Wonderful Days

Anime is an acquired taste, a genre of movies based on the style of Japanese comic books. Though it has a select following, anime is all the rage, not only in South Asia, but all over the world.

Wonderful Days is a South Korean anime film which released in 2003, directed by Kim Moon-Saeng. Released in English as ‘Blue Sky’, the movie is classified as ‘cyberpunk’ which is essentially a science fiction genre, dealing with advanced technology and a radical change in the world’s social structure.

The year is 2142. The planet has been polluted beyond all limits and the only a select elite population lives in the confines of ECOBAN, a city powered by pollution. Living outside are the Marrians, the pariah class, treated as menial workers to mine carbon to power the increasing consumption of energy in ECOBAN. However, there is a radical segment of the Marrians, also known as the Diggers, led by an elderly rebel Dr. Noah. Their mission is to shut down ECOBAN, which is running low on power, prompting its administrators to contemplate torching fifty oilfields, effectively increasing pollution and eliminating the Marrians’ livelihoods.

Shua, the leader of the mission, looks to the black skies with only wish: to see them blue as he had once in childhood. On a reconnaissance mission into ECOBAN, he meets his childhood friend Jay, who he had believed was dead after being banished from the city years ago. Her love for him interferes with her duty as security official.

After meeting Jay, Shua’s resolve to show her a blue sky pulls him towards a dangerous mission. Head security official Cade, despite nursing a personal grudge towards Shua, is determined to keep Jay away from him and eliminate him. With meticulously detailed sequences, the final battle to shut down ECOBAN plays out beautifully on the screen.

From the opening credits, the movie delivers jaw-dropping visuals, a surreal mix of 2D and 3D animation. The 2D characters in 3D surroundings and the detailed settings create an unreal, yet believable atmosphere. It is no wonder that the movie took 7 years to complete, with a budget of $10 million. Some scenes have an almost videogame-like feel and scenes such as the ride through disused fields of wind turbines and the action scenes are vivid and bloody, without being too gory. Apart from the main characters, the band of Marrian characters are sharply drawn, especially Shua’s adopted brother Woody, a typically boisterous young kid.

The movie has a very subtle approach to music, which is artistically done not to create a sensory overload from the vivid animation. Soft instrumental music swells to racy action-scene music and a climax of opera in the final scene.

The environmental theme is understated, but not underplayed. What we don’t see is outright campaigning for a save-our-planet message. In the movie, it’s already too late for that. The social divide is the main theme and a man’s connection to nature is viewed through the lens of his almost fanatical desire to see blue skies.

The only weaknesses in the movie are the slightly complicated storyline which takes a while to understand and some rather slow scenes. Also, the frontrunner of the rebel movement, Dr Noah, and the main villain are barely given any screen time. The love triangle of Cade-Jay-Shua is also slightly clichéd. Watch it on YouTube, however, for the stunning visual experience and the feel-good factor.

There are a number of environmental-themed movies that ram the message down the viewer’s throat :  ‘Save the Planet Before It’s Too Late’. Wonderful Days, however, stands apart with a post apocalyptic view of the future and a subtle, almost subliminal message about how important the planet is to our future.  It’s worth a watch, for the technofreak, the tree-hugger and the average viewer.

Vrinda Manocha

[Image courtesy: http://inferno.slug.org/jpeg/wonderful-days/wonderful-days.jpg]