It’s pretty rare when an anime premieres and you know the ending to it before the first episode even airs; however, that is the case with Steins;Gate 0. Those who know me know that Steins;Gate currently holds the top spot on my all-time favorite anime list so that means I’m going to be holding Steins;Gate 0 up to an extremely high bar as far as expectation goes. I gave the original Steins;Gate a 5/5… something I try my best not to do because that would indicate, to me, that the anime was either perfect in every way (to my tastes) or as close to being perfect as it’s going to get. Can Steins;Gate 0 end up pulling off two back-to-back 5-star ratings?
Let Mission Altair begin! El Psy Congroo!
The story of Steins;Gate 0 is actually rather simple to explain but not-so-simple at the same time. In its simplistic form, Steins;Gate 0 starts on Episode 23B of the original series. If you recall, that’s the episode where Okarin receives a message from himself in the future, telling him how to save Kurisu and enter the Steins Gate world line. However, in 23B, that doesn’t happen. Suzuha is the one who slaps Okarin instead of Mayushi and Okarin is plunged into despair, giving up on saving Kurisu altogether. This is the story of that alternate timeline. The timeline where Okarin gave up and then found his obsession with saving Kurisu all over again. It’s the story of the Okarin who sends that message back to himself in the original Episode 23.
That’s what I meant in my opening statement that you know the ending to Steins;Gate 0 before even watching the first episode. You know at the end of this ride, Okarin will receive the message from himself and that they will reach the Steins Gate world line. You already know that will happen so why bother watching this show if you know the outcome? Because the journey is just that damn good! The fact that it took an entire series to fill in the blank of one of the unanswered questions from the original series is a testament to just how deep the story is with the Steins;Gate franchise. We get to experience a darker, more dramatic side of the series than what we are used to seeing; however, that doesn’t mean that the series isn’t without its faults.
This is one of the rare times I actually got to play the visual novel before watching the anime. I am a bit torn on the fact that the events of the visual novel were rearranged for the purposes of adaptation but from a television viewer’s perspective who hasn’t played the source material, it actually makes sense. Still, since I have played the VN, it did bother me that certain scenes were cut, some were glossed over, or some just didn’t have their importance accentuated enough. As a standalone anime, Steins;Gate 0’s story is phenomenal but since I’ve been exposed to the VN, I can’t help but see the flaws in comparison. I know no adaptation is going to be perfect and with so many routes, it’s almost impossible to do a 1:1 adaptation but I felt they could have spent a little more time going into the some of the deeper facets of the story rather than just glossing over them as they did.
The main points were there… don’t get me wrong… I just felt they spent too little time on time and because as such, despite having 23 episodes with a 24th on the way in the future, I felt the series was a little rushed. However, I have to look at this from an anime-only viewer’s perspective as well and when you look at it from that vantage point, I think Steins;Gate 0 did a great job getting the story across. It was conveyed in such a way where you didn’t need to play the visual novel to fully understand everything that was going on. You could get the fullness of the story just from watching the show, even though the show did take some liberties with it.
Normally, I would point you to a previous review and only focus on the new characters but because of the nature of Steins;Gate 0, every character feels like a brand-new character so let’s explore them one-by-one!
Okabe “Okarin” Rintaro
After failing to save Kurisu, Okarin becomes a shell of his former self. He drops the whole Mad Scientist Hououin Kyoma persona and attends college. There, he meets our two new characters: Maho and Dr. Leskinen. When Okabe discovers that Maho and Kurisu used to work together and that Kurisu is “alive” as the new A.I. Amadeus, Okabe is forced back into a world he was desperately trying to forget. You get to explore Okabe’s darkest moments whereas, in the original series, a lot of his monologues from the original VN were cut in favor of showing a more light-hearted side to him. Here, you get none of that.
You get to experience all of the inner turmoil running through Okabe’s head. You get to experience the pain he puts himself through he knows he tried everything he could to reach Steins Gate and failed over and over again. You get to witness a man who refuses to touch the fabrics of time ever again only to slowly realize that ignoring everything still won’t change a thing and that he has a duty to see his mission through to its conclusion. It’s a hell of an emotional journey and it takes an actual third world war for Okabe to wake up and realize his purpose. Talk about stubborn!
I really enjoyed this side of Okabe. It gave you that deeper connection that was missing from the first series. My only complaint is that they went to that well once too often and it got to the point where I felt it was becoming an excuse to fill lines of dialogue rather than doing something proactive to move the plot along. If anything, they explored this side of Okabe too much and that, hurt the series overall, in my opinion.
In this world line, Kurisu is dead but “lives on” in the form of an A.I. named Amadeus. Despite being in A.I. form, it’s only Kurisu’s memories from before she took her trip to Japan… so all of the things that happened during the radio building, including her death, are missing from the A.I. This complicates things for Okabe because he finally gets to interact with Kurisu again, but it’s not the same Kurisu that he remembers. He knows that no matter what he says to her, he’s not in her memories at all. This makes dealing with Amadeus all that much more difficult for him and, at one point, he actually gives up on trying to communicate with her.
Outside of the fact that all events from the original series are missing in Amadeus’ memory, the A.I. is as similar to the real deal as it could be, right down to her personality and tsundere tendencies! It’s everything with love about Kurisu Makise and makes me wish I had her installed on my phone!
She’s the first of four new characters in Steins;Gate 0. She is the assistant to Dr. Leskinen, an American scientist visiting Japan, and the inventor of the Amadeus A.I. That means he’s also Kurisu’s former mentor/professor while she was studying in America. Maho and Kurisu were as much friends as they were rivals in the scientific field and she quickly takes interest in Okabe when she learns that he had a previous relationship with Kurisu.
Maho is a bit short-tempered, especially when people confuse her for a little girl, despite being an adult. She develops feelings for Okabe in which she is constantly teased about. This makes her quite the adorable character! Eventually, she’s clued in about Kurisu’s research into time travel and ends up filling Kurisu’s role in Okabe’s lab. She ends up doing whatever she can to aid Okabe when he finally rediscovers his necessity of leaping between world lines and reaching the Steins Gate.
I really liked Maho as a character. She had a unique personality even though it was mixed with some of your typical tsundere tropes. She really brought that role into her own and while she won’t be liked to Taiga from Toradora or Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion, she has her own charm in her own unique way.
Dr. Alexis Leskinen
Dr. Lesiken is a professor at Victor Chondria University and is the creator of Amadeus. He serves as the mentor to Maho and is the former mentor of Kurisu. He’s very outgoing but also a very imposing character at the same time. He takes a fond interest in Okabe and even invites him to study at VCU in which Okabe actually considers.
His personality is likened that to a big child. He loves to have fun but also takes his work very seriously.
There’s more to Dr. Leskinen but that would venture into heavy spoiler territory. I did enjoy his character and loved every twist and turn that came with it. My only qualm is that I can’t talk too much otherwise I would end up spoiling the entire series. I’ll just say that there are some really deep-rooted story plots with him that will probably shock you!
Not really a NEW new character but one that gets a hell of a lot more attention in this series. She’s one of Mayushi’s friends and is revealed to be the future wife of Daru and future mother of Suzuha! During this series, there’s a small side arc where Suzuha goes on a mission to help Daru meet up with Yuki so that the two of them get together, thus guaranteeing her existence in the future. It was a pretty funny side story but still pretty impactful in the grand scheme of things.
Yuki’s personality is one that’s a little quiet and reserved but she does have a fondness for Daru. She is a bit clumsy in that manner which makes her quite fun to watch. The whole beginning of their relationship was sloppy as all hell but that was the whole charm with it! I dug the character!
Going through the rest of the characters would really venture into spoiler territory but characters like Moeka, Mr. Braun, Rukako, Feyris, Mayushi, and others all return and play their roles. When we get a glimpse at the future, it’s a bit shocking to see how some of those characters turned out but it’s not shocking because the show sets you up to expect something like that but it’s still a bit jarring when it eventually does come to pass.
Slight spoiler with this one. Kagiri is Mayushii’s adopted daughter in the future. She gets sent back in time with Suzuha; however, Suzuha gets separated from here and has to make a time leap. In addition to helping Okabe create the time machine and save Kurisu, she’s on a mission find Kagiri. When they finally do, she ends up losing all of her memories… for now.
Kagiri was a bit of a tragic character that you couldn’t help but feel attached to. She was thrown into a situation against her will only to end up being used as a tool. The only thing that was driving her forward was her love to Mayushii and even that was taken advantage of. She goes through a few scenarios in the anime but let’s just say none of them really treat her with any fondness. She’s one of those characters that your heart just goes out to but you know you can’t do anything about it.
Poor Kagiri :(
Art, Animation, & Sound
White Fox is back to do the animation and everything is as top notch as it was with the first series. I liked Maho and Leskinen’s designs and the subtle details they put into Amadeus Kurisu were spectacular! The CG, when used, blended in perfectly and didn’t do anything to take you out of the show. It looked and felt like Steins;Gate and that’s all we could ever ask for!
The soundtrack was taken right from the visual novel with a few anime versions of the songs sprinkled in. Much like with the first season, they made use of Kanako Itou’s catalog of music for Steins;Gate to help accentuate the ending to each episode. We were everything from “Amadeus” (the opening to the visual novel) to favorites like “Sky Clad Observer” and even “Hacking to the Gate”. All of the songs were used at the right moments and really drove home the impact of what you were watching on screen.
If you don’t already own the visual novel’s OST, do yourself a favor and go out and get it as the soundtrack is, in my opinion, leaps and bounds better than the original series. Still, there are some clunky songs in there that we could do without, but there are more iconic tunes on this OST than there were in the first. Of course, the series also borrowed from the original Steins;Gate OST, too so it was a nice mixed bag of audible goodness!
It was a hell of a journey from beginning to end and just like with the original Steins;Gate, I cried out in pain when those 23 minutes passed and I realized that I had to wait another week for the next episode. It was one of those shows that I begged for more and felt sad because I couldn’t get more until Wednesday of the following week rolled around.
The story was captivating and even though you knew the ending, the journey to that ending still kept you guessing at every turn. It held your attention so much that you didn’t want the episode to end. There were some slow parts but that’s to be expected. There needed to be breaks in the drama and I felt that Steins;Gate 0 utilized those breaks nicely. Be that as it may, I still felt the pacing was a bit rushed from a VN player’s perspective but I also felt that the pacing was right on from an anime-only viewer’s perspective. It’s these kinds of conflicting thoughts which make me want to be an anime-only viewer first. I made an exception this time around because of my love for Steins;Gate as a whole. I wanted to play the VN, knowing full well there was an anime adaptation coming. I voluntarily spoiled myself ahead of time and it really did have an impact on my judgment of the show.
I try my best to take in the source material second but I just couldn’t help it in this case… for better or for worse. I want to give Steins;Gate 0 a 5-star rating due to the complexity of the story, the amazing characters, and the overall journey from beginning to end but I just can’t. Knowing that it wasn’t adapted to its full potential and the fact that they leaned on Okabe’s despair too much stopped this show from being perfect.
Remember, I said I would be holding this to an unusually high bar given how well the first series was done. Steins;Gate 0 tried it’s best to reach that bar and snag a second 5-star rating from me but it had two fingers on the bar and those fingers slipped before it could fully grasp it. Had they spent less time on Okabe’s depression and more time fleshing out some of the plot points they glossed over, I would have given this 5 stars in a heartbeat. It’s because of those flaws that it gets a 4.5.
Steins;Gate 0 takes you on a wild ride as you watch Okabe Rintaro dig himself out of depression and resume his mission to reach the Steins Gate world line by any means necessary. While we already know the ending to this series, the journey to that ending fills in a huge gap left by the first season. While it answers many questions, it manages to maintain everything that makes Steins;Gate so great.
- Well-crafted story
- New characters are amazing
- Tons of plot twists and turns
- Spends too much time on Okabe’s depression
- Some of the material is glossed over and not fleshed out