Robotics;Notes – 21

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See: “Yashio, Kaitou”

Honestly, my feeling at the moment is that if someone isn’t satisfied with this episode of Robotics;Notes, they’re probably hopelessly beyond the series’ reach at this point.  While there were over-reaches (Sister Centipede’s “death” as a snowburst for one) in the first act I can only call this episode a masterpiece – especially the second half, which felt like a payoff for all the heavy lifting the series has been doing for so long.  You can only get that kind of emotional traction when you’ve done the hard work in building characters that viewers can identify with and care about, and R;N has been slowly, patiently and skillfully doing that for the last six months.

In a funny sort of way, R;N feels like the answer to the question “What would it be like if Adachi Mitsuru wrote a giant mecha anime?”  If you’re the sort of person who gets a little thrill out of that prospect, this series was probably right up your alley.  If you’re the sort that’s either bored or horrified at the idea, well – I suspect you probably aren’t reading this because you likely tuned out many weeks ago.  I’ve commented already on how Kaitou plays very much like an Adachi male lead: self-effacing, seemingly a little shiftless, insanely talented but not motivated to go out of his way to call attention to the fact.  And most importantly, always at his best when the stakes are at their highest, and always there when his friends really need him.

It goes beyond that, though.  What might Adachi-sensei do?  He’d probably set the series in a high school.  He’d make the male and female lead childhood friends with a warm but complicated relationship, and he’d give them some tragedy in their past and serious sibling issues.  He’d tell the story in a very deliberate fashion, and though the plot would focus on the giant robots and some sort of larger world crisis, the real focus would be on the characters, who would be complex and instantly relatable.  He’d make the adults a mix of villains and goofy but ultimately caring figures who try to do their best and sometimes screw up.  In short, I think he’d write something a lot like Robotics;Notes.

There were a lot of really, really good things in this episode but make no mistake – the star of the show was Kai.  There were no half-measures here – he was a badass hero, plain and simple, the guy who did pretty much everything right.  From the moment he dragged himself from his sickbed and limped into the command center with his coat over his shoulder, it was clear that R;N was going all-in with the GAR this time around.  Subtle it was not, but if you didn’t get a charge out of every minute from that point on you’re probably a lost cause for this series (and I admit it’s not for everybody, having left cynicism broken by the curb a long time ago).  Determined to take to the battlefield in the new and improved Super GunPro-1 and take on Misa and Sumeragi, using Kimijima’s seizure-inducing device (found thanks to Airi) – despite the fact that doing so might just kill him.  The stakes?  The life and death of 5 billion people, that’s all.  As setups go, heroes don’t get much better than that.

Then Kai goes and compounds the matter with one of the most direct, GAR and no-BS confessions you’ll ever see.  It suits him to a “T” of course – Kaitou has all along been free of the usual silliness associated with anime male leads, especially when it comes to females.  “Hey – I love you, you know.” It was pure gold – and that’s coming from someone who frankly thought Kona-chan much the better match.  The thing is, better match or no, R;N has been setting up the connection between Kai and Aki for so long that it was probably the only way things could have gone.  There’s a real tenderness and honesty to their relationship, and I found her reaction solidly in character – especially when she made it clear she’s fully aware of just how much he’s been doing for her all these years.  I loved the reveal that the rest of the club had been watching them, and Kona and Subaru’s reactions were spot-on, too, especially when she decried them as “Normalfags!” for their storybook romantic moment.

How rare is it that we get not just the confession – and a genuine and unambiguous “I love you” at that – but a damn fine kiss to boot?  I’m a bit disturbed that Aki didn’t return the words to Kai – not that it isn’t obvious – but then, it’s not as though he hasn’t already set a dizzying number of death flags as is.  I have to applaud the R;N team (on top of everything else) for knowing the perfect moment to have Aki worry aloud about “Will this set the death flag?” just as I was cursing Kai for setting so damn many of them.  I sincerely, fervently hope that bit of self-referential humor is a sign that the series is taking the meta approach to this – to be honest, having Kai die at the end would really, really suck.  Seriously, Adachi would never go there.  If any cast of characters has earned their happy ending it’s this one, in  series that’s been unabashedly innocent and sentimental right from the beginning.  I can only say again that Steins;Gate was not so dissimilar to Robotics;Notes as some would have you believe – there was a certain innocence and undeniable romanticism to those character interactions as well.  But there’s no denying that this is a very different sort of story – a sweeter and gentler one, for all its conspiracies and tragedies.

I was very worried after last week that R;N would be unable to provide a satisfying conclusion if it was based around the final confrontation with Misaki/Kimijima, rather than on a character-driven coda that followed it – but this episode has convinced me otherwise.  We’re set up for what should be a thrilling and nerve-wracking finale, and I’m emotionally bought-in so heavily that I’m going to be on edge right up to the end.  This is why, in the end, I tend to prefer series that focus on character too heavily at the expense of plot rather than the reverse: those kinds of shows can always crank up the action at the end and if you care about the characters, the impact is profound.  It’s impossible for a plot-driven series with 2-D characters to deliver that same impact, because you can’t crank up character development this late in the game and overcome a series worth of deficit.  Robotics;Notes is most certainly not without its flaws, but it’s very, very good at what it does well – and it does the right things well.

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  1. B

    All in all I agree this was a fantastic episode, much better than last week's. Only two things felt off to me:

    1.) The Sister Centipede thing, as you mentioned, seemed a little overdone.

    2.) The confession, while undeniably one of the best executed examples in recent memory, still fell a little flat to me because I simply didn't feel much romantic chemistry between Aki and Kai throughout the series. The vibe I picked up from them right from episode 1 was closer to siblings than possible romantic partners and there's been precious little since to change that perspective. Not a deal breaker but again, it just fell a little flat for me.

  2. s

    while i wouldnt go that far to call this episode a masterpiece, it did a lot of things right as a setup towards the finale. And as much as im litle broken inside to see a kaiXaki ending, (like beckett said, their relationship didnt seem to have enough romantic chemistry for me to buy them as a couple) i loved Kai's confession and his resulting scene with aki since it was so sweet; anime's should take an example from this.

  3. R

    I love, love, love this episode — I love the shift back to the characters, and I really love the alone time given to Kai and Aki…I have been longing to see them talk heart-to-heart. I know that a lot of people side for Kai X Kona, but I just have the feeling for Kai X Aki. I am not saying this because of this episode but for many reasons (or my wish). Kai and Aki have long history together that they share and cherish — the understanding is deep, and the mutual trust is there. That's a foundation for a long-lasting relationship that becomes also a romantic one — what's more romantic than when your lover is also your best friend.

    I agree — this show is about Kai, and I love it that way. Kai is rare of his kind — he can be the most quiet hero that we see in anime, and he gains respect through his action. Kai is simply an amazing character. When Kai gave Aki that little box, it's like he entrusted his life to her — the bond is there and deep. The action, again, is quiet but tugs my heartstrings big time.

    R;N is smart — we had the last episode on the plot and this to ramp up our emotions for the finale. I have to say that of the two NoitaminA shows, I love R;N way more. I am invested in the characters, so even when R;N's plot isn't as thrilling, or it doesn't give as many "thought-provoking" political and social commentaries, I don't really care — I only want Kai to come home safe to Aki and the Robotics Club.

  4. K

    First of all, if you are talking about GAR in the context of Nitroplus adaptations, in my opinion nothing trumps what Okabe does in the last episode of Steins;Gate. I do have to admit that Kaito showed a lot of badassery though, with heart attacks and confessions alike. I did not like the pairing of Kai and Aki from the start of the show, and I still think a sibling relationship would suit them better (the chemistry for KaixKona seems more suitable) but I can forgive that thanks to the wonderful confession scene. What I can't forgive the show for, however, is the atrocious pacing. The creators stuffed way too much in the last episodes and there was too little action in the plot earlier on to keep people watching the show. I wonder if it was like that in the VN. The Adachi comparision is excellent when you think about it, great piece of writing on your part, Enzo.

  5. T

    I have to agree with a few of the other comments. I don't regard this episode a masterpiece by any means. In fact, I see it as a Jeckel and Hyde episode. The first half was pretty awful. Sorry, I don't give a damn about Ari or Sister Centipede and having YET ANOTHER barely escape death scene through random circumstance kind of made me annoyed. More than anything though, I was thinking to myself while the first half was going on, "Why aren't they having the characters drive this finale"

    AND THEN the second half happened, and by the end I was disappointed that the episode ended so quickly. What great finale climax to Aki's and Kai's relationship (though I have to agree I don't think the pairing is the best), and more importantly what a great final build up to the finale.

    The next couple of episodes will be a blast to watch.

  6. Next week is it – no more.

  7. w

    I actually love the Aki x Kai pairing, I'm a sucker for the "childhood friend" couples hehe. I mean, chemistry is great, and I think that Kai had chemistry with Kona, but eventually, relationships should turn to a deeper emotional understanding with tender affections, and that's what I feel that Aki and Kai have already. Either way, what a great catch Kai is! We seriously need more male leads like him!

    As you've said repeatedly, Enzo, this show is character driven and I am glad we've gotten to see the entire Robotics Club at its best. The bgm during the Aki x Kai scenes was great, and I loved the last group rally. :) Can't wait for the finale, but I'll be sad to see this show finish! Hopefully we'll get to see a little bit more of how Misa was brainwashed–I know she was driven by guilt and fear of being discovered, but I imagine she had to climb into that suit on her own, and since the evil guy is basically floating in cyberspace…

    Thanks again for your timely post, Enzo! I come to LiA for your reviews on R:N and PP every week :)

  8. S

    I pretty much fell in love with Aki during that scene, wow. Give me some sugar Aki! Candy or kisses, or both! I don't mind! XD.

    Great payoff after a 20+episode build-up. R;N can finally hold it's own in the comparison with S;G, but nothing is less important for me right now. They are already both up there in the highest rank of Animes. Kthx, bye normalfags!

  9. e

    THIS SCREENSHOT <3 you picked. Alright, I've been keeping up with this series summary since the beginning but THIS SHOT <3 . The gesture itself, the camera angle , the rendering of the hands and the realistic bent of the wrists! I'm sold.

  10. T

    I f***ing loved teh confession scene, I'm not really a hardcore shipper of anyone in this show, but it felt so good to just once see a childhood firends pairing be THE pairing in the end and to have the confession itself not be to laced in BS (which for me is rare given how FEW confessions I've acctually seen. Right off the top of my head FMA B and Kamisama Dolls only comes to mind)

    Next week shall be the end of it all, and I'm looking forward to it! I may not be a huge mecha fan or anything, BUT BRING ON THE ROBOT GAR!

  11. j

    Um Anime Desse Tipo E bom Para ver Porque fala de muitas coisas para ver dentro do anime ao vivo Online Sobre Robotic que tem tempo grande como esse se passa em 2019, época onde uma espécie de que fala de consoles no anime e jogando com tablet,ou outros consoles de mao intitulado Pokecon acaba se tornando uma coisa essencial no dia a dia. sempre tem que ter um fanático por jogos de luta ou outros estilos de robos que chega a ser um dos melhores ter escolas,e ser membros de um clube de robótica de seu colégio, ou ser membro de uma universidade ou ser membro de um lugar legal no anime para as pessoas onlie vejm o anime e gostem porque tem tudo que as pessoas que dentro do anime. Como um esfor?o para tentar manter o clube, De Um Anime Com Essas Caracteristicas.
    Esse anime tem que ter mais batalhas psp um contra outro entre os personagem, seria legal porque no anime os personagem eles lutam no torneio e na escola, e na rua quando estao conversando e tem que mostrar mais as lutas para o usuario,

  12. Obrigado, eu não recebo um monte de comentários em Português e Robótica; Notes é um espetáculo que merece muito mais atenção.

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