Saturday, July 30, 2022

Fantasia ’22: A Girl Meets a Boy and a Robot (short)

How many interlocking stories can there be in a nearly post-human dystopian future? Apparently, there are at least four, but the one most anime fans will really what to see is the tale contributed by the animator of the Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus franchises. Conveniently, Shinichiro Watanabe’s A Girl Meets a Boy and a Robot screened on its lonesome during the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Somehow, the girl managed to stay alive in a desert wasteland, without any companionship. One day, a robot with amnesia falls out of an automated supply train. He sort of resembles the Taika Waititi droid from
The Mandalorian, but is less annoying, and has more personality. With his help, they hitch a train hobo-style to the nearest big city. It is empty too, except for a young man, who gives her a crash course in evading the robotic tank that outlived its programmers. He also introduces her to some lore that does not sound very science fiction-ish, but will motivate the grandly tragic third act.

At first,
Girl Meets appears like a deceptively familiar post-apocalyptic world, but it takes on big, cosmic dimensions. Watanabe handles the slow blossoming quite dexterously and many of his visuals are quite compelling, While the character designs are not wildly original, they definitely resonate with viewers.

Clearlly, anyone who appreciates the major anime series (especially those of Watanabe) should enjoy
Girl Meets. Maybe it is even richer when viewed together with the other stories of Taisu, but as a Chinese production, there is a good chance the Chinese contributions are compromised from a propaganda standpoint. After all, the Mainland film industry is closely aligned with the oppressive CCP. Therefore, seeing Watanabe’s contribution separately at festivals is probably the most ethical strategy for his fans to watch it. Recommended under these circumstances, A Girl Meets a Boy and a Robot had its Canadian premiere at this year’s Fantasia.