One of the coolest things as an anime fan is to pick up a series that you don’t really have high expectations for and it turning out to be better than expected. Every season at least has one of these types of series, and RobiHachi is one of them. To be honest, I pretty much went into this thinking it was going to be nothing special at best, and on top of that, I knew the production value was low-rent. There was no hype behind it, and hardly anyone is watching it. Turns out that it is a good old-fashioned anime screwball comedy with staff and cast that are mostly long-time industry veterans, and just hearing Nakai Kazuya in a leading role again is enough to give the whole enterprise a very retro feel, which is right up my alley.
While RobiHachi is an original series, with the pedigree behind it you could formulate a pretty good guess as to what was coming. Takamatsu Shinji has as distinctive sensibility as any anime director out there—shameless broad comedy, male bonding, absurdity. And this series has all of those things in droves. There’s certainly a whiff of Space Dandy about it but it doesn’t appear that this series has anything like the creative ambition that show did. As I mentioned in my intro, the production is on the low-rent side of things, as in the budget is clearly nowhere near as big. Even the comedy is not as punchier. Still, I rather enjoyed it. Studio Comet is a frequent partner with Bones and in fact, did in-betweens for both Space Dandy series. So, comes to no surprise that despite having a small budget, RobiHachi still manages to look pretty nice visually.
As for a premise, we have a vaguely Dandy-esque loser named Robby Yaji whose seed money for his latest harebrained get-rich scheme is stolen but recovered from the thief by bored whiz kid Hacchi Kita. Turns out the money was borrowed from a mob boss named Yang and Hacchi has gone to work for him as a means to fight his boredom. One thing leads to another and Robby ends up blasting off into space in his apartment, which is also a space cruiser, with Hacchi on-board and Yang and his cronies in hot pursuit. There’s also a manservant who appears to be a snarky mechanical rabbit and a pair of fighters that can gattai into an old-school mecha, complete with a 1980’s transformation sequence and accompanying theme song by no less than Kushida Akira. I would imagine whether RobiHachi will work for anyone is pretty much going to be contingent on one’s compatibility level with Takamatsu’s sense of humor, but as I said I rather enjoyed it.
RobiHachi as a goofy buddy pair going to new age retreat planets with mobsters in pursuit and mecha transformations is lots of fun, and the feel of the piece is definitely nostalgic. One can’t help but note that there’s a lot of Space Dandy in RobiHachi’s premise—the trio (including a robot) on the run in an apartment-spaceship from a debt collector and his good subordinates. It doesn’t bother me, but I can’t be the only one seeing it. You can make other comparisons to other shows like “Tiger & Bunny”, or “Double Decker! Doug & Kirill” in terms of its comedy and character chemistry. It really grows into its own, and becomes quite as ‘laugh-out-loud’ funny as I wanted it to become. Not all the jokes land, and it does sometimes feel like the show itself, through Robby, that all of them are home runs, which can be a bit annoying at times. But it does have relentless goofy energy that’s kind of infectious. And Robby and Hacchi are the infectious types of protagonists.
There are some nice individual elements here—the strange tone with Yang and his two henchmen, Hacchi’s addiction to danger, Robby’s general doofusness—and it all comes together rather well. Each character has distinctive personalities and is rather charismatic, they are what makes this show. The cat-and-mouse between our main trio, and Yang and his grunts provide most of the entertainment value. And to keep things fresh, the characters travel all around the galaxy, stopping at other planets which are all unique, some are advanced and some are tribal. The space adventures give this series a little more to chew on. Seeing different kinds of civilizations, climates, species, infrastructure, cultures, laws, commerce, etc., is pretty fascinating. The dialogue is fun, it's rapid at times, but it works in this kind of light-hearted story. It has high velocity but understands timing—for the most part. I do like how it doesn’t telegraph all its jokes and leaves room for laughter.
Studio Comet really showed what other production teams can do without the big bucks behind them. I really respect this production team. The setting is filled with creativity. Every scene is crowded with strange-looking characters and eye-catching background details, and really captures the hustle-and-bustle of port towns and cities as it pertains to galactic travel and technology. It’s a world in love with its own weirdness, but the kind that welcomes the audience to come along for the ride. Character and color designs are striking, lively, funky, hip, and flamboyant. The animation quality is vibrant and definitely above the standards for a low-rent series. The CGI does conflict with hand-drawn art sometimes. The background music is a mix of Jazz and dance with a splash of techno, or funk tossed in depending on the scene and situation. The casting is solid picks, all working well with their given character and having their vocals match the characters looks and personalities.
The constant comparison must sound annoying but now but this series is pretty much a poor man’s Space Dandy—but in saying that, it’s still lots of fun and is a pretty good anime. It has flaws, you could say it is aimed at a pretty niche audience, and the production quality is not as amazing as much shows this season, but it has a lot of heart, charm, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I rate this a 7 out of 10 but the highest 7 I can give. RobiHachi is a love letter to vintage sci-fi anime of multiple eras, taking a lot of inspiration from series of the past. With a bigger budget behind it, I could easily see this being a lot more popular than what it is now.