Blu-ray Review: Steins Gate – Part 1

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The highly popular Steins Gate has finally arrived onto UK shores, and in High Definition no less, but does it deserve the hype and was it worth the wait? well we will find out in our Blu-ray Review of Steins Gate – Part 1.

Synopsis:

Wannabe mad scientist Rintaro ‘Okarin’ Okabe and his friends, ditzy teen Mayuri and otaku hacker Daru, run the Future Gadgets Lab – in reality an apartment above an Akihabara electronics store. But one day while tinkering with the microwave, Okarin and Co. hit the big time – they accidentally invent an honest-to-goodness time machine.

Now Okarin can send text messages to the past: that’s good. Those messages may be messing with the fabric of time: that’s not so good. He’s attracted the attention of a sinister scientific organisation that will stop at nothing to hunt him down: that’s really, really bad. Plunged into a whirlpool of conspiracies, murder and ever-changing realities, it’s down to Okarin to undo all the chaos he has caused – and time may not be on his side!

Our View:

The TV Series, Stein Gate, is an anime adaptation of 5dp’s and Nitroplus’s visual novel game that was released onto the Xbox 360, PC and PSP back in 2009, whereby the main character, Rintaro ‘Okarin’ Okabe, tries to unlock the secrets surrounding his recent scientific discovery. While the anime has been released into a variety of countries the game itself is only available in Japan, either way the TV anime, which has been dubbed into English by FUNimation, provides enticing entertainment from the moment the series starts, whereby if you get distracted you will miss something.

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Either way Steins Gate follows the story of self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintarō Okabe, nicknamed Okarin by his childhood friend Mayuri, who, along with Itaru Hashida (nicknamed Daru), they manage to invent a microwave that can send text messages into the past. Shocked by this new found discovery the group preform extensive research on how to utilise this feature and discover that SERN, an unknown scientific organisation, has also been doing its own time-travel experiments. In attempt to get ahead of SERN (as well as find out their data), Okarin and Daru hack into the company’s main servers and discover some disturbing facts as well as find clarity on their own failed attempts.

While preforming this research new characters are introduced to the group, these are in the form of Makise Kurisu, a young and extremely talented neuroscience researcher, Moeka Kiryū, a shy women who communicates via text messages rather than speech and Suzuha Amane, a part timer at the TV Repair shop. After some bizzare, but comical, encounters all three girls reluctantly become members of Okarin’s self-named Future Gadget Laboratory, which in reality is just Okarin’s apartment above the TV Repair shop. With the help of Makise Kurisu, Okarin and Daru decide to call their new time-travel system De-mail, with it finding out exactly what can be achieved and how to further improve it, however when an unsuspecting acquaintance becomes an enemy it spells disaster for the group and their way of life.

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Time Machines and Mad Scientists aside It’s worth pointing out that Steins Gate isn’t a fist-fight, car chasing or gun fighting style of anime, as it features talkative and narrative scenes but entertainment is provided by enticing action and comical outbursts from the main group of characters, with Okarin and Makise getting into rants quite often. Its unique story and enticing entertainment aren’t the only enjoyable factors of Steins Gate either, as each character (or member) of the Future Gadget Laboratory represents some form of culture, all of which viewers can relate to. For instance Okarin is the mad scientist, Mayuri is the cosplay fanatic, Daru is the otaku, Makise is cool-headed, Moeka is shy and finally Suzuha is the loud outspoken one. Combine these character types together and there will always be a part of the story suited to your personal taste, which is further explored as the story progresses with the main characters usually found hanging out in a maid café.

Extras:

Since Steins Gate is based upon a game it would have been nice to see more extra features, however what is included is enough to satisfy fans of the anime. Included as part of the Extra features are two cast Commentaries from the English Dub cast, a detailed map of Akihabara, the location of where the story takes place, and finally text less opening and closing videos for the series.

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Majority of the extra content is located on Disc 2, with the Episode 1 commentary being located on Disc 1:

Disc 1:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Trina Nishimura (voice of Makise Kurisu) & Tyson Rinehart (voice of Daru)

Disc 2:

  • Text less opening song (Hacking to the Gate – Version 1)
  • Text less closing song (Toki Tsukasadoru Juuni No Meiyakui)
  • Akihabara Map
  • Episode 12 Commentary – J Michael Tatumn (Script Writer, Voice of Rintaro Okabe) & John Burgmeier (Head Writer)

Both Commentaries provide an insight into what the Voice Actors (and Writers) thought of the series as well as how they portrayed their role in the series while the Akihabara Map provides a useful (and detailed) insight into the major locations found within the series, such as the Lab and Maid Café.

Specs:

Media: BD 50 x1, BD 25 x1 (12 Episodes)
Region: B
Running Time: 3:11:36 (Disc 1), 1:37:26 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

The General Story, for Part 1, of Steins Gate is relatively simple, as it tells the tale of Rintaro Okabe (Okarin) trying to uncover the truth on how to use his newly developed time machine as well as understand what possibilities it could create. While this is the ‘general’ purpose shown within Part 1 there is a bigger picture being portrayed that has yet to be fully explained, such as the mysterious scientific organisation SERN or John Titor, a mysterious forum user who apparently arrived from the future, and then there is the insanely knowledgeable Makise Kurisu. These mysteries all develop within a short space of time and continue to develop through the series, with Makise Kuris’s secret being revealed in an emotional fashion, something which has yet to be fully explored in this series.

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It’s not just the mystery, intrigue or unique cast of characters that makes Steins Gate an enjoyable experience, but it’s the amount of references that are also included with the show. For instance Cosplay, RPG, Harems are all mentioned for the anime fans, but for casual fans general references such as Doctor Who, Back to the Future and even eBay get mentioned – thus making Steins Gate a memorable watch, even in its English Dubbed form.

In regards to the quality of the Blu-ray Disc its business as usual for FUNimation produced series, with top-notch visual quality and clear sound quality. The English Audio is presented in 5.1 (as by default for FUNimation produced shows) but it was not needed as the surround speakers are rarely used and when watching through just a standard TV there was hardly any difference in audio quality. The Japanese Audio on the other hand is in Stereo and feels more natural for the characters, but the English Voice actors pull off a nice presentation. Subtitle wise, they are presented in white and are clear – even during the brighter grey / white scenes of the series, so viewers will have no problem enjoying this series no matter which audio option they choose.

The Visual quality of the show is another interesting feature of Steins Gate, as everything is highly detailed (even the background items) are highly detailed – making this a must have series on Blu-ray, however it’s the amount of ‘grey’ toned colours that are used within the series that is interesting. Majority of the scenes are in dark areas, whether it be the lab, street, presentation room or café ever scene is darker than your traditional anime with the only bright scenes being outside in the sunlight thus offering the viewer a noticeable difference between indoors and outdoors.

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Overall Steins Gate is an extremely interesting anime, it provides highly detailed visuals combined with a story that leaves you wanting more, and since there isn’t many anime out there like Steins Gate, it’s a refreshing experience. If you liked Virtue’s Last Reward on the 3DS / Vita then you will enjoy the anime of Steins Gate as the concept (time travel) is similar but just portrayed in a different manner.

Score: review-stars-5

Steins Gate – Part 1 will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 15th July 2013.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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