The anime movie Hal, a lovely piece from Wit Studio and Production IG, aired just one year ago in June 2013. Thus, it was a pleasant and refreshing surprise when I learned that Funimation had picked up the rights to dub and will be releasing the film in the US! Especially since I don’t believe too many people knew about this film prior to Funi picking it up.
Hal is a story about loss and dealing with grief. But it’s also about the hope of rebuilding.
I’ll be keeping this review spoiler free! So have no fear as you read and make sure you pick up a copy of the official Funimation release (scheduled for September 2nd)!
The story begins in a quiet village in Japan, with a curious robot named Kyuichi, trying to catch fish in a stream. Soon, the tranquility is broken by a commercial airplane bursting into flames in the sky overhead.
Then, we are introduced to a couple, Hal and Kurumi. Boyfriend and girlfriend who were untimely separated as Hal was killed on that airplane explosion. Kurumi falls into seclusion: not eating, not sleeping, not venturing out of her house anymore. Thus, she is sent a “Hal” robot (by direction of a local doctor in her community) to help her through her grief and keep her through her grief. At first, things don’t go too well. Plus, Robo-Hal (as we can fondly call him) isn’t the best at comforting anyone and can barely cook. But, as time goes on, he learns more about Kurumi and his persistence proves to be his most valuable attribute. But Robo-Hal is not without aid in helping Kurumi. The local doctor is there to give him encouragement, of course, as well as a group of old ladies in the local retirement home give him advice to help Kurumi. But more importantly, he finds a Rubik’s cube in Kurumi’s house, ready to be solved. And each side that is solved reveals a message, a wish of Kurumi. The more sides he solves, the closer Robo-Hal can get to helping Kurumi open her heart once again.
Just as things start going well, we learn that the situation isn’t exactly as it seems and the past cannot be so easily escaped.
But no spoilers for the ending! I did promise, after all. But I can’t guarantee the comments will be spoiler free, so beware!
The animation of Hal was stunning and gorgeous to look at. Could be a bit too shiny in some places, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching it all.
The story telling was simple, but expertly woven as to not drag on too long in places where it didn’t need to. At some times it felt a bit slow, but soon picked up, especially when we came closer to the climax of the story. The pacing was well timed and nothing seemed too rushed or too slow.
The use of plot devices made Hal all the more whimsical in some ways, from Rubik’s cubes to buttons to stuffed animals and to especially a glowing red button. It gave the story a other worldly feel, which fit with the story, interestingly enough.
Hal is rated PG-13 for more mature ideas (like death, etc.), but cursing is minimal and there is no sexual or violent content.
I always take a chance with most anime movies, especially originally created ones. Sometimes they do well and sometimes they don’t. Hal is a movie that did things well. It is a beautifully constructed story that ponders life and death and the reality that while all life must come to an end, we can still move forward with the memories of the ones we love.
I gave Hal a 9/10 on myanimelist, and even after watching it several times over after that, I still stay pretty firm in that rating. It’s definitely a film I would recommend in a heartbeat.