It looks as if Robotics;Notes is on schedule to be a full-fledged bust on BD/DVD, which I’m sure will disappoint the money folks who hoped it would be another S;G and please the folks who’ve been dumping on the series since it premièred. It disappoints me too, of course, but there’s also a perverse satisfaction in seeing a series produced with many decisions that seem quite consciously anti-commercial. This is something of a specialty of Production I.G. of course – they have their share of hits (Psycho-Pass is no doubt helping to carry R;N’s weight), so perhaps it’s a luxury they can afford better than most studios. While this is based on 5pb’s work, of course, it really does appear as if many creative decisions were made strictly in deference to the quality of the work, at the cost of commercial viability. It’s a shame that it so often comes down to one or the other, but I’m glad there are still producers willing to make the best series they can and take their chances.
In a lot of ways this was the most balanced episode of Robotics;Notes so far, both stylistically and content-wise. It marked the welcome return of Frau Kojirou to prominence, started out fairly light in tone but quickly progressed to darker hues as the conspiracy came back into focus, and finished with the grimmest and most disturbing events of the series so far. What we’ve ended up with is something like what you’d get if you had a show with a Steins;Gate styled-conspiracy plot, where the main character had been written by Adachi Mitsuru. Kai is more and more looking like the seemingly ordinary guy (though he does have a cool wild west Pokecom holster) who’s going to be tasked with saving the world, and like everything else he does I suspect he’ll go about it with quiet determination and get the job done with a little grumbling, but not much calling attention to himself. Main characters like that are highly unusual in this sort of series, and it’s a dichotomy I rather like.
We actually have two Kimijima Reports in this episode, the first being #4, whose reveal was deferred because of the events surrounding Doc last week. Sister Centipede sums it up as follows:
- Project Atom
- Robot Rebellion
The first point, seemingly, is rooted in the final episode of Gunvarrel (more in a second). The second is less clear – though we know it’s the name of the Committee of 300’s master plan, we don’t yet know all the details. The relevance of the third point comes into much sharper focus with the events that conclude the episode. Sensing the urgency of the situation despite not really understanding it, Kai sets about setting the flags for the fifth report more or less immediately, and manages to do so with a relative minimum of fuss. And with that report come a few more scraps of information: the Earth’s magnetosphere is unstable because the sun is entering its last stages of life (though that would be defined in the billions of years) and using that, the Committee of 300 is trying to artificially create solar corona-lime phenomena.
As in any good conspiracy that still has nine episodes to play out, the answers are really just new questions. For purely personal reasons I’m quite curious to know whether the weird flags Kimijima is using to access his reports are just perversely random, or have some meaning to them; a much more obviously critical question is why the Committee is trying to enact a plan that would cause the extinction of the human race. Seemingly, that would include them, too – the implication being either that they have some sort of plan to save themselves (and those they deem worthy) or that for their own reasons they’ve simply decided the human race (and all life on Earth) should be destroyed. Tennouji Nae – who I still don’t trust, by the way – being present in the story implies a canonical link to the world of Steins;Gate, so in that context purely self-destructive behavior by the Committee of 300 doesn’t seem like the most logical option.
There are major developments on other fronts as well – instigated both by Frau Bow and by Aki, for a change. She’s the one who does a critical something that clearly needed to happen – get the monopole into Doc’s hands. He’s fresh out of the hospital but back in the shop, tinkering away, and clearly the best person on Kagoshima (among the allies, anyway) to try and figure out just what’s up with the thing. Since Kimijima – via Sister Centipede – made it possible to get the monopole into the hands of the one who accessed his reports, it can be assumed that it plays a critical role in whatever chance there is to stop Project Atom. Aki is doing this because she sees the monopole as a potential power source for the robot – and it may well end up manifesting as that at least in part – but the larger import is the role it will play in saving the world from the Project Atom.
And then we have Kona-chan, who continues to be one of the most entertaining characters in the cast. Her personal life has taken an even more disturbing turn – Kai admits he hasn’t seen her in-person for “two or three months” – and it turns out she’s been inside her bunker, shivering in the cold and rarely eating, trying to make sense of the clusterfuck that was the leaked Gunvarrel finale. She’s managed to piece together some random images into a montage that reveals a series of Romaji letters written on the walls of an abandoned building (looks to be either a prison or mental hospital), which in turn reveal the password to a website that was linked in the comment section of the website her mother maintained in high school – the first comment on the site in 19 years. Kai’s innocent “I’m surprised it’s still online” is clearly a critical clue here – someone made sure that site was still up – and the site itself appears to be a last desperate message from Frau-mama-sensei, which declares that Gunvarrel has been a propaganda tool and that she “had to get the word out somehow”.
Kona-chan’s personal story has a lot of traction, and that arm of the conspiracy was very elegantly constructed. Kimijima and Kona-chan’s mother both seem to be martyrs to the same cause, killed for trying to reveal the nature of the conspiracy at work – but it seems likely that one or both of them is still alive and in hiding, trying to help Kai and Kona find the truth. I really love the interactions between Kona and Kai – her “Let me lick your finger!” antics are still funny, but more and more they reveal the desperately lonely and unstable girl who needs Kai perhaps even more than Aki does. As for Kai, for all his stoicism he simply refuses to leave others be when they’re in trouble, as witness the events at the end of the episode when he breaks the glass door in the entryway of Frau Bow’s building when she refuses to answer her intercom. And thank goodness, too, as it appears she was on the verge of killing herself in despair over the backlash against Gunvarrel and the fact that someone has hacked her Twipo account, blaming her for the release of the finale and the unsettling events happening in Tokyo after a giant solar flare wreaked havoc on the city.
Ah yes, those events in Tokyo. A “warning shot” is how I would describe them, fired across Kai and Kona’s bow – a solar flare that’s devastated Kanto, and a seeming robot rebellion in the aftermath. Misaki can’t be reached, the city is dark, and robots are rampaging against the survivors. If I were to formulate an overall theory at this point, I’d harken back to a very brief mention of “Project Mars” a few episodes back. Mars, of course, is the fourth rock from the sun – a cold and dead world now. But if the sun were to be tweaked in such a fashion as to crank up the heat, Mars might just become habitable for humans. If the sun were to be so altered, of course, the Earth – being much closer – would be cooked like a Thanksgiving turkey and become uninhabitable in the process. If the Committee of 300 had found a way to get themselves and their chosen master race to Mars and terraform it, the Project Atom/Mars combo would conveniently kill two birds (and billions of people) with one stone – wipe out the unwashed masses, and set up a new world where the chosen elite could start fresh and have an entire planet’s worth of resources to themselves. It’s far-fetched, but at this point it makes more sense to me than any other possibility.