Classroom Crisis Review — The Return of Robotics;Notes In All Of Its Awful Glory

This one came out pretty long, but the show deserved it because hoo-wee was it a giant stinker.

Without giving too much away about my personal life, I work in IT. My job involves tinkering with technology that helps improve people’s lives in ways they didn’t know they were being helped whilst never getting public recognition for it. Whilst I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to what’s current or how it’s implemented or how to use Linux for everyday life, I do know that this is a tough career path and even getting started can be a big pain. Interviews suck, especially when you pass many of them only to fail at the final stretch. The learning process is worse than Dark Soul’s. Multiple failed projects. Corporate decisions screwing you over. The works.

So I guess in a way, there is some merit in Classroom Crisis portraying that part of my life. Doesn’t change the fact that the show can go fuck itself though. You wouldn’t defend the more boring iterations of the Assassin’s Creed series solely based on how much effort was put into accurately portraying the time periods said games take place in. And it doesn’t help that the show’s actual handling of business politics is about as insightful as a Captain Planet episode – although I’m pretty sure Sly Sludge had more smarts than anyone in this mess.

Classroom Crisis is once again another show following the trend started by Jun Maeda in that it’s written by a sort-of-established visual novel writer who had the same stupid “how hard can it be?” thought all of his predecessors had before proceeding to spontaneously combust himself due to his inability to escape the trappings of his preferred medium, ironically at the same time as Maeda’s own second combustion. But say what you like about Charlotte I certainly have – at least stuff happens in it! Guy finds he has power, proceeds to abuse it, gets punished, is roped into a strange place, finds out he’s part of something bigger, deals with tragedies, reverses a few only to run into something irreversible, sacrifices himself, and ultimately grows as a result even if his brain is too damaged to remember said growth. That’s some serviceable substance right there. On the other hand, after three anime, Fumiaki Maruto still hasn’t seemed to grasp the definition of the word “story” at all. And with this show he seems to have forgotten the definition of the word “character” as well.

Maruto’s last anime, Saekano: How To Be A Boring Heroine, shot itself in the foot before it left the starting gate with its intentions to focus on “character” at the expense of “story”, but at least the characters had identity. This time around, ninety percent of the cast don’t even get so much as a description worthy of a gaming instruction manual. They’re just a bunch of faceless gimmicky extras, led by a teacher who couldn’t be any more obnoxious unless he suddenly turned into a raccoon who’d give you rabies every time you answered a question wrong. Actually I don’t recall the teacher doing anything in the show at all – let alone teach – unless you thinking talking big counts as doing something (it doesn’t). The ratio of things that happen to him as opposed to things that happen by him is so one-sided I don’t think there’s a scale big enough to represent the number on the former side.

The only character who actually has some semblance of characterization that doesn’t make me want to blow my brains out is the transfer student and arrogant rich boy, Nagisa Kiryuu. And I’m being very generous here, because his characterization is pretty much Chazz Princeton’s from Yu-Gi-Oh GX without the unintentional humor in that he’s a brat from a respected family who gets beaten down by his older brothers because being rich equals being a Lex Luthor wannabe who doesn’t get that the guy was articulate in his evilness. Oh, and he eventually becomes nicer after being forced to work alongside the idiots surrounding him and discovering they’re not all that bad. Fan-fucking-tastic character writing. Next we’ll be showering critical accolades on a character story about a young boy who has his innocence shattered when he discovers that people die in war.

There’s this girl named Iris aka Rei Clone #4395714, and the show beats you over the head that she knew Nagisa in the past so ham-handedly that it might as well have had a neon sign pointing that shit out over her head every time she so much as appeared. But apart from that, she has absolutely no identity whatsoever and barely interacts with Nagisa or do really anything of significant importance whenever said neon sign isn’t turned on. She’s less of a character and more of “plot mcguffin with tits”. Not that being an emotional girl is any better, as Mizuki (had to look up her name because she’s that forgettable and unimportant to anything going on) discovered the hard way with her “I’m nice and maybe have a crush on this bad boy” routine. Maybe if you didn’t devote large sections of your show to explaining a bunch of political business stuff that I couldn’t give two shits for, I’d actually see these characters as someone worth giving a damn to get invested in.

So the characters are boring with no relatable or interesting flaws whatsoever, but that doesn’t mean…well actually yes it does mean your show is doomed from the start, especially when your story leans so heavily on them. But even if you had gotten the cast of The Breakfast Club to star in this thing, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen such an awful case of “story driving characters” rather than “characters driving story”. Again, like Saekano – and White Album 2 to a lesser extent – there doesn’t seem to be much of a driving element to Classroom Crisis’s plot at all. As such, I don’t know what I’m supposed to care about or even who’s supposed to be the main hero that holds everything together.

After the anime starts with the world’s most boring and throwaway terrorist scenario, Nagisa informs A-Tec upon his rescue that their group is dissolving and they’ll have to go their separate ways, but that’s literally all there is. Why should I care if they dissolve? Will they lose their homes if they do so? What dreams do they want to accomplish by being in A-Tec? What is the importance of building these machines? Well we never know, because the situation is swiftly resolved due to some legal loopholes without much of a struggle on the characters’ end and there’s still two-thirds of the anime to go. It’s like watching an episodic family sitcom scenario except stretched to four times the length and without any laughs in it.

We then spend the next third having the characters live their lives. No seriously, that’s it. They just live their lives with the only central mechanic being Nagisa warming up to them – which as I’ve stated earlier doesn’t count as a story at all and certainly doesn’t have anything challenging about it – whilst dealing with their projects in the most saccharine way possible. They spend graduation by going to a beach, Nagisa has to pass a test, the characters resolve another random hostage situation that to be fair is better executed than the first one, the characters attend a school festival, and all I can think about whilst watching that shit was “wow, I am really bored. Hey, wasn’t there a plot point about the company stealing money for their own personal reasons? Are we ever going to get back to that? I feel like I’m watching Dragon Age: Origins’ ‘epic elements with no central narrative’ plot if it was channeling Dragon Age II’s ‘daily life of some random jackass without making anything actually happen’ snorefest”.

What is up with visual novel writers and wanting to assemble all the pieces first before putting them altogether at once anyways? Not only do I not see why you can’t just put them together as you introduce said pieces, but you can still make mistakes when going all in at once when said assembly is complete. This becomes particularly true when Nagisa is forced to make a sacrifice in order to save his friends by involving himself into the company’s inner-workings in the final third of the show, putting him in a position of betrayals and internal danger. Sure it makes no sense why he couldn’t explain his plan to the others or why it took so long to get to some conflict that actually might go somewhere, but I’ll take it if it means we can finally have some actual driving tension to what’s going on.

Unfortunately, even that is badly handled, because the show still won’t install any sense of importance to the proceedings to the point that everything feels padded. We have to sit through long long long scenes where Nagisa has to talk about business politics with characters we don’t know, and they barely affect the plot or involve the characters he’s supposed to be saving, making them incredibly tedious. The only part that resembles an actual driving conflict where stuff actually happens comes right near the end when the show reveals why A-Tec’s money has been withheld from them, along with some more plot twists that were sort of hinted at earlier on involving characters that barely contributed anything before now. Not going to spoil them, but let’s just say I didn’t throw out that Captain Planet reference in the beginning of this review lightly.

So you want to know what said conflict leads to? What actual character struggles result from their new discoveries? What these sudden plot developments actually lend to the narrative? So the fuck would I. Because Classroom Crisis thinks the best way to conclude itself would be to get sidetracked again with a kidnapping scheme caused by a boring asshole that exists solely to have a convenient excuse to have the characters utilize their individual skills for an agonizingly bad happy ending that was as soulless and token as they come. Mild spoilers: there’s literally nothing to that ending but the good guys triumphing over the bad guys with no meaningful sacrifice or journey whatsoever, the shallowly naive message that dreams beat corporate, tons of loose ends that never added to anything, an incredibly tensionless rescue scene capped off with a nauseating and crowbarred-in love triangle element that made me want to hurl vomit all over my computer screen (seriously, what is up with Maruto and his fetish for love triangles?), and LOTS. OF. TALKING. The show literally just assembled the pieces, let them do the work, and then went off to have a milkshake without realizing that the autopilot navigation system has been faulty for months.

That’s got to be the most anticlimactic way to pay off on all your buildup since that godawful Robotics;Notes anime! And speaking of R;N, this show sure seems to take an awful lot from that anime in addition to how it ends, doesn’t it? Like the character types, poor pacing, sci-fi setting, saccharine humor, large sections of the plot, and even being written by a visual novel writer who’s gone completely downhill after his breakout hit. As the 40-year old virgin’s friends said in regards to the only date he’s ever had in his life, “fuck that”.

I don’t usually spend this long on a review talking about the story, but it’s absolute dreadfulness kind of overshadows everything else. But that doesn’t mean everything else gets a free pass. The animation is really terrible, like something from a bad 90s OVA bar the OreImo designs. And the music is bland across the board, from the opening credits to the actual OST. Out of curiosity, I went to MAL to find out what amateur composed this anime’s piece of air and found it to be none other than…the guy who did the triumphant bombast of Haikyuu and Gundam Build Fighter’s soundtracks? As well as Death Parade’s? I soon saw he also did Robotics;Notes’ blandness and it all made sense. Obviously, this is a guy who realized the same thing I did in that there’s no future for anime written by VN writers and vowed to bring that across in his compositions. And if the music guy thinks your anime is shit, who are you to argue?

We should really start listening to these semi-major anime industry guys more, less we end up with more cartoons like this fucking atrocity.

PS: Technically, the guy who wrote Kanon created that Sola anime three years before Angel Beats existed, but we don’t count that one anymore.

2 responses to “Classroom Crisis Review — The Return of Robotics;Notes In All Of Its Awful Glory

  1. I agree with the review of course. I did expect lots of character focus (because of the writer) but I didn’t expect there to be hardly any plot at all. I also tend to not like anything with a lot of dialogue, so that’s why I’m a huge fan of Kubrick’s work.
    I laughed at your observation with the music composer; I’ve never noticed that before. I loved Death Parade, and the soundtrack was absolutely stunning.

    • The characters are just completely opaque to me in this thing. From what I recall, A-Tec exists because it wants to push mankind to a more advanced future, but I can’t recall why they care so much about that or how their technology will allow for said future in the first place. It reminds me of how a lot of bad video games try to up the stakes by threatening the entire planet, which I’ve always considered a lazy motivation because nobody in their right mind would refuse to do that.