I took one look at this title and thought: none of these words go together. It sounded enough like music anime that I decided not to watch it during Spring 2021. Most of you are aware of my general dislike for music anime. So this was a no for me initially.

Then I saw the rumors, that this was one of the best series of the Spring 2021 season. So once this show finished airing, I changed my mind and went for it. And I must say, the world of anime continues to chip away at my hardened feelings against the music genre with Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song. It was definitely music anime, but as the name implies, there was so much more to it than that. This anime had some really great moments. I can see why it garnered so much attention among those who watched its simulcasts.

Visually stunning, good story, and nice characters adorn this interesting anime. The comparisons to Violet Evergarden are inevitable, and somewhat appropriate. But you can do worse than be compared to that great anime! I enjoyed this show a lot. It has earned its place in animedom. I don’t know if it could ever have a second season. I think it’s probably best as it is actually. But if a second season did come, I would not avoid it like last time. My resistance to music anime continues to weaken, and great shows like this one have a big role in that!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 7

This show is about AIs interacting with the world of humans. And if I did the math, I’d guess it’s about 50/50 humans and robots in this series. There’s not a ton of characters thankfully, living or otherwise.

Vivy is one of those AIs. A robot designed with a single “mission,” to “make everyone happy with [her] singing” by “singing from [her] heart,” she repeats her routine everyday of appearing on a small stage at an amusement park and singing to a small to nonexistent audience. There she’s known as Diva.

There’s some masterful touches within this character, all of which prompt the aforementioned comparisons to the character Violet Evergarden. First, Vivy is an “autonomous” AI, designed to think and behave more like a human being than a machine. So she behaves very “human” in some ways, but in other ways is very ignorant about what it means to be human. This is an old theme inside and outside the world of anime, but this show takes it a little further. When Diva was first created and activated, she heard those words “sing from her heart” as part of her mission. But even humans don’t always know what they mean by “heart” in this sense. Vivy has nothing to base her understanding of this word on, and spends a good deal of her operating hours trying to discover what this means. For those familiar with Violet Evergarden, this all sounds very familiar. 

Where this character diverges from Violet Evergarden, however, is where my interest really kicks in. For one thing, she evolves a second name: Vivy. On one hand this seems rather an odd inclusion in this story. Her first big fan, the child Momoka, gives her that name after seeing it in a storybook. But there’s a couple of interesting things going on here with this name. First, being given a name is synonymous with being given life, or a new kind of life, almost a rebirth. This theme occurs at various places in literature, and we’ve all seen it several times in anime. Usually it doesn’t carry a ton of import in a show (think That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime), but here I believe this renaming is a critical point in Vivy’s life. Evidence: the name itself. Vivacious, vivacity, viable, conviviality, viva la whatever…all referring to “life” and “energy” and “life force.” She’s more “alive” because of this renaming than other AIs.

What emotion is this? Is it more than one emotion? Is it emotion at all?

Then there’s the singing. This is the tip of a very large iceberg which extends beyond literature and into the metaphysical. Avoiding those unfamiliar realms, I will simply say that there potentially exists a connection between language expressed in song and the act of creation. By “creation” I mean the ability to create something. This is a uniquely human skill in our world. So much so that, in all the world’s definitions of what it means to be human, perhaps the most defining trait of humanity is its ability to create. That might mean chemistry, engineering, etc., or even art and literature. We can take what’s around us and make something new out of it, or we can even stray into things we cannot define in our finite universe. But the creation of “life” is very closely tied with song in some metaphysical contexts. It’s too much to go into here, but suffice it to say this idea exists and carries some merit.

With this consideration, Vivy’s “humanness” is cast into a very interesting light. She’s a songstress! She’s very human, more so than even the other autonomous AIs she encounters. She even has the ability to create, as we see late in the series. More on that in the story section. It plays a fascinating role in the unfolding of this story.

I wondered why Matsumoto, the AI, was a cube. When my curiosity finally moved me to look up what “fluorite” was, I unexpectedly found my answer. The substance “fluorite” crystalizes into cube-shaped masses, often irregular overall, but with nearly perfect cubic structures on the outermost portions. Look it up, the images are fascinating. I know little about the natural sciences behind all this, so I can’t say whether there’s anything more to the choice of “fluorite” in this show’s title than this in a scientific sense, but at least I had my answer about Matsumoto’s shape! Then we had the Danganronpa thing with the bear, which was kind of weird. There might’ve been a reason behind him taking over the stuffed animal, but I’m not certain about this so I’ll hold my silence on that. 

This guy is kind of interesting. He’s definitely not “human,” and his cubic structure emphasizes this. But he is a natural evolution of an AI, just as the cubic forms on fluorite crystals are natural outgrowths. He’s better at imitating human behavior than Vivy—he even opines about Vivy’s human behavior compared to Navi’s (another AI at the beginning of the show) at one point—but also more purely AI. He has better programming but that very programming is what entraps him in AI form, denying him the freedom of thought and action that humanity would require. Perhaps I read too much into him. Ultimately he’s just the catalyst for the time travel element in this story, something that impacts the story a little negatively in my opinion. More on that below.

Akame ga Kill x Danganronpa?

The human Matsumoto, the creator of the AI Matsumoto, is a heartfelt character. Perhaps the author could be accused of infusing melodrama into this character, but nevertheless, it touches your heart. As a child, this poor man was fascinated by the museum artifact that Diva had become, and loved to talk and interact with her. He did this for many years, even as he grew up and fell in love and got married and had a child. And he continued this friendship after his poor wife passed away, and still after losing his daughter as well. It was so sad. But beyond all that, he showed us another very human trait in Vivy: friendship. This is another heavily used theme in robot literature, but it’s effective here. Vivy probably learns more about the human heart from her years long friendship with Matsumoto-hakase than she does anywhere else. Empathy was not part of her original programming more than likely, yet she shows such emotions many times throughout the series, and certainly learns more about this feeling through her interaction with Dr. Matusmoto.

Probably the hardest part of this series to watch was the brief arc involving the AI Grace and Dr. Saeki. Grace’s humanity evolved through romantic love. Originally a “caretaker” in a hospital, she cared for Saeki when he was in the hospital as a child. The two bonded even then, forming a romantic bond as Saeki aged. It was quite beautiful. But when Saeki finally made the ultimate decision and was about to ask Grace to marry him, the world struck back. Grace was requisitioned by the governing powers to manage the automated floating island that formed as result of the crash of the Sunrise Hotel. She was taken from Saeki’s life before he got a chance to marry her. There she managed the island through her AI brain for many years as Saeki tried to find a way to break her free. The poor man was so in love and obsessed that he created a “copy” of Grace just to have around him at home, and was well known publicly for having “married” this AI partner. When Vivy and Matsumoto are drawn into his efforts as part of the Singularity Project, Vivy learns that although Grace has been calling out for Saeki since the first day she began managing the island (through song no less), her psyche has devolved until she is totally AI now, only echoing her humanness from before in her endless song. Details aside, Vivy is forced to kill the physical body of Grace on the island, ultimately shutting down the float and altering the flow of time at this singularity point. Dr. Saeki admits there’s no other choice, but is devastated. Vivy meets him one more time in the church-like structure where Saeki had planned to marry Grace years before. And there she learns another huge part of what it means to be human: a broken heart and the devastation it brings to life. Saeki kills himself right before Vivy’s eyes. Her programming is overloaded and she shuts down for many years from the shock of this event. It’s the most powerful and saddest moment in this show. I had to stop watching it for the day, even though I’d planned to watch most of the series that day. 

This was a huge character moment in this show for Vivy. There’s usually tragedy in shows like this where the character is learning about what it means to be human, but everything up to this point had been within expected boundaries. We’d seen Momoka die in the plane crash, and the two AI sisters Estella and Elizabeth come to terms before crashing with the Sunrise Hotel, but we hadn’t seen a display like this. Those were accidents in the course of human—and AI—events. This was a completely avoidable situation that was prompted by the ignorant actions of an overbearing majority that viewed these AIs simply as tools, ignoring their humanness, thus scarring a human heart irreparably and ultimately bringing that individual to his death. It was heartbreaking. Vivy learned a lesson that day that, as they say, she could learn in no other way.

Poor Grace and Saeki. It hurts a lot.

So Grace has a special place in my heart. She isn’t around for very long, and has limited dialogue and interaction, but I will not forget her. I later learned her VA was Satomi Akesaka, who plays one of my favorite characters all time: believe it or not, she’s the voice of General Esdeath (Akame ga Kill!). And so Grace was further cemented into my mind. And my heart.

Ophelia’s story is very tragic as well, though it didn’t end up being a suicide as originally thought. The idea that it could’ve been a suicide was intriguing from a story aspect, adding another unhappy layer to Vivy’s exploration of humanity. Ultimately it resolves without suicide, but nonetheless Ophelia does pass away. It wasn’t as heartfelt as Grace’s story, but it was still very sad. She embodies a much more relatable point of human suffering: confidence and self-worth. Most people struggle with this in one form or another at some point in their lives. Its another of those things that’s so very human, even if we wish it weren’t so. It was interesting to see such a character trait in an AI.

I already mentioned Elizabeth and Estella’s story. It’s not super sad, but it’s touching nonetheless. You wish things could’ve turned out differently for them. We see Elizabeth later in the story as somewhat bitter, very likely as a result of this tragic ending for her sister. They’re nice characters. There’s not many others after that. Kakitani Yuugo has a lot of impact on the story, but doesn’t interest me a lot as a character. His granddaughter runs the less violent branch of Toak, the anti-AI organization, in the later years portrayed in the series. She’s just kind of there playing her role, not much more. 

The focus is definitely on Vivy. As much as some of these characters manage to impact our hearts, Vivy is definitely at the center of it all. One could say that Vivy gets a little lost in all of this from time to time, and I would agree with that on some level. Certainly her finest moments are at the beginning and the end. I was wowed by her leap across the moon in episode 1 or 2. That was a fine moment for this anime, exemplifying a lot of what made this show really good. So I like Vivy and I like all the characters she encounters, and I think they’re really good quality as it relates to this quests to discover their humanity. They have both artistic and human appeal, and that’s a rare combination in any art.

Artwork

Rating: 9

It’s very blue. Or maybe you’d argue for green, depending on your eyes. But actually, it’s very fluorite.

That substance is naturally blue-green, and almost everything in this show is tinted this way. It’s very strange. Lots of shows can be categorized with a color like this, and some majority of the things in the that show are primarily some shade of that color. Without any doubt, most of the colors in this show are all shades of the color of fluorite. Look it up, you’ll see.

Certainly Vivy’s color scheme is based on this fluorite color. The ocean blue-green-gray shades vary from her hair to her eyes to her clothing. I can’t imagine this is by accident. Maybe “fluorite’s” entire role in the show is bottled up in this coloring that’s most visible on Vivy herself. I have a hard time believing that’s the extent of the role of “fluorite” here, but I find myself at a loss to explain it completely. But I’m almost 100% certain it’s the basis for Vivy’s color scheme and the overall tint of the show’s coloring. It’s very striking.

The art is quite beautiful. The eyes are especially pretty. Vivy’s eyes are just alive enough to reveal some humanness in her, but the eyes definitely have a robot look. The artists could’ve done even more with this I think, but it’s good enough to warrant notice as it is. Very glassy, lots of detail the closer we get, they look very human and very futuristic all at once. All kinds of things could be drawn out of this that pertain to the themes in this show: life, soul, heart, hope, love, all those things that we, as humans, can see in the human eye. Isn’t it great to be a human?

What can you see?

The facial shapes are a little strange at times, enough to draw my attention and make me pause. But not so much that I feel there’s some major issue here. It’s just a style I guess, perhaps intended to enhance the robotic feeling that the AI characters give us. Physically Vivy is quite pretty, perhaps portrayed as more mature than we’d expect of an “idol.” She’s quite tall, quite well built, luscious blue hair flowing everywhere. She’s fairly impressive to look at, and certainly very beautiful.

Especially during combat. The action sequences exceed expectations here. One could argue this show truly is a music anime, and I’d hardly expect much from action sequences in that genre! But they’re impressive here. I mentioned Vivy jumping across the sky at the beginning. That pretty much alerts you to pay attention to this show! It’s very beautifully drawn and handled, as the passage of time slows and we get a slow-motion look at Vivy’s lively form eclipsing in the shining moon. Then she enters combat mode, and everything takes off! The motion and choreography in these fights are good, better than some action anime! Action anime artists take note!

The lighting is worth nothing too. Scenes take place in a very wide range of lighting levels, but it’s all handled extremely well. Lighting angles on Vivy set her off very well in all of her scenes, whether that’s moonlight at the beginning, sunlight just outside the Earth, or artificial light on stage or in some hostile hallway. Yellow light, white light, blue light, fluorite light, there’s a ton of attention to detail in all of it.

As good as the artwork is, something about it holds me back from rating it a 10 out of 10. Throughout the series I’d considered why I felt this way. Anytime I was seriously impressed with the beauty of some frame, not a few minutes later something would strike me as not quite deserving of a perfect score. I could never say what caused this effect, but something about it bothered me just a little. If I had to guess, it could be how CGI-like some of it looks. I know we’re talking about fine points of definition between most digital art and CGI, but we’ve all seen the anime art that has that characteristic CGI look, and it still has some major issues. You don’t see much of that here, just hints, and I think that’s probably what’s bugging me about the art. There’s no denying the artwork’s beauty and careful attention to detail, but there’s that something that keeps it just a hair’s breadth from perfection.

Story

Rating: 8

There’s some crazy good parts of this story, the kind of stuff that makes for fixtures in the vast world of literature, and certainly in the world of anime. But then there’s some moments of convenience that drag the story’s quality down overall. So while I admire a lot of what’s going on in this story, the negatives definitely have their effect.

The Violet Evergarden comparison comes primarily from Vivy’s pursuit of an answer to her question about “singing from the heart,” another iteration of Violet’s quest to learn the meaning of love. Both center around ethereal concepts of what it means to be human. It’s an apt comparison between the two shows. But it’s just a comparison. One doesn’t particularly shed light on any particular insight for the other, nor is this a copy of Violet Evergarden. It stands on its own.

The substance of Vivy’s humanness is actually probably a little deeper than Violet’s. Where Violet learns about a lot of different kinds of love, Vivy learns about the human “heart” and what affects it. That encompasses a lot more than just the various kinds of love we feel. A lot of it revolves around love, but as we see in the show, some of it revolves around pain, deficiency, inability, helplessness, tragedy, and loss. Violet suffers a lot during her search, but Vivy at least suffers equally, and the journey spans a vast spectrum of the experiences of the human heart.

But this show explores humanness in another way too which separates it from Violet Evergarden quite distinctly. It explores humanness at its core, what it means to live as a human. What separates humans from animals, from robots, from computers, from AIs. For this show, that’s summed up in the fantastical concept of the human ability to create.

Matsumoto-hakase creates an AI program to travel to the past, analyze key moments in history since the creation of AIs (the so-called “singularities”), and change those key moments in the past to prevent a devastating and bloody war that AIs launch all of a sudden against humans. He chooses Vivy to help his program in the past since she’s the only surviving autonomous AI from that period. Or is that the real reason?

Very pretty. The lighting, I’m talking about the lighting.

At the risk of sounding very out of key with the rest of this review, I emphatically answer: hell no it’s not the real reason! The real reason is three-fold, all three of which speak to the question of what it means to be human, and only one of which the good doctor is even partly aware of.

I’ll start with that one. He picks her because he knows her. Because he loves her and trusts her as a friend, his best friend in fact. It’s so sweet when you recognize this is actually one of his reasons, it brings the tears for yet another of the innumerable times they flow during this series. His friendship with her is that deep, his understanding of her that great, that he entrusts the future of humanity to her, an AI. When you love someone, you see things in them that other people cannot see. Not false views deluded by blinding love, that’s not what I mean. I mean you recognize parts of them deep down in their hearts. Dr. Matsumoto, her friend that’s known her longer than anyone else, knows who she is deep down inside. He can see her heart.

Don’t cry too much. Not all tears are an evil, as a wise man once said in another world. But there’s an epic level of sweetness and depth in this part of this story that is difficult to describe without feeling strong emotion. It’s quite powerful.

The second reason she’s chosen is because of all the AIs in existence, she’s the only one who can create anything. She’s the only one human enough to posses the ability to create. She creates a song. It’s a little thing. But it’s hers. She made it. It is an innately human ability to be able to create something. As mentioned, I believe Vivy’s ability to create is tied directly into her “mission” as an AI: she’s a singer. One could argue that she simply creates a song because she’s a singer. She knows about music, so she can create a song. But a computer can know about music: can you imagine a computer creating a song that is artistically beautiful or even interesting? Not in ages untold will it ever happen. Something else allows Vivy to create something artistically beautiful, and that’s her humanness. And her humanness is manifested through her ability to create, which is directly connected to her singing.

The third reason is related to this. Matsumoto’s AI program is meant to target singularities in the past to alter the present (an age-old time travel trope). But it fails. The same massacre and subsequent war results. The computer program, this advanced AI, cannot effectively overcome the Archive’s plan to exterminate humanity. Only Vivy can. Why? Because she introduces a new singularity, one the Archive’s programming cannot ignore: she creates a simple song.

Once it sees that Vivy can create something, the Archive creature recognized a flaw in its reasoning (that reasoning is another convenient point in the plot, but that aside) and therefore its conclusion that present humanity should be exterminated. It establishes the only way out of humanity’s extermination: Vivy herself singing that song to them. When the Archive takes her song and incorporates it into its programming or consciousness, something interesting then happens: the AIs sing the song, and it’s warped and horrific instead of pleasant and vivacious. The advanced consciousness of the Archive AI cannot make use of the thing another AI created. It can only damage it, or present it as a warped version of what it was intended to be. This is fascinating, and spotlights Vivy as the only possible way out of this mess. Only her singing her own song, her invoking her own creation, can lead to the new world where AIs and humans can truly live in harmony. She’s not only the bridge between AIs and humans though her creative ability, but she turns disharmony into harmony. Music is ultimately about taking disorderly sounds and placing them in a desired order to result in a pleasant sound, where disorderly sounds result in unpleasant and dissonant sound. Such is Vivy’s role in the world.

Vivy stops the concrete block and saves a human life. In other words, she goes beyond the mission.

Hopefully that all makes sense. If I boil it down, it’s simply that Vivy’s ability to create (manifested through song) shows she has a human “heart,” thereby bridging between the two groups completely. It’s pretty well done by the authors.

I thought Kakitani killing off the Diva part of Vivy was interesting. I’m not sure what his motives were, but the result was the loss of Vivy’s ability to sing, leaving behind only the newer creation Vivy (as a result of being renamed, etc.). I can’t quite see through the tangle of the story at this point, but I know this plays some role in the whole Diva versus Vivy, AI versus human thing. And it serves the story well. You could argue it’s convenient to the plot, but I think it helps more than it hurts. 

Unfortunately there are some highly convenient points in the plot. Time travel is the big one. It’s simply treated as a sci-fi given in this show. Suddenly the human race can time travel via AIs? Not only that, they can spot “singularities” (poorly, but nevertheless) that have a profound effect on the flow of subsequent events. All this is just taken for granted without explanation. I do not require explanations for everything in a story, but this was jarring. Yes AIs and sci-fi and all that, but suddenly everything in this story depends on time travel, and it seems too convenient. Dr. Matsumoto was developing this program just in case something like this war were to happen? Hmm….

The singing to solve humanity’s woes has a place in the unfolding of the story, but still it borders on trite. Power of friendship and love and all that. It’s all kind of nice, but so is icing on a birthday cake, even though it’s empty and doesn’t taste like much and simply hides more substantial parts underneath. The authors treaded a fine line here and managed to pull it off, but if you didn’t dig down into the why behind this singing to save the world thing, it would seem silly.

Vivy’s combat ability was a lot of fun, but also highly convenient. Part of Dr. Matsumoto’s “preparation” involved loading a combat program onto the AI Matsumoto that it could deliver to Vivy. It kind of makes sense, but again, Dr. Matsumoto seemed a little too prepared. 

The window to the soul.

Archive itself was weak. It presented a little mystery at the beginning, and was kind of interesting, as it was this subconscious place Vivy could go to whenever she wanted. But then it suddenly became this extraterrestrial thing, if I understood it correctly, sitting in judgement on humanity on behalf of all AIs. None of that was explained very well, and seemed extraordinarily convenient. It went by in a flash, but it left its mark on my impressions.

Apart from the conveniences, there was one really hard break in the show near the end. Vivy and Dr. Matsumoto, having failed to stop Archive, run the doctor’s AI Singularity Project program one more time. In other words, all of the events we just went through in the previous eleven episodes all occur again in a flash beyond our sight, with the only change being who Vivy protects in the present when the AIs finally strike. All of that occurs within seconds during the show! I’m not saying it’s wrong for the authors to handle it that way, but it felt really strange. We just spent 11 episodes and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears getting to that point, then they do it all over again just to change one important thing about the present. It felt weird.

I don’t understand the significance of the Arayashiki Tower and its growth as a measure of AI evolution. If it’s just something as simple as “more storage for more brain power”—okay, great. But if there’s something more to it than that, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me. Feel free to enlighten me.

But those are my only problems with this story. I think it’s very well crafted and appropriately detailed. It’s not overly complex, but it’s not super simple either. I can pretty easily forgive the conveniences the authors take advantage of given the high points in the story. And especially given how it ends. I loved the final touch by the authors, adding to Vivy’s humanity one final time by her self-sacrifice. No greater love can people have than to die for their friends. It fit so beautifully, I almost wish they didn’t bring her back like they did. But I suppose there’s no way around that. Perhaps, by bringing her back, the authors ultimately chose to highlight her AI part as well. She’s easy to bring back to life! It all works.

Overall: 9

This is a story-driven series with fantastic artwork and beautiful characters. It’s an all-around great show. Not a lot of shows, relatively speaking, can make claims to greatness in all three of those categories. This one was a hidden gem in Spring 2021, and it thoroughly deserves all the acclaim it received.

You know how I am about music anime. I don’t care for all the music. If the music involves idols, I tend to shy away even more. I can’t stand all that gyrating idols do on stage. It doesn’t fit the music somehow. Plus there’s just too much of it. And as far as the music itself goes, usually Jap-pop is just okay. Some of it is really fun, but a lot of it is extremely ordinary and very cookie-cutter, and usually doesn’t have much artistic quality or appeal. So if I see it in anime, I usually cringe and find something else to watch.

That being said, two of my favorite shows all time are music anime and directly involve idols: Zombie Land Saga and White Album. Both have an appeal to me that very few other shows I’ve ever seen have, and they remain very strongly in my memory. Those two had already softened my distaste for music anime a lot by the time I watched Vivy. And Vivy continued that work. Mercifully there wasn’t any dancing with any of Vivy’s songs, and certainly that helped. The music was pretty ordinary in my opinion. Atsumi Tanezaki (Monster Musume, Bunny Girl Senpai, The Ancient Magus Bride) does a great job with Vivy the character and has a clear and pretty voice, but her singing wasn’t anything special to me. Feel free to argue with me. Nevertheless, the quality of this show overall had a significant impact on my bias against music anime. While I’m not totally over the hump yet, I continue to become less negative in my feelings towards music anime as a result of this series.

The title is most mysterious. I get Vivy’s name. I kinda-sorta-maybe-almost get the fluorite thing. I get “song” obviously. I don’t get “eye,” and certainly not the possessive form. There’s definitely a great deal of focus on the eyes in a lot of frames throughout this anime, but I don’t know what the point of that focus is, or if there is one. This isn’t a translation thing either; it only has this English title. So I’m not sure about this mystery. Perhaps it’s just a mystery without explanation, and not meant to have one. Curious.

There’s a lot of reasons to like this show. It’s an anime original once again, with no written media as a source. I always like that. Watch it for the characters. Watch it for the story, either for interest, entertainment, or artistic quality. Watch it simply for the visuals, which will definitely engross your attention. While I don’t think this is one of the all time greats, it gets about as close as it can get without entering that stratosphere. It was top two or three for Spring 2021 though, without a single doubt. Despite not having the hype that other shows had, it surpassed every expectations and has made a secure place for itself in the world of anime.

The moment she captured all our hearts.

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