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Time of Eve International Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Time of Eve Regular CoverThe laws of robotics – and humanity.

What They Say:
Influenced by the Robot Ethics Committee, it’s become common sense for people to treat androids like household appliances. Their appearance – indistinguishable from humans except for the ring over each android’s head – has led some people to empathize unnecessarily with androids. Known as “android-holics”, such people have become a social problem.

Rikuo, a high school student, has been taught from childhood that androids are not to be viewed as humans, and has always used them as convenient tools. One day Rikuo discovers some strange data in the behavior records of his family’s household android, Sammy. Rikuo and his friend Masaki trace Sammy’s movements, only to discover a mysterious cafe that features a house rule that “humans and robots are to be treated the same”…

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this film is quite good overall as we get the original Japanese language and the English language dub done up using the uncompressed PCM format in stereo. The film is, unsurprisingly, very dialogue heavy so there’s not a lot of really big impact to it. This isn’t a bad thing as it’s the atmosphere and the character material that draws you in. It is given a good boost from the music itself as the score is pretty great and really adds to the overall narrative. Dialogue is well placed and the music never overpowers it in either language, which is definitely a plus. The mix here is one that doesn’t really stand out when you get down to it but the encoding brings it to life quite well, particularly with the music.

Video:
Originally released in film form back in 2010, the transfer for this release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The film clocks in at under two hours and even with the decent array of extras that are included here it has plenty of space to work with. Animated by Studio Rikka, the film has a fantastic look about it. Because it’s focused on the dialogue and less on the motion itself, we get something that puts a lot of effort into the backgrounds and settings, which makes it feel like a very rich piece of work. The animation itself is fluid and well done and the little bits of background motion helps to make the whole thing feel more alive. The transfer captures all of this quite well and it spends most of its time with the encoding in the mid to high twenties. It’s definitely an appealing looking release.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release is pretty good as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs inside against the interior walls. Working with the familiar image of Rikuo and Sammy together as he checks her logs, having it set against the white background lets it stand out all the more. There’s a nice simplicity to this that allows it to work well in saying that this is a more relaxed show and likely not an action filled or highly dramatic piece. The back cover goes with an all white background with all the text in black. There’s no actual premise included here, which is unusual, as it talks more about the origins of the film more than anything else. There’s a good selection of shots from the show through the upper middle and a clean breakdown of what’s included and runtimes for everything, which is definitely welcome when trying to determine some of its value. The subtitles and languages are clearly listed as well and we get a breakdown by track of the soundtrack. The included booklet breaks down the vocal song lyrics in three forms and we get a full track listing as well. The final two pages are given over to written pieces from the director and the composer. The reverse side of the case is pretty cute as it breaks out the four androids from the film and details what they’re made of.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is a mixed blessing in a way. The overall background static image used of the cafe is great because depending on how you look at it, it’s like looking through a window or into a real place. The logo is kept along the top and it uses both the Japanese and English forms for it. The navigation along the bottom is what kind of kills it though as it feels like a cilp-art piece rather than something in-theme to really bring it to life. It’s certainly functional and easy to use and the submenu navigation allows for good setup of the language options, of which there are many. But it’s done in such large block design and without something that feels like it blends with the background and film that it stands out like a sore thumb.

Extras:
The bonus content for this release is pretty much overstuffed with material for fans to sink their teeth into. The big ones for most fans will be the two short films, which is made up of Pale Cocoon (twenty-two minutes) and Aquatic Language (9 minutes). Both features showcase some really great looking stylized animation and clues as to where the company was going to go with Time of Eve. These are basically indie films when you get down to it and they’re always fascinating to check out since they don’t adhere to “traditional” design in many ways.

The film itself comes with an audio commentary and we get a really great looking art gallery, which is listed as a sign gallery but really just shows off a lot of backgrounds that I love to just look at the detail of. What dominates the rest of the extras here are some of the usual but always engaging pieces such as the opening day event of the film and behind the scenes material. The opening day segment runs 11 minutes and shows how the opening went in Japan, providing a really good look at what kind of event it was. The behind the scenes piece comes in at just over six minutes and shows some of the making of aspects going back to 2008. These are the areas where I could watch hours of footage in how they put together the film.

The remainder of the extras are the pieces with the main voice actors from around the film’s release, giving us four sessions with them to talk about the film and their roles. They range in run time of course but most are around five to seven minutes each. The final piece is a sixteen minute interview with the director which takes place in 2013 after the film had been out a few years and allows for a little retrospective on it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally coming out in 2008 and 2009 as a six part ONA, Time of Eve was then compiled into a theatrical version for a spring 2010 debut. A product of Studio Rikka and DIRECTIONS, the film was written and directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who also created a couple of very well received shorts a few years earlier with Aquatic Language and Pale Cocoon, both of which are included here. This release is one that’s pretty interesting because it was largely the result of a strong and very well received international kickstarter effort that resulted in enough interest to generate a new English language adaptation as well as a lot of subtitle tracks. Though I did my part in promoting the Kickstarter – and even got a copy myself – I ended up getting behind in checking out the film until now.

The premise is straightforward enough in that it’s both very Japanese and very indie in a way as it takes us to a near future where androids are more common in the world in human form. While there are a number of very obvious robot-types out there, what’s really growing in popularity are the human lookalike ones where you can’t tell the difference if not for the glowing angelic data ring that’s over their heads. Within this world there is a group known as the Ethics Committee that’s pushing back against the infusion of these kinds of androids into society, which isn’t a surprise as we see small nods towards them being groomed to take over education of kids and other areas. That presents a number of problems for any society, including the youth who have to wonder why they bother with anything since androids can do it quicker, better and “smarter” in a sense. The Ethics Committee and its storyline comes into play toward the end and while it’s providing the main drama of the film, it’s not really what it’s all about.

The film revolves around two high school students named Rikuo and Masaki that end up visiting a cafe known as The Time of Eve after Rikuo discovers that his android, Sammy, has been going there. The cafe is, we think, unique in that the rules there are to treat androids and people the same. It’s an almost secret place in a sense because androids are not supposed to be able to turn off their visible data ring, though we get minor teases about how there’s an “infection” of free will migrating through many androids that the Ethics Committee are watching. It’s welcome layering to the moment, but it also makes sense that the high school kids here aren’t making a huge panicked adult fuss about it and rather are intrigued by the rules of the place. This brings them back to it regularly, especially since Rikuo is trying to figure out why his android Sammy keeps visiting (without him) and Masaki since he has no humaniform androids himself.

What the film largely engages in is a discussion between the young men and several of the patrons of the cafe, as well as its owner-operator, as they try to determine the truth of who the others are. There’s a nice catch where people who leave can’t be followed right away as the door stays locked, giving that person privacy to either reveal or not reveal if they’re androids. With a mix of characters, male and female, young and old and in between, it’s fun to see how the truths come out at different rates with different reveals and reasonings. Some of it naturally is hard for the teenagers to really grasp as there are a few adult complexities that come into it, but we get that with them as well. Rikuo is struggling with what Sammy is doing and the why of it while Masaki has some serious family issues at home that starts turn him a bit darker along the way. That happens a little quicker than I would have cared for, but it gets the point across as to how easily someone can be turned for a number of reasons.

What really wins me over with this release is that there are some really great nods of self awareness about it all. The androids are brought about with the Three Laws of Robotics as a cornerstone of their operation. Having grown up reading those original works that ends up meaning a lot to me because it is a key part to what’s going on in the real world. It did leave me wondering if the Zeroth Law could be applied here, but that’s what sequels are for (dare to dream). But I also liked just some of the other referential material, particularly the simplicity of using a Blade Runner comment aimed at Masaki as he watches one of the other patrons and they call him out for it. Having characters inhabit a world where other things like this exist enriches it rather than takes away from it.

In Summary:
Sometimes you have to be in the right mood for something before you can watch it. Time of Eve is the kind of film where it requires you to settle in and really listen to what’s being said. The film is definitely an engaging one as it unfolds and you wonder how the narrative will come together and bring it to a good place. It’s certainly open enough to explore a lot more material. The release itself is very strong with what it presents to the viewer and I love that the combined efforts of fandom brought it into reality with the numerous subtitle tracks and the English language dub. It’s a film that should be seen and talked about with the meanings within it. It’s not exactly hugely challenging but it puts the right questions out in front of us and asks us if we’re able to really think through the realities of it all. Very recommended.

Features:
English Language, Japanese Language, English subtitles, French subtitles, German subtitles, Italian subtitles, Spanish subtitles, Portuguese subtitles, Chinese subtitles, Russian subtitles. Hebrew subtitles for movie and short films only, Seven Bonus Videos (Interviews, Behind the Scenes, Opening Day), Audio Commentary, Art Gallery

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Pied Piper
Release Date: November 15th, 2014
MSRP: $34.95
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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