It’s great to have Steins;Gate back, if you’ll allow me to state the obvious. This was one of the best series of 2011 (I had it at #3) and probably the most accomplished, in that it told a complete story from start to finish and combined comedy, mystery, suspense and romance brilliantly. If I had to pick two elements that I loved best among the many I loved, I think the first would be the dialogue – it’s razor-sharp with an irresistible rhythm of its own, like the banter of a 1930’s screwball comedy. The other would be the stunning work of the cast, especially Miyano Mamoru as Okabe. This was my #1 seiyuu performance of 2011, and to hear Miyano-san in the role again is a joy, especially coming as it does during the run of Chihayafuru, where he’s delivering my favorite performance of 2012 as Taichi. That one actor could excel in two such spectacularly different roles is a testament to just how good Miyano is.
In terms of the bonus episode, it offered a little of everything that viewers (fans of the game and new alike) loved. We had lots of otaku meta-humor, great banter, Okabe-Kurisu romance, and loads of self-referential world-building. It also offered a pretty good head-fake in the intro, which featured Okarin walking through what looked like a post-apocalyptic wasteland talking of The Organization having bested him. But this wasn’t a new world line – no, just the desert east of LA, and Okarin had (as usual) gotten himself into trouble of his own making. It all starts out innocently enough, with Okabe, Mayuri, Daru and Ruka jetting off to LA to catch Feyris in a Rainet tournament (which she wins). This is the America as seen in anime – absurdly overdramatized, with every stereotype played up to the max. Kurisu (who has returned to America after the events of episode 24) drives a pink Cadillac, and just outside LA is a stylized world of 1950s motels and Route 66 diners, as if LA sprawl stopped at Disney Hall and Eisenhower was still President.
While the raison d’etre of the episode was to get Okabe and Kurisu together to further explore their feelings, there was a whole lot of fun stuff on the way. We had Okabe getting arrested twice, the first with Miyano-san getting to show off his hilarious Engrish again. Note to self – “I am mad scientist. United States. Chaos. And invade!” is the wrong thing to say to Homeland Security. And trying to talk your way out of trouble in German probably doesn’t help either. And leave to to S;G to distill the essence of trap-moe into one concise phrase – “He’s a dude, but who cares!” There was the little matter of the sleeping arrangements in the fleabag motel Kurisu found for the group, with Ruka being only too willing to share with Okarin. And for good measure, we got Diet Dr. Pepper and Kurisu in a maid costume with nekomimi.
On a slightly more serious note, we also had a chance meeting between Okarin and who I can only assume is Suzuha’s mother – there were certainly enough hints dropped, right down to Daru sneezing when she talked about getting married and having a kid in seven years. It’s a lot to ask of coincidence but who knows in this mythology, and it was nice to see Suzuha involved. In Okabe following her to the desert as she made her way to Vegas, it was also the setup to the main event of the ep – Okarin meeting up with Kurisu, who’d chased after Okabe to rescue him from himself. After Suzuha’s Mom leaves the diner where Okabe had finally caught her up and continues her journey, Okabe is stranded with 67 cents and a dead cell phone – until Kurisu finds him (herself with a dead pink Caddy and a dead cell phone) sprawled on the road.
Now these two certainly had unfinished business after the finale, and it was pleasing to see how direct Okabe was in addressing the feelings unspoken between them. He had to tread carefully, but once he was sure she still had memories of what they’d shared – albeit only in her dreams – he had the green-light to open himself up to her. It was interesting that while Kurisu was still in Japan he’d brought her up to speed only on the general topics of the world lines and the time machine, but not of his confession. But this time Okabe laid it on the table, telling Kurisu that he’d confessed to her in that world line, and that the event had been totally real – to him – and that he loved her in any timeline. While some may feel the episode ended ambiguously, I think it was very clear what was to come after “Close your eyes”.
If indeed this is the finale for this version of the S;G universe, I think the extra episode provides excellent closure and does so in a manner consistent with the quality of the TV series. The upcoming movie may or may not be set in this world line, but at this point I’m happy either way – there’s plenty more of interest if they choose to pick up from here, but I’m happy leaving the characters where they are if it’s set in an alternate timeline. In any shape and form, more Steins:Gate is always a good thing.