The third episode of Busou Shinki flashes forward a month, to when the Shinki are all settled in their new home, and Hina/Strarf is not such a newcomer anymore. She still considers the housework the other Shinki do beneath her, but they take it in stride. I guess it makes sense. If I were programming a tiny maid robot, I wouldn’t program it to get mad at other tiny maid robots for being lazy. Passive-aggressive status games are neither productive nor cute. There’s still the question of why you’d program a tiny maid robot to be lazy in the first place, but I guess Hina is more intended as a tiny battlemaid robot, so she just isn’t programmed to see the point in housework. From that perspective you could view it as a mental disability on her part, and then it certainly isn’t productive or cute to get mad at her.
Anyway, after a couple heartwarming domestic scenes, one of the other Shinki from the neighborhood shows up to introduce the episode’s main plot: someone has been going around breaking into Shinki stores and stealing all the tiny maid robots and tiny maid robot accessories!
You can’t own people without properly paying for them, that’s just wrong.
She asks our Shinki for their help in catching this criminal – Hina thinks it’s a good idea, or at least more interesting than sitting around all day pointedly not doing housework. The other three Shinki can’t stop fooling around (adorably!) long enough to bring themselves to care, so the two of them set out to patrol the night by themselves. After a few humorously false starts, they find a Shinki shop that has signs of a break-in. Meanwhile, the other three Shinki are enjoying their holographic bathhouse:
Their relaxation time is interrupted when they get a call from their Master, who has been taken in by the police on suspicion of being the Shinki thief. It’s all a big misunderstanding, of course (of course!), but apparently this is a dystopian future in which cute consumer electronics distract the populace from a fascist police state which assumes the authority to hold citizens indefinitely without trial based on the flimsiest of evidence? I didn’t think this was that sort of show So now the Shinki have to get out there and clear their Master’s name! Now it’s not just some quixotic quest of Hina’s, it’s actually impacting their beloved Master, and so they set out to help find this Shinki thief.
And Hina needs the help, because as the two of them close on a suspicious-looking character, they’re suddenly attacked by a pair of Shinki! Shouting battle-cries of love and justice, they transform into combat mode, and… And then the show turns bad. Up to this point, it had been great, a top-class episode with solid comedic timing, heartwarming friendship, and cute robot girls. Then, for five minutes, the robots dogfight with each other, in CGI that’s mostly good enough but sometimes isn’t, while hardly even talking to each other. I was bored to tears. At that point I realized, for all the craftsmanship this show displays, it’s basically just a vehicle to sell toys. I mean, I knew that, but the craftsmanship was excellent enough that I hadn’t really been thinking about it.
To top it off, the fight turned out to be pointless. Ann saved the day by explaining (after five minutes of boring combat) to the attacking Shinki that the person they were defending was actually an evil Shinki thief, and not someone they should be serving (i.e. someone who had contributed to the manufacturer’s profits). After coming to terms with the implications of this, they decide to set out on a journey:
Is there somebody out there with a pre-order slip or something?
This seems like a very positive outlook to take, but I guess if I were programming a tiny maid robot, I wouldn’t program it to suffer from existential crises. Then they return home, where their Master is very grateful to have been released from the gulag, and there is a heartwarming scene where he patches up the battle-damage that Hina sustained in the process of clearing his name. Aww.
I know I was kind of down on this show because of the pointless five minute fight scene, but fifteen minutes of it were actually pretty darn good. You might have decided “oh, that’s throwaway toy commercial garbage”, and you weren’t wrong, but it’s really well-done toy commercial garbage. You should give it a shot. Especially if the idea of tiny robot battle maids dogfighting seems exciting to you, rather than obviously a waste of five minutes that could have been spent having tiny robot maids make tea.