SATELLITE GIRL AND MILK COW and NAPPING PRINCESS — Quirky Modern Fairy Tales Hit Blu-ray

Charming female protagonists head up these peculiar anime fantasies on Blu-ray from Gkids & Shout! Factory

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow hits Blu-ray on June 5. Napping Princess was released on January 30th.

Gkids and Shout! Factory have been serving up some interesting anime titles lately. Most obviously, they’ve picked up the Studio Ghibli library from Disney, but their other output has been fascinating as well. Two of those titles are Napping Princess, written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama (known for the Eden of the East and Ghost in the Shell series), and the unbelievably weird Korean movie Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, the first full-length feature from Hyung-yun Chang. While separate and unrelated releases, both coming-of-age tales feature similar traits of young female leads, low-key romances, and fairy tale dynamics crossed with technology in a contemporary setting.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

It’s clear just from the title that this is going to be a weird one, but it really can’t be overstated just how utterly bonkers Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is.

Even a basic plot synopsis of this Korean anime is absurd, but here goes — a (female) satellite plunges to earth after homing in on the love songs of a young man named Kyung-chun. She stumbles right into a bizarre chase scene as an anthropomorphic cow is being pursued by a giant walking incinerator. The wizard Merlin, who is a roll of toilet paper for some reason, is on the scene and a wayward bolt of magic transforms Satellite into a human girl — well, sort of. A flying robot girl with rocket arms and feet.

Turns out the beleaguered bovine is in fact Kyung-chun, who transformed into a cow as a symptom of depression caused by unrequited love. There’s a lot of weird transforming stuff in this movie and none of it makes any logical sense, except perhaps internally. Credit to the writer-director for going all in on this nonsense — no explanations are offered beyond that there’s some kind of magic involved. It’s part of the fabric of this universe and you just have to roll with it.

It gets even crazier, believe it or not. The story’s primary focus is the unconventional friendship and romance that develops between the two leads, but meanwhile Kyung-chun is being pursued by an organ bounty hunter intent on poaching his magical man-cow liver. With a plunger.

Clearly, this utterly bugnuts movie is inherently divisive (my wife actively hated it). While I wouldn’t call myself a fan, I found its absolute commitment to insanity oddly charming, and certainly never boring. The romance is goofy and sweet, if a little unearned, and the crazy stuff is… well, really, really crazy. It’s also quite funny, and the animation is somehow distinctly Korean, but stylized in a unique way that mixes ultra-cartoonish and realistic aesthetic sensibilities.

For appreciators of the bizarre, or of Korean animation, this is certainly worth a look. Generally speaking though, this is on such a crazy wavelength that it makes it a tough recommendation for your average viewer.

Napping Princess (aka Ancien and the Magic Tablet)

Kokone is a precocious schoolgirl who dreams of being a princess in a fantastic world — by which I mean she literally has complex dreams about “Heartland”, a realm where she and her allies are a force of resistance against a tyrannical bureaucracy.

In the real world — near-future Japan — her father is a brilliant engineer with a shrouded past. As Kokone experiences her vivid dreams, she comes to realize they are tied to real people and events in her life — a real parallel universe where the actions in one plane affect the other. The characters that populate her dreams, both heroes and villains, are analogous to the people in her life.

Kokone’s father is suddenly arrested on dubious charges, and with the help of her friend Morio, she must unwrap the mystery and traverse both realms (by conversely taking naps and waking up) to win justice for her father and learn the truth about his past and her own heritage.

It’s an incredibly beautiful and imaginative film, and if my description sounds a bit vague it’s because I don’t want to ruin any of the story’s many surprises, including the touching reason Kokone has a connection to the fantastic realm in the first place.

On a technical and editing level, the way that the film deftly balances and links the two worlds is both intelligent and gratifying — similar to a video game mechanic in which traversing parallel environments is necessary to accomplish a particular task. Kokone must unwrap a corporate espionage plot that has targeted her father, mirrored in Heartland in ultra-theatrics of heroes, villains, a magic iPad, scrappy sidekicks, and even giant mechs and monsters.

Engaging and playful enough for children to enjoy, but possessing a complex, cerebral narrative that adults can appreciate, Napping Princess is a marvel of visionary storytelling that rewards viewers who accept the invitation to visit its two worlds.

The Packages —

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow hits Blu-ray on June 5. Napping Princess was released on January 30th. Both Blu-rays are released through Gkids and Shout! Factory; and my review copies come with slipcovers.

Special Features and Extras — Napping Princess

  • Interview With Kenji Kamiyama (15:02)
  • Introduction At Japanese Premiere (17:51)
  • Greeting At Japanese Release (20:17)
  • Okayama Scenery (3:24)
    Comparisons of the movie to the real locations. I love location features and in animated form they’re especially fascinating.
  • Special Interview With Cast (7:19)
  • Special TV Program (22:04)
  • Trailers and TV Spots (3:37)

Special Features and Extras — Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

  • A Coffee Vending Machine and Its Sword (28:53)
    Featuring the same writer-director and thematically similar to Satellite Girl, this short film also known as Coffee Samurai follows the romantic exploits of a legendary swordsman whose dying wish is to be reincarnated with a body of steel, and ironically gets what he asks for.
  • Trailers (3:09) — two trailers

A/V Out.

Get ‘em at Amazon:

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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