Concrete Revolutio Episode 3
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Concrete Revolutio ?
This week's episode of Concrete Revolutio made much more sense, and more importantly, gives us a clearer idea of what to expect for the series going forward. Of course, that's assuming you were playing close attention to the rules laid down in the previous two episodes. Concrete Revolutio looks like it will be one of those shows that demands attention to detail and a desire to put together puzzles, while you're still finding all the pieces. That isn't always bad, but Concrete Revolutio requires that type of engagement to understand even basic elements like the characters and story.
I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, so here goes: this week is all about love and robots and robots in love. The Superhuman Bureau gets a visit from Detective Shiba, an anti-superhuman who's a bit of a hypocrite. See, he's a superhuman himself, as a robot reconstructed from a deceased detective. He kept his human consciousness, but his body is entirely robotic and comes with superpowers. It turns out that this world is actually totally okay with this, as long as state-sponsored laboratories are the ones making the superhumans. It's actually a thriving business, creating powerful robots for war and espionage. Shiba meets up with a female robot named Mieko who fights against the "war" side of things, and they're inexplicably drawn toward each other. They realize this amidst a bunch of trippy and colorful animation, with the backing of a Monkees-like rock band. How groovy. (And it's not actually as strange as you'd think.)
This is a good example of how Concrete Revolutio's seemingly random weirdness makes more sense as the show goes on. Last week's fog may have been an obscure reference to a piece of 1960s Japanese history, which would indicate that the show's "Shinka era" lines up with the real-life Showa era. (For those not up on their Japanese history, that's the reign of Emperor Hirohito, 1926-1989.) That would make the "past flashback" the year 1967 (Showa 42), and the "future flash-forward" the year 1972 (Showa 47), putting that Monkees-esque scene in the Summer of Love. There's more to support this in the references to student protests and companies investing in an overseas war. This puts an interesting spin on the show's anti-authoritarian leaning themes: "who watches the watchmen" and "your terrorists are our freedom fighters" stuff.
Back to the basics: Mieko has good reason for feeling the way she does. She was programmed to merge with a similar male robot to make a deadly weapon—and just like humans, robots' impulses to "merge" take the form of romantic love. Shiba has a similar make-up to this male robot, so Mieko finds her feelings awakening around him. Unlike her, Shiba's robot body is controlled by a complicated and fallible human brain, not programmed for a specific purpose. Still, he finds himself drawn toward her as well. None of us can really escape or question our programming, after all. We're all the products of years of social engineering, even if it isn't as deliberate as the kind that goes into creating robots. Maybe Mieko, our female robot, sees those similarities. She insists that she's more like a real human than a "superhuman," and that her feelings are real. She wants to make love, not war. When she finds out even the "love" she can't resist is a part of the war effort, she runs away as best she can.
Of course, she can't run forever. In the "future" of five years later, she's found by a now-blond Shiba—going by his first name, Raito. (Seeing as how he emphasizes a form of "justice" that involves killing everybody, I can't help but be reminded of another famous anime "Raito.") He has also discovered her old "boyfriend," who has finally returned from the foreign country where he'd been hiding out for several years. The two robots merge, not into a bomb, but an equally powerful mecha warrior called Megasshing. In its simple, robotic, yet somehow "fairer" (in Jiro's opinion) understanding of "justice," it declares Real Humanoid Robot Shiba the real enemy for wanting to destroy Japan. They have a sakuga-tastic battle, and that's where the show leaves us.
For starters, this is a sweet love story. It's a weird reversal of the star-crossed lovers standard: fate does want them to be together, but they want to believe their love is dictated by their own feelings instead. We all like to believe we have full control of our destinies, right? It's just not romantic (or even real) if it's all due to some meddling outsiders—doubly so when your feelings are fabricated to make you into a weapon of war. However, they can't escape fate—and to an extent, neither can any of the non-robotic characters working for the Superhuman Bureau. They're as indebted to the rules as much as Shiba and Mieko, working outside the law that bans their existence but still working in the spirit of that law. Their mission is to show that superhumans are good, while keeping the bad ones in line. But what if the rules themselves are wrong? What can they do about it in the seemingly powerless place society has put them? Perhaps Jiro defected in an attempt to find that answer.
These are ideas the creators are clearly deeply invested in, and I'm eager to see them play out in a fully original work. Bones clearly gave Mizushima and Aikawa free reign with their ideas, and it's nice to see them finally starting to coalesce. That's especially true with the non-linear narrative. There's really purposeful nonlinear writing, and then there's the kind from baby writers who just saw Annie Hall or Pulp Fiction for the first time. The first two episodes' use of time-jumping was more amateur, feeling like another random cool twist on a story that already had too much going on. Heck, I didn't even know there were two distinct time periods in this story until the second episode. That's a sign that you're doing it wrong, unless you wanted to confuse people. I don't think Concrete Revolutio is trying to achieve confusion. This show has Things To Say, so it wants you to hear them.
This episode handles the timeline changes much better. They're all part of a single story, while also hinting at the broader changes in character and thematic parallels throughout the series' run. Everything is related in some way to Mieko and Shiba, and we continue to understand how as the episode unfolds. It would still be nice to have some indicator of when these time-shifts were coming apart from just the text telling us which year it is. Concrete Revolutio is improving in that department, like by giving Future!Shiba a different hair color than Past!Shiba. Jiro's clothing changes are an ongoing difference, but they're also less obvious in his limited appearances.
I'm still not sure where Concrete Revolutio is ultimately headed. However, I can make a more educated guess. There's a lot of potential in this show—not just aesthetically, but thematically. Now that the series is finally getting its ducks in a row, we might actually get to see that potential realized.
Concrete Revolutio is currently streaming on Funimation.
Rose is a music Ph.D. student who loves overanalyzing anime soundtracks. Follow her on her media blog Rose's Turn.
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