November 01, 2005

Me and my mechanical girlfriend

I Dream of Mimi belongs to that genre of anime that involves the nice geek next door getting hold of an anatomically correct, tremendously cute and willing female android, and then not having the slightest idea what to do with her. Well, beyond the obvious. Unlike anime "fan service" that is mostly nudity drenched with directionless innuendo, this is a sex comedy with actual sex.

Believe me, in this particular genre, despite appearances, that's actually rare.

Mimi just barely skirts the hentai label by not getting that up close and personal. In fact, I found the sex scenes (sex with what, you may fairly ask) in Mimi to be less annoying than the intimations of robotic sexual detail in the PG-13 rated Chobits. Though the distributor still felt the need to fib about the protagonist's age in the subtitles. (An often unintentionally comical consequence of federal anti-porn laws.)

To be sure, Mimi does not plumb the existential depths of Video Girl Ai (in which virtual girl meets Pinocchio). It never gets as Freudian as Mahoromatic (is she his lover or his mother?). It's not as smart about human relationships as My Dear Marie (in which android girl meets Shaw's Pygmalion), though it does sneak in some clever metaphors about fidelity.

You will never think about "write-protect" in quite the same way again.

Undoubtedly, though, I Dream of Mimi is the ubergeekiest of them all. It's basically a story about competing PC platforms, and, sorry Mac fanatics, but Apple is the ugly American. Well, not "ugly," more like ridiculously well-endowed. A trio of gaijin "Nacintosh" avatars (surrounded by apples, lest you not get the point), are trying (with hilariously bad Japanese) to take over the Japanese market.

This cinematic aberration deserves clarification. Macs users are always the good guys, right? As in the rest of the world, 90 plus percent of PCs in Japan run Windows. Indeed, most PC components everywhere ultimately come from OEM manufacturers in Japan, Korea and China. These OEMs also sell PCs under their own labels. So Apple alone remains an identifiably American brand.

Consider electronics giant NEC. The computer Akira sets out to buy originally, the 9821, is an NEC model (Intel 486). Its predecessor, the 9801, was a high-performance 8086 clone of the first IBM PC, running a Japanese port of Microsoft DOS. Its proprietary bus "locked in" the user base and made it the dominant PC platform in Japan. (What IBM tried to do with Microchannel and failed.)

So the battle comes down to an American proprietary platform (Mac) versus a Japanese proprietary platform (NEC). It's done knowingly enough and with enough wit that you can't help wishing they'd taken a higher, even nerdier road. Less T&A and more tech. Throw in XP and OSX and you can imagine the alliterative possibilities. Not to mention "Longhorn."

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