Does this unit have a soul? Survey says… eh.
With the introduction of an ultra-advanced AI that surpasses human intelligence, beings that mankind is yet to fully comprehend made from materials far too advanced for human technology begin coming into being. Lacia, an hIE equipped with a black coffin-shaped device, is one of these. In boy-meets-girl fashion, 17-year-old Arato Endo has a fateful encounter with the artificial Lacia. -Manga
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Drama, Romance
Something, something, androids are people too. You know, regardless of my own thoughts on that subject (which I’ll leave you in suspense about), I’m always quite wary of things that try to tackle it. I don’t mind a series trying to take on the subject. It’s a fascinating one. My issue is that most of these series tend to go about it in, beat-for-beat, exactly the same way. “In their final moments, the AI in question proves their humanity by committing the most human act imaginable – they sacrifice themselves for their human friend(s)/paramour or the human race in general.” Or they go the route of “death is the ultimate expression of what it is to be human,” thus they basically do a lifetime’s worth of living at an accelerated pace to the effect of causing one of the mortal leads to better appreciate the time they have and yadda yadda.
Point is, they invariably find some excuse for the Android/AI in question to die (or make it seem like they did, only to recover them, later). Be it heroically or peacefully. And there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with either of those. Heck, my favorite movie is genuinely The Iron Giant. And it more or less plays that exact trope, albeit in much less philosophical fashion (and, spoiler alert: he gets better). But I don’t really need more of that angle. Because, frankly, it doesn’t speak to any other viewpoint on “what it means to human.” Death is not the entirety of the experience, after all, and it’s far from the only thing humans all have in common. So, naturally, going into this I am incredibly leery. Because I have done this dance many a time. But I’m getting ahead of myself. How does the first episode of Beatless hold up, with those concerns out of the way? Honestly quite well, though it is marred by some of the common issues of the story type. The most prominent of those issues is the insistence of the world reminding us that the androids are just seen as tools or objects.
If they’d simply shown us this, along with maybe a case or two for the argument, I wouldn’t have had a problem. But in one of the first scenes, we have to be verbally told this no less than five times by a couple of the characters. The lead does something nice for an android and he’s given the side eye about it by his friends. It’s just kind of hamfisted and uninspired. However, that’s the episode’s only glaring problem for me.
One of the biggest problems I tend to have with this kind of thing is when the fullest extent of its willingness to do anything with the subject is have characters standing around, arguing about it. Rather than any actual actions be taken. It’s the difference between Mass Effect 1 and every other Mass Effect game. In Mass Effect 1 a lot of the conflict with characters and the like is informed. It’s 90% dialogue. Then, suddenly, in Mass Effect 2, the characters are more realized because their physical actions back up whatever viewpoints they have. Tali’s first instinct to Legion in any interaction being to point a gun at him, for example.
I can’t tell, from this episode, which direction they intend to really take things. Yes, this is an action series, but it’s entirely possible it’ll be an action series that indulges in a fair share of obnoxious posturing. There is a bit of talking on the subject, but at the moment I’m liking the main character for this reason. He acts. Sometimes without thinking. Not that he’s rash, mind you, but he doesn’t really see a disconnect between human and machine, at least not to the same extent as others. So he tries to help even machines, purely by instinct. As opposed to sitting there for a moment and debating it. In fact, when others try to debate it, he’s rather adamant about it not mattering. And he’s pretty surprised when his sister isn’t overly bothered by his bringing Lacia home. Regardless, I’ll reserve judgment until I see more.
The rest of it is perfectly enjoyable. The designs of the androids are cool. The setting is futuristic yet reasonably familiar and plausible for the time period (not that far in the future). The action is great and the animation is slick. It didn’t delve overly much into the pseudo-philosophical jargon the subject matter is typically known for. Which was pleasing. I’ll hold out hope that it doesn’t do any of the things with the genre that seem almost engineered to violently annoy me. At the moment I’m actually cautiously optimistic. In fact, I’m far less nervous about it, now, than I was when I initially took this one on. In the end, I quite liked the episode on its own merits, and would definitely say it’s Super Effective. But if you’re more into fantasy than science fiction, EvilBob’s recaps of Mahoutsukai no Yome are still going strong. Do yourself a favor and check them out.
Good. But if this is something that’s comfortably up your alley, then give it a shot. Beatless is available on Amazon Prime.