Ecoban only sounds like the name of a hybrid car a West Coast celebrity might drive to a Kabbalah lecture. In fact, in the coldly beautiful Korean anime feature Sky Blue, Ecoban is the name of a rotting biosphere — an enclosed City of Tomorrow (somewhere on the same anime coordinate grid as Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed and just down the sci-fi highway from The Road Warrior) that, by the year 2142, has become a dystopia of haves and have-nots. The elites live in comfort; the masses slave in the city’s bowels, breathing the noxious fumes of a postapocalyptic police state, the by-product of war and pollution.
The only way to clear the air, literally, and get back to the condition of the movie’s title is to blow up the joint, and Shua (voiced with a Keanu Reeves-influenced whispery neutrality by Marc Worden) is just the brave, handsome rebel to advance the revolution. What are the odds that the fearless, comely, disillusioned captain of the Ecoban security force is Shua’s long-lost love, Jay (Catherine Cavadini), a sleek, smart heroine who thinks her childhood sweetheart has died long ago?
Sky Blue, a feature debut by commercial director Moon Sang Kim from a genre-standard script by Kim, Jun Young Park, and Sunmin Park, scans the familiar terrain of dead-eyed futurism with genre-standard efficiency of scene change and intricate background detail. A bland cast of caricature bad guys, semi-bad guys, and innocent kids (including an orphan boy and a blind girl) do their work as if invented by an anime-plot software program. But there are also haunting images of casually stunning complexity. Jay talks to her boss (who wears his shock of prematurely white hair in a Karl Lagerfeld ponytail and is also her jealous lover) in a triple-difficulty long shot of a windowed environment that not only encompasses the people, the room, and the view out to the claustrophobic Ecoban landscape but is also filmed through a fish tank. When a brilliant fish wriggles by, even a less than ardent anime viewer will want to freeze the frame and gape.