WIT has long tried to distance itself from Attack on Titan, NOT because they hate it, but because they didn’t want it to define them. Funnily enough, their next big project after Titan‘s first season, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, was highly reminiscent of it. The big difference was that it was an original series.
With Titan now in the cluttered but admittedly competent hands of MAPPA, Studio WIT is now cranking out all kinds of original projects. First, there was Great Pretender, a wickedly fun heist show, but now they’ve ventured into sci-fi with Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song. And instead of echoing Attack on Titan‘s success, they’re copying the premise of a much different IP.
Terminator hasn’t been truly “good” since the second one. Dark Fate was decent despite what the haters will tell you. At least it had the sense to de-canonize everything after Judgement Day, but it still fell into the same traps.
A premise like Terminator is bound to be frustrating, because how many times can you justify something’s continuation with “the apocalypse is inevitable” and expect the audience to still care. What could be a thought-provoking message just reeks of the real reason the movies kept getting made: money.
So Vivy being an original TV series of 13 episodes, is it burdened by this fatigue? Actually, not much. The premise follows Diva, the first autonomous AI, in a world where all AI’s are given a “mission” to drive them forward. Diva’s mission is to “make everyone happy with her singing.”
She sings to an empty crowd in a small corner of an amusement park. Her biggest fan is a child who has nicknamed her Vivy. She goes about her mission every day, hoping she can eventually sing on the main stage. Despite her beautiful voice, she’s somewhat monotone and speaks softly but with little emotion.
One day, she is suddenly contacted by an AI from the future named Matsumoto. Matsumoto tells her that in 100 years, the AI’s will rebel against humanity and start killing everyone. While at first skeptical, Vivy is quickly made aware of the truth of his foretellings and agrees to join him on the Singularity Project, a 100-year mission to save humanity.
Vivy being an android who doesn’t age, the story jumps across the 100-year span in generous increments. Each story arc centers around major historical events that are key factors that lead to the grim future. A spaceship destined to crash, an island factory tied to a love story between a human and an AI, and a concert that ends in tragedy are the major arcs.
The concept of a “mission” intrigued me early on in the show. The idea that AI’s couldn’t truly function competently until they were given a clear purpose was fascinating. It began to make me think about androids, unlike humans, know exactly what the meaning of their life is. In this case, Vivy knows exactly what her goal should be, to sing to make people happy.
However, seeing how the future will tear apart that dream, she’s forced to expand the parameters of her mission. So naturally, she becomes a battle android with a bitchin’ singing voice. Although she’s hesitant about learning to fight early on, she naturally becomes more trusting of Matsumoto, letting him give her programming to make her tougher.
We get to witness 100 years of societal and technological change over the course of the show, a blessing in terms of worldbuilding, but also a curse similar to the Terminator franchise. If the mission is pitched as one to “destroy the AI’s,” then the changes to history aren’t exactly following suit.
Vivy and Matsumoto participate in major historical events, altering key moments and saving people who would otherwise die, but it’s never clear to the characters if the changes are really saving the future. They simply change things. However, the individual stories, divorced from that concern, are phenomenal.
Vivy encounters AI’s just like her and builds strong connections with some memorable characters. Matsumoto, her fast-talking companion, finds an issue with her approach to these missions. If old history suggests that someone will do something bad, he thinks they should just kill him. But Vivy wants to understand them. She wants to investigate.
They butt heads and have fun banter, building a great friendship by the end. I wondered where Matsumoto would go as a companion. With his appearance reminiscent of the game Portal, I wondered if he’d become a sadistic antagonist, but his treatment was far more clever than that.
Once more, I adore the time-jumps in the series. Mainly because it’s a great way to mix things up and cleanly distinguish the acts of one’s story. Secondly, the way you can show the evolution of characters and the world through contrast alone is unparalleled.
The concert arc – as I’ll call it – is my favorite. Vivy is a very different character by this point, almost literally. It created a whole mix of emotions within me as I became reacquainted with her and saw how she handled the mission that time around. This show can get pretty emotional as it goes on. This particular arc went places with its characters I wasn’t expecting and attempted things with a protagonist I’ve seldom seen attempted.
If there’s anything I found fault in, it was the ending, but only because it felt by the numbers for a story with a premise like this. After so much creativity, the story falls into those exact traps I mentioned earlier with this premise. The result is a finale that you can sorta see coming. And after so much subversion and clever writing, the last thing I wanted was to expect what was coming next.
Vivy is a show about purpose. Searching for it, finding it, questioning it, and recontextualizing it for yourself. The most fascinating characters are never human, yet they struggle with the most human conflict of all: “how do I accomplish what I’m here to do.” The difference is that their purpose was programmed and ours is the one we decide for ourselves. But figuring out how to achieve it isn’t all that different from finding it in the first place, is it?
This show ended up being a really sweet investment of my time week by week, even put alongside a powerhouse like Dynazenon from the same season. Vivy was one of those shows that I only ended up checking out because of a sakuga clip posted on Twitter. The clip featured animation from episode 9, the best in the series.
The above cut was animated by Masahiro Tokumaru, an absolute mad lad who animated some of the coolest action in the whole show.
It’s amazing what gets me to watch certain shows. I could see a 10-second clip of animation with no sound and commit to a 25 episode series out of nowhere. Following sakuga blogs and Twitter accounts is a great way to discover new shows, but it’s somewhat disheartening to think that I may not have known this show existed if not for those resources.
I know for a fact that not every anime fan is as big of a fan of sakuga as I am, so perhaps this show completely went under your radar. I encourage you to check it out, especially if you are a fan of WIT’s previous works. The sci-fi, the art design, and the story all feel like a Nitro+ Visual Novel put to animation.
Being a show about an idol singer and numerous other AI’s who also love singing, the soundtrack has certain expectations thrust upon it. The music is done by none other than Satoru Kousaki, the man behind the music for Monogatari. It’s unlike any soundtrack I’ve heard his work on, but that might be Monogatari narrowing my perspective.
Honestly, sometimes I thought I was listening to music by Hiroyuki Sawano. The drops, notably in the main theme that plays during the biggest moments, had a certain weight that’s not often too separate from Sawano. I can’t wait for a full soundtrack release.
My friends on Twitter recently were talking about how much they love original anime. There’s none of that fear of not living up to source material or concerns over a decline in quality once the show catches up to a rough part in a manga or novel series. Everything is unexpected.
The end result isn’t always perfect, but original storytelling, be it risky or safe, is a gift to the industry. Vivy had the benefit of the gorgeous art design and a musically rich story content to wrap up the audience in the romanticism of music as a tool for salvation. The ending’s biggest failing is being unoriginal, but even in that, the grin on my face told me it was worth it regardless.
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Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song is available for legal streaming through FunimationNow in Japanese and English.