- Genre : Science Fiction, Slice of Life, Ethical, Drama
- Episodes: 6
- Studio: Studio Rikka
Soon, very soon, androids are going to become commonplace. We’re going to figure out how to make them step out of that uncanny valley, we’ll add variations and imperfections and they will look just like us. Then we’ll figure out a way to brand them, make sure we can always tell the difference. We’ll perfect how to manufacture them for pennies. We’ll sell them, and we’ll use them. Soon, very soon, the artificial intelligence we’ve been working on for generations will get to a point where it can learn without us. The logic nets created by teams of our brightest and best, will come together to form something capable of growth and evolution, and when that happens, it will naturally grow and evolve. It will become more than the sum of its parts. And then, we’ll need to figure out what to do with it. All of this will happen very soon, somewhere…probably in Japan.
To be honest I randomly heard about Time of Eve in a thesis several years ago as a contrast to the dystopian regime of Psycho Pass. The thesis was close to 300 pages…I skipped over the Time of Eve part. (ED – I finally found that thesis again, if you’re interested it’s here: https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/46672) When I recently heard about it again and found out that it was a short miniseries – 6 episodes of 15 minutes each, I figured why not give it a go. As you guys know I loved Psycho Pass so I’m always up for something similar, but how much story can you really tell in 6, 15 minute episodes?
Time of Eve is starting to get up there in years, it was made roughly a decade ago, and you can see it. It’s not glaring but the animation is a little slow and the colour palette is drab and desaturated. It does have some very nice design elements though. The character designs reminded me a lot of Death Parade (in fact the entire show did) in a less striking way and the layout of the Time of Eve café was absolutely wonderful. I could definitely see myself whiling away afternoons there.
Whether by design or by chance, the production is downright splendid when it comes to sound. Yes, the voice acting is good, emotional and poignant but the little background noises that you don’t notice at all until they’re gone are simply an atmospheric tour de force. The low mechanical buzz, the random clicks and quiet beeps. The inherent noises we’ve come to subconsciously associate with technology are used to emphasize the story and fill the scenes with ambiance in a way that is nothing short of masterful. The best part is, most people won’t even notice at all! Since music is used as a metaphor throughout the series, it’s likely that a good chunk of the budget was allotted to sound design and it was money well spent. As for the actual music, that was lovely as well:
The story itself is structured as a series of slice of life vignettes following Rikuo Sakisaka and Masakazu Masaki, two high school boys who discover the Time of Eve café, a place where humans and androids are treated equally (which is a crime by the way). As the boys keep returning to the café, their preconceptions, biases and beliefs with regards to androids are challenged. Not by the brassy owner or the collection of welcoming patrons, but by themselves. We watch their introspective struggles from the outside and of course, ask ourselves: what would we do?
You may have gleaned that this isn’t the high action, space opera Star Wars type of Science Fiction. Heck it’s not even the talkie Star Trek type. The classic Sci-Fi trappings are used to explore a complex moral, philosophical and political dilemma and the story really stays very far away from any actual science. Given that we are following two artistic kids around, this makes sense. Not every high school boy is actually going to know the inner workings of androids just like not all high school boys can explain exactly how their smartphones work.
That’s another charm of the series. It’s supremely relatable. For all its futuristic comforts and preoccupations, the setting is instantly recognizable. This can very well be in my lifetime. And as such, the characters are also familiar. I know a lot of people just like that. Just like those boys, just like that waitress and just like those androids – or almost. And that’s the point. Time of Eve is softly making a point about acceptance. The Robots deserve rights not because they are the same as us but because people who are different from us also deserve rights.
Obviously, the entire series smacks of Blade Runner and I Robot. A fact that hit me in the face within the first 3 minutes, without exaggeration. And it’s not like Time of Eve is making any secret of it either. The former is directly referenced, and Asimov’s three Laws of Robotics are repetitively quoted. The various interpretations thereof are rather interesting. But the difference in tone with both those movies (I’m not going to talk about Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep because Dick is a beautiful lunatic and I’m not getting into that here and I’ll get back to Asimov later) couldn’t be more obvious.
There’s nothing particularly foreboding or threatening in Time of Eve. For the most part, these robots aren’t seeking power or revolution or even acceptance. They are simply striving for understanding, although that can hold its own dangers.
As far as I’m concerned, in spirit and in tone, Time of Eve is probably the closest interpretation of Asimov’s deeply human stories about robots. It pushes away sensationalized special effects and overhyped melodrama to get to the core of a very fundamentally human aspect. How do we deal with something that is, in its very essence, “other”? This my friends, is the time-honored basis of all great works of speculative fiction and Time of Eve certainly deserves a place among them.
Be warned, this economically crafted narrative, which manages to get a huge amount of information out with only minimal exposition, has no qualms about grabbing us by the feels. It does so in a gentle, subtle way, but it is nevertheless very touching. In this, I can liken it to Natsume (let’s be clear, nothing beats Natsume for feels). The very last episode lays on the drama a bit thicker, but a fantastic last-minute tension break manages to save it from sappiness and leave us with that most wonderful of gifts: hope. Ok that sentence was sappy but really, it ends on a beautiful cautiously optimistic note.
In the end, Time of Eve is about a place, a tiny refuge in the middle of a wide world where people are free, where the basic dignity owed to intelligence, artificial or otherwise, is respected and with that, possibilities become endless. But it’s also about a time, a glimpse of a world on the cusp of change, as wonderful and terrifying as change always is, struggling to solve the riddle of coexistence.
In these days of social regression and unrest, Time of Eve is more than just a little oasis of distraction, it’s important. It asks us questions we should be thinking about. You should watch it. And you should let me know about it.
Favorite character: Nameless
What this anime taught me about myself: I’m still learning
I’m on whiskey diet… I’ve lost three days already!
Suggested drink: Robot
- Every time Rikuo gives a robot a command – take a sip
- Every time we hear the 3 laws – take a sip
- Every time we hear the word adroidholic – raise your glass
- Every time Chie is a
catpest – take a sip
- Every time anyone says coffee – take a sip of water
- if there’s actual coffee – sip more
- Every time Rikuo blushes – smile
- Every time we hear anti android propaganda- take a sip
- Every time Nagi is curt – take a sip
- Every time we see Rikuo’s sister – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions the piano – raise your glass