Steins;Gate – 3

This continues to be an interesting little series, while holding it’s secrets very close to the vest. At some point it will be begin to frustrate me if things stay as confusing as they are, but for now the episodes have a sort of internal momentum that pulls you along and makes the lack of exposition bearable.

The hook, of course, is that Okarin and the other central characters are trying to piece things together based on the same minimal facts the audience that hasn’t experienced the VN are. It’s an interesting blend of science and science-fiction – central to the plot is the mythical John Titor, who showed up in message boards and such on the internet at the start of the 21st Century claiming to be a time traveler from 2036. It’s universally believed by the establishment to be a hoax, but the story was a sensation in geek circles and still holds sway with more conspiracy-minded folk. There’s also talk of CERN – the EU’s scientific body for nuclear research – and their Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the world’s largest particle accelerator. There were very real rumors that it could cause a mini-black hole – something CERN denied vigorously – and even some talk that the LHC could bring about the end of the universe. All of this is woven rather skillfully (though cryptically) into a story of microwaves hooked up to cell phones that can travel in time.

While all of this is interesting on an intellectual level, it plays out against a backdrop of rather ludicrous dialogue and almost slapstick comedy. Okarin’s relationship with airhead assistant Mayuri and cliche bomb otaku-hacker Daru is never less than amusing, but the dialogue really comes into its own when he interacts with Dr. Kurisu Makise, the neuroscience professor who seemingly returned from the grave last week. She looks upon Okarin’s mad-scientist act with derision and suspicion, but she can give as good as she gets – what they go it hammer & tongs it’s like a scene from a screwball comedy of the 30’s (1930’s, that is).

It’s really impossible to take any of this too seriously at this point, because the material is presented in such a way as to seemingly demand that it not be. Yet there are no doubt big issues at the core of this bizarre cosplay – time travel, murder, international conspiracy, even WW III. I find myself wondering if the tone of the series is going to get more solemn as we dig deeper into the mysteries, or whether it will continue to be determinedly madcap. I like Okarin a lot, and I like the supporting cast too – even Ruka and Suzuha, who we’ve barely met. I still don’t have a handle on just what this show really is, but the above is enough to keep me watching – and blogging – at least for the time being.

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