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act01: AKIKO: Time of Eve

 

Review by Scott Richardson

February 12, 2012

 

Summary

 

In the near future, androids have become a common household accessory. In one such household, a high school boy named Rikuo Sakisaka has his family's android, Sammy, make him breakfast and tell him the status of the other members of his family. Sammy is indistinguishable from any other female human with the exception of the holographic halo-like display that constantly floats above her head. Rikuo's sister Naoko flips television channels, watching a commercial from the Ethics Committee decrying human jobs being taken over by androids. On another channel, a report on "dori-kei"- younger people who become psychologically dependant on androids.  Rikuo looks through the GPS movement records he downloaded from Sammy, he finds an odd entry which simply says, "Are you enjoying the time of EVE?" Later, at school, Rikuo's friend Masakazu Masaki mentions that he saw Naoko at the train station last night, exceedingly drunk and being taken home by Sammy. He suggests that Rikuo trusts robots too much. Rikuo is unmoved, stating that it isn't a matter of trust so long as they're protected by the Three Laws of Robotics- the first of which states, a robot may not harm a human being or allow a human being to come to harm. But Masaki shoots back that it's not like robots are actually worried about humans. After school, Rikuo asks Masaki to come with him as he retraces Sammy's footsteps based on the GPS data he downloaded. He is concerned that Sammy seems to occasionally go out on her own and come back at odd hours. The data leads them to a nondescript door in an alley. They are unsure about entering until an android pushes past them to enter. Past the door and down a flight of stairs, they find a cafe called Time of Eve, where a handwritten sign informs them that in this shop there is to be no discrimination between humans and androids. The hostess directs them to some empty seats and tells them she will take their orders soon. 

 

As they take their seats, Rikuo notices the android that came in before them sitting and drinking tea with no halo above his head-had they not seen him enter, they would have had no way of knowing if he was a android or not. Masaki notes that it is a serious breach of android regulations for them to turn off their halo. Rikuo and Masaki realize that anybody in the cafe could be an android and they'd never know. Their conspiratorial whispers are suddenly interrupted by a younger, rather hyperactive girl. She noticed that they were new around here and asks if she can join them. Without waiting for an answer, she sits down and hits them with a non-stop barrage of questions, apparently excited to see new faces, which apparently happens only rarely. She mentions that all the others there are regulars-the book-reading Setoru, an older man, Shimei and his foster daughter Chie, a pair of lovers, Koji and Rina, the hostess Nagi, and of course, herself, Akiko. Rather taken by surprise, Rikuo and Masaki introduce themselves. Rikuo asks her if she's seen a female android around, but is immediately scolded by Nagi for breaking the cafe's rule. Akiko defends him, saying he just isn't used to it yet. Hesitantly, Nagi argues that breaking the rule just causes trouble for everyone and beats a hasty retreat. Akiko tells them that Nagi really cares deeply about her cafe and goes to smooth things over. Alone again, Masaki suggests that Akiko is there to make friends with androids, perhaps being one of those dori-kei that get mentioned on television a lot lately. Rikuo is not so sure, but remains silent as Akiko reappears. As a test, Masaki casually mentions that his family has no androids-odd for a family this day in age-and suggests that Akiko must have some at her home. Akiko hesitates a moment, but says that they do and that's why she's here. Rikuo asks her what she means, and she explains that at this cafe you can talk to anybody. She thinks of both humans and androids as her family- but admits that the two are totally different. As such, she'd like to know what they really think of her. The next day, as school winds down, Rikuo continues to think about what Akiko said, and asks Masaki if he really thinks she's a dori-kei. Before Masaki can respond, Rikuo is stunned to see Akiko walk by and join the line of androids waiting to pick up their charges. She does not acknowledge Rikuo at all, emotionlessly greeting her master and wordlessly accepting him treating her like the appliance she technically is. At home that night, Rikuo is still reeling from the truth about Akiko, but notices that the coffee Sammy brings him is the same blend he had at Time of Eve. Sammy tells him that she bought a different kind of coffee than usual. Rikuo reminds her that nobody gave her such an order, but she responds that she thought he would be pleased. Rikuo suddenly angrily asks her if she's trying to imitate humans, but Sammy emotionlessly responds that she is an android, not a human. Rikuo remembers what Akiko said in Time of Eve, about wanting to know more about her family, and realizes that androids resemble humans, not the other way around. 

 

Commentary

 

Despite only being around fifteen minutes long, the first episode of Time of Eve manages to accomplish a surprising amount of world-building through small touches like rain-drenched androids waiting on seemingly uncaring students, anti-android commercials, and how generally creeped out the main characters are at the idea of androids running around without halos. The setting also fairly explicitly borrows from Isaac Asimov's robot stories, specifically the Three Laws of Robotics. The Time of Eve cafe seems to the only place where androids can blend in in an otherwise hostile or domineering world. By introducing the outgoing and cheerful Akiko as an android trying to understand humans rather than the other way around as their initial interaction implied, the writers are demonstrating that, in this world, androids are far more human-like than people are comfortable believing.

 

Overall Rating

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4 out of 5 stars
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Time of Eve Episode 1 Time of Eve Episode 1

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