The much anticipated follow up anime to the critically acclaimed series' Chaos;Head and the much loved Steins;Gate, has finally hit the North American shores. While Robotics;Notes is it's entirely own beast and is separate from both aforementioned series, it still has quite a bit to live up to. So does Robotics;Notes overcome the hype?
In these first Eleven episodes of the series, there really is not one overarching plot. The series focuses primarily on the the friendship between the two lead characters Kaito and Akiho (voiced by Clifford Chapin and Lindsay Seidel, respectively.) Kaito seems to not want to be bothered by anything but his favorite game, Kill Ballad, which he is constantly playing. He's extremely laid back with not a care in the world, besides the fact that he's ranked 4th on the all time points In Kill Ballad, to which he's convinced the top 3 are cheaters. Ahiko, is also obsessed with media, hers is a anime called GunVarrel, which for some reason never aired the final episode, something she wants to get to the bottom of. Together they work to get the funding for their Robotics club to help them achieve their dream, to build a life size mech. It's a nice twist on the mecha genre on how that is dealt with slowly, and it doesn't just magically power on and work like most shows.
As I said before the series works on numerous subplots, The first spans the first 3 episodes of the show. Kaito and Akiho need funding for their "Robotics Club." In a last ditch effort to save the club from being disbanded and get more funding, they decide to join a robot fighting tournament (think Battle Bots if you ever watched that show.) The competitors build a small remote controlled robot to fight with, and the winner gets a cash prize. Kaito makes it to the finals and faces off against the reigning chamoion, Mr. Pliedes. We soon learn that Mr. Pliedes is actually Subaru (voice of Jarrod Greene.) Subaru is a fellow student at Kaito's school. He won the tournament that Kaito and Akiho are trying to win several years earlier. He's a genius with robotics, and because of that, they want him in the robotic's club and blackmail him into doing so, because of this blackmail, we find out why Subaru goes incognito to the robot fights, which is surprisingly sad.
The entirety of the set stays in the same episodic nature as the subplot above, a couple other subplots featured in the first 11 episodes are Kaito discovering an AI (artificial intelligence) in his phone that asks him if she can call him brother. Kaito and Ahiko meeting Daitoku, who wants to join the Robotics Club. Kaito tracking down the 3 people who have a higher score than he does on Kill Ballad, and the mystery surrounding the final unaired episode of GunVarrell.
While the series is episodic for the most part, with a thin plot like building a mech from the ground up, actually think that's for the best. My favorite thing about all of the side stories is the fact how they are all neatly woven together. The series may not be as good as Steins;Gate, but it's an enjoyable watch, with quite a bit to offer.
+ Solid buildup to Part 2.
+ The lead characters have good chemistry together.
+ Some good character development, especially for Subaru, which were my favorite moments.
+ A quality dub full of many newcomers. The 3 leads, Clifford Chapin, Lindsay Seidel, and Jarrod Greene all do a fantastic job.
- The pacing is all over the place.
- Less than stellar lead character. Kaito is almost always seen being stoic and doing nothing other than playing his video game. With that said, his scenes with Akiho are enjoyable to watch.
Video and Audio
Robotics;Notes animation is standard fare, it's well done with decent character designs, with some nice background detail, despite the setting being a bit boring. The series can be a bit bland at times but when it uses it, the series has a strong color palette that features bold and vivid colors, sadly though, that is not too often.
For Audio, we have two different audio tracks. The first is a TrueHD 5.1 English Dolby and the second is the original TrueHD 2.0 Japanese Stereo track, as usual I watched the English dub. The audio quality of Robotics;Notes is very good throughout. The series has a good dub, and the dialogue is delivered crisply throughout. The soundtrack does a good job with amplifying the action scenes while nicely underlying the intimate scenes. There were no noticeable audio dropouts or distortions throughout the set.
- Episode 6 commentary with Monica Rial and Leah Clark, the voices behind Daitoku and Frau, respectively.
- Episode 10 commentary with Lindsay Seidel and Jarrod Greene, the voices of Akiho and Subaru, respectively.
- Science Adventure Series Interview: Part 1 - a 21 minute interview featuring J. Michael Tatum, Joel McDonald and John Burgmeier. They all talk about their histories with Chaos;Head, Robotics;Notes and more extensively about Steins;Gate. It's a nice informative extra and I'd love to see more stuff like this in the future. The highlight is J. Michale Tatum talking about the months he worked on Steins;Gate, he played Okabe, the lead character. He said he had to record for about 8 hours per day, then go home and write scripts for another 5-6, which he says actually ending up causing a momentarily breakdown in the booth. It shows how much he truly loved his character, the dedication that went into it and makes me appreciate his work that much more.
- 6 Limited Edition Character Art Cards, 1 each for the following, Kaito, Akiho, Subaru, Daitoku, Frau, and Airi.
- Opening and Closing themes.
- U.S. Trailer.
- FUNimation trailers.
- The limited edition also comes with a nice chipboard art box.
You can't compare this series to either of the two series I mentioned above, Rootics;Notes is a completely different thing altogether. Even then, the series is quite mediocre and decent at best, never truly capitalizing on it's potential. A lot of bland characters (and some great ones), some decent character development along with some good stories makes Part 1 of Robotics Lightly Rcommended.