Reviewby Nick Creamer,
Steins;Gate: The Movie
BD+DVD - Load Region of Déjà Vu
Having traversed countless world lines to arrive at the one reality where his friends are safe, Okabe is now living in the best possible present. But something still nags at his mind, recalling him back to the many senseless deaths of Mayuri and Kurisu. As Kurisu arrives back in Tokyo, Okabe finds himself losing track of his current timeline, and soon Kurisu is left to deal with the consequences of Okabe's fractured self. Okabe traversed time to save the people he loves, but can Kurisu fix Okabe's own mistake?
The Steins;Gate series was one of the first shows I watched when I was first getting back into anime in 2011. Combining distinctive and well-written slice of life material with propulsive science fiction, it was a thrilling and very endearing adventure, offering a sometimes disjointed but overall satisfying story. It was full of banter that actually felt true to the nerds I knew, and its use of time travel was thoughtful and understated. It's no surprise to me that the show was a hit.
The TV series offered a fully self-contained narrative, and the followup bonus episode essentially just existed to say “don't worry, the adorable main couple still gets together.” So I was a little curious as to what a new Steins;Gate film could bring to the table, and if it could really slot in gracefully with the overall Steins;Gate experience.
The short answer to that is: no. The Steins;Gate film is fundamentally a superfluous retread; most of the plot points here are direct echoes of dramatic moments from the original series, and a lot of this film feels like it's repeating itself, as well. It's not really a great film, and doesn't offer any sort of dramatic closure the original series didn't already provide. It's basically just a love letter to the fans - and as far as those go, I'd rank it as a success with serious caveats.
The overall plot of the Steins;Gate film focuses on the unexpected consequences of Okabe's constant time-leaping. Having gained memories of far too many world lines, he now has trouble believing that the final Steins;Gate line is his “true reality,” and so his actual existence begins to fragment. Okabe's temporal identity crisis coincides with Kurisu's return trip to Japan, and so it ultimately falls to her to rescue Okabe from non-existence. Using the same devices Okabe once used, Kurisu must fight not just to prevent Okabe from dying, but to ensure he ever existed at all.
The Steins;Gate movie takes close to an hour to get through that setup (and don't worry, that's all stuff you could read on the back of the box). Most of that time is filled with Kurisu-focused echoes of the material that made up the series proper - Kurisu wondering if her memories are fake, Kurisu debating the merits of time travel, Kurisu wandering the streets of her bleached-out city. There are two separate extended sequences of Kurisu trying to remember who Okabe is (she remembers, then is urged to forget, then decides to remember again), and a whole lot of melancholy reflections on time spent with the gadget lab. It's a drag, frankly - this is all material we've seen before, and nothing really justifies the amount of time spent laboring over it here. In contrast to the nail-biting original series, most of this film is just boring.
As a self-contained narrative, epilogue to the series proper, or just conventional film, Steins;Gate isn't really much of a success. However, it seems to me that this film exists mostly to give fans more of their favorite things from the series, and as far as that goes, it's slightly more successful. The relationship between Okabe and Kurisu that only rarely got the focus in the TV series is placed center stage here, meaning there are plenty of tearful goodbyes and pledges of love and all that.
While I like this couple an awful lot, I actually didn't think this film's material put them in their best light. Okabe and Kurisu were a good couple because you could not only imagine, but actually witness them doing all manner of mundane, silly things together over the course of the TV series. Focusing on their identity as a pair of star-crossed lovers displaced by time essentially cuts out most of the stuff that made them fun to watch. I don't want to watch these two sobbing about how much they need each other, I want to see them bickering over snack choices at the convenience store.
Steins;Gate's aesthetics are carried over fully intact from the TV series, meaning you better get used to saturated light and heavy greys. The film doesn't really feel “film quality” - the animation is relatively limited, and the direction actually felt less inspired than the original series. The show's characters designs were never the most expressive, but there aren't really any scenes here that let them engage in serious character acting, and most of the film's running time proceeds as a series of mid-distance shots of lonely characters wandering around gloomy streets. The tight focus on Kurisu's attempts to save Okabe also means the show's secondary cast is pretty much wasted, again making this film's use as a fanservice victory lap a little questionable.
The film's sound design generally sticks to the somber, mechanical-sounding ambient noises of the series proper, with the exception of an insert song at the beginning and end. The insert song at the opening felt very out of place - following a brief monologue by Kurisu, it basically comes across as an obligatory music video accompanying Kurisu's CG plane descending into Japan.
The film dub is generally solid. The script localizes a bunch of the cast's banter in order to make it flow more naturally in English, something that's essentially necessary with a show as conversationally loose as Steins;Gate. Trina Nishimura's Kurisu feels a little stilted, but Michael Tatum does a fine job of translating Okabe's self-serious yet silly affect into a fair English equivalent. Ashley Burch's Mayuri actually sounds more believable in English, which is a nice change of pace for what was one of the original series' weakest elements. The script's constant nerdy embellishments can get pretty cloying (Kurisu responds to receiving a glass of tea with “ooh, upvote”), but it at least establishes a casual tone.
The Steins;Gate film comes in a simple slipcase and plastic case housing the film on both bluray and DVD. There are no physical extras, and digital extras are limited to trailers and a commentary track with the dub actors. The commentary track takes a unique and welcome approach, having voice director Colleen Clinkenbeard introduce and then interview key members of the cast one at a time, instead of having the whole group talk over the whole film. It's a smart approach that results in far more long-form reflections on the show and film than a more disorganized track likely would.
Overall, I can't say I recommend the Steins;Gate film. As a fan of the original series, I could see the ways this movie was trying to make me happy - but simply repeating the events of the series felt like a chore, and the film's relentlessly somber tone kept even the romantic material from feeling particularly rewarding. If you're a diehard fan of Okabe and Kurisu, I'd maybe give the film a look just to spend more time with a cute couple. Otherwise, I'd call it a skip.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Offers more scifi adventures with a very likable cast.
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