In my recent "walk" through Korean animation, I stumbled upon Hong Deok-pyo, whose "The Senior Class" presented a very interesting social commentary dealing with art, the school environment and sex. After that, I decided to look a bit more into the director's filmography, and I stumbled upon "Master and Man", his previous work, an adult animated drama of 11 episodes, that shares many merits with the aforementioned title.
Hyeon-dae is a substitute art teacher and a playboy. For two years, he has been having a mainly sexual relationship with Min-joo, a traffic reporter. In one of their "dates", during sex, he tells her that he is about to get married. This revelation eventually breaks up their relationship, but also brings forth some unknown feelings. Hyeon-dae seems to want more from her, although his need to have sex with women is equally intense, while she seem to have feelings for another man, who is married. Almost immediately after, Min-joo decides to live with a third man, who has been pursuing her, in a rush decision that irritates Hyeon-dae, despite the fact that he cannot stop having sex with any woman that comes his way, including a student and his wife.
Hong Deok-pyo directs a series that revolves around the misconception of sex and love. In that fashion, both of the main characters seem to need to be loved, but instead of admitting the fact, they just embark in a series of promiscuous relationships, which, although satisfy their biological needs, leave them empty and lonely. The series is actually a trip of realization for the two of them, towards this specific reality.
However, and despite their sufferings, none of them is actually a genuinely good person. They use the people around them (Hyeon-dae his wife and female students and Min-joo the man she lives in), to avoid loneliness, without though returning much, as they purely exploit them. Through this concept, Hong presents his comments about society, a dog-eat-dog place where the good-looking take advantage of the rest of the people to use them anyway they need, although they do not actually feel any satisfaction by doing so. They do it just because they can.
The animation does not shy away at all from sexual scenes, which are many in every episode, and quite explicitly presented, in both image and sound. However, sex here always hides an underlying message, in order for Hong to present the aforementioned comments, avoiding thus, of being characterized as pornography. The narration, that even describes the sex scenes occasionally, is a nice addition, explaining some things not depicted on screen, and providing much laughter.
The drawing is somewhat simplistic, but does its job quite well, while the colors are a bit dull, particularly when compared with "The Senior Class", , a production of different scale. The artistry however, is there, particularly deriving from the realism that permeates all the aspects of the film (although some very brief scenes of surrealism are not missing), while the animation and the general style of the drawing seem to fit the characters and the setting perfectly.
"Master and Man" has its faults, but it definitely deserves a look as an animation that combines sexual themes with pointy social remarks.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Drama Review] "Master and Man""
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