Robot x Laserbeam 042-046 – 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:
Chapters 42-46 are a mixed bag. On the one hand we start with some great strategic, detailed focus on one of the final holes in the competition between Dorian and Robo. We really get into the strategy here, and that’s great. But at the same time we keep Dorian’s character and motivation entirely too thin. I normally have a problem with Shonen flashbacks overstaying their welcome, but here we get almost the exact same justification for Dorian’s passion for golf and desire to win as we did during his character’s introduction. It’s a strong motivation, sending money home to his impoverished family, but we need more of it. Instead we get the same panel art from before, and zero greater understanding of who his family is and their condition. We need the stakes raised and that just doesn’t happen.
Again the manga seems to be speeding past stuff. It kind of repeats the same strategy stuff when it’s Robo’s turn to take a shot on this difficult hole and then once he succeeds, a strong moment for sure, we suddenly cut out the rest of the game. In fact, Dorian himself disappears from the story. Were we supposed to care about him? Why even mention his tragic backstory, his friendship with Robo, any of that if he’s just going to disappear at the drop of a hat?
As quickly as Dorian is forgotten it’s on to new villains. The manga shifts gears for some off game comedy, which I find very hit or miss. The series rarely dabbles in sexuality, so when we introduce characters entirely woman obsessed it feels a bit weird, almost as if there was some editorial intervention here. Coupled with that is this sudden mention that Robo qualifies for a major tournament, one that could abruptly catapult him into the greatest golf spotlight at the U.S. open. It makes me wonder if this is how the manga plans on wrapping itself up sooner rather than later, constantly providing quick and sudden jumps in prestige for Robo to rush to the top of the Golf arena.
We end this discussion with Chapter 46, focused on detailing Robo’s new found fame and his unwillingness to entertain the more scummy persona’s in the pro golf arena. It feels entirely strange that we’re only 46 chapters in and our hero is already a big-shot in the sport. This feels like a chapter 100 thing, or even 150, something well down the road that we’ve been working towards for years. Also, in some ways, everyone’s shock as Robo’s sudden fame is odd, seeing as anyone who’d risen from nothing to something in one singular tournament was bound to garner significant attention.
Chapter 46 also introduces another villain, although he’s clearly a stepping stone compared to the Bath House’s tease for Robo’s latest rival. This guy is out and out awful, crafted to be the greatest scum he could be. He feels like lazy characterization, existing as little more than a chance for Robo to strut his stuff and show that he’s more than a match for the field of Pro golfers awaiting him.
Overall these chapters are a real mess of poor execution, stellar moments, peppering of comedy that works and some that doesn’t, and a continued undercurrent of rushing through the narrative, cutting the fat wherever it can. Robot x Laserbeam continues to feel like the cliff notes version of a much longer, more detailed story. And I continue to feel like maybe I’d rather read that instead.
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.