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act06: MASAKI: Friendships of Eve

 

Review by Scott Richardson

February 12, 2012

 

Summary

 

A very robotic-looking android named Tex attempts to console a young boy in the midst of the divorce of his parents. The robot reminds the boy that neither his father, nor his mother, is completely wrong, so he shouldn't blame them. The robot's words do seem to help the boy a bit, causing the robot to the boy not to tell his father about their conversation, as it would likely hurt his feelings. The boy is confused, but readily agrees. Unbeknownst to either of them, the boy's father overhears their conversation through a crack in the door. The next morning, the boy awakens to find his father and Tex in his doorway. The father breaks the news to him that Tex seems to be broken. To the boy's growing horror, despite being otherwise operational, Tex seems to have lost his ability to speak. Years later, in the present, the father leads a meeting of the Ethics Committee in which areas of "excessive human-robot interactions" are being discussed. 1408 such areas have been identified, many based on nothing more than rumors. None of these places clearly violate robot law, which, as far as the father is concerned, represents the unacceptable limits of those laws. The committee plans to investigate several areas and turn the matter over to the media, but the sheer number of them makes finding good targets unlikely thanks to their lack of manpower. Ironically, the committee has decided to use androids to help with the investigation. Once good targets are identified, the committee plans to use smear tactics against any humans found to frequent them. It is noted that the Android Promotion Committee has gotten wind of their plans, and there is concern that they might be able to turn the situation against them. As a precaution, all androids working for the Ethics Committee have been ordered never to reveal their true affiliation. There is fear that an incident which occurred many years ago which is only now fading from the public's memory could be repeated if they are not careful. Later that day, at Time of Eve, Rikuo and Akiko watch a television program in which the father is being interviewed about the Ethics Committee, saying that treating robots too much like people impedes people's ability to create relationships with real humans. Akiko asks Rikuo why Masaki has stopped coming to the cafe, but Rikuo seems to avoid the question, and notes that that guy has been on television a lot lately. Nagi observes that it's like it was in the old days, causing Setoru to chime in that the Ethics Committee has been around since the first household androids starting being sold, some ten years ago. They started out as a somewhat radical anti-robot group, but this lead to someone being injured- referred to as the Tokisaka Incident- causing them to keep a low profile for several years. Akiko, uninterested in politics, asks Rikuo what all that has to do with Masaki, to which Rikuo responds that the man being interviewed is Masaki's father and the Chief Information Officer of the Ethics Committee. In Masaki's room at home, Tex- still mute- brings Masaki some coffee. Masaki sarcastically makes one-sided conversation with the robot, telling him about this cafe that Rikuo is hung up on- an absurd place where humans and androids hang out with each other. Just as Masaki is about to break down and beg Tex to talk to him, his father knocks on the door and asks him who he's talking to. Taking things in stride, Masaki claims to have been talking on his cell phone. His father notes that he has been home a lot lately and offers to talk about it, but Masaki claims there's nothing to talk about. Back at Time of Eve, Rikuo takes his leave, causing the other patrons to inform Sammy that she can come out of hiding. Nagi tells her that she doesn't think Rikuo minds her being there anymore, but Sammy reminds her that she's been around him a long time, and claims to know how he thinks. Akiko teases the two of them for being so concerned about Rikuo, but as she opens the door to leave, her mood turns dour and she wonders aloud if Masaki plans to report them to the Ethics Committee. Nagi matter-of-factly states that if he did, they'd be forced to close. Slightly distraught at the idea, Sammy asks why they'd close such a wonderful place, but Nagi simply responds by asking her if she remembers how she found the cafe in the first place. Sammy states that she thought Nagi invited her, but Nagi tells her she probably just heard about it from someone who had been there before. And because Sammy came, Rikuo and Masaki found the place as well. Thus, if Masaki brings someone from the Ethics Committee, there's nothing to be done- the connection ends and so does the cafe. Nagi just wants to see how big the circle can grow before that happens. 

 

That night, as Rikuo prepares to retire to his room for the night, Sammy suddenly asks him if he wants Masaki to visit the cafe again. Rikuo is initially taken aback by her sudden break from her household android persona, but quickly recovers and says that he really would. The next day at school, Rikuo catches Masaki in the hallway, but before he can finish the question, Masaki flatly states that he's not going. Rikuo tells him that Nagi and Sammy would like him to come. Masaki snaps and angrily asks Rikuo why the opinion of a houseroid matters? Rikuo stands his ground on the matter, causing Masaki to storm off, thinking to himself that Rikuo is just like he used to be, and hasn't learned that investing emotion in androids just leads to betrayal. It would be better, he thinks, if that cafe didn't exist. When he reaches home, Masaki immediately seeks out his father, ready to tell him everything about Time of Eve, but is shocked to find his father searching for Tex, who has disappeared. His father believes that Tex must be broken and is intent on finding it and disposing of it properly, as it has had access to a lot of sensitive Ethics Committee data. Masaki is shaken up by Tex's disappearance, and merely tells his father that he has no idea where Tex would be. As Masaki attempts to collect his thoughts, he gets a phone call from Rikuo, which he finally answers. With alarms going off in the background, Rikuo tells him that he's at Time of Eve where an old android is demanding that they close the cafe. When Rikuo mentions that the old THX model doesn't seem to be capable of speech, Masaki bolts out the door. Upon arriving, Masaki is shocked to see that Tex has indeed taken the cafe hostage, having plugged himself into the cafe's AV system, causing it to blare alarms and display a message telling them to close the cafe. None of the cafe's usual patrons have been able to get any answers out of the mute robot and are shocked when Masaki, having regained his composure, successfully orders Tex to knock it off. Finding everybody's eyes on him, Masaki attempts to nonchalantly accuse Nagi of somehow bringing his robot to the cafe, and notes that she probably did the same thing to Rikuo. The patrons are slightly taken aback by his bizarre accusation, but allow him to continue, as he seems to finally be opening up. Masaki informs them that Tex basically brought him up as a child and he thought of the little robot as his best friend. But one day, it stopped talking, causing him to feel hurt and betrayed- that's all there is to it. After an uncomfortable pause, Rina notes that the android doesn't seem damaged- there must be some reason it stopped talking. Masaki, becoming borderline emotional, informs her that, though he didn't realize it at the time, his father most likely ordered it not to talk to him in an attempt to drive them apart. Since parental orders take priority, no amount of crying and begging forgiveness would make Tex talk to him- and that's the problem, androids are capable of ignoring a crying child for years, they simply cannot understand people's hearts. The uncomfortable silence that follows is suddenly broken by the front door opening, revealing a face Tex instantly recognizes from the Ethics Committee data- one of the androids sent out to covertly investigate improper human/android activities. Tex is aware that it will record the names and faces of everybody in the cafe and all the humans there- including Masaki will be hounded by the Ethics Committee. Panicked, Tex attempts to signal the danger to Masaki, but is unable to get his point across. Tex examines the cafe's rule for a moment and then suddenly turns to face the crowd and informs them all that it intends to break the cafe's rule. Tex faces the new arrival and informs him that he is in clear violation of robot law- an android is never to turn off its halo while in operation. In shock, Masaki realizes that the only way Tex could be talking is if the First Law is overriding his father's orders. In that case, Tex believes a human is in danger, and Masaki is the only one there Tex knows to be human. Tex begins demanding that the android state it's owner's contact information, causing the android to attempt to retreat for the door. Masaki, realizing that Tex will stop speaking once the danger has passed, lunges for the android and restrains him, keeping him in the cafe. With tears in his eyes, Masaki proclaims that he won't let go until Tex talks to him, and demands to know what Tex was thinking, watching him suffer for all those years. Tex hesitates, but finally admits that he simply wanted to be by Masaki's side, even if he wasn't allowed to speak. Relieved, Masaki lets the android go and reaches out for Tex. Unfortunately, Tex's next sentence is cut off when the android completes his escape. As Masaki embraces his mute caretaker, Nagi tells him that Tex only wanted to protect him. Rikuo tells him that he's seen a lot of things in this cafe, and though things don't always go as well as you'd like, he's convinced that they have the right idea. Very quietly, Masaki admits that he may be right, and then, pulling himself together, rises and says that he will tell his father that he ordered Tex out of the house and turns to lead his old friend home. Later, Setoru meets with the mysterious head of the APC, and asks if he should have helped them, noting that it could have become another dangerous incident. His boss is unconcerned, however, noting that she's sure Shiotsuki would have understood. Setoru notes that, though Time of Eve is rule 1138, that doesn't necessarily mean that Shiotsuki is involved. In response, his boss brings up an old article regarding the Tokisaka Incident from ten years ago, noting that this is the original, unaltered article. Setoru is surprised to see that the victim in the incident looks very much like a young Nagi. Back at the cafe, Rikuo asks Nagi how Tex made it to the cafe, but Nagi dodges the question, mockingly noting that she thought he was supposed to be a regular here. Their conversation is interrupted by the front door opening to reveal a new customer, whom Nagi greets as warmly as she does her regulars. 

 

Commentary

 

The last episode makes a good case that the only real difference between humans and androids is the Three Laws, which can force even the most loyal android to betray their charges under the right circumstances- though one does wonder why Tex didn't interpret young Masaki's tears as harm and invoke the First Law to talk to him. Still, the episode does do a good job bringing Masaki's story to a close, so it's rather a shame they decided to add in all this cloak-and-dagger stuff at the last minute. Who is Shiotsuki? How do androids keep finding the cafe? What's rule 1138 (besides a possible THX 1138 reference)? Why does it seem that the Ethics Committee is giving up on investigating Time of Eve? We're left to settle for the character stories being well settled, which is understandable, considering that the characters have been the heart of the story for the whole show anyway, but it would have been nice if they'd teased us with bigger questions a bit less. I'd love to see a second season that goes more into the politics of android rights and the struggle between the Ethics Committee and the APC.

 

Overall Rating

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3.5 out of 5 stars
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Time of Eve Episode 6 Time of Eve Episode 6

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