Suzu is a robot with the body of a child, built to have implanted the personality of a dead boy. When he meets Hotori one day, he is shocked to learn that she is the exact opposite of him; while Suzu gains more and more memories, Hotori slowly loses hers due to a terminal illness. A friendship quickly forms between the robot boy and the human girl, but can it stand the trials that lie ahead as Hotori might forget Suzu one day, and he is not supposed to have a personality of his own?
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: Interesting SF setup; engrossing drama
Lows: Subpar art; rather weak ending
Good science fiction, first and foremost, should focus on the effects that science and technology have on society, and that’s what Hotori does right from the beginning. Very much like an Isaac Asimov story, this anime concentrates on the implications of a machine that walks like a human, talks like a human and even feels like a human but will be denied one of the most basic human rights: the freedom of choosing one’s path of living. Sure, Suzu acts like he doesn’t mind, but his inner development clearly shows resistance, if only on a subconscious level.
The main drama, however, doesn’t stem from Suzu’s conflict with the new personality he’s supposed to get but from his confrontation with Hotori and her progressive memory loss. Faced with questions both philosophical and down-to-Earth, his decisions are what brings suspense and excitement into an otherwise rather common plot; decisions, I must add, that are heavily discussed even in today’s society. The fact that Suzu is still a robot, even one meant to replace a human, leaves the audience in the dark about the outcome of the story, and that’s what makes the drama so engrossing.
Unfortunately, the overall presentation of Hotori is a little lacking. The character concepts are very bland and generic, and the animation leaves much to be desired, especially for a 2005 production. AIR has already proven that slow dramas can profit immensely from engrossing visuals, and put bluntly, Hotori‘s visuals would have only been acceptable back in 1990. While talking about dated, the ending is also not exactly innovative. It’s been done before, not once, but many times, and sometimes better. Sad, melancholic dramas do not always profit from hopeful, positive resolutions.
The main redeeming qualities of Hotori are its initial setup: the robot personality of Suzu and his development and the drama that comes from Hotori’s medical condition. Aside from those, this anime has only few points that make it stand out from other dramatic productions. More innovation in the way it deals with the raised questions would have made it better, and the ending could have easily been improved by making the actual robot/human conflict stand out more. Lovers of Asimov’s “I, Robot” (the novel, not the movie) will probably find good entertainment in the story of Suzu and Hotori. For everybody else, watch AIR instead.
Highs: Interesting premise…
Lows: … only poorly executed on many levels
Hotori: Tada Sawai no Koinegau is like buying the freshest vegetables, the most tender meats, all the best ingredients… and then burning them on the stove. Not to say that blurring the lines between man and machine is some novel idea, but like a great recipe passed down from generation to generation, it never gets old with each retelling. Which is why I’m amazed that a tried-and-true formula can be handled so badly, as it was here.
Much of this anime centers on the two lead characters, Suzu and Hotori, in three settings: a bedroom, an arboretum and a laboratory. Surely with such mundane and uninspired locales, a dearth of fancy animation is to be expected, but that does not excuse Hotori from displaying an untamed cacophony of stilted images, head-scratching camera angles and animation riddled with amateurish shortcuts. The accumulation of such ill-conceived visuals was monumentally distracting, such that often I caught myself nitpicking the minutiae and not concentrating on the subject matter at hand. The music pieces, while individually pleasing to the ear, are completely wrong for each of their respective scenes; the music is played at far too high of a volume, overwhelming the emotion of the moment like a tidal wave.
With a running time of approximately 40 minutes, it was good to see that the creators of this anime had the sense to trim the fat and focus on the story. Side characters serve only the function of a narrative, asking themselves the very questions such a premise would inspire within the audience: to what extent are machines sentient? What rights should machines be granted, and must they differ from those of humans? Congratulations are in order for this anime showing the restraint necessary to not overtly answer these questions but merely to inspire us to ponder them. Luckily, we’re spared the nuisance of tacked-on and irrelevant side stories that would only get in the way.
And yet, the message Hotori was trying to convey was muted by poor decisions on how to translate it onto the big screen. This story would have been better suited by scrolling the script with a plain background for the audience to read. And that, my friends, makes for a good book but a poor anime.
Hotori: Tada Sawai no Koinegau can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.