Saturday, October 21, 2006

[Japanese Film Fest] Robocon (Robokon)

3 Guys and A Lazy Girl

Robocon is today's third movie, and the most satisfying one of the day's selection. Written and directed by Tomoyuki Furumaya, this movie's premise allowed for a sneak peek into one of Japan's many robotic competitions.

The pretty Masami Nagasawa (last seen in Crying Out Love at the Center of the World) stars as lazy girl Satomi, who got assigned a stint, against her wishes, at her school's Robot Club. However, it's not the premiere club that she got assigned to, but the "B" team where the team members are hardly cooperative, made up of a motley bunch of losers. There's the ineffective soft spoken captain of the team, the genius arrogant designer, and a technician who dropped out but decided to join them again when the team had inexplicably entered the Nationals through a technicality. Her role in the team? She's the designated driver, the operator of the machine, needing to learn how to be one with the robot through the use of the remote control.

In the spirit of the theme of this year's film festival, naturally a whole section of the movie has put focus on how this group of students undergo boot camp - in a training regime at a beach resort - to build camaraderie, trust and friendship as they spend their off hours in designing and fine tuning their prototype YET-13, into Boxhund, their entry for the finals. It's like a coming of age movie, with the characters developing skill sets, and in the further discovery of their strengths and weaknesses, combined with their willingness to change for the better, not just for themselves, but for the team.

Although the narrative's pretty straightforward, it managed to create a sense of tension and a highly charged environment as our team challenges their competition through various round robin stages, and it is this part of the film that showcased the innovation and ideas of some of the robots, their wacky designs, and various functionalities. It's not easy just to build the robot, but how to maintain it through various stages, to think on your feet to solve technological challenges and the need for maintenance under time limit. Also, it takes a lot of with to try and outplay the competition, and every stage of the competition, just brings about the right amount of challenges, strategies, and how they are overcome. You'll also come to appreciate many of the rules put in place for the competition, and probably will pique your interest to learn a lot more.

This is a highly recommended film, and I suspect it is already amongst the movies that I'll come to enjoy from the festival.

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