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Score: 8.53/10

Steins;Gate Movie: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu

Eng Title : Steins;Gate: The Movie − Load Region of Déjà Vu

Alt Title : Steins Gate Movie

JP Title : 劇場版 シュタインズゲート 負荷領域のデジャヴ

Year : 2013

Genre : Drama, Sci-Fi

Season :

Status : Complete

Rating : PG-13 - Teens 13 or older

Episodes : 1/1

Duration : 1 hr. 30 min.

Studios : White Fox

Synopsis

After a year in America, Kurisu Makise returns to Akihabara and reunites with Rintarou Okabe. However, their reunion is cut short when Okabe begins to experience recurring flashes of other timelines as the consequences of his time traveling start to manifest. These side effects eventually culminate in Okabe suddenly vanishing from the world, and only the startled Kurisu has any memory of his existence. In the midst of despair, Kurisu is faced with a truly arduous choice that will test both her duty as a scientist and her loyalty as a friend: follow Okabe's advice and stay away from traveling through time to avoid the potential consequences it may have on the world lines, or ignore it to rescue the person that she cherishes most. Regardless of her decision, the path she chooses is one that will affect the past, the present, and the future. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

There are two kinds of anime movies from existing franchises. The first is made because the creators wanted to continue the story in movie format. The second is made because the original TV series gave them a lot of money and they didn’t want to waste the brand. Steins;Gate is the second type. Of that second type there are three further types. The first is the rarely used complete rewrite where the creators decided to fuck the original story and make up an entirely new ones because they’ve got so much creative juices they can’t be bound by canon. This was not the Steins;Gate movie, although I wish that is what they did do. The second type is the movie set randomly somewhere within the established canon where nothing of consequence ultimately happens and everything returns to the status quo at the end apart from the one character they introduced for that movie along. This is what Shounen Jump movies usually do. This was not the Steins;Gate movie, although it would have been preferable because at least then it tells a self-contained story.

The third type is movie hastily bolted onto the end of a story that was already completely wrapped up and the writers were just desperately trying to force some kind of conflict that tampers with the original ending and makes the whole thing feel pointless and silly. This is the Steins;Gate movie. Funnily enough, it wasn’t very good.

The movie plays out in a very similar fashion to the Steins;Gate TV series, complete with the same animation quality as the TV series which was a little disappointing. I would have liked improved animation since they had the time and money for it, but whatever. I like the directing style in Steins;Gate enough to get a kick out of seeing it again, and there’s a limited amount you can do with its grey muted tones by throwing money at it. Watching Okarin flail about like the nutter he is, interacting with Kurisu and Daru and co has all the same charm as it always did.

Due to the limited time it does have the problem franchise movies often have where they have to hastily reintroduce all the old characters and make them do their one character quirk before disappearing again. Not that I had any affection whatsoever for the stupid cat maid or the trap, but the scenes did feel rather forced. The earlier scenes between Okarin and Kurisu though do no feel forced. They work great and are ultimately the highlight of the movie. For all the dramatics and long monologues and time travelling that happen later on, the best part of this movie will always be Kurisu rubbing her face against Okarin’s cheek.

Then, much like the TV series, after a period of characters mucking about and little weird things happen, time travel goes crazy and Okarin disappears. Sort of. I won’t spoil why or how, but the upshot of this is that Kurisu ends up taking the reign as main character, which ultimately ends up being the downfall for the movie. I love Steins;Gate because of Okarin. It’s his interaction with characters and his view of the world that makes this tale exciting. How his delusions turn to reality and the shift is his character from that. Strip that out and you have a decent time travel story that moves a little too slowly. And that’s the main series. The time travel story in this one is even more nonsense than the original and doesn’t have time to play around with the possibilities that made the slow pace interesting from the original.

I like Kurisu a lot, don’t get me wrong on this one. Having a movie from her perspective sounds like a great idea. Turns out that’s not the case. Living in Kurisu’s head is boring as fuck. The back third of the movie is spent listening to Kurisu monologuing incredibly boringly about how she’s kinda sad. There’s no dressing to this narration. It’s just a bland boring monologue. Combine this with the grey artstyle and I honestly started to drift off during the movie. The oppressive grey art style only worked because it was combined with Okarin believing conspiracy theories. From the mind of Kurisu and her more sane view of the world, it just makes Akihabara look like the dullest place on the planet.

Finally, and arguably even more damningly than making Kurisu the main character, you can’t help shake the feeling that this was just tacked on at the end because they needed to extend this series further. The entire central plot and what’s happening to Okarin was clearly created long after the original script for Steins;Gate was written. I know this is all franchise movies ultimately, but there are ones that do it well without feeling like I’ve been suckered. Trigun did this really well with Badlands Rumble. Steins;Gate not so much. I do love me some Steins;Gate, but I would recommend just sticking to that original series.

How does one continue a story that has already wrapped up perfectly? The announcement of a Steins;Gate sequel film was inevitably met by both caution and anticipation. Like the concept of travelling backwards in time, Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu is a paradox. It does not need to exist, and yet it still has every right to. It could have been an ordinary piece of fanservice, a throwaway story, and some would have been perfectly content with that. It could have been a forgettable prequel or even a retelling of the TV series' story. There were so many options available that you can't help but wonder, why on Earth did they choose to make a direct sequel of all things? It's almost as if they were asking, begging for a disaster. The end result has proven to be anything but a disaster. This is a continuation every bit as compelling as it is justified. Taking place exactly one year after the events of the main series, Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu depicts a seemingly blissful world. There is no SERN, no time machines, no unavoidable deaths-- but still something is amiss. Okabe's memories are distorted. His experiences with time travel have made him an unstable entity. Perhaps it's just a fit of emotional trauma, he thinks, but his worst fears are realised when he suddenly disappears from existence, trapped between multiple World Lines. Miraculously, Kurisu manages to remember Okabe's existence through a steady case of deja vu - determined now to do everything she can to stop him from disappearing forever. Kurisu's role as the protagonist is the film's greatest strength. While the TV series primarily focused on her intellect and relationship with Okabe, the film instead decides to show a more human side to her character. Kurisu's emotional state takes the centre stage this time, her being subjected to many of the same horrors that Okabe previously experienced. Even when it comes to the light-hearted 'moe' scenes (and there's quite a few in the beginning), Kurisu's personality remains consistent and believable. She acts flustered and embarrassed not for cheap pandering, but because she's not used to having close relationships - she's dedicated her entire life to science. The term "tsundere" does not even feel appropriate. Kurisu is simply a human being with her own flawed personality... although, to be fair, she is pretty much the modern day Einstein. Fans of Okabe will not be disappointed either. There is plenty of the usual banter and Hououin Kyouma shenanigans within the first thirty minutes of the story. It's only after that point that Okabe actually begins to disappear, and the minutes after still occasionally see him appear. What makes Okabe stand out, however, are the moments between him and Kurisu. We see the romance explored in much greater detail than the TV series, which more or less ended it at a single kiss scene. One of the most powerful moments in the entire series (not something to be said lightly) occurs as Okabe painfully convinces Kurisu to forget him, content with disappearing in return for her safety. Without an episode number to constantly remind us that there's more story to come, there is a perpetual feeling of anxiety not knowing what might happen. What if it actually ends that way? Nothing is for certain. Also of note is a short scene near the beginning with a drunk Kurisu teasing Okabe and rubbing against his face. I may just nominate that for the cutest moment of the year. The rest of the cast is largely ignored, but it is mostly for the better. The side characters have never been the series' strong suit, particularly with regards to Mayuri, so scatterbrained that you would assume she has brain damage. The @channel references are also kept to a minimum this time around, although there is still plenty of the ol' Dr. Pepper advertising. For as great as Kurisu's and Okabe's characterisation is, there are still some minor faults in the story. My main gripe is that there is a lot of build-up and yet very little climax. The entire story builds up towards something grand... and then it all ends within about five minutes of talking on a bench. Compared to the last two episodes of the main series, it all feels a bit disappointing. Perhaps it simply needed an extra ten or twenty minutes of screen-time, as the rest of the film never felt like it was being rushed. There is also a short instance of melodrama (Kurisu running and falling as she chases after Okabe) and the changes made to the sci-fi canon would have benefited from a stronger explanation, but neither of these are bothersome enough to dampen the overall experience. Just don't be expecting much realism from the science aspect - this is a story about time travel, after all. Much like the TV series, the soundtrack of Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu is stellar all-around. The score mainly comprises of ambient sound and moody piano pieces, subtle enough to add to the atmosphere without being overbearing. In the one scene where the music is most noticeable (a piano version of the main theme playing in the background), it is genuinely emotional, never melodramatic. Kanako Ito also makes a return for the opening song of the film, effectively creating a sense of familiarity for fans of the series. Special props should also be given to Asami Imai for providing some of the strongest voice acting in years. The visual quality is about on par with the TV series. While there is little animation and few scenes that strike the eye, it never quite feels like it needed more than that. It is consistent and plenty adequate for an animated film. My only complaint is that it lacks colour - the original Huke artwork from the visual novel was so much more interesting. Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu is a veritable triumph. Rather than simply exist as a superfluous sequel (or worse - a bad one), it succeeds in enhancing the overall story. Kurisu is now as strong of a character as Okabe ever was. The relationship between the two has finally been explored with the attention and detail that it truly deserves. This is the definitive end to the story and it proves difficult to let go. Maybe it didn't need to exist, but I'm still glad it was made. Some things are worth waiting for.

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