A.I.C.O.: Incarnation – Episode 3: Decision & Episode 4: Encounter
Episode 3: Decision
This time around I finally pay attention to the opening credits. The song choice seems appropriate; it’s slow and a little dramatic. The sequence is interesting to look at and has some cool elements showing some details of Aiko’s body switch surgery. Overall it’s kind of average as far as opening credits go, but the visuals are nice. The ending is not particularly note-worthy, but it’s a nice song, too.
In episode 3 we take a more detailed look at the faction opposite to the rescue team and we also get to meet the divers officially. So, on the one hand we have Yuya, Shino, Kurose and the divers who are leading the rescue mission to recover Aiko’s body. We learned about them in episodes 1 and 2, but now we’re introduced to CAAC, which stands for Control Agency Artificial Creature, which are the side who took Aiko last time from The Town. CAAC ‘s leader seems to be this woman named Nanbara. She had been mentioned before and briefly shown, but since her relevance hadn’t been established, I didn’t include her in my previous post. Working in close proximity with her is Dr. Isazu, who we also met before, and Nanbara is set on taking Aiko and Isazu to Tokyo to continue research.
Yuya was taken hostage last time as well, so now CAAC agents are trying to question him. I found the contrast of how he’s treated versus how Aiko is being treated by another agent quite interesting. Eventually Yuya convinces his captors to take him somewhere else and as they’re about to be moved to a different location, the divers show up and rescue Yuya and Aiko from CAAC. Aiko isn’t a very strong-willed protagonist, so it can be a little frustrating at times to see her just let herself be dragged along anywhere by anyone.
The rescue scene is definitely exciting to watch and the fluid animation in these action parts is impressive. Even the CGI models are carefully animated! Once that’s over with we get another mission debriefing where the divers get more detailed instructions and afterwards they finally get properly introduced. We have the male team: Minase Kazuki and Sagami Yoshihiko, and the female team: Misawa Kaede and Seri Haruka. I really like the character designs for these characters! They really stand out, particularly Kaede. I still don’t get much of a particular vibe from any of them except that they seem competent at their jobs, so we’ll see if we’ll get any more later on.
Soon enough there’s a hitch in the rescue plans! Conveniently for the plot (and inconveniently for the divers) the Matter starts showing signs of malignant activity so security around the gate to Ground Zero has been tightened. On the other side of the equation we have Nanbara and Isazu freaking out about losing Aiko again and committees scrambling to make decisions about what to do to solve the situation. There is some military display to quiet down the Matter and there’s some interesting discussion about why this dangerous Matter still hasn’t been dealt with completely. It seems to me that it’s a little late to be having these discussions since it’s been 2 years after the incident, but if the show needs them to happen now, so be it.
Either way, the worry the characters had about the tightened security was unwarranted as they are able to infiltrate Ground Zero quickly and without issue, not even one car or equipment check, just a curt comment releasing the guards of responsibility for the divers’ well-being. This Matter activity that conveniently showed up as some sort of fake hurdle and then conveniently disappeared quickly is not particularly clever writing, but I’m being nitpicky for sure. I’m just a little disappointed in the fact that sometimes really interesting and clever stuff shines through and at other times the show is clumsy in its execution.
One example of an interesting development is the fact that we find out Aiko can somehow communicate with her real body and that is what’s behind her strange dreams, random narcolepsy and the succession of images we get on the screen from time to time. This is not super original, but very little about this show is. The reason why I find it interesting is because I assume there is also a bigger connection between Aiko and the Matter as an entity at large, but that remains unconfirmed. One thing we did learn in this episode is that A.I.C.O. stands for Artificial and Intelligent Cellular Organism. In the end I think it’s fair to say that it’s no coincidence Aiko sounds like AICO.
Episode 4: Encounter
In this episode we get some action once again. The mission is finally underway and the diver teams escort Yuya and Aiko through Ground Zero. Eventually they start the competition and although we see them run into situations that seem unexpected for them, both teams are able to react quickly and deal with the situation efficiently. This seems a little too perfect for me, but I like the cool factor, so I won’t complain much. One creepy, yet intriguing aspect of this part is that eventually they run into a type of matter that turns into what seems to be humanoid jelly creatures. I really hope they eventually explain why this happens.
Back in the hospital we see Kurose visiting Mr. Kiryu and he runs into Dr. Isazu. It’s obvious they share a past. We’ve been shown Dr. Isazu’s daughter a few times and after the conversation here and his exchange with his daughter’s nurse it’s kind of obvious to assume him as the antagonist. Well, it was kind of obvious from the beginning, but now at least we know the motive. One thing that’s interesting to me is that the goals of these two groups align at times, but they’re still not working together, I suppose because they don’t have the same interests. I might be misunderstanding the goals though? The show has intriguing concepts and parts, but at the same time it can be a little hard to follow at times because of how strangely paced it is. My brain has to adjust every time they do a jump between the rescue team doing some cool action stuff back to information regarding alliances, goals, research interests and politics being fed to me on the CAAC side of the show. It’s nothing I can’t deal with, but if you’re doing a quick watch, I’d say a lot can go over the viewer’s head and this might lead to many people losing interest.
The tension of the episode grows on the divers rescue team side as they advance on Ground Zero and eventually reach the dam where they open the Cleaver Gates and, with the electrical discharge generated by them, destroy the Matter surrounding the areas they’re at. This was another part where the visuals definitely shone through. After this the divers regroup and Aiko seems troubled. They comment on how unwell she looks, but eventually she finds some resolve in herself after her decision to try and save her mother and brother which she saw in Primary Point through her real body.
Things certainly are taking shape now that the first third of the show is behind us, but there’s one big mystery that remains that a few characters have put emphasis on and that I’m looking forward to finding out soon: who is Kanzaki Yuya, really? His identity is still very much a mystery. I’d say he’s probably related somehow to Yura, but we’ll still have to wait until next time to see if we find out.