REVIEW: Steins;Gate

*SPOILERS: Don’t read this if you don’t like being spoiled.*

For the past…Oh, I don’t know – 3 years, maybe – I’ve been hearing that Steins;Gate is a masterpiece. Finally, I have sat down and watched the series (including the OVA). Is the hype real? Did it live up to its crazy expectations for me? You bet it did! And it all boils down to one simple thing: execution of character.

Plot Direction:

The plot revolves around Okabe Rintarou and his sudden discovery that his microwave (dubbed the ‘Phone Microwave’) is a time machine that can send text messages to the past following a strange occurrence when he sent a text message to his friend, Hashida Itaru (Daru), that young genius girl Makise Kurisu had been stabbed that results in no one remembering him attending a conference that day, and Makise Kurisu alive. From there, he allows various characters to send “DeLorean Mail” (D-Mail) to themselves to change a facet of their past. Some of the changes are small, and others completely change the city. The more drastic changes cause people’s memories to change, reflecting the change in the past. Okabe, however, retains all of his memories, allowing him to remember what happened before the past was changed, but it prevents him from forming the new memories. At some point, Kurisu develops a way to transmit human memories into the past 48 hours (called ‘time leaping’). These inventions catch the attention of a super science organization, SERN, and it winds up with Mayuri killed by Kiryuu Moeka. This causes Okabe to time leap back to try and save her many, many times, until he finds out that the only way to save Mayuri is to reverse all the D-Mails sent, including one he sent to Daru about Kurisu being stabbed. This leads to a bunch of episodic parts where Okabe tries to convince those who have sent a D-Mail to undo them, including himself.

Okay, with that not brief summary out of the way, this plot is fantastic, and executed perfectly. The way the show explores themes such as what-if scenarios, personal conflicts about someone’s past, how the future can’t be changed sometimes, and the lengths someone will go for a person they love, is indescribable. How they craft each conflict that arises and is resolved was really a sight to behold, how they hook you with the mystery of time and the conflicts that revolve around it – it’s really something. And unfortunately, it’s not something that words can do justice.

The pacing is slow in the beginning, and then ramps up dramatically as the series progresses. I’ve heard criticisms of the anime’s slow start, but I have to disagree with those criticisms; I found the early episodes to be slow, but very gripping. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. What were the characters going to find out? I had to know.

Character:

Speaking of the characters, I could write an entire blog post on some of these characters (which, really, is probably why I enjoyed Steins;Gate so much). I’d go into crazy amounts of detail about each character, but that’d take too long and it’d be a chore to read. Instead, I want to talk about how this entire show is character-driven.

There’s nothing more enticing and satisfying than a show where the characters are the reason the show happens in the first place. While the very beginning where Okabe shifts world lines is kind of an accident, it’s not by some looming power that shifts him to another world line. Rarely does something just happen like in other shows where suddenly something happens and the plot/world changes. And when it does, Okabe investigates with the other characters. They try to figure out the how and the why.

Every D-Mail sent by a character is because they desired things to be different – to change their past, and when Okabe has to undo them, the conflict that arises is surprisingly relatable; who would want to unfix something they’ve been wanting their entire life? It clashes directly with Okabe’s burning desire to save Mayuri, who can only be saved by undoing them. It’s really powerful stuff when an entire plot is driven by a character’s motivation, emotions, and curiosity, especially when most of the conflict arises not with the characters and some greater power, but with the other characters themselves. To see characters so vulnerable and selfish and to resolve things through not so clean conflict all the time – it’s just fantastic. I love it.

Honestly, it doesn’t feel like any character is dead weight. They all bring something to the table, especially since most of them have a history that is explored in at least an episode that helps bring some understanding to who they are and why they act the way they do. Kurisu’s burning desire to seek approval and love from her father again, Okabe’s really annoying “Houhouin Kyouma” persona crafted to ease Mayuri’s pain over the loss of her grandmother and his own loneliness – there’s just so much depth to these characters, and it’s all put on display brilliantly in how they interact. Even a seemingly minor character like Yuugo Tennoji has a very powerful scene near the end of the show.

Animation/Art:

The character designs are great, and the animation is consistent throughout the show. Really, there’s nothing to complain about. I was very impressed with the angles and shots used during some of the more emotional scenes. It was very well-done.

Music:

Usually I enjoy the music, but nothing really grips me. As I’m writing this I’m listening to the Opening theme. I loved both it and the Ending theme, and the music in the show was great. It’s almost on-par with Clannad’s music for me.

——

Steins;Gate is touted as a masterpiece. I’ve read online reviews and a lot of word of mouth from friends telling me that it’s simply one of the best anime they’ve ever seen. Well, I’m here to add to that ever-growing list of fans.

Steins;Gate is a masterpiece.

Animation/Art: 10/10
Music: 10/10
Plot Direction: 10/10
Character: 10/10
Final Score: 10/10

Just sayin’

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REVIEW: The Devil is a Part-Timer

*SPOILERS: Don’t read this if you don’t like being spoiled.*

One night, I was in the mood to watch some anime. I started browsing through Netflix and came across The Devil is a Part-Timer, which said it was a comedy about Satan working part-time at a fast food restaurant. I was intrigued and up for some light-hearted comedy, and it was only 13 episodes, so I gave it a shot.

Man, do I wish it had been longer than 13 episodes!

Background

After being defeated by the Hero in Ente Isla, Satan retreats to Earth, where he winds up in modern-day Tokyo with his most trusted general, Alciel. After realizing that magic doesn’t work, they decide to find a place to live, change their names (to Maou and Ashiya), and bide their time until they can return to Ente Isla and conquer it. Little do they know that the Hero, Emilia (Earth name Emi) has cahsed them down to slay them once and for all and save Ente Isla. It’s a really good premise; simple, to-the-point, and best of all, has amazing potential. But does it deliver?

Plot Direction

Oh yes. Yes it does!

So, this show is a comedy. And it’s a comedy about Satan, an almost omnipotent being, working at a MgRonald’s (yes that is a blatant reference to McDonald’s!). Just thinking about it is pretty chuckle-worthy, and really, the comedy is pulled off great, but what I really want to touch on in this review is where this anime goes in (sadly) only 13 episodes.

There’s a lot of development in character and story in this show, and it does that really nicely, even though almost every single episode feels like a filler episode. What this show is really about, to me, is what if the roles of the Devil and the Hero were (somewhat) reversed? Sure, there’s a lot of stories where the enemy is misunderstood and trying to do something for the greater good, but there’s always something that leaves you wanting them defeated. In this show, Satan is the protagonist, and he’s the protagonist not because this show is about being evil – no, it’s about role reversal.

Emi, the Hero, is actually an anti-hero, as you find out. She has that perfect tragic Hero backstory – she was taken away from her family to be trained as the Hero, she finds out her father dies from a general of Maou’s army, and then swears vengeance on him. This is flipped into being an anti-hero when it’s revealed that there is no “destiny” to slay the Devil King. The church in Ente Isla fooled her as part of an elaborate plot to take over. Unfortunately, this whole backstabbing isn’t explored nearly as much as I would have liked, but that’s because there’s only 13 episodes. If there’s a second season I really hope they go into more detail about this, because it’s something I’d love to see more of.

So the show basically puts you in this weird spot where Emi continues to try and stick to “being the Hero”, even though there was no grand destiny, in order to justify her wanting to kill Maou because his army killed her father, while Maou continues to bewilder her and others who come into the show trying to stop him (because he’s the Devil King) when he does nothing but good, even when he momentarily regains his demonic power due to the negative emotions elicited by people.

Frankly, this is one of the best role reversal plots I’ve experienced. It’s all pretty subtle save for a few episodes, and it’s garnished with a hefty helping of comedic frosting. While I’m sure others can, I can’t find anything I disliked about where the show went or its plot as a whole, and that’s in part due to how well these characters develop.

Character:

This is, hands-down, the best part of this show. In particular, Emi stands out as the pinnacle of a developing character.

Maou develops, but it’s more that he opens up to you like a friend becoming closer to you than him really changing. You find out that he only attacked humans in Ente Isla due to misunderstanding them, and that he actually prefers living on Earth because the people there have been kind to him. It’s this living in modern-day Tokyo that Maou comes to understand, appreciate, and respect humans. It’s weird to see someone who’s supposed to be evil be so kind, especially when it involves Emi.

This isn’t in the anime explicitly, but while looking the show up I came across the light novel (which it started out as), and there’s a scene where Maou tells Emi that she has to keep an eye on him and stop him because he’s going to take over Ente Isla someday, even though both of them know that’s not going to happen. It’s an incredible scene for both of them, with Maou selflessly lying just to appease the distraught Emi. Again, it’s somewhere waaaay down the line in the light novel, but I think it’s worth mentioning because that kind of perfect role-reversal is very subtle throughout the anime, whereas it’s a little more clean-cut in that scene.

Speaking of Emi, she’s probably the most developed character. She goes from the Hero, hell-bent on taking out Maou, to a girl who doesn’t exactly know what she should be doing concerning Maou because her only desire is to exact revenge on him for her father. She bluffs that she needs to take him out because she’s “the Hero”, but she values him as an unlikely friend. She even goes out of her way to talk someone of the church of Ente Isla into holding off on slaying Maou despite all the horrible things he did in Ente Isla, claiming that it was her duty as the Hero.

The rest of the characters all undergo some sort of development, and really, I’d like to write about all of them, but in this review I really wanted to touch on the dramatic role-reversal that’s subtly masked under an anime labeled as a comedy, and how brilliantly it’s executed. Trust me when I say that pretty much every character is enjoyable and undergoes some form of character development. It’s fantastic.

——

The Devil is a Part-Timer was a show I randomly decided to watch on Netflix, and it rocketed into the top 5 for me. This show has it all for me – action, great comedy, character, and plot, and to top it all off, the animation is really good. The only really glaring flaw is that it’s only 13 episodes. Still, If you’re looking for something to marathon through and get way more than you expected out of it, check this anime out!

Animation/Art: 9/10
Music: 7/10
Plot Direction: 10/10
Character: 10/10
Final Score: 9/10

Just sayin’

Blue Man Group

Over Spring Break, my family and I went to see the Blue Man Group. Apparently the show had been re-done to include new bits from the last time I saw it years ago while in Orlando, and when I saw it in Orlando I loved it, so needless to say, I was excited.

And, oh, did they deliver!

There were a few fan favorites: the PVC pipe drumming, paint drumming, and the classic dinner scene where they take a member of the audience and eat with them. Those were still great, and to be honest, those bits are always awesome to see (not to mention the eating bit is still hilarious), especially when the music they produce is fantastic.

The new stuff – the space PVC pipe drumming, the iPhone*, and the DANCE PARTY were all incredible additions. They said the show now had more WOW!, and I’m inclined to agree with that.

One of the most memorable parts of Blue Man Group when I first saw it was when the entire theatre turned ons tribe lights and toiler paper was thrown everywhere. They keep the strobe lights, they keep the toilet paper, but they add giant (I’m talking at least 12ft radius, here), glow-in-the-dark beach balls that people were hitting into the air. It was insane! The entire audience was dancing, screaming, throwing toilet paper around, and hitting giant beach balls, all to some super godlike dance music, plus strobe and colored lights flashing in and out.

It was easily the best show I’ve ever been to. If you’re a fan of Blue Man Group, or you haven’t seen them, GO SEE THEM. You won’t regret it!

Just Sayin’

* I saw Blue Man Group for the first time years ago, so I forgot if they had an iPhone section back then or not. It certainly looked new to me.