The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow
Written and directed by Chang Hyung-yun
South Korea, 2014
An orbiting satellite picks up a beautiful song being played on Earth. Moved by the song, and facing an eternity of lonely obsolescence thanks to the incoming fate of being replaced by new machinery, the satellite decides it wishes to find the source of the tune, and so crashes down to the planet below, where it promptly turns into a teenage girl able to fly with Astro Boy-like rocket feet and fire her arms as weapons. Meanwhile, the songwriter behind the ditty is broken-hearted and so has been turned into a cow, akin to the farmyard beast fate that has befallen other broken-hearted folk. This has led to him and others like him being hunted by a human villain who uses a plunger to extract their organs, as well an incinerator machine that is fueled by the broken-hearted. Also, there is a wizard named Merlin who makes it his mission to assist the satellite girl and the cow, except Merlin has undergone his own transformation recently and happens to be a roll of toilet paper.
In an era of often homogenised animation house styles, South Korean effort The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow certainly stands apart, even if its distinct flavour is in its baffling story (as detailed above) rather than its admittedly nice animation that has some recognisable roots elsewhere, looking as if Osamu Tezuka spent some time working for Studio Ghibli. It is a light, very fun watch with a compelling cast of oddballs, and proves strangely sweet at times amidst the unsurprising silliness: you will believe a satellite can love a cow.
Though largely aimed at a child audience, Chang Hyung-yun’s debut feature has compelling detours for adults regarding how little the modern world makes sense, particularly the process of growing up as demonstrated with satellite girl Il-ho’s character development, or at least what development is discernible from the film’s admittedly incomprehensible nature at times. But it’s the kind of appealing incomprehensibility in the vein of Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, rather than the sort of any given Transformers sequel.
Most of the pleasures come from the surprises at every other turn, as well as a bombardment of jokes regarding the three leads’ various physical predicaments. And behind the fantastical elements is a beating heart that provides loveliness amidst the laughs. There is method behind the madness here. And lots of toilet paper.
– Josh Slater-Williams