The King of Pigs goes back and forth between the past and the present, which makes for a really difficult film to follow if you have terrible subtitles. The animation is fairly basic, if not dated, and the design of the whole is still very poor, with a coarseness and attention to detail that is not very happy. The general impression I received was basically a rehash of Kazuto Nakazawa’s work on Kill Bill vol. 1. Poor South Korea, after Wonderful Days, they are still trying to make their mark on the animation industry. Leaving a girl with a rope mark on her neck, the bespectacled lead ‘phones the old school pal, who is having domestic troubles of his own. During their night drinking and walking together, we see flashbacks to their school days, where they were at the bottom layer of a brutal system of bullying.
The characters are dull and one dimensional, the scenes are repetitive, the animation is awful and the overall experience tedious. Using female voices for the boys is also alienating. The film is so intense that viewers are likely to forget the exposition and find themselves unsatisfied by the rapid wind-up. Unlike Japanese anime I have seen, this feature is not afraid to depict the characters with real Asian faces. The world the characters live in feels like a real South Korean place. This focus on realism is to the film’s huge credit. Since that is the only redeeming quality of the whole film, I should reiterate, that The King of Pigs is certainly not an animated feature for kids. Despite the story being about the school life of a group of boys, this is a very bleak and disturbing story.
A hierarchal society existed where the weak were known as the pigs and the bullies, the dogs. The teachers actively encouraged the situation as a way of controlling the school in a brutal regimented manner. Only that it would have worked seamlessly was it not for a boy called Chul. This mysterious loner stood fearlessly up to the bullies and simply combated them with far greater levels of violence. He became the King of Pigs and was the saviour of the downtrodden. However, he had a real darkness within him, and a tragic family life. The film’s trajectory hurtles towards a depressing conclusion.
So, in conclusion, the film sucked, for lack of a better word. However, the saving grace of the film screening was that at least 95% of the sentences spoken/translated in The King of Pigs have some kind of glaring grammatical error. Did that effect my overall viewing of the film? Perhaps. It was like a bad web site translation where a literal translation is made but the syntax and context are all wrong. The inability to pronounce and understand the letter “L” also creating the wrong words; “fresh” where the word “flesh” was needed. The few women characters in the film can only be described as completely neurotic, screeching banshees. If you are going to get your movie translated and sub-titled into English, you get a native English speaker to tidy up the final version. There must be incredible difficulties for Korean film-makers to overcome and I hope they get the help they need to produce meaningful product that can be recognized as such by their international audience. Until that day comes, sadly, this film is a dud, and you should avoid it.