May 3, 2021
Heybot is weird, chaotic, makes no sense, and I love it. It's a show that constantly pushes the boundaries with its ideas, that it makes you question "How is this for kids?" Most end up dropping it after a few episodes, but watching past those first initial episodes is worth it. Heybot likes to build its story in the background, hidden behind all the chaos. What may seem like arbitrary randomness makes sense in retrospect. There is a lot to this show than first meets the eye, and I was surprised to see what this show pulls off. This is Heybot.
Director Ishihira Shinji was tasked
to create an anime based on Bandai's new toy line, Heybot. With his initial idea of creating a JRPG Esque fantasy setting (something similar to Wataru/other similar gag anime) being scrapped, he decided on creating a world where he and the rest of the staff can do whatever they want. Which sounds very vague, but it gives us a good understand of what the initial idea of Heybot was. A show filled to the brim with the most bizarre and insane ideas and puns they can come up with. But Ishihira wanted something more than just complete randomness. He wanted to create a world with no boundaries while having an entirely self-contained story. A story that uses its so called "randomness" to produce a cohesive narrative. And boy, did he achieve it :3. Together with other staff like Tomioka Atsuhiro on series composition, and character designs by Sano Toshihiko, the world of Heybot was brought to life.
What starts as a silly show filled with arbitrary randomness and potty humour develops into a complex world, hidden entirely behind the very humour that encompasses it. The show follows our 2 main characters Nejiru and Heybot as they battle it out with "Gags." Nejiru screws Heybot’s head with screws (take that how you want to) to perform gags in a vocabattle. The premise is relatively simple and Heybot overall story is unclear for the first few episodes. Rather, there is almost no overt reference to the large-scale events taking place in the first half of the show. Because Heybot keeps its core story hidden behind the obnoxious random humor and absurd pacing. Why? Well,
Ishihira Shinji allowed the writers to do whatever they want with each episode. Creating an atmosphere where it is almost impossible to tell what might happen next. Each episode filled to the brim with inside jokes, obscure references, 4th wall breaking and random imagery. But it is still surprisingly well written and cohesive despite all of this. A Joke from one scene can be recontextualized in another. Or seemingly random imagery can have major significance later. Take for example the oddly prominent farting Macaroni featured throughout the show. In an episode where Heybot goes missing, Nejiru mistakes Macaroni as Heybot and we just brush it off as another stupid joke. But at the end of episode 49, it is revealed, in a 5-second gag, that the Macaroni was an alternative version of Heybot. So that scene from before was to be taken literally, as well as all scenes including Macaroni. Or as another example, there is a gag where Moeru is told that he has a sister (because Nejiru was revealed to have a brother) but she is never shown again till the later half of the show, where she is revealed to be one of the characters who used a avatar of herself to live in the current circle (which is revealed to be Moeru). I am just barely scratching the surface of the stupidly insane shit this show pulls. This is how Heybot develops its core story, keeping it entirely hidden behind the gags and "random" imagery. Only occasionally revealing elements in the cut-away scenes scattered throughout the show. While lacking overall continuity, with each episode seemingly "resting" after the next, the show is consistent with its storytelling. I'd argue the show always had continuity, but that's a discussion for elsewhere. The way Heybot develops its story makes for an engaging experience as it slowly reveals new pieces to the puzzle, tumbling towards an ending that seems to get crazier the closer it gets.
This is what I like most about Heybot. Its ability to craft a story using Gags and otherwise seemingly "random" elements is so entertaining to watch.
Another thing this show loves to do is references and parodies of other media. This show is filled to the brim with references, and I mean A LOT. So much so that I do not think someone could find every single reference, and if you can then… cool. Despite being made by Sunrise Studio (under the name of Bandai Pictures) there aren’t many references to their own works. I thought it would be similar to Keroro Gunsou with its Mecha references. Instead, Heybot focuses more on satirizing and playing around with different genres. There is an entire episode parodying Hokuto no Ken that develops into a Shokugeki no Souma type food battle. Or an entire H. P. Lovecraft inspired episode that features a giant octopus as Cthulhu(lol). Even episode 44, a Kimi no Na Wa parody that uses themes and elements from the film to create its own heartbreaking story. Genuinely one of my favorite episodes and it portrays just how well Heybot is in control of itself. Heybot loves to throw around references to other media and add its own twist to them. Being able to spot these references amidst the chaos is fun and adds to the whole experience.
However, Heybot isn’t all about Insane jokes, references, and unconventional story-telling. Heybot tells a simple story about Sunday.
Sunday is an important theme in Heybot. Heybot aired every Sunday morning at 7 am on Nagoya TV’s Nichiasa timeslot. It’s quite amusing how a show with this level of insanity had aired every Sunday at 7 am in Japan. The significance of this time slot is huge, as it had previously aired more influential anime such as Gundam and the Brave series. The time slot was well known for having connections to Studio Sunrise. Its roots go back to 1977 with Zambot 3, and a trend of Mecha-themed anime had aired on Saturday Evenings for 20 years. But in 1998, the hour changed from Saturday 5:30 pm to Sunday 7:00 am. With a time so early in the morning, the demographic switched to a younger audience. So, for another 20 years, the time slot had continued, airing shows like Crush Gear Turbo, Battle spirits, and fucking Dinosaur King. But in 2017 it was announced that the anime time slot was to end in September and replaced by a News program in October. So just what was holding the legacy of this 40-year time slot? Yup, Heybot. Episode 50 of Heybot is significant as it marks the final anime to air on Nagoya TV’s Nichiasa timeslot. The episode is not a celebration of the time slot, but a love letter. It doesn’t take time to look back through the 40 years, rather it looks forward to a world past Sunday. It’s time for not only the characters, but the entire time slot to move on. Not to be forgotten but to live on in the minds of the viewers. Celebrated inside their own creations, in their own stories, and in their own worlds. As Chigiru puts it
“C’mon, we’re just moving into worlds beyond Sunday.”
And what a perfect way to end.
Heybot’s meta-narrative perfectly concludes the long history of its time slot. But the adventure to get there is an insanely fast-paced show about a funny robot. There is a lot that happens in this show and I've only covered about 5% of the shit this show does. But the rest is for you to explore. Heybot is an experience worth having, and there is nothing else quite like it. This is truly one of the greatest Sunday morning shows out there.
Please check out my video review if you're interested!
(All of my sources come from the Official Heybot Fanbook, done through rough translations.)
What did you think of this review?