The Space Race Is Over.
Ever wanted to watch the anime version of Phillip Fry from Futurama on an anime road trip through space while he formed a not-subtle romance with the prince of the moon? Well, from the mind of the director known for Gintama, Gundam X, and School Rumble comes RobiHachi, a new sci-fi comedy that has roots across multiple generations of Japanese entertainment. Based loosely on a centuries old Japanese novel about two buddies travelling across Japan, this story expands on that to the Final Frontier, following the overly ambitious Robby Yarge and the pretty boy tourist of life Hatchi Kita as they escape debt collectors, poke fun at the problems of anime production, and mercilessly disparage the tourism industry, all in the hopes of reaching Isekandar, the land of great fortune that could provide them what they need for their money troubles.
That all sounds like a collection of cool and funny ideas, right? Well, it’s also a lot to try to fit into twelve episodes, and the result is a rather rushed but flavorful journey that ends up more clever than funny. As this odd couple sails across the sun and make it to the Milky Way, each episode has them stop at a planet with its own gimmick, starting with Mars, then Pluto, and then a bunch of original planets after that. Each stop comes with it an important life lesson, like learning to love yourself instead of what people want you to be, not getting too obsessed with the past, or knowing not to eat too much eel. Most of these are interesting ideas, but only a scant few really live up to their potential in either comedic or dramatic potential.
The reason for that comes down to…well, probably a lot of things. The short episode count only provides so much time to focus to the plot, which becomes harder when the show is mostly episodic, but the characters it centers on do it no favors. Robby and Hatchi’s dynamic as the cocky schemer and cool headed straight man is a tried and tested one, but almost none of the episodes give them much time to grow themselves or their relationship until the last batch. Robby’s pursuers, a group of debt collectors led by a flamboyant mobster with a thing for Robby, fill in a sort of Team Rocket role as antagonists and devices to stir up the plot, but their pursuit doesn’t end up adding much other than a few cute gags. Even the bigger goal of reaching the famed Isekandar is so nebulous and disconnected from the easy-going nature of galactic sightseeing that it doesn’t feel like much of an endpoint, even when they finally get there. And when they do, it pretty much feels like just another gimmicky disposable planet.
Though I should point out that it’s not like there aren’t things about this that I don’t love. For one, the main crew end up piloting a walking parody of the Super Robot genre that is, for the most part, handled in often hilarious and meta ways that I wish more shows would implement. Similarly, the backstory and worldbuilding that’s sprinkled throughout the series is usually pretty neat to dig into, so much so that I would’ve loved for the series to double its length if only to further explore it. Really, my biggest frustration with this series is that it has a whole bunch of great concepts that are fun to think about, but rarely live up to what I imagine for them. And to its credit, I’ve seen plenty of shows that didn’t even get that far.
Perhaps, like the show’s alternate history that sees Earth more technologically advanced in present day, there is a universe where Robihachi was given the time and the love that it needed to feel like a fully fledged and emotionally cathartic tale fitting of its pedigree and influences. But the one we have in this universe is more or less an ultimately forgettable stew of neat ideas but sloppy execution. As mentioned, the director behind this is known for some of the more beloved comedy anime of the past couple decades, so it’s not like there wasn’t a good crew behind the ship, but the engines just didn’t make it to hyperspace for whatever reason. Hopefully those who liked this show can appreciate that it fell from a shooting star and don’t come out of it with a permanent scar.