What if the one dearest to you suddenly passed away in a tragic accident? And what if you didn’t have a chance to say the most important things you would have wanted to say to that person?
How would you ever be able to move on and forgive yourself?
Hey guys! Welcome back! I’ll be doing a film review today, on a film that quite grabbed my attention a while back. People online have been saying that this film was really sad and good so I had it bookmarked on my anime list but didn’t watch it immediately because I wasn’t ecstatic to be in the sad emotional mood haha. And yes, the story is pretty sad and heartbreaking.
So anyway, the film is rather short (for a film), timed at around an hour or so and is entitled Hal. Its characters were designed by Sakisaka Io, the mangaka of Ao Haru Ride and Strobe Edge and their voice actors are fantastic, contributing to a world that you can be absorbed into to fully appreciate.
So let’s go into the film:
The story starts off with the explosion of a plane in the sky that has just taken off. Locals on the ground look up in horror as the tragedy takes it course and an old man collapses to the ground after receiving and reading a notification on his phone.
We’re told that Hal has died and that because of that, Kurumi is unable to eat, sleep or cry. In despair, the old man, most probably the grandfather of either Kurumi or Hal tells his robot, Q01 to “save that child”.
And so Q01 becomes Hal and goes on his way to Kurumi and the original Hal’s house. As a robot, Hal doesn’t know what it means to “feel” and makes his way to the house, observing his surroundings and the people around him. His mission now is to help Kurumi feel what it’s like to live again and is given a parting gift from his care centre doctor: a Rubik’s cube that once belonged to Hal.
When Q01 Hal reaches the home of Kurumi and Hal, he tries to talk to her and introduces himself to her. However, Kurumi is closed off to the world and without saying much, clearly indicates to him that she wants to be left alone. Q01 Hal gets the point and leaves but sticks around to clean and tidy up the house a little. While cleaning, he comes upon the Rubik’s cube again and decides to solve it to decipher the messages written on each side. He then cooks a meal for Kurumi, leaves it outside her room and tells her that he would return the next day.
Upon returning the following day, Q01 Hal greets Kurumi and discovers that the food he’d left outside her room was left untouched. Kindly, he asks her if there’s anything she desires and goes out into the streets to do some shopping. On the way, he interacts with other people and gets the help of little kids to help him solve another side of the Rubik’s cube. The message on the side of the Rubik’s cube that the kids solve state: “I want a pet giraffe” and so Q01 Hal goes in search of a giraffe that he can bring back (haha so cute!)
He tries to take back a decorative giraffe that belongs to an old man but fails after getting scolded by him and relates the story to his doctor and some old ladies. The doctor states that the giraffe was listed as $0 not because it was of no value but because it was priceless. Q01 Hal interacts with the old ladies in the centre and gets the help from one of them to call up the owner of the decorative giraffe to let it go. The owner accepts and Q01 Hal and the doctor go over to carry it to Kurumi’s house.
When Kurumi sees that Q01 Hal had brought back a pet giraffe, she leaves a note by the door with the words “Thank you robot Hal”, making him surprised and glad. The doctor also encourages him, telling him that he did good. From then on, Q01 Hal continues to solve the rest of the Rubik’s cube sides and go about his daily routine of looking after Kurumi.
One day, while doing grocery shopping, he bumps into one of Hal’s friends Ryu, who greets him as though he was never gone (or rather, never died…) but he doesn’t stick around for long before he is chased by two men in white suits and is forced to run to escape from them.
When Q01 Hal returns to Kurumi’s house, he asks her if Hal ever abused her, seeing as the Rubik’s cube newly solved side reveals Kurumi’s wish for Hal to stop using violence. She reveals that she and Hal had a fight before and then shows him flashback memories of the fight projected on a screen. When the memories end, Kurumi states, “If only human emotions could be displayed like data” and Q01 Hal apologises to her for hurting her feelings and failing to understand her more. But Kurumi admits that she was at fault too for failing to fully understand Hal’s grievances.
Q01 Hal manages to solve another side of the Rubik’s cube with help from the centre’s old ladies and this time, Kurumi’s wish is to go to a festival in a yukata. In order to obtain yukatas, Q01 Hal goes to visit Kurumi’s grandfather according to instructions given to him by his doctor. Here, we see that the old man from the beginning of the story was in fact, Kurumi’s grandfather and he gives two sets of yukata to Q01 Hal, one for Kurumi and the other for himself, one that Kurumi had made for Hal.
Q01 Hal invites Kurumi to go to the festival with him and after apologising to him for not being able to understand him, she agrees to his invitation. On the day of the festival, Kurumi spots a few Rubik’s cubes on the table and decides to write a message on one of its unused sides.
Kurumi and Q01 Hal then go on their festival date doing festival things and end up playing at the river. It is then Ryu appears with two others and tells Q01 Hal that they made a huge loss of late and proposes that they cash Kurumi in to regain what they had lost. Angered, Kurumi pushes Ryu into the river and yells for Q01 Hal to run.
A chase ensues and rain begins to fall from the sky as the day shifts into night. While running on some wooden planks of a house, Kurumi falls through them and into the river below. Q01 Hal tries to save her but is pounced on by Ryu, who had caught up. Ryu punches Q01 Hal, yelling at him to wake up and to try and remember. Q01 Hal begins to recall his memories and we’re taken back to the fight Hal and Kurumi had before the flight took off.
In the flashback, Kurumi stands up and angrily takes her luggage in hand and heads for the departure gate of the fated plane and we realise in horror that the one who died, was in fact Kurumi.
*spoilers included, read at your own discretion*
Even though I knew that Hal was going to be a sad, tragic story with a plot twist (since everyone said so), I totally failed to notice all the tiny hints that were being dropped throughout the show and was completely stunned when the plot twist was revealed. Right after the plot twist was revealed, I was wondering to myself why didn’t I see it coming?? and then realised how very clever and vague the story had been all along, right from the start.
It isn’t the end for Hal after he realises that Kurumi was already dead and he struggles to come to terms with reality for a while after that. He has a little talk with Kurumi’s grandfather, who tells him that the dead will always be with them and that he often talks to them. In the end, we see Hal eating a meal by himself at home and after taking a bite, he says to Kurumi that the food is delicious.
BUT DON’T GO AWAY AFTER THE CREDITS ROLL because right after that, there’s a little scene that shows us Kurumi’s Rubik’s cube pile. And the shot zooms in for us to see the message that Q01 Kurumi had written on the day of the festival, making us all teary-eyed.
Honestly, that last bit was a killer, it was so touching.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching Hal even though I didn’t know where the story was going half the time and just went along with it. But because I did, I got to feel the full impact of feels the people behind Hal intended their audience to feel. Yes, it’s a tragic story but I think that it addresses a very real situation in which a loved one dies and the ones left behind are left emotionally shattered. And finding the will to live again is something that deserves a whole lot of praise to me. Well done production team 🙂
As for the robot therapy used in the story whereby a robot takes the place of the dead loved one, I would like to know your thoughts on it. Would you use robot therapy yourself? What do you think are the pros and cons of such a method? Is it of more good than bad on the already traumatised loved one or the other way around? Let me know what you think on this!
Character likeability / Character background: 8/10 (Despite feeling completely lost as to who the characters are, details on them are carefully and wonderfully laid out and unfolded as the story goes by like a jigsaw puzzle)
Overall story: 8/10 (It was cleverly thought out, had great animation – nice work choosing Sakisaka Io! – and a brilliant soundtrack that greatly contributed to the mood of the story)
Re-watchability: 8/10 (Although it’s sad and a little slow-paced, it’s touching and I wouldn’t mind re-watching Hal again to better understand the story now that I can watch it from a different perspective)