Robotics;Notes is a near future tale of a high school robotics club trying to build a giant robot and save their club from getting axed. It is also a story with A.I. ghosts, superpowers, an apocalyptic prophecy, mysterious murders and an international conspiracy.
In other words, it is a lot of fun. Of course, like many stories with such a wide breadth, Robotic;Notes tends to unravel a bit around the edges if you think about it too much.
Note: Moderate spoilers to follow. For a non-spoiler look at the series, check out our review of the first half.
Good — Everything Tied Together
Back when I looked at the first half of Robotics;Notes, I worried that with it having so many tonally different stories -- i.e., everything from mystery, to sci-fi, to high school slice-of-life -- it would never be able to tie them all together into a single story. Luckily, I was worried for nothing as all the various plots converge into one excellent mega-plot for the final seven episodes.
Good — An AR World
The best thing about Robotics;Notes is how it views the future decade or so to come. In most ways, it's exactly like now, except that the characters have their own cellphone/i-pad combo that they use as everything from game system to personal computer. From this device comes the uses for AR (Augmented Reality) in every day life.
But more than that, in the second half of Robotics;Notes, we have a villain operating exclusively through augmented reality cameras. Instead of seeing the real world, he sees the augmented reality that others project. Thus in the final, climactic giant robot battle, he doesn't see the realistic cobbled-together giant robot of our heroes, but rather the anime-style giant robot AR image that it projects. When his giant mecha shoots at our heroes', they are able to counter it with AR dummy images. This AR image also disguises how our heroes' mecha actually attacks as well as hiding any damage it takes. And for us watching the battle, it makes it look much cooler.
Good — The Genre Savvy Love Story
As with most anime based on visual novels, the myriad of possible love stories is one of the central elements. But instead of focusing on all the possible love stories, Robotics;Notes turns it into a love triangle, with only two options really feeling practical: Frau, queen of the Otaku -- and honestly the series' most enjoyable character -- and Akiho, the obvious main love interest. This takes away the teasing “harem anime” aspect and turns it into a well-done love story.
And when it comes time for the “love confession” scene, it is handled so well -- so tongue-in-cheek -- that it turns a very cliché scene into one of the series' most memorable moments. The characters are so perfectly genre savvy -- with one pointing out that a love confession before the final battle perfectly sets up a tragic death and the other lampshading the fact that no one watching really ever believed he wouldn't choose her -- that it is as comedic as it is touching.
Bad — Deus Ex Machine
On the downside, a lot of the latter half of Robotics;Notes is only made possible from a blatant deus ex machina creation: the magnetic monopole. These theoretical particles -- if something a foot long can be called such a thing -- quite literally rain from the sky for no reason. And more than that, they not only land in a park next to the main characters, but also fall in just the right quantity to power their giant mecha for the final battle.
Bad — Lots of Unanswered Questions
But the monopoles aren't the only questions left unanswered. Let's look at some others: How exactly can AI take over/control normal human minds? How can you make people see an AR object in the real world? Why would an anime director be privy to a doomsday plot to end the world—and is she still alive? Is there really a secret society involved in all this and, if so, why did they seem to do nothing? And what is it about a doomsday device test that gives the main character a superpower -- and why, besides Akiho, does no one else have a similar superpower?
In the end, I was happily surprised to see how well Robotics;Notes came together in the end. It had enjoyable characters, an exciting plot, and a well-resolved love story. Yes, it does have a few frayed edges and a lot of unanswered questions, but at the core, it is very solid—not to mention that it makes me want to play the Robotics;Notes game in search of those answers. So if you like near future sci-fi, giant robots, and good love stories, Robotics;Notes is definitely worth a watch. Robotics;Notes aired on BS Fuji TV in Japan. It can be watched subtitled in English at Funimation.com.