Hal uses intricate futurism to examine universal themes of bereavement and obligation. Running at a slim sixty minutes, it’s simplistic in its narrative and themes, but finds a gentle profundity and quiet beauty nonetheless.
Ryôtarô Makihara’s anime feature begins with a robot idling in a peaceful stream; the tranquillity is shortly interrupted by the explosion of a passenger plane overhead. Perishing aboard the plane was Hal (Yoshimasa Hosoya), a young man from a disadvantaged background, who leaves behind his grieving girlfriend, Kurumi (Yôko Hikasa). Aforementioned robot – in a form of so-called ‘robot therapy’ – is redesigned in the form of Hal and sent to comfort the despondent young woman, decoding Rubik’s Cube messages to provide slim comfort.
While the plot eventually thickens with an unexpected third act revelation, Hal is primarily interested in presenting a sober reflection on grief and loss. Kurumi’s initial reactions to the Hal-proxy – rejection, despair – are analogous to the denial that greets a shocking loss, to be followed by her gradual acceptance (inspired, in part, by a fibre-glass giraffe – why not?) of the robot facsimile. The film is gorgeously animated by the animation studio behind Attack on Titan with a painterly poetry that suits its subject material.