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Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Shout Factory // Unrated // June 5, 2018
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 5, 2018 | E-mail the Author
KITSAT-1 has circled the planet for a couple of decades now. This aging satellite was launched to photograph the Korean Peninsula and to transmit audio recordings back to HQ, but it's no longer content to merely orbit and observe. That piano ballad by Ko Kyung-chun is just too much to resist, so down to Earth it goes, all in the hopes of a handshake and maybe a selfie with its favorite songwriter.

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Join the club, KITSAT-1! Kyung-chun is in hot demand these days. Not so much by the clubs where this struggling musician was trying to land gigs and definitely not by his longtime crush at the conservatory. Kyung-chun's heartbreak has transformed him into an anthropomorphic cow, so it kinda goes without saying that a twenty foot tall walking furnace is trying to roast him alive. It also won't be too much longer until that black marketeer who can teleport through mirrors and glass tries to suck out his liver with a plunger. (I mean, that is the least messy way to harvest organs.) Merlin the Wizard, who's currently trapped in the form of a roll of toilet paper, is doing his best to lend a hand...errr, embossed square. Between Merlin's magical cry of "toilet paper kleenex popee popee" and the Incinerator's own magical enchantments, KITSAT-1 has taken the form of a teenage girl. Some magical T.P. clothes later, and it's time say "annyeong" to Il-ho! She's not completely human – what with her boot jets, rocket-propelled right arm, and AC adapter tucked away in her back – but close enough, right? Closer than a moo cow, anyway.

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So, yeah, there are starcrossed lovers, and then there are Satellite Girl and Milk Cow. Writer/director Chang Hyung-yun could easily have coasted on this wildly surreal premise for his first full-length feature, chucking one gonzo concept after another at the screen for 80 minutes straight. Hyung-yun doesn't settle for "hey, isn't this crazy?!" and then rapidly move onto the next fiendishly inventive idea. He prefers instead to harness the insanity he's dreamed up as the foundation for an impressively resonant story about love, acceptance, identity, determination, and duty. That Merlin is a roll of toilet paper or that Il-ho's arms have a tendency to rocket away aren't just played for laughs – although there's that too. It informs these characters and the way they interact. It makes them more complex than, say, "boy and girl on a rocky road towards romance". It matters.

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Satellite Girl and Milk Cow succeeds in just about every conceivable way. Visually, it's a stunner. A movie bursting with imagination like this can't help but be infectiously fun, and its unapologetically silly sense of humor left me cracking up throughout. Satellite Girl and Milk Cow's sci-fi elements and the pair of ever-looming nemeses make for some fantastic action sequences. There are life and death stakes, and the comedy (including, yeah, potty humor in the most literal sense) doesn't deflate the threat of loss. I sincerely found myself invested in the romance blossoming between an anthropomorphic cow and a schoolgirl android, even though it makes as little sense to them as it does to any of you reading such a seemingly outlandish sentence. I had a blast getting to know and care about Il-ho and Kyung-chun, and I have a pretty good feeling that you will too. Highly Recommended.

By and large, Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is a knockout. The lineart is crisp and well-defined, its painted backgrounds are sumptuously detailed, and its bright, vivid colors consistently dazzle. There is some fairly heavy banding at times, but that appears to be tied to the source rather than an authoring hiccup. Similarly, the 'chest' of the Incinerator looks fairly unstable, but a closer inspection reveals that this is owed to the 3D animation; the blocky pattern remains locked in place even when the behemoth is moving all over. Mosquito noise is also frequently visible around edges, although it too is surprisingly static, making me wonder if that's somehow baked into the source as well. There's really only one instance where I could spot noticeable artifacting from several feet away. The effect is more pronounced in motion, but still, note the blocky gradations on our bovine pal in the screenshot below:

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Still, those sorts of concerns are exceedingly minor. I love Satellite Girl and Milk Cow to pieces, and its beautiful presentation on Blu-ray makes this disc that much more worth seeking out.

The AVC encode and lossless soundtracks for Satellite Girl and Milk Cow span both layers of this BD-50 disc. The movie is presented at its native aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow piles on two 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. The disc defaults to the English dub, and the original Korean audio is just a couple of menu clicks away. Both tracks are marvelous, although the Korean dialogue just sounds more right to my ears. It's wonderful to have a choice, of course, especially when both are presented in such high quality.

Atmospherics and directionality shine on a multichannel setup: bustling city streets, a torrential downpour, KITSAT-1 orbiting around the entire soundscape, a cosmic flash and unnerving voices near the end, and Il-ho soaring yet again across the screen. Kyung-chun's apartment may not be much to look at, but its cramped confines make for a heck of a 5.1 sandbox to play in, particularly Il-ho ransacking the place or jetting from room to room. The colossal Incinerator unleashes a substantial low-end as he stomps across Korea hunting heartbroken humanimals. The wildly eclectic score and Kyung-chun's earworms sound spectacular as well. While I didn't listen to the English track from start to finish, dialogue is clean, clear, and perfectly balanced throughout the sections I sampled as well as the entirety of the Korean track. I'm not left with any complaints or concerns whatsoever. Very well done.

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There are two sets of English subtitles here: a translation of the original Korean dialogue as well as an SDH stream for the dub. French subtitles have also been included.

Sure, there aren't any bonus features revolving around the making of Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, but I have to admit to being more excited about the half-hour short that did make the cut anyway.
  • Coffee Vending Machine and Its Sword (30 min.): At one point in Chang Hyung-yun's 2007 short, a sedan is suddenly chucked towards an ancient warrior who's been reincarnated as a coffee vending machine, he splits the car in half with an umbrella, and he quickly takes chase after his zebra assassin. Yes, Coffee Vending Machine and Its Sword is gloriously bonkers as well, and it too focuses on a starcrossed romance involving someone not quite human with bloodthirsty badniks in hot pursuit.

    Coffee Vending Machine and Its Sword is presented in 1080i30 but looks to have been upscaled from standard definition.
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  • Trailers (3 min.; HD): A pair of trailers round out the extras: a Korean trailer followed by a subtitled American trailer.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow comes packaged in a slipcase along with an anamorphic widescreen DVD.

The Final Word
Boy meets girl. Boy is actually a cow. Girl is a satellite-turned-android. Come for the crazy; stay for the heart. Highly Recommended.
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