A Strong Blend of Classic Science Fiction: Time of Eve

You may notice that this does not read like one of my usual reviews. Well, actually, I’d be impressed if you did, considering my sparse writing, but basically this is a piece I wrote for my class at university that focuses on anime and manga. Mostly just busy work designed to let the prof pad our marks, I think. Anyhow, consider it a peace offering since I’m a bit too swamped to write something purely for the blog, and I feel bad for not posting anything at all for so long.

Note that this was written on a word limit of 800. I’d probably have gone on longer otherwise. Additionally, the assignment required me to write under the context that this was to be posted at a newspaper’s site as a part of a weekly program they’d hypothetically run, so the writing takes more concern with the unintiated more than I usually would. But it assumes that the words anime, manga, shounen, shoujo, seinen, and josei are already defined for the readers.

The review isn’t as good as I like, but, well, deadlines lol.

Time of Eve (Ivu no Jikan). Episodes 1 through 6, the full work. Story, script, director: Yoshiura Yasuhiro. Tokyo: Directions, Inc., 2008. Streamed online at http://www.crunchyroll.com/time-of-eve

Time of Eve is Yoshiura Yasuhiro’s latest work, with the animation handled by Studio Rikka, as with his previous works: Aquatic Language and Pale Cocoon. The six-episode series first streamed on Yahoo! Japan, starting on 1 August 2008 and ending on 19 September 2009, as an Original Net Animation, or ONA (an animation released straight to internet stream). Time of Eve was also simulcasted by Crunchyroll in both English and French. The ONA has since been compiled into a feature length film (no English release) and released on Blu-ray (January 2011, features English subtitles). Reviewed here is the ONA release as available on Crunchyroll.

Time of Eve is set in a near future Japan, where androids have become something akin to a house appliance that is as commonly found as a dishwasher or microwave is today, and it goes on to tackle the well-trodden issue of human-android interaction. Towards this end, the anime evokes the iconic “Three Laws of Robotics” as conceived by American science fiction author Isaac Asimov and utilizes it to frame much of its understanding of robotic law and psychology. These issues are largely explored within the confines of the “Time of Eve”, a hidden café that utilizes a particularly worded sign to convince entering androids to act as if they were human, creating an area where humans and androids cannot be distinguished from one another, and can socialize freely as equals.

Each episode of Time of Eve largely tells a story in an episodic format. However, all the stories neatly tie into the same overarching issue of android-human relations and feature the same cast. Furthermore, despite using episodic storytelling, Yoshiura fully maintains the linear chronology of the narrative, and character development achieved persists from episode to episode. Avoiding one of the largest pitfalls of episodic narratives, Yoshiura manages to preserve the audience’s emotional attachment to the cast as their character and relationships develop. In doing so, he manages to give the anime’s ending the emotional impact required for success.

The array of concepts the anime covers, many of them inspired by the work Asimov and his peers did in the field of robots in fiction, are not the sorts of meditation that may come to people intuitively without a background in the genre. However, to facilitate world building, Yoshiura employs a number of techniques to help the audience understand the issue at hand without bogging the anime down with heavy exposition, which could otherwise throw off pacing or disengage genre veterans. Of these, a major one is the use of television within the anime, in the form of ads and talk shows. For example, clips of a talk show discussing the “android-holic” social issue (a concern over people who increasingly treat androids like people, rather than objects), which carry a rhetoric paralleling that of the media coverage of the hikkikomori (recluses that withdraw from society for a variety of reasons) issue in Japan, giving an air of legitimacy and fullness to the fictional android-holic issue that Yoshiura creates. This is in the same vein of sensationalist media coverage common throughout the world, so the technique should avail upon foreign audiences also. Using these in-setting constructs to illustrate the setting and elucidate the concepts each episode drives at, Yoshiura makes Time of Eve an accessible work of science fiction, requiring little or no pre-existing knowledge to enjoy.

One of the more notable choices made by Yoshiura in this anime is the generous use of a type of shot that emulates the effect one gets filming with a webcam, where the picture lags trying to show motion or panning. This effect is mostly utilized only when the shot is intended to be directly from a character’s eyes, otherwise known as a point of view, or POV, shot. This can be seen as a variant of limited animation (a convention of economy in animation as a cost-cutting measure, used widely in anime), of which the anime does feature healthy amounts of (Studio Rikka is not a large animation studio), where a shot that would otherwise be expensive to animate is rendered choppy and not fluid purposefully, for both effect and economy. While the gambit easily does its job of giving all POV shots a very distinct, mechanical sensation to it, and just otherwise setting it apart from other shots, it may bother or perhaps even irritate some viewers.

Overall, Time of Eve is a worthwhile anime, available for free, and has a relatively low time commitment (roughly 109 minutes from beginning to end). It pairs its use of classical genre concepts with contemporary techniques to create an anime that is accessible to the uninitiated without alienating long-time followers of the genre. Though some of the experimental cinematography can in fact be an irritant, overall the strengths greatly outweigh the weaknesses. While a must watch for fans of science fiction, Time of Eve should be enjoyable for most, other than young children, and especially for those that enjoy seinen works.

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About ToastCrust

Generic procrastinator and Japanese Media hobbyist.
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5 Responses to A Strong Blend of Classic Science Fiction: Time of Eve

  1. Fish says:

    This series is awesome, and the review’s great.:D I agree some of the cinematography and angles got a little irritating at times, though. Seemed a little…Shaft-ish at times?

    • ToastCrust says:

      Well, it’s only SHAFT-ish in-so-far that you can tell the guy has something of an education in cinematography, and like Shinbo, wants to highlight it rather than underplay it by use of the “invisible style”. While visually striking, it can sometimes feel like the guy’s hitting you over the head with the fact that he wants to be recognized as an auteur.

      In terms of the style of cinematography that Yoshiura uses though, I’d say he has more in common with Nakamura Ryuutarou than Shinbo, though either way the similarities are quite distant, which is understandable, since these are guys who’re trying to distinguish themselves amongst anime directors and hoping to be recognized as the “real deal”–an auteur. Whereas with most other anime directors, I think they’re quite happy to just be metteurs en scene.

      I realize I’m probably confusing you with all this cinema language, but basically, these guys try to do interesting or different things with their shots and directing, to sort of create an overarching “feeling” to their works that is recognizably their’s. Which would suggest they have some background with the auteur theory, and are gunning for it. Whereas others just want to do a solid job and avoid being too bold in highlighting the unreality of the anime.

      In all cases, they also have a pretty firm understanding of what makes anime “anime-like”, and strive to simultaneously reinforce and subvert it to create effects.

  2. pp says:

    I really like how this anime pace went. and not to mention it is available on CrunchyRoll whether free or paid users! Hopefully we get to see more ONA releases of other titles.

    • ToastCrust says:

      It’s definitely a nice way to publish something, though I won’t hold my breath, since at the end of the day, anime’s pretty expensive to produce. The only other ONA of similar visual quality I know about is Candy Boy, and that was just Japan only via Niconico, if I remember right.

      • pp says:

        well lets just hope we can see amateurs animators coming together to do web-releases anime on youtube and alikes. This could be a great way for indies and amateurs to get exposed to the public.

        this would be a huge cascading effect , the indie band, seiyuu, artist, producer, director will get exposure under the cost of their time and no worries on bandwidth as youtube and alikes takes care of it.

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