Monday, February 14, 2011

Love in Japan: Legend of the Doll

Japan has to turn everything weird, so why not a love story?  In this case, that story is Mannequin.  It could be worse- it could be Mannequin 2: On The Move!  So how does the Japanese version of a joke of an '80s comedy film turn out.  Well, it's less creepy and much more maudlin.  Yeah, I was surprised too!  The film takes itself very seriously too, which is very odd when you consider the plot.  It's very curious, so let's just jump right in.  Get out your fake storybook as we look at the ...
The movie begins with a young man going to a store to pick up a doll.  I'm enthralled already.  As if you didn't know that the film was cheap, they do that little 'P.O.V.' in a public square cliche.  On the plus side, they don't set off a bomb in it like Yo-Yo Girl Cop!  The guy gets the doll, but runs across some bullies picking on a young boy.  For a gang of twenty-somethings, you aim for very young victims!  He pretends to call the cops and they immediately flee, but take his doll in the process.  He is a bit depressed and stumbles across a shop that sells other dolls and gets one left for him by a mysterious woman.  This is a plot point that becomes painfully-obvious by the end, but the producers still treat it like The Sixth Sense!  He paints the doll in a long, over-done montage and goes to sleep.  He wakes up the next morning to a strange sight- a woman!  It takes him a while to get over the shock, but I'm more interested in the lady.  In fact, the Director is to, making sure to shoot her from almost every possible angle.
The guy eventually gets used to the doll, convincing her to act a bit more human.  Since this is a kitschy love story, he doesn't go for what you think he would either.  They really are crazy in Japan!  We learn some of his maudlin back-story, but it's more of just a hint.  He had a girlfriend at one point, but something happened to her.  There's only about four plot points in the film, so they have to drag them out!  He goes to work with his goofy friend, leading to what I actually find to be the oddest moment.  It cuts to them sitting at a park bench and clicking on counters when something (they don't show it) goes by.  What the hell kind of job is that?!?  Anyway, the guy goes back home to his girlfriend/doll and she is learning to be more human.  She spent all day watching TV, so she picked up the language.  That night, we get a really odd scene as the woman/doll goes over to the other dolls- who are not transformed- and has a conversation.  There really is something in those mushrooms they eat!  In the grand scheme of things, however, this doesn't really matter.  Instead, it's just more sappy romance...until she is discovered.
The friend eventually discovers the woman/doll when he comes over to drop off his Cosplay costumes- weird.  He accepts the whole situation eventually, but not before doing a silly, comedic double-take or two.  All is going well between the happy couple, but some past problem is still looming overhead.  What is it?  Apparently the girlfriend died six years earlier- despite them looking the same age in the flashback scenes- when she was en route to his apartment to celebrate his birthday with him before leaving for College.  Skipping past a PG-rated costume montage, we get the build-up to the guy's birthday arriving.  This is when things get even weirder.  They start to have sex (kind of) only for the shots to constantly switch from showing the two of them together to showing him and the dead girlfriend.  In a cop-out of sorts, all of the nudity (what little there is, mind you) comes from the girlfriend, not the model.  I guess she didn't sign that release!  After a bit of that, the doll disappears after he gets 'closure' with the ghost girlfriend.  He goes to the store where he got the doll, only to find out that it's been closed for *gasp* six years.  Big shock- the girlfriend bought the doll.  After losing everything yet again, our hero leaves 'happy.'  Odd.
She's no Barbie girl!  The plot of this movie is just plain weird, setting up one unexplained event with another one.  Logic doesn't work that way!  I'm still not clear how the doll came to life or how the ghost of the girlfriend had a thing to do with it.  I guess people in the country that shows Sailor Moon, Yu-Yu Hakashu and Paniponi Dash, people don't question stuff like this.  This movie is one of those ones that you question how it even got released here, since it is so nationalized and weird.  Some stuff countries seem to want to market here- i.e. Godzilla: Final Wars- but other films don't feel that way- i.e. Star Wreck.  What is the audience for this movie?  It's a sappy, romance tale, so it's nothing like the goofy, action stuff they usually promote.  However, the romantic stuff is built around the premise of an animated figurine coming to life!  If that's not mixed-marketing, I don't know what is!  Ultimately though, it is a good Valentine's Day film for those like-minded.  It's innocent- save for the one scene near the end- and all about how love affects us.  It's sappy as hell, though, so you definitely need to be in the right mood for it.  You'll have to wait for your turn next year, Living Doll!
Up next, I finally cover one of the most infamous films in the Mondo Genre.  It's also the first one, so let's see how it stacks up to those that would come later.  Stay tuned...


  1. Wonder what you'd think of the other films in the Akihabara Trilogy.

    1. I had no idea that there were more of these. What films are those?