A Spoiler-Free Examination of Steins;Gate
I, Hououin Kyouma, call the beginning of Round Table Conference number 83. Operation Kriemhild is about to begin. Prepare yourself, Lab Mems, as we plunge this world into the hellmouth of chaos! El Psy Congroo.
Welcome to my spoiler free exploration of the anime, Steins;Gate.
The plot of Steins;Gate revolves around the antics of Rintarou Okabe and his group of friends after they discover they’ve turned their microwave into a time machine by simply attaching a phone to it.
Now before you click that back button and give up on Steins;Gate entirely, know that, why yes that does sound ridiculous, the anime is much deeper than its base components would leave you to believe. In fact, Steins;Gate makes a habit of hiding thought provoking ideas behind veils of ludicrousness. The main character, Okabe, may be the best example of this. He spends a great deal of the show sporting his alter ego, Hououin Kyouma, and ranting about his fictional prowess as a mad scientist. But underneath that charade, Okabe proves to be a very complex and likeable point of view.
At its core, Steins;Gate is a story about friendship and time travel, and it does a beautiful job of portraying both those components. By the end of it, you are left with a story that has become one of the best rated animes of all time.
So what is it about this story that touches people in such an effective way? It’s because a lot is going on in Steins;Gate that really makes it work. Whether you’re a fan of time travel, a good romance, the power of friendship, Japanese culture, internet culture, or the romanticness of academic pursuit, you will find something in Steins;Gate that relates to you. And it does it all without feeling crowded or overburdened. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that hits every emotion you can have, without feeling like it’s trying too hard.
That’s some heavy handed praise, I know, so before I start looking like a gushing fan boy let’s take a look at some of the components of the show.
So much for Doctor Who
The first thing a good time travel show needs is a good rhetoric for how exactly time travel works in its universe. You might remember I started this review by stating that Steins;Gate’s time machine is a microwave, code named Phonewave (Real Name TBA). Despite this, Steins;Gate takes a surprisingly scientific take on time travel.
The idea for Steins;Gate’s time machine came from an internet poster back in 2000 who went by the name of John Titor on the message boards. John Titor actually has an important role in the story, and appears in show on messages boards and in the flesh. Okabe’s microwave uses the same technology that Titor’s time machine uses, though on a much smaller scale. It’s through the use of this microwave that Okabe and his friends begin screwing with time and making a royal mess of things.
What’s nice about Steins;Gate’s time travel is that it doesn’t fall into the problems many time travel shows showcase. From the start, Steins;Gate outlines some simple rules about time travel and then it strictly follows them for the rest of the show. That’s refreshing, as time travel shows seem to love contradicting themselves all over the place.
Steins;Gate has plenty of plot twists, some rather surprising, but very few of them deal with the rules of time travel. When you’re told something works in a certain way, Steins;Gate sticks to its guns in almost every instance. What this means is though the plot may get complicated at times, very rarely are you left scratching your head at a loss at what just happened. Instead there are more "Ah ha! Of course!" moments. A refreshing change from a lot of time travel shows.
For me, whether I’ll like a show almost always depends on the characters it portrays. I can get over almost any shows problems if it gives me a memorable cast that I can relate to. At the end of the day it is the characters of Steins;Gate that stuck with me and would not let go. Okabe and the rest of the Future Gadget Laboratory, Okabe's apartment room, are a cast I'm never going to forget.
At the surface, the cast of Steins;Gate may seem familiar to anyone who’s seen a good deal of anime. Some tried and true stereotypes are present, you’ve got a spacy do gooder, a pervy internet junky, a classic tsundere, and a hopelessly androgynous male character just to list a few. It’s how Steins;Gate uses these stereotypes that sets it apart from other shows, however.
Steins;Gate makes sure to show just how each of these characters developed into the stereotypes that they have become. Basically, there is a reason that each of these characters act the way they do, and as the story progresses these reasons are explored and ripped away. And as their backstories are explored these characters are forced out of their normal comforts and must act in ways that go against their base character traits. It is at these moments that Steins;Gate’s cast really hits an emotional chord with its audience. You don’t just understand the character, you like them.
That’s the other thing Steins;Gate does differently. Despite the fact that Steins;Gate deals with some very dark subjects, there’s very little darkness to be found in its characters. Some of its characters do terrible things, it’s true, but every one of their actions is driven by an emotional decision.
At the end of the day, why do I like Steins;Gate? Is it because the ending is surprising and fulfills its promise as a time travel epic? Certainly. Is it because Makise Kurisu is one of my all time favorite anime characters to ever exist? Oh most definitely. But beyond both of those reasons is that I believe in the ultimate message Steins;Gate leaves you with. At the end of the day, Steins;Gate is about the power of human interaction. It’s about how a simple gesture from a friend can undo days of complete despair. It’s about how the power of love can push someone to bonds they didn’t know they even possessed. That’s a message I desperately hope is true.
So come on in to the crazy world of Steins;Gate. And if you find yourself entering the room with a tuturu or whispering El Psy Kongroo into your phone for no reason, well, that's just part of the ride.