Posted on 30 July 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate, Summer 2011 Kaleidoscope



Nurarihyon no Mago – 30
Talk about a massive improvement here. There are the types of stories that should be slow-paced. Nurarihyon no Mago is not one of them. Another big disadvantage of the first season is how little time it spent on backgrounds, so right now this series is really catching up on that, with half of the second season consisting out of background and all. Junji Nishimura really did not fit this series: he should be busy with original stories. That’s where he really shines at. The snappy direction here is much better, especially in this episode. The art also looks much crisper. This could very well be the only actually good thing of Studio Deen this year.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Steins;Gate – 01
After many people recommended it, I re-watched the first episode of Steins;Gate and holy crap What the hell!? If you haven’t re-watched that episode by now: go and re-watch it. Don’t read the rest of this paragraph of analysis and just watch it. This episode did the opposite of what I expected and actually asked more questions than it answered. The big one is the message that Okarin sent to Daru: how the heck did that happen? How the heck did Okarin send a D-Mail when it hadn’t been invented yet? It’s going to be the key to save Mayuri, though: if Okarin never sent the message back to Daru, Daru would never have been able to warn Okarin, and CERN would never have been able to track them down. And holy crap, this show will also turn into a quest to save Makise Kurisu. I totally forgot that some version of Okarin actually tried to warn Makise Kurisu. Now… has the future Okarin created a freaking time-loop for himself? This plot just got even more amazing than it already has.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Sket Dance – 17
This arc was really strange. I really got the impression that it didn’t know what it wanted to do here: there was this huge build-up with the members of the Sket-Dan joining all different bands and having practicing for an upcoming school concert championship… and here this episode comes and throws in a bunch of illnesses and broken arms causing these bands to disband (no pun intended) immediately. It then turns into some moral life-lesson for a violinist as the three members just do the predictable and form a band themselves. I was really looking forward to see all of the different bands compete with each other, but instead this episode skipped across most of the acts for just a few seconds and the only one that we really got to see was this really cheesy J-Rock song in which Bossun suddenly revealed that he has the singing voice of a J-Pop Idol. This series always did so well in capturing school life, but to me, it felt like it didn’t really do this with the school concert. It all just felt too clean. The song that the Sket Dan performed was just too rehearsed (remember that these guys had very little time to prepare. I don’t care how much you practiced, you’re not going to get THAT good in that little time). It’s a bloody shame, because these school concerts are often very fun to watch. Especially because this one looked to be a REAL concert, unlike those silly unimpressive idol acts.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Usagi Drop – 04
Do note that I’m not guaranteeing to blog every series every single week in this kaleidoscope. This time I was merely late with checking out Usagi Drop’s episode, but there may be weeks where I just don’t have any inspiration about the latest episode. In any case, I like how the children in this series really sound like young children, rather than voice actresses trying to act really high-pitched. I also like that this episode introduced yet another single parent, with whom Daikichi can relate with. He’s by no means a perfect parent, but the tension between him and Rin is quite interesting to watch.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 26 July 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



Talk abOUt a bloody moral dilemma here. Whereas the previous episode was all about Feyris, this one is all about Feyris. I had my doubts about her at first, but heck: this episode really gave her character a different twist by explaining what the message was that she sent back. Spoilers coming up.

So in order to save her father from being killed, Feyris sent a message to her father in ordedr to get rid of a bizarre coincidence that happened to her in the past. Or at least, this is what I made of it: she got kidnapped, at the same time that her father died in a crash. For some reason the kidnappers weren’t able to contact Feyris’ father in time, and my guess is that after that, Feyris probably used her inheritance to set up Akihabara.

Basically Feyris had to choose between her father and Mayuri. If she saved her father, he would still have had to deal with the kidnappers, and he would have gotten the message telling about the IBN5100. I have no idea where that one came from yet, but that is one message that will probably be impossible to erase. In any case, usually when anime pull something like this, they come with this convenient way that allows for both options to come true. Not here though: Feyris deciding to change the past back made all that happened into a bit of a dream.

I really have to praise the creators here by the way: this show isn’t spiraling out of control; it’s getting more and more entangled with itself. It’s currently trying to re-engineer the plot, to the point where the time machine never got made. This forces the creators to go back to all of the major events of the first half. Talk about an awesome plot.

by the same logic, the next episode should then delve into the gender change again. The episode ended with the IBN5100 still not present at the shrine, and this makes sense: it disappeared after the gender change, not after Akihabara’s change. We’re about to find out what the heck could have caused that to happen: why would the girl version of Ruka want to get rid of that machine?
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 19 July 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



This is one of those spoilery episodes. Spoilers I will be talking about below, so if you haven’t seen this episode yet it’s probably wise to just close this window and watch the episode. This line is to make sure that those spoilers don’t show up in blog aggregators.

I’m of course not talking about the identity of Suzuha’s father: Daru. I think it really was clear with the name of the time machine: if Okabe was really Suzuha’s father, then it’d have a really fancy and screwed up name, and yet her father just had to be an important character. I still think that Daru’s voice actor was a bit of a mis-cast. There was this one line where he tried to act cool, but instead sounded more like he does usually. Overall he just sounds strange, in a way that he’s forcing a different voice from his usual range a bit too much.

In any case though, what really struck me about this episode was Suzuha’s death, and how she failed to change the future for more than one percent. Throughout the entire scope of Steins;Gate, the concept of travelling to the future has never been hinted as plausible, and this episode really confirmed that it’s a one-way ticket. On top of that she also gave really strong background to the landlord.

I’m also fascinated at the complication that this has for the future. Especially since this episode was purposefully really vague on what else has changed: what happened to Makise Kurisu? What happened to the IBM5100? I mean: what was the reason why Mayuri’s death was evaded? I see three possibilities:
1. John Titor II never existed and he never gave Okabe the inspiration to experiment with time travel.
2. The message that Okabe received from himself scared him really badly and made him decide to abandon the time machine research.
3. Makise Kurisu never got involved and therefore the time machine is currently different.

I really suspect that a lot here is connected to each other. Suzuha travelled back in time, pretending to be John Titor probably was the cause that Makise Kurisu became a lab member. Interestingly, what would have happened if Okabe never went back in time to where Makise Kurisu was alive, back in that first episode? That also would have been a big setback for CERN. It’s also interesting how the time machine really seems like something that Daru would have built: one that focuses on sending stuff back to the past. It was Makise Kurisu’s influence who suggested sending thoughts back in the past, which so far turned out to be by far the most convenient time machine. I also suspect that that’s the reason why CERN was so easily able to take over the world.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 15 July 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



I wonder how the nature of time travel works in this series, especially with Okabe’s mysterious ability. Is this series like Noein, where all kinds of parallel dimensions exist right next to each other between those lines every time he (note: he, he’s not aware of anything Cern has been doing) interferes with the past, or is there just one true time-line that can be manipulated, and where Okabe is the only one aware of these changes? Is Okabe desperately searching for a time-line in which Mayuri doesn’t die, or is he desperately trying to bend that time-line into a direction where she doesn’t die?

In any case, mostly whenever fiction uses real world examples for bad guys, they’re always these terrorists, evil armies, villains, those kinds of things. Here though, the world is going to be taken over by an organization that is at the edge of modern science. It both makes sense and is very creative for Cern of all things to be involved (after all, the person who is the first to get his hands on the technology to time travel can pretty much doom the entire world, no matter what kind of position he/she’s in.

This episode was really dedicated to Suzuha and building her into the team. We’re now at the point where she doesn’t have any secrets from the main characters anymore. After the last episode I wondered why she was wary of Makise Kurisu, and not of the obvious villain of Shining Finger, but of course it makes sense: in her time, Makise Kurisu is famous, while shining Finger was just some goon who works in the background. With the past episodes though, a lot of history has already been changed, in the way that Makise Kurisu really isn’t likely to end up working at Cern right now, which means that Cern would need to find a different way or person to create their time machine. It’s probably not impossible for them at this point, though.

It’s also interesting that Suzuha’s plan was pretty much bogged down by her own flaws: the fact that she knew hardly anything about what really went on in 2010 and her shyness. It’s a shame that she didn’t know about the Cern hacking, otherwise she just could have screamed to Okabe to just stop hacking Cern. If she was less shy, she would have found a way to explain that she’s from the future, like what Okabe did in this episode.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 July 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



Okay, so I do think that Okabe was overacting a tad too much in the first half of this episode. This stands out more than usual because the acting in this series was always so great, but that’s where the melodrama got a bit too much, especially because it caused him to not think of the obvious solution of using the time machine to travel further back in time. I also think it was a bit cheap for this episode to just “announce” that Okabe tried every possible way to save Mayuri: I understand that it was for time issues, but I would have liked to have seen Okabe to try some more and exploit other possibilities.

On the other hand though, this episode got right back on track when Christina returned to the main picture. Her level-headedness was exactly what Rintarou needed, and the plot turned really interesting with the actual introduction of leaping beyond the 2,5 hours of the previous episode. The big twist at the end that Suzuha turned out to be John Titor makes perfect sense. The prospect of severely altering time in the next episode also makes yet again for one hell of a cliff-hanger.

I do have to wonder what Suzuha meant with that the Y2K problem was one of the moments where world lines greatly converged based upon the choices made. Of course I was only 12 when it happened, but was it really as important as the Gulf War? I rather would have guessed that 9/11, the invention of the internet or the birth of social media would have counted as that.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 28 June 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



Okay, so I’ve complained that the characters in this series are too one-sided. Okay, I take that back. With such brilliant acting as in this episode, Okabe and Mayuri have more than shown that they are awesome characters. This episode was just amazing.

Let alone the plot twist at the end of this episode, it rocked because of Okabe and Mayuri’s rock-solid performance. The trust between everyone also was incredibly well detailed, and I especially liked Mayuri as she got dragged around without knowing what’s going on, and how Okabe traced back what she had been doing in the past episode. With this episode the relationship between the two of them really shined.

The biggest questions were asked at the beginning of the episode, and most of them revolve around the part-timer: why didn’t she warn about the obvious villain of Shining Finger, but instead was so hung up over Makise Kurisu? She seemed to know her when she talked to her with those cryptic lines. Also, “42”? Was that really meant to reference the answer to life, the universe and everything or is it just technobabble that we’re only supposed to understand over a few months?
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 22 June 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



And wit this, the second half of Steins;Gate has begun. That twist at the end is bound to change everything for this series. I also love how well animated that final part was. This series is a pretty neat example of delivering great graphics with a limited budget.

Now, it’s still the question as to whether Mayuri is really gone or not (Makise also revived once and we still don’t know why), but I’m really interested in what that scene was between her and Okabe where they were 70 million years in the past, or how Mayuri seemed to know that something was going to happen to her. This episode really was building her up to be some very interesting character for the future.

Beyond that: Okabe actually suggested to publish the results of the time machine. That also would have been quite an interesting concept: how would it get used? How do you prevent it from falling into the wrong hands? And how would people notice that something has actually changed? Are there more people like Okabe around who retain their consciousnesses throughout different timezones? The only one who has been hinted to be the same is Shining Finger, and perhaps Suzuha.

Overall I like the balls that this series has to keep its cards to itself for so long. This show actually did a great job of building up with its first half. Sure, it was annoying at times and the characters could have been more versatile, but it built up its setting really well, the slice of life moments were good and it managed to put a lot of meaning into it plot twists of changing time. Now, for the second half, I do hope that the creators don’t end up fully abandoning those small things like the shopping scenes. That had something really down to earth that I really liked so far.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 14 June 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



Looking back on this season, I really have to say that its big strength is storytelling: showing interesting stories, and deliver them well, ranging from the wonderful pacing of Ano Hana, the impeccable timing and dialogue of Hyouge Mono, the great ideas of Tiger & Bunny and C, the outrageous Deadman Wonderland and Kaiji, the action-packed X-Men, the really well detailed Hana-Saku Iroha, and of course Stein’s Gate with its excellent delivery of its plot twists and atmosphere.

This episode took a step away from this focus in order to focus on one of the main characters, Christina, and show her background. At least, or so I thought until Okabe got that phone message out of nowhere, followed by a very artistic and stunning piece of animation about him running back. Seriously. That was good. That’s how these artistic animation bits should be used: instead of random clutter they bring out even more out of the characters than what conventional animation would be able to do.

Really, the ideas of this series rock. It’s also the way it gradually became clear at the end that Cern (I still refuse to call it Sern) pretty much let themselves get hacked (probably using its data as bait in order to find out about the microwave). I also like how this show is being really vague on who exactly is from Cern, and whether or not that mysterious message sent to Okabe was from one of them. Also, did Okabe check the number where it came from? It didn’t look like it came from anyone he knew, or there must be characters in this show using multiple cell phones.

As for the annoying parts in this episode, I’m not going to list the “accidentally walking in the shower”-scene because it was well built up for once. It’s just about the most terrible twist you can pull right now, but at the very least I am glad that at least the creators put some meaning behind it as an anti-climax. Seriously, this is more than just about any other show that pulled this crap during the past number of years. Instead, what annoyed me about this episode was the point where the characters started talking in various internet memes I didn’t understand up to the pint where the dialogue became hard to follow due to all of the random rambling.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 7 June 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



Okay, so my post about Stein’s Gate 09 was a complete disaster. I had problems with the episode but blamed them on something completely stupid and irrelevant. I still hold that Daru needs to shut up, though, but more on that below.

First of all I want to say that before watching this episode, I got intrigued by a message of PL on the shoutbox, where he (she?) claimed that “Suspension of belief cracked”. With that, I assume that that referred to the scene in which Okarin assaulted Rukako. And yeah… that was out of place. If everything around Okabe changed, wouldn’t it at least have crossed his mind that the thing they tried to change in the first place? I mean, it’s a ridiculous scenario, but when the entire area I lived in changed dramatically, I’d at least consider buying flying pigs.

In a way, the more realistic a show is, the more these small inconsistencies tend to stand out. That’s what makes these kinds of series tricky to do, but that does make them really interesting. This episode may indeed not have been the best of the series so far, but I still really liked the turns that the plot took in the end.

In any case, let me try to actually explain exactly what has been bugging me about this series. It’s got nothing to do with plotholes or cliches that may or may not be there; that kind of suspense of disbelief is just the effect it has. Instead this is about storytelling versus characters. Steins;Gate is brilliantly told. It’s a pity that it chose the same season to air in as Hyouge Mono so that it can’t exactly boast the best dialogue of the season, but the camera work, pacing and atmosphere: I’ve said plenty of times that they’re amazing.

When looking at the characters though, I’m missing something. I keep praising other shows this season for adding to their cast, and giving their characters more depth by developing them, but I can’t really do that with this series. In fact, this episode finally took an in-depth look at one of the characters: SuzUha. With this episode her character finally changed, or at least our perception of this. In the meantime: all we know about Okabe is that he once got sick in the past. Mayuri meanwhile has a sad past that caused her to remain with Okabe, Daru meanwhile is a typical Otaku and it feels like all Christina has been doing is either be quiet or act tsundere.

Instead this show has been fleshing out its characters, and that’s another thing that it can be really good at. As much as I dislike Daru, I really like how he in this episode went out to a meeting of various members of a forum. The times that the characters spend shopping and doing the laundry are also quite cute. But at the same time they feel repetitive. Especially Okarin, Daru and Christina are guilty of this. Okabe’s monologues were once fresh, but after ten episodes they sound too much like each other. Daru was better in this episode, but generally he feels very repetitive whenever he’s not involved in the plot (I also realized that he’s voiced by Tomokazu Seki, and oh my god: he’s really forcing his voice here, making the acting of this guy just bad).

In short: too many characters are just repeating themselves too much. They mostly tend to shine whenever the plot is involved, but that’s because the plot is so incredibly good, not because the characters themselves are enjoyable to watch (or not as much as I’d like anyway).

The big question is of course: is this intentional? With 24 episodes, this could just be a form of build-up. The characters right now are slightly annoying because the creators are building them up, to give them some good depth in the second half. This has been done quite a few times, but there also have been plenty of shows who didn’t. The repetition in the banter right now however is something that’s irking me.

And why did I get a deja vu when I just wrote that?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 1 June 2011 with categories: Steins;Gate



This episode was wonderfully atmospheric and paced. I really liked the parts about time travel that go more and more in-depth. There were some things that bugged me about this episode, and it was more than just inaccurate fansubs.

Steins;Gate is a harem, but beyond that it doesn’t suffer from any badly used tropes or one-dimensional characters. Mostly. After nine episodes, there is one harem cliche that gets more and more on my nerves: the best friend, and the lengths that the writers go through in order to make this guy an unlikable asshole, or in other words: someone who has no chance of stealing away all of the females from the main character. Harem cliches on their own aren’t bad, but it really gets to me when creators are sacrificing their characters, just to adhere to these cliches. Daru is a cliche for the sake of a cliche.

My second problem is with the ending of this show, because I couldn’t relate to it in the slightest. Tora no Ana shops (I suspect that those are doujinshi shops) are gone from Akiba. Okay. So what? Are we supposed to feel sad about that? That entire part, including that cat-girl whose name I’ve forgotten at the moment were completely ridiculous in this episode.

Nevertheless, this episode juggled around the butterfly effect brilliantly. Shining Finger also was great: first to have her run off with the IBM 5100, only to take it away from her again through another D-Mail. I also really liked Mayuri’s subtle developments. That really was a hint that the creators are planning to use her for something interesting.
Rating: * (Good)

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