Anime action elicits ennui

Los Angeles TimesMarch 18, 2005 

Jay discovers the dirty secret of Ecoban and vows to help the Diggers.

Moon Sang Kim's "Sky Blue" is like a lot of other Asian sci-fi anime: a stunningly imagined world of the future populated with one-dimensional characters caught up in a trite plot.

This Korean production plays like an elementary reworking of "Metropolis" with an ecological conscience. "Sky Blue" is likely to cast a spell on only the most devout anime fans.

It's 2140, and mankind has so recklessly exploited the environment that it has triggered some sort of worldwide catastrophe that has left the sun permanently obscured by impenetrable clouds. Most of humanity has been wiped out, but a power elite has managed to construct a glittering city-state called Ecoban, which resembles nothing so much as clusters of outsized pepper mills.

Ecoban is sustained by its "Delos System," by which carbon compounds are transformed into usable energy. Nothing is said about the source of Ecoban's food supply.

Ecoban has attracted countless refugees. But it is closed to outsiders, who are forced to settle in nearby Wasteland, finding shelter in derelict ships in an abandoned boatyard. They survive by becoming Diggers, mining Wasteland for the material essential to Ecoban's survival. The plight of the Diggers is much like that of the Workers in "Metropolis."

"Sky Blue's" plot is set in motion when Jay, a young captain in Ecoban's security force, witnesses a terrible industrial accident engineered by the evil Cmdr. Locke to keep the Diggers in line. Soon she discovers that her first love, Shua, whom she long believed to be dead, has actually been unjustly consigned to Wasteland and, in response to Locke's brutal tactics, is leading a rebellion against Ecoban and its leaders.

"Sky Blue's" flat characters are rendered even more lifeless by the English-language dubbing by actors whose voices are as stiff and colorless as the dialogue they've been handed to recite. Ecoban -- and "Sky Blue" as a whole -- are strictly Dullsville.

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