The Spring 2019 Anime Preview Guide
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RobiHachi is one of my biggest disappointments of the season so far, primarily because it's the kind of anime that insists it's being fun and wacky instead of actually doing anything fun and wacky. Robby is the kind of rapscallion protagonist that should be an easy sell. He's trying to get rich quick in a futuristic science-fiction universe filled with an infinite number of opportunities to be scammed, cajoled, hornswoggled, or otherwise bamboozled. Robby is an idiot and a loser, but those qualities have defined some of the medium's most lovable rogues, so why on Earth did RobiHachi choose to go the route of making him so grating and obnoxious? And why did the premiere of this space-faring giant-robot comedy adventure feel more like a cheap sitcom?
Everything from the slapdash pacing of the script's first half to Kazuya Nakai's scenery-gobbling voice acting gives the impression that the people behind RobiHachi knew exactly what kind of tone they were aiming for, but it still misses the as compelling entertainment. The biggest offender is the lackluster direction and storyboarding – for a comedy, it's almost remarkable how poor the show's comic timing is. The key to selling a seedy roustabout like Robby is endearing him to the audience with the power of yuks, but all I could do was roll my eyes as our so-called hero recounted his innumerable failures as an entrepreneur. The camera maintains a medium shot at nearly all times, and the animation carries no sense of weight or texture. It's the kind of cartoon that makes you distractedly aware of the artificiality of the medium. It really feels like you're just staring at drawings on a piece of paper rather than characters in a realized world.
The show admittedly picks up once Hachi the bounty hunter comes on board Robby's ship and the two blast off into space. I don't care for Hachi as a character though; his shtick is just too caricatured for my liking. Once Robby and Hachi figure out how to turn their fighter ships into a mustachioed giant robot, however, I was more on board with what RobiHachi was selling. The action isn't directed well enough to blow any minds, but at least it was something more interesting. This premiere may have been a dud, but I hope that RobiHachi will be an example of a show improving after it stumbles out of the gate.
I'm not sure what I was expecting from this series based on its advertising blurbs, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a wacky, energetic buddy series that turns into a corny spacefaring series that then turns into a retro combining mecha series. After this first episode, there's no telling what RobiHachi might be next, and at least one of its protagonists wouldn't have it any other way.
Although this series borrows ideas from a number of previous anime – Space Dandy and Tiger & Bunny come to mind – it doesn't closely parrot any of them. The more standard side of its premise pairs together two men with sharply contrasting outlooks. One is a gullible fool who's so plagued by misfortune (much of it of his own fault) that his life is far more chaotic and unpredictable than he'd like; the other has been so successful that everything has become too predictable for him, to the point that he takes on jobs he seems ill-suited for just to find something interesting to do. Despite their stark personality clashes, each is exactly what the other needs to become complete, as Robby's circumstances are an eye-opener for Hatchi, while Robby desperately needs someone like Hatchi around who actually has his head on straight. And in terms of other appeals for certain audiences, Hatchi's first thought upon winding up inside a combing robot was being flustered over controlling “the bottom half.”
Their relationship isn't the only lively thing about the series. The setting is a vibrant pastiche of traditional restaurants and businesses reimagined in a sci fi style with a nice blend of old-school and new-fangled appeal. The idea that Robby's “penthouse” was actually a long-unused spaceship is also only one element of the series' overall major absurdity; the loan shark's spaceship also must be seen to be fully appreciated, while being pretty damn cool in its own right. The series' imagery peaks with the classic samurai-style mecha who also happens to have a moustache, and let's not forget the talking robot (or alien?) bunny character.
Director Shinji Takamatsu has a strong track record with hyperactive lighthearted fare (Gintama, School Rumble, Nanbaka, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE), and he's working magic again with RobiHachi. A decent animation effort from Studio Comet keeps everything looking bright, with some stronger CGI work on the side. I wouldn't be surprised if this series turns out to be a breakout hit this season.
I went into RobiHachi expecting something vaguely like Space Dandy. The show's protagonist is a gullible guy named Robby who's always looking for a shortcut to financial fortune but gets routinely swindled instead. He encounters Hachi, a no-nonsense guy who's bored by the predictable daily routine he finds himself living. I imagined that both dudes would buddy up on their space adventure, get into some hijinks, and eat a lot of french fries. As the episode went on, this prediction wasn't proven false per se, but it was more neutered than I anticipated. Judging by the first episode alone, this could easily work as a kids' robot show set up to push a toy line.
Robby and Hatchi are a classic double act of comic and straight man. If I had to compare their dynamic to anything, it'd be Joey Tribbiani and Chandler Bing in space. Robby's sure to teach Hatchi how to let loose more, and hopefully Hatchi returns the favor by instilling some common sense into Robby. A wide universe of space aliens lies ahead of them, but it's difficult to judge whether their misadventures will be humorous or monotonous.
Studio Comet found a fair amount of success with the magical boy series Cute High Earth Defense Club, and they brought in established comedy anime director Shinji Takamatsu to helm this original series. Takamatsu has directed a lot of great comedy anime, including Daily Lives of High School Boys, Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, and Grand Blue. The series' writing credit goes to Hiroko Kanasugi, who is less established by comparison with script credits for just a few episodes in a handful of series. Her only other series composition credits are for the Diabolik Lovers sequel and NouCome.
RobiHachi's jokes are hit or miss. It lands a few clever ideas, like the stereotypical robot anime theme song that plays over the loudspeakers when their mecha transformation starts or Hachi's concerned face when he finds out he's the "uke" of their transformation. The rest isn't stale, it just feels like comedic window dressings. RobiHachi delivers the kind of humor where you think it sounds amusing on paper, but you're not actually laughing.
After running through a gamut of darkly obscured or otherwise visually unappealing anime today, the first thing that struck me about RobiHachi was how nice it was to see something colorful again. RobiHachi envisions a future that's not defined by grime and decay, but by bright colors and sugary-sweet advertisements. Its bold backgrounds, inventive character designs, and general visual energy set the tone for one of this season's most entertaining premieres yet.
RobiHachi's first episode is essentially an energetic introduction to what will presumably be something like a buddy cop adventure, except with the two buddies in question being more rambling quasi-legal adventurers. We first meet Robby Yarge, whose grand goal in life is to lounge around and not have to do anything. Robby's energy can verge on abrasive, but I appreciated his unique perspective, as well as the fact that he's clearly a fair number of years into adulthood. Robby soons comes across Kita Hatchi, a man driven entirely by the pursuit of the novel and unfamiliar. These two men ordinarily wouldn't have anything to do with each other… but soon enough Hatchi ends up crossing Robby once more in his role as a debt collector, only to ultimately decide that hanging out with Robby will be far more exciting than attempting to bring him in for his debts.
This episode bounces quickly and naturally through its setup, with the bulk of its running time dedicated to a perpetually escalating debt-prompted chase. Though the animation isn't anything spectacular, the show's fundamental art design is very appealing, and naturally compliments the show's rapid pacing, frequent arguments, and sense of humor. Robby and Hatchi have a natural chemistry, and the lunatic twists of the action setpieces feel reminiscent of something like Space Dandy (or to pick a more recent example, Double Decker). Additionally, RobiHachi is blessed with a very strong sense of humor - not only is there a natural sense of comic energy to Robby and Hatchi's bickering, but there are also plenty of dedicated standout gags throughout this episode. I was particularly entertained when Robby hit a mysterious button on a jet he'd stolen, only for bombastic transformation music to actually blare into the cockpit itself, terrifying both him and Hatchi.
On the whole, while I have nitpicks with both this episode's writing and its visual execution, it's still one of the most propulsive and outright fun premieres of the season so far. If you're looking for a whimsical scifi adventure, RobiHachi is a strong pick.
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