My Beautiful Girl Mari -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • 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 laurengoodnight     August 01, 2005
Release Date: July 05, 2005

The Review!
My Beautiful Girl Mari begins with two grown men meeting up for dinner and reminiscing. Nam-Woo, the story's protagonist, and Jun-Ho, are childhood friends, and life plans to separate them for at least three years: Jun-Ho has an overseas business assignment. They talk for a little while after dinner, and as Jun-Ho hands Nam-Woo a small blue box, something he says took him back to his childhood when he found it again, the real story begins.

Nam-Woo and Jun-Ho attend the same school together and have a rather complicated relationship with Soog-Y, a female who also goes to the same school. But the Soog-Y portion of the story is really window dressing. One day, soon after finding out that Jun-Ho was soon going to be moving to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, to further his studies, he sees a glowing marble in one of the neighborhood shops. This marble becomes the connecting element throughout the adventure, and it might not have been as effective a tool if it had not been animated so beautifully. The moment he loses the marble, the viewer knows this is not the last he's seen of it.

The boys spend a lot of their time out by the water, especially near an old, broken lighthouse. Nam-Woo is the first to discover the magic within the place after following his cat, Yo, into its interior and up its ladders. Once at the top, Nam-Woo and Yo are transported to a beautiful world, reminiscent of the softer and more subtly artistic of antique Korean tapestries. While there, he meets a lovely albino girl named Mari, but this fortuitous meeting is cut far too short. Along the way, Jun-Ho is also pulled into Mari's world, and the sense of mythology it exudes grows even deeper.

The climax of the film comes as the necessity for the two worlds to affect each other rises, and the strong beliefs of the boys save the day. The ending, however, is bittersweet, but the time we spend at the end of the film with grown Nam-Woo is both promising and fantastical.

The most endearing portions of the film were threefold: Mari's world, the soft and deliberate pacing of the real-world relationships, and the Nam-Woo's cat, Yo. I am fairly unfamiliar with Korean mythology and classic art, but when Nam-Woo stepped into Mari's magical realm, I felt something old and beautiful stir within me, like a legend. The creators did their job well; someone who has had no contact with the culture can feel the magic in this culturally-tied creation. The relationships between Nam-Woo and his widowed mother (his father was a suicide), his grandmother, the man who has started to care about his mother, Jun-Ho, Jun-Ho's father, and Soog-Y are all very realistically portrayed and shown with a sort of sacred respect for the reality of life that is severely lacking in many animated films. The flashback scene where Jun-Ho's father is holding his coat out just enough to keep the young Nam-Woo dry when he looks on at the hospital as his father is covered and taken away is deeply moving. Lastly, My Beautiful Girl Mari cannot be reviewed without mention of Yo. Yo is terribly realistic, even if he does act a bit tame for a feral stray. As a cat owner, I connected with the film through Nam-Woo's care and concern for Yo, as well as with the meticulous detailing of feline movements and expressions.

This film is would be perfect for a preteen (or older) and his or her parents to watch together, even though it suffers from a rather slow pace. Because of the mention of suicide in one scene, parents would be advised to watch this with children any younger than 12. I highly recommend this for fans of Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro as well as for anyone who is even slightly interested in the new and very fresh-feeling Korean take on animation.

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