I oddly enjoyed this episode. It’s at least somewhat thought-provoking… even if it continues to feel a little vapid at times. I blame characters like Yuka… and the show’s continued obsession with modeling. In any case, here are my notes and observations:
— The shrouded, hooded girl is none other than Saturnus, and like her sisters, she is of course looking for an owner. I don’t know what that has to do with breaking into a one-percenter’s home and killing their maid hIEs, but the rich girl isn’t too nonplussed: “Oh, a violent intruder? Sure, I’ll be your owner… if you’re cute.” No, seriously, that’s the human girl’s reaction. It feels stupid, but of course, I don’t really know what rich people are like in this alternate universe. Maybe they really are this blase and carefree.
— I don’t remember this back in 2009… On a serious note, however, we get a quick history lesson on hIEs and their integration into society.
— For some reason, there’s a three-decade gap between the first and second model. The latter also doesn’t look as though it is leaps and bounds ahead of the former.
— Notice how these hIEs are all feminine. Every single one of them are cute, slender and servile. We eventually arrive at Lacia. They don’t show off a single male-looking model. We can only assume that one exists because why not, right? Emotional labor is always seen as feminine. If natural women won’t be submissive, we’ll create submissive ones.
— Of course, the media campaign is titled “Boy Meets Girl,” but that comes afterwards. They create the robots before marketing ever gets involved. This is all part of the presentation put forth by Lacia’s modeling agency. The agency even says, “…the concept is to look back at hIE’s history and look forward to the future yet to come.” That future looks so limited, does it not? When I think androids, I think of more than just hot, sexy maids who will greet me with open arms when I come home from a long day. Technically, we do that with our loved ones and vice versa. I mean, who wouldn’t greet their loved ones with open arms? So why would it be necessary for an hIE to fulfill this role instead? Is the future really that dystopian? Is it so bad that we have to go out and buy an hIE to hug us at night?
— It’s a very targeted campaign. You’d think hIEs would be for everyone: men, women, straight, gay, so on and so forth. But no, this is purely about a boy meeting a girl. More importantly, the girl is always the hIE who is happy to see you. I’m not calling the anime sexist. That’s too simple. In order to read this story, we have to look beyond our kneejerk reactions. People currently treat hIEs like objects. The woman points at Lacia and refers to her as something akin to a luxury car that every man dreams of owning. In order to break society’s reluctance towards embracing hIEs, the media agency is specifically targeting individuals who have certain needs. What does that say about the rest of the society at large? Remember, Kengo is frustrated that people are allowing artificial intelligence to assume more and more of their daily responsibilities. But who are these “people?” This targeted campaign seems to imply that they are men. This distant, glossy-looking future is not so swell when you peek under the surface. For whatever reason, men do not feel as though their emotional needs are being met, so they’ve gone and created artificial life to alleviate that problem. The agency is just going along with what they’ve been given: “…to sell Lacia-style products with the concept of a partner you go through life with.” Lacia even adds, “The strategy targets hIE owners who live by themselves…” In our day and age, it’s weird if you’re a loner who has no family or friends. You’re supposed to just man up and go find someone to be with. In the future, you can just buy an artificial life to fill that gap in your life! Along the way, we’ve run into some unintended side effects… like hIEs encroaching upon our politics. But hey, at least our emotional needs are finally being met, right?
— I mean, just look at Arato and Lacia. What value has she supposedly provided to his home? All she does is act like a domestic housewife. I don’t remember where his mother is, but I do know that his father is busy with important hIE-related research. Furthermore, he has a needy, demanding imouto that he has to spoil. So who spoils him? Who attends to his emotional needs? This appears to be Lacia’s day-to-day function. Sure, when his friends are in trouble, she assists him in all these cool, hi-tech ways like cloaking them both with invisibility so they can infiltrate a well-defended building. But that’s just gravy for the viewers. What happens everyday is that Lacia spoils Arato, because there’s no one else to do it.
— Of course, there’s this throwaway line: “…isn’t limited to female hIEs and male customers, but the opposite as well!” Sure. That’s not what they’re pushing, though. If Lacia’s modeling agency truly believed this, they’d create dueling campaigns. But they didn’t. They created “Boy Meets Girl,” and highlighted nothing but female hIEs. Plus, we rarely see male hIEs; in fact, I can’t even remember seeing one. As a result, I can’t help but feel that the modeling agency is just saying whatever she can now in order to convince Arato to get on-board. She’s pitching this as more than just a marketing campaign. Instead, Arato and Lacia are supposedly going to shake up the world and introduce a whole new paradigm to the human-hIE relationship. He can totally be a revolutionary who shows everyone it’s okay to have a robot waifu!
— Oh lord…
— The best thing about robot waifus is that you don’t have to concern yourself with their emotional needs… or do you? That’s the inescapable truth, isn’t it? In order for artificial life to understand us and perform emotional labor for our sake, wouldn’t they have to be human enough where they would also have emotional needs of their own? Clearly, Arato feels differently than the rest of society. Otherwise, what would even be the point of this anime? Just because Lacia says she doesn’t have feelings doesn’t make it true.
— This girl — the same girl we met at the start of the episode — is supposedly the owner of Fabion MG. What a coincidence.
— Afterwards, we get more spiel from Lacia about how she’s just an object, so she can’t accept responsibility for anything. Also, she’s perfectly happy to live in domestic bliss with a high school boy, so start up your lewd engines. Just don’t go too far, because she goes on to say, “I cannot approve someone under 18 to utilize myself in that manner.” Pfft, I’m sure you could jailbreak her and override that age limit.
— The whole “relationship with objects” thing is kinda silly anyway. Olga suggests that her father has a close relationship with his knife, but Shiori writes it off since the knife is nothing more than a tool that is useful in its purpose. But this is completely ignoring the all-important difference about hIEs: they can interact with you like any other person. A knife can’t. A useful tool can’t. Clearly, hIEs are more than just tools. Ergo, they’re more than just objects, so it’s weird that even someone like Lacia will keep on insisting that she’s just an object.
— Yuka continues to be the worst character on the show.
— Elsewhere, Ryo sure seems to be paying a lot of attention to Lacia. But to be more accurate, he sees Arato like a puppy dog that he has to protect. As a result, he’s deeply suspicious of the luxury hIE. Over and over again, Lacia coyly teases Arato about falling under the influence of her analog hacking. Of course, if this is really the case, it goes against the idea of him accepting responsibility for her sake. How can he assert his own will if he’s really just being manipulated by her? So I can’t help but wonder if this is what Ryo actually fears most. Since Arato is a helpless puppy dog in Ryo’s eyes, does the latter think that the former is being led astray by his hIE master? At least Lacia seems to believe in Arato… if we assume she’s not actually analog hacking him.
— I don’t know if it’s related or not, but unlike his two buddies, Ryo seems to pay less attention to his own imouto even though she clearly has a thing for him. Again, anime has this weird obsession with sibling love. The point is, Shiori feels powerless; she feels as though she’s just an object to be used by her company. Where’s Ryo in all of this? Why is Ryo so much more concerned about Arato and Lacia than his own flesh and blood? With no one to help her, Shiori is tempted to use Methode as a tool in order to give herself any semblance of personal agency.
— Assuming ownership of an hIE is oddly intimate. Surely, there’s a more elegant way to do this from a UI perspective, but it wouldn’t be as symbolic.
— “SHITTER 1/200?” That can’t be right.
— Lacia is in the middle of her new modeling gig, but Methode crashes the party. I like how she manages to get onto the set without anyone noticing. I’m hoping we get some action, because although this episode has actually provided some interesting food for thought, we’re sorely due for some fighting to inject a little adrenaline into the story.
— There’s also an actual human model here, and she gripes at the fact that anyone would dress hIEs up in pretty clothes, but uh… I’d dress my own cat in snazzy clothes if I could.
— Methode proceeds to destroy the set as well as other hIEs. It’s quite sad, really. The hIEs’ first instinct (programming?) is to help the humans evacuate safely and alert the authorities. And yet, episode after episode, we just see them being treated like junk. We can only hope that these hIEs aren’t programmed to feel pain, but they sure do react as if they do. The lady from the modeling agency tells Arato to escape, but of course, he won’t leave without Lacia. What about these poor hIEs, though? We saw Arato despair over their poor treatment in the first episode, but since then, no one has really cried for them. They’re not as advanced as Lacia, sure, but these are still pretty damn lifelike. It’s the same thing with the politician hIE. They keep dying and nobody cares. Where’s the hero who is supposed to stand up and protect them? I thought it’d be Arato, but he clearly has done much for anyone besides Lacia and his friends.
— Ryo also crashes the party to save a pair of human girls. How did he know where to be and at what time?
— Ah, I want action, but I forget… Diomedea doesn’t have the chops to pull these fighting scenes off.
— There’s a lull in the fighting, which gives Methode the opportunity to claim that she’s the only “finished” Lacia-type hIE.
— Oh, did I mean lull? I really meant the end of the fight. Methode literally showed up, killed some poor hIEs, tussled with Lacia a bit then left. Uh, okay…? What was the point of that? To intimidate Arato and Lacia?
— This anime loves its post-credit scenes.
— Methode explains she had to leave because Ryo showed up. Okay. She and the mad scientist proceed to talk about vague but foreboding stuff like the end of humanity. Apparently, AI has already surpassed human intelligence, which… isn’t surprising. What that means for humanity, however, is anybody’s guess. I suppose Beatless will eventually tell us what it thinks.
— On a related note, the light novel illustration for Arato almost makes him look a bit cool. His light novel self certainly doesn’t look like his gormless anime counterpart.