Friday, 8 April 2011

Steins;Gate - Episode 1

Kyouma Hououin is your typical mad scientist - always wandering around in a lab coat, trampling on the work of others and worried about conspiratorial forces looking to steal his inventions or worse.  At least, that's the role that "Okarin" (as he's known to his childhood friend, the sweet but not hugely bright Mayuri Shiina) likes to play in his head... or is it a game?  Unsurprisingly, nothing is entirely for sure in this adaptation of another visual novel from Nitroplus and a spiritual successor to Chaos;Head.

As we join Okarin and Mayuri, we see the pair of them hanging out inside a building before the former goes to see a press conference held by a professor who claims to hold the key to time travel, but in fact seems to be doing little more than aping the technology claimed to exist by John Titor (a reference that I really got a thrill out of, it being quite a fascinating tale to me in its own right).  From here, he bumps into a girl named Kurisu Makise whose name he recognises from a scientific paper she wrote; a girl who seems to have some business with him from fifteen minutes previously which he clearly doesn't remember.  The next thing we know, Makise has been stabbed and lies dead and bloodied in a corridor, and once Okarin reaches for his phone after this event.... he finds hiookmself standing in a deserted street with a satellite embedded in the building he'd previously been in.

This rather odd series of events, coupled with Okarin's odd and slightly delusional behaviour, are then further explored and leveraged during the second half of this episode, as we're given the feeling that the trio of inhabitants of the so-called "Future Gadget Lab" are nothing more than idiots playing around, only to have at least some of those assumptions thrown into question as the episode moves forward to the twist that is its final scenes.  What is the truth to the story and the events we've seen?  Finding that out will, of course, be half of the fun of Steins;Gate - at least, we hope it will be.

As first episodes go, this opener to Steins;Gate did everything that you could expect of it in terms of setting out its stall - we quickly got to grips with its characters and felt as thought we'd gotten to grips with their motivations and role in things to come, only to have the rug pulled out from under us (or at least shifted slightly) on multiple occasions.  Okay, so it's hardly Perfect Blue but it still serves as a great hook to make you want to watch more and get your head around exactly what is going on - very much a case of mission accomplished from where I'm sitting, so bring it on!

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