(spoilers? pretty much everything that we didn’t already know about happens in the first couple of minutes)
In 1999, an accident involving a prototypical self-driving car alters the trajectory of three lives: middle-schooler Sakiko Tsuzuragawa; Kanae Isshiki, the driver who worked on the software which prevented the car from striking Sakiko; and Kanae’s research partner Kuchikiri, who incurs a minor brain injury when his side of the car is run into a pole instead. With his ability to register text impaired, Kuchikiri decides to enter the world of art using the name 0th, while Tsuzuragawa feels compelled to enter the field of research which saved her life.
After becoming romantically involved with businessman Suido Gori and becoming disillusioned with the limitations of contemporary computing capabilities (presumably unrelated), Kanae herself abandons her vision of an all-knowing protector system and takes up schoolteaching. Her final notes on the subject, in which she briefly considered incorporating a human brain, are inherited by Gori and Tsuzuragawa after Kanae is killed while trying to help an unstable inhabitant of Shantytown after an outreach event. When Asumi is mortally wounded in the school collapse, the pair decide to put those notes to use.
I mean, first thing’s first:
My man really wore cowboy cosplay to a meeting with a guy that runs a business conglomerate (which Crunchyroll leaves untranslated as “zaibatsu” – is this common now? Am I out of touch?). This dude looks like he has strong opinions about watching King of the Hill in the original English. It almost feels like set-up for his eventual move to join the street art scene in New York, even though that’s about as far away from cowboy culture as you can get within the states. In an episode already spilling into the ending credits, it’s certainly a way to telegraph that he has some prior interest in America without having to spend dialogue.
Speaking of the ending credits, I did have to wait for the cast to be spelled out to see what the kanji for Kuchikiri is supposed to look like, and I will say that it’s not as much of a stretch from 口切 to 0th as I was expecting.
The actual content of the episode is… fine. I do enjoy seeing a story spread out over a larger time scale, with the threads planted early on twisting as characters meet and grow into new roles. This is tempered a little by knowing how everything eventually turns out, and I thought the stabbing in Shantytown felt a little forced. I’m not quite sure what to make of the running gag of Chikushi trying to make “Satchan” happen – I assume he’s just trying to lighten the mood, which continues to backfire, as it should. Stick to your guns, Tsuzuragawa!
With this out of the way, we should be set up for some good confrontations in the present.