Steins Gate – 04

sg31

Yes, Okarin has discovered a dark secret that involves at least one death, but to Steins;Gate‘s credit, the higher stakes aren’t used as an excuse to suck all the fun and joy out of the episode. In fact, this might be the funniest episode yet, as Okarin goes to great lengths to acquire the infamous IBN 5100 Portable PC.

sg32

The plan to pursue the 5100 is a seed in part planted by his new neighbor Suzuha, who insists to her boss and Okarin that she’s an adult and a soldier, respectively. Does this mean she’s, like, a real soldier? Why is she really there? It can’t just be because she loves CRTS…

sg33

Daru is like the universe—constantly expanding.

As for Mayushii, she isn’t throwing out any weird vibes this week, though she does reach for the sky again, something she does often enough that Okarin gives the ‘move’ a nickname: Stardust Handshake. Of course, Okarin seems to give everyone and everything nicknames…some more than one.

sg34

Meanwhile, Kurisu sulks in her hotel room. She’s held the belief that time travel is theoretically impossible for so long, and then that tall, crazy man-child had to come into her life and throw everything into doubt. Or rather, he’s forcing doors open she’d rather were kept closed.

sg35

With Daru out cold after his hacking binge and Mayshii having to work at the cafe, Okarin goes out into Akiba in search of a 5100 and as fate would have it, crosses paths with Kurisu. He asks her to come back to the lab and assist them, but she’s wishy-washy, which is apropos, since their next stop is a laundromat.

sg36

Here, Okarin finally gets his ‘assistant’ “Christina” to reveal why she doesn’t want to accept what she saw: because she doesn’t want to ‘make the same mistake’ her father made. Did her father get into time travel research and was laughed out of the scientific community? Or did he actually travel through time? We don’t get that much, but we do get this:

You don’t have to come anymore. But I’ll tell you this…No one else will ever have the title of Lab Member 004. That number will be yours forever.

That’s one awesome parting speech. So awesome, in fact, that Okarin couldn’t help using it even though he still had to wait for the laundry. Kurisu is the one who leaves, but not before he tells her about the importance of the IBN 5100, which she dismisses as more nonsense.

sg37a

Okarin gets a tip from Mayushii that Feyris may have info on the old PC, so Okarin, already on his cell in a no-cell restaurant, spills nowhere near enough change to pay for his meal on the table and books it to the cat-maid cafe, where a “Feyris Cup” is underway. Feyris makes him play her at Rai-Net Battler in exchange or information. Okarin explains his laughably quick defeat with the exuse that he’s short on time.

sg37b

Feyris’ info is scant at best, but the last thing she mentions—that she last saw the PC at an Akibahara shrine—is all Okarin needs to know to determine his next destination.

sg38

After a phone conversation in which Okarin and Kurisu bicker over the phone like an old married couple (and they truly are fun to listen to), Kurisu gets that destination out of him and meets him there, much to his surprise and her…well…self-disappointment?

sg39

A programmer friend of hers confirmed what he was saying about the 5100 wasn’t nonsense, so there she is, giving him yet another chance. We also get to see the friendly and far less combative Kurisu as she formally meets Ruka—without learning his true gender.

sg310

According to Ruka’s father, the IBN 5100 was donated to the shrine by a man ten years ago, who said one day a young man would come asking about it. Ruka’s dad has no problem letting Okarin borrow it. The only hitch is that the old ‘portable’ PC is quite bulky. As Kurisu balks at Okarin’s orders to assist him with it and the two bicker some more, Ruka’s dad also remarks how the two must be old friends.

sg310a

Truly, they must have been fated to meet and bicker. Okarin wins this particular battle, and Kurisu helps him drag the 5100 back to the lab. Soon, Daru will be rested and have clean clothes, and SERN’s secrets will be laid bare. If the damn thing works, that is.

9_brav

Stray Observations:

  • Okarin considers an exchange of information with “Shining Finger”, but she has no information to share, so Moeka remains in the background this week.
  • He also calls Kurisu “Assistant”, “Christina”, and “The Zombie”. Kurisu would rather he call him one of those than keep alternating, while I think Okarin prefers to alternate, depending on the situation.
  • Okarin seems disappointed that the spinning of the clothes doesn’t ‘change’ them.
  • “Christina was struck by lightning on the grassy plains of Arkansas…” I wouldn’t have minded him going on a little bit further with this tale.
  • “Theories are nothing more than words.”

Steins Gate – 03

sg41

Rintarou: Then is this too, the choice of Steins Gate?
Kurisu: ‘Steins Gate?’
Daru: Something Okarin made up. It doesn’t really mean anything.
Kurisu: I’m sure. He’s mixing up his German and English.
Rintarou: …Take your shoes off!

It’s becoming more and more of a delight just to listen to Rintarou, Mayuri, Daru, and now Kurisu talk, particularly to each other. Just three episodes in and the voice actors are already like a finely-hewed ensemble, never missing a beat. I’m also loving the fact that, at this point, the title of the show is just gibberish Rintarou made up.

sg41a

Daru: Miss Makise? Miss Makise? Could you say, “Who’d eat a pervert’s banana, anyways?” once more, do you think? If possible, with an upset expression.

They get to play some jazz this time, as Kurisu invites herself in (she says she knocked), and makes a couple of snide remarks about the ‘lab’ and Japanese men. When she concludes she’s dealing with two perverts, they retort that it essentially takes one to know one, something she cannot dispute, flushed as she is.

sg42

They eventually come to an agreement in which Kurisu (or “Christina”, or “Zombie”, or “Perverted Girl Genius”) will join the Future Gadget Lab as Member #004 (which really makes Mayushii’s day) and won’t sue the guys for sexual harassment in exchange for access to the phone microwave that’s turning bananas into green gel.

sg43

With an accord reached, they get to work testing the microwave, thoughtlessly using Mayuri’s candy as a subject. When she opens the door to it before the experiment is complete (not wanting the food to burn), it causes an electrical surge that cracks the desk clean in two. Rintarou instinctively pulls Mayuri to the floor and shields her.

sg43a

The equipment is trashed, but with two concrete pieces of evidence—both the banana and his text messages about Kurisu’s stabbing—he’s ready to declare that what they’ve gone and made, quite by accident, is nothing less than a time machine, something that upsets Kurisu to the point she runs out of the lab, never to return to the episode.

sg44

Talk turns to SERN and the Large Hadron Collider (it’s very nice how the show draws from real-world science, as Psycho-Pass drew from philosophy), the ominous Organization that John Titor said would ‘dominate the world’ in the 2030s, when he’s from. With their time machine in pieces and more proof needed, Rintarou directs Daru to hack into SERN to see if they can find any dirt.

sg44a

The seriousness of Okarin’s request is such that Daru is utterly distracted from the fact that Okarin is straight-up walking out on the bill. Let it be known that Rintarou is not utterly without skills; for one thing, he can slink away from financial responsibility like a boss.

sg45

Outside the lab, Suzuha is goofing off with her bike, but accidentally overheard Rintarou and Daru’s talk about SERN. She even assumes Rintarou just got a text about ‘someone dying.’ Rather, he’s getting texts almost non-stop from Moeka, eager to get info on the rare PC, the IBN 5100, which Suzuha also knows about because she reads @channel. Suzuha’s timely arrival on Rintarou’s doorstep, along with her rapidly amassed knowledge of the situation, is contributing to her giving be a strange vibe.

sg46

As Daru pulls an all-nighter attempting to hack into SERN as ordered, Rintarou hits @Chan, where ‘John Titor’ continues his lectures for anyone who will hear. Rintarou inserts himself in the discussion, and peaks Titor’s interest when he says there was another John Titor who arrived in 2000. World line shifts delete memories, he says, and yet Rintarou retains memories from another world line.

sg47a

To go off on a brief tangeant, I must say I’ve gotten used to the curious palette of Steins;Gate, in which most colors are extremely understated and low in saturation, while the sky is a deep, blazing cobalt blue quite different from the azure skies of our own world. It’s a small detail, but I felt it worth mentioning, since I’m sure the contrast between the deep dense sky and the comparatively washed-out world below was a very conscious aesthetic choice.

sg47

Speaking of weird vibes: I didn’t just get them from Suzuha this week, but from Mayuri as well. She plays dumb all the time, but could that be an act? Did she intentionally sabotage the phone microwave at that crucial time for some reason? Is the staying close to Rintarou for reasons other than love or loyalty to a childhood friend? These are merely rhetorical questions based on random thoughts; no need to answer them.

Vibes aside, Rintarou and Mayuri still have adorable chemistry, best demonstrated by their little hot soup can content exchange negotiations on the roof.

sg48

When they return to the lab, Daru has broken into SERN, though not with admin privileges. “Wow. I don’t understand, but wow,” Mayushii pointedly remarks. There, to everyone’s shock, most of all Rintarou’s, they find the ‘smoking gun’ he was hoping for: an email about how generating a miniature black hole with the LHC was successful, contradicting their public position.

sg49

When they dig deeper into the “Z-Program Experiment Report 137”,  they find that the result of the experiment was “Error. Human is Dead, mismatch.” Now the Future Gadget Lab is really in the tall grass, where they’ll have to watch out for snakes.

9_brav

Steins Gate – 02

sg21

We the audience are totally on board with the fact time has somehow shifted, and can fully appreciate how the presence of a suddenly-alive Makise Kurisu is a highly strange occurrence to Rintarou, and evidence of a very strange phenomenon afoot.

sg21a

However, Rintarou has a way of going about things precisely the wrong way, getting all up in Kurisu’s face and poking and prodding her like a test subject. If it wasn’t for Daru’s interceding, he would have likely ended up with a bloody nose at best or arrested at worst. Put simply: this exchange shows that Rintarou has a lot of work to do before he can start convincing people strange things are happening, and a lot of that is in the presentation.

sg22a

sg22
Total Defeat

When Kurisu is the one who ends up talking at the re-scheduled lecture, she starts in an undesirable direction for Rintarou: calling the very concept of time machines “foolish”. Rintarou rudely interrupts, but Kurisu is ready to take him down in a calculation-laced argument she dominates utterly, undercutting his credibility even more.

Here is a fellow scientific mind with published articles who would have possibly lent at least a half-open ear, had Rintarou simply interacted with her in a more civil manner. The message here is clear: whatever is going on, he’s the wrong messenger for it; he’s not ready for the big leagues.

sg23
“But he’s a guy…”

Steins;Gate takenth away from Rintarou, but it also giveth, by introducing the very feminine Urushibara Ruka. Unlike Kurisu or even Daru, she’s fully invested in his Chuunibyou delusions, taking the 980-yen sword he ‘bestowed’ upon her and promising to swing it every day until she ‘awakens its power’. The only problem is Ruka isn’t a ‘she’ but a ‘he’.

sg23a
Whoa…that was an incredible hand-touch right there.

Ruka and Mayuri both seem to harbor romantic feelings for Rintarou, which explains their higher ‘tolerance’ for his tomfoolery. It also makes them biased in the eyes and minds of others, meaning they wouldn’t be taken any more seriously than Rintarou himself if they vouched for his story. More likely, Ruka and Mayuri would ‘believe’ what he said, but just like they ‘believe’ in everything else he says, out of a kind of obligation.

sg24

Add Amane Suzuha to that list. While only the thinnest of love interests so far, she is a real-life girl of an age with Rintarou, who was just hired (as in, right in front of him in the shortest job interview ever) to help the landlord’s TV repair shop. Suzuha’s comments on ‘what’s popular these days’ and unfamiliarity with fresh produce suggest a certain precociousness that could make her another member of what I’ll call, for now, “Okarin’s Panel of Scientific Peers.”

They’re not like-minded for a multitude of reasons…but they do like his mind. Rintarou tossing her an ear of corn to Suzuha at the last minute demonstrates that for all his ranting and maniacal laughing, he can be a kind and affable fellow, not to mention fun.

sg25

While on a Dr. Pepper-fueled all-night internet excavation, Rintarou confirms that the lecture was cancelled due to the satellite crash, that Kurisu was never stabbed, making him wonder if he simply hallucinated the whole thing.

Then things get stranger when he finds an “@chan” poster posing as his hero, John Titor, an alleged time traveller who arrived in 2000 and wrote several books expousing theories about “World Lines”, the infinite timelines one can travel through and manipulate with the proper means.

However, a Google search of “John Titor” brings up almost nothing, while his shelf of John Titor books is empty. The John Titor he knew simply doesn’t exist.

sg27

The next morning, while on an intersection, he hears the clicks of a smartphone camera from a bespectacled lady, who retreats. He catches up to her and learns she’s documenting everywhere she’s been and everything she’s seen. My immediate impression is, ‘this lady is going through something like the same thing as Rintarou.” She also shows him an old-fashioned PC, and when he doesn’t recognize it, asks him if he knows who does.

Here, again, Rintarou shows his capacity to function not only as a normal member of society in spite of his apparently permanent Chuunibyou syndrome: instead of simply giving this random stranger Daru’s contact info, he acts as a go-between instead.

sg28

He meets with Daru at the cat maid cafe where Mayuri works (wearing a blond wig) , along with another member of Rintarou’s ‘fan club’, “Feyris”, who is also fully-invested in an ongoing chuunibyou conversation about her training. Daru, for his part, curses RIntarou, apparently for inflicting such nonsense upon one of the girls at his preferred cat maid cafe. Yes, I’m aware of the irony in that statement.

sg29

But I’m not sure Feyris is necessarily a ‘victim’ of Rintarou’s nonsense; she may have been into it before and is simply happy to have someone on the same ‘wavelength’. There’s also a certain portentousness to the message “The World’s In Danger!” written in ketchup on their omelette rice; as if Feyris is subconsciously attuned to matters she’s not conciously aware of yet.

In any case, Daru identifies the PC as an extremely rare and commercially unsuccessful early model that may not have actually ever existed, something he’s probably right about. Rintarou also gets an extremely florid text from the mysterious girl, one Kiryuu Moeka, and tells Daru to thank him for not exposing him to a potential nutcase. Yes, I’m aware of the irony in that statement, as well.

sg2100

Daru: Why would you think that?
Rintarou: It’s my intuition as a mad scientist.
Daru: So, no reason.

That’s the relationship of these two, in a nutshell, so far. Daru is willing to go along with all these strange inventions, but he reserves the right to provide skeptical/snarky commentary in the process.

sg210

But when the banana (CLEARLY MARKED as the EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY of Mayushii, yet stolen anyway) they put in the newly-adjusted Phone Microwave (name subject to change), and it disappears, only to show up in green ‘gel-bana’ form, yet fully attached to the bunch, Rintarou suddenly gains a degree of credibility…even though he’s just as freaked out as Daru.

I’ll admit the first episode was a little awkward, but this one made great strides, efficiently introducing vibrant new faces, nudging forward the engrossing time travel mystery, and employing lots of witty banter that had be laughing a lot more than I was expecting.

9_brav

Steins Gate – 01

sg10

Back in Spring of 2011 I missed the Steins;Gate boat, but its MAL score of 9.18 (presently good for second all-time) got my attention, and I’ve been meaning to give it a look for a while now. Look for occasional retro reviews this Winter.

I found the first episode of Steins;Gate a bit dizzying, temporally speaking, and a bit drab aesthetically, but what stood out as an immediate strength was is characters, starting with Okabe Rintarou, AKA “Hououin Kyouma”, AKA “Okarin”, AKA “Mad Scientist”, voiced with bawdy relish by Miyano Mamoru.

sg11

That’s a lot of nicknames, but he gave two of them to himself, while Okarin is how his two friends usually address him. That self-appointing of nicknames is part in parcel of Rintarou’s apparent self-importance and intricate attention to self-image. His overly colorful, often paranoid rants point to severe chuunibyou despite the fact he’s college age. I also love the fact that he talks to himself on the phone without shame.

His cheerful childhood friend Shiina Mayuri, AKA “Mayushii” (Hanazawa Kana), is a nice foil, down-to-earth yet adorably air-headed, and also supportive in a ‘not sure what you’re saying Rintarou, but you got it, teehee!’ kind of way. She also calls herself Okarin’s “hostage”, a chuuni term she probably got from him.

sg12

This opening episode not only introduces the core trio, but a fourth named Makise Kurisu who takes Rintarou aside and asks him what he was going to tell her fifteen minutes ago, even though he’s never met her and only knows her name from a science magazine.

sg13

The show makes a strong statement when their innocuous first encounter is followed up by Rintarou discovering Makise in a pool of her own blood, stabbed to death. Even stranger, when he hits “send” on a text message reporting the stabbing, it seems to affect the very flow of time.

sg144

When he bumps into Mayuri, she has no answers for him about what exactly happened and where all the people on the street went, but they’re interrupted by falling debris, after a goddamn satellite crashed into the very building where they just were to hear a lecture about time machines.

sg15

After an OP that’s smack-dab in the middle of the episode, we find ourselves on the other end of a camera where Rintarou is introducing himself and his colleagues, including Hashida Itaru, or “Daru”, a hacker, otaku, and friend since high school, who seems to highly value comfort, convenience, and girls both 2D and 3D.

sg17a

After unsuccessfully trying to get their weird “Braun tube” TV fixed on the cheap by their brawny landlord (he charges two thousand), Rintarou and Mayuri enjoy the curiously de-saturated sunlight in the park. (Mayuri also gives Rintarou his second Dr. Pepper of the episode, which he (rightly!) proclaims to be “an intellectual drink, for the chosen ones.” Watching Mayuri gives him a glimpse of her looking upon a grave from god only knows what time.

sg16sg16a

We also get a look at their “Future Gadget Research Laboratory” in Akiba…which kinda just looks suspiciously like a normal apartment, aside from strange inventions laying around. One of those inventions is the “Phone Microwave”, which is just what it sounds like, only it turns bananas green, soft, and slimy. Why they’re microwaving bananas in the first place isn’t explained.

sg17sg18

While running errands with Daru, Rintarou compares their cell phones and sees the text he sent about Makise’s stabbing which caused a time jump only he is aware of. Even more bizarre, the text he sent was broken up into three separate texts and sent to the past.

sg18a

And who should come into view when they alight from the elevator but Makise Kurisu, alive and well, if a bit pensive. Something very odd and most likely inadvertent is going on, having something to do with Rintarou’s weird inventions, and again, since even his two closest friends only take a fraction of what he says seriously, he’s probably going to have trouble talking about it without them laughing/shrugging it off as ‘Crazy Ol’ Okarin’.

But we know…as ridiculous as Rintarou can be, he’s not crazy…this stuff is going down, and it’s probably just the beginning. I am looking forward to where this ride takes us.

8_brav

Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 07

bryn71

Murakami Ryouta didn’t ask for a harem of escaped super-human hotties. He got saved by one of them in a mudslide, felt compelled to help her, and one girl led to another until his Observatory of Love grew to four. Their salvation is his crusade, and worrying over them is a full-time job…though he has a part-time job tutoring nosy pipsqueaks.

bryn72

At his present level of involvement in their…situation, there’s no way someone like him wouldn’t blame himself if some or all of them were to meet their doom, which could come slow when they run out of pills his uncle can’t copy in time, or fast when the next lab-assassin, Nanami, rears her twin-tailed head.

bryn73

His options are all but limited to storming the lab where they escaped from and stealing more pills, and the timing is limited to a month. This is not an ideal situation, and the chances of success with any plan are slimmer than Kazumi’s figure, but in the meantime, the girls still have their lives. If he can’t save them, he’s not going to stop them from living them.

bryn74

To that end, Neko goes to Karaoke and gets hit on, and Ryouta takes Kazumi to what turns out to be a date to Akiba. Here, Kazumi’s gentler, sweeter side really shines through; it’s the kind of perfect day you expect a show to give someone before killing them. I hope I’m wrong, because Kazumi’s kind of the life of the party.

7_mag

Log Horizon – 02

log2

With little else for players to do to stay occupied, PKs (player killings) are on the upswing, and security situation in cities is tenuous. Shiroe, Akatsuki and Naotsugu engage a party of PKs, exploiting the holes in their teamwork to emerge victorious. Shiroe gets a call from the Crescent Moon Alliance, asking if he’d look after the guild hall while they’re away rescuing their comrade, Celara. With Akatsuki and Naotsugu’s support, Shiroe makes a counter-proposal: the three of them will head north to Susukino to rescue her instead.

We’ve decided not to drop Strike the Blood or Log Horizon for now, but we’ll only be reviewing episodes as gaps in our schedule allow, so we probably won’t be johnny-on-the-spot with either.

In Sword Art Online, if you were KO’ed in the game, you died in the real world, but here in Elder Tale, you merely re-spawn at the cathedral of the nearest town, which is a lot less …final. But while the threat of oblivion is off the table, this presents a different quandary: endowed with virtual immortality and all the weak enemies needed to harvest enough gold to live off of, what exactly are 30,000 immortal players going to do with themselves? The answer becomes clear this week: prey on each other for kicks.

Shiroe’s trio proves more than up to the task of dispatching upstart PKers. Their battle was relatively interesting, but the foes were a bit too stupid, the animation was underwhelming, and most importantly, Shiroe’s constant explanation of everything going on kinda kills the urgency. The trio finds something to do, and the Shiroe/Akatsuki romance is at a nice, gentle simmer. But so far show is relying too much on telling, not showing, which needs to change.


Rating: 6 (Good)

 

Oreimo 2 – 04

oreimo24

Ria, Kirino’s old roommate and track rival from America, comes to visit. She’s very lovey-dovey to Kyousuke, irking Kirino, who constantly calls him a lolicon. They go to Akiba to sight-see and shop, but both Kirino and Ria are dressed to run, and the day ends with a race. Kyousuke cheers Kirino on, but Ria still wins by a nose. Ria admits she not only came to Japan for revenge, but to learn how Kirino summoned the speed to beat her in the first place: her friends, her eroge, and her big brother.

After a couple of episodes focused on Ayase and Saori, we return to the Kyousuke and Kirino dynamic, picking up where the end of the last series left off. Kirino went to America to run, but learned she couldn’t be herself there, and wasn’t willing to throw away everything that made her who she is in the service of running. Her rival Ria, on the other hand, is singularly committed to running, and it shows. Just as Kirino surpassed Kyousuke, Ria surpasses Kirino. Having experienced what Kirino’s going through, Kyousuke can’t help but sympathize and cheer for her when they hold a rematch at the school track.

As is typical of Oreimo, there’s a lot of petty noise from Kirino to get through. One simply has to tune out the scolds and insults lobbed at her brother every time he deigns to interact with Ria. Refreshingly, Ria is very affectionate to Kyousuke, exhibiting a wisdom beyond her years in not taking the horrible things Kirino says about him at face value, seeing through the surface to the love Kirino actually harbors for Kyousuke. As if the first race in America wasn’t enough to convince her, this second race confirms that Kyousuke’s love and support really does make her faster. That, and eroge.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Hearing Kirino and Kyousuke’s dad try his hand at English was a highlight of the episode.
  • Clearly the Kousaka family’s bathroom could use a lock.
  • Kyousuke and Kirino’s exchange about the availability of new anime in America was very meta.

Accel World – 21

Haru and Taku meet up with Yuniko in a maid cafe, where she grudingly agrees to give Taku a crash course in the Incarnate System. While she trains him in an arctic wasteland, Haru returns to the real world, and Yuniko’s underling Blood Leopard takes him to a neutral underground duelling hall in Akibahara where they’ll investigate Dusk Taker’s ability to stay off of the lists.

The Red King Scarlet Rain proves a valuable, if reluctant, ally to Haru and Taku in their quest to defeat who’s likely the final boss in this series, the insufferable Nomi Seiji/Dusk Taker. Not only does she welcome them into her Red Legion’s prominence base and give Taku a personal lesson in how to use the Incarnate system, as a bonus she lends Haru the services of one of her subjects to aid in his investigation of Nomi. It’s good to be strong, but they won’t beat Nomi unless they know as much about him as they can; no more surprises.

We liked Yuniko’s sudden shift from her cheerful facade to surly grouch when Haru mentions Incarnate in public; but we’re glad she knows she has a debt to pay and is willing to do so. We also like Blood Leopard’s very matter-of-fact manner with Haru (we too thought at the time she was pretty stiff for a maid waitress!) Plus, her bosozoku motorcycle with voice-activated ignition is freakin’ awesome, and riding it in a maid costume really helps them blend in with the colorful Akiba rabble. The underground duelling bar is another nice touch.


Rating: 6 (Good)