Time of Eve

Time of Eve

TIME OF EVE

Watched via Crunchyroll/BD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Time of Eve is like a teaser trailer. It highlights some key points, while lacking any real context. I’m rather baffled at what this mini series is and what it’s trying to accomplish. I suppose I should start by saying that Time of Eve is an “Original Net Animation”. It’s comprised of six short episodes that are fairly episodic and singular.

The main idea behind the series is that humanity now lives in a future era where androids are used commonly in households. There is a bit of a controversy surrounding the ethical practices of humans vs. androids. Rikuo Sakisaka is a high school student who is mildly upset by these socio-politics, but not enough to really bother himself about it. That is until he one day finds out his android is acting “human” and living its own life on the side. Which really means hanging out in a cafe. Determined to get behind these horrid actions, he tracks her and ends up becoming a regular at the same cafe, where he learns how humans and androids can socialize together in new ways.

During these short six episodes we see Rikuo slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, open up to the idea of androids being allowed to act human. Unfortunately it doesn’t really amount to anything. Nothing really comes of it, except maybe him not being quite so rude to his android from time to time.

While this is all happening there is also the mysterious underlying plot, which is heavily foreshadowed, but never clearly linked to the main plot. There is a secret governmental organization which is looking to put a stop to android rights, or at least trying to heavily modify the laws in order to allow them less free-reign. I can kind of see why this was left wide open, to allow for more seasons, movies, etc. However, it’s so disconnected from the slice-of-life atmosphere of the rest of the show, that I’m left wondering why they even bothered having it there in the first place.

I thought Rikuo’s slow process of becoming more accepting of androids fit in well with the history of persecution. When you’re taught to think a certain way, you can’t change your attitudes overnight.

PLOT: Time of Eve takes place in the near future where androids have been invented and look like humans, interacting with humans on a daily basis. If humans can afford them, androids will live with them as servants, preparing their meals, bringing them umbrellas at school, etc. Since androids look so similar to humans, they’re ordered by law to display a digital halo over their heads that designates them as androids.

Rikuo, the series’ main character, has a family android, Sammy, who he learns has some amounts of unaccounted for time in its memory banks. He and his friend decide to follow Sammy one day, and they learn that she’s been visiting the Time of Eve, a cafe where androids and humans are treated equally. All androids have to turn off their halos while at the cafe, so you don’t know if you’re interacting with a human or an android.

Rikuo and his friend, being the ordinary, privileged human citizens at the cafe, are alarmed to not know whether they’re interacting with humans or androids. Over time, Rikuo sees how human androids can act and begins to question his past treatment of them. As Whitney mentions, this is a very slow process, and Rikuo’s still in the beginning stages of changing his mind about how he treats androids by the series’ end. I found this to be completely realistic, and though I hoped he’d be a little further along by the end, I was okay with where the show ends.

The show follows an episodic formula, where Rikuo goes to the cafe and meets some of the regular customers. He doesn’t know whether or not they’re androids until he hears their stories, and each episode brings up another aspect of human-android interactions. I love that Time of Eve brings up situations beyond Rikuo’s interactions with Sammy, since I hadn’t expected it. The show brings up the question of falling in love with an android (differently from Chobits), along with how androids would fare as caregivers for children. The spectrum of human-android interactions fascinated me and kept me watching, despite Rikuo’s slow character growth.

I liked the story premise, but not necessarily the execution. At times it felt a bit dry. However, I loved seeing the androids in different locations and it really drove home the idea that they are “people” too. I really enjoyed the excellent exploration of double standards, especially with a robot raising a child.

SETTING: Time of Eve takes place in the future, in presumably Japan. The opening of each episode makes a point of making it “unclear” where stuff is taking place, but I can’t really see it any other way but in Japan. Anyways, this version of the future is fairly similar to modern Japan, only families tend to have household androids. These androids are pretty basic, think Siri, but in human form instead of on an iPhone.

The transformation of this series is when Rikuo and his android go to the “Time of Eve” cafe, where the one house rule is to treat humans and androids the same. Here androids suddenly melt their “Siri” facade, and speak and act like real humans. As you can tell, location is pretty integral to the plot. Without the cafe, there would be no real avenue to pursue the socio-politics of human/android relations. There are a couple of good conversations that optimize on the setting, but for the most part Time of Eve wastes its time and setting on showing mundane cafe events.

SETTING: Time of Eve’s setting is a nicely present-day-looking future world, with the only major difference being that there are androids who look like humans wandering around with digital halos on their heads. It’s fun to compare this world’s idea of androids to Chobits, where androids mostly aren’t made to appear fully human. I think that human-looking androids aren’t too likely, considering the uncanny valley, but we’ll see what happens when we develop that technology.

The Time of Eve cafe is a great part of the series, where androids are free to act however they want. The cafe has a very welcoming feel, created by both the barista and the cafe’s visual design. Though the rest of the series is interesting, too, I was always excited to reach the cafe and see which characters would be explored that episode. The cafe has a character of its own, creating a large part of the series’ charm for me.

CHARACTERS: I instantly felt a connection with main characters. I found it very unfortunate that so much was foreshadowed, but nothing came of it in these several short episodes.

Rikuo is a spoiled kid who takes it for granted that his android follows his orders without question. He suddenly is forced to come to grips with how selfish he has been when he finds out how aware she is of her situation. On the outside he is shown being more concerned about the danger of the situation, but it’s at least insinuated his anxiety could have more to do with his own embarrassment at being rude. That’s it, we don’t get to see more. I know, disappointing, right?

Which brings me to the biggest disappointment. His android, Sammy, makes the most wonderful “tsundere”. I suppose there is a better term than that, but I’m not too familiar with the specifics. Outside the cafe she is all computer speak and robotic, then when she enters Time of Eve, she becomes an adorable, shy, blushing girl who just wants to make her family happy. It’s enough to make your heart melt. And of course, the show ends before we can see anything actually go her way. Huge disappointment. Okay, I might just be a little moe for Sammy.

The rest of the regulars at the cafe may be varied a bit, but they aren’t really interesting. They’re your typical idea of what background actors in a movie would be like. Just mindless filler. There’s also Rikuo’s friend, Masaki, who’s mysteriously involved in the socio-politics through his dad, but he only really acts as a counter-balance to Rikuo.

Sammy’s a kuudere, I think, if such a term can be applied to an android’s programming. And you’re moe for her because she’s a lot like Yuki Nagato. You’re welcome! ;D

:3

CHARACTERS: To me, most of the characters of Time of Eve were interesting, as I could relate to many of them and was intrigued by a lot of their histories and motivations. I had some issues with Rikuo’s friend and the friend’s father, but beyond that the cast drew me in easily.

Rikuo’s what I expect from a privileged kid whose family can afford to have their own android. He’s clueless about his poor treatment of androids, and he’s surprised to learn that androids would even want to act or be treated like humans. I was glad that he became better in his attitudes towards androids, though, like many privileged people, it takes him a while and he makes very slow progress. As a protagonist, he’s not the most interesting, but he provides a good model for how people work at overcoming privilege and prejudice.

Sammy, like Rikuo, is a bit bland, though she’s more of a Mary Sue than Rikuo’s character. She works as potential wish fulfillment for viewers, as she’s completely dedicated to making Rikuo and his family happy. Yes, she wants to act more human, but she somehow seems to have that desire to be more a part of Rikuo’s family. She wasn’t my favorite character, though she is pretty cute when she’s acting human.

I preferred the other androids over Sammy, and we meet a lot of them over the course of the series. They’re all fairly well developed for being featured for an episode each, and they have the benefit of each having different stories. The barista at Time of Eve is also very interesting, and I’d liked to have seen more of her backstory over the course of the series. As a whole, the series’ cast brought up a wide range of potential issues relating to androids, which I loved seeing beyond the surface falling-in-love issues already covered in series like Chobits.

I actually liked the relationships explored in Time of Eve more in comparison to Chobits. As much as I loved the love story in the latter, the stories in the former seem more genuine and possible without being idealized and turned into a fetish.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: I found the animation for Time of Eve very hard to watch. It has an overall good budget, but the movements can be quite disorienting. This isn’t an issue for most scenes, but when a moment is supposed to be dramatic, the screen wobbles around like a hand-held camera. I’m not really sure why, because it’s never from a first-person angle, it’s always looking on at the whole picture. Also, the idea of “dramatic” is taken very loosely, as these moments crop up over the littlest nuances. Which never made me feel moved emotionally, just dizzy.

The character designs are nice. I like how the creators tackled the idea of androids. Nothing seems over-the-top, just “normal”, like it would fit right into our own present day life style. I even liked how the androids acted and looked like something you would see in a Sim game, with a floating screen above them. However, it wasn’t until I saw the old classic robots that I truly felt a pull at my heart strings. There’s nothing like a good old beat up robot to get the tears flowing.

Oh, the old-school robots. ;_; So lovely~~~~

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Time of Eve is also an interesting watch visually. The series looks good on BD, with good attention to detail and clear, bright colors. However, every now and then it decides to get inventive with the camera angles or effects, which is jarring. When the cafe’s barista winks, a giant star comes at the camera, which freaked me out the first time it happened. When the camera moves too quickly, it feels very much like bad CGI and throws me out of the narrative. I don’t know enough about how the series was animated to know if there’s any CGI present, but it certainly feels that way at times, with the camera moving differently than most of the time.

The character designs fit into the category of nicely individualized while still fitting into the same overall style. This could be because there are so few major characters, but I found it pretty easy to tell everyone apart. Moreover, everyone looks realistically different (no crazy hairstyles here), which fits into the series’ vision of the near, present-day-esque future. The character designs look nice and modern without being heavily stylized to look moe or too simplified and cartoonish, hitting a nice balance in the middle. Without having watched the show, I thought the characters looked a little plain, but eventually I warmed up to their appearances.

OVERALL: To recap, the plot does nothing, the setting isn’t utilized to its fullest extent, the characters are boring and/or undeveloped, and the animation is decent, but badly implemented. Sure Time of Eve has a good underlying idea and message, but potential doesn’t mean anything if it’s never used.

I honestly can’t recommend this to anyone. I kind of liked the charm of each episode, as it felt like a slice-of-life after school club series, but it didn’t have enough spark to make it worth watching. I’d like to watch the movie to see if there is any progress made. I suppose if the movie is good, then watch the episodes for some back story, but otherwise don’t bother. This series is probably only good for the fan based material likely to come from it.

FYI, the movie’s a compilation of the ONA series with some new footage, I hear, meaning it probably won’t advance the plot much. I’m still gonna get it, so you can check it out once it’s around.

OVERALL: I think Time of Eve’s a great ONA that brings up an important subject and addresses it from new angles for anime, at least as far as I’ve seen. It definitely doesn’t show Rikou’s entire emotional journey and doesn’t provide any easy answers, but I don’t think it should have to aim for that. By showing only the beginning of societal change, Time of Eve brings up a subject and shows how to begin change without having to get into the messiness of everything else. I think this works for a couple reasons. First of all, change is messy, and watching the entirety of society coming to accept androids would be long, painful, and probably somewhat boring. Secondly, it’s impossible to predict how chance will fully come about, so I think it’s wiser to just show the beginning of it. It may not be the most revolutionary move, but following this narrative thought too far can get messy and be unsatisfying for viewers, as can be seen in other series that go in a similar direction, like Eden of the East or Fractale. As it stands, I think the six-episode Time of Eve is a solid glimpse of this possible future, and it brings both viewers and its characters to the point of questioning widespread societal prejudice. The series doesn’t need to go further, since it should be up to the viewers to follow these thoughts and see where they can be applied elsewhere. If nothing else, Time of Eve gets you to think, and for that I think it’s definitely worth watching.

FINAL SCORE: (5/10) FINAL SCORE: (9/10)
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