Ignore Hinokio‘s tagline “Inter Galactic Love,” there’s nothing about outer space in this movie! Satoru is a middle school boy who, after being crippled in a car accident, attends school remotely using a robot as an avatar. In addition to being composed of tungsten alloy, etc. the robot is made of “hinoki” wood to save weight – thus the schoolkids nickname him “Hinokio” after Pinocchio. Satoru’s legs were not badly damaged in the accident that killed his mother, but he has refused physical therapy. Satoru’s robotics engineer father finds it easier to provide the avatar robot than to deal with the anger and sense of betrayal that are the root cause of Satoru’s pain. The two communicate by leaving notes in the house, never talking face to face. The character development is terrific in this story, the characters are fascinating, and I loved the computer-game subplot. The ending is perhaps no more believable than that of A. I. Artificial Intelligence, but it sure left me feeling a lot more uplifted.
Singapore Airlines’ translators rendered the title Dreamship Surprise Period 1 but I think it should have been “Episode 1” to reflect the Star Wars parody. Earth is being threatened by Imperial-Starship-looking vessels from Martian colonies rebelling against Earth rule, in the form of a council that looks suspiciously like the Jedi Council, led by a Queen with a terrific, bizarre wardrobe. The Queen calls on the Dreamship Surpise (headed by Kpt’n Kork and his second in command Mr. Spuck) to save the world by going back in time and preventing the Martian colonies from being founded. Time travel allows a parody of A Knight’s Tale to be slipped in as well. My favorite scene is the parody of Minority Report in which the Queen uses her hand controls (waving her hands in the air) to direct her computer. Kork and Spuck are a quibbling couple, some might find the gay humor a bit much, but after a Singapore Sling or two it is pretty hysterical.