This is the third adaptation of a visual novel made by Nitroplus, after Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. And no, despite all three VNs taking place in the same setting, they have absolutely no connection to each other, besides a few Easter eggs with no relevance to the plot. You don’t need to watch the earlier shows in order to better understand what is going on. In fact, they are so distinctive in their plots and characters, that each one leaves you with an equally different feeling.
- C;H is enraging you for wasting so many good concepts in a messy plot full of stereotypes and cop-out battles.
- S;G is exciting you for having so many lively characters and an interesting blend of mystery and science fiction.
- R;N is making you … feel nothing. Really. There is nothing in it.
The show is animated by Production I.G. a studio which does wonders when it comes to science fiction but has otherwise a very hard time to make characters who don’t act like robots. And indeed, the production values are ok, but there is simply nothing special about them in terms of aesthetics. It’s just a typical looking school, with typical looking people, doing silly stuff. Almost like a K-On clone.
The cast is also fairly generic and uninteresting, you basically get a gamer who is bored with his life, being surrounded by cute girls and doing silly things just to win in an amateur giant robot tournament. And he is constantly motivated by an aloof energetic girl. It is all very basic and the much recent to it Hyouka blows it out of the water with its similar main duo.
The earlier two adaptations had very eccentric characters and a story that was full of superpowers, mystery, murder, mysticism, weird science fiction and otaku culture. Well, R;N has some of the last part and nothing of the rest. Seriously, it’s school life comedy about a few teenagers making a robot and taking part in a school tournament. NOTHING MORE! It occasionally tries to be mysterious by having all sorts of weird stuff going on, such as some sort of psychological syndrome, or a ghost girl only videogame screens can see, or the sun being speculated of blowing up and NASA is an evil organization. But they never try to do anything much with those, other than trying to keep you awake from the otherwise totally boring plot. I had ten times more fun watching Plawress Sanshiro and that is an almost 30 year old show.
I understand what the scriptwriter was trying to do here. The show is basically a tribute to mecha shows and tries to present them from a more humorous and realistic perspective. Even as such though, it just doesn’t have any particular hook for the average viewer to be interested in it. The objective of the story is very weak and the two protagonists are not likable at all. They are just a bored gamer and stupid girls; you want to slap them instead of rooting for them. Also, there have been much older mecha parodies, such as Nadesico and DaiGuard which did a much better job for having far more interesting stories and characters.
Furthermore, since the series is based on a visual novel, you will be constantly getting a lot of stuff that many be very appealing to the average gamer, but completely ridiculous for everybody else. Episode 14 is an easy example of that; the gamer literally saved the world from a robotic invasion, while playing videogames in a dark room like a NEET and while next to him he had a half naked creepy girl who wants to do all sorts of deviant things with him. And even if it sounds awesome as an event, even that was presented in a most dull way. The show fails even in pandering its target audience! In episode 16 you practically have the gamer witnessing a death of a dear person and by the next episode he acts like it wasn’t important at all and he is back to playing games and building robots.
Thus R;N is a waste of time that will only appeal to some for its nostalgic take on a subject that others already did 10 times better, 30 years ago, and with just a fraction of this show’s budget. Not recommended.