If you have ever caught an episode of Robot Wars or BattleBots, or even seen the opening of “Big Hero 6”, there is something exciting about metal-on-metal competitions, as they proceed to rip each other apart. And, to a larger extent, isn’t that what ALL mecha anime is about? However, in this case, this is more of a school vs school approach, seeing which team has the wherewithal to best the other in a more specific competition than merely doing 137 picks at your enemy. This is “Robomasters – The Animated Series”.
We find ourselves at the Shanghai University of Science and Technology (Oh, although this is a joint Japanese-Chinese anime project, it is all based in China and the characters have Chinese names, OK?) following the life of Tantan Fang (blue shirt in the middle; sometimes seen as ‘Dandan’). He is doing a ton of work on his twin-rotor drone KAKA (above his head and, please, do not make fun of a name that, for us Americans, means something else. Does anyone remember Wang Computers?). You see, his brother was in one of those BattleBots competitions and Tantan adored him. However, things went south and soured dramatically, so Tantan keeps to himself. He wants to make his drone far superior to anything his brother did but have nothing to do with his brother at all.
He discovers the Robo Club on campus, but wants nothing to do with it, as he prefers to be true to himself. His approach is: It’s interesting that you do this, but it is a waste of time. He is concerned that he gets sucked into all of this and will be betrayed again. However, when President Zhun Zheng (green at far left; he’s next to his sister) challenges him to a race, dronè-a-dronè, across campus, Tantan won’t back down. This is how he gets drawn into Robo Wars.
Now, these battles are a bit different, as there is an actual goal in mind, rather than the oddly gratifying sensation of watching two robots clobber the batteries out of one another. The series traces their attempts to build robots to do these skirmishes. Oddly enough, you need not know anything about robotics and the like to be able to enjoy the show. You see them problem solving, but the real issue is that dealing with robots is a ton easier than dealing with people. Also, Zheng is not the most pleasant of people to encounter and he distanced himself from the Robo Club at another university (that’s them, the last two at the right, Captain Lao Wang and Yunteng Li) when he couldn’t handle the complexities of relationships, either working or scholastic.
The conclusion of the series is the battle that these two schools have, in order to move on to the next stages and eventually The Nationals. And it is just as exciting as the real show, but without The Hammer or the Buzz Saws. Yes, they do battle, but there is an overall goal of showing what can be done with these robots.
Now, here’s the drag on this show: the excitement of working on the robots is overwhelmed by the butt-head attitudes of the people in charge. For them, it is less about design and more about winning, and a decisive victory at that. Rewiring a robot is easy; rewiring the human heart is more difficult, as you can’t always get the parts.
Still, I would have you see this show, if only for the battle sequences. And being a short pull, chain this together, as it absolutely helps when we get to the robot wars portion of it. It does help in the earlier portion, but the fights are where this series shines with lots going on at the same time.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Does EVERYONE wear glasses?)
Plot 7 (Quit talkin’ and start chalkin’!)
Pacing 7 (Moves along consistently)
Effectiveness 8 (At least we know why people are the way they are)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Bingeability 8 (Especially the battle portions)
Overall 7 (Too much yelling at one another)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. What if we try this?