Robotics;Notes – 14

[WhyNot] Robotics;Notes - 14 [1758459A].mkv_snapshot_07.59_[2013.01.26_12.49.58] [WhyNot] Robotics;Notes - 14 [1758459A].mkv_snapshot_08.24_[2013.01.26_12.50.27] [WhyNot] Robotics;Notes - 14 [1758459A].mkv_snapshot_15.45_[2013.01.26_12.58.30]

Forgive the pun, but things are heating up on Robotics;Notes in every way.

I’ll resist the urge to say “I told you do”, because we’re probably too late in the game for any large number of viewers to be won over by R;N (or to admit to it, anyway, with so much derision already invested in bashing the series).  I’m personally of the view that this was a very strong series right from the beginning – one that patiently built the story from the ground up, through the characters – but there’s no denying that the crowd-pleasing factor has been cranked way up in the last couple of episodes.  The conspiracy has begun to round into shape, and the dynamics among the main cast have never been more interesting.

Much of the exposition we get this week comes from Misaki’s boss – who I only now realize I’ve neglected to mention is named Sawada Toshiyuki and is played by the legendary (and deservedly so) Shinichiro Miki.  I’m not a fan of exposition that comes by way of characters making extraneous speeches for the audience’s benefit – please see Shin Sekai Yori for an example of the way to do exposition without short-cuts – but that aside, he has some very interesting things to say as Tokyo simmers in darkness and the robots rise up to terrorize the populace.  We get by far our most descriptive mention of Project Mars – “the plan to throw the world into chaos with a robot uprising”, which is “only a precursor to a larger plan”.  Does that fit with my theory as espoused in last week’s episode post, that the larger goal is to wipe out life on Earth and set up shop anew on Mars, warmed by a newly hyperactive sun?  I don’t think there’s anything conclusive either way – my first question is, why is this plan called “Project Mars” in the first place – what’s the Mars connection?  But it’s clear from Sawada’s words that Project Mars (and presumably Atom) have been in the works for a long time, and that he believes it, the death of Kimijima in 2010 and the release of the propagandized “Gunvarrel” final episode are directly linked.  Speaking of that final episode, Sawada also reveals that the entire crew of Gunvarrel was brainwashed, except for Kona’s mother (Maeda Ai), who somehow broke free of it – and this is a tactic that was apparently used on Maguyan (always great to see a star of the last generation like Ueda Yuji get a nice gig), the member of the Kill Ballad development team that was used to hack Frau Bow’s accounts and set her up as the scapegoat for the robot rebellion.

The great thing about Robotics;Notes is that the world-changing events are seen mostly through the effect they have on the daily lives of the kids at the heart of the story.  That makes this a series that plays very much on a human scale despite its grand conspiracies, which drives some people crazy but is a selling point for me.  Kai has been at the heart of the series pretty much non-stop since the beginning and has established himself as one of the best MCs anime has seen for a while, but the show has really benefited from Kona’s move into the spotlight.  She’s been the funniest member of the cast since she joined it (arguably getting a tussle from Mister Pleiades, who makes a winning return this week), but we’re seeing the other side to her now, and it’s completely believable and involving, especially the story behind why she developed Kill Ballad and what “Gunvarrel” means to her.  And while our attention was directed elsewhere, Kai and Kona were developing into one of the more intriguing potential couples of the year.

The transition to anime has been pretty seamless, and it’s easy to forget that this is a show based on a traditional VN experience – even easier than it was with Steins;Gate, I’d argue.  I can’t help but wonder where the personal side of the story is headed, based on that.  I like Aki-chan just fine and I think the deeply caring relationship she and Kai share is beautifully presented, but there’s just no denying it: it’s with Frau Bow that Kai has the romantic chemistry.  And it’s really blossomed in the last few eps as she’s faced her existential crisis and he’s become her knight in shining armor.  Kai has filled that role for Aki since they were chibis, or course, but Aki projects a resolve and optimism (though it’s no doubt partly a cover) that Kona-chan lacks.  Kona has her own cover, of course – she hides her attraction to Kai behind a stream of 2ch verbiage and otaku innuendo – but it’s been obvious practically since they met.

Kai is a tough one to read in this case.  He certainly put himself through the grinder for Kona this week.  Not only did he break into her apartment and stop her from killing herself – though it can be debated if that’s what she really wanted, as she didn’t use the blade on herself and the danger came from sheer exhaustion and a tub full of water – he tortured himself physically so that he might slip into his “slow motion” mode and defeat the CPU playing Kill Ballad, thus allowing Kona to access the Roboratory (heh) Industries robot control server.  But the thing about Kai is, he pretty much does this every week – he doesn’t usually do it in such a flashy manner and the need isn’t normally so dire, but he’s invariably the one who takes it upon himself to help whichever of his friends is in trouble.  Was his answer the truth – that he was doing it for the right of the act himself, and would have done all he did whether Kona needed him or not?  Even if that were the case, that doesn’t preclude Kai having feelings for Kona – and that’s where I fall on the matter.  Kai would have put himself through that anyway given the stakes involved, but it seems clear to me that he feels something more for Kona than simple friendship.

It’s unusual to see a sci-fi story that can develop equally compelling overarching plots and personal stories simultaneously – maybe Steins;Gate was the last one, who knows – and it’ll be fascinating to see where both paths lead from here.  I sincerely hope VN mode doesn’t kick it, and this is merely Kona’s route before we move on to Aki – and it does seem worth remembering that while it was Mayuri that Okabe had the deep childhood friendship with, it was Makise that he ended up with (and rightfully so, I’d argue).  One of the things I loved about S;G was the way it handled that potentially clichéd triangle without resorting to cliché, and that gives me great hope here – though Aki’s hilarious reaction when Kona grabbed Kai’s arm makes it clear that she’s not OK with the notion that he ends up with another girl.  But her kiss after his heroic collapse makes it equally clear that Kona has made a decision not to accept the “forever alone” end.  All this is taking place as the net closes around the innocent world of the Robotics Club, with Kona’s unwilling involvement in the Tokyo events making it impossible to believe that she and Kai can escape the notice of the Committee of 300.  I hope enough of you have stuck around, because I very much believe the best is yet to come.

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[WhyNot] Robotics;Notes - 14 [1758459A].mkv_snapshot_04.49_[2013.01.26_12.45.17] [WhyNot] Robotics;Notes - 14 [1758459A].mkv_snapshot_04.49_[2013.01.26_12.45.22] [WhyNot] Robotics;Notes - 14 [1758459A].mkv_snapshot_05.27_[2013.01.26_12.46.31]
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  1. A

    It's not related to R;N, but are you still watching Cuticle Tantei Inaba, Enzo? I know you've stopped blogging on it, but I just find it to be very funny. Little all over the place, yes, but it's like binbougami ga with none of the serious drama stuff, just all the way non-stop comedies. Or Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san. Maybe such toilet humor is not your liking, but I think the show is getting funnier.

  2. A

    If they do plan to colonize mars after destroying earth with solar winds I hope they have found a way to create a magnetic field strong enough to protect them on mars from the exact same thing.

  3. J

    "VN mode", heh, that was the thought that was running through my mind after the ending. Kona's character development will probably fade after this arc. The only thing that was missing was the "Fin" in the corner of this screenshot.

  4. K

    I agree. This arc had me jump onto the KonaxKai ship, although I feel that it won't go anywhere. They really do have good chemistry together.
    As much as I like Kona, it feels like this is pretty much it for her character development. The only saving grace is that she's going to school, so we still get a "Duhuhu" from her every now and then.

    Now if she only let her hair down all the time. She looks much better that way. A dishevelled appearance suits her the best.

  5. I

    All aboard, no pushing you'll all get your turn, please walk in a single file and hold your child's hand. All aboard the KonaxKai ship.

    I think this was the best character arc to date in R;N because there was no defined conclusion. Because as one door closes another opens. I can't describe why but it felt like a lot more than just a route. I also feel that with such a large conspiracy and only 8 episodes left, KonaxKai will sail past AkixKai in the end.

    Another thing is that in most harems or love triangles around a single boy, the girl whose whole life becomes about that boy (i.e. the orphan or the lonely one, the introverted one, the one with not much else to do but be with the boy, the talentless one etc.) gets the guy and Aki has some big things to do. Kona though only has software making left and the location of her mom. So I think Kai will end up with her simply because she would be more adept at letting go of him.

    Though we could be screwed at the end by having a harem end.

  6. m

    I agree with where you said Aki has bigger things to do. Something that dawned on me was that the relationships that have some friction are the most interesting.
    And while this idea isn't about a romantic pairing, I feel Aki's friction is most with her sister. If the story focuses on that I think it'll be more interesting then her trying to get between whoever seems close to Kai. Especially when I think about the flashbacks when her sister left. Why did her loving sister become so cold? To use reverse phycology and actually encourage her? Or to scare her so much she never has a chance to find out what Gunvareel is really about?

  7. K

    I love this series too and Kona is my favorite character. She has probably no shot at Kai but she is going to keep trying. Looking forward to seeing whats gonna happen next. Always a good sign in a decent series.

  8. A

    i really enjoyed this episode; have to say that it is my favorite episode of the series. My only critique about this episode is that its really started to show its VN roots. Please by all means i hope this ep was not just some sort of kona route cuz otherwise the shift of focus to a different character ever episode or two is going to break the flow of the narrative. This episode was so well-written, so well done, that it would be a shame if the producers were following a VN structure to this series. This episode has shown that this series can really tell a compelling story with rich characters and a gripping story, so i just hope the character developments and story fragments carry over throughout the rest of this series and are actually relevant, (it wouldn't make sense to make all this chemistry between kona and kai for it to go to waste; if this is for the sake of building kai a harem that would be disappointing because this show is better than that)

  9. A

    Actually, the R;N VN is a linear story which branches out. Those branches are the character routes, but they have their own ending in which the actual story comes to a halt. So episode 12 that focused on Junna and these last two episodes have been part of the linear story. It's just that if certain conditions are met, Kai will stick with the character in question until their story ends and than you have to go back to get to the linear story. The same thing goes for Steins; Gate. These kinds of VNs are rare, but their are quite a few.

  10. A

    But even if the story is linear, the branching of character routes can start to de-segment the story. Steins;gate had a linear story as well with character branches but the anime was very careful to not start feeling like branching story lines. The narrative was always progressing in one direction, constantly adding new information to the story every episode that kept you on the edge your seat in one continuous progressive arc. Pretty much they didn't feel like character arcs (from the beginning, the creators pretty much said "we are following the kurisu route, no if's ands or buts about it. and all evidence pointed to that). As much as i love robotics;notes, im starting to see the VN structure of the series a little bit, just a lil bit. As long as the character developments and story point are continued to be built upon from this episode, i will have been proven wrong. But if, for example, kona becomes a side character who gets pushed in the back ground, or her story gets forgotten about, that would be unfortunate to the narrative.

  11. A

    I understand that. Bu8t what I am trying to say is the branching paths have played no role at all in the anime. Not one single word.

  12. h

    Although you've resisted the urge, I have no such reservations, Enzo. "I told you do!"

    I love it when large-scale events are portrayed through their effects on characters. As human beings, we relate more to characters than cold expositions of events. To personalize a huge event, and thereby make it moving to an audience, it must be personalized, and what more can one do in the way of personalization than an (intimate) story between two affected persons?


  13. A

    Kona is the character I'm most curious about, mostly because her role in the story is the most ambiguous. She's straddling the line right between secondary or primary character, and it's time for the story to choose her category. If she's a secondary character, then Gunvarrel will remain her motivation and she'll fade out. If she's a primary character, then she'll find her own reasons and become more prominent than ever. Is she Feyris or Kurisu? I'm not sure, and that makes her even more interesting.

  14. A

    Do you think Kona was more normal and emotionally healthy in the flashbacks that take place before her mother dies, Enzo?

  15. We didn't see enough of her to say, I don't think. But what we did see would certainly imply she was – and why shouldn't she be, considering what happened…

  16. K

    At the risk of sounding even more like an AkixKai shipper here, I'll agree that what we've seen is romantic but could we also see Frau feeling like this towards Kai mostly due to a deep gratitude for what he's done for her? It's hard to pinpoint what direction Kai is going to go in because well (he's pretty nonchalant and laid back) he goes to great lengths to help others already and by helping Frau out, he's made her realize that she's not alone and there are other people concerned about her as well. He loves the challenge of Kill Ballad, thus he's so intent on beating the cheater and it also helps Kona clear her name and put a stop on the robot attack. She's a lonely person with a funny and perverse attitude and wants to have someone to talk to; someone to listen to her story. And Kai was there to listen to her. He saved her from potentially killing herself because (yes, depending on how you see it in a romantic way or not) wouldn't you do the same even if you liked someone or not? (I think probably most of us would have that instinct to just intervene anyway because it's the right thing to do).

    I could bring up the whole "childhood friends" idea here (which I do like XD) but there's other ways of seeing this. We still have a good last third of the show to get through so things are picking up. I've read that people see this "triangle" in relation to S;G but think about how like-minded (in a sense that they were scientifically-oriented people) Okabe and Kurisu were, even though Okabe and Mayuri were childhood friends. That dynamic is different from R;N you notice because well, Aki has made those subtle suggestions of jealousy and surprise (lost it when she made that face) around Kai, which I think, do really suggest that she likes him. And with such outward behavior like that from her is where she is different from Mayuri, who was not jealous or >,,> towards OkabexKurisu. As opinionated and free-spirited as Aki is on the outside, I feel that maybe there's a bit more to that. We tend to see her retract and lose enthusiasm when Misa is involved in some way (pick up dat phone Misa) and she feels inferior; and that is where Kai picks her up and encourages her to keep going.

    Alas, I'm not trying to hate on Kona or anything or the shippers (she just has the craziest, funniest one-liners that make me bust out laughing) but somehow I think KonaxSubaru (oh Pleiades-kun does the best dances; I could watch that gif all day XD) would kinda be sweet and funny at the same time. But that's just an idea I'm throwing out there. Both Kona and Aki put a lot of faith in Gunvarrel and after this episode, I hope that it will still continue to be a motivation for them, in their respective ways. I wouldn't want Kona's character development to fade into the background now but we know that she wants to keep working hard for her mom, just like Aki wants to finish GunPro-2. I would like to see some more character development in Aki's part from here (and perhaps Subaru and Junna too); I'd like to see her version of the elephant-mouse syndrome playing into this again sometime too.

    Patience is a virtue; hoping things will continue to get even better 🙂

  17. T

    This show just made the jump from "good" to "great" for me. I've been sold for a while on the characters and the general mood of the thing, but wanted some sort of assurance that this show was capable of some sort of emotional/narrative payoff. I'm pretty damn convinced at present. Now all it needs is a good ending.

    On the love triangle: I can't really get myself to care. I like Kai's chemistry both with Aki and with Kona. The latter is more, uh, chemical, to be sure, but the relationship between Kai and Aki was what first made me like this show, and it's still probably my single favorite element. It feels like the series's heart to me, but I can't for the life of me put my finger on why. But I don't really care whether or not it ends up being romantic.

  18. H

    I just can't see how people could complain about any of this series. It's been compelling throughout, and the great character development has really been the foundation of the show. Even when it was 'slow', it wasn't that people were just sitting around.

    As far as couples go, I've never had really the indication that 1) the show is particularly caring about romance and 2) that Aki and Kai would ever be a romantic couple. They just seem far too comfortable in the roles they have now: likely lifelong friends (well, until one of them gets some jealous spouse / partner that thinks that it's impossible to have a platonic opposite sex friend… maybe I read too many advice columns). They're definitely linked, and will be forever, but Kai's caring for Aki is what I see as just friendship. I think there's probably a lot more chance that Kai and Kona would end up together, because Kona is a lot more forward about it, and for all her hikikomori tendencies, willing to push the boundaries with Kai, which is what he would need to move from friends to lovers.

  19. C

    With the exception of Kona, I've always felt the characters were mostly far too archetypical. Your mileage may vary.

    Far too much screentime is taken up by pointless meandering through ridiculous hoops for Kimijima Report flags. A couple of times were fine, but by Report 3 or so it really began to drag.

    With some actual character development, a solidification of Kai's character, and no Report meandering, this episode was thus far better than most of the previous ones. One hopes the trend continues.

  20. A

    I hope nobody gets together. More plot please, forget the lovey-dovey crap.

  21. B

    It's no secret that I've been a Frau Kojiro fan ever since she was introduced. Obviously it goes without saying then that I freaking loved this episode. The more of her we get in the episodes the better off this show is in my opinion.

    Frau Kojiro forever.

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