Review: Steins;Gate

I can assure you, this is not a trippy show about space and gears.

“It’s me, I found out a few months back that Steins;Gate is an adaptation of a massively popular (in Japan at least) visual novel by Nitroplus and 5pb. that was originally released for the 360, and then ported to all sorts of consoles, such as the PC and PSP. It got an anime in the spring, but despite being overshadowed by Tiger and Bunny and Ano Hana whatever, the Blu Ray discs are still selling well. Being in the same set of games as Chaos;Head, I didn’t have high hopes for this series. But as you can see from the list of twelve best shows of 2011, you might already know how I roughly feel about Steins;Gate. That being said, stay tuned for my detailed analysis of the Steins;Gate show. El Psy Congroo.”

I thought this show was laughing at my computer’s inability to reduce screen tearing, but then I realized those visual effects were actually intentional.

Steins;Gate’s story is actually a mix of several genres–several very different genres. And guess what? They all work out spectacularly. While the first half is a sci-fi satire/comedy with trace elements of suspense (which also happen to be fantastic foreshadowing), the second half is a full blown thriller that, despite having a few stumbles here and there, is suspenseful and exciting all the way till the very end. While the comedy caters to a specific subset of anime fans (namely the imageboard browsers who get all these memes and self-references and stuff), I thought it all very amusing and refreshing, especially compared to the standard type of humor anime uses nowadays.

However, the thriller aspects can be appreciated by almost anyone into thriller, as it doesn’t cater to a specific audience (aside from those who like suspenseful plots, I guess). And despite that, Steins;Gate’s story hits all the right notes, as it manages to be very suspenseful, very tense, very chilling, and most of all, very, very engaging. I found it extremely tough waiting for each new episode to air, as each episode would always leave me wanting more.

What I also found interesting was how it references a lot of time travel phenomenon and popular culture: one major example is John Titor, who posted in some American message boards claiming to be a time traveler from the year 2036; I felt these elements really help Steins;Gate appeal to time travel and general science fiction fans, while using those elements to craft an original story at the same time. Steins;Gate, as a story about time travel in one way, shape, or form, is bound to have people discussing whether some of its story elements are plot holes or not, and unfortunately, Steins;Gate stumbles occasionally in this regard, as it has a few plot holes here and there, which are sometimes solvable, even if the show didn’t bother to explain things itself. Still, that doesn’t stop Steins;Gate from having one of the most engrossing stories ever.

Stuff like this shows up as early as the first episode, too.

Though while the plot was great, I feel as if you don’t like at least some of the characters, you’ll find it hard to like Steins;Gate at all. Steins;Gate is mostly a character-driven story, and it shows; large amounts of care are given to the characters. What’s that, many of them look like moeblobs? Well, once you start watching the show, it’s likely you’ll disagree. Many of them appear to fit certain archetypes: the main character, Okabe RintarouHOUOUIN KYOUMA, is a self-styled paranoid mad scientist, his childhood friend is a cute girl who likes doing cute things and being cute, and his male college buddy is an otaku with some serious programming and hacking skills. You have a maid character, a female researcher, a shrine maiden, and some other roles.

However, while they do fill all the archetypes, what’s amazing about the characters is that they’re all down to earth; while they may be a bit eccentric, they all have a sense of normalcy, and they manage to strike a perfect balance between eccentricity and normality. The characters don’t often act over the top, and if they ever do, it’s because they’re acting. Now this may be because of the sort of dry atmosphere the comedic parts present, as while you can call the characters’ interactions wacky, you can’t ever associate those interactions with typical high school comedy anime interactions.  I really feel like the characters are more like slightly eccentric versions of people I could very much meet in college rather than typical high school characters.

Also, as a plus, the researcher, Makise Kurisutina, happens to be a tsundere that is actually adorable and not detestable in the slightest! That’s a pretty impressive feat, if you ask me. However, it’s when characters get serious that the plot turns around.  And when they get serious, you can tell they mean it. They act quite a bit differently from how they normally act, but at the same time, acting familiarly enough for them to stay in character. And that’s what’s excellent about the characters: they have great amounts of depth. Not only that, but a few of the characters go through quite a bit of development (well, as far as a time travel plot allows them to).

The protagonist, in particular, is such a fascinating individual, that I can’t help but think he’s one of the most fleshed out/characterized/developed characters in anime. Now it may initially be difficult to come to like the characters,  and that’s okay; despite how much I laud them, they can be polarizing. However, I feel that if you enjoy the characters if only a tiny bit, you’ll wind up enjoying the show.

MADDO SCIENTIST HOUOUIN KYOUMA is certainly very stylin’.

If there is one department I feel Steins;Gate falls behind on, it’s art. The anime’s art, which doesn’t huke’s… crazy designs, seems to me to be more generic; while I’m certainly not saying anime’s art copies another’s, I feel like the art doesn’t really stand out. I feel like they got the artists to churn out a style that just works. Nothing wrong with just working, admittedly, but I won’t sing praises about something that just works.  Similarly, the animation seems to be just there, not standing out on its own terms.  It does its job, but aside from some very awesome sequences, you won’t find me praising it.

How cool would it have been if the entire show was drawn like this though?

Music is used very… modestly. The anime doesn’t play any BGM often, so you often just hear sound effects and voice acting. This is essentially music minimalism, as sometimes, music ruins scenes. That’s not to say Steins;Gate has bad music; on the contrary, the soundtrack has some really amazing songs. In spite of that, the anime chooses not to play music often. I think this is also because of that dry atmosphere I mentioned above. However, when the show decides to play music, it’s often played very well. The light-hearted music serve to make the comedic segments more comedic without sounding obnoxious, and music played in tense, suspenseful, or otherwise serious moments are not only very well composed, but are extremely fitting too.

Steins;Gate, luckily, manages to have quite a number of songs that are really rather memorable, and I feel this is done rather cleverly: many of the songs spin off from one particular song. And since that one song is really great and memorable, it stands to reason that many of its derivative songs (I’m not using that negatively, by the way) are at least slightly great and slightly memorable, too. And guess what? It works! On the other side of sound, we have voice acting, which is by far excellent. Mamoru Miyano, who plays Okabe Rintarou, really pulled out all the stops: he does an amazing job as Okabe, as Miyano perfectly portrays EVERY one of his aspects. Hell, Miyano practically steals the show, which is ironic, considering most of the other voice acting is top notch, as well.

Hanazawa Kana plays the childhood friend, and while some may still consider her annoying and type-casted yet again, I feel like Hanazawa does a pretty good job here, too, as Hanazawa didn’t get stuck with a flat moeblob character this time. The relatively unknown Asami Imai plays Kurisu, and I feel she does a great job here as well: her “competent and confident but insecure” performance is just perfect! Many of the other roles are also really well done, as well. In general, the voice acting here is an amazing treat, one that’s full of really convincing performances.

Rating Breakdown
Plotwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Excellent comedy first half with lots of foreshadowing segues excellently to an amazing thriller, crafting a magificently engrossing tale that, save for some bumps in the road due to a few plot holes, won't let go of your attention till the very end.
Characterswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
As this is a character driven show, it's only natural that the characters be excellent, and excellent they are: with such a fun cast of characters, each with a surprising amount of depth and development (where time traveling allows), it's hard to find yourself not empathizing with at least a few of them.
Artwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The art, despite being pleasing, looks rather generic and uninspired: while it gets the job done, it only does just that.
Animationwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Like the art, the animation is rather average, and uninspired, save for a few notable sequences.
Musicwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Music minimalism seems to be Steins;Gate's thing, but when it plays music, it often plays awesome, memorable music. Voice acting is also excellent, as all the voice actors give really amazing performances.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Steins;Gate presents an incredible character-driven comedy/thriller that, while not exactly for everyone, provides a non-stop roller coaster ride of suspense, intrigue, and excitement.
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A mad scientist who's so cool!

Laevatein

A mad scientist who's so cool!

3 Comments:

  1. The major plot hole towards the end ruined it for me. I was expecting an awesome, clever ending, but they totally disregarded the time-travel rules right at the end –.–

    Just gonna post the short version here; there should have been 3 Okabes in the past when he goes back the second time(after failing), because that's a part of the past and cannot be changed unless he goes back and prevents "himself" from traveling the "first time"(=the time he fails).
    He should during the second "jump" have had to fool 2 versions of himself for it to correctly follow the time-travel rules stated in the series.

    • This is why I hate time travel in general: most works of fiction that use it screw it up. However, they get away with it because the viewer tends to not pay attention to these things.

      You're absolutely right in that there were major time travel plot holes in this show. I also hated the recently released movie Looper because it made no sense at all. If you've seen the movie, then you probably know what I'm talking about. If not, it makes no sense that Joseph Gordon Levitt's character (Young Joe) kills himself which in turn kills Bruce Willis's character (Old Joe). They are both Joe, but they are from alternate realities. Therefore, what one does to himself should not affect the other.

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