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Manga Review: Robotics;Notes Volume 3

For the most part, Asakawa Keiji’s Robotics;Notes manga adaptation greatly exceeded my expectations. Volumes 1 and 2 left me in sheer awe. For phases 1-3, the manga greatly surpassed the anime—almost being an adequate substitute for the visual novel. Unfortunately, Robotics;Notes‘ volume 3 held the impossible task of needing to cover 70% of the original story in merely 356 pages. And in an attempt to do so, it completely skips over phases 6, 7, and 10. It instead opts to focus most heavily on phases 5, 9, 11, and 12. It also briefly covers the later parts of phase 4 as well as the bulk of phase 8.

The manga was shaping up to be something truly great so it’s a shame it ended so quickly. But despite the final volume being a very truncated and abridged telling of the story, it still holds plenty of value. SciADV is no stranger to having adaptations needing to cover a significant amount of content in an extremely limited time frame. Among them, this volume definitely stands out as one of the more interesting approaches to the challenge. Overall, I would strongly recommend giving Robotics;Notes volume 3—and of course, the entire Robotics;Notes manga—a read.

This volume continues right where volume 2 left off, with the Robotics Club continuing their work to ready the GunBuild-1 in time for the Tokyo Expo. But as things progress, they make the difficult decision to build an entirely separate robot from scratch: the GunBuild-2. In the midst of these developments, Kaito continues searching for more of the enigmatic Kimijima Reports, only to find that the horrifying contents depicted within them are coming to fruition. And it seems that no matter the medium, Robotics;Notes is a true joy to go through.

Robotics;Notes Volume 3 Kimijima Reports

All in all, Robotics;Notes definitely has an incredible story, especially in the later parts of its narrative. In terms of pacing, however, volume 3 goes completely off the rails. Asakawa was clearly trying to cram too much content in too few pages. Therefore, instead of emphasizing a lot of the smaller character interactions like the first two volumes, it focuses heavily on trying to get through the major beats of the story as if they were points on a checklist. Because of this, it ends up feeling far more like an abridged recap at times, rather than a full-fledged adaptation. The change in pacing is very noticeable and jarring and without any visual novel context, I imagine it would be very hard to understand much of this volume (after all, it completely glosses over some aspects of the story with little to no explanation, like with everything to do with the monopoles.)

Robotics;Notes Volume 3 Monopole

Nevertheless, this volume has its own story-related merits—the biggest being its adaptation of the Phase 5 ending, which the anime never even regarded. It actually elevated my appreciation for Phase 5 as a whole, which I originally wasn’t too fond of. Back when I first read it in the visual novel, I had mixed feelings about the ending’s placement and purpose. But after reading the manga’s approach, it became clear to me why Hayashi Naotaka included that ending into the visual novel, why it is important to Kaito’s character arc, and how it ties into the story’s overarching theme of “dreams.” So while the manga doesn’t spend as much time on Phase 5 as the previous chapters, I actually loved the way they handled adapting it. I think that alone makes this volume worth buying and reading.

Robotics;Notes Phase 5 Ending

Perhaps the most interesting part of the way the manga handles the story, however, is the ending. A common criticism of the original Robotics;Notes visual novel is that the ending is a bit abrupt. But like the anime, the manga extends the story past the visual novel’s ending, providing a short epilogue. And in doing so, it ties back both Kaito’s and Akiho’s character arcs to the central theme of the story, showcasing how much they have both grown throughout the narrative.

Interestingly, the events of the epilogue do not map over to the likes of The Home of Our Dreams or anything alluded to in Robotics;Notes DaSH. Rather, it’s its own unique afterstory. At first, the epilogue seems similar to the anime’s short post-credits scene; however, it does make an interesting turn away from it. The manga’s ending seems almost like sequel bait, but not for DaSH. That, too, makes this an interesting read for existing fans.

Robotics;Notes is infamous for its incredible cast. If you were to ask ardent Science Adventure fans which entry had their favourite cast, most would probably answer Robotics;Notes. Its cast is nothing short of spectacular—every moment with the Robotics Club members is pure joy. But with such a limited time frame, Asakawa Keiji simply could not adapt the last third of the manga the same way that he adapted the first two. As a consequence, many smaller character moments are omitted or heavily abridged.

Moreover, some characters don’t exactly act the way that they normally would for the sake of speedier story progression. The biggest victim of the speed-running is definitely Kaito, who acts far more proactive and passionate than he should be. At times, he almost feels more like Akiho than himself. And despite the manga maintaining internal narration from the visual novel—even adding completely original lines—Kaito’s characterization is ultimately inconsistent both with the visual novel and also with how the manga established him in the earlier volumes of the story. Even others like Toshiyuki Sawada and the final antagonist of the story seem a bit out-of-character and underdeveloped. The story’s main antagonist ends up feeling like they just “exist.” To that end, volume 3 is quite disappointing in how it handles some of its characters.

Robotics;Notes Kaito Out of Character

Volume 3 also largely glosses over Junna’s and Frau’s character arcs, skipping Phases 6 and 7. Nevertheless, the manga does make notable attempts to add some manga-original scenes towards the end to account for all the skipped content. As such, most side characters don’t end up feeling too different in volume 3 compared to how they did in volumes 1 and 2, as well as in the original visual novel. This extends even to characters like Fujita, Hiromu (Subaru’s father) and vice principal Usui. So by and large, volume 3 is fairly faithful to the visual novel’s depiction of most characters. The unfortunate notable exception is Kaito in a couple of different instances.

Much like volumes 1 and 2, volume 3 is quite strong in terms of overall release quality. I have the same exact praises and criticisms for volume 3 as I did for volumes 1 and 2. The localization reads incredibly well, doesn’t have any noticeable typos, and is fairly consistent in its translation of SciADV series-wide key terms. Longtime veteran translator Andrew Hodgson (Steiner) knows this franchise inside out. He was clearly passionate about his work translating this manga, especially having fan translated SciADV side manga way back in the day. Nevertheless, as was in the case of the previous volumes, it would have been nice to see more consistently translated SFX. That being said, volume 3 is no worse than the others in those regards.

On a separate note, Asakawa Keiji’s art is also as amazing and expressive as usual. In fact, over the course of the manga’s serialization, it seems to me as though the art improved over time, especially around the chapters covering Phase 12. The art is another big selling point for the Robotics;Notes manga adaptation and another aspect to this adaptation that makes it worthwhile experiencing.

Robotics;Notes’ manga adaptation as a whole is solid—the first two thirds of it are incredible. Unfortunately, it falls flat in the last third, due to the sheer amount of content to adapt in so few pages. I can’t imagine any newcomer understanding or enjoying the last volume of the manga. Nevertheless, it still offers plenty of value for existing fans of Robotics;Notes looking for an interesting way to re-experience the story. Therefore, I would highly encourage checking this manga adaptation out and supporting the official release. It is, by and large, a great adaptation.

I am incredibly happy that after years of petitioning for Robotics;Notes to receive an English localization, it not only happened once via the visual novel but twice via the manga too. Five or six years ago, I couldn’t have fathomed this becoming a reality. I truly hope that UDON Entertainment will license the Chaos;Child or Occultic;Nine manga in the future. I imagine some Steins;Gate or Robotics;Notes spin-off manga would be fairly in-demand as well.

Vol.3 Rating: 7/10

Robotics;Notes Manga Overall Rating: 8/10

The Robotics;Notes visual novel originally released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 back in June 2012. A 22-episode anime adaptation followed shortly and aired in October of the same year; it is currently streaming on Crunchyroll outside of Japan. The title later received an updated re-release entitled Robotics;Notes Elite for the PlayStation Vita in June 2014. Considered the definitive version of the visual novel, it features significant graphics improvement, occasional insertions of anime scenes, and script modifications. HD versions of Robotics;Notes Elite are available in English on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.

Robotics;Notes is also the third entry in MAGES and Chiyomaru Studio’s Science Adventure (SciADV) series. SciADV is a long, lore-heavy, interconnected sci-fi visual novel franchise. Each entry has its own unique cast and somewhat self-contained plot. However, they build upon their predecessors to construct an overarching storyline. Robotics;Notes, in particular, is renowned for being akin to a Chaos;Head/Steins;Gate crossover title in many respects. Volume 3 especially contains a fair chunk of crossover content, although some of it is removed due to time constraints.

Robotics;Notes volume 3 is available for sale at various retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Crunchyroll store. Each volume of the Robotics;Notes manga costs $24.99 at retail price. Readers who purchase from Barnes & Noble can pick up the exclusive edition, which features different volume covers and bonus posters.

Robotics;Notes Volume 3 Normal Cover
Robotics;Notes Volume 3 Barnes & Noble Exclusive Cover

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An avid visual novel reader and particularly a massive fan of the Science Adventure series.

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