The Time of Eve

In the near-future, humaniform androids have become commonplace in society, and are used mostly as domestic servants. Rikuo Sakisaka is a high schooler who, having grown up around androids most of his life, takes them for granted and barely notices their presence. However, one day his discovers that his “female” domestic android, Sammy, has been disappearing during the day while allegedly undertaking various chores. Along with his friend, Masakazu Masaki, he traces her to a café called The Time of Eve. It only has one rule, posted at the entrance: there is to be no discrimination between robots and humans. The café is owned by a young woman named Nagi who, though friendly and sociable, strictly enforces the café’s non-discrimination rule. Sammy is nowhere to be seen; but intrigued by the café and its clientele, Rikuo and Masakazu become regular visitors. They quickly realise that at least some of the patrons are not human; but unlike the outside world, in the café they don’t display the holographic halo that identifies them as androids. As Rikuo and Masakazu get to know the other clients – bright and bubbly Akiko, lovers Rina and Koji, the silent, book-reading Setoro, and four-year-old Chie and her elderly guardian Shimei – they not only begin to work out who’s an android and who’s human, they also start on a journey of internal exploration, examining their own feelings about android/AI technology, the nature of relationship between moral agents possessing different existential characteristics, and what it means to be sentient and human. This not only brings to the fore their own painful past experiences, it also brings about the discovery of Nagi’s hidden identity, and why she is so determined to create a space where humans and androids can interact as equals…

Created and directed by the acclaimed Yosuhiro Yoshiura, “The Time of Eve” was co-produced by Studio Rikka and Directions Inc., and originally streamed in intervals on both Yahoo! Japan and Crunchyroll between August 2008 and September 2009, with a film version premiering in March 2010. Animated in the flat matte aesthetic that Yoshiura used to such compelling effect in “Pale Cocoon”, “The Time of Eve” consists of six episodes that both operate as stand-alone stories whilst also indirectly articulating the series’ overarching narrative flow. Thus it is that the viewer arrives at the denouement almost without realising it, lulled by the quiet pacing and absence of dramatic confrontations into thinking that nothing much has happened aside from a lot of philosophical speculation. And yet it is in precisely this unassuming way that “The Time of Eve” works its magic; without being aware of the fact, the audience has been made to consider questions of identity and encounter, and all the possibilities and prejudices that lurk beneath the surface of engagement with “the other”. Likewise, the nature of freedom is unpacked, not as an unlimited liberty to do as one pleases, but as a relational framework operating within the context of mutual co-existence. It is thus that the perceptive viewer will also appreciate the darker undertone to this series: that even manufactured sentience has an understanding, not just of its own existence, but also of its dignity as a self-aware agent, one that requires respect by other existential actors. Failure to accord such respect carries with it the seeds of rebellion. Quiet, unassuming, and leavened by a vein of gentle humour, “The Time of Eve” is a thoughtful exploration of a familiar sci-fi trope, and more than holds its place alongside such series as “Blade Runner: Black Lotus”, “Casshern Sins”, and “Beatless”.

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2022. All rights reserved.