As the summer season of anime has ended, a new anime season has begun. So, for the first anime review for the series in our reviews is Beatless Final Stage Episode 1. However, for those of you who need a catch up on the series, here is the synopsis for the anime:
“With great advancements in technology, mankind has created hIEs, human-like robots that act as public and personal servants for society. Unlike many others, the kind-hearted high school student Arato Endou treats hIEs as equals, but his financial situation keeps him from ever owning one.
However, his normal life is shattered when an ordinary run to the local grocery store goes horribly awry. Viciously assaulted by a hacked hIE, Arato is on the verge of death; but luckily, he is saved by an abnormal hIE carrying a weaponized coffin. Her name is Lacia, one of five highly advanced hIEs that recently escaped the clutches of the mysterious MemeFrame Corporation.
Faced with a hacked car threatening to run them over, Lacia offers Arato a deal: in exchange for saving his life, he must register as her new owner, thus taking full responsibility for her actions. With little choice, he decides to trust this artificial girl and allows her to live in his home. Though Lacia begins to adapt to her new, peaceful lifestyle, she warns the entranced Arato of one thing—she does not have a soul.”
(Source: My AnimeList)
The anime picks up right where the first season had ended with Lacia launching Kouka clones to attack the Higgins facility to provide a distraction while both her and Arato Endou try to sneak into the facility via an underground pipe line. The episode begins with the military noticing the situation with the Koukas on their cameras and wondering where their backup from the PMC is. One of the soldiers wonder if the Antibody Network is responsible for them, while another declares that he hopes so because there’s hope if it was a human who sent them. Deep in the underground pipeline, Lacia is telling Arato about how she used the blueprints and had a construction company dig out the tunnel they’re in, using an secretly obtained investment fund. But, Arato isn’t interested in all that and instead points out that Lacia has changed her clothes, making Lacia happy. As Arato smiles and turns his attention to the tunnel, Lacia becomes concerned, but Arato reassures her that she can be in control of the situation as much as she likes. Still concerned, Lacia points out that the security for Higgins is managed by Kirino, a different AI from Higgins, so she can’t exactly guarantee their safety if a fight breaks out. While Arato reassures her that they will make it out safely, Lacia makes a bold declaration that she will tell Higgins that the two of them are a couple because he is technically her father even though they may have to fight him, surprising Arato who simply smiles at her. Lacia then has two protective barriers surround Arato as she fires the Black Monolith at the wall of Higgin’s silo, creating an entrance.
Inside of Higgin’s chamber where Ryo Kaidai is, Mr. Suzuhara enters and asks what is going on as the workers are becoming worried. He notices Ryo staring at the screens with the mass-produced Koukas on it while Higgins starts explaining the similarities between them and the original Koukas and estimates that both the facility and Kirino will be overwhelmed within two hours. A nervous Ryo asks who sent them and Higgins replies that the one who sent them was neither Astraia, Lacia, nor himself, but a different number of AI altogether. Shocked, Ryo then next asks if there is an escape route, but Higgins declares that there aren’t any, but he can re-establish the emergency communication lines, though he adds on that he doubts that reinforcements will come though. Suddenly, Higgins then suggests that Ryo hardwire him into Kirino, so that he can use the resources provided to him to launch a counter-offensive. Mr. Suzuhara rebuts saying that it would mean connecting Higgins to the outside world, leaving Ryo wondering if this is what Higgins planned from the start while staring at Snowdrop’s petal. Ryo then turns to Suzuhara and asks for his help.
Meanwhile in another part of the facility, Lacia and Arato are making their way through the hallways while implanting nerve spikes to offset Kirino’s sensors. As Lacia is explaining this to Arato, she further explains that she should be able to locally shut security down once she is hard-wired into Kirino, however, since Kirino is also the barrier that prevents Higgins from contacting the outside world, they have to proceed carefully to prevent Higgins from getting out. Hearing her explanation, Arato asks if this is why she spent two months planning out as Lacia busts down an elevator door. Lacia announces that since there is too much security in the elevator, she is gonna bust down the gondola using the Black Monolith and does just that. Getting back to Arato, Lacia tells Arato to get on the floats and follow her. As bust into another level, Lacia comments that going straight to the bottom will complicate their plan, so they will head down this floor instead, for now. As they head inside of a room, Lacia announces that she is gonna start broadcasting now because she wants to show humans what is in the next room and to show humans what AIs can accomplish, so that people can get a better understanding of super intelligent AIs. Lacia then begins the broadcast.
While all of this is going on, Yuka, Shiori and Olga are chatting and eating sweets when Olga notices Lacia’s broadcast and starts playing it. Hearing Arato’s voice, Yuka freaks out as Lacia starts explaining about Higgin’s storage room. In the storage, as Arato notices the tons of appliances, he asks why there is so much stuff here causing Lacia to reply that its so Higgins can keep up with modern society by scanning the latest products to enable hIE’s to use multiple household items and appliances. As the broadcast is going on, everyone in the city including the PMC, the cops, politicians, people on the street and train passengers are watching the broadcast as Lacia explains that individual hIE’s don’t have an artificial intelligence, instead they respond to real world scenarios by relying on the AASC’s behavour conformity standard maintained by Higgins and that Higgins must remain adaptable for this purpose. Lacia then remarks that “all things are culled with time,” so they must acquire new information or be cast out. Arato remarks that Lacia is talking about trends and Lacia affirms this by explaining how trends that rely on traditional forms are a more frightening force than Arato can imagine and that it is a cultural genetic strategy similar to evolution in a sense. Thinking for a bit, Lacia muses that Erika Burrows might be more adept at these things, causing Arato to suggest that she was modelling Fabion MG after realizing how Higgins worked. Lacia replies that using forms for hIEs is basically the same as physically creating objects that are manageable and will disappear in time with its natural course, much like how fashion, technology, political, idol and celebrity trends all change with time. Lacia continues that despite their disappearance, the loss of these trends allow for new items or products to be born which is why she was born too. As the pair continue through the room, Lacia asks if Arato remembers how she said that people are a combination of man, tools and environment and he replies that he does and asks if Higgins thinks the same thing. Lacia wonders, causing Arato to ask Lacia is to Higgins. Lacia replies that since they were sent out without that information, they don’t know.
Finally the pair reach the end of the 6th floor making Lacia comment that security is going to be tougher from here on. Reaching the 5th floor, Arato notices ‘Haro’ like devices that are shaped like normal household items and asks what they are. Lacia replies that they are other Red Box units created by Higgins which must be secured when they are stored, however, since they are walking through the space, security shouldn’t bother them. Surprised by the sheer number of objects, Arato asks how many are there and Lacia replies that there are an unimaginable number of them, some of which are created by other AIs, but since the Administrators don’t know what to do with them, they store them away as an analogy for the outside world and to enable super intelligent AIs to expand their abilities in secret. Lacia then remarks that AIs are now inventing devices that mankind will invent decades from now. Shocked, Arato asks “How do super-intelligent AIs know that future humans will invent the same thing?” and “What if they’re wrong?” Turning to Arato, Lacia smiles and replies that there are many wasted efforts here which Higgins was wrong about and it’s basically a trial and error basis, but if Higgins doesn’t attempt to do this then the behavior cloud won’t be able to keep up with society. Arato asks if this is what Lacia wanted to show the world and if this is necessary in order to know Higgins, causing Lacia to reply that its nearly impossible for people to understand what Red Boxes are, but they will understand someday. Lacia then reintroduces herself to the world as the 40th super-intelligent AI and announces her intent to shut Higgins down. Nodding to Arato, Lacia explains to the outside world that in the past 50 years, AI abilities have surpassed humanity’s own, but that fact has been kept secret by a select few and that even now 38 out of the 40 are being kept under strict information control due to the government’s and other organization’s concerns about society. Lacia then continues explaining that the storage warehouse is the brain of a super-intelligent AI and sums up her earlier points about AIs, that they invent the technology and products of the future so that they are not left behind by society and that it is these AIs who create Red Boxes. Lacia then sums up that AIs also have their own vision of the future just as humans have imagination and asks if people were aware of this. Sweat-dropping, Arato mutters that Lacia is going overboard.
At Erika’s mansion, Marriage informs Erika that the information division has sent in two of its scouts, causing Erika to instruct her to make it so that the data never existed. Marriage asks if they should intervene at Higgin’s underground facility and Erika that it’s not necessary as the Information Division made their move believing that she would too. An irritated Erika replies by asking if she is seriously thinking that she would ask her to enter that hell and be grind to dust by the most terrifying woman on the planet (Lacia) who risked everything even making the world her enemy to achieve her goal. Meanwhile, Methode arrives at the facility and prepares to force her way into it, causing a massive explosion in the process. On the next level, Lacia and Arato enter a performance testing room for the Lacia units. As Lacia explains the room’s function, Arato asks if she was here too. Lacia explains that they were developed with the intention of being delivered to the Memeframe Corporation, so they were only here briefly before being taken to their lab. Arato jinxingly remarks that their plan is going better than expected, though Lacia replies that it’ll end here as Methode bursts into the room and greets her. Lacia returns the greetings and Methode snarkily replies that she got to Higgins first and she can’t have Lacia breaking him. At the same time in Higgin’s room, Ryo who is watching this on the cameras is surprised and asks why Arato is here and Higgins hypothesizes what Lacia did causing Ryo to clench his hands.
In the performance room, Lacia remarks that she had taken steps to slow down Methode, but Methode proved too powerful for them. Methode insults Lacia calling her incomplete and asks if she knows what is going on outside. Lacia replies that many entities are trying to get in, but are being pushed back like a demolished dam. Methode angrily yells if Lacia is sane and a battle ensues between the two. Amidst the fighting, Lacia remarks that Methode sounds like a human now, but Methode just continues her assault by flinging broken pieces of steel and asphalt at her, crushing Lacia. However, as the smoke clears, Lacia who has blocked the strikes fires on Methode with a gun. On her knees, Methode remarks that as one who strives who expand humanity, keeping the human world as it is suits her purposes better. Lacia calls Methode “Selfish,” but Methode remarks while secretly charging up a blast behind her back, that its not just her and that there are others who think this way too. As Methode declares that creating a new world is a nuisance, she fires a huge flame blast at Lacia as she sends one of her flotation devices to grab a screaming Arato and take him out of the room.
As all of this is going on, Ryo who is Higgin’s room is angrily screaming at the screen, yelling that he never ordered Methode to do this and secretly wonders if Methode has another owner working for her. Turning to Mr. Suzuhara, Ryo asks if he managed to contact the company (Memeframe) and Suzuhara replies that he is trying, but Lacia, the Koukas and Methode have all done a number on the system. Ryo replies that their chances of survival could increase if he could issue an order to Methode, but he needs the approval of someone with administrative privileges to do that. Suddenly, Suzuhara announces that he got through and pulls up a screen with a man on it. The man greets them and introduces himself as “Yoshino” the managing director.
Seeing the man’s face, Ryo clenches at fist, realizing that he’s been played. Yoshino notices that Ryo has taken over Higgin’s control room and Ryo replies that he had planned on leaving after asking a few questions, but as Yoshino can see this stuff happened and that if he needs information then he can just contact Shinohara from the Tokyo Research Facility about himself. Yoshino replies that Ryo has gotten himself into some really nasty business and asks if this is a threat, but Ryo yells out that he is really requesting something. Yoshino replies that he is close to surrendering and asks what his plan is. Ryo replies that he wants to end this situation without Higgins being destroyed or released into the outside world and that he would like his help as Yoshino has administrative privileges over Kirino. Yoshino asks what Higgin’s solution was, but Ryo nervously dodges the question by reminding him of the dangers of allowing a super-intelligent AI out into the outside world and asking him if he would trust its plan. Yoshino flatly replies that Higgins is going to be destroyed by Lacia or the Koukas either way, so Ryo sighs and asks if they can drop the formalities now. Taking a deep breath, Ryo anxiously relays Higgin’s plan of being hardwired into Kirino through a unit he had brought, however, remarks that doing that would be far too dangerous even if it did allow him to repel the attackers. Yoshino re-states that Kirino is connected to Memeframe’s in-house cloud which in turn is connected to the outside network meaning that Higgins will be able to escape and bring about the end of humanity as we know it. However, Ryo replies that he has another plan and suggests that he will make a back-up of Higgins before performing a full shut-down meaning that it can be restored even if they destroy the hardware and if the Lacia classes understand that then they won’t cause wanton destruction.
Understanding Ryo’s plan, Yoshino replies that they will go with Higgin’s plan instead. Hearing this, Ryo angrily yells that they don’t know what Higgins will do to survive in the outside world and asks if he wants to destroy humanity, but Yoshino calmly explains that Ryo’s plan doesn’t ensure that the hardware won’t be destroyed and that its destruction will cause serious damage to Memeframe. He then asks Ryo about who will take responsibility if the company goes under and Ryo retorts by asking who will take responsibility for Higgins if he does break out. Yoshino replies that someone will have to take the fall, causing Suzuhara to suggestively mutter that they blame it on Ryo. Yoshino declares that Memeframe must protect the livelihood of the 6,000 workers who live there. Ryo angrily retorts that if he doesn’t want to take responsibility then he could just give control of Kirino to him and then he’ll order Methode to do the rest. Yoshino replies that the same thing will happen with Higgin’s plan and Ryo angrily retorts that Methode could be under Higgin’s command already.
At this point, Mr. Suzuhara tells Ryo to calm down. Taking another breath, Ryo suggests that they review the facts starting off with the fact that the Kouka units are running rampant and that they don’t consider each other an ally, however they also cannot afford to negotiate with anyone else. Yoshino smiles and remarks that he is finally seeing the problem economically, but Ryo replies that are still bigger issues that need addressing. Taking another deep breath, Ryo starts making a chess analogy where the two of them are playing chess, but Higgins wants to join in. Ryo declares that letting Higgins play would ruin the game as he would want to take control of every game and it would be a disaster for everyone. Hearing this, Yoshino asks if he should leave the problem to an teenager then instead of Higgins and Ryo replies that while this is true that they can’t get out of this problem without machines, they don’t need Higgins’s help and this is also why he is asking for the help of the same people who tried to blow him up. Hearing that angry statement, Yoshino refuses because Ryo started to let his emotions cloud his judgement again and Ryo curses himself for his mistake.
Suddenly, Higgins alerts Ryo that there is a missile on its way. On the surface, the missile hits the silo. However, despite the little damage, a mysterious hand appears in its wake. Outside the performance testing room, Arato wonders what is going on when an injured Lacia appears from behind the door and explains about the missile. As Arato goes up to her, Lacia explains that she managed to get away using a device and reports that a bunker buster missile was reported missing over 3 minutes ago while bringing up footage from the scene. Noticing the figure, Arato asks who is it and Lacia states that it’s Snowdrop and that she probably used some hIE’s to load herself into the missile. Arato asks how that was possible considering that she was destroyed the other day, but Lacia replies that she was just severed at the waist however her nervous and control functions were still intact. Arato asks who did this and Lacia suggests that it must have been the other 37 AIs in coordination with the Antibody Network agents inside the military. Lacia then finally collapses from her wounds.
Grabbing onto her, Arato asks if Lacia is alright and Lacia asks Arato to help her walk for a bit. After resting for a bit, Lacia enacts a hack attack on the security and as Arato helps her walk, Lacia explains that the other super-intelligent AIs are launching a massive hack attack on the location where her cloud programming is stored and that immediately after that came an economic attack that prevented her from moving data and resources too. A concerned Arato asks if they should pull back and group, but Lacia refuses, saying that Higgins will be twice as guarded the next time around. More worried, Arato retorts that if Methode shows herself, they’ll be even more in trouble, but Lacia reassures Arato that she left measures in place to slow down Methode, but “Methode can easily upset the balance depending on her choice.” Hearing Lacia’s last words, Arato asks what she means by “Methode’s choice” and Lacia explains that this may be the last chance they have to control the situation above ground, so she is going to sever the broadcast feed for now because she can’t maintain it with all of the pressure on her programming. Lacia then does so.
But at Arato’s apartment, a concerned Yuka watches the feed sever and becomes worried about Arato and Lacia. Back into the facility, Lacia and Arato head deeper into the facility towards Higgins while Arato holds onto Lacia’s hand. As they are walking, Arato asks Lacia if she thinks that they have changed since the day of the attack at Oi Industrial Promotion Centre while flashbacks of all of their previous battles rushes through his mind. Lacia though just smiles, but as she looks up she gets surprised as the pair comes to a stop and see Methode. Methode greets them saying that she’s been waiting for them and Lacia replies that she knows.
Overall, the episode was pretty alright. It was a full on exposition episode where we find out more about Higgins and the social relationships between Higgins and hIEs in general which was very interesting. The battle sequences between Methode vs Lacia was exciting, I kind of like how Lacia was informing everyone about Higgins via Livestream and it shows how well-thought out her plan was. The animation was also of excellent quality. I’m a little bit disappointed though that the creators didn’t use a new Opening/Ending sequence and instead opted to use ‘PrimaLove’ and ‘Shapeless’ which are the 2nd Opening and Ending sequence, however, even that choice is understandable. The OST was also well done as it was subtle enough to add an urgency and not overblown.
Theme-wise, I think the whole exposition part about the relationship between Higgins, hIE’s and Red Boxes was really well-structured and easy to understand. Additionally, the one theme that is especially exemplified is the ephemeral nature of all things due to the effects of time, which I think was exceptionally honed in through Lacia’s quote, “all things are culled with time,” Throughout her speech, Lacia basically takes a complex subject like artificial intelligence and social trends and brought it down to an easily understandable human-level. The basic underlying principle of her speech is this: Despite the physical differences between them, AIs are mentally the same as humans in that they are not all-powerful, all-knowing gods, but rather incomplete entities who just don’t want to be left behind and abandoned by the times they live in just because they can’t keep up with the trends of the times.
This theme is furthered strengthened by the final part with the argument between Ryo and Yoshino, the managing director, who exemplify the two different standpoints between the young and the older generation with Ryo looking at the Higgins situation from a youthful, naive, global but social context, while Yoshino was looking at it from an older, wiser, socio-economical and organizational based standpoint. Ryo being the naturally younger one is more naive and blinded by his fear of the unknown potential of AIs, yes, while Higgins being released into the outside network could’ve destroyed humanity, his plan also would’ve had a severe blow-back to not only the company, but the people who work there as well. Yoshino’s arguments were on point that while it is true that his plan would secured the safety of Higgin’s software, the potential destruction of the hardware would’ve not only jeopardized Memeframe, but the lives of the people who worked there. It would’ve forced them to dish out tons of money to replace the hardware and in turn cause financial cutbacks, loss of jobs and a potential downsizing of the company which would’ve caused a bigger disaster than if it was destroyed by Lacia. Which I think Yoshino was right to point out who would take responsibility for it. So it makes sense that Yoshino would’ve gone with Higgin’s plan which would’ve offered stability, despite the risk of the destruction of humanity. Additionally, there is some risk and loss with Lacia’s plan, while Higgins would’ve been destroyed, it would’ve allowed Memeframe to place the blame on Lacia, while securing the insurance money and create a better less-expensive product with time even if it did cost money.
In terms of characterization, Ryo’s definitetly matures over the course of the episode. He starts thinking through his problems towards the end and learns to communicate better with others. However, his youthfulness also shows how ill-equipped Ryo is in handling desperate situations. While I quite like Ryo as a character and how he forced Arato to face his own flaws. I also feel that he is more like a rebellious teenager in this episode. Unlike Arato who is much more mature and very calm especially in this episode due to his experiences up till now and Yoshino who has had a lot of experience with these situations, Ryo is much more fearful, hot-blooded and irresponsible in this episode. He also loses his cool a lot, often letting his emotions get the best of him and failing to see the bigger picture a lot and doesn’t realize that even if AIs are destroyed, the underlying social problems about discrimination against AIs, the concerns over technology, fair governance and machines will still exist. It is also very apparent from his desperation that he is barely keeping up with the situation – proving himself to be more of a child than the other two parties. However, Ryo is right in that AIs do have the potential for destruction and that people’s lives and the entire world is at stake rather than just 6,000 people. He is also right in asking who will take responsibility for Higgins – you can’t blame an AI for its actions, but Ryo has shown that he would be willing to pin responsibility on Higgins and Methode while Memeframe would just blame it one Ryo. I also feels like Yoshino’s response is a general cop out because while its important to protect the company and the families who work there, they are also planning to blame it on Ryo’s family and force them to suffer even more. It’s not just about the numbers, but regardless of whose plan that they follow either Ryo or Higgins, everyone as a whole will end up suffering in the end and while I get that he’s trying to help Ryo, he is also willing to shaft responsibility onto him too, making them it clear that neither of them are looking at this holistically and are both irresponsible and selfish in little ways.
In contrast to the pair of them, Arato and Lacia’s plan is more well-thought out in that they are aiming for a happy ending scenario. While they are planning on shutting down Higgins, they are also directly addressing society’s underlying issues with AIs to potentially direct society into a better direction, while ensuring that all of their loved ones and everyone else will be happy in the end including themselves. Arato has also proven throughout the series that he is willing and does take responsibility for his actions and doesn’t argue or make excuses for the things he has done, so even if something does goes wrong with their plan, they are both willing to take take responsibility for it.
So, overall, this was a pretty good episode. It is definitely one of the better ones that this series has produced and I’m looking forward to the next one tonight!