and anyone following my twitter (which I admittedly ignore on most days) knows that I wish I had watched it before choosing my entries for this year’s ACAA. Steins;Gate fulfilled all the expectations that the numerous raving reviews set up for me, and pushed its way onto my Top 30 Anime list with ease. It also easily takes a place among the best anime of this year. If you must know, it would edge out AnoHana and push Tiger & Bunny out of its spot and down to 4th. What exactly is it that I love about Steins;Gate?
What surprises me most about the anime is its blend of science and heart. The warmth of the story enters in late, but braids itself into every aspect, be it the chemistry between Okarin and Kurisu, or the mechanics of the IBN 5100 and D-mail. In fact, it took me the better part of a year to get into the show–I watched the first episode along with the firsts of all the other spring anime and decided to catalog it for later viewing. I then tried to watch it in full both at the end of the summer season and again in the fall. Yet somehow, I kept stalling in the earlier episodes. It wasn’t until the releases of various ACAA lists that I realized that I should buckle down and go for it. After the slow start and the first noticeable response to the D-mail, that of Okarin’s information about a winning lottery ticket, I could no longer stop.
Time travel and travel across parallel dimensions are some of the more popular subjects in science fiction, spawning such hits as the Back to the Future and Terminator films, as well as TV shows like Sliders and Quantum Leap. The very human desire to change the past to better the future is proven inescapable; however, Steins;Gate initially circumvents this. Instead of a desire to change one’s past mistakes, change is sought for fame and fortune. Self-dubbed mad scientist Hououin Kyouma (Okarin) wants nothing more than to stick it to the man, who is in this case titled SERN.
The character of Okabe Rintarou (Hououin Kyouma, Okarin) is the secret ingredient behind this anime’s appeal. I have yet to stumble across anyone else quite like him, and I love that he chooses to be mad for the sake of his friendship with Mayuri, a bit of information we don’t learn until much later on. Until then, he seems seriously nuts. As a character from a manga I’m currently reading aptly notes: “Doing something for the sake of some thing or one as opposed to because of something is kind of beautiful.” Okarin’s care for Mayuri’s happiness propels him to undergo a repeated series of torturous events, but he does it for her to live; he does it with no other alternative of giving up in mind. This passion almost breaks when all his time leaps result in placing Kurisu’s life in jeopardy, a woman whom he has come to love through his many cycles.
Their love story and the climax of the main conflict occur very close together at the end, but I didn’t find it rushed at all. My only complaint was the cheesiness of the solution to the conflict, to trick his past self into believing in the occurrence of an event, an event that is actually false. It reminded me too much of Hermione’s time turner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The cheesiness was lessened considerably with Okarin’s sacrifice of his own blood in lieu of the fake blood that had dried up. His acceptance of the knife meant for another, then the subsequent self-mutilation to produce even more blood, chilled me to the core.
Story and character aside, another of the areas I greatly enjoyed was the art style, which was unlike anything I had expected. Given the setting, I thought we’d have more of a style to match with Chaos;Head. However, the dim lighting and muted colors worked very well and lent a mature air to the anime, despite the occasional silliness.