Friday, 5 May 2017

MT Series Scan: Steins;Gate 1

Trying something new here. I am a SLOW binge-watcher (and reader). Two hours is about my limit, after which I need processing time. At the same time, I enjoy watching online reviewers, and reactions to things that I’ve previously watched, to see if they’re similar to my own. So, why not take the time during a slow binge to chronicle my own reactions and speculations?

Today we’re looking at Steins;Gate (Disc 1). The series has been in my possession for a year now, and on my “to do” list for months. Interestingly, despite me knowing a LOT about the time travel genre, to the point of writing my own serial (Time & Tied), I know very little about the anime, or the game it was based on. Partly it was an effort to keep myself spoiler free.

I had watched at least the first episode before (maybe the second). I don’t recall when. Likely it was Anime North. I'll be watching the subtitled version, more because I like hearing the initial voices than any preference for the original. Ready to see how this unfolds? Feel free to offer thoughts on the format in comments.

Ep 01 Turning Point

Stream of consciousness:
-Clever, with the setting of a time travel conference. Implied temporal hijinks with the “talked 15 minutes ago”. Now a murder mystery, Red's dead... then it looks like a spaceship crash. (That last is what I remembered, this time I'm apparently paying more attention and can tell it’s just a satellite.) That got weird fast. Intro plays.

-“Future Gadget Laboratory” Intro: 001, Mad scientist. 002, Mayushii. 003, Hacker.  They're near broke. Wanting to cause “chaos”, then there's meta discussion of being a show. Alternate reality. Everyone seems to have other names they prefer, this makes it hard to follow. “The Organization” again? No context for that?
-RENG, which phones the microwave. I don’t think I connected the reality shift to him sending on the phone before? No, I must have, they're not making the connection on screen. Sent it when? It’s the 28th today. Red’s not dead yet - or hadn’t died? They're throwing even more characters into the preview.

Thoughts and Theories:
I think I know why this didn't grab me right away - the names thing. I am not good with names in general, you'll notice I called Kurisu "Red" there, and didn't name Rintaro, saying the "mad scientist". Thing is, the others call the protagonist "Okarin" and Mayushii's real name is Mayuri and why is this anime DOING this to me? (Actually, I can sort of guess. It's a way to refer themselves if they're out of the proper time, perhaps? I used middle names in my story.) It feels like overload before we even get past 4 characters, which seems to be where we're headed next episode. No theories yet.

02 Time Travel Paranoia

Stream of consciousness:
-May or may not have seen him? Red (Makise), proclaims time machines impossible in context of cosmic string theory. “Please find some exotic matter.” Nice.
-Shrine girl likes protagonist. Uh, it’s a Shrine guy. Okay then. Another person, Amane, 18, working with Mr. Braun (except that's not his name either? dammit anime...).
-Online info: SERN controls time travel, made a future dystopia. Claim: If you meet/kill your grandfather, you change world lines. “John Titor”, self proclaimed traveller from 2036 (nice call back to Ep 1, and glad someone's keeping a single name) - someone is now pretending to be him? The number of search results changes? Titor's unknown in this present? Interesting.

-Next Char: Photogirl. Needs “Proof of where I was today, what I saw”. Old PC sought. Has a spelling issue? Mayuri works at a Cafe dressed like a CAT? Okay then. Also meet Pinkhair (Faris) who believes Okarin about Organization, nya. She’s maybe dating hacker? “IBN” (like IBM), cute. Ok, Photogirl is Kiryu, she’s 20, sending texts.
-“Gel banana analysis”. Banana's gone, no it’s reattached, teleporter question. Hmm. Red’s back. Well, that’s a clever bookend to the ep. Preview seems normal.

Thoughts and Theories:
Theory 1: Based on the above claim. When Okarin shouted down ProfGuy's lecture, ProfGuy went back in time to remove Titor so that no one similar was spouting his theories in the past. Then pre-emptively cancelled the conference, so no one else knew about that outburst. Doesn't really explain the satellite, unless it's connected to Titor. And why does protagonist (Okarin) remember? Could be he's Titor in the future. Or one of the other characters is.
Other Thoughts: Maybe Okarin traded places with himself in the other world line? That Okarin now wondering where the satellite went? Also, maybe the weird banana’s made of exotic matter. Which is what makes time travel possible.

03 Parallel World Paranoia

Stream of consciousness:
-Steins;Gate neurosis (German/English, nice catch Red. Means "stone", huh?). With this, how reliable is our protagonist? Red/Makise was in America (going back in August). Pervert talk, why? (Probably from the game.) Item #8 the Phone Microwave. Why’s he calling her Christina? (dammit anime...)
-Mayuri's spacy. Message sent, received back on July 24th (5 days ago). Text girl's nicknamed “Shining Finger”. Large Hadron Collider-tan (points for saying that). SERN’s particle accelerator (oh, it's a play on *CERN*, that explains that). Supposedly 2034 made time machine. Mini-black holes allowing time travel. New part timer is spying. The IBN 5100 again, connected to Titor.

-“Time is not like a single river flowing from past to future.” (If you say so.) Killing someone changes the “divergence number”, altering the world line. People’s memories are reconstructed. Hmmm! The later dystopia is “a revival of communism with 18th C living standards”. Needs old tech, the IBN. The ‘me’ before? Maybe you saw me in another world line.
-Hacking into SERN? (Call a "Dr. Excite" for English translation?) Z-Program. May 14, Experiment 137. Human is dead, mismatch. Why has this anime made "CERN" into a shady organization? Preview, next time - back to the cat cafe?

Thoughts and Theories:
They’re building up the mystery (well, it is a Mystery Drama SciFi), but funny enough, that’s not drawing me in. I guess I’m not into the dystopia. I am glad they're explaining how time travel (supposedly) works in this universe though.
Theory 1B: Okarin obviously jumped worldlines as he sent that text, from one where Titor was around in 2000 to one where Titor's just there now. Also, Red/Makise is now alive. But why does only he remember? It's either because he caused it, or simply because he was involved in time travel at the right moment when someone else did it. Yet that mystery doesn’t seem to be the focus. Meanwhile, I suppose the PartTimer could be a real spy.

04 Interpreter Rendezvous

Stream of consciousness:
-Need Jellyman’s report. Programming code that doesn’t make sense (based on IBN?). Contacts Titor. Now PartTimer is called Suzu. Braun: “Why do all the weirdos gather here?” (That was funny.) A scene with Red/Makise. Interesting. She looks at laundry, will they meet there?
-Titor responds, confirmation. “The world doesn’t need two mad scientists”. (Heh, ok.) Texting lady still texting. Met Red randomly. “I want to punch myself for being so curious”& “I’ll slug you.” I do like her. Oh, NOW to the laundry. “I won’t repeat my father’s failure”. Okay, getting invested in this now. Pings her curiosity.

-Faris had seen the IBN PC. Nyan-squared. (Daru uses Faris-tan again, does he always use tan with things he likes?) “Cat ears never lie.” Sure. The winning never mattered strategy, counterpoint had seen it long ago, Dad had it. Fun verbal dual. Saw at shrine. So to the cute boy. Of course.
-Red's there. “[Name] doesn’t ring a bell.” Okay, that’s a chuckle. Their interplay is great. Kurisu Makise is 18? (From Shrine person will be 17.) Damn, looks older. “Take care of it”, given 10 years ago, obvious time travel.
-“You’re certainly good friends I see.” Hah. (They're using lines from my serial story, but I’m warming to this.) Broken cart, walking backwards versus sideways. Faris has no last name in the credits, huh. Watching the closing closely enough now to see that the spiralling, that’s reconstructing an hourglass. Preview implies Suzu/PartTimer has called in the chopper.

Thoughts and Theories:
Still not invested in the CERN mystery. Want more Titor. The verbal sparring with Okarin and Red/Makise is great though.
Theory 2: The microwave must come back into this. I wonder if the “one week” text time frame is because he kept setting it for 120 seconds. Likely there's some connection to it blowing up. Also, I wonder if Okarin's "keeping 004 as a vacant slot in the Lab" is a form of foreshadowing, or will become a callback, if we hit the worldline where she's dead again.

05 Starmine Rendezvous

Stream of consciousness:
-For fearing an Organization, Okarin sure seems willing to spill information about the Shrine. Suzu/PartTimer knows Makise/Red? “All his base" / “are not belong to me”. Pfffft, okay, bonus points (she knows old references, huh?). Yuri development, pffft again.
-What is Suzu’s game? (Used to know an expert? Worked at SERN, maybe. Hm, he’s dead. Theories below.) Now she has his email, she’s sending him fireworks. 
-Okay, nice lab coat pose. Board games. Heh, Dk Pepper again. He “lacks the ability to see the big picture, not considering the opponent”. Call me Hououin or Kyouma, not Okabe? (Oy with naming, I'm still calling him Okarin.) Llama’s back on the TV? Is that important? Makise/Red hasn’t seen father in 7 years. (Hm, the father who made a mistake?)

-SERN 1954 founded. Says 1973, IBN made 1975. So implanted into the machine, very conspiracy, huh. A JPG file? Can’t translate, but Red can read English, clever. Space-time control. Purpose of SERN in 21st century. Z-Program: Tests spatiotemporal transferral using high-energy protons. Stage One: The LHC-tan. Stage Two: Lifter. Something floating from high voltage. Need power of black hole and the lifter. Stage Three: Animal experiments. Stage Four: Humans.
-"Learning more may put you in danger." That was nice of Okarin. She won’t be able to sleep. Jellyman’s report: “Laegjarn’s Chest” operation. It’s Norse. 14 files. #10: James McCarthy. 2005 experiment. Human is dead. Transit through Kerr black hole. To 1921. Man found dead inside building wall. Body was squishy and jelly like. (Banana callback.) #8: Linda Hill (British). 2004. Is dead. 1972 body found, India. #7: Michael Lang (German). Dead. 1936, Japanese article. Found at base of hill. “I’ve seen enough.”

-Talk of cramming 10-24 kg into a small space to send back in time. Really tight fit. Har har ecchi. Phone Microwave can be made flawless? Then reshape world’s ruling structure? (Oh, THAT will go well.) Hm, Daru doesn’t have a last name in credits either. Next: Another explosion, and more on Fingers who may connect to Suzu. 

Thoughts and Theories:
Theory 3: Suzu/PartTimer is a time traveller, obviously, based on knowing something Makise/Red WILL do. So, did she come back because she wants to bring her IBN guy back from the dead? Maybe he's not dead yet, if she's from the future? Ohh, maybe it's Okarin himself she meant about the IBN. Clever. I feel like ShiningFingers woman is connected to Suzu; her mother, if not the same person but older somehow.
Looks like the SERN angle is clearer now. Okarin really needs to consider his world line jumping issue next. (I'm wondering about my Theory 1.)

06 Butterfly Effect’s Divergence

Stream of consciousness:
-Five days since satellite (unknown origin, oh, hmm). It's ShiningFingers. I don’t get that teaser.
-AD 2010 timer flashes up. “No cell phones” restaurant. Round Table meeting gets Arthurian Legends into the mishmash. Electrical discharge needed. Named phenomenon:
-“Nostalgia Drive”. Too complicated, rejected. “Contrari-Mail”. “The Mail that Leapt Through Time”. Ha ha, okay, points to Daru. “Time Leaper”. Extra points, even though it's likely not a Quantum Leap reference ("What leaps?" Good point.). “Back to the Mail”? “DeLorean Mail”? Oh MY, Mayuri, extra points. “D-mail”. Hahaha, win. Even the (Temporary Name) thing is getting funny. “Operation Urd”, pfffft.

-Recreate the time of day? “Put the banana inside” perversion; is it wrong I think that's actually sort of funny? "Drop the cute and clumsy act." - I already like Makise/Red the most, you don't need to amp her up more. Yuri Field, hahaha.
-The banana back to the bunch thing did work out. I question if time of day actually important, they haven’t tried other times. Sent back, it splits into two messages. Oh, right, the first did split into three -- Daru immediately points that out.

-Green jello reaction. ShiningFinger’s back. Kiryu answers him in texts? Okarin asks Suzu, “Did something happen in the past.” (Haha, no, it’s obviously in the future.) Back upstairs. “I warned you five days ago”. Pfft, again, funny. Kiryu sent more texts.
-How It WorksOne second on timer is one hour backwards. (Called that.) Can send 36 English characters or 18 Japanese characters - written on board, at most 12 half-width - 6 full - Japanese characters times three texts. (Didn’t call that.) Only certain conditions? Seems unclear.
-Dream: “Time and space have switched places here.” “One second for you is an eternity for me”. Hmm. “End still exists.” The reaching hand thing that I didn't mention last time. “Look forward, not back.” AD2010 timer again, confirms present day (Aug 2). Was that in other eps?

-Texts from Kiryu/SF. Why won’t you talk? More comfortable texting. Shows the IBN5100. Is she really into retro PCs? Gets her to ask to his face, he admits he’s only borrowing it from the Shrine. Daru shows up, blows everything with “emails to past”. Claim of it being ancient Sumerian, pffft. Then everyone else messes that up. She gets to be Member 005. Next: More talking among people like Suzu and possible roof shenanigans.

Thoughts and Theories:
This was the funniest episode yet by far. Boy, these guys are kind of terrible at being covert. Pretty sure SERN’s gonna find them. Still no idea if Titor is one of them, or someone who was working for SERN. Maybe Makise/Red jumped world lines back in Ep 1, when she thought Okarin had talked to her?
Theory 4: Makise/Red's father, who must have thought time travel possible ("won't make his mistake") was recruited by SERN. Or silenced by them. I wonder if PurpleHair in the credits is actually Red under a tint? 

And that's the end of Disc 1. From what I've heard, the whole anime has something of a slow start. Considering how slow my serial starts, I can hardly complain about that, even assuming I wanted to. It's not the pacing I have trouble with, it's all the subplots/subcharacters.

I'm planning to go through at least the other 3 DVDs. What do you think of this format? (I'm including some stuff I feel might be relevant later, too much?) Thoughts on the idea in general? Of these episodes in specific? Feel free to comment! (No spoilers please.) Thanks for reading. Click here to go to Disc 2.

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