Robotics;Notes can be split right down the semicolon into essentially two separate parts. The first is the ‘Robotics’ half which tells of Aki’s story and the construction of GunPro-1 and now, GunPro-2. The latter piece is the ‘Notes’ side of things, focusing in on Frau’s story and the conspiracy linked to her mother’s sudden disappearance. Although there is some overlap between the two halves, mainly due to Kai’s character playing fundamental roles in each, there have been two narratives developing throughout the anime that examine two distinct and dissimilar stories. In doing so, Robotics;Notes has found itself some positives and some negatives.
The two-story system in Robotics;Notes allows the anime a certain degree of freedom which it has been utilized well throughout. One strength in having these two stories simultaneously is that it acknowledges that each character has their own goal and is pursuing it individually. Since some characters share similar goals, like Aki and Subaru, or assist each other inadvertently, like Kai and Frau, the series is able to draw various connections between the characters, facilitate their friendship and allow them to grow together without consolidating their dreams into one singular goal. For example, Aki and Subaru have every different ideas for GunPro-2 which is why they’re constantly quarreling. By allowing two separate storylines to persist, the characters are able to work on their individual goals while being together in some capacity. Another positive aspect of the two-story system is that each story is able to develop independent of the other. Though the two plots are united to some extent, both stories have been able to progress and flow without regard to the events of the other. The Robotics storyline has feature conflict between its characters, failure on the part of GunPro-1 and inspiration in the anticipation of GunPro-2. Likewise, The Notes storyline has featured cooperation in its lone pair of detectives, developed itself into a rousing mystery, and featured some doom and gloom in regards to what Kai and Frau are actively searching for. Had the two stories been combined together, it would have broken the flow, stagnated the developments and felt a bit unnatural. Could you imagine if everyone got together, had a meeting about their events, and then split to do their activities every episode? I shudder to think of how banal and convoluted it would be if they were all in on each storyline together. Not only that but having two stories in Robotics;Notes allows the anime to shift between science fiction/engineering and conspiracy theory/mystery readily without any jarring transitions, confusion or a need to fill in the gaps. Right now, this duality is magnificent for maintaining two individual storylines within Robotics;Notes. However, there are a few issues with such a system that prevents it from being truly ideal.
Among the negatives associated with adopting a two-story system in Robotics;Notes is that the two halve can compete or conflict with each other. For example, one issue of competition between the two is that one is outrageously more fascinating and entertaining than the other; that is to say that one story (the Notes) has become better than the other (the Robotics). One of the reasons that this occurs is due the actual content and the dynamic structure of the story. Right now, with the fourteenth episode of Robotics;Notes, the Notes story is at an emotional climax given the recent revelations regarding the latest Kimijima Report, Frau’s anxiety over the Tokyo riots and understanding more about the apparent conspiracy going on. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Coinciding with these developments, in the Robotics story, is that they’re building a robot again after the last one failed. Yeah… awesome… Robotics;Notes teeter-totters between the two sides in terms of story, energy, excitement and fascination and the two stories benefit and suffer as a result, ultimately giving the anime a back-and-forth effect that ultimately undermines both individual stories. Because this two-story system exists, each one is subject to being overshadowed by or overshadowing the other and giving the anime a bit of a disconnect between the two halves. Another negativity associated with a two-story system in Robotics;Notes, especially given the limited timeframe the series has with only 22 episodes, is that the stories are underdeveloped or, in some way, lacking. Some issues with this current episode are the sudden appearance of Frau’s friends and the abrupt focus on the robot revolt in Tokyo. Given the content and the pacing and how the story unfolded, we never really understood who or what these people are (they’re just empty names to us) or why the robots causing the chaos in panic were so damn important, especially since the series spent only one episode in the metropolis before returning to Tanegashima for the remainder of the series. Had there been more information, backstory, or insight, it wouldn’t have felt like these issues were overlooked or forgotten. Not only that, but the emotional side of Frau’s story felt rushed as a result, really affecting some of the most meaningful developments the series has yet to offer. Spending time focusing on two stories means that the time must be budgeted appropriately for both. Unfortunately for us and for the anime, it means that certain areas will be underdeveloped or completely minimized to the point where neither story is as wonderful or complete as it should be.
Regardless of the positives or negatives related with the two-story system in Robotics;Notes, I believe that it is ultimately an advantage to the series. What I find pleasing about this method of storytelling is that it encourages the characters to follow their own dreams and do it as they see fit. Aki wants to build a giant robot to impress her sister, Subaru wants to remain connected to robots after his father barred him from continuing with hobby robots, and Frau wants to find her missing mother. Each motivation and goal for these characters are extremely different, yet the stories of Robotics;Notes have allowed these characters to come together, to form various friendships and to work together on a common goal while each pursuing their own individual one. The two-story system of Robotics;Notes enables this to remain true without forcing the characters forego their own desires, thus giving the characters and their journey a richer, more satisfying and inspirational experience. Although there are some negatives associated with this style of storytelling, I find the duality in stories to be both meaningful and rewarding.
Whoever designed these robots did an excellent job in trying to make them as creepy and frightening as possible. Just look at that static, unchanging expression plastered across their faces. Imagine that being the first you see every morning and the last thing you see every night. I mean, seriously now, who thought of and authorized these designs? Unless maybe these robots were intended to terrify the public… you know, with their glowing red eyes, a sheepish smile, those cold, metallic exteriors… Why can’t they be like those robots that look like cute, little anime girls? Hell, if you do that, then maybe all the otaku and perverts would join their side and the revolution would go by faster and easier for everyone? But no, instead, we’ve got these Kyubey-eseque creatures going around and making life miserable.