Yuri Manga: Tonari no Robot (となりのロボット)

February 5th, 2015

TonarinoRobotTonari no Robot is a bittersweet little love story about a humanoid robot and her friend, a human girl.

The robot, known as “Praha” to her build team, is called Hiro by Chika. Hiro and Chika met when Chika was 4 years old. And over the years they stayed friends, Chika aging as humans do, while Hiro outwardly remains the same.

I say outwardly, because Hiro is not just a robot, she is meant to closely approximate human behavior and learning. Over time, her build team helps her be more and more like a human (although they themselves aren’t all that normal) and of course Chika helps. Chika is an example of human complexity every single day and while she does not age, Hiro does changes because of this.

And, when Chika tries to teach Hiro about things like love and physical intimacy, Hiro’s build team is forced to accommodate new, unexpected situations.

We learn in the second half of the volume that the Praha type is meant as one of several types of humanoid robot types, designed for generalized and specialized functions. As we spend more time with build team, and less with Chika, Hiro’s Chika-less life seems not nearly as fun as it was when she was attending high school along with her friend.

In the final chapter we learn why – Chika has moved on and become an adult. Now 27, she is no longer this child who befriended Hiro, or a schoolmate. And, although the ending is happy, I am reminded by the final panel why all such human/robot stories are doomed to be bittersweet. Aging gives the human existence a time-frame, boundaries, limits on what we have time to do.

Throughout this volume, I was constantly reminded of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou and how the humans in that story were almost markers of time passing, while Alpha’s one deep, abiding relationship is with another android. We do not have to be sad that humanity is fading away in YKK, Alpha and Kokone will always have one another. Not so Chika and Hiro. Even the build team will one day cease to exist, but Praha might continue on like my poor beater car, still chugging away long after it is obsolete. Or, worse, Praha will fail and the Praha team will be long gone, and old and no longer needed and no one will be there to help Chika in her old age.

And so, I call the book bittersweet. Nothing in the book itself is bitter, but as a human reading it, I can’t not think about inevitable loss that is to come.

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I guess I’m feeling my age today, because the book itself is not at all depressing! ^_^ It’s sweet, it’s cute, it’s got moments of adorable embarrassment, and traditional “robot misses the point” cuteness and above all, Nishi UKO-sensei’s art is, as ever, exquisite.

Ratings:

Art – 10
Story – 8
Characters – Chika is adorable and Hiro cute in that dorky robot way, but I really liked the bitchiness and ranting of the build team members best. Completely real.
Yuri – 9
Service – 4 There is a bit in the middle

Overall – 8

Although I felt a twang or two in the heart region while reading it, the fault lay neither in our stars nor in Nishi UKO-sensei’s work, but my own fragile operating system.

Note of interest – Praha, and the other robot build names, are Czech.

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6 Responses

  1. Jackie S says:

    I picked this one up the other day (along with a huge stack of other Yuri manga volumes… Some with super obvious covers… Yeah, the ladies at the check-out counter weren’t giving me looks at all…). After flipping through it, I think I am going to pick up some interesting kanji when I do a more intense reading. It looks cute, I’m curious to see if I end up having a similar reaction to the bittersweetness now that I’ve read your review, lol.

    • ^_^ I hope I didn’t poison the well, it’s always hard for me to find more than ephemeral joy in robot/human stories. Someone is going to die and someone is going to be left behind. But then, that’s often the case in human/human stories in real life too. ^_^;

      • Jackie S says:

        I don’t know that I’d call it “poisoning the well” (and if so, what does that say about my impressions of all the OTHER things I’ve read/watched after reading your reviews?) In this case, I might well have come to a similar set of feelings on my own. Your review reminded me of a philosophy paper I wrote in college about whether death was necessarily harmful to a person’s well-being that included a section basically about why immortality would kind of suck. (^_^) So I’ve already thought a bit about what you’re saying.

  2. Paula says:

    I was wondering, do you read japanese and if so how did you learn? I’ve been trying to find this one in english and couldn’t find it -_-

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