Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Revue May 22nd: Robotto Jukujo

Ladies and Gentlemen...

In the left corner weighing in at 3 tons we got Gaiko King...

In the right corner with his giant spiral... Lancelot...

...Let's get ready to Ruuumble! 

I'm guessing this is Robot-mom in her fighting form.
Robotto Jukujo by Nemo tells the tale of Tomodachi, who wants to put together a pit crew and build a fighting robot to take on the likes of Gaiko King. He's a tantrum-throwing dork with huge ambitions and the will to make it happen.



One of my favorite bits in this comic, and I wish there was more of it, was the interaction between Robot-mom and the toaster oven. In that scene, mom thinks she's showing signs of depression -- it seems like she's having your classic existential AI crisis: a machine wanting to be human, and she confides to the cat-shaped toaster.

I think it's clever and hilarious that the toaster-neko burns his responses to mom on pieces of toast and pops them out. I don't know where he reloads the toast from, but it doesn't matter to me, I still think it's funny, and if anything I would have loved more of those two hashing out her existential crisis through a loaf of wonderbread. Mom's story seems much more interesting than Tomo's. She spots Tomo's Youtube clip of Gaiko King and Lancelot fighting a match and it seems to light a fire in her, but it's never really followed up in a way that's empowering or freeing to Robot-mom.

The art in the first chapter of Robotto is great looking as well -- both the color pages and manga b/w ones. In the second half it appears that the artist changed, but I'm not sure. The style definitely changes. We go from a more mainstream manga look to something that's heavily stylized and a bit sloppy at times, but the bigger change is that it's in color whereas chapter 1 isn't.

I like the robot design for Gaiko King in the first chapter as well.

Gaiko King is on the left.


One of the biggest issues I had with Robotto was how it flipped-flopped in the reading direction.

Since Robotto tries to emulate a manga, it's read right-to-left (like how the Japanese read a comic), but coming into it, I was reading it left-to-right.

So I read the narration of page 1 in this order:

Panel 1: "There was a time when robots were slaves."
Panel 2: "Where man and machine lived day by day"
Panel 3: "Neo-Don Lon, Capital of Neo-Gen Land"

In the direction I read the panels, it made sense. Looking back at the paneling though, it makes more sense that the panel on the right is the establishing shot and then you backwards 'Z' through the 4-mini panels on the left side, but I wasn't being to conscious of how I was reading it, so I didn't pick up on that the first time. The narration text, regardless of which direction you read it makes sense, because they're three individual statements that can be ordered in any direction.

In fact, it wasn't till page 9 before I picked up on which direction to read Robotto. Yes, page 7, does clearly establish the mother on the right side, but I still didn't register it. In page 8, the conversation seemed backwards and muddled, but I soldiered on.

Page 9 gave me incontrovertible proof that I was reading the entire manga wrong.

Tomo winds up and punches and then falls, and it's a sequence of frames that only makes sense going in one direction, and I went back through and re-read the previous pages.

So, this is definitely a presentation problem. New readers may get confused or lost in those first 9 pages and that may be enough to have them click off the comic.

I think this problem can be easily fixed with a page that tells you which direction to read the manga. If you ever pick up manga at the bookstore, there's usually a page telling you which direction to start reading so you don't end up reading the end before the beginning.

Unfortunately, this isn't the end of all these presentation issues. On page 52, this happens:

There's an establishing shot of the tool Troy is going to pick up (panel 1), then he picks it up (panel 2), and then lastly he's holding it and uses it on Robot-mom. It only makes sense going in one direction, and that's left-to-right, unlike the rest of the comic, which has been read right-to-left. There's an inconsistency in which direction you have to read this comic furthering the confusion.

Presentation aside, I unfortunately, didn't find the story all that interesting. Partially due to my disinterest in mecha anime, but mostly due to the long wind-up Robotto has. We spend a great deal of time meeting characters, but it isn't till the second chapter when we start getting some traction on the core of the story, but by then the story's gone on hiatus -- the last pages were in January 18, 2016. If the comic does come back, it definitely needs more Robot-mom and Toaster.

Tomo is the main character, but I didn't find him compelling and he acted like a toddler at times. He throws a tantrum by stomping on the tabletop during breakfast and later he coldly bats a platter of hamburgers out of his Robot-mom's hand. If it's to establish his Type-A personality (similar to Haruhi Suzumiya) it might work in that context, but it pulled me out of story when he acted out. Am I supposed to see it as comedy? Is he a little brat? I have a feeling it's a bit of both, but it didn't sit right with me. A better example of Tomo acting to his character type is the scene where he gets Troy to come over for dinner, and even his antics getting his Robot-mom to come to the garage so they can dismantle her. He's the guy with all the ideas, and he'll do whatever it takes to implement them, and those two scenes showed that the best.

The main character's full name is Tomodachi. I know it means "friend" in Japanese, and it seems odd to me that it's also his actual name. Can "tomodachi" be a name? I don't mean to be snotty about it -- I know about ten Japanese words so I'm hardly an authority despite reading and watching a lot of Japanese pop-media.


If you're a fan of mecha then check out Robotto Jukujo, but it's all wind up and very little pay off for the time being.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Drop us a line!