Steins;Gate 0 – Part One (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 12)
2 Discs Blu-ray/4 Discs DVD/BD combo Ltd. Ed. (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 289 minutes approx
You remember Steins;Gate don’t you? The 2011 sci-fi adventure based around a group of friends who create a time machine from a microwave oven? Well, I hope so as this sequel works on the assumption viewers have excellent recall about it – if not, my reviews of the first series should help refresh your memory of the basics.
However, this sequel follows an alternate ending to the original story with prior elements interwoven with the plot of this new direction. To wit – Steins;Gate 0 is still set in 2010 like its predecessor, only it is now six months after the events of the first series, in which Rintaro Okabe is coming to terms with his choice to stay in the timeline where his beloved Kurisu Makise is dead.
Now in a depressive funk about being unable to save Kurisu, Okabe hasn’t even set foot near the lab where he and his friends developed the time machine, while resisting calls for help from Suzuha Amane, who has travelled from the future, in preventing World War III. Okabe attends a seminar Professor Alexis Leskinen and his assistant/translator Maho Hiyajo where they unveil a new AI named Amadeus, based on Kurisu’s research.
To Okabe’s shock, the AI avatar is Kurisu herself and it is operating on a system based on Kurisu’s memories, allowing her to interact “normally” with another person. Okabe is invited by Leskinen to become a beta tester for Amadeus, giving him the opportunity to interact with Kurisu like normal, until things start to take a funny turn and timelines once again start to overlap with each other.
Steins;Gate 0 asks a lot of its audience as much as the first series did, in many ways asking more in audaciously presuming the key plot points from before are embedded in our memories. By way of a bridge between the two series, a bonus chapter Episode 23B is included at the start of this set, which is episode 23 of Steins;Gate with an alternate ending, bypassing episode 24 and leading us into this story.
Don’t worry, it makes more sense in execution. All of your favourites from before are back – Itaru “Daru” Hashida, Mayuri “Mayushii” Shiina, Moeka Kiryu, Faris Nyannyan, and Ruka Urushibara – along with newcomer Yuki Amane, the mother of Suzuha, whose actions at the moment are very suspicious. Suzuha keeps her identity as Daru’s daughter from the others, claiming to be his sister, though things get awkward being in the same timeline as her mother whom she also cannot reveal her true identity to.
Maho becomes an honorary member of the group through her association with Okabe and the Amadeus testing, learning of the prior relationship between Kurisu and Okabe which she tries to discourage. But when masked attackers try to get their hands on the laptop once belonging to Kurisu which contains information that could start World War III, the group do their best to protect Maho, with the usual messy results.
But the most intriguing new face introduced here is Kagari Shiina, a war orphan who time travelled with Suzuha from 2036 but were separated in 1998. When she is found, Kagari has amnesia yet forms a tight bond with Mayuri based on a vague recognition of her. This relationship is hinted at in a prologue set in 2036 at the very start of the first episode, offering something different to the established dynamics and the personalities we thought we knew.
There is definitely a lot to unpack here and writer Jukki Hanada, resuming his role from the first series, is in no hurry to share these things with us. He has the unenviable task of keeping the general essence of the Steins;Gate alive by continuing the original story and take it in a new direction without compromising any of its integrity. So far there haven’t been any noticeable slip-ups but I’m sure more eagle-eyed viewers will find something.
Kurisu returning as an AI is a simple yet creative way to both torments Okabe about his regrets in not being able to save Kurisu and allow him the chance to get the emotional closure he needs. It also offers Okabe the chance to “reboot” the relationship but as authentic as this Kurisu is, she is not the real Kurisu, making Okabe potentially as creepy as Daru with his loli complex.
As ever, this is never going to run smoothly and with time travel and multi-verses the key conceit of this series, it is inevitable that somewhere down the (time)line, the impossible becomes the possible. The bulk of this first volume concerns itself with the Amadeus arc, and is as much an action thriller as it is a complex sci-fi yarn, though not so much emphasis on action as some might like.
Since there are many scientific theories to be discussed and dissected, and the new characters to get to know, this is another dialogue heavy show but at least it is relevant dialogue, with less digression and tangential nonsense than found in other shows. The change in Okabe from his former “Mad Scientist” persona also affects the general energy as his experiments with the microwave was part of the first series’ driving force.
However, thanks to Faris and her cosplay friends, there is plenty of levity and light-hearted distractions to lift the mood, their relevance to the story slips by imperceptibly as the heavier material takes precedence. As for which characters you need to watch out for, I am not at liberty to disclose at this juncture, except to say, keep an eye out for all of them, just to be safe!
By assuming the viewer has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the extant franchise, it takes a while to get into Steins;Gate 0, but watched in a marathon setting makes it easier. With enough of the old magic present and some compelling new ideas, this sequel has it all to play for in the next volume.
English Language 5.1 True HD
Japanese Language 2.0 True HD
Steins;Gate Episode 23B
Episode 2 Video Commentary
Episode 8 Commentary
Textless Opening Song – “Fatima”
Textless Closing Song – “Last Game”
Limited Collectors Edition
4 discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo
Rigid Chipboard Box with space for part 2
Rating – ****
Man In Black