Kyeong-chon (voiced by Yoo Ah-in) is having a rough time being a young adult. First he finds out his crush is now dating another man. Then he gets turned into a cow. Then a gigantic other dimensional robotic behemoth starts hunting him for use as furnace fuel. Also this guy with a plunger wants to steal his soul. Fortunately Kyeong-chon receives some help from a magical roll of toilet paper, who in the process of helping Kyeong-chon, inadvertently transforms the artifical earthbound satellite Il-ho (voiced by Jung Yu-mi) into a cyborg girl.
The most amazing part about "The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow" is that as unbelievably bizarre as all of this is, the animated film is surprisingly rational. I don't mean from a plot standpoint. There is no degree of context that can satisfactorily explain how Merlin the Magician ended up transformed into a sentient roll of toilet paper. It's never terribly clear what any character actually wants outside from our two leads.
But that's what growing up is about. One day your heart's broken by the girl you like, the next you're fighting for your life against a bizarrely complicated inexplicable system that wants to devour your spirit to increase profit margins. Let's just face it. Nothing about the modern world as it exists today makes a lot of sense. It's theoretically more comprehensible than this movie but that's just window dressing. Even if Kyeong-chon had any idea what was going on, that wouldn't decrease the danger to any meaningful degree.
And where does that leave Il-ho? I think she represents hope. Just as "The Basement Satellite" represented one man's dream of doing something weird, Il-ho's presence in the movie shows us how one element completely unrelated to the battle between shapeshifters and soul stealers can interfere and do...something I guess? While "The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow" does an excellent job showing how the process of growing up makes almost no sense, at the same time, this also leads to a movie which in many ways is just completely incomprehensible.
But hey, with visuals like this, who's to argue? There's a constant barrage of jokes here, from Keong-chon's bovine nature, to Il-ho's bizarre robotic orientation, to all the weirdness involved with the other characters that I'm not going to spoil here because the surprise is half the fun. It's like writer/director Jang Hyeong-yoon took every insane idea he could come up with, mashed them all together, and let the jokes arise spontaneously, contextual clarity and consistency be darned.
The film as a whole thus appears as an explosion in sheer imagination, the triumph of mad creativity over coherence, the priority of visual spectacle taken to the greatest possible extreme. This is a weird, scary movie that laughs at its own absurdity, daring itself to take another bizarre turn and always succeeding. As film it's a challenge to so many traditional elements of storytelling that if nothing else, I admire the courage involved in trying to be so crazy. What it lacks in reason "The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow" absolutely makes up for in madness, building a lovely visual cornucopia that's a joy to watch.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow""
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