First Look: Beatless

Alternative title(s): I trust in your smile. I won’t care whether you are soulless or not.
Honest to Goodness Novel Adaptation by Diomedea
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Premise

Some rando has compassion for lifeless androids, and while that’s dumb his friends nonchalant behavior at their abject desecration is also super messed up. Later on, he randomly is attacked and saved by advanced robo ladies who are fighting for… reasons. She makes him her owner, which is about as creepy as that sounds. Oh, he also has an imouto you’re supposed to ogle! Just friggin’ great…

Marlin’s verdict: Directionless

I just cannot fathom what this writer was thinking. This show is so tonally dissonant that it looks like two different shows were stapled together into one otaku pandering product. Robots? Check. Submissive waifu? Check. Designs that are just swimsuits with random bits of metal glued on? Check. Three whole imoutos? Check, check, and check. What’s nuts is that it seems to want to be just bog standard wish fulfillment and commentary on the nature of sentience at the same time. You can’t just have it both ways. He gives this impassioned defense of his treatment of the robot girls, and reacts strongly to finding one of their arms, but when a robot he apparently was very familiar with goes crazy and is destroyed, he doesn’t shed a tear. He then goes on to use the robot who saved him, that he now owns, for housekeeping. By the way, all robots shown on screen were female. Bad looks all around.

I think I’ll end with a little aside and talk about how out of nowhere the focus on his little sister is. She occupies like a good third of the episode, is given multiple well animated and revealing shots, but seems to have no relevance to the plot. She even owns the ED? In the show ostensibly about killer robots? Is Japanese writing really so bankrupt that you can’t even have a premise about robots without shoehorning in a goshdarn imouto for crying out loud? Also, enough of female characters acting annoying and being passed off as precocious. It’s toxic and asinine.

SERIOUS ROBOT ACTION!

Iro’s verdict: Pointless

Did you watch Violet Evergarden and think its devoted, emotionally female lead was much too subtle? If so, this might be the show for you: the usual trash where a milquetoast protagonist gets a harem of cute girls who fight on his behalf. The twist this time being they’re all superpowered killer robots, with the show going out of its way to describe them as steel husks merely imitating human emotion to ingratiate themselves to their mortal friends masters owners. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have some good ol’ T&A, right guys? Right? Throw in some baffling little sister antics along with some lip service to themes of synthetic life and machine intelligence and we’ve got ourselves another LN that probably should have never gotten out of the slush pile.

SLICE OF LIFE FUN!

Gee’s verdict: Soulless

The greatest sin of Beatless probably isn’t even the gratuitous fanservice or otaku bait heroine, but the tonal inconsistency of the story it’s trying to present us. As the tagline of the show so helpfully explains to us, the probable overarching story of Beatless will be about our milquetoast protagonist coming to love the supposedly emotionless, servile, and conveniently attractive robot girl. Except the show already presents us with the basic premise that our hero already treats androids with respect. Except then 5 minutes later, he’s entirely nonplussed by his android neighbor’s head twisting off and trying to kill him. If you want me to believe that our hero is special because he already treats androids like real people, then he needs to actually react to their horrifying deaths as if they were real people. Regardless of your actual stance on whether AI can be sentient or deserve rights, if your show is trying to present us with that viewpoint, you need to actually commit to it. There’s a potentially morbid and fascinating story to tell about human beings treating other things that look like human as if they were trash on the street, but Beatless lacks neither the capacity nor the intelligence to pull it off. It even attempts to gesture toward it before going off on some random tangent with a little sister character, as if the show wasn’t already struggling as is to maintain some kind of consistent byline.

And as a gratuitous admittal of my base preferences, I’m also pretty annoyed that these so-called androids are basically just girls in skintight suits with some metal glued onto them. If you’re gonna go hard on the robot people thing, you could at least do a bit more with their designs to convince me they’re robots and not just anime girls in cosplay. So if you want your story about the nature of humanity and its relationship with the artificial life its created, you’re out of luck. If you just want robot girls doing robots things, you’re also out of luck. What’s even the point then?

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