Anime movie review: Hal (ハル)

By | November 1, 2015

Hal, an animated Japanese film from 2013 directed by Ryōtarō Makihara, is the second of two movies we recently purchased. The first was Patema Inverted, which I reviewed here. These movies were so totally different in almost every way.

This movie begins with a terrible plane accident that results in the death of Hal (more properly written as Haru) who is Kurumi one true love. She has trouble recovering from the terrible shock of losing the person who had become nearly a part of herself, and shuts up herself in her home. A friend of hers hears of her situation and sends her a robot in Haru’s perfect likeness, hoping to somehow ease her return to the outside world.

Although both this film and Patema Inverted can be considered Science Fiction works revolving around a young boy and girl, their approach to storytelling is drastically different. Whereas Patema Inverted’s scale is large and encompasses several worlds, Hal focuses purely on the character’s relationship (and their past) without too much extra stuff going on at the same time. It is much shorter, though I feel the length is perfect for what the movie tries to achieve.

The visuals in Hal are very beautiful, even artistic, though in a few scenes the extreme color palettes can become a bit tiring on the eyes. The CG used is very well integrated and complements the hand-drawn portions without becoming too showy. In particular, one scene with animated water stood as being particularly well animated. My only minor nitpick is I don’t like the way the character’s faces are are drawn, they are a little too generic (this is one of the few things it shares with Patema Inverted).

The soundtrack was also quite good, with a few moments where music, rather than dialog, was skillfully used to great effect.

This movie is good practice for those looking to practice their Japanese listening skills, since there is very little technical talk or advanced vocabulary used despite the fact it is Science Fiction. In that respect it closer to a TV drama than a typical anime movie.

The result of all this is wonderful and touching, and totally worth watching. This is one of the rare Anime movies that doesn’t require you to be an Anime otaku to fully appreciate it, since the director focuses more on trying to tell a great story as opposed to crazy antics and over-showy gestures. Not to say there is drama in this film, it’s there all right, but I feel everything in this movie is there for a purpose.

You’ve probably noticed by this point I’ve said very little about the story except the introduction. Thats because I want you to go out and see it yourself! If you do decide to go out and watch this, I’d recommend not reading any more reviews of it and just taking the plunge. You’ll appreciate the movie that way, I think.

Note: In case the cheesily done cover image turns you off, don’t pay any attention to that. This work is much deeper than that suggests. 

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