Cyborg She (2008)

When hapless loner Jiro is met by a beautiful young woman on his birthday he cannot believe his luck. After a night of hijinks, the mysterious stranger tells him that she has travelled from the future and must now leave. A year later, the same woman walks back into his life and he discovers that she is a cyborg, sent back by his future self to protect him.

The premise is about as silly as they come, but the film-makers manage to weave an emotional story between the more outrageous comedy. As you might expect there are plenty of slapstick moments involving the robot, such as her malfunctioning after drinking alcohol, or slamming various men into walls when they try to touch her. Haruka Ayase gives a great central performance as the cyborg, perfectly capturing the robotic motions while managing to exude a degree of charm and humour. Along with Keisuke Koide, who plays the bumbling geek Jiro, they are a good comic partnership, with his ineptitude matched by her cold confidence and attempts to learn how to be a human. There are moments that go beyond ridiculous such as the cyborg running at impossible speeds, and as usual the time-travel paradoxes are best not to think about too hard. I was most surprised by the films tender moments, especially the scene where Jiro is taken back to his childhood. The film almost stops while we explore this past world and the music and direction create a poignant vignette of childhood memories. The main issue here is that the tone swings wildly from slapstick to sentimental, occasionally such a drastic change as to feel like a separate film. Writer and director Kwak Jae-yong  has cobbled together something bizarre and abstract, heavily influenced by science-fiction and romantic comedies that have gone before, that nevertheless is strangely enchanting. There are scenes reminiscent of Terminator and Star Wars, and the entire plot is a sort of mix-tape of greatest hits moments from other love stories. Some great special effects work, stunts and larger scale action sequences, make this an enjoyable watch. But throughout there is a clear focus on characters and story that is heartfelt.

This film surprised me with its quality as from the title (Japanese: My Girlfriend is a Cyborg) and premise, you might expect a cheap knockabout comedy, with gags about her not fitting in. While this is partly true, there are some genuinely amusing scenes and a real warmth to what they are attempting here. I feel as though the film was misnamed because at its heart it is a film about the past, rediscovering lost memories, love and loneliness, and a whole collection of things that aren’t quite captured in the comedy title. A good romantic comedy with science-fiction elements that is unexpectedly impactful in emotional content.

Cyber City Oedo 808

Three violent criminals serving out multiple life sentences on an orbital penitentiary spaceship are given a final chance for redemption: help the police track down criminals on earth in exchange for shortened prison terms. The show pulls you in immediately with this concept. You are almost forced to root for these bad guys, as they in turn work to outrun more bad guys. They are equipped with collars that will explode if they do not complete their mission within an allocated time period. The idea is simple, but the execution is brilliant, with a fun soundtrack, lots of sci-fi elements such as cities run by machines, the evolution of technology, as well as some horror elements with references to vampires and lashings of blood and gore on top.

The main characters are likeably rude and violent, contrary to the typical image of a hero. Most of the action is set in Oedo, a futuristic Tokyo, which has been entirely overtaken by computers, everything is run by machines and there is a dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of metal walls and towering structures.

There are only three episodes of this show, with each episode following one of the main character on a mission. Worth watching, with some great animation, music, and fast paced action scenes.