Anime Review: Time of Eve
The review won’t go into any specific details, but discussions on the pace and structure, particularly of certain characters, might give away hints or details on some story points.
The setting is spelled-out for you right at the series’ opening text, which goes something like this:
It is sometime in the future, perhaps in Japan. Robots have already been in practical use for a long time. The widespread use of androids has just begun.
In this anime’s case, the androids appear so human-like that the only way to visually identify them is via the digital halos above their heads.
In this world we find one of our protagonists, Rikuo (向坂 リクオ) brooding over an unusual log entry of their household android, Sammy: “Are you enjoying the time of EVE?”. Together with his friend Masaki (真崎 マサカズ), the other protagonist, they trace the log’s origin to a somewhat hidden cafe called “Time of EVE”. More unusual is the cafe’s house rule, written front and center to all who enter: no discrimination between humans and robots. Therefore, all robots (who are subject to Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics) remove their halos and act like humans while inside the cafe.
Thus begins the overarching conflict in the Original Net Animation Time of EVE (イヴの時間, EVE no jikan). Created by Yasuhiro Yoshiura (吉浦 康裕) and his production company, Studio Rikka, the series consists of six 15 minute episodes that were streamed in 2008 via Yahoo! Japan and Crunchyroll. The setting would typically lead one to expect an eventual action-packed robot uprising were it not for the cafe being the crux of everything happening. There is no climatic battle between robots and humans here. Time of EVE is mainly character driven, with the story progressing in line with how the two protagonists feel about and interact with the various cafe regulars and the type of human/android world they live in.
Time of EVE’s visual tone and pace, and even setting, is very similar to Yasuhiro’s earlier work, the 2003 Tokyo International Anime Festival “Excellent Work Award” winning, nine minute animated short, Aquatic Language (水のコトバ, mizu no kotoba).
Both are set in a cafe, use similar color tones, have similar camera work, and rely on dialogue to move things along. At only 9 minutes long, Aquatic Language had to do a lot of dialogue compression to get ideas across, even if its scope was smaller and different. To its credit, the dialogue compression did contribute to that piece’s tone.
Time of EVE’s dialogue has more space to breathe, a benefit of its longer time allotment. Discussions and banter are more natural but still remain meaty, making it feel that the story is going somewhere even if 80% of the show (figure of speech, not statistically measured) happens inside a small cafe.
Speaking of small cafe, that was another thing that I appreciated. Many of the indoor settings felt realistically sized. In a lot of anime, the rooms seem bigger than what you’d expect given the circumstances. The cafe, Rikuo’s home, and Masaki’s room all feel a little cramped, just like most small basement cafes or middle-class homes/bedrooms.
Visually, Studio Rikka took Aquatic Language’s cafe and jacked it up a few notches, and Ryuusuke Chayama (茶山 隆介) vastly improved one of the most obvious shortcomings of Aquatic Language: character design. The characters are a delight to look at, and combined with the vastly improved animation, the faces and body language moves the story along even during silences in the dialogue.
Unlike what I’d come to expect from sentient android stories, Time of EVE is doesn’t delve so much on what it means to be a living, independent being, nor does it seem delve much on “what it is to be human”. The story is more of how people deal with their own creations when those same creations increasingly become their equal, and on certain aspects, their superiors. Through the eyes of Rikuo, Masaki, and the other characters, you’ll get to see various perspectives on the issue, both human and android.
As enjoyable, interesting, and revealing as each episode is, the way the show if structured puts in few problems. The first episode manages to set the tone, pace, and concept of the show effectively. Succeeding episodes generally focus on one or two characters, while nudging along the protagonists’ story as well as the overarching one. While each episode carries itself very well individually, the way the overarching plots develop isn’t as smooth.
— POSSIBLE SPOILERS START
Of the two protagonists, we mostly follow Rikuo’s point of view. Oddly enough, his main storyline, which is how he feels and deals with Sammy, doesn’t get resolved. Yes, it moved along, but it seemed to stop halfway.
Rikuo’s other storyline, which revolves around his personal issues and apprehensions of androids, basically popped out of nowhere and was pretty much resolved as fast as it came. For the viewers to spend so much time looking at the world through this character, Rikuo’s own character progression feels a bit tacked-on, like they forgot to give him an interesting conflict and tried to rectify the situation as the series neared its end.
In many ways, the series feels more like Masaki’s story, which is why I considered him a protagonist. As each episode deals with a few specific characters, Rikuo just seems to take everything in for the viewer’s benefit. It’s Masaki that actually reacts and makes decisions based on what’s happening. At the start, it is a bit unclear what Masaki’s position is on the android issue. Each new episode reveals a bit more about his conflict, and eventually Masaki’s story comes to a well-executed conclusion.
Another unresolved issue is the mysterious guy (Setoro) and lady, and perhaps a bit of the Robot Ethics Committee. On second thought, I might be willing to excuse the lack of expansion around the Robot Ethics Committee; even if the organization’s scope is big, the little that was revealed did have a direct impact in moving Masaki’s story along. Given the context, I’m willing to accept having little exposition on that organization, since it was just enough to push the feature stories along.
But the mysterious guy and the lady he reports to? That did nothing for the current series and was obviously a hook for a next season.
— POSSIBLE SPOILERS END
Even with a few kinks, the Time of EVE is very well animated, has interesting and natural character interaction, and poses some interesting ideas of how people and society react when their creations become increasingly like them. The series leaves a lot hanging, but the official website collectively calls the current 6 episodes as the “first season”, implying a second one that might tackle all the issues left unresolved. It is said that the movie version is a compilation of the 6 episodes with some additional scenes that may help clarify some story points, but unless those scenes have a lot of plot progression, I’m guessing the real resolutions will come in the implied second season.
I enjoyed each episode a lot because of the characters and because of how those characters were able to convey in just 15 minutes. I guess I enjoyed each episode so much that I overlooked how it all progressed as a whole. If you can appreciate a dialogue driven, everyday-person point of view means of tackling the concept of androids in society, then Time of EVE is easy to recommend. The action is in the character interaction, no need for guns and lasers.