Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
As we approach the end Atom the Beginning, A106 manages to take a victory in a way that no one expected. I’m still not sure how he managed to do that, but the fact remains that Tenma and Ochanomizu managed to create a robot that just proved what was inevitable to happen: Artificial intelligence can evolve to artificial sentience. 5 years after the Great Catastrophe, some robots are not just servants. They have a heart.
Japanese Title: 対話
A106, conscious of his own awareness and anxious to discover what it means to have feelings and a life, reaches out to Mars.
Mars, I want to talk to you
He tries to understand why this is happening. He tries to communicate and have a conversation with the only other robot that seems to be capable of providing him with an answer. The only other robot that has an equally advanced AI. Mars seems apathetic. His owner, Dr. LoLo, is applauding her opponent for the fabulous test he is providing. Tenma-sama is furious that A106 is not using his powers and Ochanomizu-san and Ran-san are worried what will happen to A106. And that difference is what put another nail to the coffin of their friendship. A106 is desperately trying to avoid all of Mars’s attacks until he gets an answer, but instead, his opponent beheads and mutilates his already defeated opponents to throw projectiles at him. In a scene that could have been articulated much better, A106 gives in to his anger after what seemed to be the equivalent to death in robotic terms. Drum Shoulder leaves his last beep and that prompts A106 to punch Mars to the other side of the arena. Another sign of consciousness, and the prompt we needed to start cheering for an excited battle. Atom the Beginning though is not about the fight. Cheesy as it may sound, it’s about love and understanding. It’s about finding your place in the world. It’s about accepting what you are and trying to come to terms with it.
Robots can have a talk while fighting
A106 loses an eye and an arm, and then both his legs, and experiences what we humans may call, a sudden regret before a moment of certain death. As Ochanomizu and Tenma are having a fight over what’s more important, A106’s life or success, the Kindhearted Child of Science makes a last statement, a reach not to another robot but to his self:
I’m going to be destroyed here all alone like this
As Mars gives in to his own sense of robotic morality, we are left to understand that the thoughts that A106 was having were probably crossing Mars chips as well. He has a voice and he has thoughts and he has something to say as well:
You are annoying. You say you’re alone? Nonsense. It is such nonsense that it’s not even worth discussing.
Why Mars decided to deactivate himself is open to interpretations. Yet, the fact that he did means that robots with such advanced AI are masters of their own fate.
Opening Theme: The gradual crescendo that lead to the opening pumped me up for the upcoming battle. This was one of my favorite openings from the Spring 2017 season. It blended well with the opening sequence and set the tone of the series. A funny but yet serious account of two professors who for different reasons wanted to create a robot with the most advanced AI ever.
Rock Soundtrack: The rocky soundtrack of the series went full distortion during the second part of the fight. I love electric guitar scores and during the scene I was unconsciously air strumming my way to A106’s victory. Noriyuki Asakura has also composed another great soundtrack, that of Rurouni Kenshin. He is known for his blend of traditional Japanese sounds with electric guitars, and who doesn’t like a heavy folk sound?
Fight: The best fight in the series so far. Well-choreographed and with fluid animation. I didn’t expect it to be that good to be honest, because the focus of the series were not the robot battles, but they have delivered an enjoyable sequence of scenes that did justice to the power of both robots.
Humans and Robots: Robots are constructs, and as constructs, they should obey their masters. Imagine if your toaster had a bad day and refused to accept any slices of bread or if your dryer decided to blow that cute scissors on the other side of the counter instead your hair. We build machines to serve us and make our lives easier. Since our human nature dictates that we will probably be never satisfied with any kind of convenience, we make our machine smarter and smarter to the point that pre-true AI machines are already live as we speak. AI machines will answer our phones, remind us of any dates, order what’s missing from our fridge and deliver our Amazon packs from the warehouse to our door. They will monitor our health and make an appointment to the doctor. What they will not do, however, is dream and wonder about what it means to be a robot. That’s the point where intelligence turns into sentience. And that’s what Atom the Beginning and all these movies about sentient technology is all about.
Goroawase Numbers: A friend recently pointed out that A106 is actually a pun with words and can be read as A-TO-MU, from the Japanese words for 10 and 6. Since numbers in Japanese don’t have a single pronunciation, they can be used as mnemonic devices to remember long numbers or even names and passages. Numbers in this kind of Japanese wordplay are read digit for digit, and each one can be assigned one of the possible readings. For example, 573 can be read as KO-NA-MI. The famous video game company has used the number in their telephone numbers and as a high score in Konami games! Or in a countdown sequence: 1, 2, 3, 4, GO (which is also a pronunciation for the number 5).
That’s how it ends?
Sometimes a fight can be resolved in the most unexpected way. In an episode that touched on subjects of cruelty and the way we approach televised battles, such an ending was fitting to the internal struggle of two robots who came into being without having someone similar to confess to how they feel. A common trope in AI stories but one that will always be relevant, at least until we construct our own sentient AI.
…but I have a heart.’ A106 is well aware of being a sentient being. He knows about the history of his kind and can distinguish his owner as a separate being to who he need not listen if he doesn’t want to. A106 has a consciousness and in the next episode we will see the beginning of what is the story of Atom, the mightiest robot ever built.
Did you like Episode 11 of Atom the Beginning? Let us know in the comments below by using either the forum or the Facebook tab! Join us in our new forum and let’s talk about our favorite series! Also, don’t forget to check the rest of our episodic anime reviews for Spring 2017.
Don’t forget our first reviews for Summer 2017 and our first impressions for most of the new anime series! This season I am going to cover the second cour of Re:CREATORS, Kakegurui, Netsuzou Trap, and Knight’s and Magic.
NEXT TIME: Beginning (ビギニング)