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Wonderful Days: The love story you should watch this Valentines Day

This Valentines Day, buck the trend and watch something with depth and substance, something utterly beautiful. Watch Korean animated epic Wonderful Days.

Wonderful Days (known as Sky Blue in the West) first hit our screens in 2003, the first feature-film from Korean director Kim Moon-saeng. It’s a personal favourite of mine, and gets a solid 5 stars.

It may be billed as a sci-fi film with an environmental slant, but it’s really best described as a romantic drama. The central character, Jay, lives in a closed-off eco-city called Ecoban, and through her work as a security guard is soon reconnected with her old friend Shua, who disappeared when they were kids. Since the incident that tore them apart, he’s been living as a rebel in the slums outside the city, and her reconnection with him also makes her aware of the injustice in the world – how the city treats the poor folk who live outside it in the polluted wastelands.

While the plot after this revolves around returning justice to society (and it makes a lot of great points about how people with power might act should a post-apocalpytic situation occur) the main undercurrent of the film lies in Jay and Shua regaining this deep connection. There’s something beautiful about watching Jay shed her old preconceptions from life in the city, and refusing to accept things any longer just because she had previously been benefiting from it. If it hadn’t been for Shua, she might never have woken up from her shielded views – he’s passionate about helping others, strong-willed but never mean about it, and although he initially has a problem with her being part of the security force for Ecoban, he remains open and compassionate.

Variant DVD cover featuring Cade, Jay and Shua
Variant DVD cover artwork showing the three principal characters

The romantic undercurrent also drags in Jay’s commanding officer, Cade, who clearly is obsessed with her and throughout the film maintains a white-knight attitude, where he believes he knows what’s best for her, and wants to rid her mind of any subversion or questioning of the system, whilst attempting to draw her closer to him. She really doesn’t feel anything for him other than friendly collegiality, but the notion that she might have settled for him if things had happened differently makes me feel uncomfortable. The fact that the writers manage to convey this uncomfortableness is a good thing – we’re not meant to see Cade’s actions as anything but manipulative and selfish. Ultimately this isn’t all he amounts to though, and what ends up happening is something that typifies the complex nature of human character – something you’ll just have to watch to find out.

Of course this results in some interesting interactions between Jay, Shua and Cade. Mix this with the anger of some Ecoban higher-ups regarding the plot to create class equality, and you have some emotional showdowns worthy of the most passionate of classical operas. Seriously, La Traviata, eat your heart out! Wonderful Days is over-the-top, true, but it’s an amazingly strong story that manages to feature manipulation and unhealthy relationships without romanticising them.

Usually one might be tempted to consider a story that celebrates simplistic values of selflessness and kindness as woefully basic, but the fact it’s a stereotype doesn’t mean it can’t be done well. For anyone who’s had such a strong connection to someone else before (and let’s be honest, that’s everyone), this film will make you feel it all over anew.

On top of this, the animation is simply stellar. Featuring a combination of high-quality CG similar to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, motion-control footage of miniatures and traditional cel-shading, it’s a technical marvel and the scenes flow beautifully. The character design is somewhat reminiscent of older anime movies such as Vampire Hunter D, but a little softer, and the soundtrack is simply beyond words.

My only gripe with this film is that the map of ‘Gibraltar’ is actually a map of Santorini, a volcanic island in Greece, but this is real muck-raking levels of criticism here – the film is practically flawless.

So, if you’re looking for something with passion and drama, don’t turn to cheap portrayals of bad relationships – turn to Wonderful Days, and your day will be truly wonderful.

 

main image from imgkid.com

Comments

  1. It’s called ‘Sky Blue’ on Western release, and the differences are subtle but telling – as well as the film being ten minutes shorter. If possible, get hold of the Korean limited edition, as it’s the only full version with English subtitles (the German one may come in a fancy steelbook, but there’s NO English involved anywhere). Sky Blue is very good. Wonderful Days is superb.

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