Most sci-fi geeks know Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.
- A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the 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.
Imagine there was a fourth law but a law that only holds in certain locations. This law states that no one should discriminate between human and robot.
Time of Eve was a six episode anime created by Yasuhiro Yoshiura which was later stitched together, with new bits, into a full length movie and then thanks to a Kickstarter had an international release.
It is the near future and robots have been around for a while. Robots that look exactly like humans are new and known as Androids. They have a floating light ring – like a cyberpunk halo – over their heads so anyone can see they’re a robot. That’s the last cyberpunk reference the anime gets. Everything else is entirely grounded in a near contemporary reality.
Rikuo has a house android and takes her for granted. His curiosity is peaked when the phrase “Are you enjoying the Time of Eve?” appears as a comment in the activity log for the android. With his friend Masakazu Masaki, he traces Sammy’ (the house android) route through the city and finds a café called “The Time of Eve.”
The café has one rule – not to discriminate between humans and androids. Much to the initial alarm of the boys no one in the café has an android halo above their head; even though they know at least one android is here. For some reason; in the café the halos are optional and everyone pretends to be human – or, at least, doesn’t want to admit to being Android.
Who is human?
This is a deep philosophical question and it is one that Time of Eve explores well and I imagine a chunk of the audience never even blink an eyelid or notice. This is a good thing. This isn’t a question that gets thrust in our face.
Some of the movie is about finding out what motivates the café’s customers and, of course, trying to work out which are androids. The café has a door that locks for 2 minutes after someone leaves. It’s not possible simply to see who has a halo over their head after exit. There’s that time an actual old-style robot turns up too.
There’s a wrapper plot too. Why is all this happening? Why are the androids so humanlike inside the café? What is the scary “Ethics Committee” and its anti-robot TV adverts up to?
Lastly, there’s also the issue of the two school boy characters; Rikuo and Masaki and their own relationships with the androids in their lives.
We get to many resolutions. We find out the truth, or some of it, about many of the favourite café customers and we certainly explore the emotions of the Rikuo and Masaki. As for the wrapper plot – well, we get a to be continued. That’s a little frustrating but there’s something about Time of Eve that mandates no easy answers. There may not be a sequel even though this is a strong animation and there deserves to be one.
The animation and scripting in Time of Eve is beautiful. The characters are strong and sympathetic; even the kids. Thoughtful stories like this reveal the difference between science-fantasy and science-fiction. Time of Eve feels possible. This beautiful story might well herald deep questions that generations to come have to wrestle with.
Overall? If you get the chance to watch this – watch it. I suspect you won’t get a second and it’s hard to imagine not liking some of the story, if not all of it. I loved it.