Steins;Gate: Awesome in any world line

Posted on June 12, 2013

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It took me a while before I could get my hands on this anime. Being an anime based on a game for the Xbox 360, I was a little skeptical as to whether I’m really in for a treat. After watching it, however, I regretted why I haven’t known about this gem sooner before. Steins;Gate was able to deliver what any rational anime fan would want: a wholesome plot, a memorable cast of characters, a healthy dose of action and drama, as well as a pleasant tinge of comedy and romance. In fact, I recommend this show even to people who aren’t big fans of anime to begin with, due to its rich, sci-fi thriller atmosphere that will surely interest hardcore fans of the likes of Star Trek and Doctor Who. To fully understand what I’m talking about, let’s discuss what makes this anime worth watching (perhaps even re-watching), piece by piece.

Plot: 10/10 (Warning: possible spoilers ahead)

The central idea of Steins;Gate is time travel; an obviously exhausted concept for science fiction. However, the show creatively utilized this concept to give even viewers heavily exposed to time travel weirdness in literature (like myself) pleasant surprises. The show focuses on its main character, Okabe Rintarou (codenamed Hououin Kyouma) who accidentally made a time machine with a microwave oven in a time where the nefarious organization SERN (an allusion to CERN) is tinkering with the possibility of time travel. The primary method of “time travel” used in this anime is sending “D-mails,” which are text messages sent to the past that can change the current timeline, based on how people from the past reacted to that D-mail. Later on the series, the characters successfully invented a way of sending your thoughts in the past, moving your consciousness to the past “you” who received the thought data. At first, the characters used the D-mails to satisfy personal issues, but the plot steadily took a darker turn as reality changed more and more due to the repercussions of the D-mail (see Butterfly Effect). What makes the plot thicken more is how the characters get entangled with SERN, the members of which have no qualms with silencing civilians in the name of science and time travel.

There is so much to love with the plot development. A seemingly fun, harmless scientific endeavor would put the characters in countless dark twists and turns as the unseen enemy tries to take the science of time travelling for its own. It could be argued that this is an accurate allusion to the quote, “Curiosity killed the cat.” The show reminds us people in the real world that nothing is exempt from politicization and corruption; not even scientific work. A revolutionary idea, a groundbreaking discovery, a powerful invention; such things attract selfish political agenda that can jeopardize normal civilian lives. Although I believe it is not the intention of the show to discourage further scientific research (I mean, after all, I am the only one squeezing out related ideas and allusions from the show’s plot structure), the show simply portrays progress from a realistic perspective; not everything in scientific advancement is all fun and curiosity and rainbows. Just take Nikola Tesla as an example; how he was massively trolled by Thomas Edison throughout his lifetime.

The plot’s direction towards a more serious, darker, thriller genre beautifully complements another important factor of any show; character development. From an unmindful, arrogant scientist, Okarin became more serious, calculating, perhaps even a little psychotic as the story progresses, as fear and stress keep clawing their way into his psyche. This personality shift seeps into the other characters as well to match the apparent major mood swing of the show’s protagonist. And the show was able to make such important transitions look natural, which is nothing but commendable. In turn, the interaction of character and plot development gives the viewer a whole package of emotions; pity for the characters’ dilemma, anger at SERN, hope for the main character to figure things out for everyone’s sake, aching sadness for the events that will unfold later in the show (which I will not tell you; you have to watch this show for yourself), and hope again that things will indeed get better. The way the show arouses such sequence of emotions from me as a viewer, I just can’t help but root for Okarin (as well as the supporting characters) as he races against time to save those that are important to him. The early episodes were intended to be that way to make the characters grow into the viewer emotionally, before subjecting them to the main course of the plot; the show executed it wonderfully. The torrent of emotions that can be derived from the story, the surprising plot twists, and the action that comes with them (the last few episodes will pretty much keep you on the edge of your seat), everything seemingly fell into place like clockwork.

Character Setup: 10/10

There is a pleasant diversity in the personalities of the cast. The characters’ backgrounds are sufficiently established so as to warrant interest (well, in Daru’s case, his future). The differences in their attitudes complement each other in a rather chaotic way, ensuring enjoyment in watching how these different personalities interact with one another. There is absolutely no danger of getting tired of how they act towards themselves and others. Okarin, the arrogant scientist, Mayuri, the adorable airhead, Daru, the perverted computer hacker, Kurisu, the tsundere teenage genius, and many others… seeing these personalities together in the show is a wholesome experience.

Art: 9.5/10

Steins;Gate also showcases some great artwork. The backgrounds are beautifully made, and the movements of the characters in the show are quite smooth. I’m not a big fan of some of the characters’ eyes (notably Kurisu and Mayuri’s), but then, it’s just a minor nitpick. Finally, the lighting of the settings (which are, well, not so bright) is perfect for the mood Steins;Gate intends to convey; an air of mystery and suspense.

Sound: 9/10

There isn’t much to say about the music used in Steins;Gate. Most of the background sounds blend into the show so much it’s quite inconspicuous; it’s a good thing, however, since too much music kind of kills the air of suspense and mystery, which is pretty much the nature of the show in the first place. On another note, the opening songHacking to the Gate by Itou Kanako, is quite catchy. The intro, especially, sounds science-y which fits the theme of Steins;Gate.

Replayable? Yes.

Understanding the plot development can be challenging, given the quirks of time travel as used in stories. This fact alone justifies re-watching of Steins;Gate, though it doesn’t really lose its awesomeness value. Trust me on this one. Things like microwave time machines, jumping between world lines, as well as cute girls just beg to be watched a second time.

Overall: 10/10

Anime like Steins;Gate don’t come around too often. An awesome plot, an awesome cast, an awesome concept, it’s a big sniff of fresh air from many anime that heavily invest in ecchi elements, sacrificing plot substance in the process. If you’re looking for a wholesome anime experience, then this is the perfect show to watch. I recommend it so much, even my blog is named after a terminology from Steins;Gate (watch it so you’d understand).

Note: I am aware of the Steins;Gate movie, although I haven’t watched it yet. Expect a review as soon as I get my hands on it. El. Psy. Congroo.

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Posted in: Anime