With there being so many TV series and films to compete with my time, I still find it extremely valuable when something uses slow pacing to tell a solid story. While I certainly enjoyed the previous “Science Adventure Series”, Steins;Gate, Production I.G’s animated rendition of 5bp. and Nitroplus’ Robotics;Notes is hands down one of the best things to come out this year from Funimation. Set in the year 2019, on the island of Tanegashima, we follow the trials of Kaito Yashio and Akiho Senomiya, two high school students involved in the robotics club. Their ultimate goal is to build an actual giant robot, like their favorite anime, Gunvarrel, but have trouble finding other members and money for their cause. While they struggle to find both of these things, we find out that some of their findings in their local hometown is privy to some secrets to a few murders, a living A.I. and family secrets that shake them to their core.
Where Robotics;Notes excels greatly is its character development and how they’re used to move the story along. While Steins;Gate also had brilliant characters like Rintaro Okabe, all of the characters in the series feel a lot more grounded and harbor childhoods that define both their strengths and weaknesses. With each of the members of the Robotics club coming from a sort of tragic background, it makes it feel really rewarding to see them utilize their upbringing and working together for something good. Some may feel like the series moves too slow, especially in comparison to something like Steins;Gate or Chaos;Head, but the series seems to deliberately make it a point for us to know who these kids are and why they believe in something so grand.
The work from Production I.G. is some of the best TV work they’ve ever done, presenting a world that is sleek, vibrant and energetic. The background art is breathtaking, presenting a not-so distant future with enough realism, that feels authentic and real. The animation consistency holds up in all eleven episodes on these two discs, cutting corners only for smaller scenes and making sure that larger set pieces are given their full attention. The robot battle in Episode three, with the Robotics club going up against Mr. Pleiades, is one of the stronger moments and really solidifies both the stakes and the sense of what the group is trying to accomplish. Director Kazuya Nomura has done a fantastic job thus far and I can’t wait to see what the following episodes have to offer.
The Combo disc from Funimation, comes in a beautiful chipboard boxed set with the Limited Edition, housing both volumes of the series, with the characters from the Robotics club all over the box. The video on the Blu-Ray comes in a AVC encoded 1080p transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Granted, since the series was handled by Production I.G., it would make total sense that this series would look amazing, but Robotics;Notes has shown a much different side of the team. A majority of the time when people think of Production I.G., they think of things like Ghost in the Shell and Jin-Roh, but this TV series showcases both a lighter side to their style, with them retaining all sense of quality. From the animation, to the backgrounds, to the integration of CGI, the video transfer looks absolutely flawless and is one of the best discs I’ve seen this year. The audio on the disc is contained in two Dolby TrueHD tracks, the English 5.1 mix and the Japanese Stereo mix. Both mixes are fantastic, but the English language track adds just a bit more depth and atmosphere, using the surround channels to expand on the world through some excellent sound design. The extras on the disc include two commentaries from the English cast, textless intros and outros and a Space Adventure Series Interview, that talks with J. Micheal Tatum, Joel McDonald and John Burgmeier. The interview was both insightful and enlightening on Robotics;Notes and all of the “Science Adventure Series” thus far.
While the series may be a tad slow, I enjoyed the sense of camaraderie and candor that was built with the crew in Robotics;Notes. I’m hoping that the series doesn’t end like the second half of Steins;Gate, but I get the feeling that the group is going to have to make decisions and stick with them. Here’s hoping that in Volume 2, they finally get to build that Gunvarrel mecha that everyone wants to see! Highly Recommended!