Opening for the first time outside of Korea to a sold out room in Montreal, Crimson Whale took one and a half years to draw out, with few resources and animators behind the team. What a great accomplishment for debut filmmaker Park Hye-mi. Since only a handful of animes make it outside South Korea, we can only congratulate her on her work.
As the first lines are drawn in Crimson Whale, we are taken into a traditional pencil drawing anime with a very somber look into the future. The year is 2070, and the world is ruined by natural disasters. In the heart of south Korea, we meet sly and slick Ha-jin. The quirky design for characters make this a unique adventure in to the realm of a broken world where people seem to have ceased to look after themselves, due to the overwhelming disaster. Having been abused by her mother, Ha-jin becomes an orphan, but most importantly a street thug. And before we know it, she is thrown in jail for the petty crime of selling drugs to street junkies.
“Drugs” are mentioned twice in this movie as “just being drugs,” when our hero has escaped human trafficking but lands on a pirate ship. Once on the ship, she is distraught by the turn of events. The drugs seem to have the same effect on us viewers, as the city looks like it’s melting and the side effects on the characters vary. The junkies seem to be in some sort of trance as if a hit of heroin had stricken them, while Ha-jin just looks drunk. I get the feeling that drugs are not very common in South Korea.
I had no clue Ha-jin was a girl until a very beautiful scene with the Captain, where Ha-jin ties her hair up in a ponytail and grabs her breast, only to let her know she’s finally become a woman.
Aboard the pirate ship, we finally get a grasp of where this story is going, and we have the pleasure of meeting with a very colourful and delightful bunch of characters. As the group hone in on their skills, we learn who they are and why they set out on a dangerous mission leading them to a volcanic island where they plan on taking out the Volcano Whale, and steal all of its treasures.
The character development of Ha-jin is quite slow. We are constantly reminded of a specific event of the past, involving her mother and Ha-jin being asked to feed people who are starving. This has left Ha-jin unable to trust. With a ponytail and some bonding, she will eventually help the pirates.
Crimson Whale is a very promising Anime debut for young Park Hye-mi and we are looking forward to her future films. She’s planned on collaborating with a few other filmmakers in South Korea with unexpected dates, but I believe she’s found some fans here in Montreal.
You have until August 5th to buy your ticket to see Crimson Whale here