I have a lot of respect for Robotics;Notes. It’s not taking shortcuts either with its storytelling or character development, not (often, anyway) resorting to low-hanging fruit for audience gratification, and seems to be putting it’s stock in a slow-build strategy of laying out a huge conspiracy piece-by-piece and putting relatable characters in ridiculous situations to react with recognizable emotions. In short, it’s trusting the audience, and I respect any anime that does that (and there aren’t that many that do, to this extent). There are a lot of similarities in this approach to that of Steins;Gate, but some interesting differences too – that was a series that relied much more on shock and eye both in terms of plot and character.
Speaking of S;G. the connections to that mythology look a lot clearer than they did a week ago. First and most obviously there’s Nae Tennouji, who’s revealed to be acting at the behest of Aki’s father in kidnapping the kids (including Frau Koujirou) to JAXA HQ. I’m not the most knowledgeable about 5pb mythology as a whole, but I know there are some obvious differences between the Nae we saw in the S;G anime and the one that existed in the game – in short, a large and disturbing part of her arc was cut out. The Occam’s Razor explanation is that in successfully changing timelines, Okabe managed to prevent that Nae route from ever happening – but it’s also worth remembering that Nae is a person that, even as a little girl, is capable of some seriously twisted stuff if the circumstances break the right way – and I keep that in mind as I consider just how much to trust her. I’m also not 100% convinced that Aki’s father is the benevolent doofus he’s presented as. Given how his eldest daughter turned out, I’m convinced he knows more than he’s letting on, and has ulterior motives for what he did.
That leads to the question: would Japan’s national space agency really contract out to a bunch of kids to help them build giant robots without a damn good reason (even given the self-referential humor in the situation)? Or at all, for that matter – though it seems fair to say that Kai’s unreal performance at Robo One would have been quite the attention getter. There’s no question they’re looking for this technology for reasons much more sinister than they’re letting on, and in the end it was probably for the best that Aki refused – though her reasons are altogether more innocent. “Gendo Pose” or no, Aki seems the embodiment of pure idealism in this story, and as such she really has no analogue in the S;G universe – she may in fact be the closest thing to Okabe in a funny way, though Kai is certainly the most compelling character in this series, and the one who dominates the screen time.
Kai continues to impress as a lead, for much the same reasons he has all along. Here we see that his cool customer act isn’t an act – even in the midst of being kidnapped by MIBs he walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk. The fact that he keeps such a cool head about him makes him more interesting, and also adds some weight to the times when he sets himself to accomplishing serious tasks. The reason, I think, his slacker vibe works so well as a character is because he’s actually extremely curious, quite determined and rather compassionate, though he doesn’t call any attention to himself in the process. It’s hallowed ground for me, but I’m actually seeing elements of Kitamura Kou (Cross Game) in his makeup – Kai is an Adachi-like male lead in the he projects an everyman, unexceptional quality and professes to be somewhat dispassionate, but he’s actually extremely capable and possessed of a fiercely strong will.
I’m also impressed with the way the pieces of the larger story are being fit together. It’s quite elegant, really – and I think the way Kimijima laid out his secrets in the manner of a VN, waiting for someone to come along and find them, is very cool. It says something about Kai’s nature that he’s unable to resist chasing them down even when it presents real danger – his curiosity, sense of responsibility to act on what he knows, and compassion for Airi though intellectually he can’t justify it. The scene where he attempts to press the green button the second time during the typhoon was beautifully shot – the animation by Production I.G., like the series itself, has been universally excellent and rarely flashy.
The results of all that effort leave us with Aki leading a rescue of the injured Kai – their relationship remains extremely natural and captivating even in the lack of romance – and with out most direct links yet to the 5pb mythos. There are actually seven Kimijima reports in total, which Kai will presumably track down in succession, and the second reveals the existence of the “Committee of 300” – who want to see human population reduced to 1 billion as part of their “Human Domestication Project”. Kimijima specifically warns Kai about “Kagome, Kagome” as a song symbolically linked to the Committee, too – and it all leads to the big question of how the H.D.P., the reveal about the stuff happening on the sun, and the broadcasts into space (which Kimijima created Airi/Sister Centipede to safeguard after his death, in part) are linked (as they certainly are). Both as a stand-alone series and a sequel to its mythological predecessors, Robotics;Notes is achieving high marks in my book.