I like this series a lot so far, but even I would be the first to admit that it’s extremely laid-back in terms of pacing and mood. In a funny way this episode put me in mind of one of my favorite series, Zettai Shounen – not nearly as great, but offering a similar sleepy take on small-town life with hints of something magical and terrible lurking just underneath the surface. The effect is as if we’re looking in on the lives of the characters at random moments, rather than merely being shown the critical events as they happen.That sort of thing isn’t for everybody but it works pretty well for me as long as the atmosphere created is inviting, and so far this one is.
For a long time Kaito and Akiho were staying safely within their well-defined roles as blasé boy and genki girl, but as this second episode progressed we began to see the hints of what lies underneath. Some of that came in the form of Kaito’s interaction with storekeeper Irie (Honda Takako), with whom he has a standing deal – eat an entire passion fruit bun (a truly disgusting notion) and he can ask her for any info he desires. In this case it’s for dirt on the local robotics parts dealer (since 2001), “Doc” Fujita (Fukuda Nobuaki) from whom Akiho needs parts to get the club’s ancient hobby robot Tanegashi Machine-san working again in time for the Robo One. The gist of it is that for all his diffidence, Kaito seems to see it as his responsibility to look after Akiho – for reasons that will become clearer later in the episode.
Doc is a pretty standard character, too, right down to the moniker – a grizzled old curmudgeon with a genius for design who enjoys the stimulation he gets from bickering with Akiho about pricing. While classmate and robot expert Subaru-kun seems insulted that the club would try and compete in Robo One after only a couple weeks of practice Doc seems eager to help. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Akiho’s sister Misaki is going to be a major force in the series, be it on-screen or off – Irie mentions that Kaito is “there for both Aki and Misa” and he says himself that he might be a replacement for her. Apart from the fact that she started the Robotics Club eight years earlier and that she was a genius at fighting robots we don’t know much about her but I’d wager my best pair of shoes she’s intimately connected to the conspiracy that’s sure to be at the heart of this series, given who the creators are.
Possibly the most interesting and certainly the oddest part of the episode is Akiho’s bout of “Elephant and Mouse Syndrome” – an oddly named fictional condition where she perceives five minutes of time as one second. I have no clue what’s behind this condition, which I assume has the name it does because elephants being much more long-lived perceive time differently than mice (see “Charlotte’s Web” for another example), which ominously suggests that as the mouse, Akiho may indeed be aging at a faster than normal rate. Again, it’s surely connected to the whole Gunvarrel related conspiracy, but for now it gives us another glimpse inside Kaito’s head and the role Akiho plays as the one thing he can be bothered about, when she’s in real trouble anyway. I suspect we’re going to have to show a lot of patience before the meat of the plot really kicks in – that’s fine with me as I like the characters and setting, and love the look of the series. I certainly don’t think everyone will agree with me, though, and while I don’t think R;N is guilty of false advertising I do think there’s a bit of false perception about what the show was going to be, and it’s going to shed some viewers who find the going too slow. That’s a shame, but I’m more than happy to stick it out.