Hal is a movie about a robot who becomes human as part of an outlandish attempt at “robot therapy”. In this instance we’re dealing with someone who’s not been able to cope with the death of a loved one and has withdrawn from the world.
The robot “Q01” doesn’t just become human – they become the doppelganger of the dead. Does being able to talk to someone who looks and acts like your dead partner help you get over the loss?
Yes, there are certainly elements in Hal in which we follow the robot learning what it is like to be human. We also explore what it is like to lose a loved one and how much a struggle grief can be.
There are some wonderful touches in the movie. I liked the Rubik’s Cube message system. Hal has to solve Rubik’s Cube sides in order to read the wishes Kurumi, his partner, wrote in happier times. There’s a great scene in which a snuggly content looking giraffe ends up in the couple’s small knick knack shop as a result of a Rubik’s wish.
This isn’t really a sci-fi anime. In fact I love the way Hal blended hi-tech with traditional Japanese culture. It’s a rather utopian vision of space age technology living happily alongside bicycles, carpentry, buttons and craftsmanship.
If Hal hadn’t started with Q01 playing in a steam you might have easily been watching the introduction to a samurai anime.
While Hal is an emotional anime dealing with grief and personal loss it is not without humour or even a spot of action. Does Hal have a violent past? One Rubik’s Cube wish hints at a possible problem and then later on we’re treated to a wonderfully drawn chase through a rainy city.
This anime surprised me. I watched it solely because it was part of Scotland Loves Anime 2013 festival line up. Honestly, I doubt I would have given it a chance otherwise. I’m glad I watched it though.
Despite the rather odd idea of robot therapy (how did they think it would end?) it is a surprising level headed anime. Hal might feature robots, and surely there is a connection to the famous HAL in A Space Odyssey, it is really a film about people.
Against all the odds; I’d recommend giving Hal a chance.