Hinokio – Intergalactic Robot Love Story

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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?  

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  Satoru experiences the world through Hinokio.
  He can see and hear, but not feel. . .

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  Hinokio is extremely good at some things, like math. . .
  But poor at others, like running track. . .

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  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
  be treated.

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  There are times when Hinokio bears a striking
  resemblance to E.T.

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  We never did figure out what Hinokio was
  supposed to do with that ice cream cone. . .

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  Hinokio beats a mean drum for a robot.

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  The movie has lots of emotional moments to
  pull on your heart strings.

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  Of course since this is Japan, the main characters
  have to go fishing at some point in the movie.

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  Eventually, Hinokio gets an robot OS upgrade and
  is able to feel, both physically and, for
  Satoru, emotionally.

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  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
  real story.

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  I wish they would sell Hinokio robot models like this.
  I’d buy one in an instant.

Notes:

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.

Related links:

Hinokio Movie Trailer

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6 comments

  1. I found at the movie, that hinokio comes from hinoki (a kind of wood that is used to make the robot leg), not from “H”.

  2. yuqian513

    I’m really really touched by this movie. Hinokio is the most fantastic Japanese movie i’ve ever seen. And i like Jun Kudo.The actress of her is not so famous, but i like her and her role in the movie anyway!

  3. Oh I loved this movie so much! It moved me to tears! It conveys so many good messages and feelings, and I totally fell in love with the little robot too :3 Adorable! I wish there was a real one around here to buy x3

  4. my heart was touch by this drama
    i really like the role of jun kudo, i shed a tears in this movie
    well done! kanata-kun
    so kawaii

    hope to see this movie again

  5. I am touched by this movie…except when Satoru goes to heaven, it somehow looks like he’s going to the underworld,however. Still, this is a great family movie.

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