Vivy has been created for one reason, to sing with all her heart. When we meet Vivy, she is a young AI singing on a side street in an amusement park with big dreams of the main stage. When she is confronted by the time traveling cube with a dark message from the future, she has to deviate from her original mission if she wants there to be anyone to sing for.
Vivy is a kind AI that is described as one of the only autonomous versions for her time, which makes her feel a lot more like a very mission focused human instead of some robotic shadow of one. Watching Vivy grow older was very like watching a life pass before your eyes. The naive confidence and unknowingly unfocused behavior turned into a crisis of purpose and finished with experience, compulsion, and security. Yet the conflict of mission felt so familiar. Vivy’s determination to keep to her original mission of singing reminds me of the college promise. The promise of choosing a path in life, thinking that is how you will spend your life when, in reality, it is often the case that you will take your experience to another field or position altogether. Her reactions to her path deviating was of rejection and of necessary understanding, much like that of many others who watch their path curve. Perhaps this is why she feels like a very generalized character, because she is really supposed to be like all of us trying to find their way, fighting themselves and others to do what we think we must.
Masumoto is the time traveling cube mentioned previously. Masumoto takes on the role of hacker, fixer, and facilitator of Vivy’s “Save Humanity” mission. As the show progresses however, it feels like Vivy becomes the more advanced AI, emotionally if not technologically. Even though Vivy is our clear main character, Masumoto drives the show because he only shows up when a big event is about to go down. In that sense he feels like a snarky and sarcastic senior employee who drops by your desk when things get tough to bring out some magical solution to reinvigorate you, even if you didn’t want to do it or you happen to be tired of their crap. But he does plenty of introspection, surprised and challenged by the “new blood” he must work with in order to fulfill his mission. His lack of empathy and being from a different time sets him up as a great foil to Vivy and makes him an interesting ally.
Vivy was a conflicting swirl of emotions for me. While the personification of AI was widely disturbing and dystopian-esque, Vivy’s character spoke to the nature of humanity at the level of some of my favorite classic novels, with far fewer words. The root of all of this exploration is in Vivy’s mission, “To sing with all her heart.” Looking beyond the soul/heart discussion for a moment, finding what and how to put all of yourself into something is a uniquely human journey. But Vivy makes you question our originality as a human. Are AI capable of matching the things we view as the essence of humanity? At times, Vivy creates a panic, a panic about the security of the human ego. In the midst of this panic, and my anger for the comparison, emerges a heartwarming and compassionate journey through time and all the loss, love, hate, progress that comes with that trek. I imagine that Vivy could have been told from the perspective of a young bartender who keenly listened to his patrons as they married, had kids, lost friends to tragedies, adapted to the changing world, and failed to do so. The experience felt sage and out of body, unfamiliar to my anime experience thus far. As if we had a bird’s eye view, or rather were a fly on the wall of time itself. I usually hate robot characters, but Vivy walks this line between human and inhuman where even I might consider granting her the honorary title.
Coexistence of men and AI, seems, at this time, quite inevitable. Vivy shows us a future where humans not only created human-like AI to fulfill most functions in society, but actively accept them as part of the culture. Where AI, now, is largely hidden, Vivy’s AI was as public as any person walking on the street. I found it interesting how quickly into the future that humans were willing to accept that a mechanical creation of theirs was an equal being in life. Perhaps this is because of the personification of the AI. While Siri has “personality”, the AI in Vivy have robust memory, unique voices, names, and specific missions that they execute. They are created to mimic humans and therefore dabble into “moral” and “emotional” areas that we generally reserve for humans alone. It made me consider what it does to the human psyche to have such confusion between human and technology at all times. Not in the sense that it is truly unknown who is human and who is not, but in the classification of worth. If AI are accepted as equal to humans, how do our traditional moral tests measure up? When we normally secure women and childrens’ safety first, does that apply to AI? Would a world where AI exist on the Titanic mean even more people would die? Put simply, the elevated status of AI is ridiculous to me and the reasons surrounding the soul and emotion that Vivy’s characters accepted depicts a world I never want to live in. I am highly critical of every idea I picked out here to discuss, however Vivy presents and explores these ideas better than any anime we have reviewed recently. Presenting wonderfully developed ideas that you disagree with from a core belief is difficult and I make no claim to be an expert at it.
As AI evolve through the hundred years that the show covers, they transition from simply executing their mission to processing their mission in terms of soul. At this stage, AI considered their mission as their soul. I was insulted. Reducing discussions of soul down to purpose alone was reductive. It was underdeveloped and intentionally so. How can a developing population of AI understanding fully realize the essence of humanity? Put simply, they can’t. So it makes sense that an AI who attempts to consider the essence of their being would determine their single mission to execute as their soul. What surprised me was the human response to the assertion of the soul fitting this definition. Humans around Vivy would hear these statements and simply not put up a challenge. This plays into how inanimate the humans felt in the show, which was always a bit unclear if it was intentional or not. This marks the second phase of AI’s development when concerning matters of the soul.
The final phase of their development is the differentiation of soul from function and into holistic identity. This came up when an AI close to a human, after being moved, was copied back into their original body. This human rejected the copied AI, saying that the copying of data and the experience differentiation makes them separate entities. And by extension, different souls. This is the most obvious shift in thinking that implies a larger change in attitude from the rest of the population. Yet, it feels like the point is missed by the humans. If the “mind” and the “body” are able to be separated while maintaining the essence of existence as a soulful being, why would a copy of the mind invalidate that soul? If the mind itself contains the soul, why are copies unique? Simply because we say so? If each iteration of the mind has a unique soul, why are we not able to change other human’s souls? Christianity argues that souls are indeed mutable by works of humans, but granted by God himself. If AI souls are mutable by humans, does that not speak to differentiation in soul structure, if one was to exist at all? For this reason, I was satisfied to see similar development in the thinking around soul that humans once went through. My criticism here comes from the forgetfulness of human history. Did we lose all the great thinking on the nature of the soul? Does something happen to solidify the existence and form of the soul? There seems to be a piece missing why humanity is re-learning about the soul so publically.
The last, shorter, idea I wanted to mention was the idea of AI doing human… stuff. In the show, we watch AI make facial expressions, stretch, be indecisive, pace, and do a number of other things that they really have no need to do because of the way they are built. What use is stretching to a mechanical body? Why would AI get nervous? Why would AI express emotion to another AI like a human would? This not only seems wasteful but something an AI would never need to evolve into. We saw how they were able to transfer data to each other through touching of foreheads, so I cannot really justify them behaving human-like, even when they are the only ones around.
We have to recenter around the plot of the show. Vivy is visited from the future and charged to change key events to avoid catastrophe. With Vivy now working on two missions, we now progress through two missions off the back of key events that Vivy must change. What was amazing about the pacing of the show was how true to Vivy it was. Vivy’s original mission and true struggle was to find what putting heart into her music was. At each point that she had to deal with her secondary mission of changing the future, she tried to use it as means to better understand her primary mission of singing. These two missions continued to work hand in hand even when Vivy felt they were in certain conflict with each other. It was as if Vivy could not make progress on the mission she intended to progress, but instead found leaps and bounds in the opposite goal. The show jumps forward several times to cover several of the key cultural moments that led to the critical incident Vivy is working to stop. And they do it in a way where the past always matters, giving respect to characters aging, maturing, being affected by others, and leaving a legacy beyond Vivy’s impact. The show makes it clear the influence that Vivy and her actions have had, but also that the world keeps turning regardless if we are following her or not. Certain events are inevitable and the task she was charged with was no small one, regardless of how digestible the presentation was.
The most natural response to music is dance. It wasn’t long ago that I learned that lots of Hollywood fight scenes are choreographed like a dance. While Japan is little far from California, Vivy’s fight scenes were as fluid as a ballroom gala. The animation had a way of creating an invisible spotlight on Vivy’s movements that glued you to her. It was visually clear that this spotlight was not the kind that Vivy wanted. She wanted her performance to be in the limelight, not her execution. There were many other visual elements that could be covered from the use of imagery, to the unique face shots that occasionally give Vivy an uncanny feel. But I think the show visually shined brightest during the fighting. Which feels fitting, given the emotional conflict between Vivy’s missions. In shots that I found odd but also fitting, I want to discuss the highly detailed, mostly still, scenes where the shot zooms into pearlederent Vivy for us to sit uncomfortably with the emotion of the moment. On one hand I love entering the uncanny valley that the show otherwise avoids, but the animation shift and lack of movement in these scenes works little too well in making me uncomfortable. They often felt out of nowhere and not immediately relevant in conjunction within the scenes around them. These, in addition to the larger 3-D Matsumoto contraptions, felt like interruptions in what was otherwise fantastic animation.
When a story jumps many years into the future, the first thing that I look for is what those people value. In Vivy, the people clearly volume entertainment. Almost all of the times that we see humans, they are extracting entertainment from AI. Humans do work, but they have transformed their role into one of either facilitative or passive observance. Humans had conquered space to the point of common tourism, created AI to treat illness, many other amazing feats, but prefered entertainment above continual advancement. I was surprised that humans became content but loved how Vivy presented the world and how they adapted to live in it. Vivy mainly presented the world through historical events that shaped the future. We get to see not only events like assassination attempts from the live view, but also how they shaped other events, and the broader culture, in ways few shows present well. While the events feel familiar to known history, they have unique spins that have obvious impact.
Just as Vivy’s character is split between her two missions, the music feels just as separated. The beginning of the soundtrack brings a toyish retro-game style to represent Vivy. Much like not needing to hear a young child play those little metallic pianos, I just didn’t enjoy these tracks. What became clear out of these tracks was that this was the old Vivy. This was representative of the Vivy that didn’t understand the hearts of humans. As the show progresses, the piano takes control and speaks to the experiences Vivy has accrued. I’m not sure why I’ve always associated the piano as the instrument of the soul, but it remains clear that the vehicle chosen for this show was right and just. As the show progresses, it is not only Vivy that learns to put heart behind her music, but also the show. The parallel nature of the story and music only drives home how intentional so many elements of the show were and my appreciation for them.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||5||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||5||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||6||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||4||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||3||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is deceptive. A show about an AI feels more like the story of humanity and a journey to find fulfillment in one’s life. The unique timeline and storytelling through its music and action positions Vivy to be an incredibly respectable show to discuss themes of soul. Long story short, this show is for anyone and everyone.