The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Robotics;Notes

Title: Robotics;Notes
Genre: Drama
Companies: Production I.G
Format: 22 episodes
Dates: 11 Oct 2012 – 21 Mar 2013

Synopsis: High school student Senomiya Akiho is obsessed with giant robots, especially the heroic Gunvarrel. Her close friend and video game wiz Yashio Kaito couldn’t care less. Despite this, he is dragged along by her on her quest to build a functional replica of Gunvarrel. Standing in the way of this goal is the utter lack of helping hands, along with every logistical concern imaginable. As Aki struggles to bring her dreams to life, the uninterested Kaito is off on his own adventures when he stumbles across an AI named Airi. Airi guides him on a search for the notes of Kijima Kou, who may have uncovered a plot using solar flares to bring about human extinction.

The Highlights
Subplots: Numerous. Some are thoroughly developed while others feel half written.
Cast: All colorful, but uneven focus does few justice.
Comedy: Generally on the mark.
Augmented Reality: The highlight of already good animation.

Deus ex machina: Arises due to a dearth of world building.

Well here’s a simple but promising premise. A small group of high schoolers attempt to build a giant robot of their own. Granted Robotics;Notes isn’t simply about that, which is fine, so long as the finished product is better off for it. I am not going to judge Robotics;Notes in the context of its visual novel, nor am I in a position to do so. But taken on its own, the scope of the work makes it feel incomplete. Opting for nether balance nor focus, it spreads itself too thin. 

Comparisons to Steins;Gate are inevitable. So to keep them to a minimum, I’ll just state this: character focus was critical to the success of Robotics;Notes‘ predecessor. By relying solely on Okabe’s eyes and mind, the show could be vague with details while still being emotionally resonant. Robotics;Notes comparatively takes a more global approach regarding character and plot. Kaito is firmly in the main character’s seat, although only partially involved in a number of arcs. The series is probably better off for it as his indifference to those around him makes him insufferable at times. The rest of the club and their compatriots do make up for him. Aki’s enthusiasm for robots is inspirational while a cloud of Cheetos dust is almost visible around Frau. Character focus is highly asymmetric unfortunately, leading to rampant underdevelopment. Despite the word Robotics in the title, Aki feels utterly ignored and reluctant club member Subaru is one note to the point of being forgettable, and often simply forgotten.

Robotics;Notes features a large number of subplots each with its own degree of focus. Results are on a case-by-case basis. The Notes portion of the title succeeds due to greater attention payed to it. In spite of Kaito’s apathy, the arcs which involve him are fully realized, something which rests mostly on the shoulders of his chemistry with the rest of the cast. Given how much focus the subplot receives, it does run the risk of revealing too much while other arcs don’t divulge enough. By bringing the nefarious elements at work to the forefront, the series calls up the issue of motivation, but fails to deliver. This is the result of too much left neglected, making this feel more half an anime. The state of robotics and the implications of monopoles are glossed over; the latter comes off as Dues ex Machina. Despite Robotics being in its title, the biggest disappointment here is Gunbuild itself. Its construction portrayed as an against all odds challenge and its completion would be an impressive feat. The trials and tribulations are ignored in favor of video games and a loli AI, robbing any sense of accomplishment in the end. 

Even as the story falls short of realization, Robotics;Notes still manages to do its job as a work of entertainment. Jokes drawn from character idiosyncrasies glean a high hit to miss ratio thanks in part to the diversity of personalities. The strong chemistry among the cast does bring to light the show’s emotional center in spite of underdevelopment. The fact that this series shines during its more character centric episodes is a testament to this. The series also carries with it Production I.G’s standard of animation and makes it count. (I’m generally of the opinion that any story should take full advantage of the medium it’s in.) 

Robotics;Notes particularly succeeds at this in portraying the possibilities of augmented reality. To say such may seem meaningless seeing how no special technique is utilized; however, simply through the motion and physical parameters of a phone screen, the contrast between reality and digital illusion becomes rather distinct.

Even as Robotics;Notes disappoints as a holistic unit, taking each episode individually I can’t find one among them that I didn’t find entertaining or wasn’t amused by the cast. Regrettably, were I not positive that I saw every episode, I’d almost guess that I missed a few that were devoted to Subaru’s closet passion or Aki’s condition. The lack of a few vital character and plot developments had disastrous effects on an otherwise enjoyable anime. Ultimately whether one finds worth with the show likely comes down to whether one agrees with the following statement: Less than the sum of its parts it may be, there is still value to be gleaned for the individual components.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx

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