Steins;Gate 0 Episode 14: What Happens If Okabe Isn’t The Protagonist?

It seems Okabe’s friends might be getting a little tired of waiting for the passive protagonist to act and now they are taking matters into their own hands. What does this mean as we go forward?

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There’s no doubt that Steins;Gate 0 has been characterised primarily by an Okabe Rintaro who is determined not to build a time machine and will not risk moving world lines. However, that’s always a dangerous stance for a story to have a character resist taking an action. It kind of leads the plot to stagnation and ultimately the only real way to resolve a situation like that is to either have the character do something else instead or to force their hand. After half a season of meandering, it seems like the support cast have decided to rise to the occasion with Suzuha and Daru enlisting Maho to help them recreate the time leap machine. While they aren’t the team that Okabe and Kurisu were, I’d have to say their likelihood of success is pretty good particularly this far into the season.

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But what does that actually mean for the narrative? Has it actually outgrown Okabe or is this just a way of forcing his hand without having him do a complete back-flip on his own decision not to mess with time? And part of me can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just do this earlier rather than waste all that time trying to get Okabe to come around when clearly he was adamant about not moving from his current position.

It also, of course calls into question the motives of the characters. Daru wants to help his daughter and Suzuha has always had pretty openly stated motivations to change the future from the one she escaped. It is Maho’s motive that seems fairly murky and I wonder what that will do to the enterprise.

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Well, plenty of possibilities as always for this show and yet overall I can’t help but note that I’m still not enjoying this anywhere near as much as the original. I’m not disliking it but it kind of just is at this point and while that’s kind of enough it isn’t a show I’m going to rush to recommend whereas I firmly recommend watching the original Steins;Gate.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 13: Ignore the Paradox

After spending an entire episode setting up a bootstrap paradox, this episode chooses to ignore the song in question entirely and focus in stead on where Kagari was during that missing time. I kind of wonder if they intend to get back to it or not at this point.

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Steins;Gate 0 continues to be a bit odd in that even at this midway point we seem a little short on an actual focus. The original series by the midway point made it clear what the overall goal was going to be and then it just had to accomplish that goal and iron out the wrinkles that achieving the goal created. Here, I’m not sure what anyone is actually trying to accomplish. At first it seemed Okabe wanted to maintain his status quo having decided to sacrifice Kurisu for Mayuri (which is what put them in this timeline), but now he is actively seeking out Kagari’s past and generally involving himself in things that are undoubtedly going to change his realty whether he wants them to or not.

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It is even harder to get a read on characters like Daru and Suzuha who at times seem to have tunnel vision on their goals, and yet Suzuha, for all her drive and focus, doesn’t seem to be actually making much progress to achieving anything at this point. Mayuri is still just kind of floating along, as are most of the others who hang around in the lab these days and honestly I’d be hard pressed to say what any of them are actually trying to do in this story.

Then there’s the disconnect between the intense focus on finding out the source of the song last week and then this week it isn’t mentioned at all. Mozart has come back and music in general still remains significant and is firmly linked to Kagari, but what the connection is hasn’t been established and how any of this connects to the whole AI Kurisu from the majority of the earlier episodes is also pretty unclear at this point.

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While there’s definitely hope that the second half of this might sort itself out, at this point I’m still just kind of curious but not really as into it as I’d like to be.

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Here It Is! The Results of the Best of Spring 2018 Reader Poll!

Welcome to the Best of Spring 2018 and while we might say there were slightly leaner pickings this time around, as always it has been fun following the shows with others in the blogosphere and discussing from week to week. Whether that is the discussions around Wixoss, the laughing at Devils’ Line, or just being perplexed by what Grancrest planned to do next, there’s certainly been entertainment to be had this season. But now, even though some shows are yet to complete, it is time to reveal our choices for best of the season.

To my awards…

Best Story – Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love

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I realise this is a really odd choice, but to be perfectly frank the story is what failed on so many of the shows I watched this season so Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love might be a fairly ordinary story, but it was at least competently handled from beginning to end. I nearly went with Wixoss, but unfortunately that story makes no sense unless you’ve watched the three prior seasons, so Tada it is.

Best Visuals – Darling in the Franxx

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This is another category I struggled with more than I should but this season nothing has really visually grabbed me or made me want to discuss it (outside of the anime that have been pretty terrible). Even Full Metal Panic isn’t exactly a visual masterpiece as it is trying to reconcile a look with its predecessor from 13 years ago. While Franxx may have its issues, it does at least have an interesting and memorable look about it.

Best Opening – Steins;Gate 0

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Finally, an easy question. The opening here is distinct and really does set the tone of the story, while also being reminiscent of the original series. I really enjoy this OP each week. The only other one that really grabbed my attention was Space Battleship Tiramisu but that’s mostly because it got stuck in my head for hours after watching.

Best Character – Sousuke (Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory)

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Okay, he had the advantage of already being one of my favourite characters from way back when and his return was greatly appreciated. Most so when I realised that the character progress he made during season 2, even if he had to break apart a bit to get there, was going to continue into this season. Sousuke is a dynamic character who might seem static at times but each event he goes through definitely leaves its mark and it is really rewarding seeing those small advances even if they are interspersed with some backsliding at times.

Best Slice of Life (First Time I’ve Ever Included This Category) – Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori

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I don’t normally get to the end of anything that would actually be described as a slice of life and I got to the end of my awards and realised that this consistent sweetness and relaxation in my week had come up dry. Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori isn’t a masterpiece or an unforgettable anything, but the number of times it gave me that moment of pure mental relaxation during the Spring anime season meant it deserved a mention here.

And now…

Best Anime of the Spring 2018 Season – Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS

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This season there was probably plenty of doubt given so many shows were very hit and miss. But with Full Metal Panic giving us two recap episodes and then not finishing in time because of needlessly dragging out its run, My Hero Academia having another cour to go, and not much else that really made sit up and take note (though plenty of light entertainment shows this season), WIXOSS kind of won by default.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t deserve the victory. The culmination of four seasons of build up is a hard thing to pull off in a manner that satisfies and doesn’t feel anti-climatic and yet WIXOSS more or less accomplishes this with only a handful of minor areas where criticism could be laid. It isn’t the single most exciting thing ever, but nor does it need to be. It is a fairly solid work delivering a compelling conclusion that feels like it is giving the audience some closure.

Finally, Reader’s Choice

Voting this time round was scattered as it was clear there wasn’t one single title that people were getting behind. However two titles ended up gaining quite the lead and kept it most of the way with My Hero Academia only really gaining ground toward the end of the vote. Interestingly enough, I haven’t seen either of the top voted anime and will have to rectify that for one of them soon as it is available. The other I won’t be able to see unless it gets a DVD release or ends up going onto a different streaming service.

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And the winner is… Hinamatsuri!

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Normally I would write something about the show and what I liked or didn’t about the reader’s choice, but I still haven’t actually seen this one so other than noting that it is on my watch list, I really don’t have a lot to say about it.

Wotakoi narrowly edged out My Hero Academia to take the third spot and Megalo Box is sitting in a comfortable second. These two along with Hinamatsuri will go into the poll in December for anime of the year. Interestingly enough, I watched none of these this season which could account for why I had a pretty slow season.

Thanks to everyone who voted and shared the poll. Be sure to check back for the worst of the season coming out later.


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Karandi James

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 12: I Wonder How They’ll Deal With This Paradox?

When time travel is involved you expect that there will be paradoxes involved, or at the very least events that will leave you asking more than a few questions, and yet this one just seems like it exists to fill time while they investigate it.

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Steins;Gate has never shied away from the fact that the narrative is very firmly built upon the mechanics of time travel. It’s plunged us into loops and paradoxes previously and ultimately it has used these to its advantage and been clever enough in its approach that it hasn’t left us all pointing at a glaring hole in the time line constructed even if there are a few questionable moments.

Yet episode 12 of Steins;Gate 0 plunges us headlong into a bootstrap paradox that it takes the entire episode and then the after credits sequence to set up and I have to wonder if the payoff will be worth it. Because either we literally do have a closed loop which will leave us forever at a loss to explain where the song originated given it seems to just perpetually exists within the loop, or someone inserted the song into this loop for some reason that I’m sure will never adequately satisfy common sense.

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Still, I have to give credit where it is due, and finally doing something with Kagari’s story rather than introducing her and then getting distracted by other things is kind of nice and a return to exploring Mayuri and Okabe’s relationship, which is fundamentally why Okabe got himself into the endless loop in the first place, is also greatly appreciated. It would be nice to see this built upon a little as we go into the second half.

So what about you: how did you feel about the episode and the knot this story seems to be tying itself into?

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 11: As If Things Are Finished

You would think Okabe would have learned by now that things are never done. There’s always some angle or thread he’s missed that will come back to bite him. Still, he feels things have come to an end bringing us to a resting point in the story.

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Things moved pretty quick this episode from finding the computer, realising the person analysing it was Daru, the attack, chase sequence, explosive violence and then Maho leaving. It all came one thing on top of the other and yet didn’t feel rushed or overly cluttered. And while this was a far more interesting episode than the previous one, it still didn’t quite pack the punch of the midway point in the original series.

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I know these two lines weren’t delivered this way, but I just had to.

Still, they’ve brought us to a point where the plot has fairly infinite possibilities for where it might go next and it will be interesting to see what they do. The cast have all assembled, this world is fully constructed, but now the plot really needs to step it up and wow us to make this spin off feel like it was worth the time.

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Friday’s Feature: It’s In His Kiss

As much as I love my action, dystopian futures, horror stories, and generally violent adventures, deep down inside I have a soft spot for a well told romance story. This comes from an upbringing of watching family friendly romantic comedies with my mother on weekends while folding piles of washing or ironing or other incredibly boring chores but the laughs and sweet stories of all those girls finding their one true love definitely left an impact. Now, if I have a choice of romance or action, I’ll probably pick the action, but every now and then I’m just in the mood for something a little bit sweeter and then out come the romances.

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However, as I sought out anime romances, one thing became incredibly clear to me. There are very few romances that fall into a moderate category. Romances either present as beautiful stories of chaste characters who blush at the mere sight of one another or they present as stories with super aggressive characters who rapidly push the age rating and most people’s comfort zones. And while every now and then we’ll stumble across a story of characters who will actually just fall in love and be a couple, the more common scenario is watching twenty to forty episodes with a couple who have barely managed to hold hands.

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Yes, it is the third season after a 13 year gap, but Sousuke and Kaname finally confidently hold hands.

What this leaves us with, however, is a story that starts reading all sorts of things into fairly mundane actions. The ‘indirect’ kiss nonsense that comes up time and again is one particular example that really makes me roll my eyes. While admittedly, characters probably shouldn’t be drinking out of the same water bottle or sharing a straw or whatever (have these characters never considered glandular fever) the sheer fuss they put up about the possibility of an ‘indirect’ kiss is just insane sometimes. These characters literally melt into puddles of stammering and half the time end up dropping or knocking over the thing they were supposed to eat or drink.

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While this sequence is cute enough in one or two stories, by the time you see it play out again and again and again (don’t believe me, check out the TV Tropes page for indirect kisses and the anime examples) and it ultimately all just gets a bit silly.

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One of my favourite anime romances, Kimi ni Todoke, suffers from being one of those impossibly ridiculous stories. Sawako is a stammering mess of insecurities and doesn’t believe Kazehaya could ever have feelings for her. As a result, when it is first suggested she should date him she flat out states it is impossible. She doesn’t give him the gifts she makes him. She eventually can’t even meet his eyes. All and all, she does everything possible to make herself a cliche shoujo heroine and the type that under most circumstances would drive me half-way up the wall. I don’t know why she doesn’t because I do know that by the end of season one I wanted to slap her for not actually just kissing the guy at the shrine. Nope, you will have to wait until the end of season two before these two will actually kiss and even then, that is as far as their relationship is going. Thirty plus episodes and they finally manage a kiss. Two characters who have been in love with each other since nearly the beginning. To say the pace of that relationship progress was glacial would be being generous.

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Now not every anime romance is quite so insanely slow or chaste. Still, it is interesting how much emphasis is put on the notion of kissing your partner. In some ways it is kind of refreshing and it feels nice to know that the emotional connection between the characters is getting more emphasis then the number of times they can get the characters into the bedroom. Also nice to know that there is a focus on the narrative behind the romance rather than just showing us the characters making out. I appreciate both of these things. At the same time, like with everything else, when there isn’t a variety of relationships and relationship types being shown, it risks normalising some behaviours, marginalising some viewers, and ultimately not providing options so the argument if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, ceases to have weight.

Because a great many people want to watch romance and anime. They may not be after the super shoujo high school girl who blushes to the tips of her ears when a guy picks up her eraser, but they’d like to see a relationship unfold.

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Part of this was why I really enjoyed My Love Story. The protagonist was a male, rather then the girl, and the confession was over and done with four episodes in. The story was about them learning how to be in a relationship rather than getting to the relationship. That doesn’t mean they moved any faster given how long it took them to accomplish hand-holding and the protagonist kissed his best friend (with the aid of some cling wrap) long before he got around to trying to kiss his girlfriend but it still felt a bit different from so many other love stories.

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It was also why I was so puzzled by the number of people who tried to play down Yuri and Victor’s relationship in Yuri on Ice. The ones who claim it wasn’t a kiss and they aren’t engagement rings. Given how little physical connections characters in other ‘romance’ anime have, Yuri on Ice was outright explicit in showing off that relationship. Those two were hugging nearly from the beginning and if hungry stares are the staple of most relationships, just watch Yuri before he starts any one of his skates as he meets eyes with Victor. The average female protagonist has got nothing on that look across the ice and if it was being directed at her she’d probably claim she’d gotten pregnant on the spot.

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Admit it, you want him to be looking at you right now.

Although, the mis-information about pregnancy and sex that comes across in some anime is also a little bit alarming. I kind of get why it happens culturally but at the same time I don’t think girls claiming they’ll get pregnant from kissing a guy really helps get the right kind of information across to people. I’d suggest you not learn sex-ed from anime in the first place, but at the very least they should try to stamp out the more pervasive myths that get flung about.

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However, personal thoughts about romance aside, one thing anime does very well, is really makes those rare scenes, the kiss between the heroine and her hero, truly melting moments. Maybe it is the long wait for it, the build up, the anticipation. Maybe it is the sound tracks, the soft lighting, the sparkles. Whatever it is, one thing I know is that when a couple in anime finally get together and they finally lean in for that kiss, I know I’m usually on the edge of my seat and once or twice I’ve applauded.

Question:

Who was your favourite anime couple and what episode of their anime did they finally kiss in?


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Karandi James

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 10: And This Is Why Characters Should Speak

So, turns out Maho is having Kurisu’s computer analysed. Why is that a problem? Oh, it will just start WW3. So why would she do that? Because Okabe doesn’t tell anyone anything.

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Okabe’s been keeping a lot of secrets for the sake of ‘protecting’ those around him. Or is it more that he’s taken on the role and enjoyed playing the martyr? Because really, who has he protected by keeping them in the dark? Basically the characters are doing things that put them at risk because they don’t know what the danger is because the one person who could point it out is keeping his mouth shut even now that it is clear that danger has come back to them.

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I can kind of understand Okabe keeping quiet when everyone else was able to get on with their ordinary lives. But after the lab was stormed and he’s jumped time lines, you would think he would realise that ordinary is not an option and would lay his cards on the table. But no. That wouldn’t lead to further plot developments fuelled by characters acting in perfectly sensible ways with the information available to them.

But it does kind of shoot any tension in the foot when you realise this whole computer issue could have been avoided if Okabe had just shared a bit of knowledge. And the reason I’m so focused on this one point of the episode is the rest of it was cleaning a room, a pyjama party that involved boob groping, and some walking around and reminiscing, so other than this one point, there’s nothing else really to talk about.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 9: Putting It Together

After returning to the former world-line, Okabe seems to have found some real motivation. Things are getting serious as the ongoing implications of jumping world-lines become more and more apparent.

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During this episode it occurred to me how heavily this particular story arc is leaning on Suzuha’s character. She’s the one with the clear knowledge of the future, or other time lines and events, and the one who seems to be trying to drive Okabe into a particular decision or path. Compared to the passive Okabe who has just been trying to wash his hands of the whole situation since the beginning of this season, Suzuha has been at the core of almost everything. And now, Okabe is taking a firm stance and we see that for the first time in Steins;Gate 0 these two characters are at odds with how to progress from here.

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There were a few strange things in this episode, that I’m certain will be explained later. Like the random fever sickness that is mentioned at the hospital and the fact that another character seems to have dreamed of the other world-line at the same time as Okabe was there. Then we have a whole bunch of things that Okabe seems to be putting together as a reason for the attack but none of it seems to be clear to the audience just yet. So I guess we’re still waiting. Either that, or I just need to watch the episode again when I can think a little more clearly.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 8: Reliving The Tragedy

It has taken 8 episodes but I finally found myself emotionally invested in an episode of Steins;Gate 0. Whether this continues, I’m not sure, but this was by far the best episode this series has given us.

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It seems almost ironic that my favourite episode of Steins;Gate 0 so far is this one which actually doesn’t really progress any of the plot points from 0 at all and is almost entirely caught up in reuniting Okabe with Kurisu and ultimately making Okabe face the choice all over again of whether to sacrifice Kurisu for Mayuri or not. And while we’ve seen this heartbreaking choices made once before, Okabe is now having to make it off the back of living the reality without Kurisu and that is a fairly unpleasant experience for him, and for the viewers who were probably doing mental cartwheels at the return of our sassy red-headed science geek.

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There were several key scenes that really lifted this episode outside of Okabe’s original reuniting with Kurisu. The first is his encounter with Daru where we see Daru for the first time really get angry at Okabe, for fairly understandable reasons given the context of the time line. We also get the grave visit which was superbly, if predictably, done.  But by far my favourite moment came when Kurisu’s passing comment about how they met triggered something in Okabe. Perhaps planting a seed that would later (or earlier in terms of the original series) see him figuring out the loophole that would allow her to survive. I quite enjoyed that moment.

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We then of course got the parting kiss between the pair and this scene looks great but they really didn’t let it stand on its own suddenly blasting us with the score and removing any kind of subtlety from the emotion of the moment. It kind of took away from what should have been a fairly anticipated moment between the pair.

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However, we now have the problem of whether or not Okabe actually returned to the previous world line or ended up somewhere else again. We also still don’t really know what’s going on with anything in the world line we were originally in with this series. None of the other characters or plot points had even a moment’s attention this week so everything just kind of got put on hold. So while I really did enjoy this reunion episode, I have to say it leaves me wondering how the next episode can possibly hold up.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 7: Leaping To Conclusions is Fun

I wondered when we would get a Mozart reference and they definitely shoved it in there. I’m just not sure it makes any sense for that kind of a logical leap when trying to figure out a random number.

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While this episode was a lot more interesting, that is probably because we’ve got bad guys waving around guns and shooting the TV. Seriously, the TV was an innocent bystander here. But while events are certainly moving along and we’re gathering allies and gearing up for intrigue, this episode still fails to engage the way even the slowest of the original’s episodes did.

And part of that is because we’ve all been waiting for this moment. Another reason is that none of these characters are as interesting in this world line as they were in the original story. Furthermore, not enough has been done to make me want to care about the AI and the ramifications of it. Other than the nostalgia trip and the emotional trip it was taking Okabe on, Amadeus hasn’t been that interesting.

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The best moment of the episode came right at the end before the credits where something I actually didn’t expect occurred and now I’m wanting to know how and why it happened. That doesn’t actually mean I’m more engaged with this story. It means that once again they’ve dropped next episode bait in the last five minutes and they are kind of hoping that keeps carrying the audience given the middle of each episode so far has been pretty ordinary.

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