*SPOILERS: Don’t read this if you don’t like being spoiled.*
For the past…Oh, I don’t know – 3 years, maybe – I’ve been hearing that Steins;Gate is a masterpiece. Finally, I have sat down and watched the series (including the OVA). Is the hype real? Did it live up to its crazy expectations for me? You bet it did! And it all boils down to one simple thing: execution of character.
The plot revolves around Okabe Rintarou and his sudden discovery that his microwave (dubbed the ‘Phone Microwave’) is a time machine that can send text messages to the past following a strange occurrence when he sent a text message to his friend, Hashida Itaru (Daru), that young genius girl Makise Kurisu had been stabbed that results in no one remembering him attending a conference that day, and Makise Kurisu alive. From there, he allows various characters to send “DeLorean Mail” (D-Mail) to themselves to change a facet of their past. Some of the changes are small, and others completely change the city. The more drastic changes cause people’s memories to change, reflecting the change in the past. Okabe, however, retains all of his memories, allowing him to remember what happened before the past was changed, but it prevents him from forming the new memories. At some point, Kurisu develops a way to transmit human memories into the past 48 hours (called ‘time leaping’). These inventions catch the attention of a super science organization, SERN, and it winds up with Mayuri killed by Kiryuu Moeka. This causes Okabe to time leap back to try and save her many, many times, until he finds out that the only way to save Mayuri is to reverse all the D-Mails sent, including one he sent to Daru about Kurisu being stabbed. This leads to a bunch of episodic parts where Okabe tries to convince those who have sent a D-Mail to undo them, including himself.
Okay, with that not brief summary out of the way, this plot is fantastic, and executed perfectly. The way the show explores themes such as what-if scenarios, personal conflicts about someone’s past, how the future can’t be changed sometimes, and the lengths someone will go for a person they love, is indescribable. How they craft each conflict that arises and is resolved was really a sight to behold, how they hook you with the mystery of time and the conflicts that revolve around it – it’s really something. And unfortunately, it’s not something that words can do justice.
The pacing is slow in the beginning, and then ramps up dramatically as the series progresses. I’ve heard criticisms of the anime’s slow start, but I have to disagree with those criticisms; I found the early episodes to be slow, but very gripping. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. What were the characters going to find out? I had to know.
Speaking of the characters, I could write an entire blog post on some of these characters (which, really, is probably why I enjoyed Steins;Gate so much). I’d go into crazy amounts of detail about each character, but that’d take too long and it’d be a chore to read. Instead, I want to talk about how this entire show is character-driven.
There’s nothing more enticing and satisfying than a show where the characters are the reason the show happens in the first place. While the very beginning where Okabe shifts world lines is kind of an accident, it’s not by some looming power that shifts him to another world line. Rarely does something just happen like in other shows where suddenly something happens and the plot/world changes. And when it does, Okabe investigates with the other characters. They try to figure out the how and the why.
Every D-Mail sent by a character is because they desired things to be different – to change their past, and when Okabe has to undo them, the conflict that arises is surprisingly relatable; who would want to unfix something they’ve been wanting their entire life? It clashes directly with Okabe’s burning desire to save Mayuri, who can only be saved by undoing them. It’s really powerful stuff when an entire plot is driven by a character’s motivation, emotions, and curiosity, especially when most of the conflict arises not with the characters and some greater power, but with the other characters themselves. To see characters so vulnerable and selfish and to resolve things through not so clean conflict all the time – it’s just fantastic. I love it.
Honestly, it doesn’t feel like any character is dead weight. They all bring something to the table, especially since most of them have a history that is explored in at least an episode that helps bring some understanding to who they are and why they act the way they do. Kurisu’s burning desire to seek approval and love from her father again, Okabe’s really annoying “Houhouin Kyouma” persona crafted to ease Mayuri’s pain over the loss of her grandmother and his own loneliness – there’s just so much depth to these characters, and it’s all put on display brilliantly in how they interact. Even a seemingly minor character like Yuugo Tennoji has a very powerful scene near the end of the show.
The character designs are great, and the animation is consistent throughout the show. Really, there’s nothing to complain about. I was very impressed with the angles and shots used during some of the more emotional scenes. It was very well-done.
Usually I enjoy the music, but nothing really grips me. As I’m writing this I’m listening to the Opening theme. I loved both it and the Ending theme, and the music in the show was great. It’s almost on-par with Clannad’s music for me.
Steins;Gate is touted as a masterpiece. I’ve read online reviews and a lot of word of mouth from friends telling me that it’s simply one of the best anime they’ve ever seen. Well, I’m here to add to that ever-growing list of fans.
Steins;Gate is a masterpiece.
Plot Direction: 10/10
Final Score: 10/10