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Malice@Doll (August 8/04)

Malice@Doll is an incredibly bizarre story of a robotic prostitute that's transformed into a human after an encounter with a tentacled creature. It's the sort of setup that one expects out of an anime flick, and while the movie contains virtually every staple of the genre, the whole thing never quite comes together.

Part of the problem is that we're never given any kind of context for this strange world that Malice (the aforementioned inanimate hooker) inhabits; there's no doubt it's the future, but that's about the extent of it. The movie seems to take place entirely inside some kind of weird brothel, run entirely by robots and other assorted non-human characters. To call the film's style spare would be an understatement; director Keitaro Motonaga uses jerky computer animation to less-than-great effect, throwing fairly realistic-looking figures into completely abstract backgrounds.

That the film manages to confound on virtually every level has a lot to do with Chiaki Konaka's script, which emphasizes philosphical discussions over character development. As a result, we get a lot of conversations in which Malice wonders what it means to be real - which is all well and good to a certain point, and then it just becomes pretentious. Likewise, Malice's transformation is never explained - nor her newfound ability to change other robots into beasts and monsters. The enigmatic ending poses more questions than it answers, though (to be fair) it's not as though much else in the film made sense.

In the end, it's clear that ones tolerance for Malice@Doll is entirely dependent on ones passion for anime (as in, if you've never seen one before, this certainly isn't the place to start).

out of

About the DVD: Well, if you're a fan of Malice@Doll, you should certainly be pleased with the package ArtsmagicDVD has put together. Along with a superb full-frame transfer, the disc includes a host of supplemental features. A half-hour featurette detailing the history of anime is probably the most interesting bonus feature, as it also deals with the differences between traditional anime and computer animated anime (of which this is). Interviews with voice actress Yukei Yamada, Motonaga, and Konaka are also included, and the disc also comes with character model artwork, biographies and filmographies for the key players involved with the movie, and bonus trailers for other ArtsmagicDVD releases (Alice and Blue Remains).
© David Nusair