Faking It – An Anime QandA Review of ‘Conception’ Episode 3
What’s the show? Conception, Episode 3.
So how’s the episode? I don’t know—did Conception just become an anime about sex again when it literally spent (nearly) an entire episode last week trying to convince me it ~wasn’t~ about sex? I’m so confused…
Oh dear, what’s happened now? Well Itsuki is told that in order to create more powerful ‘star children’ he needs to perform the ‘ritual’ with two star maidens at the same time. And I swear half of this episode was the pervert Tanuki mugging and making inappropriate jokes which you know—it is what it is. So Reone (the doctor one) elects herself to be one of the ~ménage a trois~ while Itsuki picks Falun a flighty dancer. Within ~minutes~ of their meeting she’s down for the threesome and then it happens and um…
What? Well all goes well, two ‘star children’ are born and Reone and Falun look mighty satisfied with what’s happened to them—like Reone comments that her legs are too weak to stand while Falun just straight up says “I came to the ends of the universe”. There’s no ambiguity there, something sexual happened for sure, unless of course the show bait and switches us again next week and we learn that the love ritual can cause orgasms just by holding hands. Which if that’s the case my quit anime forever.
Whoa! That’s a bit drastic isn’t it? I just hate ambiguity in my fan service—I mean it shouldn’t be this difficult to set a baseline for what the heck is going on especially in a show that seemed so un-ambiguous in its first episode only to completely back-flip on everything it supposedly stood for!
Sounds like all you do is complain about this show recently… Only because I’m frustrated at how unfulfilled its obvious potential is! This show could be truly something memorable (and for the right reasons) but instead its kind of treading water in both and neither simultaneously. But all that said and done, I do genuinely enjoy this show—if only a surface level.
Which means? These girls are good-looking, this setting is weird and interesting, I enjoy the more personal scenes between Itsuki and his childhood friend Mahiru and I do want to see how this series climaxes for the lack of a better word. I just wish it was more consistent in what kind of show it wanted to be, because I don’t know if these girls are getting the whole hog or just the tip and it’s giving me blue balls!
Holding Hands Counts As Making Babies – An Anime QandA Review of ‘Conception’ Episode 2
What’s the show? Conception, Episode 2.
So how’s this episode? Boo.
Huh? Are you trying to “boobs” and made a typo? Why do you always assume that’s all that’s on my mind. Geez! No, I’m booing this anime, it betrayed me and lied to me—this is why I have trust issues!
Uh-huh… so how exactly did this dumb anime about a guy having to have sex with 12 girls betray you? It’s not about sex at all! The one thing unique and interesting about this show was all a lie! The episode resumes just as Itsuki and Mahiru are about to have sex when Reone interrupts them to tell them a ‘star child’ has been born. Turns out all you have to do to have a ‘star child’ in this universe is “absolute trust and some physical closeness” and *yawn*
Wow, you’re certainly being harsh on the show! Harsh yes, because it’s not like there was any benefit to the lie or any motive, it’s just the hook to get people to watch the show. And now I feel silly titling the first episode what I did, because now, I’m lying to my readers (or people who glance at review titles in Google searches) because I bought into this shows deception. Heh, ‘Conception more like Deception’ is what I should have titled this review…
So what does this mean? Are you dropping the show or something? God no. It’s still a harem anime with 12 “love” interests, that in of itself is enough for me to keep watching for a full season. And I still laughed at and enjoyed this episode a decent amount—and seemingly the production values have improved a little? Or maybe I’m just used to it already, either way, even with the central draw of the show being false, this episode was arguably better than the first. Though I was absolutely right about the ‘format’ this series is going to take going forward.
And what was that again? That each episode will be about a different ‘star maiden’ and Itsuki having to learn about the girl and get emotionally close and earn their trust before getting ‘physically’ close to them. It’s certainly showing its video-game roots, even moreso than the Persona series does and while that’s somewhat unappealing for an adaptation I kind of don’t mind here because the show is almost self-aware of this face. Almost.
So you’re still happy with this show? My feelings were complicated in the last episode, ranging between thinking it was ‘trash’ to ‘kinda okay’ to ‘loving it’. I think we can add ‘betrayed but buoyant’ to that too. But at the same time the dirty jokes are amped up here so it kind of makes up for the fact that there’s no ~actual~ sex… even if the dirty jokes primarily come from Mana the Tanuki who’s still annoying but far less ‘all up in the camera’ like he was last episode. So yeah… relationship status with this show is definitely “it’s complicated”.
Sexy/Trash/Anime – An Anime QandA Review of ‘Conception’ Episode 1
What’s the show? Conception, Episode 1.
Uh-huh and how is it? This is a momentous day for harem anime fans the world over—today we bare witness to something that’s been a long time coming, ever since the first harem anime aired a thousand years ago (or 1992, same difference) audiences the world over have been shouting at their screen for the protagonist to just have sex with all the sexy anime girls who are obviously so DTF! Finally a harem anime where the protagonist actually has sex with all the girls in said harem. Finally a protagonist with the balls (and penis too but this isn’t an anatomy lesson) to take charge and thrust forward into a brave new world!
…What on earth are you on about? I’m talking about Conception of course; an isekai harem anime in which two high-schoolers Itsuki Yuge and his childhood friend Mahiru Konatsuki are transported to the futuristic fantasy world of Granvania. It’s a world that’s been plunged into chaos by “impurities” and the only way to save the world is for Isuki to have sex with the 12 ‘Star Maidens’ in order to produce ‘Star Children’ to combat the “impurities” and until he’s completed this task he and Mahiru cannot return home!
Well… that’s certainly high concept… I think? Think what you will, peasant! But you are beholden to the next generation of harem anime, the series destined to change the very world of harems forever!
So I take it you like this show huh? Eh, it’s okay.
Wait, what?! Then what was with all that grand standing before?It sounded like you were really into the idea? You’re correct, I’m into the idea of it, I’m just not sold on the execution here. First of all this show looks really cheap looking, like a bargain bin anime—if such a thing even exists—it’s lazily animated and very ugly at times. Secondly—and I’ll probably get some flack for this but it feels too much like a game—the same way the Danganronpa anime did. I can already tell each episode is going to follow the same format, we meet a new ‘Star Maiden’ he gets to know them some, there will probably be some lame action scene, and then he goes to pound town. Rinse and repeat for 12 episodes.
Oh. So you didn’t like it at all? No actually I loved it.
But, wait… huh?! It’s refreshing to see something so subversive—also sex is so rare in anime that it feels different because of that sole fact—something which may be lost on the casual viewer.
Sex is rare in anime? Yes. While sexuality definitely isn’t—in fact there’s probably no form of media (other than porn) that’s more sexualised than anime but despite all the fan-service and boobs and upskirts and skimpy outfits and what not, you seldom see kissing, let alone sex—even in romance anime! So for this show to have both right off the bat in the first episode, and the promise of more in every single episode is kind of a remarkable gimmick.
Okay. So the opinion is somewhere between “okay” and “loved it” then? Nah it was trash.
…I… uh, what…? The show had the audacity to skip over ~semi-important~ lore (presumably) and literally have a character hold up a sign saying “visit the website for more information”, like if you can’t even be bothered to try then why bother! Also said character, who serves as a sort of ‘guide’ to this new world for our protagonists is an annoying flaying Tanuki named Mana who speaks with a shrill voice and makes crude jokes—you know kinda like that another annoying wise-cracking animal mascot from that game-based anime I mentioned earlier… Also this show has a bit of a “forced intercourse” vibe—which is just a polite way of saying it’s rape-y. We’ve got our two high-school aged protagonists who have to have intercourse with each other otherwise they’ll never be able to leave this world!
Wait, so the girl the male protagonist came with into this new world is…? Yes she’s one of the 12 star maidens too.
So you “love this okay trash” is that the final opinion? It’s kinda clever and kinda romantic too—I mean if you’re forcing me to put some adjectives into that sentence.
Explain. So removing all external influences and the fact that these two are forced to have sex with each other, there’s actually a really sweet scene where Mahiru confides to Itsuki that she has thought about the idea of them ‘being together’—after all they’ve been friends for ~ages~ and they share a familiarity and intimacy. And so they look into each others eyes, he fumbles a bit but she helps him and then they kiss and then they… well *insert a bunch of sexually suggestive close-ups of skin rubbing against each other* and then end credits!
Right. So the final sentence comes out to something like: “I love this kinda clever, but really just okay, kinda romantic trash.” Does that sum it up? Just wait til I tell you about the other ‘Star Maidens’ who are about to be involved in this sexed up harem… I’m sure you’ll find some fun new adjectives to want to add to that sentence. But you know what, this review has gone on long enough, let’s leave that ‘til we meet them properly, shall we?
Okay, but one last question as this is the first episode, who do you recommend this to? Strictly for people who actually like harem anime’s—there’s no point otherwise—also for those who are willing to overlook some serious production issues and subversive content.
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PERSONA 5 the Animation – Full Season QandA Rundown
What’s the important information? Persona 5: The Animation is a Spring 2018 anime that aired 26 episodes between April and September. It is based on the Persona 5 video game released by Atlus.
What’s it about? Ren Amamiya is a high school student, who, after being in the wrong place at the wrong time ends up on probation. He moves to Shibuya to start a new life under the roof of a family friend but soon finds himself caught up in something bigger and more important than he could possibly imagine. He has unlocked the supernatural power of ‘Personas’ and with it the ability to change the hearts of wrong-doers, with the help of his new friends they become the ‘Phantom Thieves of Hearts’ a group of vigilantes intent on saving innocents from those who abuse power. But things aren’t ever just that simple…
Why did you watch it? I played the Persona 5 game so naturally I’m going to see how much the stuff it up, uh, err, I mean faithfully adapt it for television…
Did you enjoy the show? For the most part, yes I did. It simultaneously made me fondly remember the best parts of the game (the story and the character development) while glossing over the infuriating parts of it (the back-tracking, the repetitive battles) while also wonder why it so faithfully adapted things that could have easily been cut for the sake of a more streamlined experience. Ultimately though it’s interesting and entertaining even for someone who’s played the game so that’s got to be a recommendation of sorts!
What was your favourite episode? With so many episodes and none of them specifically distinct the whole series kind of blends together into an amorphous blob but the most faithful episode (at least as far as I’m concerned) was the first beach episode (Episode 18) where Futaba starts coming out of her proverbial shell so I’ll pick that one!
What were your most favourite things about the show? Despite the fact that I played the game with English dubs but watched the show with original Japanese voices I still think they perfectly captured the essence of every character (with the exception perhaps being Ryuji who I still prefer in English). Also, unlike Persona 4 the Animation this series feels less like a video game adaptation and more its own thing—which for newcomers is a very important thing.
What were your least favourite things about the show? This show tries too hard to squeeze every little thing that was even ~vaguely~ significant about the game into the show which adds to the narrative bloat and ends up with a lot of pointless asides that while ostensibly ‘fan-service’ for players of the game fall flat for everyone else. Characters like Hifumi Togo the Shogi player and Chihaya Mifune the psychic are introduced and ~vaguely~ returned to, but never in the same substantial way that they are in the game so their inclusion feels like pointless padding in a show already stuffed to bursting.
Who was your favourite character? In the game it was Futaba, she was best girl—but without the adaptation of her romantic plot line the connection feels lost. The character who came across the best in this adaptation was surprisingly Sojiro, the surrogate father figure to our protagonist and all around good guy—bet you didn’t expect me to pick an old dude over a waifu!
Thoughts on the OP (opening) and ED (ending) and the soundtrack in general? Not to keep referencing the game too much but its soundtrack was a definite highlight and thankfully most of it remains for the adaptation, the various OP’s and ED’s are all sung by Lyn as they were in the game but in serving as OP’s and ED’s they draw ~more~ attention to themselves and thus highlight the quality of the soundtrack overall.
What’s something unique about this show? It seems weird to say but the fact that we got 26 episodes of a video game adaptation and we’re still not done with the completed adaptation! Yes, that’s right, a ‘special’ episode will air in late 2018 to wrap up the story proper! Maybe this isn’t especially unique but it kind of felt like it for me!
What other anime are most like it for the sake of comparison? It should go without saying that it’s somewhat similar to Persona 4 but this show carries more style and panache than that show ever could muster. There have been plenty of shows throughout the years that focus on the struggle between oppressed and oppressor but none have felt more nascent and timely than Persona 5.
Who would you recommend it to? If you’ve played the game, then obviously this series comes recommended. Just don’t expect a 1:1 retelling of events nor anything that expands upon the universe. If you haven’t played the game the series is still worth watching for those interested in a compelling drama with interesting and charismatic characters.
Sum up the season in one sentence: ‘Social Justice Warriors; the anime!’
What’s the important information? Steins;Gate 0 is a Spring/Summer 2018 science fiction anime that aired 23 episodes from April to September. It is based off the visual novel of the same name which is a sequel to the first Steins;Gate anime and visual novel.
What’s it about? In a divergent timeline from the original Steins;Gate series, Rintaro Okabe fails to save the life of his love interest Kurisu and is presented with a world in which World War 3 will occur from the major global powers fighting over time machines. Several months have passed and Okabe is learning to live life again when he meets two former colleagues of Kurisu’s, Hiyajo Maho and Alexis Leskinen who have been working on an AI project called Amadeus—based on the compiled memories of Kurisu just months before her death.
Why did you watch it? The original Steins;Gate anime is one of my Top 10 anime of all time and any chance to have more experiences with the cast and setting that I loved so much was something I was eager to have! There’s no mistaking that it was my number 1 most anticipated show of Spring 2018!
Did you enjoy the show? I reviewed each of the 23 episodes weekly on the site (links can be found below) and almost immediately I was enraptured by the more personal, more contemplative version of Steins;Gate and specifically our protagonist Okabe. Everything was darker, more subdued, more meditative and I loved it so much for it, it wasn’t ~trying~ to recapture something from the past, it was its own show and all the better for it.
What was your favourite episode? I said it during the reviews and I’ll stick by it, Episode 22, struck a perfect balance and showed Akihabara—a city I have great fondness—for in such a reverent way. It also put to rest the long lingering mourning that Okabe had for Kurisu by getting rid of the AI Amadeus, but doing so in an appropriately emotional way for everyone concerned.
What were your most favourite things about the show? That this was its own show and not a lazy cash-in or fan-service laden rehash. With the exception of a few late-game moments Steins;Gate 0 is it’s own unique beast. I love that the series shows the effect of grief so thoroughly and doesn’t brush off the lasting impact losing someone (repeatedly) has on a person’s mind, body and soul.
What were your least favourite things about the show? I don’t know… while there were individual episodes that I nitpicked a lot in hindsight nothing really seemed especially egregious. If I were forced to choose, I’d say some characters were perhaps underutilised given we were introduced to new characters and had all the old ones return so content was perhaps stretched thin so that everyone had something to do—even if it was seemingly inconsequential.
Who was your favourite character? Maho! Maho is best girl, better than Kurisu, better than Mayuri. What’s that? You didn’t ask me who was ‘best girl’ but ‘best character’? I’m sorry, I don’t see the difference!
Thoughts on the OP (opening) and ED (ending) and the soundtrack in general? It’s a hard act to follow, having an OP that compares to the brilliance of the original Steins;Gate’s “Hacking To The Gate” by Kanako Ito. And kudos to the lady she comes close—arguably the lyrical content of Steins;Gate 0’s OP “Fatima” is better it’s just not quite as catchy as the original. The first ED, “LAST GAME” by Zwei is great, evoking almost a late 90’s James Bond credit aesthetic that I totally dig! While the second ED “World-Line” by Asami Imai is pretty much trash.
What’s something unique about this show? It’s hard to imagine something that is ostensibly alt-fiction of a different timeline to not only be so compelling but also almost supersede the original in terms of narrative satisfaction and yet here we are. My love for the original series perhaps makes me a little biased but I can’t help but be enraptured by this more mature approach to the series.
What other anime are most like it for the sake of comparison? For once this is an easy question to answer, put simply if you like Steins;Gate you should find something to like about this series unless all your after is more of the same as the original in which case just go watch the original again.
Who would you recommend it to? Firstly, watching the original Steins;Gate is absolutely a pre-requisite, you’ll be lost otherwise. So if you’ve watched the original and want a darker-alternate ending that not only compliments the original but expands the universe and narrative substantially then this is the show for you!
Sum up the season in one sentence: ‘The past is the past, let’s focus on the present and make the most of it.’
A Means To An End – An Anime QandA Review of ‘Steins;Gate 0’ Episode 23
What’s the show? Steins;Gate 0, Episode 23.
So here we are—the season finale of the show that some months ago you said was “even better than the original Steins;Gate”, do you remember that? I can’t even remember what I said last week let alone ~months~ ago, cut me some slack, will ya?!
Well since you mention last week, here’s something you said then that’s worth repeating, and I quote: “Calling it now, this was my favourite episode of the season and no matter how good next week’s finale is nothing will be able to beat this one!” End quote. Listen, I say a lot of things in the heat of the moment and I’ve been known to engage in hyperbole on occasion…
Uh-huh, so regretting those words now, is this finale better than the previous episode? Actually you know what, no, it’s not, it’s ~as good~ as last week, that is to say it’s almost perfect—just in a different way than last week’s near-perfection.
Okay, so what’s so good about it? While last week was moody and contemplative, a fitting penultimate episode and almost like a eulogy—this week brings the high-energy and big drama and raised stakes. It’s also pretty damn complicated, which for this show is certainly saying something, I’m not saying I was ever confused at any point in this show but this is certainly not an episode you’d want to be distracted with other things while watching.
So what happens in the episode? You know what, I’m not going to go into a full beat-by-beat analysis of everything that happened in the episode. What I will do is highlight a couple of things I felt this episode did exceptionally well and was utterly delighted with. If you want a full synopsis of the episode I’m sure you can find it elsewhere!
Well that’s a smart idea, turn away half the people reading this to other sites, but whatever you’re the boss… I loved that Okabe didn’t rob Mayuri and Suzuha of their importance in the narrative and Mayuri’s newfound confidence in her ‘role’ in Okabe’s life. They got to do what they intended to do and did a fine job of it too—the scene where Steins;Gate 0 Mayuri is talking to original Steins;Gate Mayuri over the phone was exceptional and emotional in all the right ways. Likewise their resignation to whatever fate was about to befall them as they slipped through history with the time machine being out of fuel was kind of beautiful.
Wait, so Mayuri and Suzuha are lost in time? Come now… this is still Okabe’s story, he’s not going to let things end like that! Back in future time 2025 Okabe’s about to cheat his destiny by changing the “prophecy” that he dies that year by using the time machine to leave (and therefore technically not existing anymore) and with it he intends to track down Mayuri and Suzuha. And I’ll be honest, I don’t actually know if any of what Okabe was saying about being able to track them down made sense from a series technical continuity standpoint. I don’t remember the original Steins;Gate all that well, I loved it, it’s one of my top 10 anime of all time, but I’ve still only ever seen it once. Regardless of it though, I believed he would find them and as the time machine disappeared and the end credits started to roll I had a vague doubt about whether the show was going to leave things ~ambiguous~.
And does it? Of course not! The post-credit scene not only gives Okabe his “big-win” that he’s been searching for all this time but ends the series on a monumental high!
Well the show might not have left things ambiguous but this review certainly contains more mystery that it oughta. Listen, I may have talked up this show plenty throughout the season but I’m definitely no expert on the series—if you want expert reviews go to people like Irina who’ve actually played the Visual Novels this series is based on, they’re far more qualified to talk about the rich detail of this series! As for me, I can just tell you what I thought about the episode as a series finale, it was fantastic, I loved every minute of it and I’m more than satisfied with this conclusion!
A Night To Remember – An Anime QandA Review of ‘Steins;Gate 0’ Episode 22
What’s the show? Steins;Gate 0, Episode 22.
So what happens in th— Calling it now, this was my favourite episode of the season and no matter how good next week’s finale is nothing will be able to beat this one!
—Not even making people read a little bit of the review to find out your opinion on the episode, huh? Sorry, I got excited—but I’m not the only one who has problems containing their excitement when reviewing things!
Eh, whatever man, it’s your site. So what happens in this episode that’s got you so sold on this episode’s overall quality as legendary status? Well it starts off a bit uneven but by the time we get to Okabe showing Amadeus [Kurisu] around Akihabara I’d absolutely fallen in love with the episode.
Ah… the tried and true ‘Akihabara Fan-Service’ technique, hmm? What ever do you mean?
Whenever any show even ~mentions~ the place—let alone shows it—you’re all over it, praising it like it’s the best thing since sliced bread! Fine, I’ll admit I’m a slut for Akiba but you know what, regardless of the reverent way this show presents Akihabara and the attention to detail, this was also a meditative, emotional and touching send-off to a character who’s kind of been overlooked for more than half the season. And letting us see Akiba through Amadeus [Kurisu’s] eyes was the perfect way—at least for me—to have us connect with a character who by all logic we shouldn’t have a connection with.
Why shouldn’t we have a connection with her? Because she’s an AI, she may be based on someone we used to know, or rather someone Okabe used to love, but she’s not that person. And getting that stark reminder, while simultaneously reinforcing how real the illusion can feel and how genuine the emotions seem brought me back to the way this show was in the first 9 or so episodes when I was calling it “one of the best shows ever” and “better than the original”.
Oh yeah, I remember that, you sure did make a big deal about this show back then—feels like a lifetime ago… What’s more I think the way they decided to scale back the Hyouin Kyouma bits and allow Okabe to still be fragile and contemplative as well as occasionally manic made this episode a lot more believable. Had that other persona returned fully and without respite it would have made the show something it’s not.
Anything else you wanted to add? I don’t often talk about the production values of an episode and even more rarely do I speak of them when they’re good (after all we only usually comment when things are bad) but I was blown away at how gorgeous Akiba looked during the last half of the episode—they really committed to making those scenes look as good as they needed to look to sell Amadeus [Kurisu’s] sacrifice. Also that last scene where Amadeus [Kurisu] gives that pep talk to Maho and then she smiled that one last smile was gorgeously heartbreaking.
So you said you didn’t think next week’s finale could possibly beat this episode in terms of overall quality, are you predicting a lacklustre final episode then? I honestly have no idea where and how this show is going to end—and for once I love being completely at the mercy of this shows genius imagination. If they manage to pull it off and deliver a satisfying, emotional and intelligent ending then there’s very little in the way of me proclaiming this better than the original Steins;Gate and that’s not something I say lightly!
Making Up For Lost Time – An Anime QandA Review of ‘Steins;Gate 0’ Episode 21
What’s the show? Steins;Gate 0, Episode 21.
So last week you kinda hammered the episode for having the audacity to do time travel in a time travel anime… have you come to your senses now? Listen, you know it wasn’t ~just~ the time travel that bothered me—it was the fact that it felt like we’d gone to the future just for the sake of some edgy drama in the form of Ruka dying and seeing Okabe old and (more) distressed. Also the fact that it was more-or-less just so Okabe could confirm, “yep the future sucks, better go fix that” which I felt was a slap in the face to Suzuha who’d been saying as much for the whole damn season, it was like he didn’t even listen to her!
So you’re still on that high horse, huh? What about this episode then? It’s great and legitimises the previous episode completely and I’m going to retire from reviewing now because I’m obviously an idiot who has no idea what I’m talking about.
Come on now, don’t be like that, you’re allowed to have gaping lapses in judgement from time to time. If only I was binge-watching this, I could have saved making such a fool of myself!
Nobody cares, also you’d find a way to make a fool of yourself in a different way anyway… That’s true.
So what’s so good about this episode then? It’s an ~extremely~ satisfying 25 minutes of television, not only does it give time-travel a meaningful place in the narrative it also finds a dynamic and possibly damaging way to do it that puts Okabe’s mind under unimaginable strain but in a completely different way than him repeatedly seeing Mayuri’s death from the original Steins;Gate series. There’s never a dull moment, never a wasted fame and it more or less culminates in something I didn’t even realise I was missing—the return of Houoin Kyouma, Okabe’s mad scientist alter-ego.
Oh yeah? I seem to recall you saying a few episodes ago that you “didn’t miss him” and would be happier if he didn’t return. Why do you suddenly have such a good memory—tch! Yes, I said that too but that’s because at that stage in the narrative it felt unearned, like all the people who were saying they wanted him back at like Episode 2 kinda made me retroactively resent him. I was more than happy with ‘depressed Okabe’ I didn’t need the obnoxious mad-scientist. That was then and this is now and we’ve more than earned his return and it is particularly joyous—almost cathartic to have that ridiculous man back in our lives. Although for how long remains another matter…
What do you mean by that? Well despite all the pieces seemingly falling into place with Okabe’s return to the past things—of course—don’t go to plan as once again the time-machine with Mayuri and Suzuha is blown up by an attack helicopter as its transitioning to the past. Although the episode ends ~somewhat~ ambiguously, so maybe they made it this time and the anime is just cliff hanger baiting us.
So, sounds like you had a pretty positive experience with the episode? Some final thoughts? I don’t often like to compare things to other things—especially when the other thing is something very specific and not at-all anime related. But this episode’s central plot, with Okabe having to “time-leap” 3000 times to make it back the 25 years to get to his starting point reminded me fondly of my favourite episode of Doctor Who—‘Heaven Sent’, which aired in 2015. I won’t explain the plot of the aforementioned as it’s complicated and best worth discovering on your own but it too is about the kind of mental sacrifices that come with facing insurmountable difficulties with only one—very tough solution. I really loved this episode, even if that cliff hanger ending suggests the true ending is going to be harder fought still.
Living On Sorrowed Time – An Anime QandA Review of ‘Steins;Gate 0’ Episode 20
What’s the show? Steins;Gate 0, Episode 20.
So what’s the episode about? You know, I was pretty content with my viewing experience after this episode ended, thinking—“yeah, lots happened, that was great!” But the more I thought about it the more doubt kept creeping into my mind…
Doubt about what? Whether that episode was completely meaningless.
Okay, you’re going to need to actually tell us what it was about, you know? So Okabe awakens in a hospital-like bed, old, frail and confused. He ventures outside to find the once vibrant and alive Akiba in war-torn ruins—quickly he realises he’s in the future and after being rescued by Suzuha is informed by a more svelte-looking Daru that the year is 2036 and everything is awful.
Well that’s certainly a change in scenery! You’re telling me! I don’t think I was quite prepared emotionally for seeing my favourite place in the world—Akihabara, all destroyed like that. Seeing those familiar sights and landmarks that I hold such fondness for kinda was upsetting, but in a good way, like it made for evocative viewing and ~immediately~ cemented me in Okabe’s mindset.
So it’s a war-torn future, who’s still alive from our main cast? Well Mayuri’s dead because she died in the time machine explosion from the previous episode. Obviously Suzuha is here since she was born in this world, fathered by Daru his running the show in Okabe’s absence. Faris and Ruka are still going strong, fighting the good-fight, Ruka looked amazingly cool in combat fatigues and that long flowing black-hair but well, that’s sadly shortlived…
Oh? Yeah, the show decides that Ruka has to die and in Okabe’s arms no-less, and I guess it was supposed to be a sweet moment but to me it felt intentionally manipulative.
So that’s the first strike you have against the episode. What next? Maho’s still alive too—looking exactly the same much like Faris didn’t look a day older despite it being 25 years later and a literal world war breaking out in the meantime. And that’s another thing that kind of rang hollow about this, Maho and Faris haven’t physically changed at all whereas all the men are wearing the passing of time on their faces. It’s almost like the show was too afraid to make the waifu’s less appealing by giving them age lines or anything to symbolise that life has been hard this past quarter of a decade!
And that’d be the second strike. You mentioned that you had some feeling that this episode was “completely meaningless”, where does that come in? So it comes after talking things through with Maho—in what’s probably the best scene of the episode—she’s seriously such a stable core to this series, but does so very much from the sidelines. Okabe mentions that “Suzuha warned me the future was bad but I didn’t believe it until I saw it for myself” or some crap and then says he intends to travel back once more and find ‘Steins Gate’ and fix things. And the more I thought about it the more I wondered, how self-centred do you have to be to not put stock in what Suzuha was saying, like did Okabe just think she was over-exaggerating how bad World War 3 was going to be? Like that really rubbed me the wrong way, that Okabe couldn’t just believe her and he had to see it for himself! I don’t know if that’s a character flaw or the flaw of the writer thinking the viewer wouldn’t take to heart the importance of avoiding World War 3 without having their analogue, in the form of Okabe, experience it first hand.
Okay. So it’s pointless because he’s going to change the bad future? No, it’s pointless because Okabe/the writer thought we needed to see all this and it’s going to all go away. I know that’s ~kinda~ the point of time-travel narratives that things will change and therefore events that have happened won’t happen. But usually there’s something important a character will learn from having experienced a bad ‘timeline’ but he already knew everything that was going to happen from Suzuha! There was nothing new learned from this episode existing, other than Ruka turning into a total badass in the future and even then that’s undercut with a death for the sake of drama.
Right, so not a fan of this episode? Eh, it’s fine—in a binge watch it’ll be less egregious, it’s just having to have waited a week for an episode that doesn’t add anything more to the narrative just felt a bit galling. But it was still entertaining, and sometimes that’s enough, isn’t it?