My Beautiful Girl, Mari
Emru Townsend · From fps #3 · July 1, 2005 | I don't know what's in the water in South Korea, but I hope someone makes it available in a pill. I've been both astonished and delighted to discover, in recent years, that Korea's animation renaissance—from service provider to production hub—has been marked by a willingness to experiment with techniques, styles and themes. In 2003, both Mangchi the Hammerboy and Sky Blue were released, one a Miyazaki-esque adventure story and the other a harder-edged, dystopian science-fiction movie. Mangchi used traditional cel techniques, while Sky Blue used an interesting blend of cel, stop-motion, live-action, and CGI.

My Beautiful Girl, Mari
Directed by Seong-kang Lee
ADV Films, 2005
Originally released theatrically in 2002
80 minutes

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But before them both was My Beautiful Girl, Mari (Mari Iyagi), recently released on DVD. My Beautiful Girl, Mari's look is not only different from the other two, it's different from just about anything else you've ever seen on the big screen. Though the movie is clearly a CGI feature, the aesthetic is a blend between hand-drawn and CGI that, curiously, results in a very warm and inviting film. People, animals and most objects are rendered in a cel-shaded style, but with no hard edges—objects are either borderless or have barely discernable, coloured edges. Most of the colour is flat, but sometimes there are colour gradations, usually to play up lighting or texture. Wrinkles, for example, are flat-coloured, while finer furs are shaded. The result is that organic and inorganic objects meet somewhere in the middle, which allows everything to blend together more naturally.

Mari also takes a different path storywise, avoiding the quest/chase mechanism used to propel most animated films and electing instead to give us a quiet, wistful look at that time when childhood begins to give way to adolescence, and the only constant is change.

Want to read the rest of this review?

You'll find it and many other articles in the July 2005 issue of fps, available as a free download.
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