After wandering through the desert for days, a bitter warrior named Munsu is lost and unable to continue. His life is unexpectedly saved by Mon-ryon, a young man who dreams of becoming a secret agent for Jushin, a once-great country that was recently destroyed. Mon-ryon's goal is to save his girlfriend, Chunhyan, a born fighter who is held captive by the evil Lord Byonand. Then, from out of nowhere, blood begins trickling from his chest. He has been fatally wounded by the Sarinjas, a cannibalistic breed of desert goblin. The quick-thinking Munsu convinces these beasts to spare his life, in exchange for the peaceful handover of Mon-ryon's appetizing corpse. Although skeptical of Mon-ryon's motives, Munsu sets out to continue the mission that the young idealist described. Accompanied by an army of ghost troops, unleashed using the powers of Angyo Onshi, Munsu liberates Chunhyan. After visiting her boyfriend's final resting place, she declares herself Munsu's bodyguard and, together, they set out on a mission to punish those who stripped Jushin of its original glory.
Phantom Master: Dark Hero From Ruined Empire is a groundbreaking and important film in the history of Asian cinema, as it marks the first theatrical animation collaboration between Japan and Korea. Even the source material comes from mixed national descent. While the story originated as a graphic novel inspired by a Korean folktale, it morphed into a popular, serialized comic in Japan's Sunday Gene-X. Financing for the film came from both Korean and Japanese sources, shortly after Korea decided to open its borders to Japanese culture. The film brings together Japan's OLM, the animation studio behind Pokemon, and Korea's up-and-coming Character Plan. Combining quiet moments of poetry with striking, gruesome moments of death and destruction, this is one of several films at this year's festival with a thoroughly unsentimental emphasis on the apocalyptic. This depiction of hopeless desperation is also reflected in the film's wandering anti-hero protagonist and his resemblance to Clint Eastwood's jaded man-with-no-name incarnation in the films of Sergio Leone. In fact, the film has an alarming variety of visible influences, from Taxi Driver and the films of Sam Peckinpah to the trilogy and numerous works of anime. There's even a sequence involving zombies. Above all, though, Phantom Master amazes with its epic, action-packed vision and elaborately conceived, imagined world. Fans of Korean and Japanese cinema pay close attention, this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Director: Joji Shimura, Ahn tae-geun
Screenplay: Mitsuru Hongo
Cast: Keiji Fujiwara, Sanae Kobayashi, Mitsuru Miyamoto, Romi Park
Producers: Bunsho Kajiya, Kazuhiko Yusa, Jee-Hye Yang, Lee Sang-Don