Eve no Jikan: what it means to be human


What does this word mean for you? Are you one who knows of the origins of the term? Perhaps you hark back to classics like “The Future Eve” – which probably inspired the title of this anime – and Philip K. Dick? Or do you only think of the smart phone operating system from google? I sincerely hope you’re not part of the latter, though I suppose it wouldn’t surprise me…

At the World Expo in Shanghai this year, Japan exhibits included a number of robots – the Partner Robot capable of playing the violin, others scaling a ladder-like scaffolding, and later, the talkative PAIRO. The Partner Robot was apparently developed to perform some simple human tasks, such as doing laundry, serving meals and helping the elderly. More interesting, perhaps, are the rumours that military robots can do far more. If that were true, if humans progress further into robot technology such that they become capable of doing everything that humans can and more, what kind of society would we end up with? Are you ready for “the time of Eve”?

“The future, probably Japan. Robots have long been put into practical use, and androids have just come into use.”

Under the guidance of the Robot Ethics Committee, humans have become used to treating robots and androids as helpers and tools. Governed by Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, these robots aren’t the malevolent or faulty creations of 2001: A Space Odessey or Alien, but gentle machines who have become the new target of discrimination. Set aside by halo rings projected above their heads, it is against the law for them to remove these identifying rings. Programs and advertisements continually caution people against treating them like humans, with terms like dori-kei (loose trans: droid-lover) catching on as an outcast stamp, much like otaku or akiba-kei still are to a certain extent. Individuality and other human-like characteristics are to be criticised and drilled out of an android’s behaviour.

But is this the proper thing, the ethical thing to do? What if androids did not have that identifying ring? Would they still be indistinguishable from humans? Or is that what the Ethics Committee doesn’t want people to realise, leading to the widespread practice of discrimination? In the cafe known as “Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve)”, such discrimination is not allowed. Our protagonists, Rikuo and Masaki, initially find it difficult to adjust, but as they do, they slowly realise that humans and androids are not all that different. They have different personalities; are capable of learning; feel uncertainty and gain satisfaction from their interactions with others; they can even deceive so as not to hurt someone else. Modeled on humans, they only differ from their creators in what they are composed of. Is it not wrong then, to discriminate against them as people still do against “others” today?

It is probably still unknown whether we will ever come to such a dilemma. However, should we keep pushing the limits of artificial intelligence, is this how we should progress? Whilst clearly positioning the viewer against the questionable actions of the Ethics committee, Eve no Jikan offers no simple answers. If we allow robots to take over all the things that people do – from menial tasks to entertainment – does it not mean that humans will lose our places in life? Furthermore, if people start turning to them for an ideal and safe love, the human race will doom itself. On the other hand, how can people create sentient and intelligent beings only to treat them so callously?

In fact, people are already doing many of these things. In many countries, it is common or possible to higher people to do menial tasks like cleaning, and more often then not, those individuals are looked down upon. The same applies for prostitutes and other people who are paid to satisfy certain desires. Whilst this is merely an extension that I have made – Eve no Jikan makes no such pretensions – I truly believe that people need to relearn to treat each other as people, rather than as looking at each other based on colour, wealth or any other physical quality. That’s what it means to be human, does it not?

p.s. Point of interest: look carefully at Nagi’s left hand here – can you see the mechanical-like imprint that seems to be under her skin? I really wish they’d confirm a continuation soon. I promise I’ll buy the next movie version, so please don’t disappoint us!

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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