REVIEW: 'Hello World' is a mind-boggling, sci-fi romance story

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Hello World

(Source: Golden Village Pictures)

By Yian Lu

SINGAPORE — Set in futuristic Kyoto in 2027, anime film Hello World by director Tomohiko Itō is a complicated time travel love story. The story revolves around a guy named Naomi Katagaki, voiced by Takumi Kitamura — better known for his lead role in Japanese live-action film Let Me Eat Your Pancreas.

Hello World starts with an introduction of the quantum technology Alltale, which uses drones to document history. The official use of this technology is to allow the general public to toggle and see a particular place (think old castles in Kyoto) at any point of time in history in real life. But this magnificent technology secretly became the tool that Katagaki from ten years later in 2037, voiced by Toori Matsuzaka, uses to rewrite history.

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That being said, Hello World is actually unlike the usual time travel stories. Technically, Katagaki did not go back to the past. He merely accessed the data of the history stored in Alltale, which is billions of times more powerful than a supercomputer. After thousands of attempts to enter the world of Alltale, Katagaki finally met his old self, tasked with the mission to get him(self) a girlfriend. He is later called Sensei by young Katagaki, meaning “teacher” in Japanese, as he is ten years older.

In the world of Alltale, Sensei is merely an avatar who cannot touch anything. Alas, he could not even be seen by anyone except his younger self! Later in the story, Sensei reveals that he went back in time to save his girlfriend Ruri Ichigyo (voiced by Minami Hamabe) from getting struck by lightning during a fireworks festival. Unsuspecting Katagaki hopes to lend him a hand and agreed to make his dreams come true — to see Ichigyo smile again — even if this only changes the memories in Alltale and not reality.

What seems like a simple romance story turns out to be only the tip of an iceberg. Up until the fateful day of Ichigyo’s “death”, the narrative is relatively smooth (if you can accept the premise that the characters are basically bits of data inside a huge computer that somehow possess consciousness). But from the point where “history” is changed, the plot just goes spiralling into a black hole called confusion. To a certain extent, Hello World has some similarities to the oh-so-famous Inception, only a tad more complicated due to the existence of parallel worlds.

You have been warned: spoilers ahead!

Here’s an analysis of the worlds in the movie. First, there is the world of Katagaki in 2027, which is in Alltale and linked to the world of Katagaki or Sensei in 2037. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that Sensei’s world also exists in Alltale. This means there is an external world known as the reality, which is probably the scene shown at the end where comatose Katagaki wakes up in the hospital with researcher-looking Ichigyo by his side. As the history is changed, Katagaki from 2027 returns to a parallel world where young Ichigyo is alive. Confused? Yeah, me too.

You are safe from spoilers now.

To sum it up, Hello World is a mind-boggling, sci-fi romance story, which is nothing like Your Name or Weathering with You. If you cannot take movies like Inception and Interstellar, this is definitely not your cup of tea. Otherwise, rejoice! This will be yet another puzzle to solve.

Running at 98 minutes and rated PG13 with some violence, Hello World opens in cinemas 24 October 2019.