Mitsuhiro Oikawa stars as three iterations of astronaut Kohei Takahara, who has agreed to make his genome, including his memories, available for download in clone form should he die on a mission. Part of his motivation is his promise to his mother not to predecease her. He leaves her gravely ill on his final mission but clearly hopes that, in the worst case, she'll see him before she passes. The idea of cloning himself probably doesn't bug him as much as it might other people because Kohei was a twin, though that may be a special reason of its own for cloning to bug him. He has twin issues that are revealed in flashback: as a boy he wandered too far into a river and was carried away. His twin, Noburo, dives in to save him. Kohei manages to rescue himself, suffering only a nasty laceration that leaves a scar on his hand, but Noburo drowns.
Upon Kohei's demise his employers initiate the cloning procedure, though they first need permission from his wife. Hiromi Nagasaku has a powerful scene as she learns of the cloning and is told that the company will not extend condolences to her, but wants her to accept the clone as her husband. If not, she's told, she will receive the company's condolences, and she'll have nothing left of the man she loved. As in the entire picture, the company insists on the compassionate nature of its experimentation, but with a repellant coldness that convinces you that nothing good can come of it.
Apart from a handful of well-composed space shots, The Clone Returns Home is an earthbound film that has to work on the level of ideas and through the strength of its acting. The ideas get a little unearthly with the mysterious spacesuit and a more mysterious physical change at the very end, but the core ideas of the cloning dilemma and the consequences of traumatic memories remain compelling, and Oikawa gives a riveting three-stage performance with able support. Apart from Nagasaku's eloquent breakdown this is a quiet, unhistrionic ensemble, and the overall understatement enhances the plausibility of the film's day-after-tomorrow storyline. Like Moon, Clone is a welcome alternative to space opera in sci-fi, though it'd be a tougher sell, even had it been dubbed, because there's even less action than in Jones's film. But science fiction has always been more than action, though movies often have difficulty admitting that. As a work of humane speculation, Clone is an admirable addition to the cinematic sci-fi canon.