An Oasis of Thoughts

[Halfway Review] Robotics;Notes: A Tale of Expectations

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I’ll be writing some “where are they now” style posts for the continuing series as a way to wade back into the blogging thing, but a heavy school workload is keeping me from making any long term commitments. 

Finally, I waited so long for this guy to break and it was worth it.

Finally, I waited so long for this guy to break and it was worth it.

I won’t mince words: I’m disappointed with Robotics;Notes. But is it merely because of the constant comparisons to it’s sibling Science Adventure sibling Steins;Gate, or is it something else?

I came into watching R;N with a lot of expectations that it would live up to one of the best series I’ve seen in quite a while and I knew then and there that it would end up being a bad idea, but I had hope nonetheless. I remember the first few episodes of Steins;Gate being very slow, but it did show signs of picking up. I didn’t get that with Robotics;Notes, but I saw that as nothing too major. What really made R;N almost unbearable to watch at times was the protagonist, Kaito or as I call him Tablet-kun. For almost three-quarters of the series, this guy is just so apathetic and uncaring about everything around him that it was hard to sympathize with him during the more emotional scenes, except for the above picture. For me, a main character can make or break a series and Kai almost broke R;N for me.

Take away Kai and you get a pretty good story of carefree youth who end up uncovering things they really shouldn’t. Of course it’s Kai who does most of this by completing various tasks to unlock the Kimijima Reports, which were amusing in how bizarrely random these tasks were. But I always felt that Kai was just a vehicle to move the plot forward, to give the other Robotics Club members personalities, to show us how twisted the world really is. It isn’t as bad as being told by the plot how to feel and act (Hi, Ouma Shu), but it gets too close. It’s hard to feel anything for most of these things when the protagonist is so unlikeable, but R;N has enough charm and enough good storytelling to compensate for the apathetic protagonist. Expectations are one thing, but it’s Kai that makes watching R;N seem quite a chore.

The rest of the cast fares much better, to various degrees. Aki is the complete opposite of Kai, and while sometimes she becomes a little too genki to bear, she has moments where that energy is sorely needed. Subaru’s personality crisis provides much laughs but his struggle to find acceptance for something he loves versus continuing family traditions actually hits close to home for me. Jun just isn’t my kind of character, and (along with Airi) seems more like shameless pandering to the ‘quiet and cute’ fans. Her “issue” just didn’t seem that big of a deal to me, and it wasn’t handled that well either. Airi gets a break: she gets some of the longest screentime and her interactions with Kai and the others start to show the kind of being she once was. Frau, however, is the kind of character I can’t get enough of. Styling herself as a fujoshi loving hikkikomori, Frau is usually a scene stealer with her random leetspeak and crazy voice, and it’s what kept me from dropping this show. Yes, that’s basically it.

Moving on to production, well, I don’t have much to say about it. The animation is pretty decent, though it’s obviously not Production I.G.’s biggest project (see Crown, Guilty) but there’s enough nice backgrounds and few off model scenes that it’s fairly unremarkable. All four opening and ending themes aren’t anything spectacular on a visual level, though they are nice tunes especially the second ending “Topology” sung by Kanako Itou, who sung the Steins;Gate opening and probably the most famous song in all of anime. Nothing about the background music really stands out either.

In short, Robotics;Notes is a big “meh” with some really good moments sprinkled in between. I hope it can do better, but I’m not really sure.

The good: A good contrast of school life and deadly conspiracies, Frau (Kona), the second half delivers

The bad: Kai

  • Animation: C+ (It’s decent, but heck Steins;Gate’s wasn’t that good either. Lazy ED animation.)
  • Story: C- (Gets the dark and juicy stuff well, but obvious signs of being rushed hold it back.)
  • Sound: C (Forgettable OP themes, almost non-existent background music but the voice work is great.)
  • Characters: C- (Kai’s personality is better suited for a retrospective drama, not a sci-fi thriller. The rest of the cast is much better.)
  • Enjoyment: D (I won’t lie, it’s been quite a chore to watch R;N but I have faith it will pull through.)
  • Current Grade: C-

 

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