Once in a while, an anime will come along that will stand the test of time and join the ranks of other anime shows that are considered to be one of the greatest ever created. In this writer’s opinion Steins;Gate is one of those animes.
Steins;Gate is the second in a three anime series. The other two are Chaos;Head and Robotics;Notes. Unlike most animes, you do not have to watch Chaos;Head to understand what is happening in Steins;Gate and you don’t have to watch Steins;Gate to know what happens in Robotics;Notes. Each show is connected in time period only and not in the story (although in Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes there are some characters from the previous series that make cameo appearances or are hinted towards, but not to the point where it will throw you into a confused state.) Steins;Gate takes place two years after the events of Chaos;Head and Robotics;Notes takes place in the Steins;Gate world line.
All of that will be a little less confusing as I explain what makes Steins;Gate so great!
The Story & Setting
Steins;Gate takes place in Akihabara, Japan above a small CRT Television repair/chop shop. This small apartment is known as the Future Gadget Laboratory and it is where the majority of our show takes place. Okabe Rintaro (Okarin for short) is the founder of the Future Gadget Lab and their purpose is to invent new things, however, most of the time, these new inventions don’t exactly pan out very well.
During one of their experiments with hooking a cell phone up to a microwave, they were able to turn a banana into a green gel-like substance, but they soon discover that a simple gel-ified banana was only the beginning of their biggest discovery. They realized that the banana was trying to travel through time and ending up in that state each time it attempts to do so. This leads them to believe that physical matter cannot time travel, but electrical impulses might be able to accomplish this feat. They test this theory by sending text messages into the past (referred to as D-Mails), and lo and behold, things start to change little by little.
Steins;Gate does something very few shows about time travel do… and that introduces us to the concept that while there is the past, present, and future, that simply changing something in the past doesn’t really affect the future. Instead, it creates an alternate world line in which everything is the same except for that one thing that has changed. This wouldn’t be the first time, however, a show did something like this. In fact, back in the 80s, Back to the Future II did this with the alternate 1985 timeline. The same principle is being applied here in Steins;Gate that if you change one thing, you’re creating world lines rather than changing the future.
Once the gang at the lab figures this out, they begin to wonder if they can change a world line so much that everything remains the same, yet everything changes at the same time. They call this world line the Steins;Gate and their goal are to eventually reach that world line, however, there is one little problem when it comes to that goal: nobody, except for Okarin, realizes that the world lines have shifted.
This is because Okarin has an inherent ability known as the Reading Steiner. When a world line changes, he’s the only person that is able to sense it while everyone else that he knows is completely oblivious to the change. Because he realizes this; and based on the fact that electrical impulses can get sent through time, he volunteers himself to hook his mind up to the cell phone microphone to transfer his conscience through time to these different world lines in order to fix them because they begin to realize that things are changing WAY too much. What those events are, I will allow them to remain shrouded in mystery to avoid any potential spoilers.
There are a lot of characters in Steins;Gate and even the smallest characters get some wonderful development. I don’t believe there was any character that was featured on this show that stood out as cannon fodder or being unimportant in some way or fashion.
Okabe Rintaro is our main character for this show, but he has an alternate personality. Okarin believes that he is a mad scientist named Houhouin Kyouma and often takes this persona around the other members of the Future Gadget Laboratory. He is constantly talking into a cell phone (which isn’t even in the process of making a call), to a fictitious person that he created in his mind about how he suspects that he’s being watched by the government or being spied upon by world-renown physicist research facility SERN. He often ends most of his “conversations” with his catchphrase “El Psy Congroo.” It should be noted that Okabe Rintaro’s seiyuu is Mamoru Miyano who also played Takuto in Star Driver; and if you’ve seen that anime, you will actually get to see a few nods towards that character in Okarin, which I thought was a nice touch!
Kurisu Makise is the second main character of this show. She is a research student from Victor Qondria University’s Brain Research Program. She travels to Akihabara, Japan to hear a presentation given by Professor Nakabachi on the subject of time travel. Okarin also attends the same presentation and tries to disprove Nakabachi’s report by stating it was just information that was being directly copied from statements made by John Titor. After the outburst, Makise becomes a bit more interested in Okarin and this eventually leads to Kurisu joining the Future Gadget Laboratory. Because of her research in the human brain, she becomes the only person to believe Okarin’s stories of world lines each time he jumps.
Itaru Hashida is a first-year student at Tokyo Denki University and is known as the “Super Hacker.” He spends most of his time in the Future Gadget Laboratory in front of a computer. He is also quite perverted in the otaku sense as he prefers 2-D girls over 3-D (i.e. anime girls versus a real-life girlfriend). As a member of the Future Gadget Laboratory, he often finds Okarin’s requests annoying, but he does complete them nevertheless. In fact, he’s the one who hacks into SERN to discover more information about time travel in order to help Okarin reach his goals.
Mayrui Shiina is another member of the Future Gadget Laboratory and a close friend of Okarin. She loves upas.. little plush toys… and is overjoyed when she finds a rare metal upa. She doesn’t understand scientific stuff, but she hangs around Okarin just because they enjoy each other’s company. She’s always bright and smiling and hates it when people argue. In fact, almost every time she shows up she introduces herself by saying “Tuturu~! Mayushii desu~!” While her role seems insignificant, she becomes a focal point for one of the major events caused by the D-Mail incidents.
Suzuha Amane is a part-time worker in the shop below the Future Gadget Lab and is one of Mayori’s friends. She likes to ride bicycles and is very energetic, although she can be a bit brash at times. She’s another example of a character that seems like cannon fodder that ends up becoming a major focal point later on in the series.
Moeka Kiryuu is a very shy and timid person who joins the Future Gadget Lab. She rarely speaks vocally and, instead, chooses to communicate through text messages. The speed at which she is able to send these messages has earned her the nicknamed “Shining Finger” which was bestowed upon her by Okarin. She is also searching for the IBN 5100 personal computer.. a computer that Okain is also searching for because he feels it’s the only machine capable of decoding some of SERN’s documents. She disappears from the Lab shortly after joining but makes her return as part of one of the show’s major turning events.
Ruka Urushibara made it onto the Top 10 Traps in Anime list. “Rukako” looks like a girl, but is actually a guy. He made it onto the list because of something that happens in one of the D-Mail incidents. He accomplishes something all other trap characters could ever dream of. He is also Mayuri’s best friend and is even in the same class as her. He becomes a member of the Future Gadget Lab simply by being Mayrui’s friend and like Mayuri, knows nothing of science. He does, however, hold some vital information pertaining to the IBN 5100.
That just about wraps up the key notable characters. There are a few smaller supporting characters that actually get some interesting twists, although their twists are briefly revealed and/or mentioned, they actually play big parts in the overall main story. These characters include Mr. Braun, the owner of the CRT shop, Akiha “Feyris Nyan Nyan” Rumiho who is responsible for bringing “moe” to Akihabara, Professor Nakabachi, as well as John Titor himself. All of these characters have small bits and roles in the show but are given purpose throughout the series turning their insignificant contributions into something that actually matters.
Takeshi Abo is the one responsible for the series soundtrack and sadly, for a series this great, the soundtrack is non-existent to very forgettable.. at least when it comes to the anime-only music. Abo does use pieces from the Steins;Gate visual novel franchise in the show, such as “The Gate of Steiner” piano theme. He also composed “Fake Verthandi” which served as the ending theme for episode 21.
Kanako Itou lent her voice for the show’s opening theme “Hacking to the Gate.” It was an original song composed for the anime, yet, she worked on this series before. Her song “Sky Clad no Kansokusha” was the theme song for the visual novel as well as the ending theme for episode 23 in the series. She also used her song “Another Heaven” for the ending theme for episode 24 as well.
Episodes 1-21 featured “Toki Tsukasadoru Juuni no Meiyaku” by Yui Sakakibara for its ending theme and it became one of the more powerful and notable ending themes in recent memory.
Overall, the strongest part of Steins;Gate’s OST lies in their opening and ending themes. The background music is just comprised of subtle songs to enhance the atmosphere with nothing really standing out, however, a show like Steins;Gate doesn’t need an overly epic soundtrack. It’s a slow-paced anime that is meant to build up to the major events and the writing and dialogue take center stage and shouldn’t be overshadowed by the soundtrack. It is a move that I think works really well for this show.
If you’re looking for some shows that are similar to Steins;Gate, I will point you toward Higurashi no Naku Koro ni as well as its sequel Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. You will need to watch both of those shows to understand why it’s a recommendation as it features the same concept of different world lines without the scientific background to support it. I will also recommend Mirai Nikki in the fact that it also features the concept of using a cell phone to change the future, but it doesn’t exactly involve time travel. If you want something shorter in length, I will point you to Puella Magi Madoka Magica which revolutionized the magical girl genre. Madoka Magica also features the concept of time travel as well. Hopefully, between these shows, you will find something to your liking.
Steins;Gate is more than just a 24 episode anime series.
Overall Score & Thoughts
Steins;Gate is more than just a 24 episode anime series. There is an OVA that takes place a few months after the final scene in episode 24. In fact, it is cannon to the story and heavily considered as "episode 25". There is also the movie which also continues the story one year after the events of the OVA episode. All together, the show produces one of the more epic stories told in anime and many feel that even though it does have some loopholes and some unexplained events in its plot, it seems to be the closest example of a show nailing the whole concept of time travel.
It is brilliantly written, the characters are developed well and are simply outstanding. All around, this show deserves the praise it has gotten and does, indeed, stand tall against other giants of anime such as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Gintama, Clannad After Story, Elfen Leid, and others as one of the greatest animes to ever be produced. Right now it is ranked #2 on the top anime page of myanimelist.net, falling just behind FMA: Brotherhood.
If you like science fiction, this is a show for you. If you like time travel, this is THE show for you. If you're a fan of well-written dialogue and a very interesting story plot.. again, this is the show for you. Despite some of its flaws, I am awarding this show a 10 / 10.