Atom The Beginning
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Atom The Beginning ?
Despite having a whiff of filler about it, this episode of Atom the Beginning does a good job balancing some character development for Ran with the growing tension of Six's upcoming entry into the Robot Wrestling tournament. The main plot for this week is that Ran's high school robotics club is preparing to enter the annual JRRC, or Junior Rescue Robot Competition. It's a contest for high school robotics clubs to test out their creations by having them navigate an obstacle course to find a potential victim (a dummy with a heartbeat that humorously opens its mouth to exhale carbon dioxide), with an eye to developing new robots in the event of a second disaster. Ran's team is taking the unusual step of building a humanoid robot, a school tradition that Ran obsessively adheres to.
While this does once again bring up the possibility that Ran is on the autism spectrum (her limited social skills and fixations do lead me to suspect it), it also shows us that she definitely has friends at school. Not only is this reassuring (we've previously only seen her interact with a cat and Six apart from the Lab 7 crew), it gives us a better sense of her as a person. She's awkwardly helpful around the clubroom, and while she's stubborn, she also seems to understand that people aren't always going to stick with her own particular issues. We really see this proven when she discovers that her clubmates have written a program to make Princess Teru (their pink creation) into a more reliable quadruped with a specific command, despite her insistence on a humanoid robot. Although she's surprised, Ran doesn't get angry with them for going behind her back. She's clearly not thrilled, but she does understand – plus their innovation does help the team out of a tough situation.
This episode also makes a case for girls in robotics, which feels deliberate. Although Ran's team is all-female, they don't go to an all-girls' school; it just seems to have happened. A couple of adult men in the bleachers begin by making derogatory comments about them, saying “at least the robot's cute,” as if that's all that girls are capable of. They're quickly impressed, however, by the girls' skill in creating Princess Teru, as are the judges, and it becomes apparent that these are very capable young women, which is far more important than the fact that they've made their princess bot pink.
Meanwhile, Six is continuing to evolve, as his actions throughout the competition demonstrate. He accompanies Hiroshi, Umataro, and Motoko to the contest to see Ran's team compete, but he's the only one who notices the slow weakening of the course's structure. While no humans are in danger, its eventual collapse does threaten Princess Teru, so Six rushes to her rescue. This is remarkable not just because he rescued a fellow robot, but because he made the decision himself – no one else noticed the danger at all. That he acted on his own rather than telling a human also shows actual thought; he presumably didn't want to put a person in danger. As Umataro comments at the end, their special system is definitely evolving.
This all brings us to the upcoming robot wrestling match. The guys are fairly ambivalent about the whole thing until Ojou-sama Hair, after many episodes off-screen, confronts them on the street. Not only does her beauty blindside Umataro, but her robot is the one who attacked Ran and Six before. Hiroshi is not going to let that slide, and suddenly the wrestling match takes on a new significance. If Six can defeat Mars (who he clearly recognizes as his nemesis), they'll not only have gained a measure of revenge, but also have truly proven themselves (and possibly impressed Umataro's new crush). Given the timing, it likely isn't the ultimate test Six will face this season, but it certainly is a major one. It'll be interesting to see how things pan out next week.
Atom The Beginning is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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