Title: Null & Peta
Length: 12 x 5 minute episodes
Genre: Slice of life, comedy, drama
Year of release: 2019
The series begins by swallowing its dire atmosphere and boldly moving forth; Null, fuelling herself with the bare minimum supplement drinks, has finally finished her Frankenstein monster – a robot recreation of her sister, who has recently passed away. Peta-nee, the robot, is uncannily similar, right down to making the disgusting purple fried rice and embarrassing Null in every social outing. The series goes on this way more generally, addressing the daily lives of the brilliant young genius, Null, and her robot companion, Peta-nee, as she refuses to go to school and copes with loss. And a whole lot of ridiculous humour, for this show is playful, and lovingly crafted – right down to the particularly detailed backgrounds and visual humour.
‘The Child Genius’ is a trope I often hate to see in anime, and this is largely because the character ends up outsmarting the author and becoming hard to take seriously. I didn’t expect this short anime to have such a carefully constructed genius character, who realistically spews her intellect before backing out of ‘showing-off’. While it is never really clear why she is as genius level as she is, it’s believable because it’s not merely the narrative telling us – she really uses dialogue to discuss abstract mathematical and biological concepts with Peta-nee. Likewise, the guilt she feels from being so much further ahead of her peers is part of a powerful introspection that Null & Peta allows.
Little did I know that this short series would have such a potent backbone, but it’s deeply personal. Null’s gradual coming to terms with loss is a beautiful thing, and so very touching; as she struggles to deal with her every day life, Peta-nee is there to support her, and Null & Peta gently coos that it’s okay to have some time to yourself. It’s a wonderful little show.
Yet, for the most part, Null & Peta is defined by its silly humour. Peta will use a whole assortment of super-robot machinations to fly Null to the moon or force her to eat more healthily. The slapstick, oddly enough, meshes perfectly with the deeper reality of Null & Peta, making some excellent dramedy in the process. As the show throws in all sorts of little asides for funnies, it never undercuts the more serious moments, and the transitioning between these sequences is a sight to behold – particularly as Null & Peta moves to a more difficult message in its final stages.
I initially predicted Null & Peta would be low-key dark, and while I wasn’t entirely wrong, there is a very big twist that sharp watchers will catch onto. While no deep show, it’s great to see the foreshadowing, while a little blunt, turn into a real perspective flipper. It’s a shame that the ultimate finale, while still sweet, is a little too simple. In any case, Null & Peta is an excellent little short anime, and the modicum investment it asks pays the dividends with sincere characterisation and charming dramedy.