Atom The Beginning
Episode 9

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Atom The Beginning ?

Beware of drill curls bearing gifts. That may very well turn out to be the lesson of this week's episode, when one of Six's parts repeatedly burns out and the mysterious Dr. Lolo ultimately provides the replacement that will allow him to compete against her Mars in the Battle Royale that finishes out the RoboWres tournament. Hiroshi seems to think that the gift might be Lolo's way of apologizing for that time Mars almost killed Ran, but I'm not so sure – Dr. Lolo isn't the altruistic type, and I'm 90% positive that she's got a more sinister motive for helping out. It could be as simple as “crush Umataro and Hiroshi's souls,” but given that whole robot-attacks-schoolgirl thing from earlier, the reality could be much darker.

The question is whether Lolo's potential interference would be able to force Six to do something out of character – and whether Umataro would see that as a bad thing. This episode's main theme is the increasing tension between Six's creators, with Umataro raving that Six is a failure for not following his orders directly and Hiroshi countering that Six's free will proves the success of their system. It's an ideological difference that will lead to their split in the future, but that also shows a basic difference in their personalities: Umataro wants to be in charge and feel powerful no matter what, while Hiroshi wants to give his creations the tools to make their own choices. To him, Six is a person. To Umataro, he's a tool.

All of this may be leading up to why Ran has been the narrator for the series. Like her brother, she sees Six as more of a person, but he's also taken on friend and protector aspects for her. While the guys argue about Six's functionality or tactics, Ran keeps looking at Six himself, as if searching for his opinion of all this. That's why she's the one who notices that he needs a new part, but it also speaks volumes about how she sees him as an individual even more than her brother does. It would be interesting if this was presented as having to do with the supposition that she's on the autism spectrum, although it could arguably play into troubling and outdated depictions of ASD in the media. What's more important is that if push comes to shove, Ran is likely to become Six's best advocate. He's not just a creation or a robotic child to her, like he is to Umataro and Hiroshi – he's her friend.

The idea of Six wanting to please or simply taking in everything that goes on around him is more prevalent in this week's use of his first-person perspective. At several different points in the episode, we see through his eyes, and while one of those moments is during a fight, the others are simply when everyone is standing around discussing him and his performance. Even though he doesn't comment, it's clear that he's taking everything in, and it will be worth paying close attention to his performance to see if what he's heard comes into play.

The split between Six's creators feels imminent. Whether it's their differing ideologies, Umataro's burgeoning obsession with Dr. Lolo (whose voice sounds notably masculine), or just Umataro's natural distrust of pretty much everybody, things seem very much set to go south between the two. Ran may end up being the most important person in Six's life as we approach the season finale, when the final question may not prove to be whether or not a robot can have a soul, but whether that soul can enable him to have a life beyond what his initial creators intended.

Rating: B

Atom The Beginning is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

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