Steins;Gate is the anime adaptation of the hit Japanese visual novel of the same title produced by 5pb. Before the anime adaptation aired in 2011, it was first adapted into a manga series in the year 2009.
Steins;Gate is admittedly quite a difficult anime to describe. The brilliance of the plot, its characters, the setting, and the series as a whole can only be truly appreciated through rewatching the series. Steins;Gate is the kind of series that leaves clues and little hints throughout the series that are initially quite impossible to pick up on. These small pieces of information ultimately allude the the final plot points of the series.
The immediate impression that one would get from watching Steins;Gate is that it depicts a heavily used plot device – time travel. One of the biggest issues with time travel is the problem of continuity. A recurring issue, many series have taken time travel and used it poorly resulting in a storyline with multiple plot holes and confusing time lines. Steins;Gate however takes the idea of time travel and introduces it slowly, building up the rules and conditions that surround the ability in the series. The protagonist, Okabe Rintarou, experiments on the time travel ability that he chanced upon throughout the earlier part of the anime. This allows the viewer to not only explore the possibilities of time travel, but also allows them to discover the parameters for its usage alongside the main character.
The slow discovery of the power of time travel and the limitations that are placed upon it by the universe of Steins;Gate serves as a double edged sword for the show. While it does allow for thorough dissection of the concept of time travel as presented in the universe of the show, it also dampens the pace of the show. It gives a feeling of being lost for the first few episodes in the sense that it leaves the impression that the show lacks direction early on. The pacing early on is quite slow with Okabe conducting experiments over and over again. While these experiments and occurrences do play a role in shaping the direction of the series later on, their value is unclear to the viewer until much later in the 2 cour anime.
Despite this, Steins;Gate proves to be a consistently memorable series presenting well designed elements aside from the time travel plot device. The characters of Steins;Gate are all unique personalities that when taken apart, are difficult to connect to and are out of place in society, but when allowed to interact, show a great dynamic that rounds out the cast. The characters of Steins;Gate add a great deal of depth and dimension to the series.
Makise Kurisu for instance, commonly addressed as Christina in the show, serves as a bridge for the viewer and the group of oddballs. She is a scientist, rooted in natural law and grounded by the rules of reality. She is initially the most skeptical about all that goes on in Future Gadget Laboratories. Kurisu is easily the most relatable character of the show, symbolic in a sense, as she represents the viewer’s journey to discovering the universe of the series. As she spends more time with Okabe, she discovers that his seemingly out of this world musings are in fact more real than anyone could imagine. The viewer learns to love the group alongside Makise Kurisu heightening her importance to the series.
Another great character is Okabe Rintarou, who commonly refers to himself as Houoin Kyouma. The series protagonist, Okabe is shown to be subjectively delusional bursting into monologues that lack sense or clarity. He is shown to pioneer increasingly random terms as seen for instance when referring to his ability to retain memories as his Reading Steiner and referencing a Steins;Gate that is never really shown to exist. He comes up with the group catchphrase El Psy Congroo which again lacks sense or meaning. What the series does right is that it is able to take this impossibly delusional character and make him digestible for the viewer, being capable of driving the plot forward without being off-putting.
The plot builds up to a great set of final episodes that serves to show the epitome of the capabilities of time travel in the series. Okabe is made to choose between the two women he considers closest to him, Mayuri or Kurise. With events playing out in such a way that forces one to die, he repeatedly relives the day of their deaths in an endless loop searching for a way to save both. His resolve is shown as he is shown to have watched either woman die repeatedly in his attempts to find a loophole to prevent their demise.
Ultimately, Steins;Gate is an anime that may start off as difficult to dive into or get invested in. It is definitely worth the investment however as Steins;Gate does everything right with a great cast of characters and a perfectly executed plot of time travel.