Just when I thought nothing could top Frau from last episode, Robotics;Notes proves me wrong. Let me first make it clear that I have not been particularly enamored by Airi up until this point. She’s just kind of been there in the background; a hyper and cheerful AI in the form of a playful little girl. True, it is only through Sister Centipede that the all-important Kimijima reports are distributed, but Airi’s role in this unveiling of the reports still seems to take the back stage compared to Kai (sometimes with other robotics club members) actually going about triggering the flags. And beyond her involvement with the reports, Airi hasn’t had much to do with the rest of the show. It is this apparent exclusiveness that prevents me from appreciating her as much as the other, “real” characters. We have Aki’s infectiously energetic and persevering spirit; Subaru’s tsundere attitude and fabulous Mr. Pleiades persona; Jun’s cutely docile personality that makes you want to protect her; and last but not least, Frau’s hilariously bold perverseness. Really, Airi’s singular role as guardian of the Kimijima reports really dulls in comparison to all this.
So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I realized within the first few seconds that this would be Airi’s episode. And boy did it deliver. First of all, there is the big reveal that Airi is actually human. More specifically, she is the personality of a real human being whom Kimijima digitized. This helps explain her dual-persona; “Sister Centipede” is the original AI construct and the foundation of the two, while “Airi” was inserted on top by Kimijima out of pity for the poor girl. Actually, pity might not be a very appropriate word. He wanted her to have a more engaging experience during her long cryosleep besides just being unconscious, and thus transferred her consciousness to give her a “dream”. Now, this brings up a few interesting questions. Was the “real” Airi’s mind actually ripped out of her brain and put into digital form? Or did Kimijima just create an AI reminiscent of Airi’s personality and embed that into Sister Centipede? The wording of the episode (at least, from the subs) seems to suggest the latter, which would be kind of disappointing but makes more sense. The only way I can see to “digitize” a mind is to create a copy that is identical to the original. The mind isn’t something tangible that you can actually cut and paste.
Of course, if you’re savvy you will realize this means that the AI Airi1 and the real Airi are distinct. This has the ramification that all of AIri’s experiences will not be transferred to Airi when the former disappears and the latter wakes up. Well, unless Kimijima thought this through beforehand and had already set up some process to insert the data during AIri’s time back into Airi’s mind (reminiscent of Neo learning kung-fu in The Matrix). I have no idea if such technology is feasible in the Robotics;Notes world, but such a development would be all too convenient so I doubt that will be the case. That being said, I can see one of two things happening. Airi wakes up and remembers nothing; or Airi wakes up and somehow faintly remembers bits and pieces or perhaps just experiences a sense of deja-vu when she encounters Kai (and maybe the rest of the robotics club). If Robotics;Notes is seeking to crush our souls and milk the ensuing tears, I can see the former happening. The latter (which I would prefer) would be kind of a magical/supernatural outcome, but would at least be bittersweet and much more hopeful. Yes, I know I just got done talking about the infeasibility of mind-data transfer technology, and now I’m almost hypocritically talking about an even less “realistic” outcome being preferable. But I’m sure you’ve all seen or read enough fiction to recognize a cliched but still relatively solid development when you see one. And that is exactly what the latter is, as well as why I think it’s what just might happen.
The plot aside, let’s get back to Airi herself. We learn that the girl was hospitalized as a result of suffering from one of those incurable diseases, and her only window to the outside world was the television in her room. I suppose this makes more sense of Kimijima’s actions, as his “digitizing” her would enable her to experience the world, albeit from within Iru-O. In fact, this point is specifically mentioned, as Kimijima gives an alpha version of Iru-O to the bedridden Airi so that she can see pictures of the world. And seeing Kimijima’s dedication to the little girl, some of Mizuka’s comments from a while ago start to make sense as well. If I remember correctly, Kai first asked Mizuka about Airi in episode six. Her response at the time was that Airi was Misaki’s friend. I took it to mean that Misaki first interacted with AIri, but so far there’s been no elaboration whatsoever upon that point. This leads me to believe that Mizuka was lying. Why would she lie? Well, let us recall the final moment of episode ten in which Mizuka confronts the ever cheerful Airi. While Airi happily asks if Mizuka would like to know the weather, the latter ignores her and coldly remarks that it’s unsettling how she hasn’t changed at all. Mizuka then goes on to ask Airi to disappear. At the time, this behavior seemed really strange and unexpected from the usually composed Mizuka. But what if she loved Kimijima? It’s not unimaginable that seeing the man she loves shower his love on someone else, even if that person were a sickly little girl, would cause Mizuka to resent said person. And with Kimijima now gone, having Airi as the only thing to remember him by would undoubtedly tear a hole in Mizuka’s already broken heart.
But that’s more than enough speculation from me for one episode. Undoubtedly the next episode will focus on what happens when Airi wakes up, so we’ll have to wait until then for more answers (if any are even given).
1Whom I will henceforth refer to as AIri when the differentiation is important.