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Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, The
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by Jay Seaver

"It is, in fact, far weirder than the title."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: You can do absolutely anything with animation, so why not do a story about a satellite that falls to Earth, turns into a girl, and falls in love with a boy turned into a Holstein milk cow by a broken heart? And then, once you've established the premise, things can get really strange.

Yes, the title is pretty literal, and it doesn't even take into account how KITSAT-1 takes human form after crashing into The Incinerator, a massive walking furnace that ways transformed people, or that a bounty hunter is trying to find the transformees so that he can harvest their livers to sell to others in the same fix. Or that the dairy cow, a musician named Kyung-chun, is protected by Merlin, a wizard who is now a walking, talking roll of toilet paper for reasons he'd rather not explain. Things are weird.

A lot of the time, things seem to be weird for no reason other than director Chang Hyung-yun thought it would be funny if one thing looked and acted like another thing, and then he kept fishing with those ideas and wasn't too terribly concerned with how they came together or whether or not they did. It's not completely haphazard, where someone watching it would be thinking that it was the other way three scenes ago, but he's absolutely not going to spend as lot of time explaining something that the audience doesn't really care about while letting some plot threads dangle or skipping things that connect certain pieces of the story. It might be nice of he added a little heft to the constant metamorphosis or how Hyung-kun is frequently a man turned into a cow disguised as a man, but most of the time, he's content just to be eccentric for its own sake.

That eccentricity is well worth seeing, though. The animation may not exactly be top of the line - it's fine, just not the sort of work one will confuse with with Japan's best cel-based studios - but Chang and his team draw a lot of things that are just fun to watch. There's a warthog witch who dispatches extra snouts to find things that are hidden, for instance, and a dog that does the dishes. Il-ho has tickets in her feet and seems far more comfortable maneuvering that way than walking, and there's a lot of weird fun with Hynug-kun's human costumes (fragile, as they're made of Merlin's paper).

The entertaining group of characters ties it all together. Il-ho is certainly kind of stiff in her not-quite-humanity, but seldom in such as mechanical way as to seem robotic. The voice acting by Jung Yu-mi makes her assertive even when she's stumbling, while the animation makes her cute but also very much alien. Hyung-kun is fun too, with both his body language and Yoo Ah-in's voice working in both the very different human and bovine forms, and the personality of this struggling musician is just the right side of whiny and entitled to be worth pulling for. Merlin's the sort of animated character that gets used as a prop half the time, but he's funny with plenty of wounded pride.

It doesn't all completely come together into a great movie, but it's almost always fun and surprising. If nothing else, it's an animated movie that one has seldom seen the likes of, worth satisfying one's curiosity.

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originally posted: 07/20/14 16:19:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 London Film Festival For more in the 2014 London Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Hyung-yun Chang

Written by
  Hyung-yun Chang

  Yu-mi Jung
  Ah-in Yoo

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