Malice@Doll - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: C+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: ArtsMagicDVD
  • MSRP: 24.99
  • Running time: 80
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Malice@Doll

Malice@Doll

By Chris Beveridge     July 21, 2004
Release Date: July 27, 2004


Malice@Doll
© ArtsMagicDVD


What They Say
Prostitute robot dolls roam empty streets, in their daily search for clients. But those whom they were built to service have ceased to exist: humanity has wiped itself out. In a world of action without purpose, cleaners, guards and whores all respond to their programmed tasks until they in turn become defunct.

Malice@Doll is one such prostitute, now in need of repair. In her search for renewal, she becomes aware that her world is being modified, leaving her increasingly open to attack by her former robotic guardians, and in a state of increasing isolation and alienation.

Suffering from attack and ravishing by a grotesque tentacled bionic creature, she is mysteriously transformed into a human being. Overcome with joy and wonder, Malice seeks to transfer this gift through a loving kiss. But with every gift there comes a curse.

Scripted by Chiaki Konaka, this hallucinatory work that mixes horror and sexual degradation with deep spirituality is a unique and moving masterpeice of CGI animation.

The Review!
When there aren't any people left, what can the sex dolls do but continue on?

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is pretty basic but it's recorded awful low. Our volume level had to come up a significant number of notches for it to be audible at all. At that level everything sounded ok but it's not a really heavy track to begin with. It's very dialogue driven outside of a few brief areas of action music and effects, the bulk of which are center channel based. We didn't notice any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback either.

Video:
Originally released back in 2000, the transfer for this show looks good but has to deal with the usual problems associated with pure CG related productions. A good portion of the show has the digital grain look to it which isn't bad but it is distracting, particularly during panning shots. The shows setting in an underground area also works against it as there are so many shadows and other dark colors there are times when you're supposed to see something on screen but it's just too dark to discern anything other than maybe a small movement of shadow. When we get some of the bright sequences things look much better and some of the actual attractive parts of the production are visible it really shines. But in general, the transfer is a product of the CG world and has the usual problems.

Packaging:
Going right with the good stuff, the front cover features a variety of the Dolls in their prime form with lots of color and appeal while mixing in some of the darker and creepier aspects in the background. It's a fairly attractive cover if you like the CG character artwork and it certainly has the right kind of colors to accentuate them. The back cover provides a small summary of the shows premise and then gives over the middle section to rave quotes about the show. The production and technical information is in various boxes along the bottom and is fairly clearly listed though it could have been organized a bit better or bolder for the technical aspects. With this being a clear keepcase the reverse side lists the chapter stops along one side while the other panel has more quotes and some artwork of Malice. No insert is included in the release.

Menu:
The menu layout feels a bit awkward for some reason since the language and subtitle selection is right on the main page ? and it doesn't work. While selecting subtitles on and then play in Japanese, I got Japanese but subtitles were kept off. The menu features a full body still shot of Malice and then a close up of her eye as the main background wherein her eye serves to showcase clips from the show. All of it set to a quick paced bit of instrumental music that loops well. Access times are nice and fast and navigation is definitely simple with most things on the main menu.

Extras:
The extras have some decent material. Just going through the bios for the production staff you realize just how varied and talented these people are. These are directors and conceptualist and designers of some of my favorite series from Crest of the Stars to Devil Lady. The breadth of talent is wide here, which in the end only makes this show pale even more. A brief gallery of model artwork is included. There's an extra called Final Fantasies that looks to be original to the UK where they talk about animation and changes its going through. This runs about thirty minutes and has the feel of a seminar that takes place just before showing the show itself. The final extra is an interview session led by the Japanese voice actress for Malice with the shows director and writer. It's fairly standard stuff that we've seen both of these guys go through before in different interview sessions as they talk about what led them to do the show, the challenges and benefits of the CG format and the origins of the script. It runs about twenty-five minutes in length and is pretty good material for fans of the creative staff.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I've never really been a fan of all digital/CG productions like this though I will admit that they're continually getting better and better as time goes on. I don't know how common they really are in Japan but they've been fairly frequent in popping up in the US over the years and generally end up gaining some amount of popularity. Children's programs, many of which my kids watch, are done in such a manner and while they're outlandish in their own ways, they're pretty well done and show off the continual gains in design and research.

But I don't consider it anime.

I fully expect anime and this kind of production to merge in the next decade however. With some of the more cutting edge OVA series like Macross Zero employing hybrids of this and state of the art animation, it only becomes more obvious where it's going to go. What started out in the late 90's with Lost Universe and shows like this are going to just get better and better. But at this time, I still don't consider Malice@Doll anime. So why review it? Well, for one simple reason really. Chiaki Konaka was the scriptwriter for this. His works over the years from Big O to Serial Experiments Lain has fascinated me. In a way, I looked at this 80 minute feature as something of an art house project with him attached to create a surreal story to match the bizarre CG animation.

And surreal it is at times. The premise is fairly simple. Seen through various flashback scenes, we see the house of prostitution where the Dolls spend their days pleasing the human clientele that comes in. In one particularly vivid flashback we see just how well the clients lived out their fantasies with the dolls, from the simple positions to the ones that are dangerous. But since you can't really kill a Doll, the fantasies can be lived out to the extremes. In the present though, humanity is no more, at least in this particular strip, and the entire area has fallen into ruin. The Dolls live their days trying to keep active and keeping themselves oiled up so they don't break down, but things happen and they're slowly dying in their own way. The area is kept relatively peaceful through the efforts of one robot named Joe Administrator but even he hasn't been holding out much hope for keeping the Dolls going since they aren't serving a purpose anymore and oil is becoming scarce.

The non-humanoid robots and the Dolls don't interact and many of the worker robots have ended up breaking down and following strange programs since the disappearance of humanity. One of the guardian robots now prowls the outer areas in search of anything that moves so it can eliminate it, causing everyone to stay within a certain area. It's a tenuous situation but one that looks to have gone on for many years or more. What the story ends up focusing on is one particular Doll named Malice. During one of the times in which she wakes up to keep running, she ends up in a situation where her wish to become real is essentially granted. Through a change, her Doll body becomes completely human. Her looks change from the outlandish pale white with purple hair to a more normal looking woman. Much time is spent with her grappling with how she's changed and the denial of what she once was as she becomes cast out by those who were once her friends.

Her change doesn't come without a price though. As she tries to understand what she becomes, she moves along old patterns and does the only thing a Doll can do, and that's to provide a kiss to people. She does this to one of her fellow Dolls named Heather only to find out that her kiss begins a transformation of that Doll into a human. Or something like one, as part of Heather doesn't change properly. Much like a virus, each one spreads to another Doll or to one of the robots and soon the entire community is quickly changing. The eeriness of having Malice trying to convince someone to accept becoming human is disconcerting when you're so used to films and shows going the other route, trying to convince humans to become something else.

Another interesting aspect that gets brought up is in how Heather talks about how she always wanted to be like Malice and would pray and pray to be like her and do all that she could. She says all of this after she's been transformed but she's talking about when she was a Doll herself. Just how real are these Dolls? The questions like that go back to some of the oldest questions in science fiction about what sentience really is and what alive really means when it comes to consciousness. It doesn't get explored deeply but the comments are intriguing in their own right.

With the changes in the structure of the area occurring so fast, the show moves to a breakdown point and then enters a period of surrealness where Konaka's script plays up the art house mentality of things and provides a vague ending where it's all interpretive based on your own feelings as to what happens. It's interesting to watch it play out but it feels hollow at the end with so much left unsaid or unexplored. While watching the show, it's very easy to see just how this would have been done in the anime style. Many scenes evoked imagery that you could probably place into other shows without much trouble. The show overall could have been just as easily done in that format, though I'm not sure it would have had the same kind of creepy effect that the digital motion here provides for the Dolls.

In Summary:
This is the first release we've seen from ArtsMagic and it's pretty decently done for the most part. I didn't like the locked out skip feature for their logo nor the FBI logo (it's like, hello, if they rip your product, the first thing they remove is that; locking the FBI warning only serves to berate the people who legitimately buy your material) but most of everything else felt like a lot of the UK discs I've seen over the years. The show itself is interesting but really does have that art house production feel with its surreal aspect and the style of animation. This is the kind of show you would have expected to show up late night on a pay channel about a decade ago as a curiosity to fill some dead time when few people watch TV. Being a Konaka junkie, that was all the draw I needed and he does present some interesting set pieces here but in the end isn't able to pull it all together cohesively.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,History of CGI Animation,Character Models,Interview with Director and Writer,Biographies

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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