Monday, May 23, 2011

Korean Cartoon Craziness: In Praise of “Aachi & Ssipak”

AACHI & SSIPAK (2006; Korea)
directed by Jo Beom-jin,
produced by Kim Sun-ku
Written by Kang Sang-kyun, Jeong Hye-won and Jo Beom-jin

Currently, Aachi & Ssipak is the wildest, craziest peace of contemporary animation that you can’t see, but must.

How tough is it to see this flick? When The Missus was in Korea two years ago, the DVD was sold out and the store said that no more DVDs were being printed by the company.
It was through the Gray Market that I got to see this (thanks PK!), and so can you.

Just look at these crazy stills—let me tell you that the flick is as bonkers as these jpegs make it seem. (Lots of sites are providing detailed synposi of Aachi & Ssipak’s plot, but try to see this movie with as blank a slate as possible, in my opinion.)

Released in Korea in 2006, Aachi & Ssipak is mayhem, sex, violence, poop and unadulterated weirdness—
Remember 1960s underground comic ZAP COMIX? Well if you took an old issue, made it semi-coherent with a plot of some sort, then had it directed by a mutant with three heads, those heads being Tex Avery, Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi,
then you’d have Aachi & Ssipak.

The film owes more to the animation of these mad gods, than to the anime it spoofs so effectively. (And with so much anime produced in Korea—but designed and written elsewhere—
I can’t help but wonder if there’s a subtle commentary on the Korean anime industry being obsessed with “shit”—the soulless product churned out for and by markets that are not Korean. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.)

Fast-paced with slick but distinctive animation (characters look hand-drawn, backgrounds look like a combo of CGI and hand-painted), Aachi & Ssipak follows street hoodlums and petty crooks Aachi and Ssipak as they try to get rich in a world where poop is money. Literally.

They fight the cops (including a rather sadistic hyperviolent cyborg), other hoods, government stooges, fetish pornographers, blue sewer mutants (“The Diaper Gang”—very hilarious villains),
and each other while trying to hold onto Beautiful, a sexy minx whose craps are a thousand times their weight in gold. Of course, Beautiful has some ideas of her own about who should benefit from her valuable turds….

Aachi & Ssipak is hyperactive, but hardly incomprehensible—even while trying to read subtitles and keep up with the manic cartooning—and looks really good:
The movie reportedly cost only $3.5 million—a low amount for an animated flick (as a comparison, Pixar’s Cars, released the same year, cost $120 million to make), and every cent is on the screen.
The design of Aachi & Ssipak is rich and visually stimulating: there are lots of eyeball kicks in this movie. Lots.

Aachi & Ssipak needs greater recognition—at least among us fanboys and appreciators of the Cinema of Weirdness—so that way I can talk to people about these movies: I’m lonely!

(BTW, Aachi & Ssipak has a faceboo page!)

Another wonderful piece of animated subversion that is also impossible to see (except for via our friends in the gray market—Hooray for them!) is the Argentine flick
Mercano, el Marciano (“Mercano the Martian;” 2002, directed by Juan Antin).

Mercano, el Marciano is an ultraviolent, gross-out-humor satire specifically attacking the 1999 economic collapse of Argentina—as seen through the eyes of a visiting na├»ve Martian explorer.
This film was shown once at the AMMI, then—phfft! Gone.

Mercano’s animation is much cruder and clunkier than Aachi & Ssipak’s—like South Park meets Squidbillies—but both films share a healthy disrespect for authority, rules and propriety—as well as a wonderfully crude sense of humor that is also very smart. (South Park analogies work for both Aachi & Ssipak and Mercano: all these works are much smarter than they appear to be on the surface.)

So class, your assignment: Find and watch Aachi & Ssipak!
(and maybe even Mercano, el Marciano for extra credit)