TV anime Atom the Beginning's teaser visual (c)手塚プロダクション・ゆうきまさみ・カサハラテツロー・HERO'S／アトム ザ・ビギニング製作委員会
Episode 3 of Atom the Beginning started slow and slowly reached a powerful crescendo that justified what seemed like a silly plot at the beginning. The show is a precursor to the powerful themes that Osamu Tezuka is going to explore in his Mighty Atom and it would have been a shame if the prequel strayed away from those themes.
Japanese Title: それぞれの追跡
Atom the Beginning doesn’t want to either overwhelm us with plot-heavy episodes or bore us with cliché-ridden stories. Instead, it takes the middle path. What seemed like a boring mystery episode about a lost dog went to become a story about the human tendency to create bonds with inanimate things and the potential that exists in human-robot cooperation.
Detective Ban, our new character who introduces himself as a Jack-of-all-trades, is on team Tenma but on a rather radical sub-branch. He doesn’t trust robots and he’s not convinced that a robot could ever do any job that requires the human heart in action. How could a robot ever care about the job? There isn’t much value in robots and they are just ‘piles of junk.’ Tenma is clearly offended by that view and proposes a human vs machine contest: Who will find the lost robo-dog first? Modoko, Ochanomizu, and Kensaku with their traditional approach, or Tenma, Ran, and A106 with their advanced sensors?
In the end, it’s through their combined efforts that the Malon, the female robo-dog is found. As our cast gains another member who is willing to help them in this hour of need by giving them a part-time job, it’s their reaction to the man who hired the detective in the first place that is the most important part of the story. Reality is what we make of it and we have the extraordinary power to shape it to our whim. The old man that was looking the pet was actually looking to preserve his most precious memory, that of his wife. By reuniting his robo-dog with the one used by his wife, he brought back a feeling of joy that gave meaning to his life. Of course, the fact that the female robo-dog contacted the male robo-dog may be open to many interpretations, but even if we just treat it as part of their programming, the joy they experience when they are finally reunited is enough to make Ochanomizu cry.
Just what are robots really?
On the other hand, Tenma fails to understand what kind of connection can exist between a robot and a human. What is there to be emotional for? This contrast makes, even more, sense if we take into account that Tenma is going to eventually create Astro Boy. What is there to love about a robotic boy?
Robot Tea: A106 can brew tea with his eyes. Where do they sell the model?
Ending: It seems that I was wrong when I assumed in my review for Episode 2 that every episode would end with A106 saying goodnight to the camera. Unless they forgot about it.
Themes & Trivia
Tea Ceremony: The Japanese tea ceremony, not to be confused with any other of the various tea ceremonies, is also called the Way of the Tea, and it is a Japanese cultural activity about the ceremonial preparation and presentation of green tea (matcha). There is also a belief that the character and emotions of an individual can be passed to the tea, thus changing its taste, much like our belief that the food tastes better when it’s prepared with love. The scene when Kensaku Ban is adamantly proclaiming that robots are just piles of junk while at the same time complements the taste of the tea A106 prepared hints at the underlying consciousness of the robot.
As humans, we are preoccupied with certain themes that are central to our existence. Anime as a form of storytelling has an obligation to explore these themes and help us explore what it means to be human. Spring 2017 has a few titles who remain true to that purpose: Berserk continues to explore religious themes; Re:CREATORS asks what our creations have become in an age where everything has a price; and Atom the Beginning makes a dive into technology and the role robotics will play in our lives in the future (at least that theme is the first we encounter and it’s easier to recognize).
The Center of Creation
Atom the Beginning is slowly introducing the main characters while keeping the format of the series a bit semi-episodic. Each episode has its own plot that is somehow connected to the bigger picture and to the main themes the series is trying to explore. At least Episode 4 is going to be tastier than the previous.