A friend of mine’s always sending me information about new animes, from the start of this year he’s been up to the day on all the new tv series coming out in Japan. It appears there’s some very cool stuff coming out.
This week he told me about Eve no Jikan which is a web original series that just started coming out in Japan and is currently doing the fansub rounds. (Really hoping to see this hit DVD eventually.)
What catches my attention about this series is that it’s specifically about the relationship between human and machine. Like other personal favorites (Battlestar Galactica, Denno Coil), it contemplates what it means to be human and the nature of consciousness as it relates to man and machine. If machines become self aware, can we really consider them property any more? Can we say we have souls and they don’t when they show the same signs of self-reflection as we do?
What I like most about these kinds of stories is that in contrast to stories like The Matrix, there isn’t an instant supposition that the machines are out to destroy or subjugate us. It’s not just about man and machine coexisting either, but about whether we can benefit one another at a social and (for those that believe in the soul) perhaps spiritual level.
I’m interested to see where they co with Eve no Jikan. It appears that the Japanese tend to provide more space in their popular stories for machines to have a social and spiritual aspect. I’ve heard it suggested that this comes out of shinto belief, where all things have spirits tied to them. In such an environment, it’s only natural that everything from hearth to home to automobile to computer have a spirit of some kind. And if they have spirits, why should they not love, trust, hate, doubt, fear, and overcome the same as us?
In the end the machine is another expression of the other, of anything that isn’t us or isn’t like us. It strikes me as interesting that in American culture, where supposedly we welcome all (or we claimed to as a culture in times past) we have a tendency to write stories where the other is just evil, no discussion needed. Then we look at Japanese culture which is supposedly so strongly conformist and see a tendency to write stories where the other as good or ambivalent as we are and wants to be understood for what it is.
The other is asking us, “what do you think of me?”