Sunday, 3 May 2009

EVE no Jikan - Episode 4

It's been far, far too long since the last instalment of EVE no Jikan (aka Time of EVE), but now episode four is here and quite frankly I jumped out of my seat in excitement at finally being able to watch and enjoy it. Boy, was it worth the wait though...

The episode kicks off with a mixture of a seemingly antiquated robot's dealings with a child on the one hand, while on the other Rikou discusses the number of complaints regarding androids and the various reasons why such complaints might be made, while also touching on the subject of the fee required to have your old robot "removed", much as we might pay to have an old fridge freezer or washing machine disposed of.

This all segues in nicely to the mainstay of the episode, where the aforementioned antiquated robot pays a visit to the cafe, which of course gives Rikou and Masaki a bit of a dilemma when it comes to following the rules of not discriminating between robot and human when the individual in question is so clearly a robot, yet has so clearly taken those exact same rules to heart.

What follows is absolutely, first degree high comedy which had me literally crying with laughter a couple of minutes in and continuing throughout, as this juddery old robot discusses its name and age and tries to drink a beverage with absolutely hilarious results - This is quite possibly the funniest thing I've seen all year so far, it truly is situation comedy at its finest with perfect comic timing, use of animation, camera angles, pacing and so on all building together into a perfect blend of humour.

Ironically and oddly, it's this humour and absurdity that actually delivers the killer blow in the final minutes of this episode, as our laughter at this crazy old robot turns into despair as we learn that he himself has been abandoned, with all personal data wiped to leave him as little more than a functional shell who is still desperate to be recognised, acknowledged and cared about once again. The sadness that suddenly comes out of this previously hilarious situation is so sudden and unannounced that it truly gives it a tremendous impact, turning those tears of laughter into ones of sadness in thirty seconds flat and leaving you feeling more than a little ashamed at your previous laughter as the tragedy of the situation becomes clear. It's the kind of paradox that has been a big part of literature from ancient Greece through to Shakespeare to beyond, and this exhibition of it is simply masterful.

As usual with the genius that is EVE no Jikan, the episode also raises questions about the human condition and what it is to "be human", as well as how we treat a scenario dependant on its constituent components. If this instalment had been about a person with dementia who had forgotten his own name and those who cared about him, while appearing so unfirm and unsteady, would we have been laughing at the scenario however comically it was portrayed? Possibly not. If it had been an android who was indistinguishable as either human or robot, would we have laughed so long and hard? Again, I doubt it. Yet, because we were faced with an obviously non-human entity, we found his "dementia" absolutely amusing and funny until faced with the truth as to its origins. Does that makes us less human? I'm not sure, but those tears of laughter sure do seem bittersweet the more I think about it...


Martin said...

Excellent post as always. (:

For all the comedy, your last paragraph nails the serious message I took from this episode: it poses some interesting questions about how we as a society and individuals approach the issues of discrimination over things like age and disability. Sure, it's a robot but I think the fact that their - and, thanks to masterful storytelling, the viewer's - first reaction is indeed that of "it's 'just' a robot." makes it all the more interesting.

The camerawork here is fantastic too - I initially thought it was gimmicky but that rapid spinning from face to face at the table really draws you in.

Good things come to those who wait and all that...even so I hope we don't have to wait as much as four months for episode 5! The time and effort invested in this piece really shows though.

Diss said...

What's with the second kid's flashbacks? What are the chances he is an android as well? And was the girl at the end jealous of him just looking at the gynoid with the hat?

Chicago Cabbie said...

What a wonderful review, the last paragraph actually had me misting up a bit at recalling Nameless.

Topspin said...

This was the best single episode of anime I've watched in recent memory. Your review sums up exactly how I felt after watching it: ashamed. How many anime can make you feel shame without it being obvious and forced?