No one knows what the future holds, that’s why its potential is infinite.” -Rintarou Okabe
I have always been hearing clichés about how a picture is worth a thousand words. But as of the present, no picture in the world is going to teach, touch and inspire you about the philosophies on time like a good tale does, a great anime that is Steins;Gate. You have probably heard about it, saw its title high up in various anime rankings and Top 10s, read a couple of short reviews on it, Google-imaged it and found that the following: Sci-Fi anime on time traveling. Main character looks worn, deranged, wears a lab coat. His sidekick, the seemingly only other male in the main cast, happens to be a fat, unattractive computer nerd. Accompanied by 6 other young attractive females. You probably thought and groaned: Not another dumpster material of a sci-fi that is actually harem romance in disguise… ..which explains the high ratings. Since when the anime community is keen about sci-fi without particle beams or mesmerizing explosions anyway. Such unempirical opinions are to go out of the window, because Steins;Gate is nothing short of amazing. You can be as skeptical and reserved as you want about this as Steins;Gate might not make your top 3 because there could be things you dislike about it. You could hate some of the characters (because of some repressed memories?), not enjoy the music, not like the presentation, hate the confusing time manipulation or be slightly disturbed by certain scenes. But there is no denying that this is a great piece of art that deserves recognition, as it is simply impossible to be completed without tons of hard thinking, research, and work.
Spoiler Alert. I am not sure what qualifies as spoilers, but I will just try not to reveal too much details. If you are very particular about it avoid the part on the ending.
Solid and Consistent Physical Rules
So lets start with its physical rule settings, where we look primarily into its time travel theory and parameters. Generally, time manipulation and loops are bound to leave various gaps in the plot and can be extremely repetitive. Without overwhelming others with details, I have to say it is pretty unique yet well-founded. It talks about World Lines or timelines where events are changed, spawns more World Lines where “worlds” progress. However, these Lines have some influence over each other, and could converge because of Attractor Fields, so several Lines may have different details but leads to the same outcome. To avoid the same outcome, one has to alter past events thoroughly but carefully, so that it leads to another world line not influenced by the same Attractor Field. Now to be honest, this theory is not perfect as it is not immune to challenges (more personal musings: theory might not be complete all of the ‘outcomes’ are presented in relevance to Okabe, maybe I just find it harder to digest as I spend a lot of time pondering about time theories myself, also it is sometimes implied that this utilizes a multi-verse with all outcomes being canon, but at the same time there seems to be only one world, and manipulating time changes the path that the world travels), but by far this could very well be the best physical rule of time presented ever in a anime, which is thought provoking at the same time.
Disregard my personal compulsive thoughts on the feasibility of this theory in the real world, it is so far presented with zero inconsistencies and plotholes in the anime show.
So to conclude this, the rules are settings are 10/10 for physical rules consistency, with another 10/10 for effort to make it happen.
I am at a lost as to where to start about this. So there is this Future Gadget Laboratory founded by a self-proclaimed mad scientist, Rintarou Okabe, who along with other 2 members hang out during free time and develops new gadgets, which are often useless or impractical. By coincidence, they manage to unintentionally give birth to the world’s first time machine, which simulates a Black Hole. After a fateful but confusing encounter with the young genius Kurisu Makise, Okabe leans that he is able to send D-Mails into the past which can actually alter it. Kurisu Makise eventually who joins his lab, they continue more and more experiments, uncovers more and more secrets of a research organization and eventually drew their hostile attention. This is where the focus of the show comes in: Okabe then goes through a series of time leaps to correct the past, through an extension of their time machine. Eventually, he is cornered with a ultimate dilemma of two world lines, each with only one of his two loved ones gets to live while the other dies. The plot teaches about how a time machine shouldn’t exist, as it gives humanity a second chance so they could get away with not learning from their mistakes and not having to strength to live with their decisions. The complexities of time travel are too much and the consequences of altering the past are too heavy for any one to burden. This deserves a solid 9.5/10 from me.
Surprisingly Good Flow and Clear Presentation
The anime starts off being a bit odd and off due to Okabe being difficult to take seriously if you did not get to know him more. It started off like a freefall, leaving the audience clueless as to what to pay attention to, which is actually good in as it builds up a somewhat realistic atmosphere despite the unusual events. The events began disconnected which is then eventually tied to the lab, and as everything starts to converges, a bigger picture and issue is revealed. Admittedly relative to most animes, Steins;Gate can be a bit confusing to catch up with what is going on but explanations are given rather quickly as the series progresses.
This actually attracted me a lot as it builds up a lot of curiosity and rewards it with satisfying explanations.
Steins;Gate begins with some dislodged plot keys here and there, and can get frustrating when time loops begin to happen, but explanations are often given quickly without suffocating the audience with uncertainties. Whatever message the anime hopes to deliver, is delivered clearly and efficiently, and can be often gotten in one run, without having to repeat. This gets a solid 9/10 as well, to top that off I wasn’t sure how it could have been better. It is about time loops after all.
Well-Rounded Character Development Which is Off The Charts
Maybe simply calling it well rounded doesn’t do it justice, as all of the main cast received quite a lot of in depth development, such as moving personal stories, extremely memorable character traits, varying communication styles and catchphrases. Mayuri’s “Tuturu”, Okabe’s monologue rambling act on his phone, Itaru’s sexual innuendos, Kurisu’s science-orientation, Ruka’s sexuality conflict, Suzuha’s eagerness, Faris’s catlike behavior and Moeka’s compulsions with her handphone. All of these are merely one aspect of their complex personalities and I would be writing a thesis if I went on spoiling about the details, especially Okabe Rintarou who is officially the best and most competent male cast in my book. This is noteworthy as Okabe does not have much actual notable sklll aside from his outstanding ability to retain memories from temporal loops: he wasn’t strategic in his actions, not exactly well-studied, wasn’t physically or mentally gifted or blessed with notable deductive skill. Aside for his capacity to name things with mythological references, he is pretty average, like most of us, yet he has one of the best mental stability of any male cast despite giving off a deranged and melodramic look. He has characteristics which inspire the audience: certain amount of level-headed-ness, ability to make hard decisions and strength to live through them, and at the end, possibly the wisest main character of any anime. Although the focus is mostly on Okabe, Kurisu and Mayuri, Itaru’s presence is extremely significant as well, followed by Suzuha’s cheerful yet enigmatic charm. I suspect Faris, Moeka and Ruka are arguably supporting casts due to the lack of real supporting characters, however even them received a lot of screen time and development in terms of personality and background story. All of them had significant ties with the various plot keys. It is sufficient to just say the show would have been impossible without any single one of them. Thats enough said, Steins;Gate could very well be the best when it comes to character development. A off the charts 11/10.
I tried my best to come out with a single adjective for it. Good definitely isn’t enough. But unlike most sci-fi titles, romance is a huge deal in Steins;Gate. I guess I have made a point in my first review about Eden of The East that i am not a huge romance or harem fan, but I don’t think Steins;Gate can be achieved without the romance aspect. Without honest love as motivation there is only so far Okabe is going to go with all the time loop madness. In the movie, it is his selfless desire for a world where everybody he cared for can live, even if it means he has to be forgotten in the tides of time, literally. I don’t want to spoil too many details, but even if you are just into some pure realistic romance, would Steins;Gate disappoint? I think not. It didn’t have any annoying romantic tensions, fancy proposals or dramatic love triangles. It was just Okabe’s self-discovery, about how much he cared about the people around him and how far he is willing to go to hold everyone together. I loved the romantic aspect of Eden of the East more than any other, and I still didn’t know if this is better. But it was definitely the most satisfying of any anime I have watched by far, I don’t usually rate romance but I still give this 9/10, and I don’t know where is lacking, really. Maybe it was too one-sided in a way, or I actually wished Suzuha was more involved?
Great Artwork and Voice Acting
Steins;Gate isn’t colorful, it often gave off a grey-ish white feeling to it. It didn’t have landscapes so beautiful and vibrant that you wished you could be there, it is just a typical busy city with streetlights and starlight filled with electronic stores. It feels real. You feel like whatever that is happening in Steins;Gate is actually going on around you. The lack of vibrant colors does make it difficult to concentrate on, but the environmental details are decent and not anything to be complained about. The character artwork looks simple, but very well done in my honest opinion. The actions, behavior, emotions are very well-drawn, all backed with some fitting voice acting. There isn’t a lot of outfit variety for the characters, even though I don’t think that is needed. But if I have to nitpick, I thought there is no harm done if the characters can alternative between more than 2 sets of outfit throughout the series, making the presentation slightly more interesting to watch. There is a lot of work done in polishing the artwork and the voice-acting is definitely one of the best I have heard. If there is anything to improve on, there could have been a larger variety of colors for the environment and outfits for the characters. It would have been thrilling to see Okabe in anything without a white lab coat more often. A 8/10 on this aspect after some serous nitpicking. And honestly, I don’t really care much.
Ending (skip after first paragraph to avoid spoilers)
A lot have said the ending is pretty flawed as it seemed like a odd deus ex machina that killed off some of the emotions. But I honestly don’t care.
Okabe Rintarou deserves the happiest ending possible after all the time-loop bullshit he got himself stuck in. What happened is he forged a 3rd path, a 3rd choice that could lead to a happy ending where everyone survives, where there are no time machines and no dystopia. The so-called deus ex machina is that somehow the time machine still got invented due to Kurisu dying and the papers got published by her father which became a trigger for WW3. Suzuha returns to the past to get Okabe to forge a third ending which is happy. When he is seemingly stuck by the same outcome again, he receives a mail from his future self, telling him what to do to drive the world into the Steins;Gate line without changing the past, but rather deceiving it, resulting in the outcome which requires no one dying and no WW3.
There is also this less explored mechanic (which is the real deus ex machina in my opinion, as everyone seems to accept easily that Okabe has time-leaped multiple times, making the conflicts much lesser), where everyone to an extent seems to have retained their memories across World Lines, which I think is what that makes a truly happy ending possible. Especially for Kurisu, which she remembers the 3 week emotional experience of Okabe time looping and being there for him every time, along with their intimate moments. Or for Mayuri, where she remembers Okabe trying to save her from countless means of death and appreciating that. Some felt the ending was too good, but I honestly like Okabe very much, so much that I think he deserves to have the ultimate win-win ending, instead of having to sacrifice one loved one. In my opinion, the struggle he went through in the time loops is a huge enough sacrifice. Still, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of Suzuha staying through the end and staying with the lab, as she is arguably my favorite female character. 7 years for her to be born could be too long to wait for, but then that is as logical a proper ending can get.
General Critic and Conclusion
I am very skeptical about my own judgment now, as the quality of anime I have been watching just gets higher and higher. Every time I finish a series I felt like it is a number one on my list. But to point out what is missing in Steins;Gate is difficult as it involves nitpicking and all that I could do is point out that there could be more variety in background colors and character outfits. Also, I didn’t enjoy the opening, Hacking Through the Gate, that much, although the ending, BGM and both openings and endings of the movie are excellent. Even after the whole anime is done, every musical piece in Steins;Gate is very well made and fits the scenario well. Music would deserve a good 8/10 and thats counting my own slight dislike for Hacking Through The Gate, which is actually one of the better ones according to others, with lyrics that fits the show. It is 100% personal preference when I say I didn’t enjoy it much, I believe many would think otherwise.
I don’t think I know if anyone should skip this, but if you are not into philosophy or anime that has little action, then you might not enjoy it has much as I did. There are also some scenes that I thought was unnecessary such as Okabe literally groping Ruka to find out that he/she is a female in this World Line, which slightly put me off, but the comedic effect was there. Other than these and my preference of having the ending which involves Suzuha staying permanently, I struggled with finding anything to complain about Steins;Gate. I have to squeeze this along with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion on the Best Anime Ever throne, and even then Steins;Gate might just be slightly on top of everything else. Due to how much I liked the characters, theme, lessons and ending, I probably had the most satisfying experience with Steins;Gate more then anything else and I fear I might never enjoy watching any anime again, because very few might live up to my newly raised bars thanks to Steins;Gate. This might just be the best anime out there right now.
If that is the choice of Steins;Gate, so be it.”
El Psy Congroo