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Sky Blue (a.k.a. Wonderful Days)

(2004) ** 1/2 Unrated
86 min. Maxmedia. Directors: Moon Sang Kim, Moon-saeng Kim. Cast: Joo-ho Chung, Catherine Cavadini, Hye-jin Yu, Ji-tae Yu, Marc Worden.

Though its characters aren't terribly personable and its plot can't claim to be original, Sky Blue has style to spare. A voice wafts over soaring shots of a wasteland surrounding a futuristic city: "How long has it been raining? Forever. No, not forever. A hundred years." From this tone-poem opening to an operatic finale, Sky Blue is a visual marvel that deserves to be seen if not believed.

The dubbed version of Korean anime Wonderful Days, Sky Blue posits an ecologically challenged civilization of 2142 AD. The elite ruling class controls the energy and thus the city of Ecoban; with the exception of one ingenious exile, the subjugated working class takes what it can get. Dr. Noah, from his post on the outskirts, plans to release Ecoban's energy and force a new world order of responsible cooperation.

Noah's young charge Shua (voiced by Marc Worden) takes responsibility for the ecoterrorist mission, but to effect a change, he'll have to get past his childhood sweetheart Jay (Catherine Cavadini), a sharp-witted police captain beginning to question her comfortable assumptions. The two still cling to childhood memories of sunshine and blue skies: once rare occurences, like eclipses, but now the stuff that dreams are made of.

Director Moon Saeng Kim manages a tasteful blend of 2-D and 3-D animation distinguished by a delicate play of light and gorgeous color, and the sophisticated aurals evoke the science-fiction soundscapes of George Lucas. On the way to the discomfiting but responsible reminder that heroic sacrifice is necessary to save the world, Sky Blue is a feast for the senses.

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