I'm Not Entirely Sure What To Think About Robotics;Notes

From the creators of the visual novels Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate comes the anime adaptation of their latest game, Robotics;Notes. While at first the Robotics;Notes anime seems like little more than a near-future high school slice-of-life story, it soon devolves into a myriad of different stories, often of completely different genres.

Good — A Realistic Giant Robot

The main story of Robotics;Notes centres around a high school robotics club. For the past nine years, the club has been working on building its very own giant robot based on Gunvarrel (their world's version of Gundam). However, this is a world based on our own future so, over the course of the series, the main characters learn about the problems with such a design — namely, weight and cost of materials. They then work together to overcome these problems as they make their dream robot into a reality. It is a great realistic take on the impregnability of giant robots as we think of them while still showing what kinds of giant robots we could realistically build.

Good — An AR Future

In the future according to Robotics;Notes, everyone has an iPad-like device that counts as everything from cell phone to notebook to game system. But perhaps the most visionary use of these pads in Robotics;Notes is a fully realised world where Augmented Reality is a normal part of life. Everything from tagged landmarks to cleverly hidden mysterious information can be viewed via the pad's AR camera if you go to the right place in the real world. There is even an AI character who can only be interacted with through the pad's AR features — and touch screen, of course.

Good — The Queen of the Otaku

The characters in Robotics;Notes are all distinct and somewhat interesting, but Otaku Queen Frau Kojiro steals the show. While only a teenager, she is a programming genius as well as the creator of the world's most popular video game. What makes her most interesting, though, is that she seems to have been completely raised by 2chan (think 4chan, only Japanese). Her entire language base is nothing but internet shorthand speak augmented with a Yaoi/porn obsession and a crazy case of ADD. Thus she is both identifiable and hilarious — whether she's ranting about cheaters and their "haxx0rs" or accusing the other girls in the robotics club of trying to seduce her with their scented shampoos.

Mixed — Identity Issues

While originally appearing to be grounded in reality, Robotics;Notes soon becomes a smorgasbord of concurrent stories that don't seem to share a common genre, much less a common world. The various plot lines involve ghosts, secret societies, world conquest, school life, a multiple personality AI, fighting games, murder mysteries, a father-son slice of life, and the conspiracy surrounding the final episode of a popular anime — just to name a few.

This plot schizophrenia is most likely due to the anime being the adaptation of a visual novel. I assume that normally the player would only experience one of these plot lines per playthrough based on the decisions they make in the game. Only by replaying the game with different choices would they experience any of the other plot lines. Thus one time through the game it's about a robotics club and the next it's about a solar flare doomsday device. But for the anime, all the plot lines have been combined into a single telling of the story which makes the entire series feel far from internally consistent — and more than a little insane.

Bad — A Thoroughly Unlikable Main Character

Kaito is the most unlikable lead character in any anime I watched in 2012. He is unbelievably, fundamentally lazy. All he wants to do is sit in a corner and play his video game — which is, let's face it, fun to do in real life but boring as the primary behaviour of an anime's main character. Should his friends ask him for help, he tells them he will if they can beat him at the game (which of course they have no chance of doing). It's kind of amazing he does anything in the series at all. It's a shame he's the focus, really, as all the other characters — especially Frau — are interesting and have deep and developed backstories. But as he is the main character and player proxy in the game, he is the main character in the anime too — largely to the show's detriment.

Final Thoughts

Robotics;Notes is now half done and frankly, I'm not sure what to think of it. There are parts of it I really like — namely the robot building and Frau. But I find that, even now, I'd be hard pressed to simply explain what it is about due to its schizophrenic nature and many divergent plotlines. As it stands now, I hesitate to recommend it to anyone except those who liked Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. However, I don't hate the series and am still looking forward to seeing if it can tie all the narratives together by the time the series ends.

Robotics;Notes is currently airing on BS Fuji TV in Japan.


Comments

    It's pretty shit to be honest. Please stop posting about Anime. The real fans already know about all the currently airing Anime.

      Man, way to sound like the biggest dickhead on the internet. Do you honestly think that everyone has time to watch every single currently airing show enough to figure out whether they like it or not? I don't know about you but I've only had time this season to follow JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and few others, which makes articles like this helpful in figuring out whether something will be worth my time or not. Kindly take your bullshit elitism elsewhere.

        generally there will be a few shows per season that literally everyone who follows anime will watch...thus most people are informed know about this already or are in a position to ask someone who knows about it...its the equivilent of making a post about character dynamics in "How i met your mother"

        that said i think Richard Eisenbeis has lived in japan for too long...he focuses on pointless stuff like the robot building(which is simply an element for them to connect around and barely appears in the anime) and the AR future....also talks about frau being a high point despite the fact that her jokes dont actually translate that well because most of them are japanese memes...

        he also complains about the crossing over plot not having a point despite a obvious focus in each episode towards collecting the reports and the consquences of their contents and he hates on kai seeming not realising that his character dynamic revolves around helping other people most of the time without them knowing it...while pretending not to care so he can play games

        that said i do agree that its pretty average but best trust opinions of people who can actually understand a plot and analyse it rather than harp on about the asthetics

      So us "non real" fans don't get to here about it at all then?

    While robotics;notes is utter and complete crap in comparison to steins;gate, if you havnt watched it, do it now. It's easily one of the best of the last couple of years (imo).

    I have always thought this site especially with the name kotaku needed more actual anime content. Keep it up.

    yeaaah, hasn't been as good as steins;gate or chaos;head

    however, chaos;head had an unlike-able main character but that turned out pretty good.

    "All he wants to do is sit in a corner and play his video game — which is, let’s face it, fun to do in real life but boring as the primary behaviour of an anime’s main character."

    Not true, Keima from kaminomi just wants to sit in the corner and play his games, but he's a great main character. It's all in the delivery.

    Regarding Kaito, I think I will have to disagree somewhat there. I believe it to be better than say be like the perfect, godlike, overpowered harem factory who also loving, compassionate, just and has incredibly good luck to boot *glares at Kirito of SAO*. (Now that I think about it, Kirito isn't all too bad. Amata from Aquarion Evol is the worst culprit even if he doesn't have 19727493462 chicks after him but I digress. I shall leave my rants regarding that series for another day.) And his jackassery by making people battle him in a game he is good in probably serves to contrast his kinder side towards other characters whom he has a closer relationship with. As "me" said above, being an avid gamer does not make it dull. However, having said that, the core difference between Keima and Kaito is that the former belongs in a comedy (or at least started out in one) and as such, his character (and his antisocial behaviour) can be enhanced to a much larger extent without hurting the development. Currently in TWGOK, as the story now is in the 'serious' portion, his character has been altered somewhat.

    As a whole, to say that R;N is crap would be quite an exaggeration. I do agree that pacing could be improved. And the fact that, after the mid-season teaser, the story hasn't reached the point where all hell breaks loose was quite disappointing. IIRC back in the days when S;G first aired, it was ridiculed quite a bit as well until suddenly there was a 180 degree turn and people hailed it as a masterpiece. Don't get me wrong. I like S;G. The themes included things such as time travel which was more intriguing (and allowed a bit more freedom to let the imagination go wild) and John Titor references which were more relatable as opposed to governments allowing the Sun to perform genocide and wreak havoc in order to reduce population (which has not been emphasised enough yet).

    R;N also suffers the same issue as Eureka Seven AO. Both had started out really slowly. Both had predecessors which many people loved and had grown attached to. Hopefully they won't share the same fate.

    I am LOVING Robotics;Notes. And saying 'Bad — A Thoroughly Unlikable Main Character' is silly. What made Steins;Gate so good was Okabe was an unlikeable (well.. I liked him..) character who went through an awesome personaloty shift and became awesome later. It's the same thing here.

      Honestly, I haven't met a single person who found Okabe unlikeable. He was always a good character but what made him great is how his world shatters around him and he is forced to change with it.

        Well, I found Okabe unlikable initially - his refusal to face the reality before him just grated my nerves. As the series develops, he's forced to face it and his character became significantly more likable. I'm pretty certain this was as the series writer/director intended.

        I'm noticing there's a similar turn in Kaito as he gets more and more wrapped up in the reports...

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