I was really looking forward to an anime adaptation of Robotics;Notes, the third visual novel written by Hayashi Naotaka-shi for the collaboration of 5pb. and Nitroplus, because previous two series came from it were really neat with ChäoS;HEAd being a rather promising start and Steins;Gate being just stellar. So no wonder I have a lot of things to tell now.
Robotics;Notes begins with our protagonists, Yashio Kaito and Senomiya Akiho, the only members of school’s robotics club, trying to save the said club from shutting down. And that’s a huge step down from Steins;Gate in terms of a story. I mean, Steins;Gate had university students as main characters who invent and mess up with crazy gadgets, and all Robotics;Notes has to offer is yet another clichéd story about saving a school club. Ouch. But to be fair, one can still pull out a good plot from that, and Robotics;Notes has an interesting start despite me being biased against its premise.
The plot of the series starts off with Yashio and Senomiya entering some sort of Japanese Robot Wars tournament. It’s a great hook for the series and it made me change my initial opinion of the show. I’m pretty sure that the idea of crushing and smashing enemy robots with your own one is appealing to every geek, who is interested in technology. We are all children when it comes to this. If you liked playing around with screwdrivers and other instruments, disassembling stuff and building simple mechanisms when you were small, then you understand the overall feeling that Robotics;Notes is trying to show you — the technology is awesome, and through it you can make miracles come true like a bloody mage.
The first half of Robotics;Notes serves mainly as an introduction of the characters, just like in Steins;Gate.
Yashio is a good male protagonist to me. He has a lazy attitude but essentially is a nice and caring fellow who just doesn’t want to show it off. Sometimes he lacks character because of that but I think that’s fine in general.
Senomiya Akiho is a cheerful, merry girl. She is really important for this story because she is the key to the mood Robotics;Notes is trying to pull you in. Senomiya absolutely loves robots and never stops talking about how classy they are. Actually, it’s a double-edged sword, because, depending on a viewer, she can either be irritating or having a certain appeal to her.
Of all other characters I want to mention Furugōri Kona, resident computer fairy. I mentioned in my Steins;Gate review that I liked how Hashida Itaru was a pretty nice depiction of a geek. Furugōri is exact opposite, a walking stereotype: a shut-in, a fujoshi and speaks in slang full of memes. The thing is, she is probably my favourite character here, maybe because of her over-the-top behaviour and facial expressions or maybe because she has a certain drama to herself. Nevertheless, I think Furugōri’s antics are the funniest part of the series.
So, yeah… Enough praising here. You’ve probably seen my rating and are now wondering why it is so low after all I said. Well, both Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes have a good first half, but while Steins;Gate in its second half becomes one of the best anime series I’ve ever seen, Robotics;Notes follows the wrong way and starts to fall apart.
The plot becomes bloody nonsensical. A lot of threads are left forgotten and unresolved, and I think that I should put part of the blame for this on the blokes who wrote script for the series because it feels like they did a bad job in condensing several routes of the visual novel into one big story. But there are things I can’t see any excuse for. Some events of the past that the characters constantly mentioned in a vague way are never fully explained. What a tease. Other big events happened during the course of the series just don’t get enough attention in my eyes. Major things going in Tokyo? Yep, it looks totally important because all description I get is about thirty seconds of footage and a couple of posts in bland name Twitter. The world is in turmoil? Casually mentioned in the news and that’s it. I just can’t sense the scale they want me to feel. It’s like spending all day wasting time in your house, watching the telly and so on, and then some fellow suddenly shows up and tells you that boom, you saved the world by doing nothing. That is wonderful but just doesn’t feel like a major accomplishment, does it?
Most of the characters lost their appeal to me in the second half because they just stopped being relevant to the main plot. It’s just like they are written in for the sake of one single scene or for the pure purpose of exposition. The antagonist is also meh because he lacks any motivation or traits that could have made him a memorable villain. Just what is he going to do after he succeeds? Why is his plan so overly complex and relying heavily on rather small and obscure details? I guess I’ll never know.
And another thing. As I mentioned before, what defined Robotics;Notes and made it likeable to me in the first place is the sense of awe it gave to technology and constructing stuff. I loved that message, but then the creators completely screwed it up with inconsistency and technobabble. Sure, there is a lot of technobabble in ChäoS;HEAd and in Steins;Gate, but at least it is believable to some extent. And here we have magnetic monopoles — red glowing thingies that just fall from the sky for unexplained reason. There is a friendly neighbourhood PhD in physics, whom I went to the same school with. When I told her about this concept, well… I’ll never forget those cold eyes of a person with murderous intent so strong it can make you die of fear. No, seriously, you cannot write a love letter to science with plot devices like monopoles that come out from bloody nowhere. It sort of undermines the whole message that technology can make miracles in good hands and save the world in hopeless situations because it turns out that to create technology you need a really miraculous event to happen first. Ridiculous.
Robotics;Notes is major disappointment for me. Akin to ChäoS;HEAd and Steins;Gate, it was rather promising in the beginning, with Robot Wars, urban legends and augmented reality quest bits, but unlike those two, its story had too much build-up leading out to literally nothing, so it just collapsed by its own weight.