Steins;Gate – 5

Though I was already enjoying this series, for whatever reason this was the week everything clicked for me. The story, the setting, the pacing – what had been a mish-mash of generally enjoyable components became a complete package with this episode.

For starters, just in the nick of time the audience was finally given some useful information. Mysteries are great – in a show like this, essential – but I was fast reaching the frustration point with the refusal to tell me anything of use. That changed this week – we’ve still got loads of unknowns, but at least now we know the game we’re playing. The IBN 5100 is working, Jellyman’s reports are opened, and we know that “Human is dead – mismatch” was meant quite literally. SERN has been experimenting with time travel using Kerr black holes – in fact – it’s been their main function since the beginning.

But all is not well. As Makise gruesomely demonstrates, their method is equivalent to trying to squeeze a spone through a bottle top. The space is too small, and the body on the other side has had all the juice squeezed out (ewww). Thus, the jellied bananas. Of course we don’t know why the phone microwave (name subject to change) is also able to act as a time machine, but that’s fine – mysteries are great. I just want to know what the game is, not the result.

So with this news, Makise seems to be fully on-board – and she and Okarin have some actual bonding moments over her love of Dr. Pepper and lab coats (“Now – stand with your hands in your pockets!”). He even tries to protect her by sending her home when it’s clear they’re about to see information that will take them past the point of no-return. But she refuses – knowing what she knows now, Makise – like Okarin – is pot-committed. And then there’s Amane, the “part-timer” at the CRT store – strong foreshadowing that she’s actually from the future. But she still seems to like Okarin and want to be on his side.

The strength of this show remains in the dialogue, though the mystery is becoming increasingly engaging. The core group at the lab – I include Daru and Mayuri in that – is well-established and all are strong characters. But even the side characters have been well introduced – Amane, Ruka, in all cases it appears that we’re only seeing the surface, that each is a complex person with their own set of mysteries – and that does a lot to make them come alive as characters. Of course the dialogue between Okarin and Makise is the highlight, and their relationship is actually developing – we’re seeing more to him than the zany mad scientist, someone with real ideals who genuinely cares for his friends. She’s moved beyond the icy child-genius into a quirky, gutsy broad who gives as good as she gets. But even Mayuri is growing in my esteem. There’s just something about Kana Hanazawa – she can make something as simple as that “Do do dooooo Duturu!” greeting of hers and make it lovably strange. I suppose there’s a risk of getting sick of her, since she seems to be in every other series lately – but she’s undeniably got a spark that can explode with the right role.

I’d argue that Steins;Gate and C are the two coolest series of the Spring. They both have clever sci-fi elements, funky settings and a lot of style. But the difference is in the characters for me. This series connects on a human level in a way that C just hasn’t been able to yet. With a well-established plot to draw on and two cours with which to do it, I expect this show to continue to improve.


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