It fulfills the wish of every Steins; Gate fan wanting to go back in time and relive the wonder of the anime.
I have a feeling that the creators of this anime have an actual “time leap” machine and have released and edited this movie over and over until it became the masterpiece that you see before you. What I just watched soared over every expectation I had of this movie. Sequels to anime that already have an amazing conclusion rarely garner any excitement from anyone. For some it’s because no one feels like diving into a new conflict with characters that already fought for their happy ending. For others, including myself, the reason is rather pretentious, and we just think the writer’s have exhausted their “best” and are simply doing this on a much less ambitious and inspired scale. Whatever the case may be, this movie bucks those tropes and is something that manages to capture everything the original anime brought us, and yet again gave us a heart warming, and well-earned happy ending.
Story: Steins; Gate has proven that it can tell an intelligent thriller and an emotional tale with the same stroke. I am very happy to say that this movie keeps up that same pedigree, and on top of that, has even better pacing thanks to it’s shorter run time. The first thing most of you will want answered is that this is indeed a sequel to the original anime. It’s not a remake, nor is it a disconnected tangent that has no effect to or from the original series. It is a full on sequel that continues on from the strong foundation of characters and plot that the first series rooted.
This time, the main character switches to the ever-so-stubborn Makise Kurisu. What happens in this change of perspective is another harrowing journey very similar to the one Okabe went on in the first series, yet under a completely new set of circumstances. Many, including myself, were wondering what kind of story could match the time jumping clash of fates that the original introduced? Well, be content that this story is just as realistic, clever, and well-developed as the first, and focuses on the consequences of Okabe’s constant time-leaping. It turns into a story much more about the temporal characteristics of memory, and time as an anchor instead of a vessel. Hence, the use of Deja Vu in the title.
It is a story that has been done before, but not quite in this much detail, and definitely not with the signature emotional thriller style that Steins; Gate is known for. The thing I sing praise about for this movie over all else, is that even with a plot that focuses so heavily on tangible science and the logical effects of character’s actions, it never once loses it’s emotional core that strings it all together to create something powerful and not just smart. But at the end of the day…what really matters is that emotion defines this story. While the time manipulation explanation is sound, the realest thing about Steins; Gate are the emotional effects the events have on the two main characters.
Characters: The cast is virtually the same as the anime. If you hated a character in one, you’re going to hate them in the other. Likewise, if you’re a huge fan of the raving lunatic that is Hououin Kyouma, then he is just as quirky and enjoyable this time around. While the series took time to give each character a focus in certain episodes, in the movie you will be joined by most of the cast for the entire ride, and their company is very pleasurable indeed. The constant bickering between the two main characters as well as the colorful and varied Lab Members all offer a constantly changing mood that really helps flesh out the movie.
The one character that offers the most insight into her personality is Makise Kurisu, the tsundere turned protagonist. You get to watch as her understanding of the hell that Okabe went through in the original series turns from disbelief to painstaking sympathy. It serves a dual purpose of being amazing character development as well as a satisfying answer to what becomes of these two lovebirds at the end of the original series. Okabe on the other hand takes a back seat and becomes a less-central character, but the prime motivation for Makise. It’s rather poetic to witness Makise’s attempt to rescue from fate the one that just rescued her.
Drama: This is the “meat” of the movie. The very core that drives every other fantastic thing about this entire fiction. This emotional and dark drama is, at worst compelling, and at best, utterly mesmerizing. Similar to the original series, the atmosphere of the movie starts off very light, humorous, and peaceful. All of a sudden, horrid flashes of Okabe’s past literally tear that tranquility into pieces. It’s done incredibly realistically so that, as a thriller, it serves it’s purposes of making you, as an immersed viewer feel insecure about what’s about to happen, and drown in the suspense that each scene brings.
The mood becomes ever-more darker as Makise sets out on her journey to rescue Okabe. What happens here is a brilliant combination of fantastic writing and amazing aesthetics to make the anime feel bleak and hopeless. Makise goes through her own torturous path through time and struggles with cruel fates and dark dillemas around every corner. It all becomes very heavy until you realize that you are watching something immeasurably sad and beautiful at the same time.
Then the heart grip comes. Romance, as well as the intrinsic love of others close to you, serves as the “fuel” that Makise needs to not get stuck in the middle of this despair. It’s a powerful scene, seeing Makise finally rush to confess her true love, leaving behind all her logic that has defined her all her life. At this point, I was almost emotionally defeated in seeing how much pain and heartache these characters have to go through just to keep each other alive and together. It’s something anyone can sympathize with and turns this drama into something much more universal than simple science fiction.
Animation: Steins; Gate has an art style that I’m particularly fond of. The environment is always simply that of a city or inside of a building, but the atmosphere they create with their coloring and the detail in the characters brings the emotion to life. There are definitely scenes where the quality of the animation amplify the power of some of the scenes. When some characters are wringing their hands through their hair in utter panic or desperation, it just looks phenomenal.
It also helps that the characters all simply look interesting. Makise’s jacket-half-up style is infiltrating my mind as something I want to see girls wear in real life. Okabe’s wild and outrageous gestures look all the more dignified and bad-ass thanks to the studio’s hard work. The best work is right on the character’s faces. This is a character drama before anything, and they waste no effort in making sure you see how Okabe and Makise feel in their darkest of moments. Makise’s breakdown might have been some of the most effective emotional animation I’ve seen.
Sound: Let me start by saying that it was a delight to hear the same band that performed the opening of the original series blast out from my speakers as the opening credits rolled. It instantly captured all my attention and put me in the zone to start the movie. The music was very effective when it needed to be, but that was in combination with the writing, animation, and immersion you had as a viewer. The music on it’s own won’t win any awards. However, I did hear my favorite song strike it’s melancholy violin strings. The same song that actually helped bring a tear to my eye in the original series when they received the letter from Suzuha after traveling to the past.
The voice acting is what really shines. Okabe’s voice actor has always been flawless to me. He manages to capture conflicting emotions with his voice. My favorite moments are when Okabe is feeling incredibly overwhelmed, but puts up his facade of gusto and attempts to speak as the “mad scientist.” You hear his voice quiver and shake, and it’s extremely effective. All credit goes to his voice actor for that fantastic work. Makise’s voice actress put in some amazing extra work this time around as well and she’s got some serious pipes for bringing the emotional turmoil of a character to the forefront as well. Her performance as Makise was one of the most powerful things in the entire movie. Daru is still the weakest of the bunch who always seems to be speaking rather sarcastically even when he’s not supposed to be, but that’s hardly a drop in the bucket to all the talent that went into the voice recordings.
Overall: “Steins; Gate Fuka Ryoiki no Deja Vu,” is a fantastic movie-sequel to what is already a top five anime to me. It hurdles over every obstacle that generally holds sequels back and delivers the same fervorous emotions that the original unsuspectingly threw onto us. There’s no disconnection in lore. This all serves to progress the main Steins; Gate storyline further down the rabbit hole and introduces yet another consequence of time manipulation while showing that true human emotion is quite possibly the strongest and most powerful force in the world. Even more so than time. This movie is a heart-wrenching journey that begs to be viewed by anyone that enjoys stories with heart, but can also endure the unforgiving sadness this movie can portray.
Story: 10/10 – Well-conceived and brilliantly showcased. The story has nothing to scoff at.
Characters: 9/10 – The main duo are on their own plateau of awesome, and the rest of the cast serves a defining purpose and are very enjoyable.
Drama: 10/10 – The heart of the movie. A romance that must be earned through devastating tribulations. Despair that literally feels hopeless.
Animation: 9/10 – Full of atmospheric city-scapes and fantastically detailed characters, the work put in definitely shows on all levels.
Sound: 9/10 – Top of the line voice acting with Okabe and Makise leading the pack. Effective soundtrack that heightens the emotional impact of many scenes.
A shining example of what true drama can be as well as what any sequel should strive to become, yet still feels unique in it’s own way as all anime does.