Having lost their human masters since long ago, the entire cast of [email protected] is comprised of androids that no longer have any reason for being but still choose to carry out their original duties with loyalty. Amongst these characters we find Malice, a specific kind of robotic creature made solely to provide sexual satisfaction to human customers who used to exist. When an abnormality grants her the gift (or curse) of humanity, everything changes as she allows not only herself but also the other "dolls" to be reborn as sentient, emotional beings who quickly start to explore the pros and cons of being human.
This OVA suffers from the defects of poor backdrop and several excessive scenes. With the premise in mind, a rather explicit sexual tone is to be expected but it happens with unreasonable frequency and sometimes even with questionable relevance. The viewer is also expected to develop an emotional attachment to the struggles of the protagonist which simply won't happen as we never really get to know who she is before the roller-coaster begins. Are there any virtues to the story? It's debatable, but I'd say the answer is yes. Amongst the scenes of violence and BDSM-themes sexuality, lots of interesting questions are raised. The most prominent one would probably be "what does it mean to be human?” something quite common in anime. If there was anything I absolutely loved with [email protected] however it was probably how humanity and not technology is viewed as a corruptive force and the fact that it never assumes sentience is better than artificiality.
Character designs look appropriately non-human and our robotic protagonists walk around deserted landscapes in deliberately poor movement. Upon its release more than 10 years ago the animation must have been somewhat impressive, but as is the case with most CG it has aged terribly. It's still more or less watchable and there are even certain scenes that managed to maintain some strange sort of beauty, but overall the visual quality is passable at most. Nobody can deny, however, that some of the metamorphoses depicted are incredibly unnerving.
Voice acting is relatively fine assuming you choose the Japanese audio track and the soundtrack is mainly comprised of eerie noises and simplistic but appropriate scores. It accompanies the overall morbid atmosphere quite well without ever getting distracting or obnoxious.
Being human is not necessarily a condition preferable to being a machine. This was, as far as my own subjective interpretation goes, one of the main themes and it's almost fascinating based on its rarity alone; I don't think I've ever encountered such a statement in any work of fiction that comes to mind. It would have worked even better, however, if we actually cared more about the characters which we, thanks to poor writing, never really do. Their struggles generate minor amounts of sympathy but in the end they don't really do much with their recently acquired humanity other than explore the realms of pleasure and pain. Furthermore, their personalities are incredibly simplistic which is to be expected when they were made for one single purpose. I just expected more of a change when they acquired emotions, even if the main theme I mentioned above is interesting enough for me to provide a mediocre score.
Don't let the low ratings fool you; [email protected] is not a terrible anime and nor is it filled to the brim with gore and perversion even though several bits are very explicit. It gives birth to a fascinating discussion topic you probably haven't considered before and features enough morbid material to be memorable. The last thing might not be a proper assessment of its quality but all in all I found this hidden OVA both interesting but also VERY poorly scripted. I expected more from a man like Konaka Chiaki but I got a lot more than the ratings of other users indicated I would.