Arbitrary;Name

by eternal on June 28, 2012

I don’t know much about 5pb even with their Wikipedia page open in front of me. Steins;Gate is a collaboration with Nitro+ but it was written by one of 5pb’s staff, dodging Gen Urobochi’s sadistic pen keyboard. (For better or worse, one might argue, but one Fate/Zero per year is enough for me).  Like its quirkily-named predecessor by the same writer, Steins;Gate is both a horror and a mystery, and also sort of a science adventure thingy. The second arc is pretty cool: the girls’ stories intersect in surprising ways, there are real twists, and the ending is all kinds of romantic. But the anime really shines in its first cours as superb pacing and foreshadowing create more tension than I’ve felt from Nitro+’s horror works.

The series stands out because it’s about microwavable bananas, not timeline-hopping–or at least that’s how it presents itself, given the oddly slow pacing of the first arc. You’d think this would be a problem, but instead of overloading the viewer with exposition (thematic or plot), it creates tension through mystery. The characters don’t work in a top-secret lab; they solve mysteries the way we would, with the same kind of lackadaisical sense of priorities. The lightheartedness builds tension by letting the viewer wonder in their own time whether the magnitude of Okarin’s actions is greater than it seems. It’s doubly effective because there are only a few reminders that the proverbial shit will inevitably get real.

It’s thanks to this slow pacing that little hints become essential. The text message death threat that Okarin receives in the grocery store is one of the most horrifying moments I’ve seen in anime in recent years. Had the series begun with serial killings and supernatural murder and whatnot, it would be no surprise–“it’s a Nitro+ game, of course there will be death; why worry when the protagonist has plot armour?” But the everyday bickering and Daru’s incessant use of internet slang and Mayushii’s cosplay ramblings disarm you. The gravity of the situation doesn’t hit until it’s too late (which is probably how it felt from Okarin’s point of view, when you think about it).

That’s why Mayushii’s first death becomes such an iconic moment. It’s not the “inevitable” death we expect from a horror game; it’s the death we forgot was coming. The show does a good job of throwing you in Okarin’s shoes with the repetition of the frozen hourglass image and Mayushii’s (painfully innocent) statement that her watch stopped working. You follow him through the transition from comedy to horror, witnessing those same acts until they become unchangable, futile. Suddenly his talk about mad scientists and conspiracies is no laughing matter. Remember the kid with the train? Like Haruhi’s Endless Eight, the repetition of minor, unchangeable details drives home the overarching point that fate is real and that it is terrifying.

It’s easy for stories to be gruesome, but fear from disgust is different. Sometimes it’s the more relateable fears that affect us–fear that we might have gone too far, that our actions might have had unintended, irreparable consequences, that the future is carved in stone. It’s this fear that turns Steins;Gate‘s prelude from a slow-paced mystery into an engrossing and terrifying one.

~ eternal
つづく

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous July 25, 2012 at 6:00 am

Impartial viewer who happens to visit the Bishoujo Project. Saw your tweet, and had to check your site out. I’m sorry, but this place doesn’t compare to the Bishoujo Project at all. You’re literally a pebble compared to them. Generic anime reviews, more fucking boring shit, and a stock wordpress theme.

They aren’t perfect, but you’re clearly butthurt as fuck. There’s a reason you don’t get any traffic like your angry buttbuddies, and you’ve been around for 4 years. LOL. There’s nobody on earth who would find your site interesting which is by you get 0-2 comments per post.

Fucking failure. Quit blogging.

Reply

kevo July 26, 2012 at 4:16 am

Impartial viewer who happens to visit the Desu ex Machina. Saw your tweet, and had to check your site out. I’m sorry, but this place doesn’t compare to the Desu ex Machina at all. You’re literally a pebble compared to them. Where’s the moe worship? The bad taste? The hating on Penguindrum?

kevo is pretty much perfect, but you’re clearly butthurt as fuck. There’s a reason you don’t get any traffic like your angry buttbuddies, and you’ve been around for 4 years. LOL. There’s nobody on earth who would find your site interesting which is by you get 0-2 comments per post.

Fucking failure. Quit blogging.

Reply

coobie July 26, 2012 at 8:27 am

Impartialr incubator who happens to visit the megukaplex. Saw your puellas, and had to check your site out. I’m sorry, but this place doesn’t compare to the megukaplex at all. You’re literally a pebble compared tobtyem. Flat chested sluts, day one witches, more amateur shit, and a stock Magi.

They aren’t perfect, but you’re clearly butthurt as fuck. There’s a reason you don’t get any huge chested puella like your angry buttbuddies, andyou’ve been around for 4 millenniums. LOL. There’s nobody in this galaxy who would find your puellas fappable, which is why you get 0-2 Puella Magi per decade.

Fucking failure. Quit Contracting.

Reply

Devilry September 8, 2013 at 4:29 am

Man, I’m sorry that the only three other comments on this post are so dumb. Thanks for the post, I enjoyed it.

I feel like a lot of animes today are all about instantaneous gratification. You need something dramatic to happen in the first few episodes, along with plenty of the stupidest twists that don’t even matter after the episode in which they occur. Not that this is necessarily a bad model – I think Code Geass did it well, but it’s tiring when this becomes the gold standard, and nobody has the attention span to take it slow and enjoy the small things.

This is partly why Steins;Gate is so special to me. I love the feeling of not knowing where it’s gonna take me, yet there’s always that feeling of looming dread to remind me to enjoy these peaceful times while they last. Sometimes its better not to barrage the viewer with all sorts of epic, sad and happy moments and hope that enough of them hit the target, but to wait it out so that the few skilful ones really count.

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