Steins;Gate is one of those rare anime that will thrill you, keep you guessing, turn your expectations on their head and then leave you thinking about it days after you’ve finished.
“No one knows what the future holds. That’s why its potential is infinite.” –Okabe Rintarou
Steins;Gate begins like many a comedy/slice of life style series but then almost immediately rips that notion away…and then it goes right back…for a while. You follow Okabe Rintarou, an enigmatic, self-proclaimed “mad scientist” who spends most of his hours in his “Future Gadget Lab” along with its other members (Okabe’s friends) Mayuri, the cute airhead, and Daru the geeky otaku computer whiz. Rintarou spends much of his time extolling the dangers of a shadowy organization that’s watching his every move. But it’s just all in his head…right? I mean, all they do is spend their hours making frivolous inventions that don’t really do anything useful. But oh, just you wait… One day a red-haired scientist named Makise Kurisu with a bad attitude walks into Okabe’s life and things begin to take a serious turn. Kurisu aides in the construction of the “Phone Wave” a device that can actually send text messages back through time! After that, mysterious events begin to unfold.
And that’s just the beginning. Steins;Gate’s story, despite lulling you into a false sense of simplicity at the beginning, is deep, rich, and complex. It succeeds in doing time travel better than perhaps any other work in any medium. If it seems I’m really trying not to spoil anything, I am. A huge high point of the series is its twists and surprises, and I wouldn’t want to ruin anything for you! Steins;Gate’s story will deceive you, shock you, make you laugh, make you cry, but most of all, make you want to watch one episode after another after another. In the end, Steins;Gate has managed to create one of the most engrossing and well done stories of this anime generation (maybe of any generation) with a protagonist that will go down as one of the all-time greatest characters ever created.
Almost the entirety of Steins;Gate’s cast of characters are well rounded with compelling backstories. Not one character seems pointless or unnecessary at least, not by the end of the show. In addition, their relationships with each other become a pivotal point in the series. Steins;Gate does a beautiful job of being both plot and character driven. You’ll always be wanting to know what happens next but you’ll also really care what happens to this band of misfit friends as their lives and entire world begin to be irrevocably changed. However, the one character that will stick with you is Okabe Rintarou (aka Hououin Kyoum!) himself. He’s charismatic, funny, intelligent, totally crazy (or is he?), and eminently likeable. Despite all that he has very human flaws. He’s forced to confront the real world and he doesn’t always know how to handle it. It’s at these moments that Okabe truly shines as an extremely “real” character. If anime had a hall of fame of characters, he’d have his own wing.
The only reason this isn’t a 10/10 category is that during the beginning I have heard some complain of the pace being a bit slow. I personally didn’t feel that way but I understand how some could have that reaction. I will say though that it’s all worth it and I think the slower pace at the beginning acts as a foil to enhance the more thriller-style pace of the latter half of the show.
Funimation did a wonderful job with the dub of Steins;Gate. Most voices fit practically perfectly and there were some seriously stellar performances. The show is highlighted by J. Michael Tatum’s incredible portrayal of Okabe Rintarou. Tatum captures the essence of the character extremely well. It felt like he was truly throwing himself into the performance. Other highlights include newcomer Ashly Burch (credited as Jackie Ross). I would have never guessed that Mayuri was her first lead role as a VA. Cherami Leigh gives a typically wonderful and exciting performance as Suzuha and Trina Nishimura really captures the (sometimes volatile) chemistry between Kurisu and Rintarou.
Steins;Gate was a relatively low budget production so you shouldn’t expect any mega-high quality visuals. That being said, the art style fits the show well and the animation quality is still plenty high. Highlights for me were certain shots during the beginning of the show that had a very stark, and bleak lighting to them. They served as a subtle artistic reminder that the show isn’t what you think.
Steins;Gate is a true masterwork of anime and should be on anyone’s watch list. It has practically everything you could want in an anime: Complex plot and characters, mystery, thrills, twists, comedy, drama, romance, a bit of action, and even a maid café (what? This is still anime we’re dealing with!) Steins;Gate easily gets my vote as one of the bets anime ever made, certainly not perfect but still a true masterpiece of the medium.
If you loved Steins;Gate you may want to check out Puella Magi Madoka Magica, (similarly start out light and funny but become much more serious) and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (both deal with time travel and the fight against fate).