What a stunning adaptation! I never thought I’d read a mainline Science Adventure manga adaptation this good. Given the manga’s short length, I expected a speedrun through the story by the start of volume 2. To my surprise, however, within two 2-in-1 volumes, the Robotics;Notes manga only adapts one-third of the visual novel. Volume 2 of the manga adapts phase two, phase three, and half of phase four.
While this does mean that most of the rest of the visual novel’s story will have to be significantly truncated or cut, I was more than satisfied by the quality of the adaptation for the first two-thirds of the manga’s duration. So far, it’s done a phenomenal job. I think it’s even better than the anime, which was a decent adaptation of the earlier parts of the visual novel. For existing fans, the manga adaptation is well worth checking out, and has the potential to win over newcomers to Robotics;Notes.
For those of you unfamiliar with Robotics;Notes, it’s the third entry in the Science Adventure series (otherwise known as SciADV). SciADV is a lengthy, lore-rich, interconnected sci-fi visual novel franchise produced by MAGES. and Chiyomaru Studio. While each title features its own cast and somewhat self-contained plot, every entry builds upon its predecessors to create an overarching storyline. Robotics;Notes is renown for being akin to a Chaos;Head/Steins;Gate crossover title in many respects. I would, therefore, generally recommend anybody to finish the first two mainline SciADV entries before reading Robotics;Notes. However, the bulk of the crossover-relevant material lies in the later chapters of the story. As a result, I think the first two manga volumes are accessible to newcomers, although by volume two, having knowledge of prior entries is beneficial to one’s understanding and enjoyment. You can read our volume 1 review here!
Now, let’s move onto the meat and potatoes of this review.
Continuing after the Robotics Club’s showing at the ROBO-BAN tournament, volume 2 maintains a heavy focus on the daily activities of the club members as they continue their effort to build a giant robot. However, in this volume, more elements of mystery appear as Kaito discovers the Kimijima Reports . . . as well as the earth-shattering conspiracies hidden within them. As was the case in the first halves of early SciADV entries, a sense of foreboding creeps into the story. The plot of volume 2 provides readers with a sense of nostalgia, but also looming apprehension. All in all, it’s a fantastic set-up volume; in terms of quality, I have very few complaints. The manga covers most of the important parts of phases two through four remarkably well.
There are, of course, many truncated scenes. For example, the storm scene—an extremely powerful moment from the visual novel—is reduced to only a few pages in the manga. This means that while the incident remains, its emotional impact is quite diminished. Moreover, Volume 2 also omits one of Akiho’s most devastating seizures from the visual novel.
Fortunately, the manga more than makes up for this thanks to its handling of many of the smaller moments, ranging from Kaito and Junna’s urban legend hunting to the club’s meeting with JAXA. These lighter scenes demonstrate what gives Robotics;Notes its identity: the day-to-day character interactions. It’s within these slice-of-life moments that Robotics;Notes explores its themes.
Of course, if you aren’t a fan of the slice-of-life genre, you might not find Robotics;Notes as appealing as other SciADV titles. But in the end, its character interactions and themes are what make it stand out when compared to the larger series. If you love a slow, character-driven narrative, you’ll love Robotics;Notes—especially the first two volumes of the manga! And if you’re already a fan of the visual novel, this is a fantastic way to relive early parts of the story.
Robotics;Notes is infamous for being the SciADV franchise’s most character-driven entry to date. And if there’s one aspect to volume 2 that I appreciate above everything else, it’s the way that the manga handles characterization.
An anime must prioritize the writer’s adage “show, don’t tell.” As such, there’s little room for internal monologues and narration. Given that a massive part of the visual novel’s characterization is through these monologues, the anime adaptation of Robotics;Notes fell terribly short when omitting them. Many characters, like Kaito, ended up lacking depth and presence. But the Robotics;Notes manga has the ability, unique to the medium, to “show” through illustrations and paneling while also maintaining the visual novel’s characterization through narration. In fact, the manga also adds a few short internal monologues not present within the visual novel. And with these additions, Asakawa Keiji focuses on presenting each character vis-a-vis how they relate to the thematic idea of “dreams.”
After all, Robotics;Notes is fundamentally a story about dreams—how you make them, how you shape them, and how you break them.
Kaito is a broken kid with a broken dream, spending his days playing fighting games to cope with his illness. But deep down, he still yearns to be an astronaut. Akiho, meanwhile, is a girl with nothing to hold onto but her dream. And of course, these types dynamics extend well beyond the central duo. Subaru outright deceives his father because he adamantly refuses to give up on his dream. Misaki completely abandoned her dream. And Mizuka’s injury ended her dream. At its heart, you can analyze the entire cast through the lens of “dreams”.
This is a story about people fighting against all odds — proving to the world that they are the masters of their fates and the captains of their souls. Gosh, I’d be lying if I said Robotics;Notes didn’t have my all-time favourite visual novel cast! The characters are phenomenal, and Volume 2 characterizes everyone perfectly!
I have the same words of praise, and the same criticisms, as I had for volume 1. While I cannot personally assess the translation’s accuracy and quality, I can at least say that the manga’s translation has been very well-received by Japanese-speaking members of the SciADV fandom. The Robotics;Notes manga has been localized by veteran translator, Andrew Hodgson (also known as Steiner). As a professional translator, he previously localized Anonymous;Code and the Steins;Gate 0 manga. But even before his entry into the professional sphere, Steiner was a longtime fan translator for the SciADV franchise. He even fan-translated some Robotics;Notes side manga (Revival Legacy and The Unpublished Memoirs of Senomiya Misaki).This release is therefore, truly a full circle moment for him. His passion and care for the series is abundantly clear in his localization work in this volume.
As was the case for the previous volume, the localization makes this a very smooth read. From an editing standpoint, I think the Robotics;Notes manga’s localization shows considerable improvement over that of the Steins;Gate 0 manga. The latter occasionally had a few glaring typos that detracted from the experience. But this localization reads a bit more smoothly, and has virtually no noticeable typos.
Unfortunately, the quality of image editing and typesetting remains inconsistent, continuing the trend started in the previous volume. It would have been nice to see consistently translated sound effects. Of course, it can be an extremely difficult task to remove the Japanese sound effects, and I do recognize this fact. I just wished for more consistency.
All in all, volume 2 of the Robotics;Notes manga adaptation is nothing short of stellar! It’s just as good as volume 1, if not slightly better. Nevertheless, volume 3 faces the impossible challenge of adapting 70% of the visual novel in just 356 pages. If the adaptation had continued at the same pace, it would have taken six 2-in-1 volumes. With only one 2-in-1 volume remaining, however, I imagine they may skip most of the visual novel’s middle chapters.
From the credits section of volume 2, I did notice that the copyright for the manga adaptation changed halfway through. I suppose this might indicate that key investors dropped out of the project. If this is indeed the case, then I imagine they originally intended for this manga adaptation to be much longer. But that much is just my personal speculation. Either way, it’s a real shame that the adaptation was cut short of what it should have been. But at the very least, I can safely say that the first two thirds of the manga adaptation is incredible.
With all said and done, I would highly recommend Asakawa Keiji’s manga adaptation of Robotics;Notes to anybody. For existing fans, it is an enjoyable way to experience the visual novel’s story in a different medium. For newcomers, the manga offers a taste of what makes the Robotics;Notes visual novel — and the larger SciADV franchise — so incredible.
It’s truly a rarity to see an official English release of a visual novel’s manga adaptation. So this one isn’t a release to miss! I hope that UDON Entertainment continues to localize other SciADV manga adaptations. It would be amazing to see the manga for Chaos;Child and Occultic;Nine someday.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Robotics;Notes Volume 2 is physically 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. Volume 3 will release on February 27th, 2024.
The Robotics;Notes visual novel originally released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles back in June 2012. A 22-episode anime adaptation followed shortly afterward, airing in October of the same year. Outside of Japan, it’s currently available to stream via Crunchyroll.
In June 2014, the visual novel received an updated re-release entitled Robotics;Notes Elite for the PlayStation Vita. As the definitive version of the visual novel, it features significant graphical improvements, animated scenes, and script modifications. HD versions of Robotics;Notes Elite are available in English for the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch, and for PC via Steam.