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
Silly and at the same time full of purpose? That’s Atom the Beginning. Episode 5 may seem like it’s not going anywhere, but all episodes until now had their themes cleverly hidden between the lines. Do you need to delve into the philosophy found under the skin to enjoy the show? No, you don’t. A106 and the gang are as entertaining as any 90s shows I remember and just as important.
Japanese Title: 練大祭へようこそ
Udon? School Festival? Could this episode get more cliché? Add some maid costumes! Yet, only the elements were cliché and not the episode in itself. It managed to combine the mundane of a regular festival with a few extra scenes that tie to the main plot, mainly the little card-chip-what the heck was that, and the ICE agent. The robot udon was tied well with the science references that we got to see all over the place, and these references are the reason I am going to keep this section short, so I could give you some interesting trivia later on!
The chip must be really important, though. I am guessing that the truck race in the next episode will have something to do with that.
Maid Culture: My distaste for unnecessary fan-service has been expressed multiple times in my articles, so you can’t imagine how glad I was that Momoko kept her breasts under control and that the maid outfits were not super mini. Not that there is anything wrong with exposed breasts and super mini skirts. They are awesome. But they are not welcome when the creator is shoving sexuality in your face to initiate a Boobs-Open-Wallets reaction.
The A10 Team: Take out the number and you have one of the most recognizable teams in American TV history. I loved the names and the way they were given the attention they deserved. I still want to learn more about A105.
Themes & Trivia
Episode 5 mentioned a lot of techy things and I want to put a few in this section:
Space Elevator: This may be a show about the near future, but the space elevator that is mentioned during the festival is a real concept. A space elevator is a proposed type of space transportation system between Earth and space. A cable or tether is anchored to the surface of the planet and then extended into space. Vehicles could then use the tether to go directly into orbit without the need of rocket propulsion.
The concept has appeared numerous times in anime. Just to name a few:
In Battle Angel Alita, the floating city of Tiphares/Zalem is the bottom end of one of two space elevators.
Eureka Seven features a starship linked to the Earth’s capital by a space elevator.
In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, all the superpowers have their own space elevator.
Do you have your own examples? Let me know in the comments!
Immersion: VR is a big thing right now and latest advancements in virtual reality make the prospect of games like Sword Art Online closer to becoming a reality. In particular, the term ‘Subconscious to the Net’ that we encounter in this episode is a direct reference to the kind of immersion we find in SAO.
When we achieve total immersion in a virtual reality system, we will have achieved a level of perception where our body will feel like it is physically present in a non-physical world. Since the system will be able to recreate sensations like images, touch, and sound, the user will have all the stimuli he needs to experience the world as one that feels as close to reality as technologically possible.
Tesla Coils: The first time I encountered Tesla Coils was in the ancient RTS game Command and Conquer. At that time, I had no idea that Tesla was a person and one of the most important scientists ever. The Tesla coil, in particular, is an electrical resonant transformer circuit designed by the inventor Nikola Tesla in 1891. It looks a bit like those magic electricity balls where the beams are following your fingers, albeit this one is bigger and deadlier. It is used to produce high-voltage, low-current, and high frequency alternating-current electricity.
DeepBlue: The GO game between A106 and the AI robot reminded me of the famous chess game between the IBM DeepBlue chess-playing computer and the world champion Garry Kasparov. In May 1997. Deep Blue became the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls. You can read this Wikipedia article to learn more about the match.
Latin: The Latin inscription on the chip-card that the villainy (?) duo was looking for reads Accipe quam primum; brevis est occasio lucri and it means ‘Take while you can; brief is the moment of profit.’ The quote is attributed to Marcus Valerius Martialis or as he is more commonly known in the English speaking world, Martial. He is considered the ‘Father of the Epigram’ and his Epigrammata is his most famous work. He was Roman and born in Hispania between 38 and 41 CE.
Thomas Edison: Thomas Alva Edison is the most famous of that early 20th century breed of inventors-cum-businessmen who wanted to capitalize heavy on their inventions. There is no doubt that his work has influenced our life greatly, but there is also no doubt that his work has been motivated by greed and a disregard for the reality of the human condition. If you want to know more, read his unofficial official Page.
Genius: This is probably the most famous Edison quote:
Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration
According to what we know about how he worked, the quote is mainly referring to his process of coming with his inventions. He experimented like hell. He experimented in ways that could have been avoided if he just used some common sense. There is an anecdote about Tesla suggesting to Edison that he would have made his life simpler if he used a little science. Edison suggests that there is no such thing as ‘divine inspiration’ and that everything is achieved through hard work.
Is udon made by a robot no different from udon made by a machine in a restaurant?
Atom the Beginning is not straying far from its main theme. The interactions between the main cast are funny and meaningful, and each scene seems embedded with the creators’ commitment to make a good show. The animation can be a little sloppy at times, but who cares, really, when you have scenes as the one with Ran getting battle-ready and A106 jumping to her rescue? And then, you only need to take a look at the amazing drawing of the ending sequence to remember why you will be longing for yet another opening sequence next week.
End of Line
Atom the Beginning is building its story slowly but surely. The series might seems like it is missing cohesion, but we must not forget what the purpose of the story is: to bring us to the beginning of Astro Boy. This is a prequel that is not going to be as eventful as the main dish. Not that I would argue against some more plot and more battles.