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Hal ("Haru")

North American Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2013
  • 60 mins
  • Video
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)
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After a tragic airplane accident claims the life of her beloved boyfriend Hal, Kurumi is inconsolable. Her wealthy grandfather seeks to heal her broken heart and coax her back out into the world, and to do so, he has a his android Q01 customized to appear and sound just like Hal. Kurumi is hardly welcoming to this mechanical doppelganger of her true love, but this new “Hal” won’t give up easy. Steadfast in its efforts to get Kurumi back on her feet emotionally, Q01, in the process, begins to learn a great deal about its namesake, about love and about what it means to be human.

A rarity in anime these days, HAL is an original work, not based on any pre-existing manga or young-adult novel. A short, self-contained gem of emotionally resonant science fiction (with lovely Kyoto, rich in old traditions, as its backdrop), HAL comes to us care of the widely admired animation studios Production I.G (GHOST IN THE SHELL, LETTER TO MOMO). It’s the directorial debut of Ryotaro Makihara, who cut his teeth as key animator on outstanding anime efforts SUMMER WARS and TEKKON KINKREET. Sweet where so many similarly themed anime works are maudlin, and likewise poetic where others are just opaque, HAL is a high-tech tale with its heart in the right place.

— Rupert Bottenberg