Part Nipponese “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” part final seg of Korean helmer Kwak Jae-yong’s weird-chick trilogy that began with “My Sassy Girl” and “Windstruck,” semi-sci-fi fantasy “Cyborg She” is a largely entertaining genre-bender. Twenty-six minutes shorter than the version shown at the Cannes market in May and released a few weeks later in Japan, this better-paced international cut, unveiled as the closer of the PiFan fantasy fest, has ancillary potential among Asiaphile buffs.
Lonesome, geeky Jiro Kitamura (Keisuke Koide) is lonesome no longer at his birthday party, thanks to a femme cyborg (Haruka Ayase) from the year 2133 who’s traveled back to 2007 with his ex-g.f.’s looks and memory chip. (Don’t ask.) Virtuoso f/x sequence, in which she drinks a beer and her head literally starts spinning, sets up the comedy for the next few reels, as she helps Jiro and other citizens like some kind of Asian Supergirl.
The story gains some emotional traction as Jiro falls for the cyborg and she suggests they visit his hometown. Alas, it was destroyed in an earthquake, so she arranges a time warp for them to revisit his childhood, on the condition that he touches nothing.
The heart of the movie is back in Tokyo, where the question is raised as to whether, beneath her fixed smile, the cyborg can ever feel Jiro’s growing attachment to her. When an earthquake hits Tokyo, it’s a question Jiro, rather than she, has to deal with.
Though the central relationship is never as engaging as in local megahit “My Sassy Girl,” the pic balances on the same emotional fulcrum of unrequited love beneath surface comedy. Partly thanks to the closing reels’ superb visual effects, which pack a dramatic punch without drawing attention to their artifice, the finale (including a brief coda set 61 years later) is genuinely touching.
Koide has the most expressive role, but it’s Ayase who holds the screen as the always smiling, beautiful cyborg who may have an emotional circuit board of her own. Technical package, in the hands of an all-Japanese crew, is smooth on all levels. Where “Sassy” had a thoroughly South Korean feel and “Windstruck” a more Hong Kong one, the Japan-shot and -funded “Cyborg” is echt-Nipponese, despite the helmer’s nationality.