Android Angels (GEN Manga)

Android Angels
CREDIT: GEN Manga

Rating: 5/5 – When the Turing Test No Longer Matters…
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

From Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories I, Robot to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to the current Image series Alex + Ada, the subject of humanity’s coexistence with robots and androids is a ripe tree of plotlines, philosophical theories, and scientific study. As robots become more and more human, we’re seeing the concept of the Uncanny Valley become less and less of a chasm and more of a tiny dip in the road to the eventual day when we’ll no longer be able to tell the difference between human and non-human intelligence.

Android Angels is a collection of four short stories exploring the inhabitants of a fictional city in the not-too-distant future where lifelike androids may be leased for a four-year period, after which they must be returned to have their memories wiped. Any learned skills, like cooking or fighting, are retained, but any memories of their time with their previous owner vanish. That’s all well and good for the androids of course, but what happens to the humans who get attached and must live with the memory of what they’d shared with their android?

Android Angels is more about humanity itself than the robots referenced in the title. In each story, the human owners are faced with the reality of losing someone. On the surface, the androids are supposed to be thought of as property, or appliances, but their interactivity with their human “masters” shows real bonds are being formed and when it’s time to turn in your android unit, it’s not the machine who’ll be feeling the separation anxiety. From a man who falls in love with his female android to an older woman who’ll soon be giving up her childlike robot, there’s almost a changing of the guard going on. The androids seem to be the more “human” of the pairings, showing concern, learning humor, and attempting to preserve memory in spite of the eventual mind wiping they must someday face.

The only real negative of this book is that I wanted more stories exploring this concept. Creator Kosuke Kabaya has built a world (albeit one currently confined to a single city) that demands further exploration, and the four stories we’re given merely scratch the surface of it. That said, if you’re a fan of the idea of artificial intelligence eventually equaling and perhaps even surpassing humans one day, these four stories are a treasure you absolutely must experience. They remind me of some of the early Tezuka work I’ve read, in both artistic style and message. Don’t miss this one.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – al@comicspectrum.com
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