Being an unreconstructed WATAYA Risa fanboy, it was inevitable that I would go see the movification of her first novel, Install, on the big screen. I came away thinking: eh, that was pretty good. Spoilers may be below.

Consider the official website. Now compare it the original cover of the book. You can see the similarities -- blue background, girl standing awkwardly right in the centre. But you can also see the differences: the book's cover is almost confrontationally plain, but the movie image fills the empty space with colorful flowers, and the baldly, unromantically drawn schoolgirl has become the ethereally beautiful UETO Aya.

Don't get me wrong: I think Ueto does a fine job in the role. But she's just too damn cute. If nothing else, it's impossible to imagine her feeling "lost in the crowd" -- she creates crowds in the real world.

On the other hand, KAMIKI Ryuunosuke was perfect as Asako's elementary-school-aged partner in creepiness. Nothing but praise for that kid.

The rest of the movie's decorating frenzy was hit and miss. You have to appreciate their efforts to get as much colour and shape and stylised fun into the thing as possible -- most of the story involves people sitting inside a closet chatting on the internet -- but some parts just grated. The music, for example, was a never-ending but often-repeating cavalcade of twongs and plinks and "nah"s that was used as perky sentence punctuation so often I started to feel like I was watching Rugrats. On the other hand, Roy, who went with me, liked the music. Clearly, he's wrong. No! I mean... your mileage on the music issue may vary.

One of the reasons I liked Install when I read it was the lack of an obvious moral or message within it. As Roy notes, you can see this as tacit support of the status quo, and you might find a movie with such a theme rather uninspiring. But the flip side of "even apparently dramatic actions won't make much difference" is "you're already there" -- a kind of Who Is The Self That Searches For The True Self? thing -- and I think that's an underappreciated concept.

I'd want to read the book again before I develop this thought too much, but tentatively: Asako begins the story feeling lost and adrift, but quickly meets her Virgil, Kazuyoshi, who introduces her to an online Other World where the same anonymity makes her life more meaningful and structured and, more importantly, gives her power.

Of course, the other people in this world have the same anonymity and the same power, which leads to certain confusing and unpleasant situations. It doesn't take Freud to see this as a metaphor for the character's impending non-virtual sexuality. (It's interesting that although the movie is generally more colourful and jolly in tone than the book, the book was more comfortable with playing up the absurdist side of things here.)

On the other hand, Kazuyoshi is far more experienced and confident in the Other World, but he still finds the Real World confusing and unpleasant in some ways.

But while Kazuyoshi is showing Asako the ropes of the Other World, she is indirectly helping him learn to handle the Real World. And by the time the jig is up, they have both learned something about how to affect and let themselves be affected by their surroundings, rather than remaining passive and adrift. In particular, that they can build a connection with even the unlikeliest people.

It's certainly less viscerally appealing than a story where they learn about themselves by riding a sidecar-equipped motorcycle across Europe fighting neo-nazis, but I liked it OK.

Popularity factor: 4


As a fellow Wataya fan, I'm quite anxious for this to get out on Japanese bootleg/rental video and get sent to America (because, really, there's nothing less likely than an American release of Install). Still, looking at the front image on the official website makes me a little nervous. The thing I love most about the covers of Install and Keritai Senaka is how bare they are, which reflects the loneliness and sense of being lost in the world that both Asako and Hatsu feel, to me.

- Morgan


was the computer a mac? i thought it was a pc instead of mac... is it easy to reinstall mac? ... i never done it before... only for pc's
and ueto aya does seem too pretty to be asako


Morgan: Yeah, given that the Japanese release only lasted like three weeks -- and yet it stars Ueto Aya, so it isn't exactly indie -- I don't think the American distributors are going to go crazy over it. But, on the plus side, a short theatrical run usually means a quick DVD pressing!

It felt entirely different from the book for me. Like, if the book was early Ani DiFranco just playing her guitar and singing, the movie was recent Ani with her new soft-funk backing band thing. Similarities, but huuuuge differences. So maybe if you approach it that way it won't be too bad. It makes me wonder what the play was like.

Evelyn -- yeah, it was a Mac! I don't think the type of computer was specified in the book, but I don't remember exactly. I think they chose it for the movie because it looks cuter, makes a cool sound when it starts up and it's also much easier to carry around and hide in a closet (since it's all in one piece) as the story dictates. And you can reinstall the Mac OS without too much difficulty.


i love this movie a lot. =D

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