We have previously discussed how the AI-oriented plot point was presented in the central narrative of the Good Night World anime series, where a personal tragedy and the overbearing presence of grief and guilt led to the creation of the AI entity Black Bird. Despite the character being projected as the series antagonist, the Black Bird raised some topical questions about human egocentrism, the nature of humanity, and life itself. But even that was not the best use of an AI-oriented narrative device in the series, that came through the character of Captain Pico, the pirate leader in the augmented reality of PLANET. It is through her characterization that Good Night World gains a major relatability factor, and the way her arc is ended through an ambiguous resolution makes for an interesting discussion as well.
Pico, The Pirate Leader In PLANET
The viewers are introduced to Captain Pico as the quirky, headstrong guildmaster of the pirates, the biggest community in the virtual world of PLANET. While the majority of the other characters, like her second-in-command Shigatera, have set their sights on the elusive grand prize known as Black Bird or invested in upskilling their game personas, Pico is not remotely interested in any of that. She is single-mindedly invested in recruiting Ichi (Taichiro’s in-game character), her oldest friend in PLANET, and in order to do that, she is prepared to clash with the strongest group in the game, the Akebana family, of which Ichi is currently a member.
However, despite her best efforts, Pico fails to defeat the Akebana family but finally reunites with Ichi after five long years. It is through a flashback sequence that it is shown that Ichi was the first character in PLANET whom Pico befriended, and the duo had ventured on a number of adventures together before eventually parting ways. To know the reason for the duo drifting apart from each other and what Pico truly feels about the make-believe world of PLANET, we have to sneak a peek at the ‘real’ person behind the character, Hinaka Sakurai.
Hinaka And Her Worldview
Through multiple flashback sequences, viewers get to know about the person whose virtual world counterpart is Captain Pico, and like a majority of other players, she and her PLANET character are almost totally polar opposites of each other. Unlike the jubilant, sassy Pico, Hinaka Sakurai is an extremely reserved, lonely, and broken teenager who is overburdened with the antics of her extremely controlling freak mother. Belonging to the affluent family of a known crime boss already isolated her from the majority of her peers, and with the constant monitoring of her mother, Hinaka gradually became a shell of a human being. Finally, after taking a day off with some of her friends, Hinaka manages to muster some courage to rebel against her mother, which was the reason she started to play the game in the first place.
From this perspective, Hinaka’s predicament can be compared to Taichiro, as in virtual reality, both of them were living the life they were supposed to if reality hadn’t disappointed them. Broken and dejected, both of them found solace in each other’s presence, but their worldview regarding the real world differs a lot. While Taichiro holds the opinion that the real world is irredeemably corrupted and therefore shuts himself away from it, using PLANET as an escape module, Hinaka accepts the real world despite all the pain and suffering she had to endure, as she firmly believes that no wonder of the virtual world can ever substitute the real one. At the same time, she is aware of the bitter truth that for most of the players, like many among her pirate group, PLANET is the only coping mechanism—and the fact that Ichi’s real-world counterpart is also morbidly addicted to the game for the same reason as well. With time, Hinaka gradually fell for Ichi, and her willingness to meet with his counterpart in real life caused Taichiro to cut ties with Hinaka earlier, despite him feeling the same for her, as he was scared of getting emotionally attached.
Hinaka’s experience in PLANET solidified her belief about the hollowness of the virtual world even more, and although she wanted to know Ichi in real life and was prepared to leave PLANET forever to do so, she dare not say that to him a second time, fearing separation once again. But as she repeatedly pleaded with Ichi to join the pirates, she told him about her feelings regarding the virtual world, and to her surprise, Ichi didn’t seem to mind that much; instead, he was prepared to join her group at the end. Hinaka knew that to really live his life to the fullest, Ichi needs to love his life in the real world as well, which she might have helped him to do. Unfortunately, reality strikes just when it seems that things are going to get better, and Hinaka’s world falls apart in the worst possible way.
A Fatal Shock: What Happened To Captain Pico At The End?
In order to defeat her second-in-command Shigatera, who had gone rogue, Hinaka, aka Captain Pico, goes into the captain’s cabin in the pirate group’s attack aircraft, where she meets Shiro Akebana, who, unbeknownst to her, is the virtual avatar of Taichiro’s father, Kojiro, who had developed the PLANET and every associated system. She initially assumes that the reason for his arrival is to take Ichi back or defeat the pirates by taking the guild flag, but it turns out he has a much more sinister revelation to make. Kojiro reveals that Hinaka is the strongest power core of the Black Bird, a sub-AI developed to enhance the gaming experience of other players. None of her memories are real; even her identity is constructed from the digitized memory of the real Hinaka Sakurai, who is the sister of Kamuro, Kojiro’s subordinate.
To save the world from the eventual uprising of Black Bird, Kojiro has arrived to hunt down Pico, like he did to many other subAIs through the years. The unbearable truth is that the life she lived was a lie. While pining for comfort in the real world, she herself was an object designed to mimic reality, which crushed Pico’s spirit in the worst possible way, and in shock, she almost became catatonic. The irony of the most sensible person in the series when it comes to dealing with escapism turning out to be an automation who is twice removed from reality (sentient AI in a virtual world) is unmistakable. Shiro puts her out of her misery by dealing a fatal blow, and she breathes her last. He desperately wants to hear her last words. Pico’s final words turn out to be professing her love for Ichi, and out of all the atrocious acts Kojiro conducted through the series, revealing Pico’s truth is easily the worst one.
Although Captain Pico was decommissioned during the interaction with Shiro, it is hinted that Hinaka’s AI consciousness still lived on with Black Bird. When Taichiro sends his AI consciousness of Ichi into the bird cage to save his brother Asuma, one of the forms of Black Bird attaches itself to him, which is undoubtedly Pico’s disembodied consciousness. During the end of the series, when the Black Bird prime, Sasumata, has finally been taken down, viewers see Ichi finally meeting with Hinaka and instinctively recognizing her as Pico’s user. It can be assumed that at long last, despite all the trauma she went through, Hinaka’s AI received some form of closure by reuniting with the person she loved—that is, if the incident isn’t taking place on yet another illusory plane.