The typical American love story goes, boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, boy overcomes intense hardship, boy gets girl, they live happily ever after. But, what pattern would a robot love story follow? Leave it to the Japanese to come up with a new and totally different take on it.
In Hinokio, released in the theaters here in Japan last September, a young boy, Satoru, loses his mother in an accident.
Suffering both physical and emotional damage, Satoru, confined to a wheelchair, retreats and isolates himself from society. His only avenue of escape from his isolation is to immerse himself in a video game aptly named ‘Purgatory.’
As the story develops, Satoru uses an advanced robot – Hinokio – as his avatar to attend school and experience the ‘real world.’ While sometimes predictable, the plot is full of strong emotional and philosophical moments. We found ourselves alternating between laughter, tears, and quandary.
Although the movie is clearly intended as entertainment, it presents some very thought provoking questions for all of us to consider. How do we experience and engage with the ‘real world.’ For example, if we use an avatar, either in an online game or Second Life type of virtual reality world, and people develop relationships with our avatar, then how do we fit into the picture – if at all.
The movie also triggers a lot of thought about virtual presence. Can this type of technology allow people to act at a distance? For example, many emotionally or physically handicapped kids are unable to attend classes or mix with other children. Through the use of a robotic avatar, will they be able to experience and interact with life to a much greater level?
Satoru experiences the world through Hinokio.
He can see and hear, but not feel. . .
Hinokio is extremely good at some things, like math. . .
But poor at others, like running track. . .
He is quickly accepted by some of the students,
but hazed and bullied by others – just like
a new human joining a Japanese class would
There are times when Hinokio bears a striking
resemblance to E.T.
We never did figure out what Hinokio was
supposed to do with that ice cream cone. . .
Hinokio beats a mean drum for a robot.
The movie has lots of emotional moments to
pull on your heart strings.
Of course since this is Japan, the main characters
have to go fishing at some point in the movie.
Eventually, Hinokio gets an robot OS upgrade and
is able to feel, both physically and, for
All most all of the movie posters and promotional
material just show the left side of this image. Yet,
the full image conveys much more of the movie’s
I wish they would sell Hinokio robot models like this.
I’d buy one in an instant.
Hinokio’s name, creatively coined by some of the classmates, is word-play combining the robot’s factory designation – a model number beginning with “H” – with Pinokio.
The movie played in Japanese theaters in September through early October. The promotional ‘Making of Hinokio’ DVD was just released in Japan, and the full movie DVD
should be released with the next month or so.made it to DVD at the end of November (our local video store gave us some incorrect info.) Some foreign DVD sources claim to be selling an ‘official’ DVD with English subtitles, though it's hard to understand how they come by the DVDs since the Hinokio DVDs haven't even been released in Japan yet.Cavet emptor.