-Review by Paul Ewbank-
I’ve seen some weird stuff in my time. Heck, I’ve seen some stuff that’s weird even by anime standards. Spirited Away? Made perfect sense to me. Those giant bug things in Nausicaa? Whatever. That bit in Neon Genesis Evangelion where they ran out of money and shot the last two episodes with still photos and pencil drawings? I can dig it. But this, THIS is something else. Stumbled upon totally by accident when looking through Google images of cool giant robots (lazy Sunday afternoon. Don’t ask.), I can honestly say that Straight Title Robot Anime is the strangest thing these bewildered eyes have ever seen.
So it started out fairly normal. The opening titles depict a bunch of giant robots and tanks beating each other up in a ruined city. Fairly standard stuff. The CG graphics were pretty lousy, so I figured maybe I’d found some cult classic action cartoon from the 90s or something. I could’ve rolled with that. What I got was…something else. I’m not sure I can do justice to what I saw with mere words, so I advise you just watch it for yourself. I’ll try to make sense of it for you as well, but I… just…just watch it.
If you’re still with me I’m assuming you didn’t watch it for very long, or your brain would probably be a molten goo on the floor by now. So it starts with a voiceover saying how humanity is long extinct and the combat robots we built are left in a perpetual, worldwide war*. As this is being explained a caption stating that the entire purpose of the show is to allow viewers to enjoy the “cuteness of robots” is displayed on screen. Um…ok. We then meet our protagonists: Fuji, Kato and Mori, three female non-combat androids. Apparently bored by the lack of things to do in a post apocalyptic never ending war, they soon decide that the key to ending the conflict is the long dead human concept of “laughter”. They then proceed to dredge up bits of information on human comedy from their memory banks and take it in turns trying to be funny. Hilarity ensues. Or rather, it doesn’t, as the poor robots have no clue how to tell a joke and so have to painstakingly explain the punchlines to each other. Oh, and the narrator randomly interjects with witty asides from time to time as well. That was the first six minutes of the episode: three adorable, badly rendered girl bots standing around trying to tell jokes while some creepy voiced Japanese guy makes wisecracks about it all. From there, it gets worse.
Our three heroines then visit some kind of simulation room and test out the effects of various amusing scenarios on the world. Apparently one of them read that covering yourself in lube and attempting to sumo-wrestle was considered a funny thing back in the day, so they simulate covering the entire world in lubrication. We are then treated to the opening titles playing again, but this time the robots are slipping and sliding around and crashing into each other like crazy. Mori concludes that the experiment was unsuccessful.
Fuji, Kato and Mori then view a simulation of a hardware store and attempt to gain insight into human comedy by studying the items therein and trying to figure out what they were used for. More hilarity ensues. At this point the voice acting became decidedly more amateur and the narrator interjected to say that whilst it might sound like the robots were giggling and fumbling their lines, this was actually due to static interference from the simulation room. Course. In the last few moments it broke down entirely; the three of them start blatantly breaking the fourth wall and laughing non-stop. Then it just ends.
Deeply troubled by the abomination I had just witnessed, I attempted to research it and find out who was responsible for unleashing it upon the world. According to Wikipedia the anime was made using the free animation software MikuMikuDance, originally used to make dancing music videos for the synthesised singing voice robot thing Hatsune Miko, which is a thing that exists in Japan apparently. So perhaps Straight Title Robot Anime was an amateur made fan video, not an actual anime like I thought? Nope. Wiki also revealed that not only was this crap aired in Japan, but it was first aired in February 2013. THIS YEAR! I was stunned.
But the mystery deepens. Offended, insulted but also kind of enchanted, I chanced a look at the second episode. Turns out each episode follows the EXACT same formula: five minutes of the girls standing around talking, trying out some new comic technique, then the experiment, then the altered opening credits, then the attempted uses for human objects bit. The last segment AGAIN featured shoddy voice acting and frequent titters of laughter. The weirdest thing about all this was that, despite the fact that it was the most horrendously soul destroying thing in the universe, and quite possibly represented the end of all creative endeavour ever, I was actually loving it. The robots and their attempts to understand humour were funny and endearing, the altered title bit had me in stitches every time, and the final part was just too bizarre to tear your eyes away from**.
Still, I am troubled. What the heck IS this thing? Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to make? I mean I know the Japanese are into some odd things by our standards, but I never would have expected this. I’m still half expecting not to find any evidence of it next time I look online- it could all just be some elaborate prank or a dream I’m going to wake up from soon. “Hey Liz, I had a dream where there was this CGI anime with robots and one of them pulled off her own head and one of them had a glove made of bananas and used it to explain baseball and there was lube and this cool power metal opening song!”
“That’s nice, dear.”
But seriously, if anyone reading this can offer any explanation as to the insanity of Straight Title Robot Anime it would be greatly appreciated as I have no answers for you this time. The world has become a much stranger, more frightening place and I just don’t know what to believe anymore.
*So it’s POST APOCALYPTIC, so technically I’m allowed to talk about it on here!
**I later found out that the last few minutes of each episode were entirely improvised, which explains all the laughing and mumbled lines. Kind of like a sketch show where you have to think of a funny use for an object. But with Japanese robots.