Time Of Eve – The Movie (Cert PG)
2 Discs (Distributor: Pied Piper) Running time: 107 minutes approx.
Before we get to the main review we need to quickly look at the story behind this title’s belated UK release. Time Of Eve was originally an online only series consisting of six episodes which aired between August 2008 to September 2009, including a subtitled version on Crunchyroll. This theatrical version was released in March 2010 but never made it overseas.
A Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for an international release was created, hitting the original target of $18,000 in less than twenty-four hours and eventually raising over $215,000. The end result is this fabulous Blu-ray release – the Deluxe Edition being the version under review here – that shows that every penny raised was definitely well spent.
Set in the near future, robots have long been accepted into everyday life as servants to humans. As human like androids, they are distinguishable by the regulation light ring above their heads. High schooler Rikuo Sakisaka thinks little of his houseroid Sammy, until she begins to act a little out of character. Rikuo checks her activity log, discovering a strange code reading “Are you enjoying the Time of Eve?”. Keen to learn the meaning of this Rikuo and his school friend Masakazu Masaki trace Sammy’s movements to an underground café called Time Of Eve, where robots and humans are free to interact without fear of discrimination.
One can read many allusions and metaphors in Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s script, from his own take on the much covered theme of human interaction with technology, to discussing discrimination and prejudice, supplanting coloured people for robots. This makes for a potent and deeply effecting tale yet Yoshiura is careful to remain a storyteller and not be didactic with his work, while his messages rings through clearly enough.
It is hardly the sci-fi equivalent of 12 Years A Slave but it shares a similar concern by positing the robots as the sympathetic protagonists living under an oppressive regime while humans are free to go as they please. Expressionless by design the robots are capable of smiling and laughing, possessing something akin to a human personality – officially they are not permitted to behave as anything other than a servile appliance.
The Time Of Eve café is therefore a haven for the robots to enjoy themselves while interacting with humans. Run by an amiable woman named Nagi, a sign is displayed in the doorway boldly explaining the one house rule of treating everyone equally. In fact, the light ring above the robot’s heads disappears whenever they are in the cafe so there is no way of knowing who is human and who isn’t. The atmosphere is gentle and the coffee is apparently to die for but patronage is often minimal, save for a few regulars.
They include bubbly Akiko, who is later revealed to be a robot; Chie, a young girl who pretends she is a cat; her foster parent Shimei, an elderly prototype child minder who has yet to reveal his true android self to her; and lovers Koji and Rina, whose relationship provides an interesting twist to the pervasive human/android dynamic.
You can’t have a story about robots without referencing the fabled Three Laws of Robotics, the literary brainchild of legendary Sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov and plot device for many a tale in its wake. While Asimov isn’t named, his law is an integral part of Yoshiura’s story and plays an important part in the final act. These laws are also the primary concern for the self-designated Ethics Committee, an anti-robotics organisation keen on segregation between robots and humans, regularly monitoring robots for any infractions of the rules.
The Ethics Committee are a silent antagonist, save for bookend appearances to make us aware of their presence, whose threat of action hangs heavy over the heads of everyone who frequents the café. Again we can infer many infamous despotic bodies who could lay claim to being the inspiration for the Committee, from fascist leaders to cyber censorship. They may not play a direct role in the proceedings but their influence is palpable.
It’s not all doom and gloom though – Yoshiura makes the café a fun place to visit, if not for the tireless energy of young Chie then for the discomfort Rikou and Masaki create for themselves trying to discern who is human and who isn’t. A very funny scene involves an older robot, still with a clunking metal body who orders a cup of coffee. Aware that the robot might explode as soon as the liquid touches its circuits, the boys try frantically to delay the inevitable. Let’s just say the pay off is delicious!
The beauty of this film is how universal its appeal is. It may be sci-fi in concept and in presentation but it is genuine human interest tale at heart, as ironic as that may seem with robots being among the main cast. It touches on many themes that will tug at the emotions, raise laugh and makes us think in the process. Being free from fan service, violence and adult themes this is as accessible a film as Studio Ghibli’s family friendly output.
While this may be a redacted version of the original series, only a few scene jumps threaten to expose this, otherwise no-one would ever know. The narrative is easy to follow and even easier to become immersed in. The animation is handled by Studio Rikka and DIRECTIONS, Inc. and is nothing short of gorgeous. The artwork and backgrounds are lovingly detailed and rich in depth and presence while the characters’ movements are smooth and natural looking. The soundtrack, which is the second disc in this Deluxe set, is suitably lilting and evocative.
It’s taken a while for this film to reach our shores but it has been worth the wait. Time Of Eve is a wonderfully intelligent, thoughtful and thought provoking film while possessing all of the magical ingredients to remind us why we fell in love with anime in the first place.
An unequivocal modern anime classic!
English LPCM 2.0
Japanese LPCM 2.0
English, English Songs & Signs, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Hebrew Subtitles
Short Film: Pale Cocoon
Short Film: Aquatic Language
Behind The Scenes
Jun Fukuyama (Rikuo)
Rie Tanaka (Sammy)
Rina Sato (Nagi)
Kenji Nojima (Masaki)
Yasuhiro Yoshiura (Writer/Director)
Official Music Soundtrack CD
56 Page Booklet
Four Picture Postcards
Rating – *****
Man In Black