Here it is at last!
Today I shall be reviewed the sci-fi anime/visual novel Steins;Gate. As I have yet to go through the visual novels (Despite all my wishes) this will again focus on the anime. Don’t bother reading if you haven’t seen the series, spoilers ahead, et cetera et cetera. Any criticism is welcome and appreciated. Let’s begin.
Steins;Gate is a series set in Akihabara, Japan, a city which, in the series, is known for its technology and moe culture. As a setting Akihabara is pretty solid. It seems like a normal town, with a few moe culture touches and serves rather nicely as the setting for the series. It’s a colorful town you could notice changes in, which is pretty good for a time travel series. Speaking of, if you aren’t aware, the main idea of this series is time travel mixed together with comedy and a serious storyline. Case and point, the first episode time travel is (sort of) achieved, someone dies, and the time machine is a microwave, time travel, serious, comedy. Boom.
For the setting I’ll give about an 8
Okabe Rintarou - Protaganist to the series and self-proclaimed mad scientist. At first glance, Okabe is a character that initially comes off as off of his rocker, enough so you may actually face palm. But about halfway through the series it’s revealed this is an act and you get to see his real personality as a smart, caring guy. He’s pretty well balanced, providing nice bits of comedy and yet being great as a dramatic character when required. I honestly can’t really say much bad about him, character-wise at least.
Makise Kurisu - Female protagonist, love interest, and genius from America. I have to say, when she was described as some sort of genius prodigy, I expected some pompous girl with an attitude. Instead she was surprisingly down to Earth. In fact, her genius only really showed itself when she was making deductions. Any other time you’d never guess. Kurisu is best described as a normal girl just trying to please her Dad. That’s all she really is. Everything she does is to try and make her father happy. Beyond that she’s pretty normal, save for quite a few websites she seems to frequent suggesting she’s into some interesting things. Nothing much to complain about here either, occasionally Kurisu comes off as mean, but never all that much, and her chemistry with Okabe in their back and forth moments always gets a laugh.
Mayuri Shiina - In the lab full of smart people, Mayuri is the not-so-smart one. She’s pretty much the foil to Okabe, who’s loud, smart, and cocky. Mayuri is quiet, simplistic, and well-behaved. In many ways she’s like a child, which is actually pretty good. Often times Mayuri realizes things before anyone else does, or sees things the simplistic way a child would, giving her good insight on a lot of things. Mayuri is probably the most innocent character you could find in this series. Definitely a good character, though her spacey-ness may just make you shake your head once in a while.
Itaru “Daru” Hashida - Hacker, computer geek, anime girl obsessor, Daru pretty much created the stereotypical “Anime Nerd” Archetype. Despite being one of the first four members of the cast, you’d be surprised by how often he actually isn’t on screen, or doing nothing. Daru brings a lot of comedy to the show; often throw small perverted jokes and comments. His character is really as simple as they come too, when I said typical Anime Nerd stereotype, I meant it. The guy makes references and openly admits to preferring the 2-D World (And its women) to the 3-D one. Beyond hacking computers, perverted jokes, and a small bit of story with him and Suzuha, there’s really not much to say.
Ruka/Luka Urushibara - Another innocent-looking girl who doesn’t seem like she could do no wrong. Only one problem, he’s a guy…Then a girl…Then a guy again. My first thoughts of her/him kinda made me feel awkward after five minutes into her appearance. Jokes aside, Ruka is the shy character, often muttering and speaking with the most feminine voice one could imagine. As a guy, Ruka hated being a guy, as a girl she loved Okabe. Beyond that, there’s nothing more to go into. Aside from the guy/girl thing with Ruka, you can’t really say anything bad with her/him. I’ll give credit where credit is due though. Turning a guy into a girl, I don’t think any other time travel series has done that. Bravo
Suzuha Amane - A woman from the future. Suzuha’s background sounds like something from one of the Terminator movies, a girl travelling back in time to stop the evil force from controlling the future. Despite the lack of originality there, Suzuha brings her own little flavor to the show, acting pretty cheerful and often claiming to be a “warrior.” Nothing solid about her character comes until about episode 15 or so, where it’s revealed she is John Titor and she explains the situation in full detail. Another element to note is the fact she stopped in Akihabara in order to find her father, who as it turns out, is Daru. I saw this coming a good episode ahead of time, but it was a nice little heartfelt touch to her and Daru’s character and helped Suzuha stand out from time travelers. Like most of the cast, nothing bad to say here either.
Faris Nyannyan - More of a side character but Faris is considered main by many so here she is. As with everyone else in the show, there’s more to her than meets the eye. Like everyone else at one point or another, Faris does something that either makes you laugh or smile, which is important with how little she appears. Initially she seems happy, cheerful, and care-free, but as the show starts to hit its resolution phase it’s revealed she lost her father, introducing some tragic elements there. This makes her character shine particularly when her D-Mail must be undone and in-turn her father dead again. Due to a lack of screen time with Faris, all that you get is the main essence. Not very much fluff with her. If I had to complain here, it’s because of a lack of screen time for her. She’s a solid character.
Moeka Kiryuu - Okay, here we are, probably the worst character in the main cast, though that sets the bar pretty high as the cast is pretty damn good. Moeka is…nice to look at, shy…And that’s about it. She has a sob story like any other villain. She was alone, unnoticed, and she finally found someone who needed her. Far from original but it works I suppose. Moeka really doesn’t possess many redeeming qualities to herself. She killed people who could actually become her friends because a guy on the phone said do it, and went crazy afterwards when he stopped contacting her. Even when Okabe comes and persuades her that she’s wrong, she starts doing a little bit better, but by this point it’s easy to get tired of her whining about how bad her life is. Personally, I admit I feel a little sorry for her, but it’s a bit outweighed by dislike.
SERN- Not a character, but the main villain of the series, or at least, the idea of a villain. The idea of an evil corporation is good for the series, but overall you never really get much out of this. Moeka and Mr. Braun are all you ever see of SERN (Aside from a bunch of no-name henchmen) and even then they were never particularly terrifying or came off as pure evil. The only problem I have with SERN is the lack of delivery here. We never really get any good material out of SERN and overall it’s just a name that gets tossed around a lot. Granted, when SERN is involved in a conversation it does help set the atmosphere nicely.
And there’s the main cast, admittedly not the most original in some cases. For the most part it’s a very good cast of characters. Moeka’s really the only one hatable among them, and I personally didn’t hate her too much. If the cast had a problem, I’d have to say it would be a lack of background. Aside from occasional tidbits and flashbacks, most of the cast has a pretty much unknown past. It’s a bit of a shame but at least the main points get covered.
Overall I can’t complain (Save for Moeka), Characters get a 8.5
Okay, here we go, time to review the plot of this anime. Before we begin I will not BS you, I found the plot to be fantastic.
Sci-Fi is always a fun little genre, and honestly anime doesn’t really touch it as much as they should. It’s always fantasy or comedy. So even being sci-fi in itself was a breath of fresh air. Anyway, Steins;Gate is, as I have mentioned, about time travel. Now, time travel has been beaten to death in many novels and movies, and Steins;Gate uses a great deal of themes any sci-fi fan would recognize right away. Here’s the part where it differs from a majority of time travel stories, it’s actually very intelligent and clever. Comedically, the “time machine” in question is actually a microwave attached to a phone, that could raise an eyebrow or two but it’s pretty damn original.
As for the story itself…It starts in a most interesting way, someone dies, and at the end, they are alive. From there you go through about 11 episodes that are admittedly a tad bit slow-paced, but they provide character development and introductions, as well as contain a great deal of comedy. Throughout this little “Happy Phase” of the series, there is a subtle serious undertone. After all, the cast is messing with time travel, and the differences get increasingly severe. This is highlighted in the end of episode 9, where Okabe realizes the entire city of Akihabara has been changed (Also one of my favorite moments of the series.) Many reoccurring ideas are established, mainly between character interactions, but you pretty much have the characters down come episode 12.
Why do I stop at episode 12? Because here shit gets real. It’s revealed Moeka is an agent of SERN, Mayuri gets shot and killed, and Okabe does a Time Leap to travel back to the past and save Mayuri. Quite a dramatic leap from the comedy you see thus far. But it actually fits pretty nicely. The happy little lab were playing an adult game and well…the adult world is pretty damn cruel. It was a nice plot twist and you finally get some real time travel at long last. How does it go? Okabe fails and Mayuri dies again. This process repeats for some time and you honestly get a great performance of fear and desperation from Okabe as he does his best to try and save Mayuri, only to fail each time. It’s a process that keeps you on edge as you know it’s coming, but deep down you have this small little hope that it works this time.
Naturally it doesn’t though, and eventually Okabe gets so depressed about it Kurisu of the past picks up on what has happened and helps him. This helps showcase Kurisu’s genius and deductive abilities, as well as help build on her relationship with Okabe. You get a lot of science stuff about Causality that…actually makes sense. Essentially the idea was that the world line was changed into a world where Mayuri had to die, and it was too late to alter the world line enough to stop it. It works, and it adds a nice sense of hopelessness to the situation.
Anyway, after that Okabe and Kurisu finally realize the best way to fix everything is to go back and undo all the damage they’ve done. It’s an idea that seems to simple and obvious to be true, you’d be surprised. The next few episodes after this were simply astounding. Showing each character living in their idealized world they created with the D-Mail, only to have it taken away to save Mayuri. It provides amazing character development, you see the relationships build between everyone and Okabe, and you start to get a sense of hope back from Okabe as opposed to the empty, hopeless feeling he’s been giving off beforehand.
Now, while I do like these episodes, I have to bring up Moeka’s. For the simple reason that it also shows one of the problems that irked me in the series, that being, how Steins;Gate seems to have a problem bringing in new characters. A small cast is by no means bad, but Steins;Gate’s story seems to force things on a couple characters that really showed no indication of it. Instead of introducing a new character, it just brings in one already established and builds on them in a way that…really just comes out of left field. Out of the cast the worst case is Mr. Braun. There was never any indication he was anything more than an apartment manager. There wasn’t a single sign of him having a dark past. Yet he turns out to be FB? The mysterious shadow that had Mayuri killed? I was hoping for the head of SERN or maybe some guy from the future out to stop Okabe from succeeding. But Mr. Braun? Goddammit…In all fairness though, as far as randomness goes it was handled decently.
After all the character stuff is done it looks like things will finally work out, then Kurisu mentions something we’ve known since episode 1. That being, in the original world, she died. I can’t lie here, at this point in the story I was so sucked in I completely forgot about it. So here comes the new problem, who should die: Mayuri, or Kurisu? This whole conflict lasted about one episode and focused mainly on forwarding the love relationship between Okabe and Kurisu, which actually worked pretty well. You get the full development of these two characters and it ends on a bit of a tragic note as Okabe reverts the world to how it once was and Kurisu is now dead. One thing I must mention though is that just before Okabe did this, Kurisu came in and she looked more than happy. About what we will never find out, but if I had to guess, I’d imagine she figured out a way to get to the Steins;Gate world line established in the next few episodes. It’s the only thing I can think of that makes sense.
Speaking of the last couple episodes, it’s time to touch the slip-ups of the series with these two. Episodes 23 and 24 came from nowhere as well, talking about World War III and how Okabe can save Kurisu. It’s pretty random and to put it in movie terms, it feels like a sequel that just exists to get a happy ending, which is exactly what it is. The tone of the series changes, the music does as well, and overall it just feels different. Giving credit where it’s due though, it covers some of the mysteries of the beginning episode in a believable manner and gives a nice old happy ending.
And that’s the series in its entirety. Each step of the way I pretty much covered everything so there’s not much left. But I want to make mention of one thing that I was impressed by, and that is the consistency of the story. Each and every aspect of it was explained and covered, even the time travel bits (If you have any questions regarding this I think I have it worked out enough to help.) You don’t have many, if any unanswered questions and all the paradoxes worked out nicely. And the series actually had science in it. Granted it was fictional, BS science, but it sounded smart and that’s all you need.
One last thing to mention would be the reference to the real-life John Titor. The stuff with him actually happened, and it made for a nice factor in the beginning of the series.
The story was very enjoyable, despite minor stuff: 9
The Steins;Gate soundtrack was pretty nice overall, with a nice techno-ish opening befitting sci-fi and a dramatic ending that did wonders (Especially in episode 9) OST’s were…Well there were some good ones, but not very many were memorable. They were the kind of songs where if you looked up all the OST’s you’d probably favorite them, but very few were good enough that you had to find them then and there. A bit of a slip-up came towards the end though, when the opening and ending songs were changed to something new, but the video remained the same. It just didn’t work, and I found the songs less enjoyable than their predecessors.
Sounds here earns about a 6.5
I loved this series. Start to finish it was a very pleasant ride and I hope I wasn’t biased in reviewing it. It was smart, clever, and had a great cast of characters to deliver it all. I can’t really complain, beyond nitpicking, this series honestly made it into my top ten list of favorites. (Keep in mind I’m a huge Sci-Fi fan so this hit home for me.)
Final Score: 8.4 - A-
I would like to point out this final result is an edit based off of some criticism I received and attempted to fix appropriately. The person didn’t want me to list them but thank you all the same.