March 9, 2006
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Itaru Era & Masa Nakamura (screenplay), Kozy Watanabe (novel)
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Director Takashi Miike, better known for his hard edged gorefests like Ichii the Killer, delivers a far different fare with Andoromedia. Andoromedia stars actors from two Japanese pop groups: Speed and Da Pump. Overall, Andoromedia is a mixed bag: On the one hand we get an interesting story involving the recording of a human brain and recreation of a person in AI, yet on the other hand, the truly interesting implications of this are barely explored. Instead we get an evil corporation chasing the “good guys,” with a random music video thrown in for good measure.
The Story: At some point in the very near future, an AI scientist, who has lost his wife prematurely, decides to invent technology to record his daughter’s memories. He does this continually over time, similar to how network administrators save backup tapes of their servers. He appears to have had a previous relationship with a shady VR corporation with roots both in Japan and the US, but has now severed ties with them. His Daughter, Mai (Hiroko Shimabukuro), falls in love with her longtime best friend, Yuu (Kenji Harada), and due to a freak “accident,” gets killed in a car crash.
The scientist, devastated, loads Mia’s memory backup into a VR facsimile of Mai – The facsimile’s name is “Ai,” and appears to be sentient. Ai remembers everything that happens to Mia, and is told that Mia has left this world, and that Ai and her “father” will live together from now on. Shortly thereafter, representatives from the corporation come and try to steal Ai and kidnap the scientist, but instead, the scientist frees his daughter into the net before being killed. Ai, now alone but having seemingly limitless capabilities on the net, eventually traverses the net and finds her boyfriend, Yuu, and her friends from school. Yuu falls even more deeply with Ai, but is soon pursued by the corporate goons who want to take Ai for their own nefarious purposes.
Philosophical Musings: Much of Andoromedia is “magical,” meaning they give no explanation how any of this occurs. Still, the ideas presented concerning the recording and transferal of human memories into a AI lifeform are rather intriguing. Unfortunately, Andoromedia examines these ideas for only 20 minutes or so. Ai “knows” she is not Mia, and understands that these memories belong to someone else. Yet over time, she begins to “feel” for love towards these people from another’s memories. Over time she grows to become “Mia.” This includes an Ai version of the “coming of age” story. This story of course also raises questions concerning her viability as an equal lifeform, but these questions really never get explored.
The Visuals and Pacing: Andoromedia stars off as a Japanese teenie-bopper movie, but as things progress, we get interesting VR visuals, and darker surroundings. The set designs and computer graphics are low-end but futuristic looking. The pacing is inquisitive at the beginning, but then devolves into a standard chase type pacing. Only at the end does it return to its introspective beginnings.
The Bottom Line: Andoromedia provides enough ideas to be interesting. I would have wished Miike took this plot in a more insightful direction, but he apparently wanted to keep some of the kookiness running throughout (the American evil corporate leader, played by Hero Cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, is especially kooky). The two leads do a decent job and have nice chemistry. Overall, aside from the random “Da Pump” band video thrown in the middle, Andoromedia is decent, but not great fare.