TV Series; 22 Episodes
Produced: Production I.G.
I’m actually going to start off with the finale before going on to the review. If you’re only here for the latter, you can click here to get straight to it.
Robotics;Notes wraps things up very nicely, if not slightly too conveniently. I was a little dubious as to whether Super GunPro-1 would be able to win in a straight fight against the Sumeragi, but luckily the fight is anything but straight. Thanks to a few gimmicks provided by Sawada, the gang are able to deflect Sumeragi’s deadly attacks. I suppose while these gimmicks seem a bit deus ex machina, Sawada has technically been working for a long time to stop Kimijima, so they aren’t all too out of the blue. It’s just that his “heel face turn” (technically not even correct since he’s always been the good guy) only took place so recently that there hasn’t been much time for the truth of it to sink in. In any case, Super GunPro-1 holding its ground against the Sumeragi is not quite enough. Sumeragi’s second stage emerging from its defeated first form made me laugh a bit as it was such a stereotypical video game boss development, but that’s all in good fun.
The giant robot battle aside, Kimijima is also perceptive enough to not let a few grunts and a giant robot be his final defenses, as he installs himself as the administrator at JAXA to prevent the cancellation of the rocket launch. Fortunately, as with all victims of possession, Misaki is able to resist Kimijima’s control slightly, shocking the diabolical e-villain. This enables the gang to expose Kimijima long enough for Kai to “shoot” another one of Sawada’s gimmicks, the AR missile, at him. This finally erases Kimijima, freeing up the JAXA computers and allowing Nae to abort the end of the world. More importantly, Misaki’s nightmarish experience as the villain’s puppet is finally over, and she is able to return to being Aki’s beloved, robot loving onee-chan.
All in all, it was a very satisfying ending. The epilogue is also rather inspiring, as it leaves us with several astronauts (suggested to be the robotics club gang) safely traveling to space while GunVarrel looks on. I must say, Robotics;Notes is definitely a character-driven show. But that’s not to say that the story is completely unengaging. The futuristic, yet believable world it builds is very impressive. Most futuristic shows seem to be set far into the future, with unimaginable technologies commonplace. Instead, Robotics;Notes presents us with the near future, with some of the current cutting edge developments being commonplace. This really gets you looking forward to what’s in store for us, rather than what’s in store for our children or even grandchildren, which really gets you inspired and excited.
As well-done as the setting is, however, some of the plot elements are a little questionable. For one, the Committee of 300 is never really developed into a truly believable villainous organization. Their motives have always dumbfounded me, and no effort is made to make them look any less of a bunch of idiots who somehow ended up in positions of power. No better is Kimijima. Unless it went completely over my head, it is never explained why he was so obsessed with completing his experiments and killing off mankind. I understand that the digitized version of him is even more ruthless and obsessed with his experiments, but there’s still little rationalization offered. It’s almost as if we’re just supposed to accept him as a mad scientist whose research just so happens to involve screwing over mankind. Oh, and he’s also charming enough to seduce a group of rich, powerful idiots into helping him. Welp. But as unlikeable as Robotics;Notes’ villains are, the camaraderie and strength of the robotics club gang as they go through hard times definitely makes up for it.
As I’ve previously mentioned, the heart of Robotics;Notes lies in its characters. The dynamics of the gang, their relationships, and how they deal with themselves and each other during rough times are really the most engaging things about the show. It also really helps that all of the gang are so lovable, each with his/her own quirks. We have Kai playing the male tsundere osananajimi, Aki playing the lovable ball of energy that is the genki-girl, Subaru playing the fabulous Mister Pleiades and closet robot enthusiast, Jun playing the cute and timid underclassman, and Frau playing the hilariously awesome wiz with a troubled past. Oh, and we certainly can’t forget the moe-blob that is Airi. And I say this in the least demeaning way possible. Airi is just as important as she is adorable. If you haven’t watched Robotics;Notes and are a little skeptical, you should check the show out before you judge her to be just another moe-blob.
With such a great array of characters, Robotics;Notes has no problem pulling us into the world of the robotics club and their many (mis)adventures. The extended cast of supporting characters also comes into play a lot, with a great deal of drama and tragedy introduced into the show through them. From Misaki to Mizuka to Doc, the supporting characters live up to their name both by providing motivation for and even outright directly aiding the main characters.
Production I.G. has always done a great job making shows look amazing. Robotics;Notes is no exception. There were no obvious animation derps throughout the entire run of the show, and the culminating battle between the giant robots was very well done. Admittedly, the quality seems to suffer a bit in general, but I’m pretty sure this can be attributed to the airing station or whatever encoding shenanigans took place. For a two cour show, Robotics;Notes really impresses me with its capability to continue without any dips in quality. Even Psycho Pass, the other noitaminA slot, had one episode where the animation quality noticeably dipped. Combine this constant upholding of quality with the fact that the show involves animating both small and large robots, and you get the feeling that Production I.G. really outdid themselves.
Audibly, none of the soundtrack really stood out to me. Nor did the OPs and EDs. But this is business as usual. Liking the audio is more subjective if you ask me. As long as none of it is really jarring or unfitting, all is well. And in fact, sometimes dissonant bgm is done on purpose (see Evangelion).
So how would I describe Robotics;Notes in a single word? It would definitely be “satisfying”. The show has a very deliberate pacing, which some people might complain about. I say, you have to go with the flow to appreciate it. Things start off very slowly, which is where most of the complaints originate. But as the show progresses and more is revealed, the pace starts to pick up until it reaches a breath-taking sprint near the end. If it were a one cour, I might be a little dubious as to the successful execution of such pacing. Being a two cour, though, Robotics;Notes can definitely get away with it. That said, I understand that it does take a bit of patience to get through the show in the beginning, and long enough attention spans are unfortunately hard to come by these days. If you’re willing to struggle through the slow start though, I assure you that you’re in for a real treat.
So with that out of the way, let me leave off by addressing the obvious question. Does Robotics;Notes live up to Steins;Gate? I have to say, while Robotics;Notes is no Chaos;Head, it unfortunately isn’t as great as Steins;Gate. Of course, the two shows really shouldn’t be compared to begin with, but I’ll do it anyway just for the heck of it. What does Steins;Gate have over Robotics;Notes? Most definitely, both have very engaging casts of characters. But what puts the former ahead of the latter is the story. Steins;Gate pulls the time travel card, and it does it very well. The only thing Robotics;Notes has in the story department is a conspiracy theory (which Steins;Gate also has), which isn’t very well developed anyway. Yes, there’s also the ongoing effort to redeem Misaki, but I would classify that more as character relations than plot development. But don’t let this discourage you. Robotics;Notes is still a great show. It just has a hard time standing up to the giant that is Steins;Gate, as most other shows would.