Reading “for fun” hasn’t been something I’ve done since… well ever. But while searching the net one day I stumbled on this intriguing light novel. I read the synopsis and soon got hooked on the first few chapters. Iris on Rainy Days makes a good read for those with interests in robots, specifically humanities as it applies to robotics.
Title: Iris on Rainy Days
Author: Takeshi Matsuyama
Awards: Ranked 10th in “This Light Novel is Amazing!” rankings for 2012.
The story is centered around a cute android who initially had a happy life with her master who dearly loved her. But she was then struck by a series of misfortunes and ended up in a robot-equivalent of concentration camp. Through experiencing and witnessing the sufferings towards herself as well as the people/robots around her, she eventually gained a better appreciation of life.
Partial Summary [Spoilers]:
Iris is a android that undergoes dramatic changes throughout her life. Iris is owned by Professor, a woman studying robotics. Iris is programmed with a high intelligence and is able to think for herself. She works as a maid to her beloved master. But one day Professor is killed by a rampaging robot. Unable to move on, Iris contemplates her future without her master. But she is soon picked up by a robotics governing body and sent to a processing facility. There, she is deemed as junk and sent to be destroyed. Iris chronicles her “death” right to the moment she goes offline. Iris then wakes up and is surprised to be functioning. However, her body has changed to a rickety robot with uneven arms, circular bulbs for eyes and a continuous track for feet. She found out she is now a worker for a junkyard. The facility is run by hundreds of discarded robots. Soon Iris makes two friends named Lilith and Volkov. Lilith is an android and Volkov is a large bipedal type robot. They share stories of their past and read books during offline hours.
The story doesn’t stop there but it’s just enough to get my review started.
Iris in Rainy Days is a good read over all. Despite stories about sentient AI robots are often redundant, following the story of Iris as she experiences change (both figuratively and literally) is an intriguing one.
Sci-Fi elements do not impede much in the development of this story. Concepts such as AI theory aren’t delved into detail here. We get a clear partition in the form of separate chips in the motherboard; a consciousness chip that serves as their mind and a safety chip that is used to present warnings like when “charging is necessary.” Of course this prevents them from killing. But the author turns around the concept by bringing up subjects in humanities. Questions about “how an abandoned robot is to operate” are often brought up. Bringing this complexity makes for a more involved storyline and leaves the reader thinking.
Iris is a lovely robot and her personality is a good compliment to her lifestyle. Albeit a bit too close, her relationship with her master is genuine. There are moments where her enthusiasm brings embarrassment for herself. But that’s admiration at its finest.
I had empathetic feelings for Iris, especially as she goes through her tribulations. Having her change into a scrap robot made me feel sad. But Iris took it with stride; she didn’t detest her new body as much as I expected her to. Only small complaints like how her vision is grey and grainy comes to her mind, hence the book’s title.
The end of this story was fulfilling but kind of predictable too. Things do get dramatic near the end. But we then get a sudden change in narrative that, to me at least, brings intervention in the form of “luck” to Iris. At least this kind of end brings enough closure to overcome the changes. Much of this accumulates to the moral dilemma: Are robots to be treated like humans? A question sci-fi has tried to answer many a time. These anime may have something in mind. I hope, in my lifetime, I get to see this question answered in real life.
Result: Suggested Reading