To be completely honest, this is a film that I had little to no interest in watching. However, because a couple of my Internet friends seemed quite interested in it, I decided to give it a shot. Now I am glad I did. I was concerned at first that the film was going to be nothing more than a kid makes friends with a robot film, but Hinokio does not fall into this overdone plot device. Instead this film delves into a number of the ills of modern society in a fresh and entertaining manner.
The film opens with Hinokio making its entrance into an otherwise mundane homeroom class consisting of such students as the nerdy Joichi, the hyperactive Kenta, and the teacher's pet Sumire. Also in the classroom is the moody Jun who, although a bit intrigued with the new "student", is not overly impressed by the new arrival. We soon learn that Iwamoto Satoru a young boy who is rehabilitating from a car accident controls Hinokio. The robot allows him to attend school and interact with other students while he recuperates at home. However, instead of being warmly embraced by his new classmates, Satoru, or Hinokio, is the victim of pranks. However, after he refuses to tattle on Jun, Kenta, and Joichi, the four soon become friends.
While Satoru's relationship with his friends, especially with Jun, is the primary story, Satoru's relationship with his father, who the boy blames for the death of his mother, is also central to the film. Because of his reluctance to interact with the outside world and muteness with his father, Satoru resembles a Hikikomori, or shut-in, a social ill that has spread in modern Japanese society.
At times humorous and at times quite moving, Hinokio is a good film to watch for those immersed in the violent films of Miike Takashi or the nostalgic oeuvre of Ozu Yasujiro. It reminds us that there are other films that while not overly artistic can really move an audience or just make one smile.
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