Great news you guys, I didn’t suffocate from holding my breath for a week…well I thought it was great news…
You know, part of the challenge of watching a show like Steins;Gate 0 on a weekly basis, is that it has to seduce me all over again every single time. By nature, there’s something in me that’s deeply suspicious of any attempt at changing my beloved franchises and a sidequel (not a typo) a decade later is about as suspicious as it gets. On top of that, Steins;Gate’s convoluted storyline is already precariously balanced, one false move threatens to make it all crumble into inane nonsense. Despite my optimistic nature, I start each episode with a nagging feeling that this is where it all comes down.
This week was no exception. I’m loving the constant cliffhangers but after a week of reading reviews denouncing them, I was starting to doubt my own tastes. Besides, I know that objectively, constantly raising the stakes cannot be sustainable and will end up making it hard to truly care about anything. This said, the shock endings have always been resolved in the first scene of the next episode so really I shouldn’t be falling for them anymore right? (Spoiler: I still do!)
Naturally, the show needed to get that messy little violent home invasion situation out of the way before we can get to the story. A mix of self-satisfaction and sadness spread through me as I saw what I decided were the first chinks in Steins;Gate 0’s production.
Mr. Braun came by to pick up Nae at exactly the right time to help. Being a highly trained paramilitary operative, I am happy to accept that he in fact saw/heard the invaders coming and timed his entrance accordingly, the scene itself worked fairly well and remained suspenseful despite the quick resolution.
The animation on the other had was a touch lacking. Mr. Braun himself fights with an economy of movement so there wasn’t quite as much actual action on screen as you might expect. Even though details and angles were fairly consistent, what really bothered me was that clothing and shadows didn’t follow the action at all. The position of the characters changed but everything else about them remains fairly static, making the scene look flat and really hampering the dynamic feel which was already a bit tampered by the rather motionless battle.
Well, there we go I thought, Steins;Gate doesn’t show movement all that well. Not exactly a huge deal considering the story but still. I found one thing, a second is bound to follow…
Getting that opening salvo out of the way, the narrative quickly went to work establishing these familiar yet strange characters and refocusing the audience. Whatever else you may think of Steins;Gate 0, can we take a minute to appreciate that despite all of the complicated (arguably overcomplicated), tangled and as of yet unexplained story strands that make up the narrative, plot progression and events are always clear. I have never felt lost watching this show and that is an impressive feat indeed.
As an aside – I really enjoyed the tongue in cheek meta commentary of Okabe explaining how “Steins Gate sounds pretty pathetic when you really think about it”…
Last week I mentioned that Ruka hadn’t cried yet so of course he finally cracked this week. After the confrontation at the lab, Ruka brought Kagari back to his house to sleep it off and give everyone a chance to calm down. While Kagari was resting, Ruka took the opportunity to have a chat in private with Suzu and get a better sense of what exactly was happening.
At first glance you could almost mistake him for our old emotional, fragile and timid Ruka. Hurt and ready to fall apart at any moment. Desperate to find a place to fit in. You’d be mistaken though. This Ruka wasn’t shy so much as gentle. His quick mind and impressive observation skills had allowed him to put most of the story together and picked up on all the pertinent details despite being kept in the dark by everyone else. Those tears weren’t the last resort of a weak and lost soul, they were a bitter acknowledgement of his inability to help in the situation and compassion for those around him. Ruka held his head high even in distress and was clearly thinking for himself. This made me very happy.
With confirmation that the lab invaders are an unknown third party, the appearance of a common enemy now forces Okabe and friends to work with F.B. and his team, at least temporarily. For certain members, this is welcomed help. For those who bear the full weight of the past, such as Okabe and Suzuha, it’s an uncomfortable compromise.
Still, F.B. and Nae’s story line (trimmed down quite a bit in the original anime) was something to behold and I’m happy to see them take on a more important role. Whether this tense alliance turns out to be a mistake is yet to be seen, but it should a least shake things up (since everything’s been so dull and slow up until now…)
The mysteries are starting to pile up. Finding Kagari has brought way more questions than answers. Where has she been all this time? What could she have done to attract the attention of such violent folks? Why was that main invader so Moeka shaped? Earthquakes are still happening all over the world with increasing frequency (in Russia this week. I remembered to pay attention to the news!!!) and no one knows why. Who could have gotten to Amadeus, and what are they planning to do now? Why did Steins;Gate change CERN for SERN in the first place? Trademark issues? Is all of it related or none…
As much as I hate to admit it, that second flaw came in the form of plot contrivance and it was much worse than some weak production points. The amazingly convenient discovery of the meaning behind the secret code K-6205 was a pretty huge let down. This was way too easy and quite frankly lazy on the part of the plot. Hmm, the episode is winding down and we are at a sum 0… Ruka’s scene was great, I like this new alliance and the mysteries are interesting. However, the animation is not as great as it could be and interesting mysteries are useless if you’re going to cheat and just hand out all the answers. Actually, they are worse than useless, they’re frustrating. Well well, it’s not a complete disaster but we finally have something to lower my expectations. I’m actually a little relieved. Now I don’t have to dread this possibility anymore.
And then…in quick succession a distressed call from Amadeus and a reading steiner trigger changed the game yet again. It’s quite obvious that call was in fact a D-mail and the implications were wide ranging and exciting. No one outside the Future Tech lab was ever shown to have this specific type of time machine so who invented it on this world line, and also when will they invent it? Seeing divergences happening when you (or I guess Okabe…same thing) aren’t the one causing them is a very different experience. An absolutely exhilarating one. My mind raced with wild possibilities. I grabbed at every potential outcome no matter how far fetched. I was not ready for what happened in that end tag.
As the world line subtly shifted around me, a momentary queasiness passed, and I was once again back to reality. Secure in the knowledge that Steins;Gate has yet to show any weaknesses at all and a little nervous for when those first cracks finally start to show…
I don’t have as many spare images as usual this week.