BEATLESS Episode 8
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Anime can't usually afford to have completely superfluous scenes, yet all too many series seem to accomplish that feat on a regular basis. Despite its conservative production values, BEATLESS isn't one of them. This is an episode where almost every shot and every line of dialogue seems to be loaded with greater implications. The exact meaning behind everything that happens this week isn't clear yet, but no detail we receive feels unimportant.
The big events of the week are also the most obviously important ones. The opening scene confirms that the cloaked young woman is the hIE Saturnus, and she's apparently being taken in by Erika Burrows, the CEO of the media company that Lacia has been modeling for. Meanwhile, Shiori decides to become Methode's second owner after processing comparisons of herself to a tool for the interests of her family's company. Both of these actions will doubtless have a major impact on the series as it progresses, but they pale in comparison to Methode's attack on the photo shoot Lacia was preparing to do, with the implication being that her first master sent her on that attack to send some kind of message; given that she was specifically hestroying hIEs built like historical models, this may have something to do with Methode being the hIE of the future. (She claims to be the finished model compared to Lacia's prototype.) This results in a dynamic battle between Lacia and Methode, with neither clearly coming out on top before Methode retreats. Much more disturbing are some lines dropped in her later conversation with her first master, including the revelation that AIs surpassed human intelligence 50 years ago and that this could be a stepping stone to mankind's end.
The other significant development is the Boy Meets Girl campaign, which is an advertising push to portray hIEs as potential lifetime companions for both men and women buyers. Arato rightly notes that this has heavily loaded social implications, as it definitively steps hIEs beyond just being tools. The script also rightly points out that certain tools can effectively be a lifelong companion for some people, but it acknowledges through Arato's reactions that applying such a principle to a “tool” that resembles a person carries far greater meaning. This also leads to vague implications that sexually satisfaction could be involved in that relationship too, though Lacia insists that she can't allow a minor to use her that way. Arato, who seems to be serving as the voice of the audience for this episode, naturally brings up the question of what might be possible when he does turn 18, which is at least part of where the episode title – “Boy Meets Pornography” – gets its meaning.
The curious thing about all of this is Lacia's behavior. She continues to firmly insist that she's just a tool and thus can't be the one to make any decisions, but this is increasingly feeling like a dodge, more a way to avoid responsibility than following ingrained directives. She also continues to insist that she has no emotions, when clearly that's not true; both her reaction to Arato's questions about age of consent and her discontent at the result of the fight with Methode are personal reactions that don't seem necessary as just artifices to appeal to her master. The series also seems to be equating analog hacking with the chemistry of love, which is an interesting notion too. I keep thinking of Chobits when considering this series, but that doesn't feel like quite the right comparison at this stage.
The musical score also deserves some attention. The theme used back in episode three for Lacia's debut returns, but otherwise there's a lot of tension in the soundtrack. This series is still in the process of building toward bigger things, but it's doing so in a good way by throwing out occasional thrills while bringing up new details and discussions at a measured pace. (It even surreptitiously slips in a little history lesson with its montage of past hIE models and their predecessors!) Compared to many other series this season, BEATLESS is pacing itself quite well.
BEATLESS is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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