Oh hay, flashbacks.
From the get-go, Robotics;Notes has a lot to live up to — it’s related to Steins;Gate, possibly one of the “best” adaptations last year. Nevertheless, it has the capability to compare to its predecessor, albeit it won’t exactly be a simple task.
Steins;Gate was animated by White Fox; Robotic;Notes by Production I.G. White Fox hasn’t really done a lot of series, among the series that they have done, Katanagatari and Steins;Gate stands out the most — they’re both incredibly great series. Production I.G. doesn’t lack in renown; it animated Usagi Drop, Seirei no Moribito, Higashi no Eden, and Guilty Crown. Although the “greatness” of these shows deviate, one thing remains constant: the incredible animation. I can’t say that the first episode of Robotics;Notes did a lot of justice to the “Production I.G. name”; it seemed a bit average, if not, a bit above. White Fox never impressed me due to its visuals [they weren’t bad, just above average]; it was due to their incredible adaptations [they’ve done two notable adaptations: a light novel, and a visual novel — these are perhaps the most difficult mediums to adapt “well”, but White Fox did just that].
There’s a matter of the mode evoked within the series — Ironically, I can see the resemblance to Steins;Gate. As we know, most shows typically have a certain, constant mood they inflect; the soundtrack and the way they present certain aspects are integral “tools” for foreshadowing. This first episode seems to be reminiscent of a slice of life; but its soundtrack disagrees with that — its caliber isn’t synonymous with unabashed subjectivity [shitty phrasing; the most recurrent tracks played do not fit the slice of life mood; it’s diverse and its use could be ambiguous, not exactly tailored towards school scenes]. There’s also the matter of perspective; if Robotics;Notes was a “school show”, we would see much more interactions between the protagonist/deuteragonist and the general populace of the school. But rather, we saw the opposite — two classmates bothered Kaito for help, his response clearly set a wall. Robotics;Notes will probably take a route comparable to Steins;Gate — it’ll revolve primarily around the main group.
There’s also a difference of setting; in Steins;Gate and ChaoS;Head, there was a relatively blatant, recurrent, metropolitan setting — I really liked that setting, Perhaps the agglomeration of city scenes and fun interactions really turns me into a fan boy, but it’s plausible that Robotics;Notes will take a setting shift. Perhaps it’ll be original in the regard that it does not, but there’s also the underlining ambiguous appearances. There seems to be a unknown history between our primary pair and others; it’s going to follow a structure very similar to Steins;Gate and ChaoS;Head.
I can’t say that I love the use of emoticons on the countenances of the characters [pretty sure there’s a more specific word for that]; it’s a little attenuating to the seriousness of the show. I haven’t played the visual novel, so I can’t really say as to why — Steins;Gate and ChaoS;Head didn’t have them, and Production I.G. typically doesn’t do them. I can’t tell whether it’s pandering to the moe fanbase, or whether it’s just a clear extreme in a future juxtaposition of “watch shit unfold” and “remember how cutesy it was at the beginning?.” Then again, a certain,relatable mecha visual novel did just that, and it’s acclaimed for that.
Steins;Gate had time travel, ChaoS;Head had parallel worlds, while Robotics;Notes has robots [non sequitur, I realize]. I really disliked mechas in anime; I found them to be trite, overused, cliche, overpowered, and obnoxious — Mobile Suit 00’s movie’s opening scene actually parodied it very well — mechas will only continue to grow exponentially in power with ridiculous boosts, the only thing that “stops” this would be a destruction of sorts. Nevertheless, after watching/playing other series, my stance on it has changed to an enjoying of the genre, rather than a condemnation of it. But Robotics;Notes really took the kiddie design route with mechas; they look more like Medabots than they do a threat. I’m sure that design is intentional, but it’s still a bit of a turn off.
TL;DR: Engimatic first episode, we’ll have to see more of it to actually judge it. I can see the resemblance in the sources, albeit there’s a matter of creative uniqueness among the studios who do adapt each show. I’ll be covering this show for the Fall 2012 season; it should be interesting.