by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Steins;Gate 0 ?
And there goes that other shoe, dropping like it was the Time's Square Ball on New Year's Eve, set to ruin Okabe's life all over again. It's a good thing too, because I was getting close to losing patience with the season's protracted setup phase. When I originally watched Steins;Gate, the series had already finished its run, so I was able to binge through the opening salvo of exposition and slice-of-life stuff fairly quickly. As such, I never really understood the complaints about the first half of the season being “slow”, but now I can empathize a lot better. These first six episodes have been good, but I'd say they're below the original series' bar for quality, so getting a full dozen of them probably would have been much even for a diehard Steins;Gate fan like me.
Outside of the admittedly wonderful Maho, this sequel's new cast members just don't have the same rapport and charm as the original Future Gadget Laboratory members did with the addition of Kurisu, so all the time spent introducing them feels less satisfying than the more fulfilling bits where old favorites get to interact with one another. Maho is pretty great, but the rest of the new scientists and Mayuri's cosplay friends all feel one-note, even Suzuha's mother-to-be Yuki, who has barely gotten anything to do all season. The plotline involving everyone visiting Rukako's shrine for New Year's was cute enough, and it did give us the episode's best gag in Alexis' over-eager quest for “Famous shamans!?!”, but overall this episode felt like the season echoing the beats of the first out of obligation, much like last week's episode.
The newer elements and characters of the season are definitely interesting, but it's too early to tell whether or not they'll be used well. I remain unconvinced about Maho as a romantic interest for Okabe, but she's an excellent character on her own, and I'm definitely interested to see more of her. I'm less sure about Kagari Shiina, who has done little more than show up from the future with a bad case of Anime Amnesia, so she can walk around and make Okabe and Maho feel bad about Makise being dead even more. She feels more like a plot device than a character, which is a bad habit that Steins;Gate Prime did a good job of avoiding for the most part; every member of the original story's cast felt like they served some independent purpose, and so far characters like Judy, Alexis, Yuki, and Kagari all feel more like pieces of an assembling puzzle.
However, things are picking up now that yet another Lab party has been busted up by mysterious gunmen, and just after the whole lab learned about the AI living on Okabe's phone, no less. Both of these developments were more or less inevitable, and I'm glad Steins;Gate 0 has cut to the chase so soon, so we can finally start exploring the real implications of The Darkest Timeline. The conspicuous reintroduction of Yuugo and Nae at the opening of this episode implies that they'll be much more involved this time around, and I'm guessing that Yuugo's dad instincts and covert training will come in handy now that Nae is also facing down the barrels of the attackers guns.
This was a middling episode of Steins;Gate 0, but its faults are built into the design of the show itself. We needed a reintroduction to this world after so many years away, and it has been nice spending time with the old gang while Okabe's life gets progressively stranger, but S;G0 simply doesn't have the benefit of the first series' slow-burn pacing. This is World War III we're talking about, and the action will have to ramp up if this version of Okabe is eventually going to be driven to set the events of Steins;Gate's finale in motion.
Steins;Gate 0 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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