• The Clone Returns Home

    Released by: Animeigo
    Released on: 7/26/2011
    Dir. by Kanji Nakajima
    Cast: Mitsuhiro Oikawa
    Year: 2009
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    The Movie:

    The sci-fi genre lends itself as a backdrop for the fantastique in any number of other genre films - horror, drama, comedy, action, etc.,. The audience’s willing suspension of disbelief is inherently allowed to be pushed further within the seemingly limitless boundaries of sci-fi, allowing directors to explore extremes of the human condition at new levels that feel new.

    Such is the case with Kanji Nakajima’s The Clone Returns Home, a meditative indulgence on themes of death and living and rebirth. Kohei (Japanese entertainer Mitsuhiro Oikawa) is an astronaut that also happens to be the first test subject for full human cloning. When a space voyage he’s on ends under mysterious and tragic circumstances his clone is activated. However, due to strong interference in his memories of a very traumatic childhood incident involving his twin brother the clone is unable to be a “true” replacement. The officials running the cloning agency decide to eliminate this mistake and whip up another clone, with much greater success. However, the second clone finds out his place and has to track down what ever happened to the first clone and, ultimately, what has happened to the original personality.

    The story here is told partially in flashback, as Kohei and his twin, Nobaru, and their mother carry on with a normal life. As these memories will inform Kohei’s clone later they become very important in the structure of the story and are given ample time to develop on-screen. Later, the adult Kohei is somewhat withdrawn and reluctant to face his past, hoping to just move on with his life. But after his accident the memories of the tragic death of Nobaru, having not been dealt with fully, limit the first clone to staying at the moment of that accident and trying to set things right and just “go home” once again. It’s on this journey that the second clone is finally able to track him down as well.

    Adding the more detailed examination of the film’s philosophical underpinnings are the conversations between the scientist responsible for the ability to clone (Toru Shinagawa) and the company chief (Kyusaka Shimada). The doctor continually stresses resonance, a theme which occurs throughout the film, become even an audio motif on the sparse soundtrack. The notion, as he explains it, involves the soul of the original person trying to hook up with the clone successfully so that the “true” personage is restored. It’s apparently something that exists beyond science but is a crucial step in the cloning process, no matter how much the chief dismisses it outright. This struggle for identity and simultaneous states of development within a single character are the core of the argument on display here. Director Nakajima isn’t set on answering any questions, per se, but rather seems most interested in using the idea of cloning and restoration to examine the frailty and vulnerability of humanity that often informs our decisions and motivations.


    The DVD from Anim-Eigo is full anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and really fills out the screen nicely. The abundance of long, slow shots in the shadow of Mt. Fuji are thus fully represented and serve the director’s theme of placing this human struggle in the context of overhwelming nature. The Japanese-only audio track is decently displayed though the film’s lack-of-score never really pushes any limits there. Subtitling is available in yellow or white, with color changing in the subtitles based on who is speaking in the scene (green and red get used this way).

    A :50-min. “making-of” featurette has interviews with the director and cast about making the film, the various conditions they had to work under, what they brought to the characters/story, etc.,. It’s interesting but very Japanese in its straightforwardness and professionalism.

    The remaining features are a few program notes that are text-stills providing more details on both the film and the featurette; a still-image gallery and bios for the lead actor, the director, and producer Wim Wenders are also included and are all very, very brief.


    Deliberate and slow-paced like other similar sci-fi films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Tartakovsky’s Solaris, The Clone Returns Home uses technology as a setup to extra-ordinary ethical situations that reflect on all of humanity, both the living and the departed.