“Maid in Japan”
Part one was deemed by the qualification panel as falling short of the necessary minimum level for inclusion here, being a mix of poignant drama about an elderly man whose lifelong companion’s battery is running down, and porn. The sequel, however, just about does enough to qualify, albeit while retaining a hefty dose of the latter aspect – and you don’t need to have seen part one either. Here, disgruntled scientist Professor Uegusa (Horiken) hatches a plan to destroy the appearance-based culture of romance, and to finance this sends out his “hostroids”, attractive male androids, in a variety of guises, e.g. office manager, door-to-door salesman, etc. to seduce woman and bilk them of their savings. He also sends them to kill rival researcher Dr. Kouenji, who had been building a countermeasure, in the form of a maid android, Maria (Yoshizawa). Before his death, Kouenji sends Maria to geeky student Shotarou (Haraguchi), but she isn’t ready, needing her “love circuit” activated before she can attain her full potential needed to defeat Uegusa and the hostroids. Can Shotarou manage that final step before the hostroids take him and Maria down?
After a fairly wobbly opening period, where it looks like the balance is going to tilt firmly towards the fleshly, this recovers nicely, demonstrating a nice sense of absurd humour, and with good lead performances from Yoshiwaza and Haraguchi. Shotarou comes over as likeable but lonely, rather than dysfunctional, and (whether by accident or design!) Yoshisawa’s stilted performance is perfect for Maria – a name which is an obvious nod to perhaps the first cinematic female robot, from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It poses an interesting moral question too: you would think Shotarou would be right behind Uegusa’s plan, but the moral appears to be, that there’s something for everyone. Admittedly, it is somewhat undermined by Maria being emotionally attached to whoever is the first person she sees after being activated, but let’s not get into a discussion of free will in artificially created life-forms, shall we?
The action is limited, this clearly not being Yoshisawa’s forte, but is enlivened by imagination; for example, her maid head-band transforms into a lethal sword, and the hostroids have drill weapons that are… Well, I trust there’s no need for a diagram. After the film hits its stride (which takes maybe 15 of its 64 minutes), this manages to achieve a nice level, acknowledging the obviously prurient interests of the viewer, without pandering to them excessively. In a surprising twist, I actually found myself… Well, I wouldn’t go as far as “caring about”, but let’s say, “not entirely disinterested in” the protagonists and their fate, which is a rare occurrence in a movie of this kind. Maybe it’s just seeing this after the hell of Cat Girl, but by no means was this as terrible as I thought it might be.
Dir: Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Star: Akiho Yoshizawa, Daisuke Haraguchi, Hiroshi Hatakeyama, Horiken