Legend of the Doll (2007) / Romance-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably R for some nudity, sexuality, and some language
Running Time: 68 min.

Cast: Hideo Tsubota, Noriko Kijima, Yuria Hidaka, Fuu Takatu
Director: Toshihiro Gotoh
Screenplay: Rusher Ineda, Toshihiro Gotoh

Review published April 14, 2007

Hideo Tsubota stars as Ryouto, a young man who has spent the last several years collecting model figurines after the loss of his girlfriend.  One day, while collecting a rare figurine from a local store, it gets stolen, leaving him to walk the streets in anguish until he comes across another out-of-the-way store that has a different figurine waiting for him.  After putting it together and lavishly adding every detail, it comes to life in the form of the gorgeous Airu.  Airu doesn't know much except to show her devotion for Ryouto, cooking, cleaning, and showing him affection, although the one thing he needs, a woman's love, seems beyond her ability to give.

Certainly, this isn't the first story that features an attractive, magical female companion that becomes a servant to a lonely male -- "I Dream of Jeannie", Mannequin, Weird Science, and many, many more -- but this one had the potential to be a little different due the the possibility of a higher titillation factor involved in the fetishistic sights of sexy figurines, cosplay, and the nudity that the disc contains ample warnings of before you ever get to the film.  Alas, nothing new is really brought in, save for a sappy romance that, even at only 68 minutes, feels like something that lacks the critical narrative developments to justify spending any more than 10 minutes of our time to digest.  Even the allure of model Noriko Kijima proves to be a letdown, as she isn't the one that takes off her clothes in the film, and there is absolutely no nudity, or anything that crosses PG-rated material, until the final five minutes.

Shot by what appear to be DV cameras, the look and feel of the film is lower grade video, with acting that tries for a comical vibe, although mostly through geeky mannerisms of the nerdy male characters at the center of the story.  It's a story that has been told fairly often in different forms, so surprises are few, but underneath the mostly stagnant developments that permeate most of the film's first hour, there is a potentially touching story that might have worked far better if more time were spent developing the history of Ryouto and his girlfriend in richer detail.  The direction isn't very flashy, as you'd expect from having limited resources, but if you're accustomed to the style of DV, it's workable.

Legend of the Doll never achieves a higher level of entertainment than being occasionally cute, with its sole asset limited to the appeal of Kijima in various costumes.  With only a tiny portion of the film offering any nudity or sex, it will probably frustrate the only audience for which this film caters to.  Reportedly, it is the first film in a trilogy (Cat Girl Kiki and Pretty Maid Cafe are the others), with each story taking place in the Akihabara neighborhood of Tokyo, notorious for its giant shopping district, including many shops that sell anime, manga, and video games.  If this first entry is any indicator, it's doubtful the trilogy will prove to be a bestseller, even in the district upon which the films bear their series name.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo