My Beautiful Girl Mari -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: TV G
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 80
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: My Beautiful Girl Mari

My Beautiful Girl Mari

By Chris Beveridge     August 15, 2005
Release Date: July 05, 2005

My Beautiful Girl Mari
© ADV Films

What They Say
A fresh approach to animation comes in the form of this delightful new film from Korea. My Beautiful Girl Mari relates the story of childhood as told through the adult eyes of Nam-Woo. Nam-woo lives in a small seaside village and is suffering because everyone close to him has died, left or is about to leave. One day he discovers a magical marble in a toy store which, when he visits the top of an old abandoned lighthouse, transports him to an enchanted fantasy land where he floats on clouds, rides on the back of fantastic creatures and meets the mysterious, ethereal girl called Mari, who floats tantalizingly just out of his grasp. As an adult, Nam-woo reflects on what kind of impact Mari and her world had on his growth as a human being.

The Review!
One of the first Korean animated movies to make waves overseas, My Beautiful Girl Mari is aimed at the dreamlike nature of summers long gone and the memories of what once could be.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this film in its original language of Korean. A really well done 5.1 mix was made for the film and it utilizes the full range of speakers throughout the show mostly in very mild ways such as ambient sounds and voices but it really takes advantage of it when it comes to the more dramatic scenes towards the end. We listened to both tracks for this release and found no real problems with either of them and no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released theatrically back in 2002, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the way this film was created and the design for it, the transfer manages to capture all of it almost flawlessly really. The colors are rich and maintain a very solid feel throughout, cross coloration is non-existent and there's barely a hint of polarization in a few scenes that's otherwise over with pretty quickly. The only area where things don't look good is during a few of the panning scenes where it almost feels like you're watching a video on a computer and it pauses for a microsecond or two and then continues on. This is a very clean and good looking transfer through and through otherwise.

Using the artwork that has been shown a lot internationally, the front cover has a very dreamlike image of Jun-ho on the fluffy dog's back while Mari floats down to him from the stalks which you can see behind them in the muted blues and greens. There are some flashes of color here and there throughout it from plants to insects floating around and it really has a near ethereal feel to it. The back cover works this over as well with a more illustrated look of the stalks and grass while providing a collage strip of images from the show along the bottom. The summary makes up the bulk of this cover as well as a few quotes for its release while the bottom has the production credits – which are very hard to read – as well as the always useful technical grid.

The menu is a very soft and relaxing lilting piece where various images from the show are combined with the growth idea of the plants for the background which has lights filtering through it of different colors and intensities as the music plays along to it. The menu fits very well with the show and its colors set you in the right frame of mind for it as well. Access times are nice and fast and with nothing really here beyond the movie and some previews it's easy to navigate. Since this is a Korean feature the player defaulted to English with subtitles but that's not something we're holding against it.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Over the last few years the world of Korean animation has really been going through a change with far more original productions going on with an emphasis on things that matter to them. This has been a change in their culture for a few years now as Hollywood movies, once huge, have been pushed out of many of the viewing bars. Even anime on television there which once dominated has shrunken by half according to some reports. My Beautiful Girl Mari is one of those projects that pushed others along to create more new original material and it's little wonder why.

The story is one of nostalgia to some extent and the way a lot of adults seem to look back at their younger days with longing, glossing over the details and remembering only certain parts. This happens to Nam-woo when he receives a package from an old friend while he's living his life as an office worker in the big city. He ends up dining with Jun-ho and the two talk about how things have changed and where certain friends have ended up over the years. There's a bit of disappointment in both themselves and each other in that they never really connected again after the events of one particular summer since neither made the call or effort. Walking home, Nam-woo recalls much of this summer and the film shifts back to that time at the fishing village.

During this summer time period, Nam-woo and Jun-ho are best friends and they do all sorts of things together. Nam-woo's avoiding a lot of his troubles at home as he lives with his mother and grandmother and he gets a fair bit of grief. One of the fishermen in the village is obviously interested in his mother and he does things for them such as changing light bulbs and others odds and ends around the house while also taking them on trips and just trying to do things to get on Nam-woo's good side. It doesn't always work out and it's understandable why, though we don't learn what happened to his real father. Nor do we really see anything really come of the relationship but it's something that keeps Nam-woo out and about.

During these lazy hazy days, Nam-woo ends up acquiring a marble that may be more than it seems as it glows and glitters unlike anything else. As the two spend their summer dealing with the supposed issue of one of their female classmates liking Jun-ho but denying it and just keeping to themselves, they spend a decent amount of time at the old lighthouse that's fallen into disrepair. When there one time by himself, Nam-woo is surprised to find that the marble begins to glow and he finds himself suddenly thrown about and floating up into the clouds only to seemingly enter another world where a beautiful young girl comes to visit him, though little is said between them. Nam-woo isn't sure how it happened and isn't able to get it to happen on demand but he's able to visit it a few more times and tries to understand what it's all about, but it's more of a flight of fancy than anything else. When he's able to convince Jun-ho about the reality of it and get him to take flight with him it does seem all the more real, but we never really learn anything about it.

This dreamlike summer plays out for a good part of the film's center arc, which is fairly short all told since the first appearance of Mari and this new world is just about thirty minutes into the film. The third act of the film ends up being all too predictable however and loses much of its dreamlike nature as we get a fairly standard dramatic ending piece about how a storm rolls into the area and there are fishing boats out at sea. With Nam-woo having something that could potentially light up the entire area, he rushes out into the howling winds and rain to try and help as much as he can. This does move into a very surreal moment but the drama to all of it just doesn't work since it's so predictable.

The animation for this film is certainly unlike anime in the traditional sense and it reminded me of a number of Japanese created web flash stories and cartoons that have been coming out for the last few years but done on a much bigger and more expensive scale. There's a certain sense of movement and dynamic to the characters that doesn't feel quite natural and with the more flat looking faces and general layout of their bodes in some scenes, it comes across sometimes as really high-quality cutouts ala South Park. That's not a slight either as I think they did some really great work here, particularly in the area of the boats and the city sequences, but the character animation just likes that something that gives it a real life.

While the film is rated G for here, I have to wonder if this was any sort of hit with children in Korea. I can't imagine it being all that popular with kids here since it is such a slow moving piece. I don't expect all kids movies to be hyper paced or anything, but this was moving slow enough that it was hard to keep my attention to it for the first act since so little was really happening. The strange world that Mari lives in is interesting but like the rest of the movie, it doesn't seem to have a real life to itself either and feels static and slow moving. Visually it's interesting to look at but once you see a bit of it you've seen all of it.

In Summary:
My Beautiful Girl Mari is an interesting piece that has some potential to it but with a slow moving plot that doesn't really reveal all that much at the end and a fairly clichéd Hollywood dramatic piece in the third act, what you're left with is a very dreamy film that will have a hard time holding the attention of the children it's supposedly aimed at and frustrating some of the adults who want a little more meat to tales like this. It's interesting to see an original take by the Korean animation world on something and it certainly shows they're no slouches when it comes to it but it just doesn't click that well with me. If you're looking to see what will be competing with anime in the next few years, this will give you an idea of where they really started out and it shows that they have plenty of room to grow, but have the core ideas down. This isn't a movie that's easily recommended however since I'm not sure which audience it's really for.

Korean 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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