So the people who gave us the most excellent anime series Steins;Gate thought that they could do us one better. Well, they did not quite succeed. This new series that they shat out 2 years after the great S;G (that would be Robotics;Notes) is even more bizarre, has a crap ton less cohesion, and is pretty much full of characters that either start off as or become boringly bland as the series rolls on to its incredibly strange and incomprehensible finale. It's just not very good.
In taking a step back from the show, I don't honestly know how I can sum the plot up in just a few short paragraphs here. There is just so much shit thrown into the blender that doesn't really seem to be necessary, but fuck logical storytelling when there's a way to make something overly convoluted and headache-inducing instead of interesting. This show goes all over the fucking place, and unlike in Steins;Gate, no plot line (no matter how big or small) turns out to be very satisfying in the end. And that's IF they actually tie up that particular thread.
Here's some of the many, many supposedly important elements in Robotics;Notes: there's sunspots threatening Earth; there's an accident on a boat that gives kids slow-motion powers; there's a Japanese NASA branch located on a tiny Southern island that wants to start launching rockets again; there's strange, giant, magnetic rocks that fall from the sky; there's a robot-fighting video game with possible cheaters in the top 5 rankings; there's a robot club at the local high school that's trying to build a full scale Gundam-like mech; there's a girl who lives in augmented reality who transforms into a brainiac when her head is tapped on a virtual display that she's viewed on; there's an old geezer running a robot-repair shop who's a small scare away from total cardiac arrest; there's a know-it-all paraplegic who runs a Quickie Mart and who makes the main character eat atrocious sticky buns for information only she can provide; there's a malevolent virtual ghost who can somehow possess people (seriously, WTF?); there's a mysterious organization of 300 who want to kill 5/6ths of the life on the planet because science; there's a Tokyo Robot Show debuting the coolest, newest concept mechs; there's a super popular anime whose staff was brutally murdered before the final episode could be completed; there's a missing mother whose disappearance sets off a lot of the other plots; there's a robot rebellion in the streets of Tokyo; there's a mysteriously bitchy woman who apparently hates her younger sister; there's the kid who's a robotics genius whose father refuses to let him be the genius that he is because bad parenting; there's a creepy guy who died 10 years prior to the start of the story who hid mysterious Easter eggs of information packets throughout the island that the main events take place on; and there's a candy maker who loves parakeets.
Jesus! That's maybe only HALF of the shit that seems to be important at one point or another in this series. And yeah, none of the above things are only mentioned in passing for shits and giggles. They're all played up like they're major developments or part of the reason for everything that's actually taking place. Yeah, it's good to not have a boring plot, but it's conversely BAD to have a plot so full of crap that it's impossible to keep track of even half the story that you're trying to tell. And then not to give CLOSURE to most of the story threads that you introduce, well, that's just shitty writing.
Okay, so what's the main plot of this thing, you ask, not really sure if you even give a poop anymore? Robotics;Notes takes place on a small Southern island in Japan, and is mainly about a senior in high school named Kaito who joins the Robot Club because his childhood friend Akiho is in it, and she was the only member. Akiho wants to complete a 3-story-tall giant robot that her sister and her sister's friends started to build when they began the club almost 10 years earlier. Kaito doesn't really give two fucks though, and all he enjoys doing all day and night is playing a super-fast-paced robot fighting game on his iPad mini/phone/augmented reality device. Soon though, mysterious shit starts to occur (strange, augmented reality-only girls appearing on Kaito's device, the creator of his favorite game moving to his town and only talking in 1337-speak, and bizarre hidden messages involving a world-wide conspiracy come to his attention), and Kaito is pulled into a world that he never knew existed, and that he never wanted to get involved with in the first place.
Akiho loves robots, and she wants Kaito to pilot the club's remote-controlled, foot-tall mini-bot in a robot battle that'll win their club prestige and much needed funds, but in order to do this Kaito gets the creator of his fave game to give them the programming for the controls to the fighting robots that she wrote. This then leads to the meeting of another classmate who has a passion and skill for for robotic engineering, despite his father's wishes (his father wishing him to give up on a full ride to MIT so that he can become a fisherman... Whattagreatdad!). Strange email messages to everybody in Japan that begin with a creepy nursery rhyme, malfunctioning robots and power suits, and a crazy man who kidnapped and carbon-froze a little girl ten years earlier all cause everything to get all confused, and Kaito to become overly protective of his one-track-minded friend Akiho.
And shit... That's all I think I can really cover about this thing's plot without losing track of my thoughts as I try to talk through every last plot point that kinda-sorta has something to do with the end game. It was difficult to keep everything that was going on straight throughout the show as it happened, but in hindsight it just becomes a jumbled pile of spaghetti, sauteed in tanuki excrement. I'm having great difficulty remembering any real specifics of the story just a week after finishing it. That's not a good testament.
As I hinted at before, I have several chief complaints to make about this show (beyond its convoluted story), the primary of which is that the characters (except for Frau Crazy-Eyes) are dull and kind of lame. I felt no connection to them at all through this show's entire run. Yeah, it was cool to see some crossover with a player from Steins;Gate showing up, but even she was too little too late to help make the people and their interactions interesting. I also thought that for a show about robots, and one that actually had the word "robotics" in its title, the robots on display were pretty pathetic looking. Yeah, the giant, diesel-run behemoth that the Robot Club is building is supposed to look like it was constructed by some retarded kids, but all the service droids and other automatons shown off at the Tokyo Robotics Show had no imagination put into their designs what-so-ever. They made this whole series feel like it was done by the "B" Studio. And I'm all for having some loose ends in a tale when it's all said and done (hey, it happens... as long as they're not MAIN plot points), but there was so much left unexplained after everything was over that it left a really bad taste in my mouth.
If you want an amazing tale about augmented reality, watch Dennou Coil. If you want a brilliant pseudoscience story with fun (damaged) characters and giant conspiracies, watch Steins;Gate. If you want an amazing tale about a boy and his robot, there's always Giant Robo. You don't really need to see Robotics;Notes. Move along, compadres. Nothing to see here.
So, you've heard of Robotics;Notes, you're interested, but you're not sure why. You have this gut feeling that something "big" is gonna happen. I mean it's about a bunch of high school kids in Japan in the future that "dream of building" giant robots. That's just a recipe for disaster, so it should be exciting, no?
The trouble is that this anime is hard to follow. It's over-ripe with plots, and although all of them seem decent enough, none of them really progress properly, nor do they achieve full closure. I know, "non-closure" is a running theme in most anime, but come on now! If you're gonna have like 3 or 4 plots in a show, at least give one of them a satisfying ending. Not necessarily a "happy" ending, I don't always need that, but don't leave all the sub plots as giant, gaping holes. It's just not decent of you.
This show was sort of interesting, occasionally exciting, but overall very unsatisfying. The characters were likeable, but pretty "standard." Nothing mind-blowing or especially memorable other than at one point a boy set the "death flag" by telling the girl that he liked "I love you" pre-final showdown, and he lived to the end credits. I don't think I've ever seen that before.
I would have never have guessed that a show about giant robots could be so wimpy. There's only one giant robot fight, and it's in the final episode, and it's between a super military spider-like robot, and a downs syndrome creation built by a bunch of stupid kids. No, seriously, the kids are super dumb in this show.
I am so pissed off that I watched this thing. I want nothing more than to get those wasted hours back because of sitting through this dreck. Well, I want THAT, and I want to beat in the writers' heads with the Monkey of Madness. He hasn't tasted blood in a looooooong time.