Korean Animation Spotlight is a new series I want to begin in order to highlight Korean animation that is inspired by or follows the same model as traditional anime. Many people don’t know this, but nowadays, Korean animation studios are involved with a great number of Japanese productions in some capacity. Korean animation studios are forces to be reckoned with, and more and more often productions come out that I believe in time, will rival Japanese anime and perhaps change the industry as we know it.
The first project this series will focus in is Semi and the Magic Cube. This animation premiered 1st of August in EBS and so far has 8 episodes.
Semi and the Magic Cube is meant to be an educational show to teach about mathematics. However, it does this with an involved story and nuanced characters.
The story tells the tale of Semi, a bright girl who goes in a magical time journey with the genius teacher Wai, in order to prevent the evil X from utilizing the powers of the magic cube for evil.
Along the way, Semi and her math school friends run into history and math problems that they must solve with logic and wit.
Even though this is a show for children, the story is complex enough that the episodes can be enjoyed by people of various ages.
Semi: A girl with incredible mathematical abilities. She is fearless, opinionated, and has a strong sense of justice.
Wai: He is a teacher at the math school and considered a genius. He has a hard time expressing his emotions but really cares for Semi. He has a high magic level and uses an Abacus as a weapon.
Hong Koha: After using his uncle’s time watch he ended up in Semi’s time and getting involved with her adventures. Although he is a little bit awkward he is very smart and knows a lot about history, which is very useful when he and Semi time travel.
Heukdol: A pawn of X, he pursues Semi and Wai. He has a confrontational personality and his relationship with Semi is complex. He always ends up protecting Semi in the end.
X dori: This creature is made from X’s energy. He is very confident and uses bombs as weapons.
Gyojang: He is the principal of the magic school and understands the magic cube. His calling is to maintain the legacy of algebra.
X: The principal’s son, he wants to be acknowledged but always compared to Wai. This rivalry causes him to act out in evil ways.
Art and Animation
The animation is described by the studio as “2D flash”. For those familiar with NewGrounds flash animations, it definitely has that feel.
However, the movements, colours, and backgrounds are much more sophisticated, ad the quality of the production shines through. The animation gives it a unique style.
I quite like the character design. Semi is such an original looking protagonist, and it is great to see Korean history and culture being incorporated into the story. I think the variety of characters along with colorful outfits and Korea inspired designs makes this production very unique, and something that can stand out from Japanese anime id it was ever grouped in the same space.
The animation has several elements of magical girl anime, which is fun to see and interesting in conjunction with the mathematical theme of the story.
The production is done by Durufix studio, which has mostly done work in game production. Their work in the video game field is awesome, and I definitely see them making a more mature anime production in the future.
Music and Voice Acting
The production’s opening and ending is in my opinion, quite good. It’s good to see Korea utilizing it’s strong music industry to work in unison with animation.
The voice acting is where I think the show lacks, which is something that I think is deterring Korean anime from gathering more of an audience. I think at times, the characters speak a little too intensely when the situation doesn’t warrant it, and the acting can sound a bit forced? I see this happen often with Korean production, and it reminds me of Latin-American anime dubs. The acting Is always unnecessarily exaggerated instead of sounding natural.
Then again, I don’t speak Japanese so it might be the case for Japanese productions as well.
The episodes last 15 minutes and are obviously geared towards children. Quite frankly, I think this is an excellent production and aesthetically, quite appealing.
I think some of the critiques “Korean anime” sometimes gets is that it fails to correctly capture the essence of Japanese anime, but this is understandabe. I am not sure that the Korean animation industry seeks to replicate anime, but rather provide its own version of it with its own vision and story.
In terms of visuals, I am enamoured by the characters, and their diverse design is a refreshing change from some productions where all characters look the same with different hair.
You can catch Semi on EBS on TV or through their Video on Demand on their website. Check out the official website here (korean only): http://home.ebs.co.kr/magiccube/etc/1/htmlMenu