Review: Steins;Gate

Anime: Steins;Gate

Studio: White Fox

Episodes: 24

Original Run: Apr 6, 2011 to Sep 14, 2011

Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller, Romance

 

Synopsis:

Okabe Rintarou a.k.a Okarin a.k.a Hououin Kyouma is a self-proclaimed mad scientist and founder of the Future Gadget Lab which boasts a grand total of three members; Okabe, his ditzy childhood friend Mayuri and the perverted computer expert Daru. Their latest and proudest achievement is the Phone Microwave, a device that turns bananas into mysterious green gel. It’s all quirky experiments and harmless shenanigans until it’s revealed that the Phone Microwave is a cell-operated time machine that can send messages to the past.

The ability to manipulate time may seem like a boon at first but Okabe soon realizes that it’s more of a curse – one that’s too great for one man to bear alone.

 

Story:

Steins;Gate is one of those anime that I’ve seen near the top of a vast majority of rec lists. Since I’m me, it took me a while to get around to it and even when I did, I was pretty unimpressed by what I saw at first. Around six episodes in, that started to change. By the halfway point, I was wholly invested.

We’ll begin with the negatives for a change since nearly all of this show’s demerits lie in its initial episodes. While there are some intriguing things early on, they’re all overshadowed by what seems to be a glacial pace and cringeworthy characters, which you can tell is not a good combination. The resident mad scientist is so completely over the top that you get secondhand embarrassment every time he opens his mouth. And when it seems like not much is happening anyway with these less than charming people, it seems pointless to keep watching. But if you plough through that, Steins;Gate starts showing its true, brilliant colors.

Once this show gets going, it really gets going. The plot weaves an intricate web of many questions and few answers that keeps you guessing while at the same time developing its characters and their relationships so that they become fleshed out people rather than the one note caricatures of before. Steins;Gate is like a puzzle that’s slowly and steadily put together over the course of its run, finally presenting the full picture with a grand flourish. Needless to say, it’s a very impressive picture.

Time travel is an inherently interesting premise and while the science bits flew right over my head, the way the consequences of messing with time are presented is nothing short of amazing. The story explores both the large-scale effects of outright changing the past and also the toll looping in time can take on an individual’s psyche. But what really makes Steins;Gate stand out is how the aforementioned features are incorporated into multi-faceted interpersonal relationships that are all but guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings. There’s quite a lot of tragedy involved but it feels authentic rather than manipulative.

While we’re on the subject of relationships in Steins;Gate, I have to add that it features a very well-developed and touching love story that’s seamlessly weaved into the rest of the story. The characters have great chemistry from the beginning itself. Even when they’re annoying individually, their banter is entertaining. The romance isn’t presented blatantly but rather evolves surreptitiously throughout the narrative until it’s confirmed in a quietly emotional scene that carries the same note of bittersweetness as nearly everything else in this anime.

On the whole, Steins;Gate is a great, nuanced show with a slow start and a stunning finish.

 

Characters:

It took me quite some time to warm up to Steins;Gate’s characters. They’re a small, cozy bunch who seem uninteresting or even annoying at first but as the story progresses, each of them becomes likeable and even charming in their own way.

Okabe Rintarou, the mad scientist protagonist, is a walking ball of cringe at first. Prone to loud bursts of paranoia and rather ridiculous theories, he can easily give anyone secondhand embarrassment in the first several episodes. But as things get more and more serious, we get to see Okabe losing the energy to maintain his eccentric persona and the actual person underneath is revealed. And that guy is almost painfully kind and also a little lonely. Rather than a mad genius, we get a normal man with a bleeding heart who’s stumbling through life like anyone else. The time travel antics, which start out harmlessly enough, almost break him at several points but he always soldiers on with an inner strength that’s truly admirable.

Makise Kurisu is an actual genius scientist who has reservations about time travel but is sucked into it anyway after a series of disastrous – but also hilarious – encounters with Okabe and his group. She’s a classic tsundere but is thankfully not prone to random bursts of violence. For all that she has a prickly exterior, she’s a very nice person underneath it all. Shiina Mayuri is Okabe’s childhood friend who shares a deep and truly special relationship with him. She’s kinda wacky most of the time and doesn’t actively contribute much to the plot but her presence is thoroughly felt throughout.

Hashida Itaru or Daru is the Lab’s extremely skilled hacker. He’s a stereotypical otaku in many ways, obsessed with the 2D world and unapologetically perverted, but he’s also a pretty cool guy who never fails to stick by his friends despite the potential danger. Then we have Amane Suzuha, a young girl with a steel core that doesn’t quite match her bubbly exterior and some very obvious secrets. She’s easily the most sensible out the cast no matter and is a compelling character from beginning to end.

Other characters of importance include the socially anxious Moeka who’s got a few secrets of her own, Ruka who struggles with her gender and her romantic feelings and Feyris whose good cheer hides a sad past.

 

Art and Music:

Steins;Gate has a very muted color scheme, with washed out colors, pale or dark lighting and a general absence of anything bright or flashy. Rather than give the whole show a depressing vibe – though it sometimes does that too – it serves to make the whole tale seem very grounded despite its fantastic premise. Character designs are distinctive and overall quality is quite high.

Neither the OP nor ED appealed to me at the beginning but it grew on me fast with repetition and by the end, I was fond of both. The opening, Hacking to the Gate by Kanako Itou, is visually a treat and suits the tone of the show perfectly. There are a total of four ending themes, all pretty great, with the first one, Toki Tsukasadoru Juuni no Meiyaku by Yui Sakakibara, running for the majority of the episodes.

 

Verdict:

Rating: 8/10

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About D

Just another avid anime fan.
This entry was posted in Anime, Steins;Gate and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Review: Steins;Gate

  1. Irina says:

    For some reason I can never resist a Steins;Gate review and this is a great one. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Artemis says:

    It took me quite a while to get into this show as well. I probably wouldn’t have persevered if I hadn’t been watching with a couple of friends, but like you, I was fully into it by about the halfway point. Bit of a slow burn at first, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I think it was my interest in Suzuha’s character that kept me going at the early parts where quitting seemed like the best idea. It’s kinda amazing how it drasticaly it improves as it goes.

      Like

  3. raistlin0903 says:

    Cool, you have finished it. I really have to give this series a second watch and see if I can change my mind for it. Well, I already promised Weekend Otaku that I would do that anyway, but this review pretty much proves it again. I still don’t know if I am going to change my mind after that second watch, but who knows, stranger things have happened. It was great to read a review from you again. As always it was a great read, thanks for sharing your thoughts on it 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Haha yeah, I remember you being not too impressed. Good luck with that second watch but honestly, we can’t love everything. I have my share of popular series that I dislike *cough*Naruto*cough*

      Liked by 1 person

      • raistlin0903 says:

        Haha…what’s that? I could not hear you through all that coughing lol 😂😂 I have watched a few episodes of that series, but honestly the amount of episodes it me has, has seriously held me off from watching it 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • D says:

        I liked it well enough when it aired on the local tv but man, once Shippuden strated…nope, hell nope.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I really lvoe this series. It kinda reminds me of the film Primer in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Karandi says:

    I really love this series but it is one of the few I won’t watch subbed because the dialogue is so fast and you end up with nearly a quater of the screen covered in text. That said, the English dub is pretty excellent. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it and I’m really glad you kept watching it. Yeah, that secondhand emabaressment is a killer in the early episodes, I know I threw a pillow at my TV during one sequence the first time I watched it. Still, it all kind of adds to his charm later on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I distinctly remember pausing at places to read the text. If I ever rewatch it, I’ll try the dub. I honestly didn’t think I’d end up liking it so much during those beginning episodes but now this is one of the best shows I’ve seen.

      Haha I didn’t throw pillows but I did stop the video at many points to just take deep breaths and not do something drastic…like throw my laptop against the wall.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Karandi says:

        Given how fast I read, I think this was the first I gave up trying to follow subs. They just talk too fast and there are so many characters involved in some converstaions, it just gets hard to follow fast.
        Glad the laptop survived the viewing experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Remy Fool says:

    The secondhand embarrssment was very strong. But I’m glad the show was able to engage its viewers after the first few episodes.

    I remember you disliked how Okabe treated Ruka’s gender, so I was a little surprised to see you didn’t talk about that here.

    Apparently WhiteFox will be adaptating Steins;Gate 0 where Okabe has to deal with an alternative timeline, so that’s kinda cool.

    Thanks for the great review as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I’m actually squirelling that away for a possible post on the way gender is treated in anime. Mostly because I couldn;t find a way to insert it into the structure of this review and it wasn’t enough for a single feature.

      I browsed some on that matter and apparently, Ruka in the VN is gay, not trans? But the anime shows no indication of the latter. I wonder if the sequel will have something to do with that because I think an adult Ruka is involved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Remy Fool says:

        Ah, got it. Good point – it would have been a bit out of place. Hope that post works out.

        I would think Ruka is trans since Ruka desired to be a girl, but Ruka could have a crush on Okabe and knows that Okabe only likes girls?? Confusing. Hopefully adult Ruka clears things up then.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Glad that you enjoyed it. Steins;Gate is a great show, but many people don’t give it a chance due to the slow start.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Adam says:

    Steins Gate is such a strange anime.
    I think it’s brilliant, but at the same time I would hesitate to create a story like this. The beginning establishes such a wacky tone that it’s easy to dismiss this as just another light-hearted anime about characters goofing off, which won’t really amount to more than light-hearted mindless entertainment, which is fine, but also a dime a dozen.

    But like you I reached a certain point in the story, and suddenly things to very real, and the characters became both more layered with complexity, and by extension much more engaging. There’s a hidden depth to all of them, and by the end I developed a new respect for all of the characters, and their antics.

    In some ways it reminds me of Shin Sekori Yori/From the New World.
    They both start off a bit rough, but if you stick with them you find a potent story.
    And on some level I wonder if both Steins Gate and Shin Sekori Yori need to start the way they do, to lay the foundation for the contrast between the beginning and the end of the story, which in many ways feels like the heart of what this story is really about, two different ways of being/living, and the question implied by their comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Yeah, I get what you mean. The beginning doesn’t really give the impression of the excellent show it eventually turns out to be. I wonder how many people dropped it that way – I know I was tempted.

      The characters are great and even the ones I wrote off in the beginning as one-dimensional proved to be far more than what met the eye. I’m pretty interested to see what the sequel will bring.

      Shin Sekai Yori in on my watchlist – it has been there for a while to be fair.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Adam says:

        I’ll be very interested to see what you make of it. In my mind it’s one of those series that has some significant weak points, but I cannot think of a better way to tell the story they’re trying to tell, which really strikes me as interesting.
        I look forward to reading your thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. The second hand embarrassment nearly killed me in the first few episodes (I’m amazed I was able to get past them), but this is now one of my favorite anime I’ve ever seen. In a way, I think the frustrating nature of the first few episodes actually helped, since once it really got going and the characters became likable, you’re kind of amazed by how invested you are when you didn’t like the first few episodes.
    But I’m glad to see you liked it! This is one of my favorite anime, and one of my favorite science fiction stories; I love how they included just enough details, but not too many, and I have yet to become as emotionally invested in a group of characters in an anime series. (Who knows, that may change, but it hasn’t yet).

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I cringed so much. Lost count of how many times I had to pause the video and take deep breaths. But yeah, it redeems itself spectacularly.

      I’m glad it didn’t have too much science for me to wrap my head around because I am not good with that sort of thing. The way Steins;Gate went about it was pretty perfect though.

      Liked by 1 person

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