BEATLESS
Episode 14

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 14 of
Beatless ?

One thing that BEATLESS is better at than most anime is asking provocative questions about mankind's relationship with technology. It has done so consistently over the past several episodes, and this episode quickly shows that it's not going to change that pattern. For the first time, the police have directly come into the picture, with reasonable suspicion based on incomplete information over Arato's involvement with a number of big recent incidents. They reinforce the standing perception that Arato is pretty gullible and further indicate that they are aware Kengo was involved with the antibodies. They even answer the question about why they haven't questioned Kengo, because they're concerned about the bigger picture, correctly speculating that things haven't been covered up better as a result of dueling hyper-intelligent AIs countering each other's moves. The unspoken question is where mankind gets left in such a conflict.

This theme is also brought up in Watarai's final words, which he recorded before his death to whomever might hear them, unsure of whether or not mankind would even be around anymore. His words provide valuable new insight into the development of the Lacia-class hIE by clarifying that Lacia was designed first but finished last, since the practical tech to make her as the AI Higgins designed didn't initially exist. That casts Methode's claims about being the strongest and most refined into doubt, as it implies that Lacia has unrealized ultimate abilities that required finishing Methode first to develop; I wonder if Methode is aware of that? Watarai's explanation that he let the hIEs loose because he felt that they could only achieve their full potential among humans also explains why all of this is happening in the first place. Of course, it's left unanswered what Higgins' ultimate goal with Lacia might be; my suspicion is that he actually wanted to make a true artificial human and not just an hIE, but we'll see.

The way this information is presented could be considered an info dump, but the justification for its existence is stronger than most such cases. Watarai making this kind of recording is absolutely in character, and some scenes in retrospect seem like setup for this moment. The Ryo/Shiori relationship also gets the development it needs, revealing that the two have been nowhere near as close as Arato and Yuka and exploring the tension that results from their situation. We also see how Ryo cut a devil's bargain with Methode and that the resulting pressure has left him feeling strung-out. Combine that with the earlier police scenes and the story is tightly covering all its bases. The gathering at the end hosted by Erika gives the series a chance to show off the key characters all dressed up while also establishing where Erika stands; she's not particular about how things will change, but she wants to see change happen. It makes sense for someone who was in cold sleep for most of a century and provides a tense cliffhanger for next episode.

The one weak part of the episode is the banter involving Arato, Lacia, and Yuka at home, with Yuka now regarding them as a couple, eliciting distress from both siblings when Lacia admits that sexual acts are possible once Arato turns 18. As silly as the sequence is, I think it's the first time that the series has explicitly acknowledged that hIEs could be used for sex, which plugs another hole in our understanding of the series' world. That may not entirely be a rabbit trail either, especially if Higgins' goal was to make a true artificial human. Disappointingly, the artistic effort falls apart during this scene, but at least it picks back up to standard BEATLESS levels afterward.

And that's all we have for now, as I leave weekly coverage for this series to write about the bigger titles of spring. BEATLESS has had plenty of interesting developments, so I intend to finish it and write an overall review at the end of the season. Until then, this humble science fiction series remains promising, even if it never quite got the attention that it deserved.

Rating: B+

BEATLESS is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


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