Me & Roboco 001-003 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Roboco Quiz! How crazy is this maid?! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Review:

Me & Roboco feels like the closest title to a classic gag manga, of all the new additions to the Jump line up. There’s a joke every page, sometimes more, creating this almost shotgun approach to its humor. While the jokes are rapid fire, this approach often means there’s going to be far more miss than hit. That might be fine if Roboco didn’t hamper its appeal in other ways. Let’s Jump In!

Me & Roboco’s concept is fairly simple. We follow a young boy named Bondo, who desperately wants an OrderMaid like his friends from school have. OrderMaids are about what you’d expect; robots designed to look like Maids who help out around the house and do basic tasks. For Bondo and his friends however, the appeal really is simply how cute they are. Becoming jealous of his friends, Bondo asks his mother to finally get them an OrderMaid. Unfortunately, Bondo’s mom orders the wrong one, and Bondo ends up with the muscular, sometimes inept, often weird and at times destructive: Roboco.

Me & Roboco offers a wide variety of humor, some of which comes innately from its premise and Roboco herself, and at other times is built off of the wacky personas of the additional cast, or comes totally out of the blue! Comedy ranges from how un-OrderMaid-like Roboco is, to gags about Bondo’s friends, who are both weirdly passive aggressively friendly. Other examples include Bondo’s mother, who has a propensity for sharing too much information, heavy referential goofs calling out or poking fun at other Shonen titles, and some comedy that’s just straight up random.

Breaking each of these down, let’s start with the referential humor, because this type of humor will be your first hurdle to enjoying Me & Roboco. According to more knowledgeable readers, Me & Roboco seems to be a not-so-subtle parody of the famous Japanese Manga and Anime franchise: Doreamon. Doreamon’s plot is undoubtedly similar: Doreamon is a robot from the future, who travels back in time to befriend a young boy struggling with good grades, and two bullies at school. This explains Bondo’s passive-agressively friendly classmates, Roboco’s compliment of weird gadgets and abilities, and other goofs, as they’re all thinly veiled references to Doreamon. But without that familiarity, much of that comedy is lost on the reader, and can feel more random than clever. That’s the problem with going down the heavy referential route; if your audience doesn’t know what you’re referencing then you run the risk of the gags falling flat. It’s the same problem with jokes about Roboco having ‘Nappa’s knees.’ If someone hasn’t read Dragon Ball then the joke is immediately worthless. That said, I’m sure a Japanese Audience is more than familiar with Doreamon, and Dragon Ball, and it’s really only from a Western, U.S.-centric perspective that the Doreamon parody references become a problem. (Doreamon is, weirdly, quite successful in India, Spain, and several other countries, but has made little impact here in the U.S.)

The absurd humor is also an issue with getting sucked into Me & Roboco. Absurd humor often works on a “oh so random!” level, where the reader is caught off guard by how absolutely crazy and unexpected the goof is. Sometimes, and in small doses, this style of comedy can be insanely effective. Here though, Roboco needs to work on it. One example is a goof about a “New Concept” that Roboco offers Bondo. It’s so wild and out there that the joke is more strange than funny. Again though, it’s possibly this is referential humor that’s flying over our heads. Both these types have a tendency to leave the audience disengaged if they don’t ‘get’ the gag.

Still though, as harsh as I’ve been, there’s a lot to like with this series. Even if it’s referential, the gag with Bondo’s friends being so passive aggressively friendly is quite funny. There’s also Bondo’s mother propensity for TMI content, and certain aspects to Roboco’s ineptness as a OrderMaid that work wonders. One example is how Roboco’s form of cooking is well, not cooking at all.

But while referential and absurd based comedy can lean Roboco more so towards miss than hit, they are not the series greatest detractor. Me & Roboco harms itself via its punchlines. Often in comedy, be it manga, anime, TV or Film, you typically end each goof or skit with a top off, or acknowledgment of the preceding gag; the punchline. The best comedy find a way to send things off on a high note. The best example I have isn’t from manga or anime at all, but rather the U.S.-TV show Brooklyn Nine Nine. In one episode there’s a bit character, a patrol officer, who throughout the entire episode has expressed their love of menial, boring tasks, like “Cone Duty.” At the end of the episode she’s again offered this boring task and then exclaims with “Yes! Best Birthday ever.” The fact that not only is she excited, something we’ve seen before, but that she also considers this to be a highlight for a very special day, sends the gag out on a high, because it helped to re-contextualize and revitalize the gag.

Roboco’s problem is that its punchlines are often just restating what we, as the reader, were supposed to find funny. There are a lot of anime and manga that both do this. It’s okay sometimes, but Roboco ends quite a few jokes this way, and by so blatantly stating what is supposed to be funny, it can even make those jokes start to feel hollow. One example is Bondo’s mothers TMI joke, and another is Roboco’s cooking (shown above.)

Despite these problems I think Me & Roboco has potential. The premise, even if a giant parody of Doreamon, is still fun. It’s fun enough even for those who aren’t aware of the parody. There’s ways Me & Roboco can improve, but even if it doesn’t, the title still has enough solid material to sustain itself as Shonen Jump’s ‘typical’ gag manga title. Like most gag manga, it’ll never do amazing in the ranking but, as long as it does okay enough, it could stick around a lot longer than you might assume. As long as each chapter can get you to laugh out loud once, or even twice, then Me & Roboco has succeeded, as gag manga rarely do much better than that.

That’s it for this week! Let me know your own thoughts on Me & Roboco!

Me & Roboco is published weekly in Shonen Jump.

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