Japanese robotics have come to be deservingly lauded. Whether it's designing machinery that can compete in cutting competitions with modern-day sword masters, or putting a robot on a motorcycle, the country's knack for this kind of technology goes well beyond a common stereotype. That knack is on full display in Koji Fukuda's Sayonara, a film which is billing android Geminoid-F as a co-star in the film.


Source: YouTube

Adapted from a stage play, the movie tells the story of a Japan that is decimated by over-radiation, forcing residents to evacuate to foreign countries (no doubt inspired by the disaster in Fukushima). Tania (played by American actress Bryerly Long) didn't draw a favorable position on the waiting list for evacuees, and thus is left to die of radiation poisoning in a Japanese countryside that is dwindling day by day. Her primary companion throughout the film comes in the form of Leona (played by android Geminoid-F), who serves as somewhat of a maternal caretaker for her.

Geminoid-F is fully billed as an actress on the film's website and credit roll. Viewers may feel uneasy at just how life-like and responsive she is. That's because the android is the latest model produced by renowned robotics designer Hiroshi Ishiguro, who previously modeled one such android after himself, the Geminoid-HI. Here he is showing it off.

Geminoid-F features motorized actuators, which allow her to mimic human facial expressions using air-pressure. She is remotely controlled via laptop, and is unable to walk (the character of Leona is a wheel-chair user). Perhaps her biggest struggle is based in the world of the film, however, as the story focuses on the conflict of understanding between a woman who is faced with death, and an android who has no concept of it. In fact that's one of the film's tag-lines.


Source: YouTube

"A woman headed to her death, and an android who doesn't know death."

It's definitely an interesting juxtaposition, and the trailer of the film asks us just what life and death truly mean. Even without the coating of the film's narrative, the very presence of an android in such a prominent role opens up questions about life itself.

An ambitious endeavor, and maybe it's steps such as these that could possibly lead to expanded roles and uses for androids in film, beyond the niche. Sayonara opens in theaters on November 21 in Japan.


Source: YouTube

By - grape Japan editorial staff.