Malice@Doll is an interesting anime feature from Keitaro Motonaga. Set in a post-apocalyptic future with mankind long dead all that remains is a group of robots. The film explores ideas of life and death, purpose and meaning through the central character Malice, a prostitute "doll" who is somehow transformed into something else.

We open in a strange run-down sexual theme park populated largely by a variety of robot prostitutes or "dolls". With no clients to service and nothing to do the majority lie around in various states of disrepair. Malice awakens from a dream and unable to rouse anyone she begins to wander. She encounters a couple of other robots along the way including Joe Administrator who runs the "organisation" and he notes that she is malfunctioning and should report to the repairer for immediate treatment.

The central character Malice

Malice is unable to find the repairer and instead finds some kind of organism which pierces her body and transforms her into a real human being. Malice is overjoyed at the feeling of life and surprised to discover that she can change other robots into organic life by kissing them. However, while Malice is a beautiful young woman, many of the others she converts are not as lucky as they transform into surreal multi-limbed beasts. As things begin to get more and more unpleasant Malice tries to put things back as they were and her quest leads to a strange ending which is open to many different interpretations.

This anime has a surreal beauty to it, the CG animation is impressive and the overall art style achieved is very memorable. The director uses static shots throughout and the blank faces of the robots combined with the stark dialogue create an eerie atmosphere which draws you in. The visuals are a striking mix of beautifully modelled characters, 2D cell animation and dark brooding backdrops.

The character design is excellent; I especially liked Joe Administrator, a tall spindly cloaked robot with a perfect white mask for a face and huge deep eyes. The "dolls" are equally well-designed if a little more familiar from the smutty side of anime and manga with the classic huge eyes, ridiculously curved bodies and brightly coloured clothes and hair.

The sound is also well done, a dreamy mixture of floating music and robot sound effects with a fair amount of organic squelching. The DVD comes with a choice of English dubbing or subtitles and a professional job has been done with both, no doubt a task made easier by the simple script.

Some of Malice´s robot prostitute companions

The film poses some philosophical questions about the nature of existence and there are shades of Bladerunner in this bleak future world. However the plot is not straightforward and most of the events during the film are never explained as the viewer is left to reach their own conclusion on what this is all about.

There are some explicit sexual scenes in the film and I´m sure most anime fans are now used to seeing tentacle sex. There is also a strong S&M flavour to some of the characters but I have certainly seen worse and this element of the movie is secondary to the philosophical exploration.

With a relatively small budget Motonaga has managed to create a thoughtful and interesting piece of work. While it cannot compete with the complexity and quality of films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell the simplicity here is somewhat refreshing and makes for an enjoyable viewing experience.

A surreal journey into a future which will hopefully never come to pass Malice@Doll is quite unique and well worth a look for anime fans.

You can find more info on this film and see the trailer here - Artsmagic for Japanese Films

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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