Before I begin; hello to everyone! I recently joined the reviewing team over here at trzr23, doing my part to focus on reviewing anime films, and I am excited to be here! My full profile is not yet up because the lazy-ass admin (trzr23) is currently busy picking on Mahou Shoujo fans.
For many people, first impressions are everything. You only ever get one shot at them. If something doesn't get you hooked in the first few minutes, it ain't worth watching. For other people, they are willing to belay a slow beginning if the rest of the show is a success.
Oseam is a show where the first few minutes are, well, a little frustrating. I hate to use the word "kiddie" here, because lots of movies aimed at kids are wonderful, but after you endure a minute of the young male protagonist in the movie Gil-son and his horribly forced laughter, followed by the generic 'play-soothing-music-as-the-credits-roll,' you start to wonder if this truly is a fairy tale aimed at adults, as the author of the work this film is based on, Jeong Chae-bong, used to describe it.
The film begins with two young kids; the aforementioned Gil-son and his older sister, Ga-mi, who are taken in by two Buddhist monks. Gil-son is a rambunctious child, and it's partly explained early on by the fact that these two children are motherless (where their father lives, if he does, is never explained). After running into a dog that has stolen some rice from the two monks, the two traveling kids are brought to a small Buddhist temple/village. Gil-son quickly establishes himself as a troublemaker, while Ga-mi is a more introverted, hard-working child. Gil-son is too young to understand that their mother is gone forever, and so Ga-mi is tasked with the difficult job of, essentially, raising him, which is made harder by the fact that she is blind.
Sadly, this film ends up being a clear case of some good ideas buried under way too many bad ones. For one thing, the entire work has an amateurish feel to it. Even a low budget feel. The animation is weak, particularly in areas of motion. Characters either move very slowly or unnaturally fast and choppy. The music is equally "cheap" sounding, and somewhat reminiscent of a cross between 80s ballads and elevator music.
Infact, the entire movie has a feel of a B-side Disney animation from the mid 20th century, and that is not a compliment. It may be suitable for young kids, but a lot of the attempts at humor will get lost among an older crowd. Unfortunately, it also mixes in a lot of modern effects. There are tons of slowdown shots, which, in a serious drama like this, just seems silly. There's even a Matrix-like bullet-time moment, where Gil-son jumps after being chased by a dog, and everything stops as the camera rotates around him. It's almost comical.
Oseam as a whole is just overburdened with cheap attempts at emotional response. There are a good half dozen flashback scenes - complete with stereotypical sad music - and for a movie that clocks in at about 70 minuets, that's a lot. At one point late int he film, there's a flashback for something that happened literally 15 minutes earlier, as if the viewer is suffering from short-term memory loss. There's a lot of attempt here to make every little small detail into some big, over-dramatic event. We don't need this; the focus should remain on Gil-son and Ga-mi and their burgeoning sibling relationship.
And for moments, when it does do that, the film works. Ga-mi shines in her role; it's just too bad that, halfway through the film, she is hardly seen from again. Even Gil-son though shines at moments. The film is at his best when he rambles on with the monks at the temple, often asking simple questions that reveal a lot more than they do at first glance, much like all children have a tendency to do, or when he is talking with a painting of The Goddess of Mercy painting on the wall of a room, expressing hope for him and his sister. His rambling, inquisitive nature eventually leads to a bit of a relationship with the viewer, and feels naturally childlike His relationship with his sister is also solidly developed and executed, and his search for curing her blindness is touching.
Sadly, Oseam just lays on the cheese factor far too heavily. The lullaby like music ends up feeling cheap more than anything; if it was used more sparingly, it would have been more effective, but when it literally occurs every few minutes, it's more frustrating than anything. Some scenes of conflict are just strange; rowdy kids that visit the temple get into a fight with our two protagonists, only to never be seen nor heard from again. Ga-mi becoming more of an auxiliary character is frustrating too; separating the two siblings, as the movie does halfway through, takes away the main source of chemistry Oseam has, as a film.
It's a cliché, admittedly, but Oseam is a blatant case of taking one step forwards, and two steps back. For every thing that the film does right, it has moments of melodrama and corny speeches that make the viewer cringe. The ending is entirely mishandled; it's a cheap attempt at emotional response and sadness that just feels wholly unnecessary and rushed.
As a film, Oseam shows some potential, but it's just too bogged down in weak attempts at melancholy and reflection. It's a watchable film, barely, but one that I can't recommend anyone devote over an hour of their time to. As a religious fable, it's lacking in any significant statement or new revelation (infact, for better or worse, the religious aspect is not very significant until the very end), and as a drama, it feels like a bad soap-opera show much of the time.