Are you enjoying the time of EVE?
Initially I was on the fence regarding whether to include Eve no Jikan in this list. Based on quality alone it is easily worthy of inclusion. The issue I had was whether to consider it a movie or a TV/OVA series. I considered including movies alongside TV/OVA series in this list, but eventually I decided that the two are distinct enough in terms of the way they present their ideas that an apples to apples comparison wouldn’t be possible. However, Eve no Jikan was technically a series of OVA episodes originally. (Full disclosure: I watched the movie so this review will be based on that) Sure, it was only six episodes long and those episodes were shorter than the standard TV episode but a) this is my list and b) Eve no Jikan is really good so I want to write about it.
Eve no Jikan takes place in a near-future version of Japan where humans live alongside androids. These androids look and act like humans and are only distinguishable from humans by the colored rings above their heads. One of the first things the viewer will notice is that the androids, despite their nearly human appearance, are treated in a completely inhuman manner by most humans. To humans, androids are simply machines that happen to have a human appearance and should be treated as such. This uncomfortable situation is brought into focus when the two main characters, Rikuo and Masakazu investigate a strange location that Rikuo’s android has traveled to recently. In this out of the way alley they discover a café known as Time of Eve that is like any other café except for its one primary rule: there is no discrimination between humans and robots.
The central thrust of Eve no Jikan is built on the contrast between the appearance of androids and how they are treated by the humans in the show. In the very beginning the viewer is dropped into a home with an android that is by all appearances human, but her masters give her curt, one word commands to which she responds in a very machine-like manner. Throughout the show this dismissal of androids as equals is contrasted with their very human qualities. Eve no Jikan excels at slowly introducing the viewer to the inherent humanity of these machines. We see that androids possess the same feelings and insecurities possessed by humans and can love in ways that mirror human love. In spite of this, the fact that these aren’t humans is never far from the viewer’s mind. As close as the androids get to being human, they never quite reach the point of being fully human and the viewer is left to wonder whether they can really be considered equals.
This central conceit of Eve no Jikan is an extremely interesting take on the typical story of a group striving for equal treatment by society. In contrast to the usual message regarding characters that have different appearances but are the “same on the inside”, Eve no Jikan concerns two groups that are identical in appearance but are fundamentally different internally. This changes the core question of Eve no Jikan because these two groups are truly different and therefore whether androids deserve to be treated like humans isn’t a simple open and shut case. Sure it may seem unfair to treat these machines that look and act human like they are merely tools, but there’s also logic in keeping a strict separation between the two because of the underlying differences between humans and androids.
Human society in Eve no Jikan has clearly decided on the latter route. Advertisements decrying androids are almost ubiquitous and it’s taken as a given by most adults that androids do not deserve to be treated with human respect. Despite their constant physical proximity, it is made abundantly clear that robots inhabit a world apart from that of humans. Eve no Jikan illustrates this very naturally as we see Rikuo assaulted on all sides by examples of people not treating androids like fellow humans.
Time of EVE challenges all of these assumptions ingrained in Rikuo and Masakazu. It’s clearly demonstrated that the existence of this café and its primary rule violates what is considered by humans to be a natural order of society. Rikou and Masakazu display complete shock at seeing androids doing things that they considered purely human in nature. Time of Eve provides an elegant setting in which the characters’ and viewers’ assumptions about how human/android relations should be are challenged. There’s also an element of fear present in Rikou and Masakazu’s reactions to what they see at Time of EVE. Society has thoroughly stigmatized people who develop close emotional ties to androids (or “dori-kei” as those people are called in-universe) and anybody unfortunate enough to receive the label is doomed to be ostracized. It’s then understandable that Rikuo and Masakazu would be afraid of what they might find if they dig too deeply at Time of Eve.
Eve no Jikan’s greatest strength is the understated way it conveys its ideas and maybe the best example of this is how we are shown that the aforementioned biases are not natural or instinctive. As viewers being dropped into the world of Eve no Jikan it’s easy for us to feel for the robots since they appear just as human as the humans to us. The way they’re treated is supposed to feel off-putting and unnatural to us. Beyond this though, Eve no Jikan does a superb job of contrasting the way the main characters and adults see androids with how they are viewed by children. Because of their intelligence and ability to understand and process emotions, children naturally see androids as humans just like they are. We see that even completely inhuman looking robots can be seen as close companions by a child who hasn’t been trained to have the same biases towards androids as older people.
Still, it isn’t made clear that these biases, artificial as they may be, are actually wrong. As much as these feelings may stem from a desire to keep robots in an inferior position and to create an “us vs them” mentality, androids are still machines at their core. They can never be fully human. Eve no Jikan’s answer to this is that one should not worry about the nature of those you share experiences with but instead worry about the content of those experiences. Eve no Jikan explores the validity of experiences that may at first seem “virtual” or “unnatural” and concludes that as long as the emotions one experiences are genuine, then the experience is for all intents and purposes “real”. Despite this it never goes so far as saying that androids are completely human. While the main characters gain a greater understanding of the androids they live alongside, they still aren’t necessarily set on a path to destroying the institutions that maintain some level of separation between humans and robots. Accepting the humanity of androids while also acknowledging the fact that they aren’t actually the same is the ultimate message here.
More than anything, Eve no Jikan also shows how it’s important to be aware of and question the biases one operates under. It would be easy for all of us to go through life simply picking up opinions and biases as we go along and never questioning why we think the way we do. Eve no Jikan shows that sometimes these biases, while understandable, aren’t actually completely grounded in factual reality. That isn’t to say that everything one thinks is wrong and needs to be changed, but what will allow one live a more fulfilled life is understanding and reevaluating one’s strongly held opinions in the presence of new information. Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living” and Eve no Jikan takes this philosophy to heart in how it forces it characters to reevaluate things they’ve taken for granted.
What makes Eve no Jikan stand out is how it asks a tough question and, while offering pretty strong feelings in one direction, doesn’t treat it as a black and white situation where one side is absolutely right and the other is completely wrong. The answers to complex questions are rarely clear and Eve no Jikan embraces this fact. I’m not usually much for sci-fi, but Eve no Jikan is the type of sci-fi that I will always love. Rather than embracing futuristic tech for its own sake, Eve no Jikan uses androids as an avenue to explore a fascinating psychological question about what makes our experiences and relationships valid. For this it deserves high praise. Despite its short runtime, Eve no Jikan takes the viewer on an immersive and thought-provoking psychological journey. It’s a journey I’m glad to have taken and I feel like a more complete person for having taken it.