A.I.C.O.: Incarnation – Episode 11: Devotion & Episode 12: Re-incarnation [Final Impressions]
Episode 11: Devotion
Last time episode 10 cut off just as Aiko is about to say something to Kanzaki. I’ve been wondering what it was and what she says is definitely not what I expected her to say. She seems very calm as she talks, very determined, which is very anti-Aiko, but I suppose it’s time for me to be forced to accept that Aiko has changed, she has grown and developed into a less passive person. Her determination comes from the decision she has arrived to. She tells Yuya that she knows there’s only one Tachibana Aiko (not her) and she wants to return the body to the legitimate Aiko as it is her role. Yuya wants to make sure this is what she wants, but it was supposed to be what he wanted too, even if he’s protesting at this point.
Action jumps back to Dr. Isazu who has somehow linked with Yuzuha’s matter while trying to restore her consciousness with this device. He talks to Aiko as her and Yuya are talking. He tells Aiko that she doesn’t need to die. Her body will be put to better use by Isazu than whatever Dr. Yura is planning to do with her. Isazu wants to know how Dr. Yura was able to replicate Aiko’s consciousness because he believes that’s what he’s missing to help Yuzuha wake up from her coma. He already has a bunch of bodies, which Yura helped him create, but that wasn’t enough.
Dr. Isazu demands Dr. Yura to tell him what the secret about Aiko’s brain is. In a flurry of disbelief from the other characters present Dr. Yura confesses it’s Cell Assembler Three. Then both characters proceed to discuss a bit how this brain could come to exist and they lost me a little bit there, but I don’t think it was necessarily the kind of explanation I needed to understand, I was okay with just being able to follow along. As this discussion is taking place, the military force is being deployed to take care of the incineration attack on the matter. Dr. Isuzu freaks out bad and his demeanor grows comical, though I think if I were slightly more emotionally invested I would understand how frantic he is. At this moment Aiko loses consciousness and sees Yuzuha.
Later on Aiko, Kanzaki and Yuya are in a medical warehouse after refusing to go to the shelter. Isazu has become able to connect with the Matter and control it (his version looks nasty purplish) and it’s following them, trying to attack. For someone who says he doesn’t want to hurt Aiko, he really seems aggressive! During this time Nanbara has been successful in buying some time before the attack by pulling some stunt that gets her fired, but it seems that was her plan all along. Back with Aiko, she tells Yuya she saw a girl and that she doesn’t know what body she’s supposed to go into. Kazuki interrupts and confesses his love for Aiko, but she rejects him. He’s upset and takes it out on Yuya who is setting up a bomb that will allow them to escape.
Aiko requests Kazuki to help her family. She wants that more strongly than being saved herself. He complies and they get away. The other divers still continue to advance to Primary Point since they got separated. There is a lot of tension in these scenes because although the threat of being attacked by the Matter is pretty much the same as it was before, the sense of urgency is heightened by how close they are to their goal. Time doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue anymore since Hori tells Kurose that Nanbara got the attack stalled. Kurose wants to communicate with Yuya, but there’s risk of being found out by Dr. Isazu. In the end the go for visible light communication which was a nice creative detail. Kurose finds out that they have to disconnect Yuzuha from her duplicate bodies, so he’ll have to infiltrate Kiryu Hospital.
The episode ends with Kanzaki, Yuya and Aiko finally reaching ALSUS and seeing the Matter and the other Aiko fused inside.
Episode 12: Re-incarnation
ALSUS is completed engulfed by the Matter coming from the other Aiko’s artificial body. She floats inside ALSUS looking drowsy. They had feared she would lose consciousness which would make the surgery impossible, so it seems time is of importance again. It seems it’s time for Aiko to says her goodbyes. She thanks the divers and she thanks Yuya for creating her. He confesses in turn that he was planning to end his own life too, as a way to atone, but now he’s determined to save Aiko’s life because now he feels she has shown will as her own existence, separated from the original Aiko, so he’s changed his mind and he doesn’t want her to disappear anymore. It’s a nice and touching moment.
The pace picks up along with the music and we have a lot of stuff happening at once. Dr. Yura starts the surgery on the two Aikos as Dr. Isazu takes over Yuzuha’s duplicate bodies to be able to use them as attacking force. The divers defend the ALSUS from the Matter Isazu is trying to inflict on them so Yura can perform the surgery properly. As this happens, Kurose makes his way to the hospital and he runs into trouble getting into Yuzuha’s room, but conveniently, Takehara is leaving the place after feeling disgusted with Isazu’s attitude. He helps Kurose in. Dr. Isazu grows more upset and frantic as the surgery progresses and by now he’s become a ridiculous villain, but well with that VA, it wasn’t hard to predict.
The divers are able to defeat Dr. Isazu by using the Anti-Cell Assembler that Yura didn’t use on Aiko before, so now Isazu seems to be done for good. There was no explanation on how that could affect a normal brain, but I guess they didn’t deem it necessary. I’ll assume that since he was connected to the Matter, this thing broke him. Yuzuha regains consciousness just as Dr. Yura’s finishes Aiko’s surgery and we see artificial Aiko inside the Matter and the real Aiko emerging from ALSUS. Artificial Aiko releases the cocoon where her family members are held and then she sort of folds into herself and disappears.
There’s a panicky moment here, as the audience and the characters don’t know what’s going to happen. Yura appears distressed, as if things didn’t go according to plan, but then the Matter moves and some weird jelly thing is expulsed. Inside, a new duplicate of Aiko is held! So the two Aikos are back, Yuya theorizes that Gummi did the heavy work for Aiko’s new body and I just nod along because Kazuki celebrates that the love triangle is resolved! Hurray. Well, I must admit I’m happy that both of them were able to make it. I think back to that almost romantic moment when Yuya told Aiko he wanted to create a world where she could live in and I feel touched, even though he’s older than he looks.
Anyway, real Aiko invited artificial Aiko to live with her and her family, but artificial Aiko turns down the option as she doesn’t want to intrude in their family life. Instead we get a tearful reunion between them and Aiko where only her family members don’t know is actually a tearful goodbye. That was also a nice moment. I wish Aiko had taken the chance to live with a family, but well, she gets to go do her own thing instead, I suppose. Not that we see a lot of it because now we just get a short epilogue of sorts where we see the aftermath of the incident. The Matter has completely crystallized now that there’s no host. Real Aiko is back in school and her normal life and we see some passing scenes of what the divers are doing now. The last scene is of artificial Aiko transferring to a new school and just as she’s about to say her name to introduce herself, the credits roll.
I thought the actual last scene was nice, the ending in general felt a bit rushed, but I think it included everything it needed to include for a working narrative. I would like to comment on some of the other aspects of the show for a bit. I thought voice acting was really good. I didn’t try the English dub, but I heard it was a sub-par, so I stuck to original Japanese. It sounded realistic and professional.
The music was important in these last two episodes two because although the song wasn’t very different as the usual BGM in the show, the volume was noticeably louder in two parts where it made an impact: one was when Aiko shows her new determination to Yuya and the other was while Yuya/Dr. Yura was operating on her to return the original brain to the real body. That said, I thought there was a lot of silence in this show, but it didn’t bother me because I tend to appreciate BMG if it’s there, but I don’t miss it much if it’s not.
Animation-wise, this show was nice, above average in regards to movement, use and quality of CGI and character designs staying on model. There was a lot of Matter going around though, which I guess was nicely animated, but it felt repetitive often. The directing didn’t feel particularly noteworthy, mostly standard shots that were just doing their job of showing stuff to the audience, it wasn’t showy or very creative. I still think it gets more than a passing grade as it felt visually consistent the whole cour. In a sense it even felt at times like the visuals carried the show a bit, like how it felt more exciting for the first few action scenes.
Overall I would say the show wasn’t a completely disappointment because I enjoyed parts of it, but I also think that it was too plot-oriented and not character-oriented enough. It could have gone a bit deeper in terms of world-building and I feel like there were still some aspects that don’t seem to fit the planning or haven’t been given an answer properly, like for example why did Yuzuha instantly wake up after the link with her duplicates was severed, but she hadn’t woken up before when she didn’t have duplicates? We never really got any explanation as to what really ‘fixed’ her. I do think that quite some thought went into planning this, like some of the battle strategy, the scientific exposition and the nicely titled episodes, so there’s merit due.
I feel a bit nitpicky too, of course, but there are a few things that AICO could have done better and unfortunately it seems it will have the curse of being remembered, since it’s a product of that Bones-Netflix partnership and one of the first few of its kind in the industry, as a show that failed to live up to its potential. As a sci-fi fan this was something I was very exciting about and although I can get behind some sci-fi action, I prefer more deliberate sci-fi when it comes to shows (as opposed to movies), and this genre is a good setting to discuss more existential topics, which AICO could have done but decided to skip on. This does not mean that AICO it’s not worth a watch, but it isn’t without flaws and the scrutiny it was put under because of the Netflix-Bones label was not a forgiving one.