Review: Steins;Gate


In the past few weeks amongst the new and intriguing anime I’ve decided to watch I’ve been watching some of the most hyped and best rated anime out there. The amount of shows rated 10 on my My Anime List profile has increased by 200% (that is to say there are two more), since the start of May. Carrying on the trend of watching these supposedly incredible shows, I watched Steins;Gate. Is it as good as it’s #2 ranking on MAL would suggest, or was I about to be tragically let down?

Background and Plot

The show focuses on ‘mad scientist’ Rintarou Okabe (aka. Hououin Kyouma)  and his friends/lab members in their attempts to discover time travel and the subsequent consequences it has on their lives. The show begins when Okabe and his childhood friend Mayuri visit a conference on time travel only for Okabe to discover a young scientist, Makise Kurisu dead. After sending a text telling another of his friends, Daru of the death, he miraculously finds Kurisu alive.

She's dead. Well at least she is for the moment.
She’s dead. Well at least she is for the moment.

You can pretty much split the show into two halves, the first being the group’s attempt to find out how to time travel, the second being dealing with the consequences of messing with time.

In terms of genre, Steins;Gate, is all over the place. Principally it is a Sci-Fi comedy. That doesn’t really cover everything though, at times it’s dramatic and it can’t help but lean towards a harem at times. The scientific happenings can surely be described as supernatural with the affects of time travel being very psychological. Jack of all trades or what?

It's important. No really, it has a key role in the end game of the anime...
It’s important. No really, it has a key role in the end game of the anime…

Steins:Gate is a show that is incredibly difficult to predict, which in this case is a good thing. Just when you think you’ve figured the system out to predict the ending, another variable drops in to switch things up  bit. You’d have to say if anyone did find a way to travel through time, they would encounter problems much like those encountered in Steins;Gate. If you had a friend and an assistant and you believed yourself to be a mad scientist… well maybe I’m stretching things a bit.

 

Character Development

One of the best parts of Steins;Gate is it’s very narrow focus in terms of characters. Many of the twenty four episodes will have no more than 4 or 5 characters involved. Besides Okabe himself there isn’t a guarantee of seeing another character in any episode. That might make it sound as if Okabe is the only character with development; that is not the case. Kurisu and Mayuri are integral to the story and other characters such as Daru, Ruka and Moeka are all involved with well thought out back stories.

A good proportion of the story is told using these 4 characters.
A good proportion of the story is told using these 4 characters.

All of that said, we shouldn’t forget that the show is principally about how events affect Okabe. The relationships he seeks to maintain and develop and the apparent change in his character are the real point of Steins;Gate. At the beginning of the show you believe he is a man who could be genuinely crazy, but by the end you are no doubt as to how good and sane his intentions really are. Even with the resulting ending, you can’t help but feel for Okabe.

The second half of the show is where we get most of the feeling from this development but in truth it builds from episode 1 all the way through to the bonus episode 25. No one is forgotten and all the ends are neatly tied up to finish things nicely.

It's not all about science and changing the world.
It’s not all about science and changing the world.

Sound, artwork and animation

Much like it’s mad scientist protagonist, Steins;Gate thrives on doing things differently and this is most obvious in terms of artwork. Most anime released in the summer will have big bright characters with vivid backdrops, and a lot of them will look fantastic for it. Here though, we have show where even the girl dressed up as a cat looks relatively plain. The city is how you’d expect a city to look if you went out now, grey, dull and not that eventful. Kurisu is the most restrained red haired anime girl I think I’ve ever seen. And you know what, all of that makes the show better.

Lots of shows like to try to do things differently, and most of the time those shows disappear into the deepest, darkest pits of anime oblivion. Steins;Gate however gets it spot on.

For the most part the animation is good if not overly exciting and the same can be said for the sound, though the last few episodes do make good use of backing tracks (and some fantastically stereotypical sci-fi sound effects).

Favourite Episode

Most people had this expression by the end of episode 13.
Most people had this expression by the end of episode 13.

Episode 13: Metaphysics Necrosis

Without giving too much away in the way of spoilers, this is the turning point of the show. No longer does Okabe want to make a time machine, because he now has to deal with the consequences of having one. In many ways it’s quite a distressing episode, but as is often the case, that only serves to make it better.

Favourite piece of music

Though there was a track in the penultimate episode that I quite liked, I’m going to stick with the norm here and go for the opening, Hacking to the Gate. It just sounds like it’s a song about science. More generally it’s a really good song and fits excellently with the opening sequence.

Overall

Steins;Gate then is an incredible show. In terms of plot you could happily create a live action equivalent and there would be no way of knowing that it was based on an anime. The inspiration is based on real conspiracy theories which adds another dimension to the plot.

Perhaps most impressive though is the character development, not just of Okabe (and his development is impressive), but of the other characters who can’t quite follow him all the way through his journey. I don’t think I’ve seen a more refined, well balanced anime and the only thing left to say is that Steins;Gate deserves all the praise it is given and more.

Steins Gate

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