Steins;Gate Is Just What I Wanna See~

Steins;Gate is like a Takimoto Tatsuhiko (Welcome to the NHK) story without being written by Takimoto, which is something I need right now.

Some people were getting hyped over Steins;Gate as an extension from Madoka Magica, seeing as it’s adapted from a Nitro+ game, and Urobuchi Gen, the writer of Madoka, writes games for Nitro+. I for one saw mostly bad flags at first—for one thing, Nitro+ has made shitloads of games of varying quality, and it’s not like this one was written by Urobuchi, so comparison to Madoka is moot. And besides the fact that other Nitro+ game adaptions have been notoriously bad, not even the adaption of Urobuchi’s other game, Phantom, was any good. (Note: Phantom actually has a generally positive reputation, but I can’t even begin to fathom why. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD BEE TRAIN ANIME, GUYS.) Madoka was good because Urobuchi wrote the show itself.

And the studio, WHITE FOX, has so far made two other shows: the first was mediocre fantasy porn game adaption Tears to Tiara, and the other was Katanagatari, which disappointed me more than pretty much anything I’ve ever watched. My hopes couldn’t be lower.

That is, until I had another look at ANN and found out the series is directed by Hamasaki Hiroshi, whom I’ve been wanting to direct another show for years now.

You probably haven’t seen either of Hamasaki’s other two directorial works, Texhnolyze and Shigurui, because neither is very popular—and for good reason. They’re both hard shows to watch.

One of my favorite blog posts ever, from a site that died a long time ago and whose fucking name I can’t ever remember, was about Hamasaki’s directing style and how in his series, the backdrop of the story is actually a character itself. This is most prominent in Texhnolyze, which features art design by the amazing ABe Yoshitoshi, and throughout which the background gets about as much screen time as the characters (and probably sees as much development as they do.) (Add to that lines like “This city doesn’t want a spectacle right now,” and it seems the city is literally a character.)

Even more than that, Hamasaki’s trademark is an intense focus on the human body being pushed to extremes. Both Texhnolyze and Shigurui are known for their high muscle and body detail and the strange and disturbing body modifications or mutilations taking place therein. The first few episodes of Texhnolyze are about the main character being one-armed and one-legged, falling over himself and slowly dying as he limps around the slums—it’s grueling. In Shigurui, bodies are often grossly destroyed in glorious detail.

Neither of those qualities stands out in the first episode of Steins;Gate, but a third detail does—weirdly structured and impenetrable storytelling. Texhnolyze is famous for its first episode featuring zero dialog or music for the first 14 minutes, and for the plot not really emerging until halfway through the 22-episode series. That could also be attributed to the writer, Chiaki J. Konaka, who’s an artfag lunatic, but Shigurui also starts off with an episode that takes place after the rest of the series, and which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on first viewing.

Suffice it to say, I have no fucking idea what’s going on in Steins;Gate so far, nor do I expect it will be revealed in the second episode. I don’t think this is one of those series that uses a confusing beginning as a gimmic—it’s just going to be a confusing story all the way through.

Some of Hamasaki’s trademark visuals were present, especially in the OP (above), which was a lot like the Texhnolyze op (below). It also had the blown-out daytime sky that’s used in both of his other shows, some cut-aways to random landscape aspects (they don’t stand out as much because this isn’t a beautiful Madhouse production like his other shows are), and while they weren’t in the episode itself, there were a lot of insects in the OP, which are something he seems to enjoy putting in his shows.

What Steins;Gate reminded me of most was Welcome to the NHK, especially with the lead character’s conspiracy obsession and with the out-of-place cute girl in a party of otherwise demented otaku. If you think it’s an odd comparison because NHK is a lot more straightforward, then I recommend checking out some of Takimoto’s other stuff, like the short story ECCO in volume 2 of the English release of Faust. His stuff gets pretty weird just like this.

That said, Steins;Gate is certainly more weird than anything Takimoto’s done and steps more into Kadono Kouhei territory with storytelling style, which is good. After overloading myself reading and watching stuff by Narita Ryougo, NISIOISIN, and Takimoto, each of whom’s works are always pretty similar and can thus be hard to take in clusters, I’m happy to have something in this vein that *isn’t by them.* As much as I’m looking forward to Nisemonogatari, I really could use a break from NISIO for a while.

I’m glad that Steins;Gate isn’t what I expected. I expected something more plot-driven and serious that would make me want to wait until it’s over to watch. Since it’s more disjointed and strange, I feel like I can watch it weekly and get that hit of something I could really use right now.

16 thoughts on “Steins;Gate Is Just What I Wanna See~

  1. “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD BEE TRAIN ANIME”

    – LOL ! (Not that I disagree with you). I find it always amazing how you are able to analyze an anime through the first episode and some informations from Mal .

    • Well, the one thing I can’t determine is if the show will be good or not, but yeah, it’s a matter of obsession. I’ve seen so many anime and memorized the catalogs of so many creators that I can do stuff like this. I tend to obsessively research my favorite directors, and I also tend to watch the first episodes of just about everything so that I know to some extent what it’s about. For instance, I’ve only seen the first episode of Shigurui, having watched it years ago for the same reason that it’s that director. That and having read about it were enough to clue me in on what things constitute his style. (I do plan to finish Shigurui, it’s just on my infinite on-hold list.)

      It wouldn’t be enough if I’d just seen Texhnolyze because that series features strong influence from Yoshitoshi ABe and Chiaki J. Konaka, both of whom are known for their established styles. It’s through Shigurui that I pick out what parts to attribute to the director and separate out the others.

      • I think experience is important as well for the serious anime fan: For example when I was 16 I discovered Pani Poni Dash! and it gave me an headache everytime I was watching it. Some months later I watched SoulTaker and Twilight of the Dark Master and through Wiki I realized “Hey, it’s the god damned same director ! This explains a lot” That was a great feeling back then ^^

        But if you ask me, Steins;Gate is already a favourite on my list. I totally love the voice acting and the trippy directing. Speaking of Yoshitoshi ABe, what do you think about his Haibane Renmei ? (Hope I spelt it right)

        • Haha! Akiyuki Shinbo is what got me seriously into creators as well! There were various names I’d known before like Hideaki Anno (Evangleion) and Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), but Shinbo was the first person to be my favorite anime staff. For me, I’d similarly seen a few episodes of The SoulTaker when I was 13 and and thought it was okay but didn’t really understand the visuals. Years later, I watched Hidamari Sketch while it was on TV and adored it. The forum I was on kept talking about Akiyuki Shinbo and I found out it was the same guy who did SoulTaker so I got excited. Then that summer he directed Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and as of the first episode, he became my official favorite director of all time. No one has really taken that spot, either!

          As for ABe, yes I do like Haibane Renmei, although I’ve had a bone to pick with it for a while. HR is extremely well-regarded by the people who’ve seen it as this amazing and beautiful show, so it tainted my memories a bit. When I went back to rewatch it, I was so disappointed by the low animation quality that it was hard for me to take. I haven’t had time to finish properly rewatching it, but watching Sora no Woto made me wonder if I really have to.

          I’ve got all of ABe’s shows on DVD (Texhnolyze, Haibane Renmei, Serial Experiments Lain, and Niea_7), and I own one of his major artbooks, the Serial Experiments Lain artbook, the Niea_7 artbook, and a few signed doujinshi by him. For a while, I was a serious ABe fanboy lol.

          • I only own Serial Experiments Lain on DVD =) Is Niea_7 any good ? I have read very mixed reviews about this anime. And where did you get the signed doujinshi from him ??? XDDDDDDDD

            The anime from Shinichiro Watanabe are okay in my opinion, I mean they are fun to watch. And I have mixed feelings about Hideaki Anno: I mean, he is a very talented director and NGE is still a genius anime after all these years, but I find it arrogant that he says modern anime all lack creativity while Anno himself milks his own anime off. But maybe I am reading to much between the lines.

          • I like Niea_7. It’s not a masterpiece like his other stuff is so it’s usually not talked about, but it’s still a cool show. The signed doujinshi apparently exist en-masse, so it’s nothing special really.

            Both Watanabe and Anno are among my favorites, each having a show in my favorites list, and plenty of other good stuff. It’s really a shame Watanabe has done so few works, but he really poured everything he loved into them which is why I respect him highly as a director.

          • I dunno. To me, Watanabe is a golden example of style over substance. His shows are well-written, well directed, and well-animated, as well as being enjoyable to watch, but always hit their low points when the plot rears it’s ugly head. He does a great job creating episodic series, IMO, but has a hard time tying it all together.

          • Well, then, we reach an impasse. I felt the plot episodes of CB were unbearable, especially the ones about Faye’s past. Those episodes had a much different pace from the rest of the show, which I really disliked, and just seemed kinda unnecessary. So really, what I take issue with is that the show had too much of a heterogeneous feel to it, making it feel like it’s two different shows I’m watching. Same problem I have with Evangelion. Not the movies or the remakes, just the original series. The first and second halves feel like different shows (Because they were).

      • First off, I have a hard time understanding exactly how this show resembles Takimoto Tatsuhiko’s style. I know you’re a fan and I was hoping you’d clarify.
        Secondly, Hamasaki really was a good choice for the director of this show. But wasn’t there another guy who was directing this? Takuya Satō, I think. He did Ichigo Mashimaro and Seitokai no Ichizon. I’d like to see how these radically different directors work together.
        Finally, I’d like to Mention Chaos;Head. Also a game by nitro+, same universe as this one, and also made into an anime. By Madhouse, no less. But the animation was pathetic and the story incoherent. So be wary, digiboy. Be very wary.

        • I’m aware of Chaos Head and how bad it was, though for what it’s worth, my friend said the original game was pretty bad anyway. Regardless, I’m confident in this project.

          How does it *not* resemble Takimoto’s style? Rambling, incoherent protagonist obsessed with the idea that everything’s a conspiracy and weird semi-real supernatural happenings lightly blanketed over psychotic delusion to the point that you’re not sure entirely what’s real—that sums up all of Takimoto’s work, pretty much.

  2. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought of Welcome to the NHK.

    Though granted I completed Chaos;Head and the delusions aspect of the show was quite present there as well. The main character was a pretty big wreck and I can’t exactly remember what his biggest problem was. In Chaos;Head though there was like a machine that made the delusions real…or something…I’m not sure if I’m remembering it correctly. The most delusional all got magic delusion swords.

    So yeah, I’m intrigued but a little guarded. Hopefully the similarities between Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head end with the delusions.

    Also, I enjoyed the OP well enough but it’s not Itou Kanako’s strongest offering. The one good thing about Chaos;Head would be F.D.D. which has ton of energy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-IIwmYIbNA

    Also the ED of this cannot compare to Super Special, which is debatably a good thing.

    Also were you not dying over Hanakana, I was DYING. deru deru, bunyu bunyu indeed.
    Also Miyano Mamoru, sounding distinctly older than his usual characters.

    • I recognized neither of them, which left me feeling very ashamed with them both being favorites of mine. (My best guesses were Tomokazu Sugita and I couldn’t quite put my finger on HanaKana, probably because I didn’t think to guess it was her). I’m looking forward to enjoying them next time.

      I too am guarded for the reasons stated at the start, but what can I say, I’m an optimist!

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