Life feels off for a mad scientist named Okabe who suddenly finds out he can send text messages to the past.
What They Say:
Prologue to the Beginning and End
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the visual novel game of the same name, Steins; Gate is a new series by production studio Frontier Works with animation by White Fox. An almost last minute addition to the Crunchyroll schedule, it's one of very few actual serious seeming series this season that seems to be filled with harem style comedies and cute things, at least from what's being simulcast. With a real world look, an edge of darkness to it and the use of time travel to an interesting degree, the oddly named Steins; Gate offers a whole lot of potential, but is unclear as to whether it can really carry it off.
The series is one that's going to take some time to really come into focus as it seems like it rambles a bit here, but is the kind of show that it will all make sense when taken into context with the full run, or even just a couple more episodes. The show is one that works like certain murder mystery types in a way for the first half of it as we're introduced to a few characters, one of which is the very odd man named Rintaro Okabe who is obsessed with time travel, information and future gadgets. He actually proudly calls himself a mad scientist, but without the exaggeration that you get in a lot of media. He's the type who can't quite interact socially with a lot of people and can be fairly rude in his own way. Where his life changes is when he finds someone that he just met has been stabbed to death in the building he was in. It's a startling moment that really affects him, putting him into the reality of the present. But it then goes even more awkward after that when he's outside and suddenly everyone disappears for a minute or two from the city. That's significant in a place like this where it's very scary to suddenly be alone. But just as quickly as they went, they're all suddenly back and the world feels different.
What becomes apparent throughout the episode, in confusing yet somewhat clear form, is that Okabe is caught up in some temporal issue as he's able to send messages with his phone via text that seems to be changing the course of events. When the girl he saw murdered is suddenly alive again, speeches that he attended turn out to be canceled in the minds of others and a feeling of a large plot developing, Okabe really does feel like a mad scientist, in that he's going mad. The world feels broken from his point of view all of a sudden with events that he's going through seemingly changed, but only for others, and they're connected to who he talks with. What we do get with his confusion is a look at the people who are around him, the two founding members alongside him of his mad scientist lab and a seeming grudge against the Organization that may be causing some of the problems. Daru and Maru of his group prove to be some very, very light comic relief simply because they're nice normal people, which is a definite contrast to his faux mad scientist shtick.
Steins; Gate is the kind of show that has all the right elements to it but has that first episode that's a damn hard sell to a lot of people. It's not that it's making itself overly complex, it's all pretty straightforward when you watch it in full here, but it can leave some feeling put off by its presentation. This opening episode has a lot of really neat things to it, from the character personalities to the execution of it all and I really like the whole sending messages to the past concept as we've seen it done throughout the years. The mad scientist gig is often played solely for laughs, so seeing something played straight here, but with the right crooked angle for his personality, is spot on and a huge draw for me. This episode offers up a lot of potential, but it has not made it clear that it can either capitalize on it or carry it through however long the show is intended to run. But what it does do, at least for a certain type of viewer, is demand that you come back to see what they're going to do. Steins; Gate has the potential to crash, and crash hard, but it could also be a really strong series. It has all the right elements for it, but it's a matter of whether it can come together right or not.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.