In the spring 2021 season, Vivy Fluorite Eye’s Song came out providing us with a new time travel, science fiction anime to enjoy (or not depending on which reviewer you are reading and what they want from the science fiction genre).
Time travel science fiction isn’t exactly new. While some stories take the notion of time travel very seriously (such as Primer) and others barely explain it other than using it as a plot device (such as Terminator) the genre is crowded with entries of varying qualities and I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a well told time-travel story even with the inherent paradoxes and inevitable loose ends or unanswerable questions that these sorts of plots tie themselves in.
Steins;Gate gave us a serious anime attempt at using time travel, albeit accidentally at first before the characters had to make an effort to use their own machines with precision to undo the ripples they’d created.
A story like Re:Zero explores a ground-hog day like phenomenon with the main character going back in time after his death with his memories in-tact. I can’t talk much about its success as a story (though it has got quite the following) given I’ve never made it very far due to an absolute hatred of the main character’s personality.
Vivy and Time Travel
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song has taken on the basic plot device of going back in time to change an unfavourable future and has combined it with the emotional journey of an AI looking for what it means to make people happy through singing and the overall evolution of technology and the ‘rights’ of artificial intelligence. It is almost as if the ideas in Terminator collided with A.I and then got fused into a cute anime girl’s story.
With less care and attention, this story would have ended up feeling derivative and could very easily have fallen flat and yet, despite a few missteps, for the most part Vivy has managed to be a pretty interesting viewing experience and it has some stellar moments along the way.
There’s a couple of things that I’ve really appreciated about how Vivy has come together that have elevated it beyond just kind of pop-corn viewing while at the same time it has stayed pretty easy watching.
Firstly, is the protagonist. Diva/Vivy has been interesting to see develop across the season so far. As Diva her mission is clear and she wants only to make people happy through singing. When we meet her in the beginning she isn’t very good at this as while she can sing the songs they lack warmth and heart and it is only in the later episodes where we see a confident Diva who has learned how to interact fairly fluidly with humans that her singing has become successful.
However, Diva is also needed for the mission (we’ll get to why later). Fortunately, she isn’t the kind of AI that can’t be reasoned with and an understanding that she can’t make people happy through singing if they end up dying in an AI rebellion ensures that Diva takes the necessary steps to support the mission of changing the future.
The result of this is Vivy. While at first Vivy is a nickname given to Diva by a human girl, Vivy becomes the name Diva takes on when on missions to change the future. While Diva is a singing AI, Vivy has combat programs and a far wider view of the world than just singing to make people happy.
In episode 9 we see these two distinct personalities briefly converse and more or less concluding a fairly solid character arc for our main character as she prepares for the final episodes.
Changes in our protagonist are slow and small, kind of drip-feeding throughout each mission, but when she see the two back to back and leaning against the door inside the construct, you realise just how far they’ve brought Vivy over the course of the series. It was solid writing and a character journey that has felt pretty satisfying.
Secondly, I have really liked the set-up with the time travel. Rather than Diva being a traveller from the future, she has instead been joined by a program from the future that goes by the name Matsumoto (presumably the name of the person who sent him). Matsumoto at first inhabits a toy bear and later a cube to interact with Vivy in the real world, though the two also interact inside Vivy’s mind.
Now, what really works with all of this is that Matsumoto hasn’t been sent 100 years into the past simply to alter one event and send the world on a different trajectory. Instead, there are a series of pivotal moments across the 100 years that they are working to change in order to create ripples that will send the future onto a different path.
Where the story gets really interesting is that as we jump to each event we do see that they have drifted from the original timeline, as shown in the diverging images of what should have happened in each event, however despite seemingly being successful, the overall goal of slowing AI development and preventing AI rights that lead to their rebellion seems to be failing spectacularly with some developments actually speeding up.
I do like the idea that it wasn’t one single incident that lead to the future we saw in episode one but rather a series of events that cascaded in order to lead to the tragedy. I also like that because of that basic set-up instead of the story focusing on a single time and incident we have a couple of episodes dealing with one situation before we jump forward to the next pivotal moment, moving us ever closer to the future that they are trying to change.
The story also makes attempts to address some of the concerns that arise when you start thinking about the time-travel occurring here. Such as why Vivy and why send the program back 100 years? Even as I thought these questions in episode 1, the next few episodes provided some reasoning that made this at least plausible even if it wouldn’t probably hold up under deeper questioning.
We also have begun to see that Matsumoto, the seemingly infallible time-travelling program has been wrong more than once in his predictions and as the timeline skews further from the original things seem to get further out of his control.
With the story making an effort to address viewer concerns almost before they become concerns, the the more obvious plot holes being dealt with, it is difficult to fault the writers for their efforts. Certainly, not everything ends up being overly brilliant and occasional moments definitely feel clunkier than others, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Finally, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song never gets to bogged down in its own premise. Vibrant musical interludes and dramatic, messy action sequences are dropped into episodes ensuring that things never feel too slow. Beautiful characters and scenery interact and leave a stunning impression. As each moment in time only lasts for a couple of episodes, the stories never feel like they are dragging before we move on to the next thing but nor do they feel particularly rushed (though one or two of them may have benefited from a little more time to establish themselves).
Basically, we have AI fights, internal conflicts, time travel, terrorism, and divas… What more could you want from an anime?
Images used for review from: Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song. Dir. S Ezaki. Wit Studio. 2021.
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