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
The story of Atom the Beginning is focused and interesting. In an era when technology is promising (or threatening, depending on your POV) to become more than our meager species ever was, the story of Ochanomizu Hiroshi and Tenma Umatarou is more relevant than ever. What role will technology play in our lives? And, more importantly, what will become of A106 when Atom is born?
That they are. Lab 7 is what every laboratory that finds itself in the sidelines employs: usually, one or a pair of undervalued geniuses who in the end will amaze (or destroy) everyone with their invention, an invention that no one thought or even dared to create. My choice of words is a little gloomy, but the relatively similar stories of our own history justify such an approach.
As Hiroshi and Umatarou are presenting their ideas to the general assembly, an assembly that generates interest from the robotics industry, an interest that usually generates funds as well, their creation is showcasing everything they say but not in front of them or anyone in the venue. Instead, in a moment of true consciousness, the first conscious robot (probably) decides on its own what is important to it. He develops a ‘heart,’ the one missing element that allowed robots to be intelligent but not conscious. He makes the choices for which Hiroshi wishes that conscious robots will become a new lifeform that will be the best friend of mankind, an equal. On the other hand, to protect Ran from the unknown robot, A106 uses the things for which Umatarou believes that robots will surpass humankind and become something more. They are stronger, smarter, and capable of making far more correct choices than we will ever be capable of.
Heart: Kindness, compassion, sorrow…
As always, the visionaries will be backed by those who the majority sees as a little wacko (you can bet that the big-nosed professor will help our geniuses) and from those who are a step above from mediocrity.
If only the writers could avoid that obvious storytelling mistake in the end and had Ran tell everything to them. But then, if she did, maybe we wouldn’t have a story after all.
Tsundere Bitch: She didn’t OHOHOOHOHO just yet, but that bitch is either evil or…or… No, she is clearly evil, unless she had an algorithm installed in that robot that any fatal move against Ran would end second before killing her. That robot was obviously going for the kill. That was not cool. Also, you don’t have to be a genius to deduct that the robot is that purple knight type from the opening. When are the games starting?
No shoes: Details like this that make my day (when I manage to see them). When the unknown robot destroys the door of Lab 7, Ran tell him: ‘No trespassing and no shoes.’ A few moments later, when Ran escapes from the back windows, she takes her shoes out first, meaning that she entered the house without them. That’s a sign of non-quavering discipline
Last scenes: The ending sequence is similar. A106 returns to the lab and undergoes a memory wipe. After a few pillow shots of A101 and the room, we see A106 preserving some of his memories and saying goodnight.
Themes & Trivia
Treasure Trove: People have different tastes, different hobbies, and different treasure troves. A treasure trove is a place that has valuables of unknown ownership that are found hidden, and in most cases they are declared the property of the finder. That’s what the electronics heap of junk outside Lab 7 is for little Ram. The things she found… Even if you are not familiar with the technical stuff, it’s impressive how much she values the things she finds. On the other hand there is the treasure trove that most of us probably had, a hidden store of valuable or delightful things. Mine was the video and the book store. What was yours?
Science and Philosophy: The area of robotics that our protagonists are dealing with is a mixture of the two pillars of modern thought, science and philosophy. Through science, we learn the technicalities and the ‘how’ while philosophy tries to explore the ‘why.’ Motion and emotion are intertwined and many believe that everything we do or feel is the product of complex algorithms and that we are nothing more than a very sophisticated computer.
This is the department of Robotics, not Philosophy or Psychology
Stages of Sleep: The popular rock band REM were named after one of the cycles of sleep, the one that occurs at intervals during the night and is characterized by rapid eye movements, more dreaming and bodily movement, and faster pulse and breathing. It is usually associated with the stage in which we get the most rest, and that’s why A106 is so nosy about it. Or Tenma, most probably, since it was his programming.
Humans love patterns. Viewers love patterns. We all love patterns. Atom the Beginning takes a trusted storytelling path by making sure that its dialogues and action scenes are carefully supplementing each other. The speech of our two tensai during the assembly is not only interesting but is directly connected to the actions taken by the A106. Our world is full of such connections that happen under our very nose. We are just not omnipotent enough to make sense of them.
It’s cruel to know that we are probably going to get too attached to A106 during the course of this series only to say goodbye in the very end. I love Atom, but I think that A106 is going to resonate more with the strings of my heart. So far I love the characters and the direction this series is taking.