Archive for December 22, 2009

Maid-Droid

December 22, 2009

Naoyuki Tomomatsu’s Maid-Droid mooshes a few things together. Half of it is the poignant story of an old man whose “maid-droid,” his loving servant since his childhood, sits motionlessly in a closet because her batteries ran out years ago. Half of it is about a rogue droid terrorizing the city by raping women. Somehow, Tomomatsu manages to fit slapstick, pathos, horror, sci-fi, romance, cynicism, and a good dollop of softcore porn into the film’s short running time.

The maid-droid, named Maria (Akiho Yoshizawa), has watched her master grow over the decades into a sad elderly man who yearns to see her alive again. She may still be sentient; he hears her voice in his head, which could be a delusion or a spiritual connection. He has never married and has had only one fleeting sexual partner; he loves Maria and wants only her, even though she’s a prototype and, unlike later models, unequipped to have intercourse with him. Even when given the choice to transfer Maria’s memory into a newer model that can have sex with him, he declines. That wouldn’t be the same; it wouldn’t truly be Maria.

This is all good, saddening stuff. Then the movie shifts into its second plot, wherein a female detective tries to track down a droid made up of cast-off robo-dogs that’s been raping women. The detective’s story is preceded by a longish section involving a scruffy guy shopping for a sex droid. On a talk show with two sarcastic women who denounce the use of sex droids by men, the scruffy guy goes ballistic and insists that women only want cruel rich men, that they don’t want nice guys. As if to refute his own point, he slaps and kicks the two women into submission.

Tomomatsu has some things to say about what the genders are looking for romantically and sexually. Why are there no male sex droids? Because, as in real life with “Real Girls” and blow-up dolls, there isn’t nearly as much of a demand for faux-male companionship as there is for faux-female things to masturbate into. (Then again, women only need a vibrator or a dildo, suggesting that when they’re feeling horny they just want dick; men seem to want to delude themselves into having the whole fake package.) The sex in Maid-Droid is mostly farcical, though there’s a fairly erotic scene in which Maria shows her master she can still pleasure him.

The movie certainly isn’t as brainless as it looks, and the connective tissue between the two stories boils down to three little words. I appreciated Tomomatsu’s effort to smuggle some thought and heart into what could’ve been merely live-action hentai. I was touched by Maria’s story, amused by the detective story, satisfied by their parallel conclusions. It’ll replace Blade Runner or Metropolis in nobody’s heart, of course, but it’s a good hour or so of diversion, again more artfully handled than it had to be. If you share many Japanese men’s taste for eager-to-please young women in maid outfits, so much the better, I suppose.

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