Today's recommendation comes courtesy of somebody from my Twitch chat who claimed this currently is their #1 anime of 2021 and they were rather passionate about it!
For me personally. That's also the case BUT... It's only because it's the first anime to cross my path releasing this year. My initial reaction after watching two episodes is yes, it is very pretty buuuuut it wouldn't be hard to dethrone.
Don't get me wrong, visually this show is stunning, a real snapshot of the skills and technology of our times but as it stands the story doesn't feel all that unique..
AI's eventually turn bad, kill humans, go back in time, stop their progression.
It's a little too SkyNet for my liking so far, granted, I'm only 2 episodes in.
Whenever you're dealing with AI through a narrative, you have to wonder whether the Three Laws Of Robotics are present and if not, why? I found myself asking that question immediately and with the minimal information Matsumoto (the bear) relays to Diva we're not given much insight.
All we're told is everything begins when the Naming Law comes in to place granting AI more rights similarly to humans. Why are they suddenly granted these? There's a frantic mention of winning over voters by pushing this through but that's all we get..
What's the reason for granting these seemingly simple AI more rights? It's established that these AI can't multitask particularly well so there couldn't be a complexity to their interactions that would cause humans to fall in love and speak up for them is there?
There's not a whole lot you can do in two episodes but it's almost too bare bones and generic to clinch me. We've met a small squadron of anti-AI folk which is pretty self-explanatory as a concept due to people always fearing changes in technology but the flip side isn't showcased thoroughly enough in the first 40 minutes.
A MILE A MINUTE
Establishing a consumption pace for the viewer is a really important thing to do and the start-stop pacing of the character voiceovers gave me spectator's whiplash. Matsumoto our futuristic companion speaks, SO, FUCKING, FAST. Even as a swift reader, I constantly had to rewind 10 seconds and hit pause on a bunch of subtitles to ensure I wasn't missing vital information during the world building setup..
Then you have Diva whose communication skills are very dry and slow as you'd expect from an AI. Maybe that contrast is intentional to showcase the superiority of 100 years of AI evolution but it misses the mark for me..
I mean even the fucking lampshade AI has a better pacing of speech but with a generic ass name like Navi, I'm glad that bulb got turned off asap.
This disconnect between our two protagonists makes all the intended humor of the show fall flat for me too. I've seen the "oh, she doesn't get sarcasm" gag done with robots in plenty of other stories but it just feels agitated here rather than a momentary light relief.
WHERE'S THE MUSIC?
With a title and character like Diva, I was expecting a little more from the auditory side of the show. Maybe future episodes lean in to this theme a little more but I'm doubtful.
The song that opens episode 1 is really catchy and held up against the imagery of fire, death and destruction builds an incredibly eerie atmosphere but that's as far as lyrical music plays a role in the first two episodes.
Beyond that it's your typical action / tension instrumental work to emphasize movement but that's about it. Hell, even the end credits is a simple piano and nothing more. Maybe the goal is to hang on the cliffhanger for a brief moment then decompress and reflect whilst you're played out but both times it's that sharp high and low. Maybe it's a polar opposites theme I'm recognizing but not enjoying?
NOW YOU SEE ME
There's a few visual tropes that were used just the right amount as to not be annoying and I wanted to praise that.
Things like HUD overlays on Diva or goggle wearers perspectives, it was only seen occasionally and you weren't expected to examine their contents with next to no text and generic icon usage, the focus always stayed on what's beyond the lines.
The singularity square in the top left was definitely a first for me.. I've never seen a blatant countdown to a moment of significance in an anime, ever. The fact it changes the On Place value as Diva moves to and from the stage was interesting but honestly, the timer counting to the moment of malfunction didn't fill me with an exhilarated joy. I dunno... Maybe I'm just being a grump today haha
A final note I jotted down regarding visuals was the slick use of masking technology to hide Diva's identity. I really enjoyed the fact its first use in the episode was unspoken, it was just assumed the audience could figure out what was going on and it's not until post pew pews that Matsumoto gives us the low down on what happened. I appreciate when shows don't think the viewer is dumb, good work!
LOGGING OFF FOR NOW
As it stands, this sits at the bottom of the pile for 'watch after May'. I think I'd need some solid reassurance from at least a handful of folks that the show improves to hop back in to this world, which for me, as somebody who absolutely loves VR/AR/AI the show has fumbled the bag quite a bit..
Thanks for reading again today. I'll be altering the list A LOT in the coming days as I shoehorn in a bunch of Spring 2021 anime so I'm not just going through tried and tested relics of your childhoods and keep your suggestions coming in via Twitter!
Full list for AniMAY can be found here: