Steins;Gate is one of the most popular visual novels in recent years. It spawned not only several other side-story games but also an anime (and sequel movie). But that's not all. This past week saw the close of the Steins;Gate live-action play. And like the anime before it, it proved to be an excellent adaptation.
Going in, I was worried how well the story of Steins;Gate would transfer over into the shorter running time of a stage play. Three hours and fifteen minutes later I left amazed at just how much had been crammed in to that time. Of the game's cast, all were present (sans Nae who was only heard off stage) and each had his or her own individual story arc from the game that unfolded over the course of the play. Every major plot point of the series was covered and the only noticeable abridgment to the story involved the compression of Okabe's numerous failed time loops into a single, short scene.
But the most interesting thing about the play was how it dealt with the visual novel’s numerous endings. Simply put, depending on when you saw the play, the ending was different—with six possible endings in total. For my writing of this review, I saw a true “Steins;Gate” ending performance as well as the final show—which turned out to be the Suzuha ending.
And by saying the ending was different, I don't mean the last few minutes. Rather the entire second act was radically different. This means the entire cast memorized six different hour-and-thirty minute second acts for their two-week running show. And in the two shows I saw, no one flubbed a single line—an amazing achievement.
From the moment Daisuke Watanabe, the actor playing Okabe, opened his mouth I was shocked at how much he sounded like Okabe's official voice actor. Supporting cast members Kurisu and Daru also perfectly copied their character's official voices. The tone, pitch, and intonation were so similar it was uncanny.
The rest of the cast, however, weren’t quite up to the task of mimicking their respective character's voices. While some, like Mayuri and Moeka, were close, Faris sounded nothing like her game counterpart—though this is not to say she didn't perform the part well. Frankly, regardless of whether they successfully mimicked the official voice actors or not, the whole cast performed excellently and really brought their characters to life.
Other than the cast, the real star of the show was the stage. Instead of a traditional flat stage, the stage of Steins;Gate was constructed of multiple levels that could signify anything from the laboratory, staircase, and the street below, to a maid cafe in Akihabara—or both at the same time. It was an incredibly versatile stage arrangement.
Onstage, the only constant set was that of the laboratory which was always at the peak platform center stage—a platform that could fully rotate and allow the audience to see the room and the characters from many different angles. Another great feature of the stage was a trap door that was used not only for speedy entrances and exits, but also for comic relief.
Rounding out the presentation were the projection system—which would put backgrounds from the game on the curtains and backdrops—and the soundtrack to the play—which was taken straight from the game/anime. All in all, it made for an excellently produced play.
If there was one poorly conceived aspect of this stage adaptation, it was the occasional dance sequences that were found throughout the performance. On the whole, they were a waste of time and space. They were neither well-choreographed nor well-danced and for the most part were useless filler.
Sometimes, these dances were used to disguise a scene change—which is forgivable—but the only truly worthwhile dance sequences in the whole show were the sequences that served to abridge all of the time loops Okabe goes through in his attempts to save Mayuri and the otaku maid cafe dance which acted as a great gag for Daru. Other than that, the dancing did nothing more than pad the play's already long run time.
The Steins;Gate play was a great experience and I only wish I had been able to see them perform all six endings instead of just two. It was well acted with many of the cast doing excellent impersonations of the official voice actors and the stage setup was frankly amazing. If you love Steins;Gate (and understand Japanese), you should really try to get your hands on a copy of the play when it is released on DVD next year.
Living ADV: Steins;Gate ran from October 12, 2013, to October 20, 2013, in Tokyo's Zepp Diver City Theater. The play (with all six endings) will have a limited release on DVD in February, 2014. There is currently no word on a Western release.
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