Steins;Gate is a 2011 Anime that aired during the spring-summer seasons, and ran for 24 episodes. A Sci-fi Anime, it focuses on
Okabe Rintarou HOUOUIN KYOUMA, a self proclaimed mad scientist who endeavors to invent time travel while persistently warning all those around him about secret sinister organizations, and his friends, as they attempt (and eventually succeed) at developing a working time machine. How, you ask? By strapping a cell-phone to a microwave. No, really.
Trying to describe exactly what this Anime is is tricky. Up front, it’s a kind of silly, Slice of Life show that features (very limited) time travel as a plot device. There’s several interesting characters (and a few not-so-interesting), and most of them grow in significant ways as the story progresses. But all the while, the show is kept very light-hearted, with much of the shows humor just being characters bouncing verbal barbs against each other. I especially liked Okabe as a character, as he demonstrates some of the widest range, as a character, across the entire series.
The plot is pretty basic. After screwing around with the “Phone Microwave”, Okabe learns that they have developed a means to send text messages to phones in the past. He and his friends uncover the limitations and breadths of the Time Machine’s capabilities, and eventually, begin to make changes to the past for the sake of studying the effect that doing so has on the present. Okabe quickly realizes that he possesses a unique ability (referred to in-show as “Reading Steiner”) that changes how time travel works for him: when alterations are made to the past, instead of having his memories altered to match the new timeline, he still retains memories of the old timeline. This proves to be a curse very early on, but also as a blessing, as while the effects of time travel prove unpredictable, and leave him “out of sync” with his companions, he ends up being the only person who can even determine that changes have been made.
People who have watched this show (or else have read the VN it was based on) might be confused by my explanation of the plot. Well, to those of you out there, just so we’re clear: YES, I am leaving out a rather crucial plot development. You and I both know what it is, and it shouldn’t be difficult for you to figure out WHY I’m omitting those details.
What I WILL say, however, is that the plot is easily the biggest strength of this show, and once the plot takes over the story, you’ll probably find this to be one of the most engaging Sci-Fi stories told in this Genre.
Steins;Gate’s strengths are in the plot, characterization, and in the unique and fascinating version of Time Travel presented in this story. There’s also a very real emotional torque that gets wheeled out in the later few episodes, and while I doubt it (or anything else for that matter) will come close to rivaling Clannad, it was very affecting, in a way that is typically far less compelling than it was here. But it isn’t without its flaws, and those flaws are not insignificant.
For starters, the first half of the show is simply too slow. This isn’t to say that it isn’t entertaining in its own right, but nothing from the first half of the show really left an impression on me. In all fairness, this is before they’ve really developed the time machine, which means the bulk of the time travel doesn’t happen until afterwards. That the show eventually picks up the pace is great, but it might be tempting for viewers not expecting such a development to stop watching before then, if they didn’t find the characters as much fun as I did.
Secondly, there’s a series of episodes towards the end of the second act that make it rather painfully obvious that this show was based on a Visual Novel. The series takes a rather jarring shift of tone for several episodes to allow a group of minor female characters to each get an episode to hash out their personal issues with Okabe as a mediator, the goal being that if Okabe can help them with their issues, then the plot will be able to advance. I’ll concede that this is seminal to the medium, and that a lot of fans would probably have been disappointed if it were omitted, but me personally, I didn’t really care about the three girls involved, as they had gotten little screen-time up to that point. Consequently, it breaks up what was, up to that point a very engaging plot, for several episodes that just feel very lackluster.
Having said all that though, this is an extremely good show. My advice for any potential fans of this show is to avoid learning too much about the show: There’s a lot of reviews/synopsis that inadvertently reveal large amounts of plot information, and to me at least, the best way to go into this show is to know nothing, and to be engrossed in the developments as they happen. And, on a subjective level, while I can criticize this show for its issues with pacing, when the show needs to “deliver”, it really does. Check this out. You won’t be disappointed.