Ahh, the annual Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme once again, though it's a little different this year. Being busy and essentially out of any sort of social loop, I was late to the party with booking, didn't get to see any Japanese directors in the flesh and missed out on the opportunity to win £100 pounds-worth of cosmetics...for my wife.
This year, therefore, I essentially had to go with whatever was left from the strangely limited, free, online booking system, where access to the films self-destructs. Why? Probably licensing laws and copyright protection, or something like that.
Tomohiko Ito's "Hello World" is a film that seems to follow the rules of many recent internationally successful anime in that it is a love story with a sci-fi leaning, with all the visual detail you need. But, while starting off as an interesting idea, this world gets a little too overindulgent and all feels somewhat familiar.
Set in present day Kyoto, Naomi is a boy who likes to read and live an orderly life. Low on friends and confidence, his is a fairly lonely existence. A self-help guide he uses is snatched by a bird, so he gives chase to retrieve it. But it is here that he meets a strange man, claiming to be himself from the year 2027. The man wants his help, help that means that young Naomi may finally find himself some company.
His older self tells him how constant surveillance and the collection of data has meant that the future Kyoto is more a matrix-like virtual world, within a world. His first love, Ruri, suffered an accident, and so was not captured for this virtual reality. So, guiding his younger self, he sets about winning Ruri's heart and hopefully prevent the accident from happening, thus preserving her smile for all eternity.
Or, something like that.
The plot builds nicely in the first half, with the romance the main element of the story. Despite the assistance of a man from the future with endless data at him hands, it is in fact the mere physical object of books that draws Naomi and Ruri together naturally. Focusing on how the natural and physical world is more heartening than the more dangerous world of the digital would have been a direction I would have liked the story to go, but instead it goes more into the sci-fi, perhaps becoming overindulgent in its need to out-do itself as action constantly switches to yet more action.
The second half perhaps needs to pause for breath a little more, becoming an endless visual barrage of movement and colour. While essentially there is nothing wrong with that, the velocity of this, combined with the increasingly complex plotline can easily lose its audience midway through.
Visually, "Hello World" is very impressive, with a detailed recreation of Kyoto, though this has become something of a standard in bigger budget anime now. Stylistically, this does feel like the work of someone who worked on Mamoru Hosoda's "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time". But much feels familiar. Ideas feel like the sort you would expect from the aforementioned Hosoda work and other contemporary anime, as well as the likes of "Inception" and "Black Mirror". There are, therefore, maybe too many ideas crammed in here, feeling as much a music video promo as a well-paced and developed film.
This is a shame, as "Hello World" could have worked well if sticking to its first half pace, though rather than developing like a good novel, it ends favouring the fast-paced demands of the digital age.
Review by politic1983 from the Internet Movie Database.