This is the first Korean animated film I’ve seen and it is immediately unsettling to watch from its first frame to its last. It’s about two adults, Kyung-Min and Jong Suk, who were close friends in high school but haven’t seen or spoken to each other for 15 years until one of them feels the urge to meet the other after a horrific incident to talk about a third friend named Chul. They begin to recall their very unhappy high school days. They were at the bottom of the pecking order, bullied and beaten by the older boys until, a loner, Chul comes to their defense. It quickly becomes apparent that Chul is a dark and disturbed boy. We get to see the conflicts with other students and the escalation of events that eventually lead to Chul’s fate.
The animation itself is stiff and limited but the images are often quite striking in their colour palettes. There is a lot of blood and violence as well as some freaky imagery. It’s not glamorized in any way. It might be hard to suspend disbelief that so much violence can occur in a school. The older boys sometimes fondle the penises of the younger boys which is bizarre. Has that actually happened in Korean schools at one point? Also having females do some of the boy’s voices sounded really weird. Eventually I stopped noticing but it was very jarring at first.
I can respect its boldness and sense of direction but I didn’t really like it. The characters are sometimes frustrating to watch in their futility although this may be due to my lack of knowledge of the culture in Korean schools. This definitely isn’t a movie to sit back and relax to but one that will provoke you. The work has its merits and I wouldn’t be surprised if Korean animation starts to gain more recognition in the future.