First Look: The Gene of AI

First Glance: The Gene of AI

Alternative title(s): AI no Idenshi
Anime original by Madhouse
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

In the near future, Humans live alongside extremely lifelike androids known as Humanoids. However, this has led to a new breed of crime involving artificially duplicating Humanoids and selling them on the black market. For this reason, memory backups are illegal and strictly forbidden under all circumstances.

Zigg’s verdict: So Nier and Yet So Far

The Gene of AI has one of the most important things already going for it as a show – it’s got some great ideas. While the concepts of machine consciousness, persistence of memory, and general transhumanism are well worn, even within the anime medium itself, they continue to make for fascinating story fodder. I will say that the main plot which drives this opening episode, that of the mother with the incurable disease, is a little familiar and on-the-nose, especially when it’s revealed that the restoration from a memory backup is not an either/or choice, but there’s definitely signs that the story understands the material in a way which is going to allow them to dig deeper in upcoming installments. In particular, the concept, only briefly touched upon here, of a single personality endlessly duplicated and used as a proxy slave is challenging and chilling in the way good sci-fi often is. Our protagonist Sudo (I see what you did there) is a little bland but his relationship with his imprisoned mother, and the implied bargain she made to ensure his surivival, is another rich seam of story that, if tapped well, could pay major dividends.I think the biggest issue overall with The Gene of AI is its presentation, or lack thereof. This is a visually undistinguished show, with pretty bland characters, backdrops, and some nastily egregious CGI, although I’m prepared to accept that last one might be a deliberate creative choice. Madhouse are obviously a legendary studio whose ability to Bring It on the visual front is undoubted when they have the right material and budget, but here they’re mostly cranking out cheap, flat animation which is competent but never anything more. This problem isn’t just limited to the visuals either. There’s just a resounding lack of fizz or flair to the way this story is told, and a curiously dated feel to the whole thing, even though the manga only came out a few years ago. Supporting character Risa, for example, feels right out of an early 00’s harem show, down to her old-fashioned ‘sexy nurse’ design. All added up these issues make for a curiously uninvolving watch, despite the meaty subject matter.

I’m hopeful that such problems can be overcome or mitigated as we move along however, because as I said at the beginning the ideas are sound, and even provocative. My hope is that The Gene of AI can focus more on those strengths and leave behind its slightly more pedestrian elements. Regardless, this is one of the stronger debuts of the season and I’d recommend checking it out.

Iro’s verdict: Not The Worst Thing I’ve Seen This Season

On one hand, Gene of AI isn’t really doing much I haven’t seen in other media focused around robots, AI, and transhumanism (and in what feels like a workmanlike-at-best anime production). On the other hand, it’s including a lot of those elements in the first episode, which gives me hope that it will dig a bit deeper or head into more novel territory. For example, I’d like to see a bit more about how society has changed/reacted to the proliferation of Humanoids (hopefully not with some hackneyed racism/classism metaphor). It’s earned another episode or two, at least.

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