Don’t be distracted by the A-Channel header, Steins;Gate is the best comedy of the season. Ignoring the question of whether or not this is intentional, the larger-than-life antics of Okarin and his colleagues easily outshine the actual comedies of the season with scientific glee. Steins;Gate skips through its mind-bending plot with a huge grin on its face, supported by exceptional voice acting and a cast of characters to whom overacting and overreacting is as natural as breathing air.
Despite the fact that it’s intrinsically a sci-fi thriller, the Takanashi-esque snark-offs between Okarin and the naturally adorable, albeit suspiciously noseless, Kurisu stole most of the spotlights this episode, while Mayushii and Daru continue pouring some of their own charm into Steins;Gate’s delicious cocktail. Even Ruka actually being a guy keeps being funny thanks to the variable presentation. Steins;Gate does not seem to suffer from the fact that there is a discomforting number of characters that are, as of yet, completely irrelevant to the plot –yes, you, Feyris Nyanyan- but this may change in the near future, for better or worse.
More after the break.
Meanwhile, the plot moves along at a pace well suited to the constant blending of character interaction and plot development. Witty conversations between characters can turn into important plot-related discussions at any moment and vice-versa, as Okarin’s paranoid conspiracy theories tread closer to actually being true with every subsequent episode.
In the end, Steins;Gate has the cutest girls of the season (despite not being a moe show), the best jokes of the season (despite not being a comedy), the best plot of the season (despite being as confusing as Fractale’s writing) and the most interesting cast of the season (despite being as ridiculous as a buddy cop movie starring Nicolas Cage and William Shatner). Still, it is not the best show of the season. Yet.
It still lacks one critical aspect essential to a truly memorable experience: Steins;Gate –as of yet- fails to play to the audience’s emotions. Kurisu’s death in episode 1 failed to trigger anything because we barely got to know her as a character and the grave Mayushii frequents is enigmatic as anything else in the plot. However, two other shows this season manage to make playing to emotions their main attraction, bringing a wholly different but equally interesting kind of entertainment to the table: AnoHana and Hanasaku Iroha.
Like the flower in its title, each episode of AnoHana blooms open to something beautiful. The first episode started off remarkably dull and even slightly annoying, until you realize that this was all on purpose as the show drops a massive plot twist, which will determine the rest of the series.
The second episode built upon this and quickly exposed AnoHana’s main premise: five friends who try to mend the cracks in their friendship and relive the good times they had when they were younger, each of them trying to deal with their own problems and demons from the past as well. Seeing the main character Jintan visiting a game shop and abashedly ask for a ‘Nokémon’ game, only to spend the rest of the afternoon reliving his childhood, playing Nokémon with his old friends is some of the most adorable subject matter I’ve ever seen.
That brings us to episode 3, which gives a magic-realistic spin to the plot with each character living a different version of the same delusion. In order to get to know each other better, the five friends hold a barbecue, which perfectly highlights the drama in this show, as some of the characters clearly don’t plan on hanging out with their old friends like they used to. Tsuruko and Yukiatsu especially have a lot to hide, but Anaru –that nickname makes me giggle every time thanks to Sena Akagi blurting out ‘anaru fakku’ in the latest OreImo– is by far the most interesting character, if only because as far as I know, she’s the first tsundere done right since Taiga Aisaka.
AnoHana clearly aims to twist and turn some slice-of-life tropes on their heads and adds the right amount of drama to keep you coming back. If you haven’t checked out this gem yet, be sure to give it a try.
The other show using your emotions as its plaything is Hanasaku Iroha. Although the latest episodes have been focusing on some more light-hearted material and therefore can’t live up to the standards set by the first two episodes, the show is still worth it for a lot of reasons, especially Ohana herself.
Five episodes in, Ohana has established herself as an adorable and funny, yet subtly nuanced character with a lot more soul than most other slice-of-life leads. She’s cute, but not mind-meltingly saccharine. She’s diligent, but stands up for herself. She’s ditzy, but not hopeless. She embraces both the beloved character tropes of the genre and blows a fresh wind through them. And yes, I couldn’t resist stealing her diary again. I promise! It’s the last time!
Well, at least Ohana manages to get her diaries out on time. Should I just rename this thing Aquagaze’s Anime Wednesday?
That wraps things up for the week! Next week, I’ll try to not spend two-thirds of my blog raving on Steins;Gate and actually write something on The World God Only Knows.
Oh, who am I kidding?