After being wowed by Steins;Gate, there was no way I was going to miss out on seeing Robotics;Notes, an anime adaptation of the third in the ‘Science Adventures’ series of light novels. This series shares a lot in common with the previous one, in that we have a group of young inventors stumbling upon a massive cover-up whilst investigating ground-breaking technology that has the potential to change the very fabric of existence.
Akiho Senomiya (Yoshino Nanjō) is the president of her school’s Robot Research Club, and dreams of one day building a giant fighting robot to compete in the local tournament. Her friend, Kaito Yashio (Ryohei Kimura), doesn’t share the same level of enthusiasm, and is rarely able to tear his eyes away from Kill-Ballad, an online fighting game that he’s forever playing on his portable gaming device. Their friendship is initially the lynchpin of the series, but the club gradually accepts new members. We have Subaru Hidaka (Yoshimasa Hosoya), a technically brilliant robot pilot who’s forbidden from having anything to do with ‘bots by his father, reclusive computer hacker Frau Koujiro (Kaori Nazuka) who constantly converses in leet speak, and the shy, diminutive Junna Daitoku (Sora Tokui), member of the school’s karate club.
These disparate characters come together in a story that has so many plates spinning at once that it’s incredible none crash to the ground. We’ve got a ghostly AI that haunts the internet, shadowy corporations predicting the end of the world, giant fighting robots, superpowers that manifest in debilitating seizures and electrically charged rocks falling from the sky. It was actually a little bit too much to keep up with, and it’s a pity that this series doesn’t come in a complete collection like Steins;Gate did. That show started slowly before building to a crescendo of paradoxes, whereas Robotics;Notes has an expansive storyline from the get-go.
That said, there’s a lot to love about this show. It’s set in the near future, and features one of the most realistic depictions of barely-futuristic technology I’ve seen in a while. In ten years’ time, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover it accurately predicted half a dozen technological advancements. The script expertly keeps the multiple mysteries unravelling, and the mix of characters keeps things interesting. It is a little strange that Kaito is focussed on solving a mystery and yet doesn’t think to involve Akiho, but then again she doesn’t pay attention to much that isn’t a 20 foot tall fighting robot.
The show is also prone to bouts of self-reflexivity, as Akiho is a huge fan of a giant robot anime TV show, Gunvarrel, which was famously cancelled before the final episode could ever be screened. Urban legend has it that the episode was at least partially completed, and rabid fans have been waiting to catch a glimpse of it. It gleefully pokes fun at gamers and anime fans alike, but isn’t in the least bit condescending.
The animation is fantastic, and a lot more colourful than the predominantly white look of Steins;Gate. The Blu-ray features commentaries and an interview though, as per usual, only boasts a surround mix for the English dub.
Robotics;Notes shows a lot of promise. Its success will depend upon whether it manages to bring the various story strands together in Collection 2. At the moment, the series hasn’t hit quite the highs that Steins;Gate did, but there’s a tonne of great ideas packed into the one show.Rating:
Robotics;Notes Collection 1 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Madman.