While not as fast paced or action packed as some would have it, The Clone Returns Home is quite the hard Japanese science-fiction treat for those willing to stick with its slow pace to the end. The film centers on Kohei Takehara (Mitsuhiro Oikawa), a young astronaut who agrees to be part of a cloning experiment that would replace him should anything go wrong on his upcoming space mission. As fate would have it, he dies while on a routine space walk, and his clone is brought to life with all his memories and experiences intact. Everything seems fine at first, until the clone begins to obsess over one of Kohei’s darkest memories from his childhood, leading him down a sad, emotional path as he struggles to find out who or what he really is, and to what really makes us human.
To say anymore would be giving the film away, but there’s plenty of psychological intrigue to keep you watching, though it does go at a snail’s pace.
Director/writer Kanji Nakajima crafted this film very well. So well in fact, that it’s obviously an inspiration for Duncan Jones’ 2009 Moon movie, as the plot is eerily similar. But I enjoyed his spin on the whole ‘what makes us human/do clones have souls’ theme, while using monotone-like imagery to help viewers feel the emotion of the scenes. The acting is also well done, as the characters easily draw you into their stoic, hard science-fiction universe.
AnimEigo did a great job with the DVD, as the video and sound quality here is spot on, which isn’t surprising considering it’s a more recent (2008) movie release than their usual classic samurai fare. The visuals are clean and crisp for a DVD, and the Japanese audio track comes in crystal-clear, accompanied the fantastic colored subtitles that AnimEigo is famous for. The special features are great as well, such as the ‘making of’ featurette that documents the process that went into creating the film, while the actors discuss their challenges while filming it. There’s also the usual cast and crew bios, trailers, program notes, and an image gallery.
The Clone Returns Home is slow-paced, but showcases a deep and eerie study of what makes us human that’s bound to entertain hardcore sci-fi buffs, but may put off others hoping for another action-packed adventure. While its setting and plot may be similar to Duncan Jones’ Moon film, Nakajima’s film actually comes first, and offers a compelling look at what might possibly await those who give natural reproduction over to the manufacturing process, and what impact it might have on the world around them. I’d recommend that everyone at least give a try, as you might be pleasantly surprised. I just hope this release does well for AnimEigo, so it can open the door for them to release more types of Japanese films.
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