Posted on 25 March 2013 with categories: Anime Reviews, Robotics;Notes



After the complete disaster that was Guilty Crown last year, Production IG had to make up for something. They did so with Psycho Pass, that really was one hell of a ride. As for their other 2-cour Noitamina-series this half year, Robotics;Notes… it’s a bit more difficult. And don’t get me wrong: this is in no way as bad as Guilty Crown. It’s much better, but also very difficult to judge. This series is really ambitious… it just doesn’t work.

I actually liked Robotics;Notes in its first half. It had this ambition, yet at the same time it spent a lot of time fleshing out its characters and focusing on believability. It might sound weird to see this from a series that has a large robot on its promotional material, but that’s the point: one of the subplots in this series offers a bit of a deconstruction of Giant Robot building as it takes a look some of the issues of teenagers piloting these things that most other series tend to ignore.

Then there is a subplot about solar storms, a subplot about miniature robot fighting, a subplot about an evil conspiracy, and that list goes on and on. This is what I mean by the ambition: in the first half this show balances all of these subplots together that at first sight don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. This build-up for me was the best part of this series, and it’s always a question of what this show will focus on next… in its first half.

And then its second half comes, and it’s supposed to weave all of these subplots together… and it kinda fails. A lot. In many ways. There are some things that you’d think are related to each other, which actually totally aren’t, and the ones that are related to each other are brought together in such a shoehorned way that it breaks all suspense of disbelief that it has previously built up.

The show basically tries to run through a checklist of all stories that it needs to wrap up, without any care of making them flow into each other. Because of this entire subplots are conveniently forgotten until they are relevant again without much reason. But granted, the stories that it try to tell have some good concepts and ideas behind them. the character-development also works well enough and it has still enough to make it worth watching. And then the finale comes. I have no idea what happened, but things totally go wrong. All of the build-up just gets thrown out of the window and the show turns into a cheesy mess of plot devices. Talk about a let-down.

So yeah, solid show. Bad ending. That makes it really hard for me to recommend this series, because this series doesn’t just have a bad ending, it’s got a bad ending that invalidates much of the earlier build-up. Watch this if you want a different take on Super Robots. But then again, there are enough shows that also do that.
One-Sentence Review: Robotics;Notes is a very ambitious series that juggles around all sorts of stuff, which works well in terms of build-up, but not in terms of pay-off.
Suggestions:
Bokura no
Birdy the Mighty Decode
Dennou Coil

Posted on 24 March 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

Well, there you have it. The ending of Robotics;Notes. Did they seriously just do that?

I really dislike these types of endings. I was hoping that they would at least put the focus on the robot battles and all, but that just came second place. No, at the first place in this episodes were the attempts to talk the big evil monster to death. This is exactly why I dislike brainwashing: you take away all free will, and it’s just vague enough to conveniently stop working at right the exact moment. After all that build-up, this sure was a big let-down.

What did the creators really want to show with this series? What was all of the build-up with the realistic looking robots good for? Why did Kimishima Kou really want to wipe out the entire earth and what kind of point would that have made for the story? I think that airing this series aside Psycho Pass was also a bad idea, because of how well that series wrapped itself up. Here we have a solid build-up that eventually just ignores everything and goes to end with a cheesy robot battle… yeah. I did not like this at all.

Judging this one is going to be hard, because by far the worst part of this series is its finale. But yeah, I keep saying that endings are really important for a reason. Perhaps not in the sense of storytelling, but they are the last thing you remember when you think back to a series. Now, when I think back to Robotics;Notes, I will think back to that cheesy ending more than the other parts. It hurts even more that in the end, it never really used its best parts to their full potential (the mecha deconstruction and all).
Rating: 2.5/8 (Lacking)

Posted on 21 March 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

Robotics;Notes’ penultimate episode. Its main point was a romantic confession. Why?

I think that that symbolizes my big problem with this series. And don’t get me wrong, I like its ambition. You can really see that this series set out with a mission. It wanted to do so many things, and for that, I give it credit. It just didn’t really work out. I personally really like series in which everything comes together. The more ambitious the better. Robotics;Notes started out with a ton of different side plots and topics. But I see no link between most of them. They all just feel hacked together without much glue, as if they’re about to fall apart at any minute. The confession in this episode: what was the point? Why did it have to take up such an important part right near the end? It established nothing for the rest of the series. The main characters are a couple now, but how much did that change, really?

Also, with this it’s established that the final episode will be a big robot battle. It’s here where some subplots do come together, but if I have to be honest… it does feel rather flimsy here. Like, the creators tried way too hard to set everything up like that. Everything is build up and all, but it feels like some things were done only to get to this particular conclusion. The problem is that it’s not really an interesting one: it just screams been there done that. Was it really worth that build-up? Compare this to Steins;Gate, which meticulously set up ever single one of its plot twists as it went along.

That’s the key of storytelling: balance. There is not one formula to determine what works. You can do things right and wrong, but in the end it all depends on the harmony between all its different elements, and the soft spot is different for everyone. Robotics;Notes got a lot of points for its ambition and realism, but really lost a lot of them in the plot of its second half.
Rating: 3.5/8 (Mediocre)

Posted on 14 March 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

So, Robotics;Notes. I really appreciated it when you claimed to try and be as realistic as possible. The fruits of that were really visible in this episode’s best parts. However… don’t pull stupid stuff like what you did in other parts of this episode. Those parts didn’t really work.

The worst one was where the life of a young child was saved by… a parrot. Seriously, I could buy the robots perfectly. It’s part of your setting. But don’t randomly introduce superbirds. That just… makes no sense whatsoever without build-up. Beyond that, there were a few plot twists that didn’t sit right with me. This more has to do with personal taste, though:

– First of all, why did Kimijima Kou find it necessary to tell everyone about his evil plans? What point does it make? He could just kill everyone and have things over with. But then again, nobody could anticipate that damned bird…
– Second of all, brainwashing. I do not like the usage of this as a plot device for having characters do things they wouldn’t do on their own. It takes away all of their free will. It’s like saying “screw our differences, I was just brainwashed and I totally agree with you!”
– Third of all: why did you have to wreck a plane for that?
– Fourth of all, why the robot? The villain here is a bit of data. The focus should be on Frau and Kaito as they use some sort of Killballad H4x0rz to get rid of him or something. Why are the robots useful?
Rating: 4.5/8 (Good)

Posted on 5 March 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

Whoa, plot twists! With this episode the creators managed to turn the entire plot around. So did it work?

It did, but for some reason I did expect something more out of this series if I have to be really honest. I still can’t really grasp why, but Misa as the main villain still feels flimsy. We know hardly anything about her and why she changed, so when this episode revealed that she was the main villain along with Kimijima Kou… it just felt like something was missing. Just as how Kai blindly accepted what that guy who was obviously the villain was saying.

Still, it’s great to see everything tied together. However, I do have to wonder: why is Subaru in this series? And why is Junna in this series? And most importantly: why did they get so much airtime? When you compare their stories with the rest of the series, they feel… out of place, to the point where the main players here did not get the time they deserved to get fleshed out.
Rating: 4,5/8 (Good)

Posted on 25 February 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

And with this we have turned to the final arc of this series, in which we finally take a look at Aki and her sister. It brought in a sudden hint of romance as well now that Aki is in the main picture again (again, this could have been better balanced to take out the harem element because I don’t think it really contributes to much here apart from making Kai a less interesting character. That’s the downside of having a series with so many different plot threads, yet still wanting the main character to poke his nose in everything.

Still, Misa’s part in this episode is something I really liked. Kai really feels shocked by what happened to Mizuka and the creators used that well, only to move over to Misa herself, who seems to have betrayed her job or something…? The answer to that is probably something we’ll get in the next episodes. I really liked the cliff-hanger of this episode and how this showed the tension between Aki and her sister.

Lots of drama seems to have been created around Gunvarrel. This part did not work as well for me today, probably because it’s a part that has been a bit abandoned: how regular people think of Gunvarrel. It just felt too one-sided and forced at this point. I know that it has been stated before that Gunvarrel has had negative publicity, but for me it was a bit too much when everyone just walked away or when people started throwing with cans…
Rating: 4.5/8 (Good)

Posted on 20 February 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

At the end of the previous episode, there was a bit of speculation about Subaru. I mean, there is the golden rule of anime: a character isn’t dead unless this is confirmed. It looked like this was another one of those cases. What happened in the end was even better, though: consequences.

Usually when a character gets hurt majorly, he takes a bit to heal up and within no time at all he’s completely fine again, as if nothing happened. Subaru indeed survives, but it’s at the cost of him losing the ability in his legs. He will feel this for the rest of his life. I keep hoping for characters to die in anime, not for the sake of them dying, but for the sake of consequences: taking risks is risky, yet characters get away with them surprisingly easy. Having risks like these built up well does amazing things for the suspense of disbelief. In any case it does for me.

This episode was a really good aftermath. The show suddenly got really dark after the previous episode, and this episode really let this sink in, and shows how easy it can be to screw up if you’re thoughtless. The characters all have their own ways of dealing with that and I really liked that. I mean, those warnings at the beginning of the episode, about the realism and stuff. They might seem superficial, but in the long run they do add up to the believability of this series.

Now, let’s talk about Noitamina for a bit. By far the biggest disappointment of the upcoming Spring Season is what will be used to fill the timeslot that has for years stood for showcasing anime to an older audience. In case you haven’t heard it yet: it’s going to have a re-run of Katanagatari. I guess that that was the price that had to be paid for having two two-cours series at the same time. But with this, I now have a much better idea of the strengths of the timeslot. Let’s have a bit of a re-cap:

– 2005 saw the start of the timeslot, and it defined itself as a mature programming block with Honey and Clover and Paradise Kiss, two series about college students.
– 2006 saw it continuing this trend, along with it branching out to other genres, most particularly horror with Ayakashi – Japanese Classic Horror.
– 2007 saw the timeslot continue to grow and establish itself as a force to be reckoned with with Nodame Cantabile, Mononoke and Moyashimon, three really strong series that really pushed boundaries all around.
– 2008 was the height of Noitamina in terms of TV-ratings, with Hakaba Kitarou and Nodame Cantabile’s second season racking up massive ratings. The formula here still was very typical for the timeslot: there was a college series, a series about working life, an adventure seris and an avant-garde series with bizarre visuals.
– 2009 saw the results of two fantastic years, and the producers were able to experiment much more, leading to some of the most unique series out there that really stand on their own. In terms of originality it was a fantastic year, but especially Eden of the East and Tokyo Magnitude stand out here. Both really well produced and transforming the timeslot into a showcase for producers to deliver things with ambition without regard for the mainstream.
– 2010 was the best year for Noitamina ever. This influence of 2009 was really noticeable here as the series got the most freedom that they’ve ever had, even allowing it to expand to two series at the same time. Sarai-ya Goyou, Yojou-han and Shiki: all three were just fantastic and would not have been possible so close within each other without it.
– Then 2011 came, and it showed that such quality could not be kept up. Fractale and Guilty Crown were… disappointing. However, what was so interesting about the timeslot is that it had a whopping eight different series. The fun there was keeping track of all of them: awaiting what series they would come up with, and how they’d fare. Sure, it didn’t always go well, but it was definitely interesting beyond belief.
– 2012 saw more experimentation after that year, making this even more exciting. It returned to its roots again with Natsuyuki Rendezvous and Moyashimon, it tried out 2 full-cour series and it even went with something as Thermae Romae to fill up an empty month. It’s because of this excitement of keeping up with everything that I managed to finish nearly every Noitamina-series to date (the only exception being Nodame Cantabile’s final season).

Based on this, I think I now have a good idea of what would be the ideal format for the timeslot: mostly easy to produce yet ambitious 11-episode series, combined with your occasional 2-cour series here and there. This keeps the timeslot fresh with every season something new to look forward to, plus it’s good for variety. The past two seasons were great in showing that the timeslot can deliver two really good two-cour series at the same time, but its price: not being able to look forward to a new noitamina-series for two seasons long, it does hurt. And I think that the tactic of using reruns, will make it lose some viewers. Silver Spoon to the rescue!
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 10 February 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

And with this, the focus on the robot building suddenly returns. This is what I meant by the previous episodes feeling a bit like acheckist, because I nearly forgot that that was also going on, even though it wsa the main focus of the series. They could have shown a bit more about the progress of the construction while they were doing the stories of the other characters.

Having said that though, the supercandy robot launch really was worth the wait and I really liked the moment in which the thing actually moved properly. And either way, the atmosphere of this episode was really, realyl good. Probably the best this show has been so far. The sense of impending doom worked really well for the largest part of this episode. And then “it” happened…

Just holy crap. I did not see that coming. Both of it. I did not expect this series to be such a deconstruction that it would actually tackle what would happen if such a giant robot would fall over. It also did not come to my mind that the robots going out of control also would mean that Kai’s legs would start to act funny. The ending of this episode was just amazing.

That’s the power of the build-up of this show’s first half, in which it tried to be realistic and believable without much of the drama. Because of that we now know the characters, which makes it all the more disturbing what happened. And to make things even worse there was that point in which Kai’s legs actually forced her to stand up again, hurting her spine in the process. I did not expect such a detail whatsoever in a show that so far had no blood or gore whatsoever. The impact of that single thing was much larger than, say, a show that consistently has people hurting each other.

Robotics;Notes, I applaud you.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 7 February 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

Last episode: Frau. This episode: Airi. It’s quite surprising what this episode all showed us, because from out of nowhere it delviers Airi’s entire backstory. Or at least the parts that don’t involve the deeper mysteries behind Kimishima Kou. We did get to see his face, though.

It wasn’t a big surprise that Airi existed in the real world. She was just too real for that. The really interesting part is why Kimishima Kou did what he did. Did he freeze Airi just because he felt sorry for her, or was there some deeper reason behind it? Also, why two Airis? What was the reason behind that? And why did Airi malfunction the way that she did here?

I do have a bit of a complaint about the past three episodes standalone, and that is that they feel a bit too much like a checklist: “okay, we’ve got one girl, now the next one’s up, and after that the next one”. It feels a bit too… scripted, for a series that aims to be so believable. But it’s not like the creators didn’t try to mix this up. I really appreciated how every episode also showed hints and answers for the other lingering plot threads in this series. When put next to each other these three episodes are a bit cheesy but they work as build-up really well.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 29 January 2013 with categories: Robotics;Notes

With this episode, it’s time to address the premise of this series: gamers saving the world. With gamers for some strange reason becoming more and more celebrities, it had it coming that there would be more series that would cater to them, resulting in creators finding more and more alaborate ways to somehow put these people in the spotlights. It’s not as bad as the typical loser, but yeah… you probably get what I mean.

Attempts so far failed for me. Kirito from Sword Art Online was just giant wish fulfillment. Accel World, from what I watched of it, looked the same. Btooom was better, but still gave the male lead way too much plot armour. With this, Robotics;Notes has given me the first gamer male lead that I actually like, and I feel is done well.

Either way this was so much better than the examples mentioned above. For one, the entire series doesn’t just revolve around Killballad, but the game is just a small part of the whole conspiracy that’s going on in this series. That means that the series doesn’t automatically revolve around the male lead, but it has to offer more than just him being good at this game. Second of all, it allowed the creators tocreate this weird mish-mash of subplots that somehow managed to link a robots, solar flares, an evil organization, an anime and brainwashing together, and actually get away with it pretty nicely. Sakurasou also has this variety of not just being based on one thing, which really helps for the diversity.

This episode had a climax for the gaming subplot. The robots can only be stopped if you manage to beat a game. It’s a completely crazy security system, but if you take into account that it was made by someone who was mentally screwed while also brainwashed… it’s still silly. And yet they pulled it off by using Kaito’s time slowing powers, which were previously established to be really intense. On top of that, some very convincing romance between him and Frau.

I usually hate love triangles for being pointless, so please: Akiho. Move on. Just… get over your crush. I know that this is unheard of in anime and all, but people can get over love. This series has intelligent writing, so make use of that.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

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