Entry #6: Steins;Gate (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended, once again, by a pretty humble guy.)

Fun fact: before completing this today, I had watched one episode of this series in the past. It had been left sitting, alone and afraid, in my “on-hold” category for, no joke, nearly five years. I was intrigued by it, especially it’s #4 overall rating on MyAnimeList in terms of average user score, but I could never find myself properly motivated to delve into something with such mountainous expectations. I’d like to thank Mr. Humble Guy again for giving me an excuse to pick it back up after all of these years.

After completing it, I only have this to ask: why is this series rated so high? I mean it. I am scratching my head wondering why, specifically, this series has an average rating of 9/10 on most anime databases and is heralded by many as a modern masterpiece. Is it the time travel aspect? The kooky characters? The presentation of never being able to escape fate? Is it because it somewhat resembles Doctor Who???

By no means is Steins;Gate a bad anime. Before throwing every insult at me for shaming such a flawless series as this, let me present my overall, general feelings immediately by saying I think the anime is… good. It is good. Not great, but good. By traditional anime standards (I am very cynical), it’s leagues better than the standard high school rom-com, but #4 ever? The Magnum Opus, the Mona Lisa, the Statue of David, of anime? I… I can’t lie and say it even compares. The series is good—perfectly, solidly good.

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A part of my feelings towards the show is the result of how little emotional attachment I had for it. I see a lot of members put Kurisu and Okabe among their favorite anime characters. This only further confuses me. The characters of Steins;Gate are likable and definitely solid within the performance of their one-shot personalities. I question, however, their development and the relationship they have with one another, specifically Okabe and Kurisu, seeing as the concept of time as a play thing resets the progression certain characters could have with one another, yet goes forth as if everything somehow retains itself because magic. Characters are rather important in a series that relies so much on drama and a heavy-narrative foundation, so if they are not examined and executed perfectly, one likely won’t be along for the emotional ride (I’m likely within a small minority).

Another thing of note I almost never see when people discuss this anime is its roots as a visual novel. And its anime adaptation doesn’t really transition all that well. One can simply feel the way they position the characters in the second-half, one by one without any interruption with one another, as they are “saved” by Okabe. More than repetitive, it comes off as formulaic, something that contradicts the first-half’s somewhat varied approach at telling a story and creating a quirky family bond between the many characters that tag along the “mad scientist’s” eccentric exploits. While I understand the context of Okabe’s feelings within the second-half, as he tries his hardest to prevent tragedy upon his loved ones due to fate’s cruel hand, he loses a lot of the charm he originally had as a character as he becomes more in line with “Standard Male OC #4,502.” It feels as though the anime flipped a switch that was marked “Serious Mode,” with characters being toys for the plot to do whatever with and suffocating their more charming characteristics.

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A lot of this seems completely out of context, but I think this is a series best served with as little detail as possible. Still, it’s difficult to properly rely what I found wrong with the series without ruining everything, seeing as it is so wordy. I guess the best way I could properly wrap it up is with a neat little bullet point chart.

  • Second-half undermines the first-half’s attempt at making the characters’ personalities seem natural, and slowly transitions into making said characters chess pieces for a grand scheme of dramatic overindulgence.
  • Pacing is generally acceptable, but comes to a screeching halt around the halfway point, then crawls its way through every minute until the final episode.
  • Okabe and Kurisu’s relationship has the illusion of being deep and profound, but the reality is that they only experienced one another for a short time and a lot of that was introductory stages and technical experimentation. Very few scenes of (realistic) progression of a romantic attachment.
  • Okabe goes from mad scientist with visions of grandeur to Male Lead in an Anime.
  • Many side characters don’t get developed in a way that presents them as people who matter. Daru is a pervert otaku. Mayuri is a bubbly airhead. Etc.
  • Many attempts at defying fate barely seem as though they’re trying. Get a bunker or something. C’mon.

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With this avalanche of negative aspects, don’t let this muddy the waters for an otherwise very intriguing and entertaining experience. Steins;Gate is not among the greatest anime I’ve ever seen, but it is definitely worth a watch if one hasn’t seen it already. There could definitely have been more to the characters, but the story was pretty compact and air-sealed in terms of (non-nitpicky) plot holes. Consistently entertaining, splendid art and animation, and a nice change of pace with a sci-fi setting that actually makes sense. There’s no guarantee this series will become one’s all time favorite (or maybe it will), but I can absolutely recommend it as an overall pleasant viewing experience.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: B-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Thoughts on Sankarea (Spoilers?)


What’s popular right now? Girls are popular. But they’ve always been popular. We need something else, something fresh… or maybe… something not fresh! Yes! The unfresh mesh of flesh! Zombies! Those are in! But how do we combine girls and zombies… Wait a minute! I got it!

Zombie girl!

Unfortunately, the zombie gimmick that appears within Sankarea is nothing more than some bandaged wounds, pale white (whiter than normal) skin, and red eyes. This is not the zombie one would expect from, say, zombie films. The zombified being is nothing more than an eye color change and slight skin discoloration from of the original form. So for those of you hoping to find some sort of glorified horror-romance between a boy and a rotted pile of black bones, moaning to the unnatural instincts of the undead kind, look elsewhere.

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However, there are some indications that said zombified female is not totally in control of her actions. There are (very few) segments that portray the girl as a lifeless body controlled by natural instincts; almost animal-like in nature, hungry for… kisses. Still, this kind of behavior, while allowing some unpredictability for the girl’s undead condition, loses any sort of suspense when she looks just as, if not more beautiful than she did as when she was alive. This also rings true for the very last scene in the series, as it left me so confused that I had to consult some anime forums in order to get any sense of closure. Was it supposed to be cute? Scary? Ominous? What it certainly wasn’t was “fulfilling.”

This ties into the underlying issue that plagues this series: it has no idea what it wants to be. Throughout twelve episodes, Sankarea takes on settings of slice of life, rom-com, horror, drama, character studies, and at points, fantasy. There is so much going on within the course of each episode that it begins to hinder the progress of any setting that was thrown into it for the hell of it. The more it focuses on rom-com, the less it feels like a horror. But then it goes back to hinting at horror, which hinders the slice of life feeling. But then it continues to paint a slice of life picture when the previous episode ended with an ominous cliffhanger. It changes focus so rapidly throughout that it’s hard to keep a consistent mood until the end, and it changes so drastically that it feels disjointed. Episode eight ends on a cliffhanger that could potentially mean life or death in regards to the male lead. Episode nine is a character study focusing on the male lead’s sister before the events of episode eight. Why do that?! Why not save that for after an episode that focuses on slice of life? It’s like pushing off the inevitable for an episode that could be saved for the subject of a future OVA. Don’t you love advertisements in-between videos?

Story structure aside, the logic behind some of the things that occur are far too convenient to my liking. It’s enough that becoming a zombie hardly alters one’s physical being, but if one is dead and has no pulse (as was stated a few times in the anime), how is it that the brain is still active? How can one keep their mental state (aside from the occasional side effects) while zombified if the brain isn’t active? And I assume the brain isn’t active because there’s no pulse. If the brain were active, there’d be a pulse, as the brain controls a great portion of the involuntary workings of the body. So how can one keep all of their internal memories, personality, and voluntary control of their motor capabilities? They don’t offer any explanation, but rather hide behind the veil of ignorance. How is any of this possible? Who knows? Let’s just go with it. Aside from that, plot convenience and story clichés that make zero sense are also prevalent throughout the end of the series. It’s rather unsettling.

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Those that inhabit the land of Zombie Love High! are rather hit and miss. As a point I made above about “character studies,” Sankarea shows quite a few backstories and focuses on individual characters for various episodes or parts of episodes. One character who is hardly focused on whatsoever is the male lead. But is that really surprising? It’s the male lead. Despite how catty he looks or how obsessed with zombies he is, he’s still the same character as any other male lead in the history of male leads in anime. Aside from him, there’s the zombie girl, the male lead’s sister, father, and grandfather; the male lead’s childhood friend, and zombie girl’s father and step-mother. The most prominent among these characters are the childhood friend, zombie girl, and zombie girl’s father. Unfortunately, what they’re important for is predictable from their very titles. “Childhood friend” is clearly a romantic interest for the male lead. No surprise there. “Zombie girl” is the entire gimmick to the story. And a romantic interest for the male lead. No surprise there.

Zombie girl’s father is a bit of a different case. He is the central “antagonist” to the story. His importance to the plot is noticeably more prominent than others from stories like this, but it’s also riddled with a one-dimensional mindset. There’s the common trope of a father being overprotective of their daughter in a comedic setting, but zombie girl’s father is protective to the point of control. His “love” for his daughter is a means of manipulation and symbolic of his past failures. It sounds good on paper, but the execution is less than stellar. He’s essentially the “meanie-head poopoo-brain bad guy” who needs to be chastised by little kids in order to see any sort of conscious wrongdoing with his actions, despite how “seriously” the entire scenario is played out. As a character, he’s flawed. As a genuine person, he’s hilariously unfit for human emotion.

That isn’t to say these characters aren’t unlikable. Aside from the male lead, because he’s the male lead, and zombie girl’s father, the cast ranges from halfway-decent to relatable. While I personally didn’t get a ton of enjoyment out of the cast, it gives enough effort to showcase the characters in various lights to be enjoyable to many. I suppose “developed” is a word that can be used to consider them, but I wouldn’t quite go that far. I think they’re still within the process of being molded. After all, with all the time spent changing the genre of the show, it’s hard to take these character seriously without a specific mood. How do you like your archetypes? Tragic? Comedic? Dramatic? Romantic?

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One saving grace that this anime has going for it is the art direction. While the overall appearance of the show, while flashy here and there, isn’t all that fantastic, the characters at least look distinguishable from other series. Recall that I said the male lead looked “catty.” His hair is shaped as though he has two ears hidden underneath his jet black mane. His eyes are slanted ovals. His pupils often turn quite tiny. If I didn’t know better, he looks like he could have came straight out of Mayoi Neko Overrun!. His sister even has light blue hair. From a practical standpoint, why? In a series with hair colors that range from light brown to black, out of nowhere we have a character with light blue hair. Not to mention their grandfather doesn’t even look human, but more like a deformed human-frog hybrid. The artistic style that Sankarea has is humorous enough to take it seriously as an odd comedy, but, again, it hampers any sense of drama that it periodically enjoys to overindulge in. It also has a tendency to boost up the color and brightness of the screen whenever something profound is happening. Nice to see them working on scenes that actually matter.

It’s a troubling series that took me three and a half years to finally complete. I started this back in late 2012 and got through six episodes before putting it on-hold up until earlier this month. With all the time that had passed, I decided to start the series completely over, and wouldn’t you know it, I got to episode six and suddenly my motivation to continue started to stagnate. There’s really something to say about a series when it becomes so tiring to view halfway through. Whether it was the character interaction, the meager attempts at incorporating every genre in the book, or the stilted chemistry between the male lead and zombie girl, Sankarea is a mess of a maze with an intriguing entrance. It just goes to show you that a hook isn’t always enough to keep someone interested.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Quick Thoughts on NHK ni Youkoso!

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I decided to chicken out of writing a long, drawn-out analysis of the show in favor of a quick round-up of what I liked and didn’t like about it.

What I liked:

  • Story: A lot of praise geared towards this anime is that it presents a realistic representation of the hikikomori lifestyle. While I feel the nature of this show is a little exaggerated, I would agree that it’s gentle enough with the subject to paint the central character in a respectfully unrespectful light. I also enjoyed that through whatever method, Sato, said central character, still isn’t able to escape his hikikomori habits and thought patterns, giving clarity at the message of “patience” when dealing with people exhibiting that nature. Even by the end, he still isn’t entirely cured, but he’s made noticeable progress through a very malicious truth.
  • Characters: I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed each character by the end of the series. All with the exclusion of Misaki, I believe each character was developed well enough to make their situations both inherently wrong, but morally justifiable. On the surface, a lot of these characters like Sato or Yamazaki are just “shut-ins” or “super otaku,” but the struggles and backstories that go along with each character’s core motivation and interests is enough to make their stances understandable, even if their actions because of it aren’t entirely productive. Some characters, such as the “class rep” and her hikikomori older brother, I felt were a little rushed in terms of a resolution to their problems, seeing as every character gets one, whether positive or negative. Then again, that scenario is another case of the “malicious truth” I stated above.

What I Disliked:

  • Art & Animation: NHK ni Youkoso! is not a pretty-looking anime. I can understand from a logical standpoint that this anime doesn’t need to be flashy due to its realistic setting, but it looks as if this anime didn’t have much of a budget to it. There are various representations of sketchy animation in certain episodes that look off-putting. The beginning of episode nineteen comes to mind. Sometimes it last a few seconds while other times it goes on for minutes. Aside from that, I can appreciate the anime for making characters look different from one another. In terms of character design, this anime does a very good job with differentiation. However, Misaki never changes clothes… what’s up with that? In a more fanatic light, Sato’s illusions of nightmares came across as goofy for me. Perhaps that was intentional, but the whole “conspiracy” nonsense I felt was too silly in its appearance to be seen as anything worthwhile. It’s certainly entertaining to watch, but not to use as an explanation for slacking off or being suspicious of others.
  • The Ending: Before I go on, it’s not how the anime concludes that I don’t care for, but the events that lead up to the conclusion. The events involving Misaki’s past and Sato trying to save her from it. I label it “The Ending” because it is the last few episodes of the series, so it’s essentially like rounding to the nearest ten. I stated above that Misaki’s development isn’t included in the “well enough” category, because I feel her past and motivations become apparent far too late in the series. There are a couple scenes of foreshadowing, but one can’t necessarily count that as anything development-wise. I feel the last few episodes are more melodramatic than need be. And while it’s shown that Misaki regretted her actions leading up to that point, up until that, her character just felt… off. It didn’t seem like she was the same person. To give the chain of events credit, it shows the progress Sato made throughout the series. Overall, I think the ending spills too much info all at once. It leaves too much impact leading up to the climax to have the climax itself leave any noticeable mark.

Fun fact: I had this anime on-hold for over three years. I started this back in 2012, only watching a single episode before putting it on-hold until earlier this year. I both regret and don’t regret this decision. I’m not sure I could’ve appreciated this anime that long ago, when my experience with anime as a whole was still but a slow-moving caterpillar. With close to 250 anime to my credit now, this anime becomes all the more impactful for how inherently different it is and how it presents itself. It’s an anime I would absolutely recommend, but for those “in the know” of anime culture… or perhaps those who can relate to Sato’s situation. Yes, it’s a good representation of hikikomori lifestyle, but it’s also a good representation of a well-told story.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Thoughts on Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch

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I thought of making this entry longer, but seeing as the “first season” is more akin to a first half of a larger story that leaves its ending wide open, I decided to leave some of the more detailed criticisms for when I finish the second half. After all, there are a lot of unexplained plot points by the end of this season. There’s the entire history behind C.C., along with her connection with Geass and the origin of Geass itself; the fate of Nunnally and all those that Lelouch left behind to pursue his goal, and the answers to Lelouch’s hidden past. Henceforth, I’ve decided to only cover the necessities of what this particular season offers on its own accord.

I’ll admit right now: the last five episodes or so are a lot more enjoyable and immersive than the rest of the season. Its focus becomes a lot more straightforward and one no longer has to worry about trivial banter between meager characters or events surrounding said characters. It also puts a heavier emphasis on the weight of Lelouch’s actions throughout the series and an even bigger strain on his conscience. There are a lot of interesting, thought-provoking themes that arise near the end of the series, and aside from a few useless characters acting like psychopaths for no reason, I think the characters behave in a realistic and respectable manner. It is through this chain of episodes that Code Geass‘s strengths are most highlighted, but also hide some of its flaws as well.

Before this point, I felt the series had struggled with attaining a consistent pace throughout. There are segments where Lelouch is organizing things behind the scenes as his alter ego and working towards his goal. However, as he tries to maintain a stable home life along with this, it is here where the anime begins to drag along the surface. Lelouch as a character has no chemistry with his classmates. Only with Suzaku and Kallen, the two characters present in the school that mean something by the end of 25 episodes, does Lelouch show any emotional attachment towards. But that doesn’t mean the series tried, heavens no. There are constantly little breaks with Lelouch’s culture-changing antics to focus on the artificial lives of the students he interacts with on a daily basis, whether they come off as shallow (always) or not (never). They spend an entire episode chasing a cat. They spend an entire episode trying to develop C.C. and her relationship with Lelouch by bringing in some insane asshole who means next to nothing but vague foreshadowing. They spend an entire episode pretending Euphemia isn’t a princess so Suzaku can have a love interest. This series tries, but it hardly succeeds. Only the major characters left an impact on me by season’s end. Seriously, fuck that red-head. It left me wishing to continue with the war between Britannians and Elevens.

The art is an interesting specimen. In some cases, it’s unique in a sense that it doesn’t look like any other series. In others, it’s odd and makes some scenes unintentionally hilarious. Honestly, who hasn’t seen that contorted picture of a crazed Nina? Their body types in particular are also very perplexing. Lelouch and Suzaku are almost like walking skeletons. Their jaw lines are very “v” like. They’re sharp, almost like my tongue. I, personally, wouldn’t necessitate this art style as “bad,” but I certainly wouldn’t compliment its superiority compared to other series. It’s just another style of representation. It didn’t bother me to any extent, but I would hesitate to praise it. It’s serviceable. Nothing more.

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Characters are very hit and miss. Off the top of my head, Lelouch, Suzaku, Kallen, and Euphemia are the only characters I would consider “Strong,” but even then, Kallen and Euphemia’s development rested solely on a single event or philosophy. Honestly, Kallen’s “development” was contained within half an episode, and felt so forced it almost becomes a detriment. This is furthered evidenced by the fact that her mother, the key catalyst in her development, never appears again beyond this episode. It was episode… ten? I believe. Still, there weren’t many characters I found dislikable (except maybe Mao), only characters that felt more like tools to a means. I really use this analogy a lot, don’t I? Suzaku and Lelouch alone are enough to carry the weight of the show’s heavy themes. With the relationship that these two share (which feels genuine), I feel the series becomes stronger when they’re either working together or working against one another. It helps when their morals and means of justice seem to clash on every occasion. C.C. is somewhat of a thing, but I’d rather save more talk of her for the sequel entry.

The enjoyability of this anime shifted up and down throughout the course of the season. I found the more light-hearted or character-developmental episodes weaker than not, but adequate enough to hold my interest. Fortunately, those focused on “Zero” (What a non-cliché name) served the series well, especially near the end when things began to unravel. I’m hesitant about the use of Geass and the otherwise unmentioned consequences that arise from its overuse, but that’s more to be discussed in the sequel entry. However, I’m satisfied with the foundation currently present with how the Geass functions and its conditions. I was worried early on that Lelouch would become an ancient One Punch Man. The power acts more like an upper-hand than a God Mode function, and has drawbacks as well. Whether or not the timing of those drawbacks occurring within the anime makes sense or not… is yet to be seen.

Code Geass is an anime I held a grudge against for a long time. I likely would’ve watched this anime sooner had it not been for my internalized disdain of its (perceived) unwarranted popularity. I don’t regret watching it, though, as it turned out to be better than I expected it to. Then again, I half-expected it to be garbage. Nevertheless, there are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be confronted before I mark this a series as anything worth spending time on. But as a starting place, Code Geass‘s first season proves to be an entertaining, albeit inconsistent, platform for the weight of human justice and its impact on society as a whole.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.