A few short comments on shows I have little to say about…

Robotics;Notes, Summer Wars and Maoyuu after the cut…


You may have

You might have saved the world…

but even the best confession in years simply can’t save the series for me…

I think that’s the sentiment that most viewers came away with. Admittedly, I haven’t yet seen Steins;Gate, but the consensus has been that Robotics;Notes simply has not lived up to the heights of its well-received predecessor. We should be used to it by now: adaptations, whether of a manga, novel, or visual novel (i.e. computer game), rarely hit the heights of the original. The most fans and viewers can do is try to enjoy them.

However, two things really made this one hurt. First, until the final stretch, the build up was quite well-paced. Even if the strange phenomena such as magnetic monopoles falling from the sky were not explained, the mystery that led to some emotional developments was quite engrossing. Until the revelations…and the lack of them. Someone who’d played the visual novel posted some explanatory spoilers after the end of the show, and let’s just say that the meat had all been scraped away, leaving just a few bare bones. It was hugely disappointing.

The second reason that Robotics;Notes was disappointing was…that this was noitaminA. People have been complaining about noitaminA for a long time, about how it has moved away from it’s original purpose of animating works aimed at more mature women who might not normally watch anime, titles that deal with mature relationships (as opposed to high school romances), friendships and family, gender issues, the realities of working life etc etc. I happen to disagree with that narrow definition of noitaminA, though I shall leave my arguments for a long overdue post. For now, I’ll just say that noitaminA has generally provoked me to consider what is hidden below the surface-level themes I’ve outlined above. To give an example, Nodame Cantabile wasn’t just a story about two crazy musicians and their journey towards conquering the musical world together, it also presented many broadly applicable lessons about goals, passion, conquering self-doubt and so on. Through the world of music, Ninomiya Tomoko painted an inspiring philosophy of life. Perhaps it’s just me, but of every single noitaminA show that I’ve ever seen, Robotics;Notes is the only one where I could not find anything interesting beneath the surface.

Summer Wars

Nobody messes with my family!

Nobody messes with my family!

This is another of those well received animated films that I do not seem to appreciate as much as other might. It’s a fun watch, even if, as one of my fellow viewers at the time pointed out, the usual cliches of super-deformed faces, anime physics and nosebleeds could not be avoided. The idea of a virtual world where you can perform most kinds of work is an interesting peek into what our future may be like should we keep going down the road we’re on. That said, I highly doubt any state would allow its chief-of-staff to operate anything over something as insecure as the Internet, no matter what kind of supposedly uncrackable algorithm they use to guard their secrets!

One aspect that I did find amusing was the depiction of the grandmother as one of the keys to the resilience of the Japanese people in the face of adversity. One of the messages of the show seemed to be that sometimes, another person’s faith in one’s abilities is enough to overcome a challenge that seems beyond what one is capable of. That certainly turned out to be true for Kenji. Another thing that flashed through my mind, seeing how that family was run, was this: is that how those huge conglomerates came to dominate Japan? (just j/k, of course ^^)

There are also several lessons in Summer Wars. Besides the one about faith and ability, there’s also a message about the hubris that clever and powerful people or organisations may find themselves committing. I don’t think I need to be any more specific than that, do I?


I don’t know quite what to think about Maoyuu. In some ways, it’s something that only works in Japanese, what with the characters being constantly addressed by their titles or roles as opposed to their names. But, on the other hand, it’s also something of an educational work. The many inventions and improvements that the Maou brought to the people of the south represented an echo of the history of humankind, of how far we’ve since people started creating towns, villages and kingdoms. There were a fair few political themes running through it as well, from the notion of trade being used to obtain political ends, right through to the ideal that being free means being able to find out and determine for oneself what one’s own actions should be. That’s not to say that the negative sides of political control were left out of the picture. It was very interesting to see this show clearly depict how rulers might be cooperating behind the scenes to manifest conflict that will keep them in power. Of course, the rulers don’t necessarily have to be government leaders: they stand for whoever really controls the reins in any one system. I have to admit that, sometimes, it really feels like the latter might be the norm rather than the exception in our own world. However, it’s hard for me to get rid of my idealistic inclinations. After all…

...don't you want to see what might be on the other side of that hill?

…don’t you want to see what might be on the other side of that hill?

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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