Ongoing Investigations: Case #240

narutaki_icon_4040 Android Angels by Kosuke Kabaya is the story of a future where androids in the home are normal. The accepted practice is for the androids memories to be wiped every four years and for their owners to change in order to prevent attachment.

Each story deals with different pairs of androids and owners looking at the inevitable connections human create with these “objects.” There is also a fetishistic nature to seeing them as non-human which is explored. And finally the fact that the memory wipes don’t seem to work 100% and whether they are ethical.

I found the last chapter strongest because it shed the premise of the android being a fantasy or sexual object and delved deeper into the human connection.

Android Angels is the type of story that gets me curious about the premise but then ends before really satisfying me fully. Perhaps there will be more stories in this series?

I really liked the oversized format of this book, it is nice to enjoy manga this way once in a while.

hisui_icon_4040 There was this obscure little title by a small group of ladies who usually like to write slash fic about Jojo’s characters and their tale of android-human relations. That title was Chobits from CLAMP. For me, at least, it is hard to talk about this series without bringing up that title. CLAMP is hardly the only manga artists to examine the nature of the relationships between man and machine. You have anime and manga like Time of Eve, DearS, Saber Marionette J, Key the Metal Idol, Mahoromatic, Ergo Proxy, Casshan, or even a classic like Astro Boy dealing with the topic in their own ways. Androids are great ways of examining technology, the nature of humanity, and how we interact with the other in equal measures. So they are very useful story telling devices in that respect so not every story about androids is just a Chobits clone. At the same time most of the stories in Android Angels deal with the androids in a romantic fashion and the artificial lifeforms are usually obviously non-human due to them having animal ear like accessories. At that point it comes down to what does Android Angels do to make itself feel distinct instead of just a collection of Chobits fan fictions.

The answer is that what Android Angels has is the added gimmick of the androids getting their memories wiped every four years. They will work for one human for four years and then when their job is over they have their memories wiped and then start a new job somewhere else. This radically changes the human/android dynamic. Usually the human is the organism with the limited lifespan and the android is the near immortal being. The machine is the one who is faster, strong, and more skilled. If they fall in love with a human they must helplessly watch them age and then pass away like a subservient god. If a human falls in love with them they must carry that love long after the person who loved them is gone. The memory wipe turns that on its head.

While the android is still functional after the memory wipe it like it becomes a new person. This makes the human the one who must remind behind with the memories of what once was. It does change the types of stories you can tell. The android can be more of a metaphor for a fleeting love, a dying person, or someone with a fading memory due to illness. Also since the android never really dies but just becomes a new person it is also an interesting way of tackling reincarnation. While it might be a gimmick it does change and expand the types of stories you can tell and what is said with them.

That said the execution in Android Angels is a bit hit or miss. It is an anthology story so it is mostly just a collection of vignettes so those are usually fairly broad in appeal. None of the stories were bad. They never were annoying or poorly told. They did err a little into creepy at times especially with Taisuke trying to force himself on his android at a point and Yoneno and the pomegranate scene. Nothing really horrible happens but it is worth noting those scenes are sort of conformable. At the same time I can’t think of any of the stories really exploring the premise as much as I would have liked. The last story was probably the strongest in my mind but it still fell short of truly hooking me.

I don’t want to come off as overly harsh on this book. If anything I might be just a bit more disappointed it did not fully reach the potential it could have had more than it failed to execute the idea properly. The twist of the normal sci-fi formula was an interesting one. It definitely played with the idea but left a good deal of it unexplored. It does seem like a world that Kosuke Kabaya or perhaps someone else could come back to and expand upon. That desire to see more is probably worth your time. It is far better to want more than close a book and never wish to revisit its world ever again.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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