Steins;Gate 0 Episode 22: Farewell Amadeus

Steins;Gate Episode 22 - Daru and Miho

Okabe may have returned to the past after 3000 time leaps with new found determination but that doesn’t mean the obstacles he was facing have gotten any smaller. Episode 22 of Steins;Gate 0 has some serious brainstorming taking place before the characters face an incredibly tough choice.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 22 Okabe Rintaro

Not a lot physically happens this episode. There are no mad dashes through time or characters running frantically from here to there. Yet, the episode is stronger because of it. After the marathon 3000 leaps back in time, Okabe is forced to stop and contemplate his next move and the decision the characters arrive at isn’t an easy one. Rather than rushing this process, the anime chooses to slow things down with Okabe taking a night stroll with Amadeus before making a decision with the morning. A decision that has to be made because time leaping further just isn’t possible.

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However, despite the strong focus on Okabe and his issues with the decision, it is ultimately Maho who is forced to pull the trigger via Daru and you can see it breaks her heart. While less screen time is given to her farewell and contemplation, Maho really steals the thunder at the end of this episode with an emotionally wrenching sequence that actually hurt to watch. For a character I hadn’t really connected with during Steins;Gate 0, I have to say I had no complaints about how this moment played out as it really brought maximum emotional impact to the scene.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 22

And with this episode we’re one final episode from seeing how this all ends and how Okabe Rintaro figures out how to keep both Kurisu and Mayuri alive. I’m just hoping we don’t have to watch them both die one more time before we get there.

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Okabe Rintaro - Hououin Kyouma Nendoroid

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21: I’ve Missed Hououin Kyouma

Steins;Gate 0 Okabe Rintarou

Right, as much as I kind of feel Steins;Gate 0 has been overly drawn out for the amount of content it has and that about half the characters in it haven’t been needed for much of anything, I cannot deny the pure joy I got out of this episode. Hououin Kyouma is back.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21 - Hououin Kyouma

There’s been some fairly solid narrative reasoning for Hououin Kyouma to have been missing in action for the majority of this season of Steins;Gate and yet the pure joy at his return, the way the whole show seemed to spring to life with his presence, and just how much more entertaining everything was just made me realise exactly what I’d been missing this whole time. And I get that the contrast is there for a reason, but all it did was emphasise that I haven’t really enjoyed spending time with a defeated Okabe. It might be argued that the long wait makes the return even sweeter, but for me it just makes it clear I don’t plan on rewatching this particular branch of Steins;Gate ever again. Once has been enough and there just wasn’t enough fun in the journey for me to do it over.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21 - Okabe and Amadeus

That said, I’m very keen on seeing how it finishes at this particular point in time. There’s been some interesting ideas along the way and some solid plot work weaving a parallel narrative that hasn’t undermined the original series. While I personally didn’t end up enjoying the characters as much as the original, I can’t deny the effort to make this fit in with the larger story.

So other than the resurgence of our favourite mad scientist, what did this episode do?

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21 Okabe in a lab coat

Well, Okabe completed over 3000 time leaps to make it back to the lab in time to try to save Mayuri yet again. This was impressive given how many times he might have wanted give up and how many things could have gone wrong with the plan along the way. Yet it really does show us just how committed Okabe is to his new resolve to no longer accept that there are fixed events that cannot be overcome. Which makes the end of this episode even more affective because just when it seems our hero is thing control of the situation fate or time or whatever decides to mess with him for one more round. While I don’t feel this will break Okabe’s spirit again, it is definitely not the outcome he was hoping for.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20: It’s The End of the World

You know when things go wrong and there’s always that person who tells you not to worry because it isn’t the end of the world? For Okabe that moment isn’t coming because in this episode he really is seeing what happens after the failure to ‘fix’ the future back in 2011.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 Okabe

I’ve made no secret of the fact that a lot of Steins;Gate 0 hasn’t quite hit its mark for me, but credit where it is due, the decision to skip the OP this week and to deliver us muted dialogue and a scene of us looking down on a very small Okabe on the hand of a clock was the perfect one to make. It set the tone beautifully for an episode that was going to be grim in its content and it also set the scene for the transformation Okabe was going to undertake throughout this episode.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 - Okabe runs

Throughout the whole first third of this episode we’re either looking down on Okabe or he is deliberately placed to seem small and insignificant against the destruction around him. As we come into contact with the other lab members in this version of the future we start seeing him trailing behind characters or being supported by them. We aren’t looking down at him so often but that is usually only because the other character in the shot is being framed as strong and steady. Finally, Okabe faces another death head on and then we see him close up and we see his decision.  It’s some excellent decision making in how this episode has been directed that really draws you back into the narrative even if the content here is not exactly exceptional.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 - Future Daru and Suzuha

That said, the notion of printing his 2011 memories over his future self was an interesting twist and if Okabe hadn’t already made a decision to change the future no matter how many times it took, this trip has certainly cemented the necessity of changing the future into his mind. However, that’s where I’m wondering why we needed this (other than we finally get to see this future world we keep getting told about)? Okabe had already decided to use the time leap machine and find a way to change things. Reinforcement of a motive is fine and all but I can’t help but think this was less a narrative choice and more an opportunity to pander to fans who wanted to see the other lab members as gun wielding soldiers in a dystopian Akihabara.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 - Ruka
Then again, who didn’t want to see future Ruka on the front lines?

Still, fairly solid episode and certainly one that made me pay attention even if on reflection the payoff wasn’t as great as I’d have liked.

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The Isolator: Sect.002 The Igniter Light Novel Review: Crazed Villain Verses Super Powered Youngsters

Previously I reviewed Volume 1 of this series and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the story was even if the villain seemed a little weak and the basic idea a little cliche. Alas, with the high cost of the hard cover volume, its been a fair while between books for me but volume 2 finally came down in price during a sale and so here we are. How did this book go?

Review:

While it was established in volume 1 that there was an organisation working with those who received jet-eyes to fight the menace of those with ruby-eyes, it never really felt overly real given we only saw the two agents and one was a fairly young girl. Still, volume 2 takes us into the organisation as Minoru begins his work for them in his quest to ultimately be forgotten by everyone.

The inherent paradox in making connections with people in order to sever your connection with the world is not lost on the characters either, though I will point out the overall lack of subtlety about Minoru’s personality and choices is probably one of the more grating aspects of this particular volume. While he remains an interesting enough protagonist and his goal, which is not to become the strongest, is at least novel, the execution and the way the plot forces him to still actually become the strongest in order to achieve that goal pretty much undermines any novelty that may have been found. That said, I quite like like him as the lead because I can kind of relate and despite gaining power and a sense of responsibility toward others, he isn’t abandoning his original ideals even if he is letting circumstance dictate some of his choices.

Then again, as we meet more members of the organisation, you have to wonder if there is anything other than generic at work here. There is almost zero chemistry between the various members as each is so far more or less a one-trick pony who exists in this story to be introduced, show off their power, and to be all amazed when the newbie essentially swoops in and saves the day after, despite their experience and preparation, they very nearly fail the mission. It is incredibly predictable and while that in itself isn’t an issue, the lack of any spark or interesting personality amongst this support cast, that are apparently going to be in it for the long haul given they all come out unscathed, is more of a problem. Future books might develop these characters and certainly the relationship between Minoru and Yumiko gained strength in this volume, but that doesn’t help the mostly flat dialogue and various set ups that this volume delivers.

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I know it sounds fairly negative but despite all of that, I still had some fun reading along. The abilities of the characters are interesting in their own way as is the speculation about where the eyes come from. We are introduced to an opposing faction that are in contact with our villain this time around but they aren’t directly involved in most events which leaves a nice way for the book to resolve the conflict of this volume and leave plenty of room for a sequel. And while nothing was overly surprising here, it was all done well enough even if I might have wanted more from the characters.

However, like in the first volume, the villain kind of lets things down. While at first he seems more together than the Biter, Igniter quickly becomes just another thug with a grievance against society amplified by the power of the Ruby-Eye and while his power is fascinating and quite the challenge to overcome, he himself is not.

Overall, I’m left wanting to read the next book but not really willing to pay full price for it yet again. Once again I’ll wait for a decent sale and try to pick this one up. And once again, taking the jacket off of this book will leave you with a truly hideous blue cover. I really wish they’d either pick a better colour or give us some kind of pattern or something. I really dislike picking on a book for its look, but this one is ugly, and that is a shame given the jacket is quite pretty when it isn’t sliding off while trying to read the book.

That said, I’ll finish up and turn it over to the readers. Have you had a chance to read The Isolator Volume 2: The Igniter? If so, what did you think?


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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 19: Okabe the Hypocrite

It’s all well and good for Okabe to suddenly gain a sense of urgency and a desire to right wrongs and ‘fix’ things; however as Daru correctly points out, it is Okabe who has been ignoring them and stalling progress on the very machine that he’ll now rely on to ‘save’ everyone. Even then, the consequences of his choices are unknown so he can’t really assure anyone that he will in fact succeed.

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Steins;Gate 0’s Okabe has really kind of bothered me. Admittedly seeing him at the beginning as a slightly broken shell of the mad scientist persona he used to lug around was intriguing, however the moping went on far too long. More importantly, after Okabe’s repeated rants to pretty much every character who sat still too long and didn’t run away about the importance of not messing with time because of the grave potential consequences, it is really hypocritical of him to now declare he doesn’t like the outcome of his choices and that he now wants to undo it all.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 19 - Okabe and Maho

Passing the motive onto Kurisu doesn’t make it any better; in fact it makes me feel even more distanced from Okabe because he isn’t even willing to admit that he is the one once again making the choice. Claiming Kurisu didn’t sacrifice herself for Mayuri to die anyway is all well and good (probably true too), but eventually Mayuri would die so if it happened in twenty years time would that still be good cause for Okabe to suddenly decide to jump world lines again?

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 19, Okabe Rintarou

Despite my overall feeling of disdain toward Rintarou Okabe (a character I previously quite liked and enjoyed watching), this actually was a pretty packed and fun episode. Still, I’m thinking I’d have been happier leaving these characters after the first season. The only thing this season has added for me is a general feeling of disappointment in a protagonist who was amazing. Well, that’s a lie. I actually have a far greater respect for Daru than I did after the first season, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to justify 19 episodes of a series.

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Space Battleship Tiramisu Series Review: A Glimmer Of Hope Lost In Space

Short form anime is never really overly appealing as to me it seems like they always struggle to do more than insert a few gags due to run time. Space Battleship Tiramisu seemed like it might break that trend but ultimately abandoned its plot in favour of repeat gags.

Review:

While it probably isn’t fair to hold an anime’s form or genre against it, given I knew this was a short form comedy when I started it, and yet there were glimpses throughout Space Battleship Tiramisu’s run-time that hinted at a fairly interesting plot that could have been explored. Where this anime really annoyed me was in presenting the plot elements mid-season and then abandoning them in favour of more gag comedy. It is more the inconsistency of this show’s approach that ultimately makes me feel this anime is somewhat lacking.

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That said, people who really like gag anime, might get a laugh out of this. Of course that depends entirely on your tolerance for jokes at the expense of someone with clear OCD, jokes about talking pubes, and various jokes involving questionable hygiene choices (and now I’m wondering how I managed to get to the end of this). Despite all of that, there are some really great moments throughout this season.

Tiramisu7a

With seven to nine minutes per episode, one thing the anime had in its favour was even when an episode didn’t click for me, it was over fast. The other thing that worked with the short form was that if a joke was particularly distasteful, it was usually done by the next episode. There were only a couple of jokes that carried over between episodes.

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Unfortunately, the jokes they carried over usually didn’t need to be. The episode early on that focused on adopting a dog that then grew massive was actually pretty cute and funny. The return of the dog later for space-walkies was just a jarring interruption into what should have been a decent climax to the story about Subaru’s brother and his clone. Though apparently they didn’t want to deal with that because there is apparently a second season coming. I don’t intend to watch is so I guess I’ll just have to imagine a resolution for the story, though given how incompetent most of the characters seem  I might just imagine all of the spaceships blow up simultaneously and cause the end.

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Subaru as a character is at times quite interesting. his obsession with his cockpit early on is fairly well portrayed and most of the jokes stick at this stage. Where the anime fell down was despite introducing family to Subaru and having flash backs to his father who apparently designed mecha or whatever, we never really got a sense of how Subaru became the person he is. While he could have been a rich and interesting character, a look at someone who needed order in a disorderly world, instead we get mostly a character who gets pushed into dirty situations for cheap laughs and doesn’t really get much in the way of development or character progress. Also, at times he actually acts too stupid for words and some of his losses in space make you wonder why anyone still lets him pilot anything.

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Equally, the members of the support cast are all potentially interesting characters who end up being one-note gags of forgettable due to the anime’s lack of interest in doing anything more with them. Whether this strikes you as a failing or not I guess will depend on how entertained you are by the gags.

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Though I’m pretty certain most people are glad the robot had its head detached even if it meant we still had to listen to the thing.

Overall, I liked the look of this show, though animation is minimal with movement and the like often just being portrayed in a series of lines. Despite that, it had a distinct visual identity that stood out compared to many other shows in the Spring line up and I must admit my eyes were very much drawn to it initially because of how the characters looked. The OP is also really fun. It has a very old school kind of feel to it and a lot of energy. Definitely one of the highlights each week.

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Ultimately, if you are chasing a narrative, this anime isn’t going to work for you. If you just want a laugh or two in space, this might very well be exactly what you are looking for. As for me, while I made it to the end of this season and had a pleasant enough time for most of the season, I won’t be going for a second season. Definitely done now.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18: Even Knowing The Future Won’t Help You Make a Better Choice

Steins;Gate 0 - Episode 18 - Okabe

While there are some things that can be known about the future, and some choices that once made that will set things in motion, but without experiencing it, there is no way for the characters to know the outcomes of changes they make. Okabe experiences the disappointment of this first hand when he realises his choice to stay in this world line didn’t guarantee a happily ever after.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18 - Okabe

Steins;Gate 0 finally got around to revealing that the professor who has been overly interested in Okabe since the beginning is actually the guy behind a lot of what has happened. And really, what else did anyone expect, particularly given we knew the Americans were one of the factions at play, and there’s literally no other reason for the professor to have been so incredibly interested in Okabe and then Daru. It’s one of those reveals you see coming a mile away and yet it still is kind of satisfying when the show gets around to rolling it out and even his mad scientist laughter, before being pummelled in the face by Suzuha, kind of worked in context rather than sounding cartoonishly over the top villain like (Okabe did pretty much set the tone in Steins;Gate for mad scientist laughter to be accepted as part of this story).

Steins;Gate 0  Episode 18 The Professor

Outside of that, we finally get the full story on Kagari and while this works well enough and fills a lot of the gaps, it overall seems really messy as a way of getting a message to your past self. And how detailed were her brainwashing instructions? How did the future professor know enough about what the characters would be doing and when for it to be affective? And while she might be brainwashed that doesn’t really explain beheading a guy with her hand – something about her suit maybe?

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18 - Kagari

Overall, this episode does an excellent job of continuing the escalating tension, bringing plot points together, and if the objective of this series is to watch Okabe disintegrate as a character we definitely saw him take some damage emotionally, but as usual I’m left wondering if any of this was necessary and whether it has added anything to my original enjoyment from the first series. I’m still coming up empty on reasons why this was a needed series, and yet it isn’t as though I dislike it and it does seem to be setting up for a big finish. Here’s hoping it nails the execution.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17: Choices and Consequences

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Mayuri

Okabe may have made his choice but he can’t speak for all of the other lab members and this week it is their choices that will dictate the path the future will take. I guess the question we’re left with is whether there was ever a ‘right’ choice or whether all there ever is are different consequences to be experienced.

Steins;Gate 0 - Episode 17 - Suzuha, Maho and Mayuri

Under normal circumstances it is impossible to second guess yourself. Should you have turned left or right? Would things have been better if you’d chosen B instead of A? While we might speculate we can’t know. Steins;Gate has always had the interesting benefit of being able to not just speculated but to experience the consequences of making a different choice or pointing things in a slightly different direction. Unfortunately, it is never as simple as option A being better than option B given there are some definite down sides to every choice available.

Steins;Gate Episode 17 Mayuri

Last week Okabe made it clear he was standing by the decision made by himself and Kurisu; the decision that kept Mayuri alive. What he didn’t factor in, mostly because he hasn’t been paying attention to her, is that Mayuri doesn’t want to just exist. It doesn’t matter to her if she goes on living if Okabe is the walking shell he’s been for the past 17 episodes. She’d rather face the possibility of death than continue in her current reality. It’s an interesting choice and one that would probably have had more impact if Mayuri had been given a bit more focus in this series, but it does mean that Okabe has to face the reality that his choice wasn’t final and it isn’t the end.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Mayuri

The fact that Suzuha and Mayuri’s journey is hijacked before it even begins when the guys with guns show up and the show ends on yet another cliff-hanger, is almost inconsequential. Just by making a choice these two have already changed the direction things were heading and forced Okabe into action whether he wants it or not. He can no longer pretend things are fine and that this is the final destination of his journey.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Okabe

That said, killing Mayuri again would be a pretty cheap emotional ploy at this particular point in time… Cliff-hanger endings.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 16: The World Or Mayuri?

Steins Gate 0 Episode 16 - Mayuri

Have we ever seen Daru angry before? Have we ever watched Mayuri so absolutely devastated? It’s taken a while to get here, but this feels like the kind of episode I was hoping for all along.

Steins Gate Episode 16 - Okabe and Banana
It’s a green banana. Obviously.

This alternative time line has relied a lot on the knowledge of the audience to fill in the blanks. We entered this series knowing what had happened in the original series and knowing what Okabe went through the choices in front of him. And while we’ve seen the fall out of the choice he made to get to this world line, we haven’t heard from his own mouth just how he felt. It was quite obvious that he’s been holding so much back but this episode, as Daru and Maho are busted trying to duplicate the phone microwave (temporary), he just explodes.

What I loved about this was that everything he said was justified and could be understood by the audience because they’ve already been with him on his journey through countless failures. But at the same time, everything Maho and Daru said was also justified. They aren’t ready just to accept world war three nor are they ready to accept that there is no solution (of course without the memories of other time lines and not carrying that emotional baggage, their decision makes perfect sense to them).

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And just in case this episode didn’t hit us with enough emotions, we get the flash back to see Mayuri’s first demise. It hits with all the impact it did right back when I watched the original series the first time. Of course, it also reminds me that most of the moments that have resonated emotionally with me in this series are throw backs to the original series. However, this episode actually does a fine job of taking the characters in a direction that wasn’t explored in the original series and is interesting. For perhaps the first time while watching this I am eagerly awaiting a decision I don’t know the answer to because it is quite likely that Daru and Maho can succeed without Okabe’s help, however it is infinitely more likely that after Okabe’s conversation with Mayuri he is finally going to accept that this world he has created isn’t the best outcome even if Mayuri is alive in it.

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One thing I found particularly interesting early in the episode was the distance between Mayuri and Okabe. It’s been pretty palpable all season, but as they walk together and talk, we see almost no shots where they are on screen together, instead jumping from one to the next. It is really only when Mayuri pulls out her phone to show him a picture forcing him to move closer that the two end up in the frame together and even then Okabe looks distinctly uncomfortable. The conversation that follows is stilted and unnatural to the point that Mayuri excuses herself and essentially flees the scene leaving Okabe to go to the lab alone.

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The point that Okabe made the choice to commit to this world line to save Mayuri and yet there’s more distance between them than ever, is well made without being hammered home. And this makes Mayuri’s confrontation of Okabe in the park at the end of the episode so much more powerful as she calls him on all his excuses.

While this episode doesn’t undo the fact that I’ve felt this series has been a bit plodding, I certainly enjoyed this week’s fare.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 15: I Just Wanted To…

Suzuha is playing with fire, or at the very least time lines, when she decides to be more aggressive in her approach to seeing her parents together. However, what does this mean for the future?

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It’s probably inevitable given Suzuha’s young age and tragic life that eventually she was going to act on an entirely selfish desire. While mostly her actions are compelled by her desire to make the future war not happen, everything this week was pure child missing her parents and it made for an emotionally compelling story-line. And yet this desire to see her parents together may very well have been the catalyst for breaking them apart if Daru hadn’t finally taken action on his own. Then again, maybe this is what was always supposed to happen given it seemed unlikely the relationship would have progressed without these events. Isn’t time travel fun?

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Stepping aside from that part of the narrative, and I mean that literally given other than a couple of texts he literally never appears in that narrative at all, Okabe is meeting with Leskinen and getting very friendly over a report. Maybe I’m too suspicious but I just have to wonder why Okabe trusts an American professor who conveniently keeps turning up and has ties to Kurisu, Maho, and everything else, when it has already been speculated that maybe the Americans were the ones involved with the raid on the lab. I mean, he might just be a well-meaning guy who wants to take on Okabe as a new student, but really his ongoing appearances, his obvious desire to keep Okabe close, and everything else just screams that he is up to something.

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I did have some fun this week with the episode even if I still feel overall that this series is lacking something. However, it felt more like things were getting ready to move forward and I’m hoping we do see some progress soon.

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