Steins;Gate 0 Review: The other time travel series

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Mayuri reaches towards the sky

Boy did this series have a lot to live up to, given how much I enjoyed the original series. Based off a separate timeline, the series follows a version of Okabe Rintarou who is unable to save Makise Kurisu. The story portrays his attempt to move past the trauma of that event. For a series that inevitably lives in the shadow of its predecessor, I thought that it did a relatively decent job, but it definitely took its time getting moving. The tone is also considerably more tense than the original, as it’s largely missing the goofiness that was Hyouin Kyouma.

Mayuri meets up with Rintarou

My favorite part about this series is that it continues to explore the concept of time travel that was introduced in the original series. Rather than dwelling on the same concepts, it plays with new ideas. There’s an episode where Suzuha seems to be in danger of erasing herself from existence, and it’s probably one of my favorite episodes in the series.

Granted, some of these attempts get a bit confusing (without knowledge from the visual novel), especially with anything concerning Kagari. But in this sense, I think the series played to its strengths a bit.

Maho announces a new AI

The other major theme in this series was the implications of artificial intelligence, namely through Amadeus. The series toys with the idea of using Kurisu’s image to further interfere with Rintarou’s healing process, but I thought that the AI angle was ultimately squandered as the series returned to its time travel concept.

Feris is not amused

And while I truly enjoyed the final scenes in the series, I have to say that many of the developments leading up to that ending felt incredibly similar to the original series. Without getting into details, there’s the example of Rintarou having to repeatedly time travel once again for effectively the same reason.

Maho gets annoyed about her height

Overall, this series is a much slower version of the original series, but I think it works as the spin-off that it is. It got me thinking about time travel in different ways than I did when I was watching the original, and I greatly appreciated that experience.

Overal Score: 8/10

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Egao no Daika Episode 11: Hard choices

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Wishing for a funeral for their allies

It’s weird seeing both perspectives in the same episode, but I suppose we’re almost at the end. It’s about time Stella and Yuuki met, so I’m definitely curious to see how it turns out. This episode does have me a bit worried about how the ending will go, since Yuuki has to convince Stella to help her in the final episode of the series. I’m curious how that will be split with the actual kill switch that Yuuki is trying to press. I’m mostly curious about the aftermath, so I guess I’m hoping for a bit of an epilogue as well.

Huey goes on a rampage

I do like the contrast between Huey and Stella, even if Huey comes off more as a jerk. He’s effectively there to tell Stella that words aren’t enough, as he uses his actions to reveal his true intentions. It’s easy for Stella to say that she won’t allow anyone else to die, but it only matters if she can actually do what’s needed.

Yuuki warns the Empire about her new weapon

I also liked seeing this broadcast from the Grandiga side. At this point, we still don’t fully know how much Harold’s death has affected Yuuki’s behavior, but we as the audience have a strong sense of what type of person she is. However, we see this scene from the perspective of Grandiga, who are less capable assessing whether her warning is in line with her character.

Yuuki hatches her true plan

As a result, Yuuki’s true plan isn’t as much of a surprise. That being said, I do appreciate that she’s willing to deceive the other officers in order to make her plan work. She’s really come a long way.

Yuuki plans to stop all chrars

Given the developments in the previous couple of episodes, I’m not too surprised that this is how the series will end. Honestly, I think this trope of hitting the hard reset button is a bit overplayed in media, so I’m curious to see how the series will implement the idea. So far, it seems a bit outlandish, but I guess I’ll wait and see since I liked the terraforming nanomachines concept. Maybe there’s a good reason why the Verde Kingdom thought they could reasonably eliminate all chrars.

Layla talks about her motivations

I guess this is just a random title reference. I sincerely don’t wish for Layla to die in the final episode, since I think we’ve had enough major character deaths for now. But she’s seriously asking for it…

Lily spots Yuuki

You could have at least tinted your windows…come on.

Egao no Daika Episode 10: On the other side

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Looking out over the bleak battlefield

While it’s a departure from previous episodes, I’m glad that this episode is effectively showing the events of the last episode from Stella’s perspective. I think it helped to redeem the previous episode a bit. I do think that it contributes to a bit of a confusing timeline overall, but I like how it was used. I’m still hoping that Stella and Yuuki meet, but it’s looking a bit unlikely at this point. I’m curious to see how things end.

Lily complains to a child

Part of the annoying thing about this episode is how much Lily has been asking to die. Given how many other squad members have fallen up to this point, I’d actually be a bit disappointed if she does end up dying in the end too. Her plot armor has gone on too long.

Stella struggles to survive

It’s nice to see a bit more from Stella’s past. It’s pretty clear that she’s had it rough.

Stella believes she's not putting up a front

I enjoyed this conversation between Owens and Stella. It’s not just Owens that sees the emotions Stella has repressed. We’ve seen the clear indication ourselves, so we can easily agree with Owens when he points out that he went from believing Stella had no emotions to realizing that she was putting up a front.

Harold faces off against Owens and Stella

Honestly, I was ready to point out last week that Owens and Harold very clearly shoot at each other, and we only see Harold die. Logically, it made no sense for Harold to miss at that range. I’m glad that I didn’t, though, since I liked the way this scene was presented. In the previous episode, no one on the Soleil side cares about the aftermath of the fight, so we as the audience aren’t shown the death of Owens. In reality, both sides are devastated by the incident, but we only see each side separately (as they would).

Owens sacrifices himself for Stella

There’s another smaller scene that similarly demonstrates a cool use of perspective in this episode. When Harold’s unit appears, the characters on the Grandiga side all recognize him from the previous fight that crippled Pierce. However, remember that we saw that fight from the Soleil side. As a result, the episode is able to use a flashback that’s completely new to the audience. I think it’s a great use of the flashback.

The squad questions the funeral for Harold

Also, I like the little fake-out at the end of the episode, where it’s revealed that the Empire is holding a huge funeral for Harold, an enemy combatant. While the main characters are mourning their leader, he ends up completely ignored by his own superiors. Instead, they’re recognizing his killer.

Egao no Daika Episode 9: The source of chrars

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Yuuki starts to question herself

It looks like we’re back in Soleil for the second week in a row. I suppose we needed to deal with the aftermath of the chrars reveal before switching again. For the most part, I liked the idea behind the chrars as they were explained in this episode, but I thought that the character focus on Harold in the episode was weak. He almost seems like a pawn of the story to force Yuuki down a path of over-correction. Anyway, the episode ends with Harold fighting a unit he recognizes, likely Owens or Stella, so I assume we’ll be back on Grandiga’s side next week to see the aftermath.

Harold orders the annihilation of the imperial units

I don’t mind the conflicting ideals of Harold and Yuuki, but I’m curious what will happen with the void that’s left after this episode. I did like seeing this portrayal here, in which Harold forces the other officers to kill so indiscriminately that they’re visibly disturbed by it. It shows just how far he’s willing to go, and sets him up further as Yuuki’s polar opposite.

No one really cares about the chrars data

Well, the reaction of the “elite” to the information about the new chrars isn’t too surprising. I would have liked for them to at least make their case, even if it’s as simple as saying they have to keep using the chrars because they’re at war. Or they could make an outright claim that Verde is nuts or something. It makes them feel overly dismissive to the point of being unrealistic.

Layla admits her past to Yuuki

The fact that Layla tells Yuuki everything about her past makes me wonder if she’s headed toward her own death.

Layla discovers the nanomachines

As I mentioned before, I quite like the nanomachine reveal in this episode. The idea that the chrars are causing environmental damage is a pretty clear reference to the current climate change debate, which is nothing new. However, I like how grounded the explanation is, making it believable for sci-fi. In reality, the chrars are draining nanomachines that keep the world terraformed. That’s a cool idea.

Yuuki wonders how to end the war

Yuuki’s statement here makes me wonder if she believes that war wouldn’t be as much of a problem if we didn’t have technology. It’s not an uncommon sentiment, but it’s one I disagree with.

Harold faces the enemy alone

In the end, I felt like Harold’s death was perhaps too quick. I never ended up feeling anything for him, and I never felt like I had a good understanding of what motivated him. Maybe he’s just a weak character overall, but it’s frustrating to see. It seems like the show wanted to make his death mean something, but I guess I didn’t get it.

Egao no Daika Episode 8: All about the chrars

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Yuuki commands the troops

This week’s episode brings another strange shift in the story, introducing a third party into the conflict. This whole business with the introduction of Verde seems to move the focus back on the chrars, which lowers the significance of the overall war in my eyes. I’m curious to see how it goes, but it’s a jarring change. That aside, Yuuki’s shift as a military leader is pretty clear in this episode, which is nice to see. Though, I kind of want to see her actually succeed for once.

Yuuki's military strategy evolves

I do wonder how much this series will struggle to allow Yuuki to keep her idealism. Her reasoning makes sense given her goal, but the series seems to beat into our heads the idea that her ideology is holding her back. Still, it’s progress…

Yuuki wonders why Verde dislike chrars

I’m not sure how I feel about this move back to the chrars. On the one hand, it makes sense given how much this series loves to mention the “new chrars”, but it’s an odd shift. And is it just the new chrars that cause a problem or is there some fundamental issue with using chrars in general? Given how these things normally go, I’d assume there’s some world-depleting drawback involved. There’s an earlier scene in this episode where Yuuki mentions that the crops in Soleil haven’t been doing well recently, which leads me to that suspicion.

Fleet talks with the emperor

The emperor seems to be getting pushed as a polar opposite for Yuuki. In this conversation, he seems to be willing to sacrifice his own people to test the new chrars in combat as needed. I wonder how the introduction of Verde will change things, since I find it hard to believe that Grandiga and Soleil will unite against a common enemy. Verde doesn’t even seem strong enough to do that.

Izana sends the data to Yuuki

Why was this data hidden in the first place? I’m starting to wonder now if the previous king was in a similar situation as his daughter, which would suggest that his advisers hid information from Verde from him. Also, I could see this development as potentially giving an interesting spin to Joshua’s death. What if he died from exposure to the new chrars while injured? Just a thought.

Izana chooses a name for his child

It’s kind of sad to see Izana go, but I guess it beats watching him sit around as a prisoner all of the time. When I saw him look at the boat before entering the palace, I was expecting him to use it to escape after sending the data to Yuuki. But in hindsight, I suppose the real idea was that he was debating priorities. He could use the boat to get to his family, or he could continue with his mission to find out what Verde actually knew about the chrars.

Egao no Daika Episode 7: The danger of local delicacies

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Izana tries to negotiate peace

I have to hand it to this show. It sure knows how to hit someone in the gut. Honestly, I completely bought into the lighter tone of this episode, but the show rather effectively ripped it away. I can’t say I say that coming. That being said, I still have issues with some of the other things that come up in this episode. This series seems to heavily take advantage of mystery without delivering on it, and it truly bugs me. I would be happy if it’s playing at some grander mystery, but that remains to be seen.

Stella looks over the aftermath

This scene did give me some hope that Stella was starting to question her role in the Empire. I still like the idea of having her join the resistance, but later events in the episode make me less sure.

The emperor appears

So…does this mean we have a face to label as the antagonist in this series? This appearance seems a bit random.

The crew wonder about Stella's past

This episode seemed to build a bit more on the mystery surrounding Stella’s origins, but it felt weak to me. We’ve already gotten pretty clear evidence that she’s Layla’s missing daughter, but this episode seemed to push some kind of history with the palace. Layla didn’t have any relationship with the royal family before the accident in Leash, right?

Owens offers to let Pierce work at his orphanage.

This moment is probably my least favorite moment in the episode. After spending multiple episodes building up questions around Owens and his past, he just flat-out tells everyone that he runs an orphanage. It seems like such a mundane reveal after all of the hype. I felt similarly about Joshua’s death, which is why I said earlier that I think the mysteries in this series never really pay off.

Stella meets her foster parents

This happens once again with Stella’s past. It’s true that her past is sad to watch. She’s the typical case of the foster child replaced by a biological child, but it seems like a weak reveal for why she smiles all of the time. To be fair, though, I think that this story is used to great effect in this episode. It simultaneously reveals the self-imposed nature of Stella’s fake smiles and ends with a tragedy that she can’t force herself to smile at.

Stella finds the flowers in the royal garden

I question the point of this scene. I was under the impression that Yuuki cared for the flowers because of Joshua, and Stella seems to be embellishing it. It could be a play at humanizing Yuuki in Stella’s eyes for the future, but I’m not sure.

The main characters learn about Pierce's death

Pierce’s death worked for the most part, but it also seems to push Stella further away from the resistance forces. That being said, it’s not really clear who attacked the transport, so it’s always possible that the Empire was actually behind it. That explanation fits better with my impression of the overall direction for the story, but seems a bit convoluted.

Egao no Daika Episode 6: Facing defeat

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Yuni tries to get back into action despite her injuries

It’s a shame that this series can be so hard to watch, since it has made some impressive strides in recent episodes. With the confirmation that Yuni was in the theurgear from the previous episode, it truly feels like the series is trying hard to merge its perspectives without distorting the timeline. There are no extraneous flashbacks from each side to give a more complete story. Instead, it feels like we’re always only getting pieces of it from different perspectives, which is surprisingly interesting. Additionally, this episode shows a ton of character development for Yuuki, and I think that’s promising.

Yuuki wonders if she can give herself up to the Empire

Yuuki’s attempt to give herself up is a surprisingly illuminating attempt. At the beginning of the episode, she’s trying to find any way to stop the war, so she brings it up as a possibility only to have it shot down by her subordinates. At the end of the episode, she continues to pursue the idea, but her behavior has changed. She’s no longer asking for permission. She has made the decision herself (even if her subordinates end up defying her).

Izana tries to convince his wife to evacuate

Yeesh, this episode was foreshadowing Izana’s sacrifice pretty hard, wasn’t it? Part of me feel like I should be incredibly suspicious about how reluctant this series is to confirm character deaths. Izana seems to accept his own death in the end, but it’s never explicitly stated and his wife is shown looking mostly okay.

Harold visits Joshua's grave

I guess this counts as finally confirming Joshua’s death. At this point, I’m still suspicious, though. If it were so simple, why have so many episodes past without definitely saying it?

Harold remembers his dead love

Also, I appreciate that Harold’s motivations are explored a bit more, but I didn’t fully understand his suicide mission. If he truly had this vendetta against Grandiga, why did he never go into battle in the earlier engagements?

Stella tries to protect her ally

After the reveal at the beginning of the episode, I was wondering if we might get a chance to see the reverse, a view of Stella’s unit from Soleil’s perspective. Since the Grandiga forces are so uniform, it’s difficult to spot any distinct soldiers within them. I was happy to see that the series didn’t waste any time making it happen, though.

Yuuki gives orders to the troops

It’s nice to see Yuuki taking charge in the battle. Also, she seems to have a knack for using terrain against her enemies.

Yuuki is betrayed by her officers

I feel really bad for Yuuki at the end. She earnestly tries to help, but the actions of her officers make her look like a deserter. I’m curious to see how this plays out, though. Grandiga’s ruling party has mostly come off as tyrannical so far. So, it might be interesting to see Yuuki lead a resistance group against them. It would also give Stella and her allies a reason to join Yuuki, since they might start having doubts about their orders.

Egao no Daika Episode 5: Hidden beneath the smile

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Meals on the battlefield are troublesome

We’re back to the Grandiga again this week. This week’s episode is pretty similar to last week’s episode that it goes a bit into the past of a side character to show something about one of the two main characters. For me, Lily’s story was surprising not because of its actual content but rather because it didn’t get her killed. She still seems to be asking for it, but it was nice to see another side of Stella.

Huey meets up with some old friends

Speaking of characters that were asking to die, the sudden appearance of these soldiers was a fairly clear indicator of their eventual fate. I’m curious to see whether it triggers some background for Huey later on, but we’ll see.

Owens goes over the plan

I think part of why I tend to have trouble with this series is the tactical dialogue. Don’t get me wrong. I think those conversations add a lot, but I’m not having an easy time paying attention during them.

Owens is used to taking care of kids

I’m also not sure if I like how much the series is pushing this “mystery” behind Owens. The hints are severely lacking in subtlety, so I’m wondering if the payoff is supposed to be a exceptionally shocking or something. Maybe he used to watch over some kids being used in lab experiments or something. Otherwise, I don’t see why it’s a big deal if he takes care of some orphans.

A suspicious unit attacks the Grandiga units

This scene made me wonder if one of the Vanquish twins was actually piloting this theurgear. It’s suspicious that the unit gets so much focus and survives in the end. If so, I think it’s actually kind of cool. Given that we don’t know who’s who yet, I like the idea that the unit has plot armor even if we don’t exactly know it.

Stella smiles for real?

I’m actually surprised that Stella had this smile in her. I was totally expecting her to maintain her stoic routine with everyone. That being said, I do think that this scene is helping to set up a tragic death for Lily, especially if Yuuki has truly lost Joshua.

Winter 2019 Grab Bag Week 4: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai, Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai

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I think I might have finally settled on a reasonable post schedule for this season. And so, I bring you a reasonably timed grab bag.

The girls plan their bonus spending

**Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai Episode 3

This series still doesn’t feel like it has shown its hand yet, so I’m inclined to conclude that we’re just in for casual adventure time with the main girls. This week’s episode seemed to hint at some character development for Emma, but we don’t get any context for it. That being said, if the pirates from this episode end up being some kind of recurring gag antagonist, I could actually see that working.

The townspeople brag about their victory

It is kind of funny that we’re introduced to the townspeople first in this episode. Because they talk so big with only decrepit defense systems to back it up, it’s really hard to root for them. Combined with the somewhat goofy Elite Industries, it makes it tough to decide who to side with.

Elite Industries presents a very convincing painting

Well, I can’t exactly get upset about this. Sure, these guys are pirates, but they have the respect to bribe the town with a fake painting. That’s dedication.

Emma lectures the town about pirates

I suppose it’s clear that Emma has some big issue with sky pirates, but that’s all we get in this episode. I mean, it’s fine for explaining why she goes off the rails, but I honestly think the episode could have spent a little time with her story. There was a decent amount of time that felt empty, with the townspeople going on about how great they were.

The girls can't chase after the pirates

I think it’s interesting that the series has the girls fail a mission early on. Given that the format of the series is still in question, it’s hard to say whether they’re going to try and finish the job. The fact that the villagers take a different victory from the battle makes it seem like this episode is supposed to stand on its own, but it’s always possible.

Shirogane wonders why he has to do the work

Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai Episode 3

I’m enjoying how goofy this adaptation is. The first two episodes seemed to focus more on delivering satire through extremely serious situations, which this episode seemed to toss random jokes in for fun. To that end, the episode even starts off by fast-forwarding through the intro, almost acknowledging that it has shown us those exact scenes twice now.

Lewd country

With so many of the previous battles determined by excessive overthinking on both sides, it’s fun to have a battle that’s just a complete misunderstanding. I guess it’s supposed to focus on the fact that Kaguya is heavily sheltered. I think it’s hilarious how Chika eventually describes the “first time” to Kaguya in the end. It goes on way longer than I would have expected.

Shirogane gets the right answer

The second story is probably my favorite of the episode, since it’s seems to be the more straightforward mind game. Kaguya intentionally misleads Shirogane with vague answers, and he manages to see through it in the end.

Friends with a yeti

This scene is probably my favorite joke of the episode, since it’s completely random and requires a bit of attentiveness. When the child clarifies Yeti is just a nickname and not a reference to the actual Abominable Snowman, we get a brief glimpse of a yeti on the side. It’s a great example of innocently correcting a misunderstanding only to throw it back into play.

Chika dances to the ending

I think this should go without saying, but Chika’s ED theme is amazing.

Egao no Daika Episode 4: Yuuki returns?

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Soleil reacts to the explosion of the plant

This week’s episode was surprisingly promising. The swap back to Soleil was a bit jarring, but I did like that the episode starts off by showing how the kingdom was immediately reacting to the raid we saw in the previous episode. That being said, I do appreciate seeing how the events of episode two have changed Yuuki. I like that series seems to be taking a harsher tone overall, which probably makes sense given the facade of the first episode.

Yuuki looks at the plants that Joshua promised to raise

I get that it’s hard to bring up the subject, but the way the episode danced around Joshua’s fate is disconcerting to me. Given how prominent he is in the opening, especially as a counterpart to Stella and Owens on the Grandiga side, I find it hard to believe that he’s gone so easily. It’s true that his death is heavily implied in this episode, but no one technically says he died (as far as I could tell). Are we sure he’s actually dead?

The tactics display on screen

I’m still trying to figure out whether I particularly like the disconnect between the two sides. Since Yuuki is the princess, we naturally see things from a higher level when we look from Soleil’s perspective. On the other hand, Stella is a soldier, so we tend to see the situation from the ground when we’re looking at Grandiga’s perspective. It’s an interesting shift, but it makes me feel like we’re missing the bigger picture on the Grandiga side.

Layla attends the demonstration with her family

It seems a bit early to go into Layla’s backstory, but I suppose I see the point. The scene makes it painfully clear that Stella is Layla’s missing child, even without the scene where Layla tries to call out to her. It’s still too soon to tell whether that reveal will lead to some interesting developments, though.

Protesters threaten the king

I wasn’t expecting the big accident in Leash to be caused by a riot. I guess I implicitly assumed that it was a result of an experimental failure. Well played, I guess.

Everyone looks on at the pain of war

I do like the slight twist at the end, though. When Yuuki finally resolves herself and officially enters the war, you’d expect some kind of uplifting rallying cry. It would be consistent with the first episode, when she interjects in the mock battle to help Joshua. Instead, she makes the kind of childish decision to save people in danger that she should be expected to make, and it ends up costing her even more lives. I guess the peaceful delusion is truly over.