Sunday, 20 September 2009

EVE no Jikan - Episode 6 (Completed?)

A young boy, upset with his father and blaming him for what appears to be the break-up of their family shares his troubles with a household robot which he's named Tex, who similarly responds and weighs in with its own (naturally logical) thoughts on the issue. The boy's name is Masaki, and so begins this final(?) episode of Eve no Jikan.

Fast forwarding to the present day, and Tex (officially known as THX, a nice little movie reference in its own right) no longer speaks... Indeed, he never has since the night of the conversation between it and Masaki in question. This all seems like small fry however, as we also see plans being put into place by a Robotics Ethics Committee, which is staunchly opposed to the growth in interactions between humans and androids, and sets out to investigate reports where this kind of thing has been going on - Something which they ironically set out to achieve using androids to take up the bulk of the investigative workload.

Of course, the CIO of this Ethics Committee is none other than Masaki's father, and so the whole episode ties itself together quite nicely, bringing us the reasons for Masaki's own distrust towards robots and androids throughout this series coupled with the reasoning behind his fathers action and anti-android advocacy.

This wouldn't be EVE no Jikan if it wasn't thought-provoking however, and so as per usual the items on that particular agenda come thick and fast. Perhaps the most interesting viewpoint this episode throws up is a comparison between Misaki and "Tex" - Misaki resents his robot (and thus robots and androids as a whole) on account of it following his father's command not to speak any more, a command which clearly causes Tex some decidedly conflicted anguish. This in itself is an interesting point of debate (is Tex "upset" on an emotional level, or simply because he cannot perform the duties which he was designed for to their fullest extent?), but it also throws up a mirror to Misaki's own life, as he too is conflicted - He now understands that it's his father's order that has stopped Tex from speaking, yet he still ignores that and instead focuses his disdain upon others. In essence Misaki, just like Tex, is "programmed" to obey commands from his father over his own wishes and knowledge, and it's this struggle which both entities share which serves to provide the heavy emotions on display in the latter half of this episode. It's a conflict that neither party ultimately resolves in the course of this episode, all we see here is simply progress towards an unknown resolution.

Speaking of unknown resolutions, this episode also puts the future of the Time of Eve cafe under thread, and despite Tex's fantastic battle of logic to remove an investigating android from the cafe (while simultaneously using that same logic as a hint to Misaki regarding what is going on) we still don't know what the future holds, which points very heavily to a second series, particularly when coupled with an unfolding revelation about cafe owner Nagi...

I'm sure I've waxed lyrical enough about the fantastic quality of this occasional series from the very start, but I make no apologies for doing so again here - As anime goes, this has to be up there as amongst the most pleasingly thought-provoking shows I've ever had the pleasure to watch. At its core, it asks a basic question of discrimination - Should we react differently on any kind of level towards an android or robot that can speak and otherwise express itself? It's the same question asked by recent Hollywood movie District 9 (albeit handled in a very different way), and at a more fundamental level its really asking us whether we should treat anyone who appears to be different from ourselves in another manner to that reserved for those "like us". Should we feel sad for a robot who is lost or lonely? EVE no Jikan never answers the question itself, but my own emotional responses to the stories presented by this series with its near-perfect and sharp blend of humour and drama (again wonderfully illustrated by a couple of juxtapositions of the two in this episode) suggest that yes, it is okay to cry over a robot. It might not be enough to make an android human, but such anthropomorphism and ability to relate to such things is what makes us human.


Unknown said...

Excellent read.

123123123 said...

Correct i understand they havent answered any of the problems.. how the cafe is still in danger and there was nothing about nagi and ... LOTS MORE SO I HOPE THE NEXT EPISODE COMES OUT QUICK! !!

editor said...

What makes us human is an interesting question to ask. Unlike you, I'm one of those viewers who felt uneasy about responding emotionally to AI. I don't advocate discrimination of course, it is entirely possible to get attached even to toy sets and soft toys as we did when we were young, but falling into emotions over a robo as a full-fledged adult is dangerous thing to do. AI is all about stimulated emotions.

The thing which makes humans humans is the very genuinity of our emotions. If someone fakes his or her emotions, it is possible for us to sympathize with him/her, but ultimately it makes no difference to the person who is pretending to feel in a certain way.

AI's a bit complicated since their extire existence is fake - rather like household electronics. If we build our emotions on stimulated emotions, that is exactly the same as blurring the line between genuinity and artificial, which is exactly the same premise as teh creation of AI (artificial life, artificial intelligence).

Hanners said...

It's certainly an interesting question, and I'd argue a more complicated one than simply "human versus AI".

For example, is a computer or android that has "learned" its emotions any different from a human, who also learns how to react and interpret its surroundings based at least to some degree on external influences? Once you're programming an AI to learn rather than simply using a set of pre-defined instructions, that line really is blurred.

Anonymous said...

Nice write up, I just finished watching all 6 episodes. Really interesting anime that I thoroughly enjoyed watching, a pleasant surprise given other animations (and their stories) out there currently.

Anonymous said...

In reply to "editor"'s comment "The thing which makes humans humans is the very genuinity of our emotions".

What do you mean by "genuine"? If you are deeply spiritual, then forgive what I am about to say, but what are humans but electrochemical machines? One might say our emotions aren't "genuine" because it's just a function of the structure of our frontal cortex and whatever hormones happen to be brewing at the moment.

Where do you draw the line between machinery following code and free will? Sure, there are differences, but I agree with the blogger that, at it's core, this anime is about accepting people different from ourselves the way they are.

Also, I'd like to add that I loved this anime in part because it reminded me of Isaac Asimov's writings. Good stuff.