The cold barren Earth is draped in a blanket of never-ending rain. The sky is covered in grey billowing clouds and the sun is but a faint memory.
Once upon a time, a giant war scorched the Earth and in a last panicked effort to prevail, humanity constructed the city of Ecoban. The heart of the city is a machine capable of transforming pollution into energy. Like a new age Noahs Ark the city became a safe haven, but only the rich and capable were admitted. Soon refugees from the surrounding areas flocked to Ecoban, but they were denied admittance, and forced to settle on the outskirts of the city, now known as Marr.
This is the state of the world now, in the year 2142, but the carefully constructed symbiosis between Marr and Ecoban hangs in the balance. Growing discontent in the Marr population causes riots and disturbances, and to makes matters worse, Ecoban is actually running out of pollution. The leaders of Ecoban are secretly plotting to destroy Marr to make more pollution.
During a lavish party, a man makes his way into the heart of Ecoban, to the very core of the city. This is our hero, Shua. Once a member of the Ecoban community, Shua was expelled to Marr and now he pursues his own agenda. Assisted by another outcast, Dr. Noah, who pioneered the work on the pollution machine he plans to sabotage the installation in the hope of overthrowing the regime. Shua is moments away from gaining access to the infernal machine, when security forces arrive at the scene. Hes forced to flee, but before he escapes he ends up in a Mexican stand-off with the beautiful redhaired agent Jay, who knew Shua before he left the city.
Enter Simon, Security Chief of Ecoban, who also shares a past with Shua and Jay. He was originally responsible for deporting Shua. Hes infatuated with Jay, and nurses an intense hate towards Shua.
As the leaders of Ecoban make their plans for the future, terror groups in Marr prepare for one final attack on their suppressors. But in the center of this story about a world on the brink of collapse, we find three ordinary people. Their contribution to the big puzzle will ultimately be decided by a simple yet powerful thing. Love.
Wonderful Days is quite possibly one of the best animated film ever made, but be warned: This is not always an easy film to follow. Casual viewers will find themselves getting desperately confused and cry out for more character development, a stronger story, more focus on the ecological aspect, anything to fill out the blank spots in the story. But this is completely unnecessary. Everything a good story needs is right here, but I will say this: sometimes its buried very deep in the visuals.
The animation in Wonderful Days is produced using three different techniques: Traditional hand drawn cell animation, high-tech computer animation and sophisticated models and miniatures. The combination is stunning. This is hands down the most gorgeous looking animation Ive ever seen. The characters are distinctly hand drawn and beautifully flawed, compared to the infinitely detailed computer generated backgrounds, and bridging these two elements we find beautiful miniature models that have this amazing organic quality.
A lot of thought has gone into the use of colors. The dark grey muddy palette of Marr provides a stark contrast to Ecoban, with its clean surfaces and multicolored layout. This looks and feels like a society waiting to break down. Theres no way these two fractions can keep coexisting.
Wonderful Days uses every conceivable optical trick to bring a film-like quality to the animation. Tricks like playing with depth of field, adding lens flares and camera shakes, all meticulously re-created to resemble live-action photography, and thus add an unprecedented level of reality to the film, while remaining true to its animated origins. Further enhancements of the images include elements like computer-generated raindrops and classic hand-animated explosions, and - oh hell, just an mind-boggling attention to even the smallest detail.
But the real triumph of Wonderful Days lies in the way it actually manages to convey real feelings though its animation. These arent two-dimensional Disney characters ready to be slapped in a Happy Meal, they live, breathe, love and die. All the disasters in the world, all the conflict, doesnt mean a thing, if the pain doesnt have a human face. Oddly enough the animated characters of Wonderful Days seem more humane than most real life characters in large scale live-action movies
To be honest I didnt understand much of the film, the first time I saw it. I was simply so preoccupied with the visuals that I often forgot to pay attention to the story. I could blame the film for this (Ive noticed a lot a reviewers do that) but it really is my own damn fault. The second time I saw the film the visuals were familiar to me, and I was able to sit back and enjoy the story. That made for a much better viewing experience.
Wonderful Days should appeal to Animé and science-fiction fans alike, and if youre both, youre in for a real treat.