Anime Reviews: Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà Vu
This continuation of Steins;Gate is a little subdued compared to its TV counterpart, but there's more than enough substance for it to be considered essential.
Title: Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà Vu a.k.a. Gekijouban Steins Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Dejavu a.k.a. Steins;Gate: Burdened Domain of Déjà Vu
Production: White Fox
Film Length: 90 minutes
Air Dates: 4/20/2013
Age Rating: 13+ (brief partial nudity, dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: Okabe has reached the Steins;Gate world line, preventing both the deaths of Kurisu and Mayuri as well as the invention of time travel that would have been abused by SERN to enact global dominance. With all that turmoil behind him, only peaceful days should have transpired since then, but a year later, when Kurisu visits Japan for a conference and reunites with the other lab members, Okabe begins to have intense visions of another world line. Not long after, a mysterious figure enters Kurisu's hotel room with a vague but familiar message it urges her to remember: "A cell phone, a microwave oven, and SERN." The very next day, at the laundromat, Okabe disappears right before Kurisu's eyes, along with all her memories of him. But Kurisu obviously knows something is wrong--he, whoever he was, was just here!--and she figures out what the stranger's message means: Kurisu must create the time machine again, and she must go back in time to save Okabe from this fate.
The Good: It's more of the Steins;Gate we know and love; new Kurisu-centric story serves as the perfect epilogue; new opening and ending themes are to die for
The Bad: Somewhat lacks the emotional megaton punch the TV series had; not stand-alone
The Ugly: Ruka's trap status is still too damn high!
Holy crap, what am I even doing with my life? Before a month ago, I had no idea this thing existed! It was only because I decided to rewatch Steins;Gate (which is still incredibly excellent, by the way, and the dub was fantastic, too!) that I noticed there was a movie tie-in at all, and then bricks suddenly appeared in my pantaloons as I scrambled to find it. And then I had to squeeze in multiple viewings and put my reviewing plans on the back-burner to make way for this film. And so it happened. Was all this frantic last-minute schedule-shifting and crunch time for the film worth it? Ehhh...mostly. I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed, but that's because I probably had my expectations way too high when the words "Steins;Gate" and "movie" were put in the same sentence. But, much like with Seraphim Call, heightened expectations are often completely unfair to perfectly serviceable titles. Let's be as fair as possible and look at this film with a level head, shall we?
First I should mention that, if you're jumping into this film hoping for a good ol' Steins;Gate adventure with the characters you love and the settings you've become accustomed to, then I've got good news for you: That's exactly what Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà Vu is. Everyone makes an appearance and gets a good amount of screentime--even Suzuha, who plays a big role later in the film. And they're all as great as they've ever been. If you're already a fan of Steins;Gate, then this film is basically what you're looking for. Especially if you're a fan of Kurisu. Why's that, you ask?
That's because, my dear chap, the plot of the film revolves around Kurisu, and the major events that transpire (the disappearance of Okabe and the quest to get him back) are seen through her eyes. I know for a fact Kurisu is probably the most popular character in the series, so the fact that she's now the one in the spotlight will instantly win many fans over. Additionally, the fact that this story serves as a fitting and satisfying epilogue to a series that already had a fitting and satisfying ending should not be understated. I was a little dubious as to how a film-length stretch of plot could be added to the end of Steins;Gate, but White Fox were able to do just that. Not only is the plot that's introduced interesting and logical, but it gives us a crisis that while not earth-shattering to humanity as a whole, is earth-shattering to our main crew and to us as an audience. And it all falls into place without creating any holes or feeling forced or anything like that. And it's all through the eyes of a fan-favorite character. That, my friends, is fanservice of the highest order (no, not that kind!).
Another thing I feel compelled to mention are the film's spectacular opening and ending theme songs. Now, the rest of the soundtrack is very solid stuff, as you would expect, but those theme songs, man! The opener is called "Anata no Eranda Kono Toki wo" by Kanako Itou, and it's a catchy-as-hell tune that starts off with a gentle piano melody before launching into its electronic beats accompanied by Itou's excellent vocals. I loved her tunes from the TV series, and this one is a welcome addition. The ending theme, "Itsumo Kono Basho de" by Ayane, is a straight-up orchestral pop ballad, and I love it to death. Ayane's earnest vocal performance really works (and I adore the way she pronounces the word "kansokusha"), and it was the perfect emotional clincher to end the film on. There's even a rockin' guitar solo! If you're a fan of J-Pop, as I clearly am, then you owe it to yourself to pick up these tracks as soon as possible.
But now, it's time for me to complain about a perfectly good film like a jerk. Because I am a jerk. The thing that disappointed me the most about the film is technically not a flaw with the film itself, but rather a disappointment of expectations: Where the TV series unleashed bombshell after bombshell and ran your emotions through the wringer without mercy or compassion, the film only has a handful of emotional moments and only a few of them measure up to the TV series' powerhouse scenes. Nothing really equals the horror of Episode 12, or the gut-wrenching despair of those later time leaps. I guess I was just hungering for more pathos than the writers were able to provide in just 90 minutes, but it definitely makes the film feel less attaching than the series. Like I said, not really the film's fault, but it does make it feel just a little bit empty.
Now the actual flaw with the film, as minor as it is, is the fact that it's not a stand-alone film. Just like The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, if you haven't seen the original anime, you're going to have some catching up to do. While that film did try a little bit to acclimate new viewers to its world and its characters, Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà Vu is perfectly content to assume you're already in the know as it goes about its merry way. Not cool, man. Like I said, it's just a minor issue, but right now, there are probably people out there who saw this film at their theater, thought to themselves "Oh, that's that show I've seen people talk about," bought a ticket, and were highly confused for the next 90 minutes. Film sequel or not, you gotta throw newbies a bone or two, guys.
Honestly, if that's all I can complain about, then it's safe to say White Fox done good. Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà Vu is still a great film that is sure to please the Steins;Gate fan in all of us. Sure, I would've liked some more despair and horror to accompany this plotline, and it alienates potential new fans, but those are far outweighed by the always-colorful cast of characters and a storyline that brings closure to a series once thought to already be closed. Rock-solid animation, addictive tunes, and technical mastery all around are just icing on the cake. If you liked the TV series, then there's no reason whatsoever for you to skip out.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10. While the TV series delivered far more pathos, Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà Vu nevertheless features more of the mind-bending time travel and quirky character interactions that brought us Steins;Gate fans to the party in the first place.