The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Steins;Gate

Title: Steins;Gate
Genre: Drama
Company: White Fox
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 5 Apr 2011 – 13 Sep 2011

Synopsis: Okabe Rintarou is a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” who goes by the alias “Hououin Kyouma”, who together with the “super hacka” Hashida “Daru” Itaru and token female member Shiina Mayuri, runs the “Future Gadgets Lab” in a second-floor apartment of a shophouse, with the stated aim of “destroying the world’s power structure”. After witnessing the murder of the teenage scientific prodigy Makise Kurisu, Okabe flees the scene and uses his phone to message Daru about what he saw, only to find himself in a world where events didn’t quite happen the way he recalled them. No one else had any memory of what had transpired, the message he sent had a timestamp five days into the past, and… Kurisu is still alive.

The Highlights
Plot: Comes with its share of holes, but so engrossing that it hardly matters.
Real life references: Too many references to real-life works and events to list.
Dramedy: Sometimes dramatically gripping, sometimes gut-bustingly hilarious; never boring.
Characters: Almost every character displays depth beneath the surface.

Watch the first episode and this is what you will notice: a crazy unshaven loon in a labcoat who is apparently delusional and lets everyone else know it via paranoid ranting about a mysterious nonexistent “Organization”, all the while having managed to drag a moe-moe girl and a stereotypical plus-sized otaku into his madness. Add a mind-screwing premise where no one on either side of the fourth wall really knows what the hell is going on, and one might be tempted to drop this for something easier to stomach. Stick with it, however, and what you’ll get is a truly engrossing psychological thriller to have come along in some time, and the best possible vindication for its mishandled predecessor Chaos;Head.

Working on a time travel/sliding premise, Steins;Gate comes with its share of pseudo-scientific chatter to justify the viability of its temporal hijinks mechanism, which, as is par for the course for most stories with such a premise, inevitably results in some fridge logic after a bit of thought. Not that overlooking these inconsistencies is hard to do, for the plot progresses at just the right pace to keep the audience interested in what comes next, whether it be Okabe and friends messing around with their newest toys, bantering with and quipping at each other, or otherwise coming to grips with the consequences of their temporal meddling and attempting to undo whatever their experiments had caused to gone wrong.

Speaking of bantering and quipping, when Steins;Gate is in comedy mode, it is comedy indeed; characters set up their own fall with innocent innuendos and ill-thought-out blurbs, while other characters jump at the chance to take the piss at the hapless bumblers each in their own unique way. The series itself displays its recent pedigree by dropping references to other works old and new, and even in-jokes which would be familiar to today’s Internet denizens. Yet when Steins;Gate is in drama mode, it is also drama indeed; Okabe, experiencing firsthand the consequences of messing around with “worldlines”, is forced to confront hostile forces which threatens the safety of everyone involved with him, and eventually finds himself responsible for the future of the whole world. And even here, some elements of the drama driving the plot are taken right out of real life. Comedy and drama are both used in just the right dose, at the right time, to make the most impact and keep the momentum of the story going.

The characters themselves are incredibly interesting personalities; despite each having their personal idiosyncrasies, almost every one of them reveal hidden depths to their characters, and the viewer gets to learn about each of their background stories, which flesh out the character beyond their typical behaviour and habits, and sometimes even sheds light on said behaviour and habits in the first place. The banter between any two characters does actually build on and underscores the chemistry between them, and one can really see how this helps each character to bond with everyone else. If anything, Steins;Gate is exceptional in how it manages to maintain these relationships of trust between its characters, even when time loops and worldline sliding wipes the memories of all save Okabe; an impressive feat indeed, considering several recent titles have shown how easily time loop storylines like the premise of Steins;Gate could have been mishandled.

Steins;Gate is, quite simply, one of the best visual novel adaptations to come out ever since the Higurashi series, and Kyoto Animation‘s Key adaptations. Coming off a successful effort at what must have been a complex undertaking in Katanagatari, White Fox deserves a pat on the back; not only does their latest effort make a strong case for being their magnum opus, it is becoming clear that they are an up-and-coming studio to watch for, going into the second decade of the 21st century. One might indeed say that White Fox is the choice of Steins;Gate… but you didn’t hear it from me, ’cause the Organization might be listening.

El. Psy. Congroo.

The Rating: 9
9/10

Reviewed by: Ascaloth

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