The almost-human robot has been a regular figure in fiction for ages, and the complex bonds formed between everyday people and almost-human machines have been thoroughly explored as well. There are executions that lapse lazily into the realm of cliché, and others that invest the tropes with enough heart and intelligence to feel classic. Yuu Asami’s A.I. Revolution (Go! Comi) is in the latter category.
Asami introduces schoolgirl Sui, the daughter of a robotics expert who has developed a new prototype. Vermillion is virtually human in appearance, and his artificial intelligence has the capacity to evolve. Sui’s father wants her to introduce Vermillion to the world, putting his programming through its paces. Initially, it’s an entertaining chore for Sui, but her affection for Vermillion deepens as his personality becomes more complex. There’s no romance (yet), but their evolving friendship gives the story a satisfying core.
With that established, Asami uses her protagonists as triggers for the emotional evolution of others – a girl who lost her father to an out-of-control robot, a sickly boy whose scientist father is much less benevolent than Sui’s, even another robot cut from the same cloth as Vermillion. (Kira, the other hunky boy robot, is amusingly jerky, and I was happy to see him become a fixture in the cast.) Sui and Vermillion’s relationship, her thoughtful acceptance of the other, and his fresh point of view allow others to evaluate their own feelings of grief, loneliness and disconnectedness. Since Sui and Vermillion are developed so well, they’re effective touchstones without being reduced to simple catalysts.
Relationships aren’t the only ingredient, though. Asami peppers the volume with corporate espionage. Ostensibly affable researcher Sakaki reveals a creepy, conniving side when he realizes that Vermillion’s potential extends beyond becoming a genial companion. He’s an effective villain because his worldview is so narrow and functional; everyone, robot and human, is a means to an end as opposed to an independent entity worthy of respect. The tone of the story changes when he pops up, but the themes remain the same.
The book’s classic feel is carried heavily by the visuals, which are lovely and elegant. Those qualities aren’t immediately evident, as Asami favors a larger number of panels per page than I’m used to. She’s also more given to dialogue than monologue, internal or otherwise, so there are quite a few word balloons. Those elements never make the pages look cluttered, as Asami’s sense of composition is very strong. The visuals are sharp and jangling when they need to be and smooth and lyrical at the moments that call for those qualities. She never wastes a head shot either, taking advantage of the varied palettes expressive humans and more muted robots offer.
There are lots of little things about the book that add to the pleasure. Asami can be very funny when it suits, and her hilarious after-word makes me hope she’s done a flat-out comedy that’s waiting to be licensed. I’ve praised the script previously, and it certainly bears repeating: Translator Christine Schilling and adapter/editor Brynne Chandler capture all of the nuances.
(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)