Atom The Beginning
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Atom The Beginning ?
I'm beginning to think that this show has a pattern: tease us with real plot, then spend an episode or two farting around. Last week's episode was in the “overarching plot” category, so this week we get a silly feud between Hiroshi and Umataro, which Motoko and Ran attempt to fix. Six spends most of the week looking like a trashcan, which is the root of the issue – Umataro wants to give him a power upgrade, but Hiroshi thinks he looks stupid. Be still my heart.
Not that Hiroshi doesn't have a point. Six has been specifically designed to have feelings, so he may very well feel embarrassment at being reduced to a broom-wielding mini-version of his former self. As we learn when Motoko tries to figure out precisely what is going on, this is also typical of their teamwork. Hiroshi was assigned to Lab 7 as a new grad student at Nerima U, not necessarily because his research was most compatible with it (although that's certainly the case), but because the lab would otherwise have been shut down. Umataro appears to have driven off all the other students who might have worked with him, and even the professor jumped ship, citing Umataro as his reason for leaving the university. (I think most teachers can point to one student who made them consider a career change, so this makes sense.) He was fully unwilling to welcome Hiroshi at first, jealously guarding his research until the two realized that their subjects were really compatible, which brings us to where we are today. But the fundamental difference in their philosophies remain: Umataro just wants to build strong robots while Hiroshi wants to create people-oriented ones.
Into all of this comes Motoko's brother, Moriya. He's really not thrilled with Motoko's interest in Hiroshi (although all signs point to her eventually ending up with Umataro), so he tries to poach the young man for Lab 1. Whether Motoko wants to prevent the dissolution of Lab 7 for the guys and Ran or just to spite her brother is something I'm still debating. She claims that she's pursuing Hiroshi more as a trophy than because she likes him, and this certainly could be true – he doesn't appear to be her usual type, although in all fairness her “usual type” could just be “anyone who annoys Moriya.” In any event, she's gung-ho to get the guys back together, which leads to a series of vaguely entertaining hijinks.
Honestly, my biggest beef with this episode is that it backtracks on the progress made last week. The nebulous bad guys are nowhere to be seen, the backstory for Hiroshi and Umataro doesn't actually explain much, and wouldn't you think that two science-minded people would recognize the container they were standing on was barely balanced? Granted, Moriya's interest in Hiroshi may prove to be a bigger plot point than it seems; some secret relevance may be the very reason it's downplayed so much. Both Hiroshi and Umataro are hungry for their works to be acknowledged, so they could be manipulated against each other easily if Moriya handles it right.
We may get back on track next week, of course. In the very last scene of the episode, we see that a letter about a robot battle has been delivered to Lab 7, and since that forms a large part of the opening theme (along with the long-absent Ojou-sama Hair character), this could be the major development I've been waiting for. I certainly hope so, because fun as this show can be, I'm really starting to want a more obvious plot from it.
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