I like to constantly remind people that reviewing shows isn't an objective process, but a rather bemusing mix of personal opinions and facts. I'll admit that I'm partial to shows about the man-machine interface, forcing people to reconceptualize what it means to be alive and to have a soul. When my friend told me about Time of Eve, a short web series about a robot cafe, I was definitely intrigued.
The regular customers.
In the not too distant future Japan begins to employ heavy use of androids for daily tasks such as housework. The models are visually crude at first but eventually these androids are able to assimilate into human populations seamlessly, which isn't a comforting fact for pro-human interest groups. Androids are therefore required to display a floating digital halo above them to make their machine status apparent. The story follows Rikuo and Masaki, who notice that Rikuo's family android has been coming home at irregular intervals. They follow her travel logs and end up at an underground cafe that has only one rule: no discrimination between androids and humans. No one is displaying their status rings and so whether or not anyone is an android is also a mystery.
The six fifteen-minute episodes are loosely connected but an overarching plot isn't stressed. The cafe setting almost demands that episodes be treated like stand-alone incidents, many of which are very, very funny. The show has very organic, almost documentary camera movements that also lends to Time of Eve's relaxed atmosphere; the show's elements are brilliantly self-referential. By far, the funniest episode was "Nameless: Eve's Doll," where an absurdly outdated android enters the cafe and pretends to be human.
Time of Eve falls short of a five-star rating, oddly enough, because the laid back and enjoyable mood doesn't allow for any serious conflicts to develop. I won't say that everyone always had a good time at the cafe; Rikuo and Masaki are new to the idea that androids can be social beings, and society at large does not consider the possibility that Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics has loopholes that allow for abberant behaviors. The series even suggests that A.I. is on the verge of developing sentience, but this never becomes a big issue. Time of Eve's unconventional approach to post-humanist concerns prevents the show from being kitsch and worn-out, but it also restricts conflicts to being mild annoyances caused by misunderstandings. The more serious themes that serve as potential plot points aren't expounded upon and quickly deflate.
Time of Eve provides anime viewers with a beautiful slice-of-life series that humorously addresses the liminal moment where androids and A.I. begin encroaching on human boundaries, in accordance with the uncanny valley hypothesis. Rikuo and Masaki go through amazing character transformations as they continue to question the essence of humanity and compassion, and whether or not machines are even capable of fathoming such attributes. Time of Eve manages to pack more quality content into its abbreviated six episodes than most anime does in twenty four. I think all anime viewers, from the casual to horror buffs to ecchi lovers, can enjoy this series.
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The Anime Guardians by Nelson Rolon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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