There’s no shortage of media depicting a world where man-made AI has run amok, becoming humanity’s greatest enemy. Yet even in our present day, aggressive research into developing AI continues. Take a moment and imagine then a world where AI has led to advances we can’t even begin to imagine. In this world humanoid machines, will AI live with humans though our lack of understanding incites fear? Is co-existence possible? These are the questions sent towards the audience in Beatless. Is this anime worth watching though? Read on to find out.
In the near future, society has become even more digital than we currently know. Advances in AI has led to the automation of various menial tasks. This ranges from everything to groceries without staff and cashiers to the daily operation of a ‘smart city’s’ infrastructure. Tasks which require a more ‘human’ and direct touch tend to utilize the service of ‘HIE’s’. These stand for ‘Human Interface Element’. They typically take the form of attractive, friendly and pleasing females but are still all units run by a basic though not fully self-aware AI. This all changes, however, when one company creates state of the art HIE’s. These come with the ability to make near fully independent decisions. To top it off they also possess awe-inspiring technology that has widespread military and civilian uses.
The story in Beatless at times seems like it wants to be a comedic romance; then, at others, an exploration of concepts like transhumanism, humanity and what it truly means to be a person. Yet the latter bits tend to get submerged in a torrent of awkward moments, over the top scenes and the obvious fan service. From the get go, a young Arato Endo finds himself in danger one night when the prototype HIE’s escape their facility. Due to the electronic warfare capabilities of one of them, common HIE’s basically go berserk. Soon, one tries to kill Arato.
In what seems like his final moments, he survives due to the actions of an unforeseen savior. This is the prototype HIE known as ‘Lacia’. Clad in what looks like a one piece bikini, she immediately asks him to be her owner. Arato, who’s always had a bit of a thing for HIE’s, promptly accepts. From here on both Arato and Lacia get to know each other more. Arato himself now unwittingly becomes drawn into the conspiracy of the rogue HIE’s and the company behind them.
Arato is a walking anime stereotype. He’s shy, incredibly awkward around the opposite sex but overall has a good heart. Even the mere mention of intimate contact with a female is enough to send him into a nervous breakdown. What perhaps defines him is that where his peers view HIE’s as mere objects or tools like a car, he does not. Instead he views them as you would any other person and even treats them as equals. This leads him to stand up for them in a world where many view them with disdain, envy and fear. At times, it seems as though Lacia helps both his self esteem and growth as an individual. Then at others, it seems the only development she was there to aid was his hormonal development.
On the other hand, Lacia is a bit of a mystery. Unlike the other escapee HIE’s she doesn’t seem to relish causing chaos and instability. She merely seeks out an owner, attempts to bond with him and learn more. As such, she immediately becomes the ultimate submissive, obedient ‘robo waifu’. From preparing meals for Arato and his sister to trying to make him feel special by letting him lay on her lap. Indeed, most episodes so far take a ‘slice of life’ approach with any major development to a story arc being a back-burner issue. As such, we barely know much about Lacia.
The animation in Beatless is generally well done. The overall look of the anime also does its job and captures the image of a near future that doesn’t seem too foreign to us but is still highly advanced. Sound effects are good but given the overall tendency for many quirky and awkward moments be prepared for over the top, sometimes high pitched voice acting to be common. To add to that fan service seems to be big here. The HIE’s are not ridiculously well endowed but Beatless makes sure the audience gets good emphasis on them anyways. For some fans this might not be a problem but take note if it isn’t your cup of tea in anime.
From the episodes out so far Beatless seems like it wants to be an anime that asks us questions about AI, humanity and does so with a subplot of romance. However it quickly gets convoluted in a story that seems all over the place and basically devolves into ‘A Boy and His Robo Waifu’. If you’re patient, hold out and see if the rest of the season improves. If not, you may want to give it a try for an episode or two then put it to rest.