Steins;Gate: The Movie − Load Region of Déjà Vu (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 92 minutes approx.
Messing about with the past doesn’t always guarantee the future will end up all rosy and problem free. The risks are inherent no matter how small or fleeting the changes made may be, yet something compels us all to be given the chance to fix a matter from years gone by.
Set one year after the events of the anime TV series, Rintaro Okabe, the mad student scientist who built a time machine via a mobile phone and a microwave oven, ended up on a journey that saw him traverse multiple “world lines”. Now he is back in his original timeline but memory flashes of the various world lines he visited invade his brain, as his Reading Steiner runs amok.
Kurisu Makise returns to Japan for a conference, reuniting with Okabe and the rest of the Future Gadget Laboratory – Daru, Mayuri, Moeka, Luka, and Faris. That night a visitor to Kurisu’s hotel warns her to remember three things: a mobile phone, a microwave oven, and SERN. The next day whilst at a launderette with Kurisu, Okabe suddenly disappears before her eyes. Kurisu runs to tell the others, but none of them claims to have ever heard of Okabe.
If you haven’t seen the Steins;Gate TV series this spin-off film is definitely not for you. It makes no concessions whatsoever for anyone who might be picking this up to watch as a standalone flick nine years after the first series ended and seven years after its Japanese theatrical release. Even if you are a fan, a dedicated knowledge of the story, characters, and nuance of the scientific mumbo jumbo behind the microwave time machine is vital to have before watching.
The other issue that might arise for fans is how the series ended on a pretty tight note that the idea of a follow-up might have feel unnecessary, despite boasting a concept so fertile it could branch off into any number of possible directions. Of course we did get the 2018 sequel Steins;Gate 0 set in an alternate future from the first series, but as good as it was, had a lot to live up to, whilst also obliged to retread some familiar ground.
But time travel will do that to you, which is why Okabe is in such a state in this story. His Reading Steiner is becoming increasingly unstable, inventing visions the others can’t see, leaving them conclude he has finally flipped his lid. Not all of the old Okabe is lost however – when he meets Kurisu again, instead of giving into his feelings for her, adopts his Mad Scientist persona with a touch of spikiness to his words. Of course, Kurisu is equally tsundere towards Okabe, so perhaps they are made for each other.
At the barbecue party, Okabe and Kurisu are able to have a civil conversation, in which Kurisu wonders if the feelings of déjà vu she experiences from the events of the previous year are similar to the flashbacks Okabe has. Unfortunately they have little time to do anything about it due to Okabe vanishing before Kurisu’s eyes, and any memory of his existence has gone from everyone else, whilst Kurisu’s start to ebb away too.
Feelings of Déjà vu are not limited to Kurisu as ardent fans will have noticed the roles assumed by Okabe and Kurisu in the first series are now reversed, and it is Kurisu who plans to time travel to get Okabe back. There is just one snag – in this world line there is no time machine, and with her current Okabe-related amnesia, building one isn’t Kurisu’s first thought.
Does this mean Okabe is going to be floating around in the ether – or an infinite number of ether – for all eternity? Well, that would make for a short and rather tragic film if that was the case; then again the moral complexities found in Steins;Gate are built around worst case scenarios coming true because of one wrong decision, so a gloomy conclusion is not entirely off the cards.
Regarding time, this film is 86-minutes sans credits which is not nearly enough time for it to explore every possible outcome the time travel premise could give us. This at least explains why it is so newbie unfriendly in needing to get right into the story, although it still takes over 20 minutes to do that. And since the only thing at stake here is Okabe and not the end of the world, the lack of action and political intrigue that bolstered the TV series leaves us with a bare bones adventure to follow.
What writer Jukki Hanada seems to be relying on is the immense popularity among the Steins;Gate fandom of Kurisu – giving her the spotlight as the main protagonist and not just a damsel in distress (albeit a super intelligent one) is fan service in its purest form. Perhaps the story could have been deeper and given her more to do than emulate Okabe yet this is more about Kurisu accepting her emotional investment in Okabe.
Here, Kurisu breaks out of his serious tsundere mode, revealing other sides to her stoic personality – determination, selflessness, and affection – whilst learning about herself in the process. In essence this is a romantic yarn, told in an unconventional manner, with twists that would only work in this context yet, like many romances, “what ifs” still apply as obstacles.
Just like the TV series, White Fox handle the production yet there is no real noticeable upgrade in quality, though the TV series was high end anyway. The only issue really is the lack of urgency throughout and anti-climactic conclusion, admittedly enigmatic and cute but just kind of there.
I doubt this will bother devoted fans of Steins;Gate, and Kurisu in particular, who will find Load Region of Déjà Vu offers them plenty to chew on. I just hope the seven-year wait for this UK release hasn’t left them too hungry…
English Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Rating – ***
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