Narutaki and I found this series when we were doing our overview of Crunchyroll. We decided to check it out on a whim and were impressed how well it was done for something that was otherwise completely off our radar. It is fascinating series for a number of reasons. It is a sci-fi series in a time when sci-fi series seem so rare. It is also an ONA not based on an established property. I am hardly the most informed anime fan but I usually have a decent idea of what is out there. So when any modern title comes out that I do know about it is always intriguing.
I stumbled across Time of Eve and I don’t even recall how beyond the fact that it was on Crunchyroll while I was testing the site out. Though I am always interested in short series to check out in between other longer shows. Time of Eve fit into this doubly so because the episodes came out rather infrequently and minus the final episode run only 15 minutes long. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking this show doesn’t do anything, it uses its minutes very wisely.
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
In a deliberately unspecified time in the near future robotics has advanced to the point where androids are nearly indistinguishable from humans. They are so hard to tell apart that androids have halos over their heads to identify them. One day Rikuo notices that the android his family owns, Sammy, keeps disappearing from time to time. After some investigation he discovers that she has been going to a cafe named the Time of Eve. In this cafe no halos can been seen in hopes of promoting everyone treating each other as equals no matter who they are. Rikuo and his friend Masaki soon start coming to the cafe and slowly learn more about complexities of the dynamics between humans and robots.
Rikuo and Masaki are at a well picked age as I see it, they are entering a phase of understanding and questioning. Both are at a point where the ideas and rules set down for them have been established but they are now able to analyze said ideas. Eventhough Rikuo is the more reserved and Masaki is the more outspoken, they are opposites when it comes to the Time of Eve. Where Rikuo is curious, Masaki is reluctant but both boys gradually start to see things, or admit things, they have felt all along. This plays out with many of the patrons of the cafe. You could see these patrons as a bit contrived, they each show a different aspect and all vary in age but the show never gives that feeling. Sammy, Rikuo’s house robot, is not the only one who really brings about change in Rikuo. Though we see Rikuo quite a bit more, Masaki’s story has a lot more of a dire quality and intensity. At first I thought Masaki’s story was done better, but upon reflection I realized that both boys stories stew well together and are just different rather than one being better than the other. However, it is through Masaki’s story that the full implications of what Time of Eve could be, were it to continue, really become apparent.
Rikuo seems a bit on the shyer side then the more outgoing Masaki. They both have definite issues with robots but coming to the cafe helps them deal with those issues weather they realize it or not. Sammy has a fascinating duality. When we see her at home she acts exactly as you would expect a primitive robot to behave. But at the Time of Eve she is like a normal woman with a full range of emotions. She expresses feelings of happiness and sadness and have wants and desires. As the series progresses we see even outside of the cafe Sammy has these emotions they are just greatly muted when she has known to be an android. Nagi the young lady that runs the Time of Eve, a coffee house, is a very good bartender. She is gentle and takes the time to listen to everyone who comes to the cafe while pushing everyone to some sort of happiness. Part of the series is trying to figure out who is a robot and who is a human of the staff and patrons of the Time of Eve. Sometimes it is obvious and other times it is the crux of the episode. Each of them has their own intriguing story and insight into how humans and robots interact.
From the show description, it seemed inevitable the robot laws would come into play which is not a bad thing, but to be fair they aren’t always the crux of each story. All of the narratives try, and succeed, to convey the limitless emotions that robots can achieve no matter how primitive their original designs may be. Each story explores this in a different way, even in a classic way at points. One instance that stood out, one that has been told before, but felt very solid was when the passion of music was discussed and the lifelessness of mere technical skill. As an overall fan of robots, I like the romantic ideals seen in the Time of Eve, that eventhough humans created these beings they are able to emerge on their own. This is perfectly juxtaposed with the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) discrimination and the desire by some that robots do no have a life of their own and a refusal to see them beyond anything but a tool.
As a science fiction fan this series was extremely interesting to me. It is one of the most in depth examinations of the relationships between pure robots and humans I have seen not only in an anime but in any series in a while. The amount of detail and thought they give to the implications of Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics is remarkable. But other issues of the balance between humanity and its interactions with technology are equally compelling. There is a good deal of parallel that can also be made between the treatment of any minority as well. However, these issues and topics are not forced down your throat. They place a thought provoking topic on the table and let the viewer pick it up and examine it in their own way. There is a solid balance between the episodes entertaining and captivating without sacrificing either.
I was very pleased with the production of Time of Eve. Nothing about this being an ONA seems cheap which I think is an easy enough thing to assume. But this work has the feeling of a loved project and an experiment. There aren’t a bunch of action scenes to contend with or anything, but still the animation is well executed. The 15-minute time intervals could also have something to do with this, but truly you never take note of the short run time because so much is looked at within its structure.
The animation is quite striking for an original concept animation distributed online. But this could be helped by the fact that there was no strict release schedule so seem to be able to take their time and do things right. Time of Eve is also an excellent example how how far the blending of 3D and 2D animation has come. The characters are mostly 2D on top of 3D backgrounds but everything flows together seamlessly and complements each other. The music is very quirky. Despite being slightly unconventional it does it’s job when it comes up which is all you can ask of a soundtrack.
This all makes me wonder how well Time of Eve has done. How did they get the funding in the first place? Although you can buy DVDs and image albums in Japan I wonder how much have they been able to be monetize this. This does not seem to be a low budget production so they need to generate revenue somehow. Will DVDs and CDs be enough? Do they have other revenue streams? If anyone has information about this I would be interested to learn more. If this is profitable it might be a way to do other short but high quality quirky productions as well. With money for animation becoming scarcer and the OAV market dying off, the ONA might be the place for innovation. At only 6 episodes which are streaming for free online this is an intriguing series you should not overlook. That would not compute.
Time of Eve delves into its analysis of the relationship between man and machine with a clear vision but leaves the final, sometimes moral, conclusions to its viewers. It truly has the power to make you think in a way that keeps you returning for that next episode. And this is even more so thanks to the final episode’s bringing to light of a few matters. If as, Hisui questions, this is a way to pave a new market, I hope there is more Time of Eve in the future.