Whether it’s the anthropomorphic cyborg cat Doraemon, Sony’s artificially intelligent canine pet Aibo or even baby harp seals created to assist dementia patients, robots have long been recognized in Japan as capable of providing therapeutic and emotional assistance for their human owners.
Director Koji Fukada’s latest film, “Sayonara”, approaches the cyborg-human divide with a similarly nuanced dynamic. Based on playwright Oriza Hirata theatrical production “Sayonara II”, the film stars the android Geminoid F, created by Osaka University’s robotics expert professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, alongside human actress Bryerly Long.
The film’s melancholic narrative situates the pair in a desolate part of rural Japan post-nuclear disaster (albeit eschewing any direct references to 2011’s Fukushima incident). Terminally ill with radiation sickness, Long’s character, Tanya, resigns herself to living out her remaining days alongside Geminoid F, with the two reciting the poems of Arthur Rimbaud and Carl Busse to each other as they are faced with increasing solitude.