「トゥー・フィー」 (To~uu fī)
It occurred to me after last week’s episode that AI no Idenshi was quite reminiscent of a series very dear to me, Mushishi. It seems counter-intuitive at first but (stay with me here), the more one considers it, the more it fits. Maybe Sudo’s superficial resemblance to Ginko is the most obvious link, but structurally the two series are very similar. A calm, detached central figure explores the human condition through a non-human phenomenon. There’s a restrained, intellectual reserve to both shows – one could even say a “coldness”, though not in a pejorative sense. It was a revelation that once arrived at seemed so obvious to me that I couldn’t believe it took me that long to do so.
It almost always happens with episodic series like this that when they reach the end, they turn to more conventional plot-drives stories. I get the need to do it, though very often the magic is lost when the transition happens. I think that was finessed pretty well here, a feat made easier by the fact that these developments have been teased for the entire narrative. I did miss the fascinating philosophical and intellectual exploration of the first ten eps, I won’t deny. But this is where the series always needed to go, and I’m curious to see what happens now that we’ve arrived.
We begin with Risa’s origin story, which takes us in unexpected directions. Ten years earlier, Risa was in a balloon accident (they do happen) while vacationing with her mother. Her neural net miraculously survived intact, and Sudo rebuilt her body as best he could and re-integrated it. But he got the hair color wrong – her mother had changed it from its original blond, as that was the hair color of Risa’s father, who’d left them behind (I long for further exploration of that “soon after they made me” comment). Sudo, being orphaned in a sense himself, bonds with the girl and eventually she became a nurse and his closest confidante.
Now, a woman named Fui arrives in Japan and declares herself to be Risa’s sister. And she does seem to be telling the truth, though her story is a strange one. Risa is too trusting, allowing Fui to move into her apartment. In point of fact Fui is not a sister so much as a clone – the father made a copy of Risa’s imprint (another link with Sudo’s story) after the breakup (or perhaps before, knowing it was imminent) and transplanted it into a new body after moving to India. As a result Fui even shares some of Risa’s memories, and feels as if her life was stolen. She killed their father after hearing the truth, and came to Japan intent on killing Risa and usurping her life. But in the end, she couldn’t bring herself to do it (and winds up in prison, like Sudo’s mother).
There are so many unanswered questions with Sudo – for example, why is there no mention of human parents when he seems to be human himself? We know Michi will bribe him with info on the location of the copy of his mother, and that will be explored further last week. But even deep in plot like this, AI no Idenshi can’t help pondering deeper questions. Risa mourns her humanoid mother in a completely human way – at a Buddhist altar. What does Buddhism (indeed, any religion) have to say about humanoids having souls? Do humanoids believe they do? I don’t imagine they know – I know I don’t. But I do imagine that, as is the case with humans, some believe and some don’t.
This future world seems so different from ours, yet – as with the ill-defined past setting in Mushishi – the deeper one goes the more familiar it looks. Humanoids seem emotionally indistinguishable from humans – indeed they’re so alike humans had to mess with their pupils to make sure they could be told apart. Technology advances, but the daily lives of people have barely changed (thanks to Michi). The lost and the desperate still seek solace in quack mysticism. The more things change, thee more they stay the same. This has been a fascinating journey, filled – as all the best journeys are – with far more questions than answers.