And here we go, the first of the spring/summer anime reviews! Got a lot of series finishing up at once, had four finish up last week, one later this week and then I believe five next week, needless to say it's going to take me quite a while to get through all of them. But let's start with a good one, one whom I only tried because (my exact thought process) "well, I watch Doctor Who which involves time-traveling in a blue box, clearly this means that I need to watch a show that involves an even more ridiculous method of time travel, ie, sending text messages through a microwave through time." The first few episodes didn't grab me though, it wasn't until I was behind on my anime and asked my friend to choose what I should watch next (they choose "the anime with the gel bananas") that I really got into the groove and then halfway through the show I realized that I was watching one of the most plot-heavy shows of the season which was exactly what I wanted to watch, so glad I stuck with it.
Summary: "Mad Scientist Houuin Kyouma" (Okarin "Okabe" Rintaro) enjoys his life of inventing weird, useless objects with his friend Hasida "Daru" Itaru while his friend Shiina "Mayushii" Mayuri hangs out in the apartment he calls their lab. But one day at a lecture discussing the theory of time travel a series of events unfolds and Okabe realizes that one of their inventions, the phone microwave (name subject to change) really does work and he's the only one who can see that it's changed the past. At first this seems like the perfect way to grant wishes and goof off but soon they realize that all of their actions have created some very big consequences.
The Good: Unlike the aforementioned Doctor Who, time-travel is at the heart of Steins;Gate and the careful attention to it and that helps make it a very plot-heavy show, possibly the best show in that regard this year. And even though it's plot heavy it still manages to focus on it's characters much of the time, especially in the down periods between big events, and because of all the character interaction it's an insanely quotable show. Funny enough, it's one of the more "realistic" depictions of time travel in fiction and shows very clearly the butterfly effect and discusses a few different theories of time travel and parallel worlds as well, hardly scientific but after seeing so many shows use time-travel as a means to an end, not exploring what could really happen as a result of their actions, it's a nice change.
The Bad: If you don't like the characters then you're going to have a hard time liking this show, it's the kind of show where the plot is started and constantly affected by the characters actions and feelings. Not all the characters get an equal amount of character development either (Daru is the most underdeveloped of the bunch, all of the girls and Ruka get their own arcs which helps) which is more going to bother fans of those particular characters than anyone else (also, since the anime follows the "true route" of the game there are other game routes people can look up to find out more about some of the characters).
The Audio: There may be only one opening and one ending theme for Steins;Gate but this show knows how to use it to maximum effect. They use the old trick of "playing the credits and music over the final scene for extra impact" at one point but they also do a few more unusual themes. At one point it seems like the show is completely wrapped up but an attentive viewer will hear that the ending theme is different and, if that tips them off, they'll notice the animation is subtlety different as well, something I've never done before. Likewise, for those final few episodes afterwords the second verse of the opening song is used instead of the first (again with a few differences in the opening animation) and they also play the game's opening song (for the Xbox 360 version, the name of the song is "Sky-Clad Observer" for the ending song instead. Technically no new music is used there but that makes it all even more clever and I wish more anime would mix up their tracks like that as well (the lyrics themselves also work brilliantly, even though all of them have female singers it's clear that the songs are about Okabe and his struggles through the show). As for the voice acting, there is some incredibly emotional acting in the last few arcs and it's among the best I've ever heard in an anime.
The Visuals: While Steins;Gate might not be as visually interesting as one of Studio White Fox's other work Katanagari* but mostly it has solid artwork and a few really neat scenes. However, towards the end of the anime some of the voice actors are giving really emotional performances but the characters faces look very flat and don't match the intensity of the scenes at all. This happened a few times in the later episodes, not just once, and it bugged me to hear the voice actors trying so hard yet it didn't match the characters facial expressions at all.
I went in not expecting much at all and ended up watching one of my favorite shows of the year, not bad! Funimation licensed this a few months ago in a bit of a new anime licensing spree so I'm hoping that the DVD/BRs come out sometime late next year and I fully intend to buy and rewatch the show, I'm sure there are some details I missed on the first go through and some that will make so much more sense now that I've seen the whole show.
*for those wondering, this is White Fox's third work that they have produced instead of helping out on