Steins;Gate Part 2 (Episodes 13-25) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 312 minutes approx.
It is with slight irony that a show which has reached a point where every action of the main protagonist brings with it nothing but dilemma after dilemma, should leave this reviewer with a dilemma – the dilemma being how does one write this review without spoiling anything?
The first volume ended on a real game changer of a cliffhanger involving a shock revelation and an even more shocking cold hearted consequence of said revelation. One of the main characters was mercilessly shot, considered surplus to requirement by this new threat to the small group at the Future Gadget Laboratory. Self professed Mad Scientist Kyōma Hououin aka Rintarō Okabe, who, with his trusted team Itaru “Daru” Hashida, Mayuri “Mayushii” Shiina and Kurisu Makise, has developed a time machine using a mobile phone and a microwave oven, and is keen to employ this unpredictable gadget to redress the balance and reverse the situation and restore things to order.
That is as far as I can go without giving away the rest of the plot developments but if you have been following the series thus far then you know the outcome will be another string of convoluted but cleverly constructed time hopping misadventures. But rather than bog itself down with science fantasy there is a strong emotional strain that dominates this second volume, with Okabe putting the well being of his friends before his scientific aspirations. The two are of course not mutually exclusive as Okabe is soon to find out but just when he thinks he is in the clear, the entire situation is upended as the sacrifices he makes throw a significant spanner in the works where his objective is to keep history staying the same while preventing the outbreak of World War Three!
From the onset Steins;Gate was never going to settle for being your average anime and this second volume is happy to push this ethos to the limit. Aside from a rare moment involving a forced male on male lunch date, the personable humour present in the first half of the series is all but gone, replaced by a sweat inducing, heart thumping and literal race against time. The stakes are higher and more personal for Okabe and his disparate group of time meddling adventures, testing the bonds of loyalty and friendship like never before. In the first volume Okabe was a largely egocentric chap, happy to have his “assistants” do all the work while he takes the glory for the success. Time literally hasn’t been kind to Okabe and his team and this leads to him changing his outlook, acting selflessly and in the interest of others in his life.
As the story develops tragedy isn’t to far away making every decision made to be thought through and approached with extreme care. I mentioned dilemmas earlier – these come to the forefront when Okabe realises that having the ability to leap back in time is not an infinite commodity. Suddenly conditions apply to making this work and using this unique gift sparingly is of paramount concern, especially when avoiding Okabe’s other self from bumping into him when crossing time lines.
With such an ambitious and involved plot the danger of tripping over itself is always present, with time paradoxes often the most difficult plot devices to keep track of, becoming the cause of such nightmares for writers. Thankfully Jukki Hanada kept his eye on every detail and was careful not to fall into this trap resulting in a tightly constructed script that has the audience guessing without being distracted by faults within the minutiae. The final stretch is a tense and dramatic battle of wits that is not without an emotional punch to remind us that despite the fantastic premise, this is a show about human interaction and the risk of playing God.
Included in this set is the bonus episode that occurs after the events of the main series in which the team jet off for a trip to the US. A largely comedic affair that sees Okabe’s arrogant alter ego return to the fore, getting him into plenty of trouble with the US authorities who take his jokes of being a mad scientist a bit too seriously. Even as a standalone OVA it takes pleasure in teasing us with furthering one of the developments that occurred in the main series. And if this whets your appetite for a second series, the bad news is that doesn’t look like a possibility right now. However, the good news is that a feature length film Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryōiki no Déjà vu (Loading Area of Déjà vu) hit the cinemas in Japan in April of this year so we can only hope it will find its way to these shores in the near future.
In a world that is currently overflowing with generic, cheap fix fan service comedies, derivative Mecha shows and plot free moe effluvia, Steins;Gate is the anime show the discerning fan has been waiting for. Challenging without being overwhelming, intelligent without appearing condescending, dramatic without being contrived, this is a high concept show with engaging, likeable characters and compelling story lines that represents the best side of anime when all the elements come together in such a successful and rewarding way.
Already a cult hit among fans, Steins;Gate has all the ingredients of being a future anime classic that will increase its worth with repeated viewings. Unquestionably recommended.
Dolby true HD – English Language 5.1
Dolby true HD – Japanese Language 2.0
Episode 19 Commentary
Episode 24 Commentary
Textless Opening Song – “Hacking To The Gate” (version 1)
Textless Opening Song – “Hacking To The Gate” (version 2)
Textless Closing Song – “Toki Tsukasadoru Juuni no Meiyaku”
Textless Closing Song – “Sky Clad Observer”
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black