What They Say:
Kagari has regained her childhood memories, but the last 12 years of her life are still shrouded in mystery. When forces unknown mobilize behind the scenes, Okabe investigates Kagari’s past, while Suzuha fights to save the future from World War III. Science, subterfuge, and suffering culminate beyond anything Okabe could have foreseen on this perilous, uncharted path to Steins Gate.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English track 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 2018, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes here are spread across two discs with a split six/six format. Animated by White Fox, 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. I really like the look of the show and its use of some digital effects for the worldlines and shifting are fun in how disorienting they can be – and how much they almost look like encoding issues at first. Overall, it’s a solidly put together series visually and the encoding captures that.
The second half of the series gets more of a standard release that can fit inside the box of the regular edition release. It’s another slightly oversized Blu-ray case that holds the four discs inside with a thick hinge that gives it all a bit more weight and appeal. The cover artwork uses different artwork from the case as it has more of an illustration feeling for the background while doing pairings for the main cast both on the case and the o-card, which are different as well. The back cover is a fair bit weaker with a bland background that doesn’t stand out much but does adhere to some of the thematic elements. 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 while the reverse side of the cover uses more of the Japanese character cover artwork..
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 but they’re done with a block filter that gives it a really distinctive feeling to it. 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 an audio commentary track and a video commentary, which is delightful, 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.
While struggling with aspects of the first half of this series, I do appreciate that this back half gives us some of that future time, a chance to see some of the war and play with it in creative ways. I wasn’t surprised that there was going to be a sequel series since there was a sequel game but I’ll admit it wasn’t something I was chomping at the bit over. Part of that got reinforced with the film in seeing that before this series where while I enjoyed it, because these are fun characters, it didn’t feel like it added anything or said anything new from what the original series did. And I do regard the original series as one of the best shows of the decade. This series hasn’t added much new for me and a lot of the first half just felt like it was too much navel gazing and woe is me material that didn’t engage much.
That aspect isn’t here quite as much this time around but there’s still a good bit of the. The whole storyline with Kagari and the memories and who she is just left me cold to the whole thing. In fact, a lot of the character stories outside of Okarin didn’t do much for me this season. Daru manages to have some good material at times because of his work with Suzuha here and there and his knowledge that he’ll invent the time machine in the future. That’s a kind of thrill to be sure but also knowing various things, his future self is able to make some amusing choices in how to fix the past because he knows some people are going to survive. It’s complicated but not and it owes plenty of TV logic at times because the holes are wide and many. But his confidence is enjoyable and there’s even a sequence where he gets some legal loli time that just makes him a lovable dolt.
The main thrust really is Okarin and the continued shame and anger he has over what happened to Kurisu. When we do get the moment where he’s able to leap into the future into his body from that time, that’s when the opportunities start opening up to him in fixing things – eventually. What I like more out of this area is that we got to spend time getting to see how the war played out as nations wanted the time machine technology and would stop at nothing to get it since they’d be able to use it to travel back and “fix” it all. Of course, the worldlines don’t really work like that, or didn’t before, so who knows how much reality that they were working in. But what we got was something that shows how Okarin had been taken out of the picture and managed a creative way back into the game. It’s kind of absurd and crazy and works within the confines of the logic of this series, but it was more the emotional beats that worked than anything else for me.
This set does finish out on some lighter material as we get the Bittersweet Day OVA that plays with Valentine’s Day coming up. It wouldn’t be anime without something completely absurd in the mix, right? It’s not bad but it’s also a weird kind of vibe to finish out the series on. It came out in Japan a few months after the show ended so they had some space between it, but for me it just felt like it would be better to revisit that episode later after finishing the show unless you really did need some laughs.
While this Steins;Gate series didn’t deliver for me in the way that the original did I’m glad it tried to do its own thing instead of just replicating what came before. Which it certainly could have. This half has some very fun stuff in it at times but with a disconnect for me with most of the cast it just felt like it was kind of lifeless, especially with Okarin checked out for a lot of going into it. There are flashes of brilliance and I’d love to see more of how things went so bad in the future. And props as always for getting the OVA in this set. Funimation does a solid job on presentation here with it matching the first set and it’ll fit into the limited edition snugly and nicely. I do like the extras, especially as we get another video commentary, so there’s some good stuff for dub fans to chew on here beyond the show as well. Hopefully, this set brings closer to the anime franchise overall for fans.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 20 Commentary, Episode 18 Video Commentary, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Running Time: 275 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.