This week we have a Jun episode. Jun has always been that quiet character in the background (Frau’s “abuse” of her aside), so this is a nice change of pace. When she was first introduced, it was hinted that she has been estranged from her grandfather, Doc. As it turns out, this was a result of an accident when she was young. While visiting Doc’s shop, one of his robots somehow fell on her, pinning her to the ground. Obviously the event left no significant physical damage, as Jun is more than capable of taking part in karate club (despite being bad at it). Instead, the accident had more of a psychological effect on her, causing her to be afraid of robots, which I actually find a little strange. I would imagine most of us think of robots as tools that we control, and it’s hard to be afraid of things we control.1 Granted, it’s not unheard of for robots to go “out of control”, but those incidents are usually a result of operator error, so it’s more like the user makes them do something with unintended consequences. If anything, I would have expected Jun to develop claustrophobia from being trapped under the robot instead.
It’s also possible that Jun’s fear of robots is a result of the uncanny valley. It’s rather well-known that human-like objects that are close to human in appearance and behavior can elicit a feeling of unease or even revulsion, but to be honest, Doc’s robots don’t physically resemble humans closely enough. The robot that pinned Jun down did “talk” similarly to a human though, and Jun repeatedly refuting its “claims” to be her friend suggest this might be the root of her fear, but I digress. In any case, it seems Jun’s fear of robots that resulted from the accident caused Doc to believe that she hates him. This, in turn, caused him to “kill” his robots and distance himself from her so as not to hurt the granddaughter that he loved so much. Unfortunately, this had the effect of making Jun believe that Doc resented her for disgracing the reputation of his robots, and so she distanced herself from him as well, not realizing that he really loved her. All in all, it was a classic case of a rather unfortunate misunderstanding. Yes, it seems a little cliche given anime’s penchant for misunderstandings ruining or putting dents into relationships, but at least it didn’t feel too contrived for me not to care.
With a little push from Aki and Kai, Jun and Doc finally managed to reconcile with each other in a rather satisfactory conclusion. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Jun has been cured of her phobia of robots (if her hand trembling during the reconciliation is any indication), but I don’t think she’s going to let this stop her from wholeheartedly taking part in future robotics club activities. If anything, Frau is going to scare her more. Anyways, I can see some people complaining about the irrelevance of this episode to what has been going on before (albeit the whole situation arising from a flag for the fourth report), but to me it served as a very nice breather to ease us back from the New Year’s break to all the conspiracies that Robotics;Notes has been piling on to us.
This isn’t so much about bad things as it is a sidebar. I recently watched an interview with Guillermo del Toro about his upcoming film Pacific Rim, in which the fact that he specifically refused to use motion capture to animate the giant mechs was brought up. This is obviously reminiscent of the episode in which Frau used motion capture on Jun as a basis for GunPro-2’s actions, and it also reminds us of some of the problems of realizing giant mechs in real life. The primary problem exemplified in using motion capture here is that the physics of walking when scaled up is much different compared to those of regular-scale human walking, which is something I’ve mentioned before. In the interview, Guillermo del Toro is more concerned about the mechanical nature and nuances of a giant robot walking compared to a human walking, but you get the point. Now, it could be that Frau is able to somehow adapt Jun’s motion capture data appropriately for something the size of GunPro-2 (she is a programming genius after all), but most likely the whole thing will be hand-waved. That little motion capture scene honestly probably has very little significance in the show after all, seeing as the conspiracies are likely to take center stage.
1A good number of fears are based on things we can’t fully control, and thus in extension have greater potential to cause us harm. Others are just plain weird, but I’m sure there’s some convoluted explanation behind them.