of the project initially looking rough. When you do see 2D digital animation for the first time it is rough looking. Seeing a 2D cow running away from a mechanical Incinerator with jenky 3D movements, and obvious 3D background. The animation is consistent in quality. In particular when it comes to framing, and moving the camera in certain shots eliminating any semblance of perspective. The rotation of the camera in points inadvertently makes the 2D part look really bad.

Thankfully, a good chunk of the movie looks just fine. While it pales in comparison to 2D from other countries it works fine here. Generally the movie is colorful, and the backgrounds are decently detail in 2D. Always trying keep what’s on screen in motion. Offering some nice visual gags along the way, as well as some strange sights like Merlin the wizard toilet paper having arms, and legs. It’s strange to witness, but overall charming.

When it comes to voice acting both the Korean, and English tracks are pretty good. Thankfully, the English dub actually dubs the Korean songs in English. So you won’t get taken out of the moment when viewing the movie. I personally prefer the English dub because Kirk Thornton who voices Merlin is the highlight. He delivers such goofy sounding dialogue with plenty of charisma its infectious. I also like Daniel J Edwards (assuming he sang it) of the few songs that get played. However, there’s the consequence of the voice not matching the lip flaps of the characters on several occasions. It’s very distracting, though didn’t ruin the experience for me.

Satellite Girl, and Milk Cow is jenky in its animation, and wonky in its writing at times, but a lot of its charm seep through despite these issues. The production team is clearly trying to create a good film, and it shows through in the final product. It’ll a take a while to get over it shortcomings on all front, and you’re willing to a give it a chance despite that you might just find a good underneath the rough, and strange front to enjoy.

Rating: 7/10

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