Blu-ray Review: HAL – The Movie

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It seems All The Anime are starting to bring out ‘one-release-after-another’ and today we will be looking at their Blu-ray release of HAL – The Movie; but what we did think of the film and it’s release? Find out in our review.

Synopsis:

Kurumi‘s heart was broken by the sudden death of her boyfriend in a tragic airplane accident. Forced to carry on without her beloved Hal, she fell into a reclusive and joyless existence. Kurumi had given up on the world, but a brilliant scientist devised a plan to win her back.

By melding futuristic technology with the binary equivalent of human emotion, they created an ultra-lifelike robotic surrogate to take Hal’s place and lure Kurumi from her shroud of solitude. Resistant at first, this shattered beauty slowly yielded to her feelings of longing and took comfort in the company of a robot. Though their unique bond grew stronger with each passing day, Kurumi and Hal would soon discover that nothing about their artificial love story was quite as it seemed.

Our View:

HAL is a pretty unique film; it’s a film produced by WIT Studio, the studio behind the barbaric Attack on Titan series, and it’s a film directed by Ryōtarō Makihara; whose not exactly well known within the anime industry. Combine these with a story that’s a smudge over an hour and you are treated to a project that’s not exactly entertaining, memorable or fun, but yet upon completion of the film you are left with a sense of satisfaction; a job well done you might say.

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I should be ‘brutally’ honest; by the half-way point of the film I was growing bored and I just wanted it to end – sure it has some relatively amusing moments, whereby Hal doesn’t know how to use money and accidentally steals a statue of a giraffe but overall it was slow and un-engaging. Anyway soldiering on through the film, as it is only an hour, yielded some unexpected and interesting results that made the ‘boring parts’ worth-while. There is some drama, there is some suspense and there are a few laughs along the way but from an overall perspective the story was just dull and never seemed to go anywhere until the very end – at which point the film is over.

As the synopsis suggests the film is about helping someone overcome their grief of a loved one; a feat achieved by a robot impersonating that person and attempting to replicate the things that the person liked to do. At first Kurumi is unable to open-up to her new robotic companion, but as they say time heals all wounds and eventually she finds a soft spot for him and starts to come out of her shell. Interestingly while this is taking place the viewer is ‘drip-fed’ pieces of the storyline that led-up to the main characters death, be it the pieces of memory fragments which contain video footage of Hal and Karumi or Hal’s old friends filling him-in with crucial details; eitherway when its all pieced together a horrible truth comes to fruition – and this is where the film starts to get interesting.

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I won’t spoil the details for you but if you are clever then you may realise the films “real” story before it’s eventually dropped on your lap at the end. It’s rather cruel and tactical way of presenting a story but when it ends you are left with the sense of satisfaction that you could only receive from a good film. It’s unique, but in the long run it’s not really that entertaining.

Extras:

While the film left me rather bored and unsatisfied I have to commend All The Anime, Madman and FUNimation Entertainment for the rather ‘extensive’ collection of bonus materials, as most of it relates to the ‘production’ aspect of the film, something which anime films are not usually accustomed to receiving. Of course if behind the scenes segments are not your type of bonus material then there is the usual inclusion of Actor Commentaries and Trailers.

  • Actor Commentary
  • Making Of: Production Process (11 minutes)
  • Making Of: Animatics & Scratch Tracks (7 minutes)
  • Original Trailer
  • Textless Closing Song
  • US Trailer

For starters the Actor Commentary is an English Exclusive bonus feature that sees the FUNimation voice cast discuss the film, for instance Mike McFarland (ADR Director) and Chris Bernette (voice of Hal) share their experiences with dubbing the film as well as their impressions of the characters. It’s worth pointing out that this commentary contains lots of spoilers so it’s best watching it after you’ve seen the film.

In terms of ‘Japanese’ originated bonus content we have the Making of: Production Process, which features Matsumoto (Photography Director) and several cast members as they discuss the production process of the film; such as the process from concept (an idea) to story-board and then to the final product. A second ‘making of’ segment, entitled Making of: Animatics & Scratch sees Makihara (the director)and Kitada (the character designer) discuss how voice-acting is done during the production stage of the film and what tactics were used to incorporate the voices into the film.

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Both ‘Making of’ segments are a nice inclusion to the release, as they give you a nice idea of what its like to create and produce an animated film from scratch, a feat which we rarely get to see in our UK releases of anime films (unless it’s a major blockbuster). Of course to round out the list of bonus content we then have the inclusion of usual suspects; such as original Japanese trailers, the US trailer and textless song for the closing part of the film.

Specs:

Media: BD 25
Region: B
Running Time: 1:00:05
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

HAL is a sixty minute film that sees a person over-come the tragic death of a loved-one through a robot; it’s a unique charming tale that, at first, offers some interesting prospects and ideas but by the half-way point I found myself being bored and wanting it to end. It’s not like nothing happens, as Hal tries various tactics to get Kurumi back on her feet, it just felt like it was taking forever to get anywhere. Fortunately a few surprises and unique twists are in-store and when the film draws to a close it’s definitely going to leave an impression on you. HAL might not be the film for me, but it is a film that has to be experienced by yourself so you can see the real story that’s being told and not the one hidden by propaganda and plot details.

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It’s not just the film that left me with mixed views (i.e. it’s not brilliant, but it’s got an interesting twist at the end so it’ worth watching) as the film is presented in 5.1 Surround Sound for both audio tracks. Usually this would be a good thing, as films are always better in surround sound, but seeing as nothing really happens (such as large explosions, car chases or fights) it feels wasted. There is the occasional moment when the surround sound kicks into action, such as the festival scene or when a plane explodes, but other than that it’s mostly quiet dialogue with a few background noises.

This is of course the (personal) ‘annoying’ problem i had with the film; the dialogue can be quiet so those with 5.1 setups need to have the volume turned up higher, at which when something ‘loud’ does happen its louder than what you’d want it to be. In reality a Stereo soundtrack would have been better suited, as all audio-levels would be the same, but it would lose some of the ‘cinematic’ vibe to the film. Its kind of a no-win situation, as both audio formats offer their pros and cons – of course if you don’t have a 5.1 setup (or choose not to use it for this film) then this won’t matter.

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Overall All The Anime’s Blu-ray release of HAL is pretty-much flawless, it has the feature film presented in high definition with 5.1 surround sound and a variety of bonus ‘in-depth’ content to boot it’s just that I didn’t exactly like the film itself, which is a real shame as the message it is trying to present within the story is an important one.

Score: review-stars-4

HAL – The Movie will be available as a Collectors Edition Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack on the 27th October 2014.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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