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Malice @ Doll
voice cast: Yukie Yamada

director: Keitaro Motonaga

74 minutes (18) 2000 widescreen ratio 16:9
Eastern Cult Cinema DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
Many of the best genre films successfully create their own world up there on the screen. However strange it might seem, whatever rules or laws it obeys, whether physical, legal, political, moral, or artistic, the imagined reality needs the facility to make the audience want to believe in the setting and care about its characters in order to fully realise its presumed ambition as entertainment. True, the above is a patently obvious and sweeping generalisation, but markedly pertinent to any critical view of this somewhat peculiar film, because Malice @ Doll fails at this essential and very basic level.
   Malice is a sex doll, a mechanical prostitute in an unspecified future where humans are no longer around for her to serve. She's lured into a trap and brutally attacked by a hideous monster and when she wakes up from this ordeal, Malice finds herself magically transformed into a real human girl. Soon, she discovers that her seemingly viral kiss will change the other dolls into girlfriends, too. Of course, as in many SF or fantasy scenarios - from Pinocchio and Metropolis to Rossum's Universal Robots and Blade Runner - when robotic forms acquire living flesh and human attributes (freewill, in particular), the problems this engenders (especially when gender is an issue or option) often outweigh the potential benefits and may lead to an early death; violence optional...
   Where Malice @ Doll fails badly is the clunky style of its computer animation. The dolls are stiff puppet-like creations with a lack of grace in their movements and a comparable lack of imagination in their design. Although there are some excellent textures here, mostly used to distinguish artificial from natural life, I have seen many better looking student cartoons, where cardboard, pipe-cleaners and assorted household waste materials were cleverly bought to pseudo-life by traditional stop-motion techniques, with a greater skill and sense of artistry than in this disappointing professional film. It's ironic that a film concerned with both artifice and humanity should lack the essence of 'liveliness' that distinguishes the very best animation from production-line cartoons. But here, the filmmaker's attempt to mix charming fairy tale innocence with absurdly prurient lesbian interest is neither creatively valid nor groundbreaking. Unfortunately, it's just simpleminded, and unsatisfying at any level. Unusual does not mean good, okay?
   Decidedly, a curiosity that's worth a look if you're eager for any kind of weird or cult movie, but I sincerely doubt there's much here to interest SF/fantasy or animation fans. Go and watch Final Fantasy again, to remind yourself what CG movies is really capable of.
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