Tutturu~ it’s Steins;Gate!

I had high expectations going into this one. Extremely high. Firstly, it’s amassed a huge following this year, so much that I would be surprised if it didn’t end up being one of the premiere series featured at the next big regional anime conventions here in the US. And second, it has to do with time travel, which I am a complete sucker for. So I was holding this work under a rather magnified lens.

It delivered. That’s about as bluntly as I can put it. This series is time loops done right. Endless Eight failed horribly and Madoka was a mixed bag, but Steins;Gate nailed it.

While attending a scientific presentation on time travel, Okabe Rintarou discovers the body of genius scientist Makise Kurisu lying face down in a pool of blood. While quietly exiting the premises, he sends a text message to a friend at his home and suddenly finds the streets completely absent of people aside from his childhood friend, Mayuri. Being a self-proclaimed mad scientist, Okabe has converted his home into a makeshift lab where he constructs ‘futuristic’ gadgets with varying degrees of outlandishness. But what is most bewildering is a special microwave that the lab is working on which, Okabe soon discovers, enables him to send text messages to the past under certain circumstances. The sudden reappearance of Makisu Kurisu in the world only furthers the confusion as Okabe and the lab try to unlock the mysteries of time travel.

Steins;Gate is a brisk 24 episodes and barrels forward at breakneck speed, despite the bulk of the series occurring within a window of a few days. What’s amazing is how it utilizes time distortion as a plot device; it spends the first half of the series spinning a web by distorting time and focuses the second half on unraveling the same web that was spun, for various reasons, using the same method. There is a discrete section of time that the series refuses to progress past, which puts a lot of pressure and anxiety on the cast as they frantically work against time despite having the ability to distort it. It’s an amazing literary device.

Steins;Gate

Not quite an iPhone, but it can distort space-time.

Supplementing the main agenda is a cast of varied and intriguing characters. While many of them are officially relegated to “support character” status, they each have their own time in the spotlight, which is common of anime adaptions of visual novels. However, the character arcs are done briskly and have a lasting impact on the progression of the series, so none of it feels like filler or fluff. The characters themselves are all quite likable as well, with their own particular quirks and mannerisms. Especially Okabe, who displays a level of eccentricity that is restrained just enough to be realistic. Basically, he’s no Mihara Ichiro (Angelic Layer), but he’s still pretty out there. The fact that Okabe is voiced by the same actor who voiced Yagami Light (Miyano Mamoru) made me burst out laughing when Okabe had a “keikaku doori” moment.

There’s rampant use of cellphones in this series, but it’s not intrusive like Final Fantasy: Advent Children. It’s a legitimate plot device and an integral part of one character’s persona. If anything, the most unnecessarily intrusive parts were all the food references, especially the Dr. Pepper. I thought it was good for a laugh, but I wonder if it’s really just product placement. In fact, I’d like to see if the visual novel actually uses Dr. Pepper adverts within the game. Now that would be funny.

There’s little else I could say without really spoiling anything, but Steins;Gate is a definite must-watch. Its subject and content should be interesting enough for the average joe to appreciate, and I’d definitely recommend it as a starter series for those new to anime. It’s a sure-fire contender for best of 2011.

El Psy Congroo.

Steins;Gate – Character Ranking

  1. Shiina Mayuri
  2. Okabe Rintarou
  3. Makise Kurisu
  4. Kiryuu Moeka
  5. Amane Suzuha
  6. Faris Nyannyan
  7. Hashida “Daru” Itaru
  8. Urushibara Ruka
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