In the future, probably Japan, robots and androids are being used for practical purposes…
Zooming inward on an electronic city map, we find a young boy downloading information from his personal robot. He sees something odd in the information, and starts to ask about it but changes his mind. His female android closes the connection and stands up to make a cup of coffee at his request. His sister Naoko walks in drowsily and falls over onto the couch to watch the morning news. A (funny) commercial about human vs robot-grown tomatoes shows a robotic arm crushing the mechanical insides of a tomato, compared to gentle human hands picking a soft, natural tomato instead. A report called “Android Holic” comes on, talking about the way in which humans regard robots and how it’s changing. His sister tells him he should be careful, too. Rikuo checks the data he downloaded from his own robot again and wonders about the line that reads “Are you enjoying the time of EVE?”
At school, he ponders over the data some more when his friend Masaki comes over to talk. Masaki thinks Rikuo trusts his family’s robot too much, but Rikuo denies it. There are three basic rules in place that robots must abide by, so he’s in no danger. He invites Masaki to hang out with him after school to check out a place he’s interested in. When he traced the actions of his robot recently, it seems there was a day when she traveled a certain path on her own initiative, and he wants to investigate where she went.
They find themselves in front of a conspicuously plain door in a small alley, completely lost on the GPS tracker built into his phone. A robot servant pushes his way past the boys blocking the entrance. A little stunned, they watch him enter the building with no hesitation, and gather the nerves to follow him inside. At the bottom of the stairs, they find a door with an electronic sign that reads “The Time of Eve.”
They enter a warmly decorated coffee shop with a sign that clarifies the only rule of the house, which is that there should be absolutely no separation of treatment between robots and humans. Greeted kindly by the shopkeeper, they’re asked to sit down freely and she’ll come take their order at their seats. At the table, Rikuo passes his hand over a key that triggers a holographic menu, and they take in their surroundings. They start wondering about the implications of the rule at the front door, and what happened to the ring above the android’s head that they saw a few minutes earlier – as it has completely disappeared and he is no longer distinguishable from any other human. They’ve never seen a robot without the identifying ring before, as it’s strictly prohibited to walk around freely without it, but their conversation is interrupted by the shopkeeper who comes to take their order – and reminds them of the rule at the front door, in case they forgot.
Masaki realizes the missing ring probably isn’t restricted to the one android they saw – all the other guests in the coffee shop are potentially androids in disguise, and they start to panic and check everyone out. Talking in low voices, they realize they’ve stumbled upon a dangerous place, but are quickly interrupted by a cute young girl who pops up at their table to talk to them.
She speaks to them very animatedly and asks a string of questions, stunning them with her liveliness. She briefly introduces everyone in the shop with very few but fast paced words, including Nagi (the shopkeeper), and finally, herself (who she almost forgot to mention). Nagi comes to the table with the coffee they ordered and stops them from violating the rule again, but Akiko doesn’t mind at all, saying they’re just new here and not used to it yet. However, Nagi seems pretty serious about it and walks back to the bar slightly upset.
Akiko insists that Nagi is actually very kindhearted, and is just expressing her protective feelings towards this place she cares so much about. Masaki points out that even if that’s the case, forgetting to leave the customer’s coffee isn’t the best way to prove you care about your business, so Akiko runs and grabs the cups for them. While she’s up, they wonder about Akiko’s reasons for coming to a shop like this, even if they’re beginning to feel like it’s not such a dangerous place after all.
Akiko comes back with the coffee and conveys Nagi’s apology while she winks at Rikuo from the bar. He blushes and sips his coffee, and seems surprised at the taste. Meanwhile, Masaki asks Akiko if there’s an android at her house, and she admits there is. She tells them the real reason she comes to a place like this is because she can talk to anyone freely here, and come to understand many things – like other people’s feelings. She feels like humans and androids are family, but even though they look alike, they’re really totally different. She wonders what the other might think about her. She wants to understand – after all, they’re family.
At school the next day, Rikuo thinks about her words as Masaki comes and sits next to him. He stares at several robots lined up in the hallway holding umbrellas for their masters, wondering what they’re thinking. One student grabs the umbrella from his android quickly and shoves his bag into her arms with only the most perfunctory of words, and leaves her just as abruptly as he came. As Masaki begins to tease Rikuo for his naïve trust in robots again, their conversation comes to a grinding halt when Rikuo sees Akiko in the hallway – along with the swirling electronic ring above her head. She glances at him for a few seconds, but runs up to her master a moment later to hand him his umbrella and take his things. As he stares at her in shock, Rikuo doesn’t notice his own android standing in the hallway a few yards away, watching him.
At home after school, Rikuo’s android is dripping wet in the kitchen preparing some coffee for him while he waits at the table, thinking deeply about what happened. She brings him a cup, and he confirms that it’s exactly the same taste as the blend from the coffee shop. She admits that she bought it herself. He says he never ordered her to do such a thing, but she says she thought it would please him. He begins to panic that she did something of her own accord, like a human, but she just tells him the obvious: She’s only an android and in absolutely no way human.
It suddenly occurs to him that Akiko’s words should have been taken in reverse: It’s not humans who seem like robots, but in fact robots who take after humans. He realizes the meaning behind her thoughts – particularly that she wanted to better understand the feelings of the humans regarding her… and what this implies about his own android, Sammy.
This isn’t a brand new series, though only three episodes have been aired so far. It’s being broadcast online every several weeks for 15 minute episodes (you can find it on Crunchyroll, or here at the official website), but the quality is phenomenal and the subject matter is incredibly entertaining and heartwarming. Unfortunately there’s not a lot I can do about the small screenshot size – it’s just a consequence of the online method of broadcasting. They use a lot of CG, but it actually seems fitting since this is an anime about the relationship between androids and humans.
The cast is star studded with big names like Jun Fukuyama, Kenji Nojima, Rie Tanaka, Miyuki Sawashiro, and several others. If you haven’t seen this already, I urge you to give it a try. The characters are quickly endearing, and it’s clear early on that this is a well produced, short and sweet series that really deserves some attention. I really like their take on this futuristic world and the relationships between robots and humans – and where exactly that line might blur.
Episodes 2 and 3 are also available for viewing, and they confirmed the quality shown in episode 1 isn’t going to drop much through the rest of this all-too-brief series. Episode 2 is entitled “Sammy,” and focuses a bit more on Rikuo and Sammy’s relationship as he returns to the coffee shop with Masaki and gets acquainted with a few more of the regular customers. If I have time I’d like to write about those episodes as well, but don’t hold your breath. Since the release dates are few and far between, I’ll be impatiently waiting for the next episodes to air, but I’m in no big rush.