The changes made to the past have affected the future – and pushed Okarin into one hell of a box.
What They Say:
The microwave is a time machine and the girl gets shot. Okarin sends another text. Nukes another banana. The mad scientist meddled with forces he never should have known about. The girl gets run over by a car. Okarin goes back to stop the bleeding. Dashes madly through the dark streets. Races against time. The girl gets hit by a train. Failures and flatlines multiply in a ghastly pattern of repetition.
Over and over and over again until sanity is stripped away and you start to notice shapes slipping in and out of the shadows. SERN. The girl gets stabbed before and after the kissing. Okarin grows frantic. Bodies pile up around him. SERN is getting closer. The girl is bleeding. A Top Secret Future Gadget Lab member from the future is their only hope. The blood sprays and the girl dies. SERN destroys the world. Kills all the girls. There is time for one last try. Now Okarin bleeds but he won’t stop. Ever. The microwave is a time machine and the girl always gets shot.
Contains episodes 13-25.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English gets a 5.1 bump, both of which use the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is very much dialogue driven so the use of placement throughout and depth during certain sequences is where it stands out and the series handles it all quite well. The few big moment scenes mostly come in the form of music, but it has some good effects elsewhere as well that stand out. The show is not one that’s designed to knock your socks off, but you do find the mix drawing you in overall as it progresses and gets more intense and atmospheric in its own way. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes here are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. The show has a rather good real world look to it with a few stand out areas in terms of color and some of the animation is incredibly fluid at times. The show is one that tends to be more about the talking and standing around, but the transfer captures the details well here and brings the atmosphere to the screen in a very good way. The main problem that I had with it is a problem that’s in the source to a good degree as well with the banding that shows up in a few backgrounds here and there. It’s distracting here and there but it’s not something that really detracts heavily.
While we had the limited edition for the first set to get the heavy chipboard box, this one has the single Blu-ray case that’s slightly oversized and holds the four discs inside with a thick hinge that gives it all a bit more weight and appeal. The cover artwork uses the same as the slipcoverbut it has a different kind of vibrancy to it with the paper stock used that lets it stand out a bit more in a different way. Giving the “supporting cast” their own chance to shine definitely works well here, though the color scheme overall is still one that feels just a little bit off overall. The back cover is a fair bit weaker with a bland background that doesn’t stand out much. The concept of the show is sold pretty well here even if the layout of it is a little awkward with the font and colors. A small strip of shows is along the right while the bottom has a list of the discs extras and a technical grid that covers both the DVD and Blu-ray releases cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works nicely as it’s done with a look through the monitor in a way where we see various clips from the series and a few scenes that has Okabe looking back at the viewer. It’s got a particular filter to it that works nicely but overall it’s straightforward in that it hits some of the highlights with the characters and generally looks good. The navigation is kept in theme as well along the lower right which doubles as the pop-up menu as well. Submenus load quickly and easily and navigation is a breeze. The show defaults to English with sign/song subtitles.
The release has a couple of good extras to it that are a bit more weighted towards the English language fans. We get a pair of commentary tracks by the English adaptation crew as they talk about the show and their approach to it. The clean versions of the opening and closing sequences are included as well which also deals with the additional segments for this set.
After a strong first half for Steins; Gate, this set deals with the fallout in a powerful way right from the get go. In the first half of the season, there was a lot of fun and joy in the discovery of the phone time machine microwave and the way that these D-mails could send messages to the past that would alter the present. Some of it was simple, others created surprising changes that threw off Okarin more than he lets on at times. But as they sent additional mail back to the past as part of the testing of it all by other members of the Lab, the impact started to turn far darker and more dangerous. The silliness, joy and excitement of discovery slowly started to change as all these realizations came home.
And that danger hits right from the start with Moeka showing up, all clad in tight black clothes, as part of a SERN fronted group that’s there to capture those that they need and kill the rest. Which turns pretty deadly as Mayushii is taken out and Christina gets shot pretty hard as well. The sequence is short but terrifying for Okarin as everything shifts so quickly and his natural instinct and quick reaction to hit up the new time machine device that they just finished hours ago is spot on since it lets him travel back in time briefly, just a few days. It’s this occurrence that starts him down the real path of the second half of the series, one that’s thoroughly embedded with pain and suffering. While he intends to save everyone, first by telling the team to leave the lab right away, he has to save Mayushii specifically since they do want everyone else alive. Of course, it’s near impossible to find her quickly just because of how she goes about her days.
What Okarin discovers is that no matter what he does, she’s slated to die at a particular time. While initially it was from Moeka’s gun, his attempts to keep her alive just makes the way she dies more varied. It’s not exactly Groundhog Day in a way but he goes through so many instances of this that it’s just beyond cruel. With a limited amount of time, he starts to figure out with Christina what it is he must do over a few episodes. And what it is won’t be easy as they discover that each D-mail sent back changed the world lines so much that in order to save her, they have to correct all of those changes. And each of those fixes that Okarin puts in, due to his ability to remember things when he leaps back in time or across the world lines, extends Mayushii’s life.
While it’s difficult enough as it is, the real problem comes in that he has to deal with each of those mail items. And these items are all the wishes and dreams of his friends that were made over the course of the first half of the series. Such as Rukako getting her gender changed through a creative text to the past, making him a her in the end. There’s a lot of emotions that have to come from this as Okarin has to convince her to going back to what she was, and there’s a lot of feelings on her part towards him that are even more complicated now. Faris’ story is similar in that while her mail changed Akihabara, it also brought someone back into her life that died. The most emotional of the first couple of rounds though is what Okarin has to go through with Moeka as her world is just so strange and surreal with how she’s been manipulated, being so lonely and grasping for anything that she puts in a great performance that Okarin rises to.
While the individual stories are great, including the reveals about Suzuha and the larger scale of events and what’s at stake, it all comes back to that first mail that Okarin sent. One that he’s largely forgotten about as he goes through all of this while trying to save Mayushii. When he remembers that the first time he used it was to save Christina, it’s a humbling moment since he has to choose between allowing her to die once again or allowing Mayushii to die. While it covers a few episodes and gets big in some surprising ways as the future has changed repeatedly due to all the other changes, it all comes down to the core relationship between Okarin and Christina. What most of this season does is while we see the individual stories dealt with while making Okarin the primary for obvious reasons, every world line leap has him working more and more with Christina. While it’s short term for her overall, it’s all building for him and it just draws him to her more, and his methods end up having her reveal things far more than she would have expected, which leads to a powerful final broadcast episodes that just hits everything perfectly.
Which leaves me a little uncertain about how to feel about episode twenty-five, a video only episode that was never simulcast. This epilogue episode brings us a few months ahead in time after all the events of the three weeks that the series takes place over (repeatedly) and has the gang heading to Los Angeles to see Faris compete in a gaming event. That has the core of them going to LA and getting involved with the sights a bit, but also the quirks of Okarin from getting picked up by the TSA to wanting to hit up a motel where he believes UFO kidnappings will happen. It’s amusing but the episode closes up some minor details and hits a very big point in a roundabout way that, while welcome, almost feels like too much after the way that the broadcast series ended so perfectly for me.
Steins; Gate is a series that hit pretty much all the right notes for me throughout its run. I had enjoyed it immensely in its simulcast run as it was an intense weekly tease to get through the discovery phase and then the panicked attempts to try and fix everything that had gone on. The second half of the set works a different series of emotional mechanics than the first half, which was mostly joy and the excitement of discovery. But it’s because you had that side, knew the characters and the changes that they caused, that makes the second half so much more exciting to watch. This set starts off powerfully and just keeps going from there, hitting many different avenues along the way and putting Okarin through the ringer, as well as everyone else. It’s a strong, powerful work that just fascinates and delights me from start to finish. Highly recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 18th, 2012
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.