While Japan remains the dominant force in cyberpunk anime, South Korea makes an effort to match their Japanese counterparts with their own Korean anime Wonderful Days. Visually it does not disappoint. And the story is a pretty good commentary on the environment and the separation between working and wealthy classes around the world. The year is 2142. The basic premise behind the movie is that civilization has been more or less obliterated by war and pollution, and only a shielded city named Ecoban survives. The story is told from the point of view of Jay, one of the leaders of the security unit. When she was a child, her first love, Shua, promised her that one day they would see a clear blue sky. Now, years after his supposed death, he returns to Ecoban as part of a terrorist organization determined to fulfill his promise.
Casual viewers will find themselves getting desperately confused and cry out for more character development, a stronger story, more focus on the ecological aspect, anything to fill out the blank spots in the story. The film is also about the denial of authority figures of the truth, that people who have power may indeed abuse their power; they would abandon morality and embrace injustice to maintain such power. Story aside, Wonderful Days is a masterpiece, combining traditional 2D animation with photorealistic 3D CGI backgrounds and live-action.
Fans of sci-fi anime will not be disappointed, and while the film doesn’t come close to the brilliance of the original Ghost in the Shell, it is worth a look or two. I would love to see this taken up as a series, which would allow much more development of the characters. There is a relationship between Jay & Cade which doesn’t really get touched on until near the end, when it becomes clear that they are more than just friends. But there are numerous beautiful moments in the film that are still stuck in my head several days after watching the film, so for that reason alone I would suggest that animation fans check it out. The big negative that docks this film a B rating is the pollution subplot. There’s never an explanation of how it works, and by the time the plot has really gathered steam, it’s almost irrelevant.
What’s saddest about the film is that over time it stops becoming an original creation and starts becoming more of a catalog of influences, thematic and visual. This becomes most evident in the action scenes which are vivid and bloody, but doesn’t push the envelope. I need to reiterate that this is a fantastically well-made movie, and any student of animation or film in general will want to see it. My slush pile of anime films has been quite low as of late so I am glad I got to pop this baby in the DVD player and rewatch it. A great film that is well rounded for the most part and has put, in my opinion, Korea on the map for makers of quality anime.