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Hammerboy (2003) – DVD Review


Written by Minjo Kim, Cheolwoo Ahn, Jeongun Choi, and Seokyong Lee, based upon the manwha by Youngman Hur
Directed by Taekun An
Music performed by Jana


  • Art gallery
  • Korean & U.S. trailers
  • Music videos

Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:

  • Horrible soldiers killing a pet baby goat for no reason in front of a little girl
  • Little boy peeing in public
  • Escapee nobility
  • War…what is it good for?

Released by: Central Park Media
Region: 1
Rating: 13+
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Add it to your collection.

In Hammerboy, the world has suffered a terrible disaster, and the residents of Candlestick Island do the best they can to survive with limited technology and resources. Mangchi, the titular Hammerboy, is considered something of a troublemaker by the other villagers. We learn that Mangchi’s grandfather possesses a kind of chi power called Great Echo, which Mangchi is trying to learn. Soon, a runaway princess arrives, bringing trouble and adventure with her, and it’s up to Mangchi to save her (and himself) if he can.

The weaknesses of the show are few, but may irritate some more particular viewers. The nature of the cataclysm that destroyed the world is never explained, nor is the source of the Great Echo. At this point, the plot also gets a bit confused, conflating issues of hidden gold on Candlestick Island with the villain Moonk’s desire to steal a crystal from Mangchi’s grandfather. We also get a rather odd training montage, a la Luke on Degobah, some awfully stilted language surrounding the Final Battle, and a rather clichéd chi battle as the Great Echoes of Mangchi and Moonk square off.

Secondary characters are too numerous and too little-developed to care about, even during the inevitable death of a character, which is of course required from a Campbellian Hero’s Journey standpoint, but should have been much more moving than it was. The secret of the mysterious crystal is a bit too hard to guess, especially when surrounded by so many unanswered questions, like why is there a sprout of hair coming out of the top of Mangchi’s hat? and what did Moonk mean by “the crystal is rejecting me?” What is the crystal, anyway and where did Mangchi’s grandfather get it? Also, the “flirting” at the end, and Angdu’s response to it is more irritating than a cute, funny, fitting ending.

The audio is excellent. If you switch back and forth between the non-digital and digital soundtracks, you can hear a huge difference. The sound effects, voice acting, and music are all very well-balanced. The translations were blessedly only changed when cultural references, like Mangchi’s song about ten-cent underwear, would mean nothing to Western audiences. A small quibble is that Poplar is not necessarily the “righteous” heir to the throne, but rather the “rightful” heir. The visuals are also quite well-done; check out the sheer look of the glass on the greenhouses during the opening sequence as Mangchi soars over the village announcing the arrival of a school of tuna. My DVD had a few glitches when the visuals jerked, as if they were proceeding screen-by-screen, but that may have simply been a fault with my disc.

The special features are impressive: we get an art gallery; two trailers—the original Korean trailer, and the U.S. trailer; and a music video of the theme song in both Korean and English. Jana’s voice on the song “You Are My Hero” is truly extraordinary, even if you are less enchanted with the show itself. The trailers are not terribly impressive, but the music videos are fun and an unusual addition. It’s also nice to see what a Korean trailer looks like, instead of the usual Japanese.

The show is really surprisingly good, though plot faults weaken the quality unnecessarily. The cover makes it look like a show for only the littlest of little kids, but it’s actually a solid adventure bildungsroman. If you like coming-of-age tales in general, but are new to anime, this is not a bad place to start. At times things seem to occur only to advance the plot, but if the occasional unexplained motive, convenient coincidence, or deus ex machina doesn’t bother you, then you should still enjoy the show. If you already have an impressive anime collection, then be sure to add this to it; you won’t be sorry. It’s different than just about anything you’ve seen before, but not weird for weirdness’ sake, like other popular anime shows that may have lost you, like FLCL. Just please don’t compare it to something like Miyazaki’s work; that just isn’t fair to Hammerboy, as no one could live up to that.

Buy it from Amazon.