When her husband comes back home from work, she waits, motionless, listens to his talk and lets him dress her in his favourite costume, accepting his caresses and having sex with him without emitting a word: she is an air doll, a 空気人形.
In the morning, when he leaves, she becomes a 心を持ってしまいました person and wanders aimlessly through the city in search of life. The first scenes of this recent Japanese movie can’t be more disturbing and promising at the same time. What’s the mystery of such a transformation? Who might be the strange and beautiful air doll who becomes a flesh-and-bone person in the day time?
She meets people, finds a part-time job, experiences the world and falls in love, only to go back home at night and wait for her 変な husband-and-wife routine. All the male characters she finds, want something from her; and she gives it to them, somehow: that’s the way she is, that’s the way she is been taught. But she just wants to be a real person, with a heart and flesh and bones, not a latex figure of air and desire. One night, she hides from the “husband” to find out that he has bought another air doll. When he realizes that she is actually a real person, he asks her to go back to her previous doll state: he prefers her passive, mute, life-less, like a tabula rasa that can adapt herself to her master’s deepest and secret desires. The shop owner, the shop assistant, the otaku young man, even the elderly man, they all need some feminine part of her, but do they really care about her, about what she really wants, about her as a person? This is a movie about sex, loneliness and age, about selfishness, about lack of communication, about forgiveness, about the search for love, about air dolls, and about Japanese women.
My friend “Ani in Japolandia” used to tell me about her view of Japanese women’s personality and style, adapting themselves to men like a pair of gloves. I am not sure there is that kind of woman anymore, but 空気人形 women instead, with a different face for every male figure they meet in their lives, whether it’s a husband, lover, boyfriend, boss, co-worker, friend, children… but also with a proper need to live themselves.
空気人形, the perfect metaphor of Japanese female society.