Issue #220a           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES               July 12th, 2004

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(2000; Gaga Communications/Tohokushinsha Film Corporation)


RATING: 8/10


In an unidentified, deteriorating world, a female sex robot (or "doll") named Malice roams the streets looking for clients. A catastrophic event has eliminated all the humanoids who would engage her services but Malice continues to perform the pre-programmed duties regardless. She is one of the few remaining dolls still functioning and requires occasional trips to an imposing mechanism known as "The Repairer." During one such visit, Malice instead finds an odd creature that proceeds to molest and seemingly destroy her. When it is all over, Malice discovers that she has transformed into an organic being with emotions and neurological responses. With these come a new loathing for her "profession" and the distressing realization that the world she previously called home will no longer accept her. This metamorphosis also brings with it a new ability: by kissing her fellow machines, Malice can modify them. However, their transmutations are not so successful...


While the characters’ facial characteristics generally adhere to the classic anime style, Keitaro Motonaga’s creation is rendered almost entirely via CGI (with occasional dashes of traditional animation for embellishment and emphasis), giving it an extraordinary look and atmosphere. No attempt is made to emulate the photo realism strived for by the creators of the infinitely more expensive FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN. Rather than go for the accepted approach in regards to movement, the robots have been given a more awkward cadence reminiscent of puppets. This adds to the already surreal universe on display, as these exquisitely crafted dolls roam through dark, decaying environments that seem ready to swallow up and destroy them at any moment. While definitely adult fare (there is a brief instance of seemingly obligatory tentacle rape), this is not really hentai anime, though elements of perverse sexuality certainly do come into play. MALICE@DOLL is not the first film to suggest intimacy between humans and machines but is likely one of the few to show machines trying to comfort each other by embracing human practices, like kissing. Some reviewers have noted the similarities here to BLADE RUNNER and ALICE IN WONDERLAND but echoes of SHIVERS are present as well. That David Cronenberg film also features an unfathomable "disease" that is orally transferred. Victims are left in a state of heightened sexual hunger but also devolve in frightening ways. MALICE@DOLL differs in its approach but the results are similar: the dolls are so overwhelmed by their bodily alterations and new senses of pleasure and pain (the S&M model now experiences the tortures being inflicted upon it), the community soon descends into wholesale chaos. There is much strange beauty to be seen alongside these horrors, as well as another fascinating meditation on robots as sentient beings somehow capable of evolving beyond what their creators envisioned. A primary lure of science fiction and fantasy is the way in which it can immerse one in environments that seem unsettling but utterly beautiful, alien but also strangely mollifying. MALICE@DOLL succeeds wonderfully in this regard and those receptive to its intricately woven mystique will also find much to intrigue them on a cerebral level.



There are instances when the fine details in an object or character seem to detach from their surroundings during movement, suggesting flawed digital compression. Also, in the second half, grain becomes quite pronounced when characters move, stopping when they do. It is difficult to say whether this is part of the original production but the effect is distracting, particularly since, much of the time, the image is quite stunning. Artsmagic’s earlier UK DVD for this title offered a standard version and a 16:9 edition that matted the image. The company has opted to include only the former for this US edition but the compositions seem as symmetrical as the creators presumably intended. There is no 5.1 option but the audio is strong and quite dynamic. Exclusive to this release is a new English dubtrack that is passable but not preferable. The project was originally conceived as a three part direct-to-video release and the chapter section is divided into separate menus for each (Hard Flesh, Oral Inflection, and Perverted Organism).

A healthy supplementary section is included, with a 26 minute interview section foremost amongst the extras. In this section, Yukie Yamada, who voices Malice, talks to Motonaga and writer Chiaki Konaka (EVIL DEAD TRAP 2). Among the topics covered are design inspirations (like Czech puppet animation) and production problems encountered (when a 3-D look proved problematic, a more traditional 2-D approach was adopted). Final Fantasies (31 minutes) is an informative lecture by Jonathan Clements (co-author of the Anime Encyclopedia) that charts the difference between cell and computer animation, as well as the development of the latter in Japan. There is also a section devoted to character models, bios/filmographies for some of the creative personnel, and promo spots for this, as well as ALICE and BLUE REMAINS (both forthcoming from Artsmagic).

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Artsmagic.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Artsmagic #ATU 003
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Japanese and English Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English
  • 15 Chapters
  • Fullscreen (1.33:1)
  • 79 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: 18
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Contains sexual content, brief sexual violence, and moderate horror


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful