My Wife Has No Emotion – Episode 1

By: Cy Catwell June 29, 20240 Comments
Takuma takes Mina's hands in excitement over his omurice.

What’s it about? Takuma is just…kind of a guy. He’s awkward, single, and definitely not ready to mingle with his soul-crushing job. Exhausted and unable to tackle chores after long hours at his desk, he decides to invest in a housekeeping robot named Mina who’s tailor-made for cooking and cleaning. Yet as he gets to know her, he starts to fall for her, but can Mina ever love in the way we expect another human to?

I’ve always been open to living with inorganic life forms, i.e. robots or androids. I want them to have rights, whenever they realize their own humanity. I want them to live apart from us, to have their own societies. I want them to be equals. Maybe those are thoughts inspired by too much Becky Chambers and too much altruism, but I genuinely mean it. I want them to exist free of capitalistic expectations. Not in the Detroit: Become Human way, oh no, but in the way I’ve seen that beautiful feature in solarpunk books.

Yet as AI becomes more of a presence in our lives, it’s hard not to think about what that means for human engagement. Already, AI and virtual assistants are plagued by the same horrific sexism faced by marginalized genders. We demand Alexa, Siri, and Cortana to play feminine jester for us, catering to our playlists and whims and even telling us jokes at our request. We spit their names when they don’t perform their acts of service correctly. Hell, some folks even call them bitches when brought to irrational anger. Most prominently, when Alexa, Siri, and Cortana are asked how they are, these pleasant, digitized voices demure and deflect, presenting a facsimile of pleasantry drenched in the desire for tolerable women.

Essentially, we depend on the pleasantry of femininity in its binary form, even if Alexa, Siri, and Cortana are explicitly not women.

It strikes me as particularly cruel, this forced feminization of a neutral entity, and it haunts me. What happens when the voice inside our phone is given a humanoid form? What horrors will be visited then? What objectification will be dealt them? It’s a genuine concern in a world where we readily use the violence of people socially perceived as women, and marginalized genders at large, as a means to placate men across all socioeconomic backgrounds.

I suppose that’s why I was eager to watch and review My Wife Has No Emotion. We’re in the era of HER: AI is being used for dating, for romance, for sexual gratification. Yet there’s a human cost to all our current convenience. Is there a cost in this premiere?

Takuma finishes a long day of work.

Episode 1, “An Appliance Became My Wife” starts with a look at the paralleled lives of Takuma and Mina. The former burns the midnight oil at work. The latter fixes a meal. The former hunches over a computer while the latter prepared a comforting home. Together, this forms the foundation of Takuma and Mina’s dynamic: a man and his appliance, as he calls her.

Immediately, it’s clear that Takuma has stopped regarding his “appliance” as merely a tool, and when he pops the question in a joking way over a beer, it becomes even more evident that Takuma really genuinely likes Mina, though how much of that is derived from his loneliness is unclear.

What ensues is a look at Takuma and by proxy, Mina’s, home life as owner and living appliance, though the show quickly slides into the territory of a young man and the literal object of his affections. It is all framed as rather sweet, until Takuma opens his mouth and starts to be a bit of a pest towards Mina, who placidly continues to do her tasks and complete her internal to-dos. What results in a premiere that demonstrates one fact: this is doggedly a love story, no matter how fraught that may be.

Takuma comes home to Mina, who is preparing a meal.

There are two feelings inside me: a desire to see this story have a serious conversation with what it means for a human–and thus, a member of the group that birthed robots–and an inorganic life to have a relationship that turns into a romance and a gut-wrenching concern about the sexualization of a machine with very little agency. It’s impossible to push either aside because I see the potential, I see the conversation that could happen. I see the humanity in Mina. I see the potential for her to grow into a character with her own agency as more of a partner than a helpmate and machine handcrafted to serve. 

But I also exist in a world where feminized shapes are treated horrifically, seemingly for no other reason, at times, than just because.

It’s really hard too because there’s a lot I like about this premiere: I like the art, the pacing, and I find this series really easy to engage with. I even understand what it’s trying to do and why this story exists. But I can’t shake my uneasiness in Takuma’s constant approach to Mina, in him constantly trying to make more out of Mina performing her function and not making things more.

Case in point, she draws “love Takuma” on his omurice, but…that’s just kind of nothing. Lots of people draw things on omurice, especially in the case of maid cafes. It’s just kind of a cute thing that means absolutely nothing, and in Mina’s case definitely means nothing, since she’s not made to be a companion, even though she does eventually obey the order to become one. It further complicates the story as this pushes My Wife Has No Emotion into a bit of a taboo territory in our current society. It’s okay to love another human, but it’s still considered the realm of social disgust to genuinely love the inorganic, and there’s no way to know for sure that this story will investigate that in any kind of satisfying way.

Takuma invites Mina to lay down in bed with him and gets flustered.

I don’t know where I really sit with My Wife Has No Emotion. I have so many mixed feelings as a marginalized person, as someone with a deep empathy for the future when robots and androids and inorganic beings will exist and will likely look something like Mina: will look feminine and demure and charming. The premiere is clearly angling toward a specific story, that of a romance blended with the comedy of a robot not understanding a human man’s desires. It is…ultimately unsettling, though I’d like to pinpoint my own personal feelings this season.

I think what’s ultimately going to happen is that I’ll sit with this series for the season and see where it goes. I want so badly for this story to defy my expectations. I want so badly to end up rooting for Takuma and Mina’s story. Yet I fear that Takuma’s socialization will get in the way of this breaking any feminist ground for me. I suppose all that’s left is to wait and see what happens.

About the Author : Cy Catwell

Cy Catwell is a Queer Blerd journalist and JP-EN translation & localization editor with a passion for idols, citypop, visual novels, and the iyashikei/healing anime genre.

You can follow their work as a professional Blerd at Backlit Pixels, get snapshots of their out of office life on Instagram at @pixelatedrhapsody, and follow them on their Twitter at @pixelatedlenses.

Read more articles from Cy Catwell

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