Robotic;s Notes Impressions!
Coming into the fall season, I made no attempt to hide my voracious and at times terrifying levels of anticipation for Robotic;s Notes, the spiritual sequel to the ever exemplary Stein;s Gate that rocked me like a hurricane when it blew in last spring. The fact that it also happened to be a Mecha Real Robot show did not help this case. Understanding why flecks of foam were fuzzing out of my mouth in anticipation is no tall order. In fact number of people I would consider good friends can likely attest to the fact that I really really really needed to shut up about a show I hadn’t even seen yet. Well now I have seen it. Do I think it’s any good? Well for starters, Robotic;s Notes had a very different plan in regards to it’s first episode then Stein;s Gate. Stein;s Gate’s first episode was a revelation. Within the first five minutes we’d been introduced to all three members of the main cast, one of whom was introduced by what logically should have been the last we’d see of her. The CERN raid, Makise Kurisu’s murder, Okabe’s first duel with Kurisu during the conference, the first instance of time travel, and the satellite crash all happened within the first episode. There was also a variety of tricks on display such as the initial deception portraying Okabe as something besides a complete and total crack pot. It was designed to create such a huge impression on you that it could sink it’s teeth in strong enough to keep you going through the slow as rainman first half of the series.
By comparison here we are introduced to equally slow source material, but without very much hooks. The story we are shown in this first episode (with the exception of the heeby jeeby WTF scene at the end) seems positively straightforward and oatmealesque by comparison. Rather than Okabe, who makes most anime protagonists almost unwatchable by comparison, the lead character (who’s name I can’t even remember) is a fine showing of “Protaganist-kun disorder.” The disease that inflicts borringness on to the medium in a desperate hope to make all the leads be viewer inserts. This is not to say there are no unique or even standout moments that arise from him. Hell, I’d even make the case that the kind of story Robotic;s Notes is trying to tell needs some chump that you can copy and paste your own face over as he agent of action in the story. It just depresses me that we can’t have another fine showing of unique characterization in the vain of it’s predecessor. But what kind of story is that Robotic;s Notes is trying to tell. Oh my dear sweet summer child, gather a chair and prepare something to catch your ear after I talk it off. RN is real robot at it’s realest and most roboty. This isn’t some show that functions like every other Mecha anime only with a technobabbled explanation for why this particular robot is super powered. This is a show about the actual nitty gritty of constructing a robot. And not even in an idealized setting like a military base or La Vie En Rose. This is a bunch if people living an ordinary life who in their desperation to have meaning in their life, decide that the best way to do that is to build a giant ass robot. Objectively, the story shown this episode was among the least interesting this season. I am not objective. I pretty much was sitting with my stupid nerdy face pressed against the screen drooling at the very concept of the show. If anything the show at times made me think back to Chuunbyou in reasons I will likely talk a ton more about in the coming season.
But what about the moment to moment of the storytelling? Well that is where I start to despair a bit. The fast paced and at times shaft like dialogue didn’t turn it’s punch card this time around. Where most of the exposition was better hidden in Stein;s Gate, here we are subjected to several too many “As you already know” scenes. The fact that they weren’t able to hide exposition in dialogue better is a testament to a bad case of telling rather then showing. This is a big nono as far as writing is concerned. Also MIA was the clever dialogue from Stein;s Gate. Maybe it could be that there simply weren’t many interesting characters around to facilitate such dialogue. Maybe I just really don’t like show’s where the main character is the straight man. You can look at a million shows for proof of this. Code Geass, Trigun, FMA, and Ghost in the Shell, are all testaments to what can be done when you place the straight man as a side character and let the people that the audience really want to watch drive the plot. Not that there is no one to watch in this show. His friend, the club leader, is just a joy to watch. She falls into the genki archetype quite nicely, but like with Makise Kurisu’s tsundere personality, this seems to actually add depth to her character. There was one moment near the end of the episode where she almost broke out from her super energetic persona that is hands down the best moment of the episode. It’s that sort of subtle human vein infecting anime cliche’s that I found to be the writer in me’s favorite aspects of Stein;s Gate. The rest of the characters are at least well distintualized as well. One of the big failures in Stein;s Gate’s writing was it’s failure to add significance and scale to moments that seemed to demand it. The woefully limited cast was a large part of that. Here the world seems alive, vibrant, and full of people and places.
Which returns me to the core question. Do I think it’s any good? Well that is a tough nut to crack and has an answer with a complexity even I am not quite sure if I understand yet. Let me attempt to some it up with an anecdote from the episode. At one point in the episode, protagonist kun gives the club leader a drink that earns a happy exclamation. But is it doctor pepper that is given? No, It’s a drink by the name of Skal. I’ve know for a fact that Doctor pepper tastes good, but I have no idea about Skal.