Straight Title Robot Anime
Thousands of years after the demise of the human race, war robots, still carrying on the programming of their ancient human masters, continue to fight each other. Three female robots (!) want to stop the violence by rediscovering human laughter.
Hot on the heels of Karen Senki, here's another short (13 minutes per episode), off-the-wall, 3D CG show featuring robots. But STRA is quite a bit different from Karen. This one is very formulaic, and that gets to be a problem after a while, especially since the formula sometimes just doesn't work; but when the show tries in the end to break free of the formula, it might be even more problematic.
The opening sequence for the episodes is always the same brief sequence showing Transformers-style robots blasting each other, engaging in sword fights, and sometimes just going mano y mano (or maybe mecho y mecho?) Chances are you'll see that sequence again during the episodes themselves, with some interesting variations.
Let's meet our three lady robots out to save their kind from the continuing devastation they are wreaking on themselves. First is Fujii, who really looks much more like a human than a robot; specifically (and not really surprisingly) she looks like a maid. "Why are YOU the only one who was made moe?" asks one of the others. Typically the trio begins by trying to tell jokes, and Fujii's always seem to relate to the weather, because, as she explains, it's so important for doing laundry. Since they're all machines, the obvious question is what laundry there is that NEEDS doing, but that's not even the strangest thing here. The second robot is Kato, a librarian who's researching human comedy. I think there's some lampooning of various Japanese comics going on here, but can't be sure; as I said in Chronicles of the Going Home Club, cultural "inside jokes" don't travel well. The last (and least human-appearing of the triumvirate) is Mori, a repair robot who finds her services used quite a bit when our very literal-minded robots try to re-create various comedy concepts. Of course the major problem is that not one of our trio can actually tell a joke to save her mechanical life. Still, the show gets some actual humor out of that very incomprehension, including the use of a marvelous Windows visual metaphor for it, and from Mori verbally, who, if she doesn't understand humor, at least can manage sarcasm. ("I'm starting to not understand the purpose of this.") There's also a droll (and suspiciously omniscient) male narrator, who we will actually see toward the end of the show.
After the attempt at jokes, the second part of a typical episode is the "Simulation." Remember I said you'd see that opening title battle sequence again? In the "Simulations" our trio replays that opening scene but with some concept from human comedy added, to see if that would stop the war. It NEVER quite does, and most of the time the ladies note that these innovations actually seem to increase the number of casualties. But a few of these bits are side-splittingly funny sight gags. I especially loved the one where they greased everybody, and the cross-dressing one. This was by far my favorite part of the show, though some are much more amusing than others.
The typical third act features the trio visiting some past site of human activity and basically "playing pretend" with objects they find there. I can imagine ways this could have actually been made poignant, but as it is these segments are neither moving nor particularly funny.
Outside of the Simulations there are a few good running gags, including the showing of "episode previews" that have NOTHING to do with the actual upcoming episode, and so get quickly squelched.
But then there's the issue of that ending. The final episode of the show does a 180-degree mood swing, and you'll either find the ending to be deeply moving (maybe even poetic), OR you'll be infuriated because the show has gone to a very different place than you either expected it, or DESIRED it, to take you to. I'm afraid you must count me among the latter group.
They say there's nothing worse than a joke badly told, and our heroines' lack of facility in this (plus the ending) weighed heavily on my judgment, as did the fact that the show gets so repetitive that even the trio begins to make cracks about it. Sure, there is some good stuff here; as noted, some of the "Simulations" seemed, at least to me, comic genius. But there's just not enough to rescue the show, though you might like the ending better than I did; if so, please feel free to add another star. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: There's slapstick violence, but given the protagonists' nature, it kinda reminded me of those old TV ads for a toy called "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots" (Yes, Grampa is showing his age, yet again.) The ending might upset small children. Mid-teen and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Straight Title Robot Anime © 2013 Kotaro Ishidate/KEI/Tokyo Metropolitan Television
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