The concept of artificial intelligence was once thought as science fiction is now slowly creeping its way to modern society. Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Bixby are artificial intelligence that help us go through the day from asking them the today’s weather, where’s the nearest bus stop, to placing an order online. OpenAI kicked the asses of many professional Dota 2 players because of their complex calculations and analysis of the strengths and weakness of each Dota 2 hero. The level of complexity of AI today is still in its infancy, but it won’t be long for true AI to be created, and it’s a complete mystery what will happen next. Will an AI become sentient? If an AI is threatened, will it defend itself? Will a rogue AI create Terminators and engulf the world in nuclear fire?
AI is no longer a science fiction concept but the potential scenarios are. And what will it it be like to be living amongst synthetic beings? Many authors have created stories of future with sentient machines over the decades and, well, franky, this is an anime blog with anime stuff, so… meaning… let’s look at a few anime shows focusing on Artificial Intelligence.
There are a few restrictions we’d like to apply before starting. One is the anime must center around artificial intelligence very early into the story like the main character is a robot, or the main villain is a robot, or the technology used to progress the story uses AI. We will not include anime with an AI supporting character or one of the minor villains that are AI, or the AI is a plot twist at the middle or last part of the story. Now with that said, let’s jump right in to Honey’s Anime Top 10 AI Anime!
We’re very sorry in advance to the Tachikoma fans out there.
10. The Animatrix
- Episodes: 9
- Aired: June 2003
We can’t start a list about AI without the Animatrix. And before you ask, yes, the story’s here, especially the two part “The Second Renaissance” stories are canon as they were written by the Wachowskis—the writers of the Matrix Trilogy. The Animatrix itself is a collection of short stories set in the Matrix universe and they were animated by the likes of Studio 4°C (Detroit Metal City) and Studio Madhouse (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust), making this anthology film an anime. And hey, apart from the Japanese studios, the Matrix took many inspirations from anime like the slow motion set pieces and the famous Bullet-Time sequences.
Anyway, “The Second Renaissance” tells the story how the war between man and machine started—artificial intelligence gaining sentience and started to feel emotions like fear of dying. When a robot killed his human master after he heard they were going to deactivate him, the news of this self-aware AI spread, and it sparked a chain of events that lead to the machines taking arms. The result is a very bloody war that not only it scarred the planet, the war almost led to mankind’s extinction. Maybe the story of the machines and their hatred towards humans is an allegory of the current state of our society and how we’re inching closer to our own extinction.
Whoops! We mustn’t feel too serious here! Let’s go with something heartwarming next!
9. Stand By Me Doraemon
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: August 8, 2014
Doraemon is a robot cat whose sole task is to help the dim-witted Nobita get his life sorted out or otherwise, Nobita will end up not marrying his childhood sweetheart Shizuka. To accomplish this, Doraemon uses various crazy to lifestyle improving gadgets tucked away in his 4-dimensional pocket. The types of gadgets Doraemon gives to Nobita varies from a gadget that helps Nobita study, or a gadget that make anyone attracted to the first person they see. While it’s still a long way from fixing Nobita’s future, at least he and Doraemon are having fun with all the chaos they make.
If you watched the other movies and OVAs of Doraemon midway, it’s hard to say that Doraemon is a robot. He eats, he sleeps and makes irrational decisions, but there’s no denying that he is a sentient robot from the future. And seeing Doraemon get along with humans tell us that the future version in the anime is a good one where artificial intelligence became self-aware and can peacefully coexist with humans. At first their relationship is akin to master and slave, but despite the lack of his lack of learning capacity, Nobita is a kindhearted boy and sees Doraemon as an inseparable companion and friend. You can see it at the eventual parting scene near the end.
8. Computer Kakumei: Saikyou x Saisoku no Zunou Tanjou
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: June 3, 2012
Computer Kakumei is more of an anime that’s set in the near future where robots and artificial intelligence has taken over parts of human society. Machines now have taken over jobs in fast food service, public utilities, medicine, and other services like predicting natural disasters hours or even days before they happen. Though while these machines are smart enough to keep society running, humans are needed to work together with the machines and teach them to learn. The story revolves around a girl named Mako as she meets an artificial intelligence student named Key at college. And… that’s it.
The anime is short and you could say it’s a pilot episode or teaser for a full-fledged anime. As of now, there is no news of an upcoming series, but when it does, the story of a fledgling AI and how he interacts with Mako and how Mako interacts with an AI will be the main focus.
7. Plastic Memories
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2015-June 2015
If the dystopian action-thriller Blade Runner has an opposite counterpart, you’d probably looking at Plastic Memories. The similarities are there from an MC with a job handling androids with limited lifespans, “disposing” them, and the fact that MC is romantically involved with an android! If Japan can make the Lovecraftian Horrors as cute girls like Crawling Chaos Nyaruko-san, then it’s very possible to turn a depressing and oppressive movie like Blade Runner into the cutest thing ever! *ahem*
But seriously, Plastic Memories is a story revolving around Mizugaki Tsukasa, a student who failed at entering college, but still manages to land a job at Sion Artificial Intelligence Corporation, or SAI Corp. for short. SAI Corp. has changed the world with their robotics and artificial intelligence technology called the Giftia. These androids have traits that make them near-indistinguishable to humans with distinct personalities, can make mistakes, express emotions, get hurt physically or emotionally, and can eat and sleep. However, the androids have a short life span of almost 10 years, and they must be retrieved before they expire. This is the job of Tsukasa with his partner—who is a giftia—Isla. They must recover these androids and erase their memories.
While majority of the runtime is dedicated to Tsukasa and his developing romantic relationship with Isla, there are many moments of Tsukasa and Isla visiting the homes of families with their giftia companions, and experience what it’s like to lose a loved one, even if that loved one is a machine.
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: June 8, 2013
Before anything else, no, it’s not an origin story of Hal 9000, the murderous AI from Stanley Kubrick’s space epic. Disappointed? Let’s move on to the next entry! No wait, don’t go!
A plane disaster happened one day and everyone on board sadly lost their lives. One of the passengers is Hal, a young man whose future with his girlfriend Kurumi was taken away from him. Having no reason to live, Kurumi locks herself in her home and is drowning in depression. The worried relatives of Kurumi have decided to assign an android to take on the likeness of her deceased boyfriend Hal in hopes in helping Kurumi recover from her depression. But can a robot be able to emotionally help someone? Can a robot have the capacity to learn and understand human emotions?
Short and sweet, Hal is a movie about how a mere man-made machine is able to help a human whose loved one was perished. And this begs the question: If mankind is able to create artificial intelligence, do you think these machines can eventually create their own conscience or create their own soul? And do you think these machines are able to understand emotions like love? We will never know for sure, but if ever, the movie Hal offers us a glimpse of a future where a human and machine can form emotional bonds with each other.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2002-September 2002
Farm boy Motosuwa Hideki dreams of going to college in Tokyo, but his dreams was shattered after he read the mail that the college rejected him. Determined after talking aloud with the farm’s resident cow, Hideki has decided to move to Tokyo and study for that dream college. Being the typical country boy that he is, Hideki is mesmerized by persocoms—human-sized robots serving the modern man by being their personal computer, phone, GPS, internet, schedule manager and the very device used to watch porn—upon coming to the city. Unfortunately for our hero, he couldn’t afford to pay for one. He needs to get a job first.
On one evening, after talking to himself again, he stumbled upon a deactivated cute persocom with long hair, seemingly abandoned near a trash dump. Since the persocom is with the trash, Hideki believes in reducing carbon emissions by throwing out less and one’s trash can be someone else’s treasure, Hideki takes the persocom back to his apartment. Upon activating the persocom by pressing what it seems to be the persocom’s G-spot (don’t quote us on that!), the robot sprang to life with an accompanying cheerful soundtrack. Hideki names his personcom Chii and their adventures of being poor and finding out the mysteries behind Chii begins.
If Steve Jobs was a hardcore otaku and a huge fan of cute anime girls, he might’ve developed female androids instead of a smartphone. If that alternate reality existed, it’d be this anime Chobits. Chii is a special kind of persocom because, well, you know, the plot requires it and the main character to always end up getting the best of everything. In all seriousness, Chii is type of persocom that can think for herself and express human emotions. Chii is so advanced that if you hide her “ears”, she is indistinguishable from a real human in both looks and interaction.
4. Summer Wars
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: August 1, 2009
Koiso Kenji was invited by his senior crush, Shinohara Natsuki, on a summer trip with her family. Upon arriving at the huge mansion with Natsuki’s large extended family, Natsuki told Kenji to pose as her boyfriend to impress her grandmother who is turning 90 soon. This awkward situation is nothing compared to what Kenji will get himself into. One night, he receives a text message containing a block of numbers. Kenji, who is a math genius, decoded the numbers without knowing what the results would be. The next day, all hell broke loose when OZ, a massive virtual world where the majority of the world’s population are connected, got hacked and the world is in total disarray. Did Kenji unwittingly break OZ with the code he cracked? And what will happen to the world after all private information, including military secrets and nuclear codes, are leaked?
Have you seen the recent film Ready Player One and liked it? If yes, then you’re gonna love Summer Wars. The main antagonist in the movie is a rogue AI called Love Machine, and his ever-increasing control of OZ make him extremely dangerous and extremely difficult to pacify. In a sense, Love Machine is a computer virus and it’s up to Kenji, Natsuki and her extended family to team up and beat this annoying program ruining their fun online. But how do you stop a rogue AI with a computing and analytical power of a dozen supercomputers? That's where human tenacity, ingenuity and cooperation comes into play. Summer Wars is a fun film that teaches the values of friendship, love, family and sometimes the best times of your life aren’t found online.
3. Eve no Jikan Movie (Time of Eve Movie)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: March 6, 2010
With the introduction of robots and eventually androids, they have been a part of human society. They do the heavy lifting, daily tasks like traffic control, down to doing household chores or picking up their masters at work or at school. Sakisaka Rikou is a high school student and like the majority of the modern Japanese family, they have their own android named Sammy. Now Sammy is your typical android who is polite, soft spoken and will do anything you ask (not those sort of things, perv!), and if the requests are too complex, she will just say “error.”
One day, during a routine systems check, Rikou has found out in Sammy’s internal logs that she’s been frequently veering off her usual routes. Out of curiosity, Rikou, along with his friend Masakazu retraced Sammy’s steps and they stumbled upon a cafe called “Time of Eve” and within the premises, there are no discrimination between humans and androids. Upon this revelation, Rikou begins to think differently of androids and wonder if the world, or even himself can coexist with androids not as tools, but as individuals.
Eve no Jikan is a wonderful film simply about humans coexisting with androids without the rest of society going nuts at the notion of man and machine being equal as individuals. The anime itself doesn’t delve deep into the politics, and it’s more focused on Rikou, his friend Masakazu, Sammy and everyone they meet in the cafe. If you ignore the android bit, Eve no Jikan is just like a slice of life show about awkward people getting to know other awkward people.
2. Dennou Coil (Den-noh Coil)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: May 2007-December 2007
Imagine cyberspace as part of real space and augmented reality is fully realized, and with the aid of special cyber visors, you can interact with things that are physically non-existent, this is the world of Dennou Coil. Okonogi Yuuko and her little sister, Okonogi Kyoko, moved to Daikoku City, the technological center of the emerging half-virtual world. Yuuko joins her grandmother’s investigation agency which helps the neighborhood find lost virtual pets to patching up corrupted space. Yuuko and the gang repeatedly cross paths with expert hacker Amasawa Yuuko who seeks to find answers to the mysterious computer virus that emerges from corrupted space.
Dennou Coil is like the old Scooby Doo cartoons featuring kids and their pet dog solving mysteries and stopping crime. At first, Yuuko, Kyoko and the gang are investigating a living cyber space in search for lost sentient virtual pests using various program tools that attract the attention of Satchi, a rather cute-looking antivirus program patching up holes in cyberspace and deleting corrupted elements, corrupted virtual pets included. Then Yuuko encounters a hacker who is also named Yuuko who is breaking through cyberspace in looking for something. If you want to be one of the meddling kids, then Dennou Coil is an adventure you don’t want to skip.
1. Casshern Sins
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2008-March 2009
Robots have ruled the Earth and the rest of the human race is under the iron fist rule of the robot ruler Braiking Boss. After a catastrophic event, the world has been engulfed in Ruin—machines, thought were eternal, now rust and will eventually die, and humanity is almost driven into extinction. The remaining robots scavenge for whatever parts they find from the now-desolate Earth or from their fallen comrades. But no matter how many parts they use, the Ruin will eventually destroy everything. In the wastelands, there is a wandering robot named Casshern. He has no memories of the past and no memories of who is he is, but robots hunt him down with reckless abandon because of his immeasurable sin as the man who brought the Ruin upon the world.
Casshern Sins is a reboot of Shinzou Ningen Casshern from the 70s, featuring a new setting, new stories and new character backgrounds. Casshern is a powerful robot specializing in assassination and prior to the TV series timeline, Casshern has killed a woman named Luna. After killing Luna, the world is engulfed in a toxic gas known as the Ruin and it almost wiped out humanity and at the same time, causes machinery like robots to rust away. Casshern is immune to the Ruin so he always looks pristine and 100% functional. Rumors spread across the surviving robots of Casshern’s immunity saying that by eating him, they will grant them eternal life once again.
Compared to the anime listed in this topic, Casshern Sins is a story focused on the robots, sentient machines that were created by man and eventually, these machines surpassed man as the new rules of the world. The Ruin plays an integral part of the story and a catalyst for every character Casshern meets in his journey. The once immortal machines started to decay with each of their body parts chipping away, and for the first time in their existence, the machines felt the fear of death, like their former human masters. They grew irrational, going as far as murdering fellow robots for their parts, while some of the robots has made peace and accepted their fate to one day rust away into nothing. Can a machine possess a soul of its own and create rational or irrational thinking when facing destruction? Can a machine give its life to save another, even if it’s against their programming of self-preservation? Can machines even express love? Casshern Sins is a journey of a man wandering aimlessly, until he meets various people who are struggling to survive in the rotting world. Casshern learns the meaning of what it’s like to be alive, and maybe, he’ll come to terms with himself and atone for his sins.
We would like to give an honorable mention to the anime Tetsuwan Atom, popularly known as Astro Boy. Atom was one of the first and perhaps the most popular humanoid robot that caught the hearts of kids in Japan. He was an artificial human created in the likeness of its creator Professor Tenma’s deceased son Tobio. Eventually, Atom soon became a warrior fighting against evil and injustices in the world. It’s like Iron Man, but the actual suit is the main character.
The kawaii culture in Japan is very huge and you’re already seeing it in Japanese media featuring girls doing cute things, cute architecture, behavior, and in writing. If Japan sees something, be it a piece of paper or a fruit, they’re gonna make them into a cute piece of art work like an origami or a cute girl eating a fruit. Give the concept of Artificial Intelligence to Japan and you’d get human or animal androids. Even if the AI has no physical form other than its box or room where the CPU is stored, Japan will create an avatar for the AI (with a high chance of the avatar being female). It’s very rare to see a non-humanoid or non-animal AI character in Japanese media. So hence why this list, as of now, has robots that are very human-like. There are exceptions, of course, but oftentimes they’re portrayed as the evil antagonists.
And before we close this topic and crossing our fingers that you loved what we’ve listed, the term “artificial intelligence” is too broad of term and the characters on this list, while man-made, have emotions that are not artificial. They are “synthetics” because “artificial intelligence” is considered a derogatory term. Quoting the game Mass Effect, there!