Atom The Beginning
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Atom The Beginning ?
She has a name! Ojou-sama Hair has officially been revealed as Dr. Lolo, apparently a relatively well-known scientist. While thus far knowing her name, and that of her robot, Mars, which was given last week, doesn't actually advance the plot, it makes at least me feel better…not that “Dr. Lolo” is that much better of a name than “Ojou-sama Hair,” but at least it's the real one.
Names notwithstanding, this is one of the stronger episodes of Atom the Beginning. Not only does it highlight the differences in Umataro and Hiroshi's personalities without resorting to gimmicks, but it also shows us just how advanced Six really is. It's the start of the Robo Wrestling, or robo-wres, tournament, and it very quickly becomes apparent that Six is not like the usual contenders. As in professional human wrestling, most of the competitors are huge, beefy robots, the equivalent of highly muscled people, and their tactics are more pound-and-smash than finessed calculations based on the opponent's movements. (Or they're at least intended to appear that way.) Six, on the other hand, is slight and wiry in his build, seemingly totally unsuited to this kind of contest. He doesn't have the brawn to rely on, so he'll have to use the brains that Lab 7 gave him in order to win – and boy, does he ever. What at first simply looks like Six hopping out of the way repeatedly is revealed to be him sizing up his opponents' weaknesses, allowing him to triumph with minimal damage to either himself or the other robot.
To say that this doesn't fulfill the bloodlust of the spectators would be an understatement. When Six takes down his first opponent, a hulking blue beast of a bot called Mohican, he does so by jumping up and taking out the antenna that allows Mohican's creator to control him remotely. He gets his second victory by opening up the other robot's cockpit, removing the pilot, and turning off the ignition. It's like slicing the Gordian Knot rather than unraveling it – the simplest solution that wouldn't occur to most of the other robots and their controllers. Of course, most of the audience didn't come to watch a robot be clever; they came for metaphorical blood, which makes the whole robo-wres situation an interesting replacement for human bloodsports. This is backed up by the fact that the arena calls to mind a Roman coliseum, which very well may be why I immediately associated Mohican with gladiators when his name indicates that the frill on his head is meant to be a Native American hairstyle rather than a Roman helmet's crest. We know that robots have replaced or been implemented to aid many facets of post-crisis human life; could it be that they're also being used to replace dangerous human sports as well? This is the first indication that this could be part of the story's world, and it's an interesting thought – the need to watch violent entertainment live fulfilled by watching wrestling, hockey, or football is fulfilled, but the risk of human injury is eliminated. It seems plausible in the story's world.
In any event, Six isn't helping the spectators to get what they paid for with his tactics, which again indicates that this isn't an event where people appreciate the skill that went into the programming and creation of the robot participants. Six is amazing, yes, but not in the way people expect. Although they do come to understand how impressive what they're watching is by the second match (clearly setting the stage for the Six vs. Mars showdown), at first they soundly reject Lab 7's robochild. Umataro isn't all that thrilled with Six's performance either, feeling that it isn't showing off his skills fully, and more than a little peeved at the soft catchphrase Hiroshi registered. While he's fuming about that, Hiroshi is fussing over Six's well-being, making this episode a particularly good one for highlighting the differences between the two young men – one is about the love of his creation while the other is about its efficiency.
Both will have cause to worry next week, it seems. Not only is the match against Dr. Lolo getting closer, but the preview tells us that Six is somehow broken. Have the calculations been too much? Did he do the robot equivalent of pulling a muscle? Given the beautiful scenes of him jumping this week, which truly makes it look like he has muscles, that seems possible. Or maybe Six just has moral objections to this sort of brutish show. Whatever the reason, we'll just have to wait to find out what it means for Lab 7.
Atom The Beginning is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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