by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Note: Next week's episode is advertised as an "Intermission" and both clips and other announcements indicate that it will be a recap episode. Hence it will not receive a separate review unless it proves to have significant new content.
Taken collectively, the first four episodes of BEATLESS have attempted to make a fair amount of social and technological commentary in this story about androids. Episode 4, with its angle focusing on terrorism, seemed to indicate a turn toward a more aggressive presentation, which was welcome after earlier episodes seemed too tentative. Disappointingly, episode 5 takes a step back to a milder stance, resulting in a more ordinary resolution to Kengo's involvement in the terrorist attack.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the episode was bad, as most of it was still executed well. Especially impressive was the way that Arato's invisible adventure was handled visually, with faint outlines portraying unseen movements. The way he becomes partially visible after he takes his helmet off to confront Kengo was also a neat visual effect. Lacia's passive observation about Arato ogling a couple of women while invisible was also a fitting touch that done with just the right tone. Had she sounded more judgmental, it would come across as trite jealousy, which would have contradicted the series' careful efforts to establish an emotional line between Lacia and Arato; she may be wonderfully accommodating, but the series is still framing that as a kind of tool functionality rather than a true emotional bond.
Overall, a theme is emerging in this episode; for all the personality these “Red Box” hIEs have, they still regard themselves as tools rather than people. Kouka proclaims to Kengo that she is “a tool to help him beat the human competition”, and how she functions in that role is quite clear. Snowdrop, the flower-petal girl, proclaims herself to be “a tool entrusted with progress,” though how she fulfills that role with her chaotic actions is far less clear. Meanwhile, a third hIE, the not-yet-formally-introduced Saturnus, proclaims herself to be “a tool for expanding humanity,” though what that might mean is also unclear. The title of the episode, “Tools for Outsourcers,” also fits into this theme. This is all connected by the faintly ominous tone that has carried the series so far. Meanwhile, Mikoto continues to do everything she can to assure the politicians that she isn't a threat, only a tool herself. (The biggest concern about her remains that her aggregation of rapidly-changing public opinion might make her advice too reactionary to sudden shifts.) While this is an interesting point, the series doesn't take the time to go anywhere with it.
The motivations of the hIEs beyond her also remain frustratingly unclear. Exactly why did Kouka shoot Mikoto even after praising her for doing her job? Was she still acting on the inclinations of Kengo and the other antibodies, did she dislike Mikoto for some reason, or does she have her own agenda? Likewise, why was she fighting the newly-arrived Snowdrop when it looked as if she anticipated Snowdrop's interference and was even counting on it? Is Snowdrop working for anyone herself? Hopefully future episodes will address these aspects.
The visuals are pretty much the same as last episode, where shortcuts are taken elsewhere to highlight action scenes involving Kouka. This still works fine, as Kouka is still dynamic to watch. The epilogue scene with a mortified Kengo returning to his sister was also done well, although it suggests that Kengo might get off easy for his involvement in the terrorist action. We'll have to wait and see what happens in the future before we know for sure.
BEATLESS is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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