Category Archives: Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate the Movie – Fanfare Version

So I watched the Steins;Gate movie. It’s … well, I probably should hold back on making a call until I confirm my understanding of it, but let’s just say it didn’t meet my expectation. In the end, a time-travel plot can only take you so far. I blame having watched Looper not too long ago for the first time (on the flight to Japan in fact), and that sort of colored my view.

There were two big theaters showing the movie on opening day. Somehow I went to the Ikebukuro Sunshine Cinema for my viewing at 9:45am, which is really early for a movie by American standards, and it’s kind of across town from where I was staying. When I arrived there were lines outside for kuji goods, and lines inside for the movie-specific goods. There really isn’t anything too special, but the cyalume saber is pretty cool–a star wars lightsaber kind of a deal, except it can display something like 6 different colors. It also makes sounds. And by pretty cool I mean it would be a good gag. I mean, I guess you can use it at events…

Given only 2 theaters were doing it in downtown Tokyo, I saw some pretty cool loot.

Signed poster

Chiyomaru eh

I had standing-only seats. It wasn’t too bad because I got there early, and the runtime is only 89 minutes.

As for the movie itself, let’s just say it’s very Chris-centric. In fact if you like her or if she’s your #1 or you dig the thing she has going on with Okabe, then this movie will be your jam. For the rest of us, well, I was hoping for a little more actual drama. Instead, what we have is what is probably best called “closing the loop.” It’s nice to see it come around and make the pieces fit, but I think those of us expecting high dramatics that made the TV series a joy to watch probably should tone our expectations down.

 


Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

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Steins;Gate, the Distant Avalon

There are some light spoilers in this post. And since I’m going to talking about overarching points to Hanasaku Iroha and Steins;Gate (and make a couple other references), it might make more sense to have seen most/all of those first before you try to read this.

Hanasaku Iroha is about the craft and pride, it is about calling and following and forging a way. It is a message about generational empathy through shared exercise of overcoming adversity with a dash of cognitive dissonance and a twist of estrogen. The key ingredient is attitude. In episode 25 Nako identifies the difference maker (without spelling it out), the one thing that makes Ohana the special little girl Tohru pinned as awkward and clumsy, but ultimately she does “fest it up”; to bring a certain joy to the people around her. Just like how both opening sequences are the Kissuisou staff bustling and hustling, and it’s fun to watch. (Well, to be fair, it’s not just attitude, but that is the key ingredient.)

Steins;Gate is about doing what you’re called to do despite the situation that you have endured thus far.

To bring up Chaos;Head first for a second, the story of that is about this NEET/socially maladjusted dude and his semi-delusions. In Steins;Gate, the same idea is diluted by this compelling piece of time-traveling SF mystery, but it’s still there. We’re talking about a band of people who are also needy socially for one reason or another, with a protagonist that is socially maladjusted with some delusions of his own.

The main difference is that Takumi’s issues are played as some kind of mad-man ranting. Okarin’s issues are just an extreme case of chuunibyou. This difference is a matter of perception as the way each anime presented the eccentricities are different. I think on paper they are much closer than it seems. [And I think this is why I keep referring to Chaos;Head in Steins;Gate’s context, despite the discrepancies between the two anime. That, and Super Special.]

To finally get to the punch, ever read about people complaining about self-esteem education in public schools in the 90s? And how it may be blamed for certain emerging trends towards young people and their attitude about life and people? Not that I want to apply it to Steins;Gate, but the mechanism behind the claims may be similar. If we take the perspective that Okarin is the victim of Japan’s lost decade (in a way he symbolizes that entire crowd), and in a way Steins;Gate is some larger symbol about generational conflicts, it can be said that the present state of things can be blamed on the past state of things, and those who had control over the past. I mean, the penultimate “villain” and Kurisu’s little back story makes this painfully clear. The symbolism and analogy are just only beginning, here. What is Okabe fighting for? For a better future, am I right? [Can I have some Suzuha x Doreamon doujinshi?]

Is this why Steins;Gate can be seen as a strange coming-of-age story in which Okabe goes through these trials to redo and undo D-mails written out of the lingering regrets and uncertainties from their original senders? Only if we were [insert something regret-like] while growing up in the late 90s? Well, except Moeka’s case; but she’s kind of nuts already. The plot generator makes a compelling case, re: being able to change the past in order to change the present and future. If you read this NYT blurp about the book I linked above, it does also make the argument that this sort of self-esteem education can make you hardier. I don’t know if it does; but in traditional Japanese ways, it’s about slapping you in the face a few times so you get over yourself, so you can be yourself. I think that too would make you hardy, probably more so than staying delusional about that secret agency with acronym beginning with an S. Or was it a C? Heh, C.

Then again, this slapping business go way back. Mayuri’s up to date with her real-mecha anime history YEAH (massive nerd cred in my eyes)!

PS. I really want to do a tutturu collection, but ugh no time little motivation. I guess I should see if someone did it already.


Ask Me Enishing!

If one finds sites like Formspring an exercise in social media vanity, does that make Hanasaku Iroha episode 21 an exercise in social media Engrishing?

It’s this sort of questions that boggles my mind on an ordinary day, along side with “Why is the USD:JPY exchange rate still going the wrong way?” Or “Why can’t I write that blog post about Hanasaku Iroha where I describe the character design as it appeals to an realistic view of human proportions?” Or “Why did Mayo Chiki get better? Why can’t I drop it?” Or “Why is everything airing on Thursday nights?” and its part-2 question “Why am I compelled to watch them on Thursdays?”

I hope these things, like the puzzle pieces from Mawaru Penguindrum, have a rhythm behind it.

The marriage thing in the latest episode of Hanasaku Iroha is kind of puzzling; it’s playing to some kind of pre-assumed cultural mindset in that it both conform and deviates to something. This something, I don’t really know what it is. Am I suppose to be surprised about their marriage? Are the previous episodes good enough of a lead-in? I can only hope that subsequent episodes reveal these things satisfactorily.

Lastly, if someone told you to watch Steins;Gate episode 1 again, you should probably listen to that someone. It’s also a means to get people to watch it if they haven’t even seen it yet.


Mid-Summer Review, 2011

When the humidity is high and the  sun is making waves on steaming pavements, do you want to watch an anime like Aria, where the same is sometimes protrayed, or do you want to watch something from the deep freeze, like a scene from Spriggan? I don’t know, and it’s not like I’m getting either this summer.

So, a list of stuff I’m kind of watching.

I’m still keeping pace with No. 6. I want to start this post about No. 6 out because those … homoerotic gazes kind of bothers me when it’s put at the fore, so let’s put that to the fore. Those scenes bother me in the sense that “wait, there’s this long pause in which I am suppose to be feeling some kind of tension between the two male protagonists, but what kind of tension is it? Why is this pause here?” It kicks me out of the mind set in which I’m following this mystery about killer bee things, which is probably the main draw for the show. At least for non-fujoshi types. On a normal, sunny day, I typically like to think critically anyways. But when the show gives me a chance to–scratch that, more like when it invites criticism, I can’t help but to think in the negative. It isn’t necessarily a “wrong” on the show’s behalf, but that’s just how I roll. Some anime invite you to introspect, to reflect and consider what is happening in the story from a third-party perspective. Others invite you to take part in the action, to get the audience wrapped up in the narrative. There’s nothing special or good or bad about either approach. But sometimes the beams cross, so to speak. In the game of Magicka, it usually means an explosive, suicidal death. Thankfully anime is not some European-made exercise at self-infliction of pain.

I bring up Magicka because it is a game sold on its solid gimmicks. Gimmicks can be solid. I think this is why I still like R-15 a lot, half way through. The gimmicks, compared to, say, Yuruyuri, are random as hell and yet somewhat organic. It’s kind of like Xavier’s School for the Gifted; you have a bunch of kids who have some kind of special powers. Except by “power” we don’t mean cool mutant powers, but “the most random, most Japanese crap-anime plot generator” you can think of. Some of these “powers” are really creative; in order to top some of these, I have to go to fanfiction. And we typically don’t want to go there.

It’s easy to point to some show and say it is more organic than Yuruyuri. Because Yuruyuri is very…inorganic. I don’t know why and how, it just feels very stale in terms of its timing? Direction? Animation generally? I can’t quite put my finger on it. The writing works pretty okay with whatever that I feel that is stale, and once we can begin to tolerate the main characters, the jokes come alive. I think that might just be the strength of the writing to a degree. I don’t think the staleness is particularly a bad thing, it just makes it difficult to form a good first impression. When done right, staleness gives a show a unique flavor. Sometimes stale bread tastes good too!

Speaking of stale bread, Yune has the cutest scene with stale bread possibly in the history of anime. I mean, it isn’t something that comes into play on a regular basis. Croisee is a sharp anime, but it feels a little bit, shall we say, out of the water? It’s missing something, something big, that pushes the enjoyment level over the edge to the next level. For Aria, it was how it channels the mono no aware stuff, for example. As is, Croisee is just a cute and well-executed show.

That’s also what I’m going to say about Ro-Kyu-Bu. It’s just somehow one gets you branded as a lolicon and the other doesn’t, when in reality they’re kind of the same thing.

I am really enjoying Usagi Drop, but I also don’t really want to talk too much about it right now. Maybe when it’s all done. And maybe I’ll read the manga then.

I’m also really enjoying Mawaru Penguindrum, if it wasn’t clear. In a way this is the anime I always wanted after watching Utena. So it’s a long time coming. I just don’t think words do much against it; there’s a simple, calculated yet visceral point to the way the show is directed. It feels very theatrical (as in, a play) but yet not that over the top. Maybe I’m just too used to over-the-top stuff, but for a cartoon this is pretty okay. Given its Thursday lineup and the equal doses of girls-side pandering, I’m half suspect that this is real free-market competition versus noitanima.  Also it makes me suspect which show has done it before. It’s time to pander harder, Fuji TV.

I’m still keeping the pace with Sket Dance. It’s probably some form of penance. I guess without the trappings that Gintama is surrounded by, I find Sket Dance a cleaner version of kind of the same thing. It also slightly reminds me of Nadesico, in the way that Yurika and her crew would consistently making peace signs at the camera–something I am also watching it (similarly to how dm is watching CCS).

And oh, episode 16 was AWESOME. For a show as inorganic as this advance-formula Jump anime.

Blood-C? I guess I’m behind, but it isn’t bad. Just not really engaging until you get to episode 5…and I’m behind. It’s kind of a dangerous thing; nico comments boosts its entertainment value drastically, but I can’t say too much about the source material like this.

I’m also behind on Blue Exorcist and Tiger and Bunny. I just don’t have the time to catch up now that I’ve fallen behind. Maybe soon! I enjoy both shows (especially T&B) so hopefully I can make a run before some major climax goes to town.

Back to fresh stuff: The IdolM@ster is doing well. Is it canon to spell it “The Idol Master”  when the @ is an illegal character in the title? Or what? Anyways, this show doesn’t disappoint, but I don’t think my expectations was high in the first place. Still, given how much I loved episode 1, episodes 2-end have a lot to live up to. Also, this is definitely an anime that is made for the game fans, which is kind of refreshing. It’s done well enough to not bore me, giving us something of an episodic character focus while expanding on the rest of the crew, at least as much as they reasonably could. The Producer main character is interesting enough, which highlights something interesting coming from the game, too. Maybe someone can go wax poetic on the importance of assertion of the other self in first-person ADV games where the overall narrative is driven by intercharacter drama. Something a mix between Sakura Taisen and IdolM@ster?

Kamisama Dolls is pretty okay; I don’t particularly dig the character designs either (but it does make Utau cuter than she ought to be) but the story is snappy and enjoyable. There’s a little bit of everything to make it worth watching, even if the end is kind of telegraphed.

As for telegraphing, there’s a lot to be said about that in Nichijou. It’s pretty quality textbook example of how to do it. Is it doing the telegraphing right? For the most part; but that doesn’t automatically make the jokes work. For meta-humor of the direct kind…I’m not sure how to put it into words. It’s like if Nadesico (again) is an anime about meta of everything about itself, then Nichijou is just meta enough about the execution that it tries to do something about it. Where as a show like SeiZon is just straight-face meta. It’s like how in MLB, hitters adjust their swings to counter-game the scouting on them, over the long season?

Mayo Chiki is kind of the Seizon kind of meta, except it’s straightforward enough to make the jokes internally. Sadly it’s kind of boring if the lead characters don’t sell you. I’m not sure they’ve sold for me yet.

It’s a busy summer season that continues from a busy spring. Maybe Hanasaku Iroha continues to be the “bar” this year as to measure the effectiveness of anime to entertain. It flounders periodically and yet it hits the mark periodically, and like many series this year, the presentation is overall solid. What lies in the differences is how good they are at telling their stories. It’s also not a surprise the best storyteller anime (at least for battering average) is also one of the most popular and most anticipated series this year, Steins;Gate.

As for stories, totally random last note here, but big grats on Maaya Sakamoto x Kenichi Suzumura marriage. It is pretty awesome– they have canon OTP roles! There’s Shiki x Kokutou from Rakkyo, Haruhi x Hikaru from Ouran Host Club, Lunamaria x Shinn from Gundam SEED Destiny…and some not-as canon ones, like Sakaya Nakasugi x Shamyalan from Birdy Decode. Both are from the same agency, and despite the 5-yr age difference, Sakamoto got her debut before Suzumura. I guess they see themselves as from the same “era” or whatever. Anyway, congrats to two of my favorite voice actors! You can find a full pairing list here.