Entry updated 17 April 2023. Tagged: TV.
Japanese animated tv series (2023). Doga Kobo. Directed by Ka Hee Im. Written by Ayumi Sekine. Voice cast includes Daiki Hamano, Kayto, Takuya Kirimoto, Hiromu Mineta, Kenji Nojima, Asami Seto, Satoi Shibuya, Mutsumi Tamura and Kazuki Ura. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.
In 2095 (see Near Future) Earth's population has plummeted owing to the effects of global warming (see Climate Change), with the World Government (see Politics) using Androids and Robots to fill the resulting gaps in society's infrastructure; though they seem to have exceeded requirements, as there is an impoverished human underclass who are ignored or exploited by those with power. Neon (Kayto), Chrom (Shibuya), Kei (Mineta) and Cobalt (Ura) are unemployed androids who live together along with an AI assistant, Eliza (Seto), and a stray cat. Needing funds they become an Idol group named KNoCC but fail badly. Shortly afterwards they help 13-year-old college student Esora Shibaura (Tamura), who is suffering from heat stroke (usually only androids are out in the middle of the day); surprised to find they are all familiar with a song he hums they decide to perform it – and pass the first stage of the Idol tournament. The four invite Esora to move in with them and, feeling lonely after the death of Professor Shibaura (Kirimoto), his adoptive father, he agrees.
Returning home KNoCC pass a robot disposal factory and witness the human manager fall into the blast furnace, followed by the robot that was carrying him. They are interviewed by Lieutenant Bora (Hamano), the android policeman investigating the incident (see Crime and Punishment), who is suspicious that the four are custom-made models whose registered owner data is unreadable. His human boss instructs him to drop that line of investigation, but Bora thinks they might pose a threat to humanity, so uses the First Law of Robotics to override the Second and continues. The suspicion that a robot murdered a human is exploited by a violent anti-robot faction called the Exclusionists.
We eventually get some back-story: back in 2078 the Scientist Professor Shibaura, assisted by his ex-student Elizabeth, had been studying AI, hoping to deepen it with regard to relationships, affection, good judgement and culture – so that it has soul or heart. He ponders: if the "unused" portion of the human brain is the origin of the soul, then an AI's unused quantum memory might be its equivalent – "What if the quantum memory accessed high-dimensional space-time?" – and thereby assembled a soul (see Identity; Intelligence; Quantum Computers)? The consciousness of most androids seems to be restricted – though some push those limits – but KnoCC are noticeably in the "strong AI" class.
Esora is Elizabeth's child; when she and the father die, the professor adopts him – but realizes, ironically, that he lacks skills in relationships, affection, good judgement and culture: so employs four humans, each rich in one of these qualities, to raise Esora. Unfortunately they become innocent bystanders in a Exclusionist terrorist attack and are left at death's door – which they are pushed through by the professor downloading their memories (a stressful procedure). He is dying and wants to ensure the four personalities survive to raise Esora, even as androids installed with his "Heart programme". He also creates another android, Nobel (Nojima), to manipulate events and prod their emotional development.
Matters now rush to a conclusion: as KNoCC are the result of Professor Shibaura's illegal research, it means, as androids, they should be reformatted; but because they are now fully conscious should they not have the same rights as humans? The World Government side-steps this moral dilemma by agreeing to a competition between KNoCC and the leading Idol group: if KNoCC are victorious all robots will be fitted with the "Heart programme" and gain the same rights as humans (and be allotted a "fixed lifespan"); if they lose, they will be reformatted. However, the bad press created by the "blast furnace incident" seems to make winning an impossibility, until Esora, Nobel and Lieutenant Bora obtain proof the manager's death was caused by the Exclusionists hacking the robot responsible; they manage to broadcast the evidence before KNoCC perform (also foiling an attempt by the Exclusionists to fix the result), and the group goes on to win the vote.
This Anime is a prologue to a mobile game (see Videogame) created by WonderPlanet called Technoroid Unison Heart. Though it does engage with some interesting ideas – such as what makes us human and the nature of consciousness (see Metaphysics) – and a lot happens (the above summary omits some plot threads), it suffers from flat characterization and a story whose idol elements largely seem tacked on. [SP]
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