Well, I finally got to this. And this series needs many disclaimers and a history to describe why I will lose what little amount of respect I have in the anime community, so allow me to get a long introduction out of the way before I get to the episode proper.
I was aware of the series when it was first airing, I knew about what was occurring (basically, it was spoiled to me because of how big it was), and I had no interest. Out of curiosity, both by the show’s reputation and by my enjoyment of Bravely Default (the writer for the original visual novel also wrote that game), I checked out the visual novel this was adapting. I gave up on the visual novel because I hated the art and could not stand to look at it any longer (which translates to this anime probably being the visual version of the story that will annoy my eyes the least). When ANNCast had an episode discussing it (keep in mind, I still hadn’t seen it by then, but knew the major events enough to follow along), it pretty much spelled what I heard for years: it is a well-regarded series by fans that was custom-made to piss off one specific anime fan (in case you couldn’t follow, that specific fan is me). Having not actually seen it, though, made it join Code Geass and K-On!: a collection of anime that annoys and enrages me, enough that I cannot physically get through it (I gave up right before the end with Code Geass and I never could bring myself to torture myself with either K-On!’s second season or film). However, it seemed out of place since I never watched the anime adaptation. So, this is so that I can say I actually watched it (at least until I’m annoyed enough that I’ll drop it).
Now that I have this viewing’s backstory out of the way, I can get to the episode itself. First of all, while I appreciate the art not being as overly-detailed as the game, that piece of good-will is undone by the harsh lighting that washes out most of the art. It looks like an art team trying to emulate the look of Serial Experiments Lain, but without an interesting artist like Yoshitobi ABe providing said art. This is not helped by the direction, which tries to be flashy and engaging, but ultimately comes off as pretentious, a label I don’t give lightly and is not helped by the writing. The show’s two directors appear to be trying to emulate the directorial style of Akiyuki Shinbo (though why anyone would want to emulate him is beyond me), but they lack his insane energy and unrestrained creativity he possesses. The direction comes across less like an artistic statement and more like an barely-competent student film made in the student’s third semester (has the theory down, but has little-to-no practice and does not understand how each element actually fits together). So yeah, I was not impressed visually.
Fortunately, this has never been a show where I’ve heard praise for the visuals. All of the praise I’ve heard about this over the years has been in regards to writing (you know, the thing I’ve been exposed to that made me realize I won’t like this). And this first episode did impress me: I expected to hate everything. I actually didn’t, as I liked tiny details in the writing (the way Okabe’s friends react and try to play off of his outbursts, the way that time travel is discovered by Okabe at the end, the scene with the CRT repairman). What still played into my expectations regarding the series, however, was Okabe himself. From his outbursts to his overwritten dialogue to that scene where he talks to the CRT television (you know, the scene that people that like the show point towards to say this show has good direction), I could not stand him. While the other characters have a chance to be good, they are overshadowed by him, this annoying chunni who is actually too old for this. This episode mostly made me realize that this, for me, could be the anti-Trigun (Trigun is a series that works solely on the strength of it’s protagonist, whereas this could become a show that fails solely on the weakness of it’s protagonist).
So, yeah, I didn’t like this episode. I know this series will not work for me, but I just want to say I’ve actually seen it and actually work through why it won’t work. So, with that knowledge, please know this: if a group of lame-wads shouting 2chan memes at each other while trying to figure out the utilization of time traveling text messages sounds interesting, then check it out. For me, please know this is me torturing myself.
FINAL GRADE: D-
Steins;Gate is available on home video from Funimation and is available for streaming at Funimation.com, as well as hulu.com.