Robots are cool, right? I think we can all agree. I love robots. I love robot anime. In particular, I love science fiction robot anime. Science fiction robots are much more than just cool machines; they are mirrors held up to humanity. Every science fiction author worth their salts dabbles with the idea of artificial intelligence at some point, engaged in questions of ethics, morality and the human condition. Because that’s the value of science fiction, to ask questions that we as a society may not be prepared for and then imagining an answer. Anime, such an open canvass for imagination, should by all rights be a fantastic medium for science fiction, but somehow we don’t really get many hard sci-fi series so when a show like Beatless, with a near-future setting filled with robots and open contemplation about the nature of the soul, I’m all over it.
It is dangerous to go into a show with these expectations because it, of course, has no idea I am demanding things from it through my monitor and will only do what it set out to do. Plenty of shows have robots without being about robots. In recent times, Plastic Memories had robots, but was about grief. Clockwork Planet had robots but it was about… wish fulfilment? Point is, we don’t always get what we want, and perhaps that’s okay, because we get exposed to a higher variety of shows that way. Sure, Plastic Memories, Clockwork Planet, and Beatless are all basically elaborate boy-meets-robot-girl setups, but they all end up as different shows.
…Or are they? I have no experience with the source, but this first episode of Beatless did seem to me to be the illegitimate love child of Plastic Memories and Clockwork Planet. I’m not entirely sure it works. The two halves of show felt too far apart to be bridged in a single episode. On the one hand, we have the good ol’ high school setting, which is the standard for every anime starring teenage boys gaining disproportionate power. On the other hand, we have the sci-fi i.e. everything about robots, techno-whatever, and all those issues surrounding their design and their use. It takes work to marry those two halves, because normally they would pass each by, ne’er the two shall meet, like ships in the night. Teenage boys don’t naturally contemplate the social impacts of super-technology. Science fiction settings are complicated enough already without this extra obstacle. That’s why Plastic Memories is specifically about a company that makes robots. That’s why Ghost in the Shell is specifically about an agency interested in the use and abuse of technology. Sci-fi settings need to be plausible and therefore we need to slide into it as naturally as possible. This pilot has already leaned on a few contrivances, and not just with the average-high-school-student protagonist. For example, nobody would ever pose in front of an explosion, no matter how cool it is. When the charactersare so aware of the camera the fourth wall wears thin. Yeah, I know, someone on the team is very proud of the designs and you really want to show off the work, but when you need the audience immersed in the setting it doesn’t help.
I’m ragging on Beatless, but it’s really not bad, per se. I see heaps of potential here, I’m just afraid Beatless will miss the opportunity to tap it. We can already see it having to take up a lot of episode time gluing its two halves — the wish fulfilment half and the hard sci-fi half — together and making sacrifices in other elements. For example, we basically had to blaze through the establishment of the central relationship between Endou Arato (Yoshinaga Takuto) and Lacia (Touyama Nao) with an instantaneous, ‘Do you trust me?’ ‘Sure!’. Next moment, they’re going to take a ride a magic carpet and spontaneously burst into song. On the other hand, we got a lot of good things every pilot can use: explosions, uncanny valley robots, and shiny lights. Those were fun. And I can see the depth there, lurking just beneath the surface. Already, we some weighty issues, some more heavy-handed than others, waiting to be explored, like issues regarding artificial intelligence and whether it’s either; why we make machines closer and closer to humans, whether we can and whether we should; and the relationship between power and responsibility, extrapolated to humanity and increasingly advanced technology. I can feel it, there is something here. The preview must be a red herring. I’m going to give Beatless a chance, and maybe it will wow us yet.
Full length images: 02.
ED: 「PRIMALove」 by ClariS
You pretty much hit all the points I was thinking. I was also thinking this show would be a whole lot better with a different more realistic art style. I’ll probably give this one 3 episodes.
OMG, somebody else who actually struggled through Clockwork Planet. I’d regard that more as pure fairytale rather than SF though as just about everything in it was utterly implausible from a scientific point of view. But yes, neither Naoto nor Arato really saw much difference between humans and automata.
So, the show itself. I don’t think I can remember a more clumsy, infodumpy opening recently. And then we had “rogue robots escaping” followed by “I’m just popping out to the store” followed by “robots go out of control” followed by “saved by a cute girl in skimpy clothes” followed by “you are my master” followed by “happy families with little sister”. The only bit missing was “accidentally walking in on cute robot girl whilst it’s conducting planned cleaning and maintenance in the shower and then getting accused of being a pervert by little sister”, but I expect we’ll get that next week.
Naoto saw a difference in human and automata. He’s utterly uninterested in fellow humans and fascinated and in love with automata. To him, automata>humans.
Now you come to mention it, you’re quite right. Just goes to show how forgettable Clockwork Planet was, I suppose (at least that’s my excuse).
Hey – they gotta save something for EP 2, amiright? 🙂 🙂
Or for all they know…they could all be robots themselves and humanity was replaced by them long ago…dun dun dun!
While saw the preview pictures:
Now what.. Females “War robots” that also can cook, clean up, and even do other house duties is standard.. so “our robot is also an waifu!”… Just she never will give birth…
is she an all purpose Robot? just that her Weapon is there to keep the “bad guys” at bay?
But that is kind of Japanese. The ideal yamato nadeshiko would cook, clean and look after the house, but if her husband was away she was expected to defend her home and family with her life if needed.
Like you Passerby, this is a theme i like to see in any media, but the execution here seems mediocre, well, i wasn’t expecting much anyway, since it’s done by Diomedea: the storytelling is flat and has absolutely no momentum (that tower attack was so dull…), this may be due to a bad storyboarding, it’s a common flaw in all their productions.
I’ll watch until episode 3 i guess…
Garbage in, garbage out.
Besides the art style (Redjuice), I’m getting heavy Guilty Crown vibes. I hope it doesn’t end up as a massive hype wreck like the former did.
I love Redjuice artworks and all and I was hyped when this was announced. Thus far the show feels like a sci-fi seihai sensou.
I’m hoping it does not wreck itself like how Guilty Crown did to itself
I havent watch it but unlike Guilty Crown, this has a source. Unless the source is as bad… then……
Seihai Sensou (Grail War)? Or did you mean Mahou Sensou (Magical Warfare), that absolute garbage anime that a friend of mine equates to 4 Guilty Crowns in terms of god-awfulness.
No one panic, I’ve lost more important things than a critical part to my body that aids my day to day operations.
HiE Type 002 spreading petals in the parking to make HiE servant and autonomus cars go wild, then suddenly Type-005 comes out of nowhere to save Arato and establish a contract with him under pressure saying he will be responsible for any mistakes she would make is odd.
We will see in future episodes what Type-005 is hiding from Arato.
Other than that, I like the art-style and hope I will enjoy this sci-fi serie.
Isn’t that how ownership works? You can use what you owned how you wanted (within contract) and you’d take responsibility for YOUR action/command using the things (be it cars, computer programs, phones…)
I actually thought the art was good, but the execution was all over the place…. or maybe the source material was as cliche as this?
I’m not sure.
When pretty robot girl asks spineless-harem-anime-protagonist A to trust him, the most logical reason is to doubt robot girl no matter how pretty she is.
But typical to japanesse otaku mindset, Pretty girl = 100% trust worthy.
I cant help but cringe at such lazy writing.
I can only somewhat forgive the trust if only because Arato was in a desperate situation where his only other option was death.
I Robot with Robo Shoujo.
I Robot? More like Ai Robot.
The cognitive dissonance you get when the author forces daily high school life reactions to completely fantastical situations is what destroys most anime that try to take themselves seriously.
C&P from my reddit comments:
…still, I’ll just continue to go along with this show after the first 3 episodes just to see how good/bad this is going to get.
Also, mundane utility plz…
me, too. It is just that i have this “Same old food and to sweet” taste in my mouth
Having read the short manga version, my impression of this series is that it’s kinda like Saber Marionette J minus the comedy. That hasn’t changed after watching this episode. Sure, the basic premise is different, but I think they follow the same theme. It also means that what will make or break the show will be the action.
If there’s one thing this episode did good, I think it’s to show how disturbing the world is. The androids are very human like and seem far more civilized than the actual humans. The supermarket looked so lonely and seeing the MC doing small talk with that hIE was kinda sad. Looked like the only thing there is for humans to do is take responsibility.
For some reason I was making a connection with the characters interactions (humans to machines) similar to how it was with the Saber Marionette series.