As part of the Science Adventure series, Robotics;Notes has a lot to live up to, following on from the critically acclaimed Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head. After taking this particular scientific adventure with Aki and the Robotics Research Club through Madman Entertainment’s release of the first cour of the series, I can say that Robotics;Notes bares the ‘Science Adventure’ series flag proudly and takes the series in interesting new directions all the while exploring the themes that make the series so popular.
Following the Robotics Research Club on their quest to build a giant robot, Robotics;Notes lays its foundations well in its initial episodes. The series opts for a slow pace not unlike that seen in Steins;Gate.
There is rarely a cliffhanger ending, rather a series of events split up into episodes. It’s an interesting structure that seems to be a mainstay with the ‘Science Adventure’ series and by and large it works, however it does mean that Robotics;Notes takes a while to hit its stride.
This first cour of Robotics;Notes is a lot of stage setting, but barely much of a main act. We get a deep introduction to these characters, their individual histories and their motivations for being a part of the Robotics Research Club. On top of that we get a pretty solid idea of where the series is heading with the final stretch of episodes of this release beginning to journey into Yashio’s quest to uncover the titular ‘notes’.
Through the ‘notes’ plot-line we get a hint of a darker turn coming for the series. There is talk of end of the world cover-ups and a mysterious Organization secretly trying to control the world as we know it. It is all very intriguing stuff but we are only just scratching the surface with this first part. It is a lot of setting up but the taste of major plot that we do get is more than enticing, it is downright addictive. After watching through the series it becomes clear this show is better to marathon through rather than pace out. The revelations mount up on one another and it is hard not to crave even a hint of what is to come.
Worth noting is the science at the core of Robotics;Notes which is incredibly fascinating to say the least. While it would seem as if the series focuses on robotics, that is hardly the main event in terms of technology in Robotics;Notes. Rather the series explores Augmented Reality in great detail, conveying a possible future where AR has become a part of daily life and is embedded in almost all of everyday technology.
Robotics;Notes has an optimistic take on the future of technology and views a world with commonplace Augmented Reality as having a lot of benefits. I would like to see Robotics;Notes tinker with the idea that AR may not be infallible, but it has yet to show any signs of taking that road yet. I do think that looking at both sides of the coin would do Robotics;Notes well, however it’s pro-technology agenda has rung true throughout this first cour rather heavily, sometimes a little too much so, but it isn’t make or break as there is still plenty of ground left for this series to cover.
One of the most interesting parts of Robotics;Notes is how it effortlessly balances underlying darker elements with an upbeat and bubbly slice-of-life style that seems to exist almost in opposition of it. It is a balancing act that makes Robotics;Notes feel undeniably fresh among the throng of anime that lean too far into one of those directions and losing sight of the other entirely. It is important to maintain a balance of light and dark, because that is the very foundation of all great story-telling, a struggle between light and dark. It is a tale that has taken many forms throughout the years and it is ultimately the oldest story there is, but it holds true and for Robotics;Notes that conflict is executed superbly.
The first cour concludes quietly all the while lining up the dominoes ready to be knocked down in the final stretch of the series. It leaves you hanging hard but manages to prove satisfying in spite of all that.
The series looks great aesthetically, with Production I.G. doing a phenomenal job in bringing the visual novel to the small screen fabulously. With fluid animation and a distinct design, Robotics;Notes has a very unique look that sets it apart from the crowd. It is beautifully animated and with Kazuya Nomura directing, he makes a mark with a detail oriented style that never leaves a stone unturned. Having previously directed on the Sengoku Basara anime you can tell he has quite a knack for choreographing action sequences and while they are few and far between in Robotics;Notes, Nomura makes the most of them with incredible sakuga animation at play.
In terms of audio, the soundtrack in this series is probably one of the best I’ve heard in quite some time. The incidental music sets the right tone and the opening and ending themes simply rock. This release actually features an English dub from Funimation which I must say is really well done. As always Funimation prove to be one of the best dubbing companies in the business.
Madman’s release of Robotics;Notes Collection 1 on Blu-Ray comes jam-packed with bonus content on disc. Included are episode commentaries, interviews with the dub directors for all of the ‘Science Adventure’ series (a very interesting watch indeed) and trailers and promo videos for the series. All in all it makes for a loaded collection that is not lacking in content in the slightest.
Robotics;Notes first cour takes its sweet time building its world and introducing its cast, which while at times a little overly slow paced ultimately goes a long way in creating an immersive setting and sense of time and place that few series can manage to achieve. This is one very intriguing series and is a must-watch for fans of the ‘Science Adventure’ series. It does take a while to get the wheels spinning but when it does Robotics;Notes will grab a hold of you and refuse to let go.
You can purchase Robotics;Notes Collection 1 and join the Robotics Research Club at Madman’s online store.