Review for Steins;Gate the Movie: Load Region of Déjà Vu
There’s no other entertainment medium like anime, in the way that it invokes, no demands its fans to become knowledgeable about the mechanics of the industry, the complexities of licensing agreements. Ideally, we shouldn’t need to know where our anime comes from, just be happy when we get it. But the very nature of the beast requires our interest. Right from the beginning, when anime gets made, you’d think it’d just be a triumvirate of mangaka, studio, and broadcaster, but then you get record labels (for the theme songs), talent agencies (for the voice cast), and all manner of sponsors and advertisers until you wind up with one of those mythical production committees that western distributors and streaming companies have to deal with. A US distributor will usually license a show first, dealing with said production committee, and they will localise it with subtitles and potentially a dub. An Australian company might then license it, dealing with Japan for the content, and the US for the localised material, localising it even further for Region B or PAL territories. A UK company might come in, deal with Japan for the content, the US for the language localisation, and Australia for the Region B and PAL localisation, maybe deal even further with Europe if they’re adding European language support. It’s an intricate and fascinating web of contracts and agreements, ever in motion.
At any one time, a strand in this web might snap, as a contract falls through, or a deal isn’t made, and as a result, something falls through the cracks. Until a few years ago, Funimation’s titles came out in the UK mostly through Manga Entertainment. One of the best series that they released in this period was the sci-fi time-travelling masterpiece, Steins;Gate. But then the Funimation Manga deal expired, and Funimation started distributing through Anime Limited instead. Quite a few shows that began their life with Manga continued through the new distributor, shows like Psycho Pass and Fairy Tail. But as so often happens in cases like this, some properties do indeed fall through the cracks, and Steins;Gate was one of them. While Manga Entertainment gave us the series, the feature film spin-off, Load Region of Déjà Vu didn’t get a UK release. It took its time getting a Region B localisation in Australia as well, which is why I’m reviewing the imported Blu-ray now.
A year previously, self-proclaimed mad scientist Okabe Rintaro a.k.a. Hououin Kyoma invented a time machine using a mobile phone, a microwave, and a nifty bit of hacking. But every time he used it, he changed history, or rather, he jumped world-lines. It was all fun and games at first, as he encountered a bunch of new friends on his adventures, but then reality hit when his childhood friend Mayuri was killed, as was his ‘lab assistant’ Makise Kurisu. It was only through much personal torment that he managed to set things right, and return to the Steins;Gate world-line, the only reality where both Mayuri and Kurisu survive. But it turns out that there is still a price to pay.
Now, Makise Kurisu is returning to Japan and the Future Gadget Laboratory for a reunion. Everyone’s having their usual brand of fun, except for Okabe, who has started suffering from headaches, visions of those alternate world-lines that he visited. Then suddenly he vanishes, with no memory of him left in the world, just an uncomfortable feeling that something is out of kilter. Three words spoken to Kurisu are her only clue to Okabe’s existence, and she has just one choice if she is to restore him to the world. But the only way to do that is to do the one thing that Okabe said she was never to do... travel through time!
The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p format. The image is clear and sharp throughout, and the animation comes across without issue. Steins;Gate is a detailed and stylish anime, with memorable character designs and detailed world designs based in the real world. The character animation is smooth, detailed and engaging to watch, while the story has an autumnal, faded, almost sepia palette that is deftly applied. The direction is accomplished, establishing emotion and feeling through creative animation style. Steins;Gate is a top quality anime with strong production values. The series had some obvious issues with digital banding, but such shade gradients are almost absent in the movie. It looks a whole lot better, and gives some idea of how the series ought to have looked on Blu-ray.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese. It’s a fine, immersive surround track, with the sound design put to good use conveying the film’s effects, while keeping the dialogue mostly centralised. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos. I gave the dub a quick try and found it on a par with the series dub.
This Australian release offers one Blu-ray disc in a Blu-ray Amaray, the sleeve having the massive Australian ratings logo, and unfortunately not being reversible. This is merely the Funimation disc reworked for Region B, it autoplays with a trailer for Ghost in the Shell: Innocence before booting up an animated menu. The film is followed by translated English credits.
You get further trailers for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Steins;Gate, Noein, Code Geass, The Vision of Escaflowne, and Chaos;Head.
The sole extra is the US Cast Commentary, in which ADR director Colleen Clinkenbeard in turn interviews Tyson Rinehart (Daru), Jessica Cavanagh (Moeka), J. Michael Tatum (Okabe), and Trina Nishimura (Kurisu).
I loved Steins;Gate: The Movie – Load Region of Deja Vu, but I think I’m going to be in a small subset of a fan Venn diagram. For one thing, this is no standalone movie, and this isn’t like Girls Und Panzer Der Film, which you can still enjoy without watching the series, even if you get so much more with the series. The Steins;Gate movie needs the audience to have seen the series to get the movie. It’s also not much of a continuation either, it isn’t expanding the story, exploring the universe further, or adding anything new to the Steins;Gate lore. It also dials back that geeky sense of humour that so made the first half of the series adorable, and it also dials back on the supporting characters, to the point that they almost feel like cameos in a couple of places.
To be honest, the Steins;Gate movie does little more than cover the same narrative ground, albeit compressed into 90 minutes, and from another perspective. This time, Okabe Rintaro vanishes, and it’s Makise Kurisu who has to deal with the ramifications of time travel, the pain and anguish that it causes. There’s nothing significantly new here in terms of story, if you have seen the Steins;Gate series.
In terms of character however, in terms of emotional weight, the Steins;Gate movie is essential, indeed a logical outgrowth of the series. In the series, the initially fun time travel turned into a desperate fight to save Mayuri’s life for Okabe Rintaro, and then the fight to save Makise Kurisu’s life, who he was gradually falling in love with. It was about the anguish that was caused in the process when it seemed that he could save one, but not the other. If you were invested in the relationship between Kurisu and Okabe, then this film is necessary. We’ve seen what Okabe is willing to sacrifice for Kurisu, but is she truly worthy of him, does she return his feelings with the same intensity, and most importantly, is she willing to sacrifice to the same degree to save him, the way he saved her?
The answer to that question determines if they have a happily ever after, and that is what this film explores. While it isn’t quite as emotionally affecting as the series, after all, it has just ninety minutes to set its story up and start tugging at the heartstrings whereas the series had a leisurely 22 episodes, the movie does manage to get a lump in the throat at times, and it does get you feeling for Kurisu and her dilemma. In that regard, this film does succeed. On top of that, while the humour is dialled back, some of the supporting characters not quite as well used, there is enough of the Steins;Gate feel to make this a comfortable and welcome addition to the storyline. Mayuri’s adorable “Too-Tu-Roo” is present and correct, as is Daru’s low level lechery.
Steins;Gate: The Movie – Load Region of Deja Vu is for fans only, but those fans will be rewarded, especially if they are into the love story between Okabe and Kurisu. If you’re in that Venn diagram subset, then this Australian release is essential, as the US release is locked to Region A.