Robot x Laserbeam 030-035 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Robato Hatohara is a strange young man who seems to show almost no emotion or care. But when Tomoya, his only friend, takes an interest in Golf, Robato begins to show his own interest and quite significant skill as he can do what most pros have a difficult time mastering: He can hit the ball perfectly straight with incredible range. Golf is about to get a whole lot more interesting.

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

Robot x Laserbeam continues to make some ‘rather interesting’ choices narratively. When we last discussed the series, it had thrust Robo into watching Yozan’s last major amateur appearance before heading into the pros. That concludes here with Chapter 30, marking the moment when Robo admits to himself that he loves Golf. Yozan’s journey into the pros is the final catalyst to solidify Robo’s desire to catch up to Yozan and become a pro himself.

It’s a solid development, and normally this would then mean we’d perhaps watch Robo grow up throughout his high school amateur career, either for several arcs or perhaps one or two. But in another rather odd development we jump a whole three years later! At first I felt that this was the manga finally winding down after poor reader performance. That we were catapulting ahead to offer some kind of cathartic conclusion in the face of cancellation.

To be fair, that’s pretty much what I do too when thrown off my game.

But as we discover over Chapters 31-35 it seems we’re going full in on Pro life Robo. Maybe this is an extended conclusion, I don’t know, but it also feels like yet another grab to try and pull in a reluctant audience. But with each jump I feel like Robot x Laserbeam is gradually alienating what readership it had. I wanted to see Robo’s high school career, I wanted to see his clubmates get explored and featured more heavily. The jump now makes it clear none of that’s to be. With each leap forward we seem to abandon anything and everything from before.

Robo’s amazingly amateur dad? Not touched upon once here. That plot point no longer matters. Robo’s clubmates? A mere foot note after the jump. New villains? Why certainly! Within the first few pages of Chapter 31 we’re offered up a new, smarmy, ‘starter’ villain, Yada. As we quickly discover over the next few chapters, he’s a chump. He exists singularly to make Robo look good.

We spend a couple chapters detailing the first day of this Amateur high level tournament, which leads to a significant grand prize and also offers a way in for amateurs to turn pro. But, as if already bored with this, the manga quickly skips past the majority of it, offering up narrator exposition to sum up what happened. It’s as if the mangaka decided that this idea we’ve embarked on was already boring and uninteresting, incapable of injecting proper drama, so why bother? If anything it’s starting to feel like Robot x Laserbeam is the mere cliff notes of a much longer, more detailed manga. It continually cuts character building in favor of shooting the narrative forward, meaning your attachment to anyone, outside of maybe Robo, is thin at best.

I know we’ve been gradually getting more and more silly but this seems a tad extreme.

Aware that so much of the extended cast has been abandoned in this leap frogging, we’re introduced to a new character here, Dorian Green, a South African Golfer who’s come to Japan because he’s an Otaku and desperately in need of money. We play the “guy trying to save his family from poverty” card as we learn through brief flashbacks that Dorian needs lots of cash for his struggling family back home. He’s injected very suddenly into the story and only gets a couple chapters to detail his budding friendship with Robo before becoming a sworn rival who exists to give Robo a true run for his money.

While Dorian’s a great thrust for diversity in Manga, it’s not often we see a Black character, his inclusion feels as cliff notey as the rest of Laserbeam’s developments. I think the biggest disappointment right now is how we never get to see anyone grow. We’re always jumping past it. Robo’s gotten way better in three years and while we see the results, we never saw the struggle. As characters are introduced and quickly forgotten it makes it impossible to find anyone to really grow attached to and actively want to see improve in the face of adversity.

What you stressing about, pops? He’s clearly a foreigner with an iffy grasp on the language.

My interest has fallen significantly with this latest jump ahead. But while I’ve become more and more detached from the series, I do wonder where it’s still heading. Is this merely a play to pull in a larger readership? We know the manga has been selling well in Takubon form, so it’s possible Robot x Laserbeam is otherwise secure. But it could also be part of an extended wrap up to the series. Perhaps the author merely has enough clout to drag his ending out a bit longer than a less experienced mangaka, whom Jump would pressure to end it right away. Either way though, I think these jumps are becoming a huge detriment to the series.

Let me know your thoughts on Robot x Laserbeam in the comments below!

Robot x Laserbeam can be found in Shonen Jump and its first three chapters are available to read for free at Viz.com.

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