Sometimes I think the term feminism is just a Western product. Over the years, it has carried such a bad connotation. I think vocal feminists are confused these days. Just because I am on the quiet side, it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in gender equality nor do I condone femininity. Do I have to throw away my femininity to demand equality? Objectification is cringy, no lie, but Romance Doll proves it otherwise.
My first initial impression when I found this show on Netflix, I thought uh oh, it’s sex dolls for lonely men because I heard that single men prefer 2d girls/dolls over real women these days. Real women can’t compete with timeless beauties. So I was expecting the film to be political. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised that the film is nothing about the politics of dolls and how they may affect society in a negative way. Instead, the film explores the meaning of love by objectifying women in the most respectful manner. It’s an oxymoron, I know.
Like most art graduates, it’s difficult to find a job that utilizes one’s skills. The male protagonist Tetsuo happened to graduate from an art school specializing in sculpture. A friend recommended him a job without letting him know what it is. He later found himself employed in the industry of making sex dolls. It’s not the most prestigious job, but it’s not entirely bad as it seems. In fact, he hit the jackpot! The job not only allowed him the opportunity to meet his future wife Sonoko, but it also allowed him to hone his artistic skills in creating a breathing, realistic love doll. It is his passion that ironically made Sonoko fall in love with him. He pressed his hands on her breasts to feel the texture, claiming he was creating breasts prosthetic for medical use. You might be thinking, what a sly, unethical pervert. I thought the same. But this section of the film was well executed. There is a great amount of respect for the woman’s body. It’s almost sacred-like, which explains why Tetsuo couldn’t tell Sonoko that he creates love dolls for a living.
As they say, a man falls in love with an image, and a woman falls in love through how she feels. Out of impulse, Testsuo and Sonoko agreed to marry. Sounds like a fairy-tale doesn’t it? But it’s far from a happy story. As time progresses, secrecy between the married couple unfolds and both learn about what it means to love and to trust. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage.
What I find so pleasing about this film is that I was not offended by the notion of love dolls and what they are used for because the film did such a great job at illustrating how they can help lonely men. Think about it, why do we hold certain objects more important than others? Why are diamonds valuable to women? In this case, Testuo creates his SONOKO love doll out of remembrance of his love for his wife who then helps fill the void of lonely men. The doll is far from trash. She is made with love and quality.
As for my final thoughts for this film, the irony of SONOKO love doll is that she was molded after a perfect wife (caring, patient, and obliging) but she is also “nice and horny.” Sounds like a wish come true to lonely men. I am pretty sure Sonoko’s soul feels content knowing that she is helping lonely men even after she is long gone from this world. After all, human companionship is part of human survival needs.
I’m not surprised that this film was directed by a woman: Yuki Tanada. The undertone of Romance Doll is far from trashy. It is typical of a woman to hold her female kind with high regard, especially if it involves sex and her body.