So after my hiatus I decided to start writing reviews again. First on my backlog, Steins;Gate.
I remember the good old days when a man named John Titor claimed on the internet to be a time traveler from the year 2036, back in year 2000. Just like in 1985, we always thought the near future contained many things that could be changed, predicted and invented, but they usually never came to pass. Especially over half of Titor’s claims. The rest were just lucky guesses and obvious outcomes. But that is besides the point. This is also the main premise behind the anime Steins;Gate, which is based off a VN by the same name. And just in case you are curious, it’s also based in the same world as the terrible show Chaos;Head, but we can save that show for another day.
The main character, Okabe Rintarou, called intimately by his childhood friend Shiina Mayuri as Okarin, a 17 year old man who aims to be mad scientist and change the world. Great, that’s what we all want to do, right? He’s a likable character, and he’s not insane, so let him do what he wants. His college buddy Hashida Itaru, a computer whiz, also joins Okabe in his antics. When Okabe finds out a lecture is being held in time travel, he of course wants to go. I mean, what mad scientist isn’t interested in changing the world via monopolizing time travel? Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, a few strange events happen that confuse Okabe and oddly enough seems a lot like time travel. Why is this beautiful redhead asking what he was about to say, when he hadn’t even met her? Or how about that satellite that crashed into the skyscraper suddenly without his knowledge? Oh well, back to the lecture. Okabe is well versed in the claims of the famous John Titor and accuses the professor of plagiarism. Fair enough.
When Okabe tries to figure out what is going on, he notices the time stamps on his phone are wrong. It’s almost as though the messages were sent through time, or he had unknowingly traveled through a time where he sent the message and not remembered. Getting interesting. Okabe thinks he’s getting close to discovering the secrets of time travel when he realizes he can send messages through time, however physical objects contain billions of times more information and turn into jelly when attempted to time travel. Awesome shit. However, Okabe realizes a double-edged sword of time traveling, or the butterfly effect; apparently it;s really easy to change the world with just a little push. Oops.
The first few episodes, although a little slow, are pretty much necessary for explaining the complex setting and introducing the characters. Makise Kurisu, remember her from episode 1? Best character. The only thing they did wrong in the beginning was Ruka’s character. I am a bit ashamed at first to think “he” was attractive at first, but that’s not the point. It seemed Ruka’s character was only necessary to the plot to give Okabe a reason to investigate more about changing the past with time travel. Without realizing that Ruka had never changed genders when he sends a message to the past, he also would never had realized that large changes could occur with just a small seed. Ruka never becomes an important part of the story again. Sadface.
Mayuri’s character at first seems to be the fan service character, but this quickly changes, especially in the middle of the series, when she not only becomes a central part of the story but also becomes an emotional crutch for Okabe. She appears to be a very aloof, naive, but loving, character. However, she is actually very perceptive and considerate when she tries to help Okabe. It’s easy to say that she story could not have progressed as well without Mayuri. Btw, did I mention she is voiced by Hanazawa Kana? HNNNNNNNNNGH!
Makise Kurisu, another central figure in the plot, is also involved in time travel with Okabe. A very intelligent, curious and caring character, she only wants things to be resolved with her and her father and thus pursues research into time travel. At first, she only cooperates with Okabe for her own gain, but slowly begins to like him, cue tsundere moments :3 Anyway, Kurisu is pretty much the brains in the group; she developed more than half of their “time machine” by herself. Besides being one of the two characters that serves as a major plot character in every single episode, she also actually is the biggest catalyst for Okabe’s character development. She supported him mentally, emotionally and was there to him to trust. All in all a solid relationship, including an inevitable and realistic romance.
Another minor but fun character.
Basically, as far as characters go, Steins;Gate did a fantastic job, and deserves a 10. However there is more, and honestly, there are several flaws in this show, although they aren’t major.
Without spoiling anything to a major degree mind you, Okabe obtains a Divergence Meter which quantitatively measures the difference between the current world and the previous world. In the visual novel, Okabe can tell what he has changed based on his method of changing the past. However, this was not clearly explained in the show, which I think is a minor flaw. It is explained that above a divergence of 1.0, the world changes to a “different line” which is basically an entirely different set of causes and effects. However, small divergence changes are only branches on this “world line” and still have the same outcome, but different paths to it. Which explains why in the middle of the series, Okabe desperately tries to change the future to no avail, because it takes a lot of work to travel between world lines. Kinda like pushing a car up a hill.
Also, while all characters were inherently well designed, two characters, Mr Braun and his daughter, play a MAJOR role in the story and it only brushed upon. Not only saying this because it was a metric shitton times better in the visual novel, but in the anime, it’s clearly stated Braun has a certain role, but nothing is ever done about it. Their roles were basically downplayed. I thought it was a shame considering how much better it could have been done but oh well.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the organization causing all of this conflict is none other than CERN (SERN in the anime for copyright reasons), who happen to already have a monopoly on time travel and secretly rule the world through underground and underhanded means. Sounds familiar. Oh wait, Okabe was right all along! Also so was the guy from Chaos;Head. The organization itself is irrelevant, but it is well-written. The members, leaders and goals of this organization may seem mysterious but it is not ridiculous and honestly I thought it was a nice touch. They even successfully made a miniature black hole!
On to slightly less important things. I’m not a guy who sees a list of staff and says “Holy shit, this show is going to rock/suck” because honestly even the best studios/actors can fuck up. I also don’t try to downplay certain studios; J.C. Staff, y u get so much hate. But I thought these guys did a fantastic job. The art style was very clean and kept true to the original art. Heck, they even used the same voice actors from the visual novel! I honestly thought they put 110% of their effort into the anime and it showed. The music was excellent, and the bgm was appropriate. I can’t really fault the show for anything other than why we get instead of The visual novel scene looked so much nicer :( but oh well, it’s only fan service.
Overall, this show deserves a 9 out of 10. It is a very excellent show that I recommend to everyone who likes sci-fi and only has a few minor flaws but not quite a masterpiece.