Steins;Gate was originally a visual novel game for the Xbox 360. The game was released in Japan in 2009 and reached 4th in overall sales for the 360 that year. The rapid success and high critical reception to the game naturally prompted several manga versions, all by different writers and a TV anime which was written by yet another author, Hanada Jukki, which made me wary since he’s been involved with some really bad anime. I can’t say which version of Steins;Gate is the best. The game was only released in Japan and, as far as I know, no translations are available. The manga are currently ongoing and I haven’t read them, so I can’t say if the anime follows any of them. All I can talk about is the anime.
The story begins with a young mad scientist named Okabe Rintaro who attends a lecture on time travel. After the lecture he finds a female scientist named Makise Kurisu lying in a pool of blood with a knife by her body. He sends a text to one of his friends and the entire world changes around him. Suddenly, there’s no record of the lecture having taken place and Makise Kurisu is fine, with no memory of being stabbed or even having met him before. He can find no record of anything he saw occurring. He convinces Makise Kurisu to join his lab and they quickly figure out that one of his gadgets is a time machine and when it’s used only he retains knowledge of how things were before. At first doing a few experiments seems harmless enough, but then things start to go wrong… It may seem like I’ve given away a lot, but trust me, this is all information that you get pretty early on in the series. The main focus of the anime is Okabe trying to use his time machine to change the future he’s witnessed. It has strong themes of camaraderie and fate. The whole thing is very well constructed and possesses a lot of intrigue. It has some very funny moments that help lend verisimilitude to the series and likability to the characters. That being said, it does have some issues. One is that some of the major plot twists are really predictable and it kind of hurts their impact. Another is that the fate theme is taken so far that it gets a bit ridiculous. The final issue is that sometimes the trips through time don’t have consequences that logically follow.
Most of the characters are very compelling and the time travel motif allows them to be developed in a way they couldn’t otherwise. Most of them are given solid motivations as well. There are only two major exceptions, Mayuri and Itaru. Both remain pretty flat as characters throughout the series. The opportunities that come up to develop their characters end up having no real impact on them.
The art is mostly pretty good. There are some cases where it looks a bit rushed but they don’t come up too often.
The voice acting is well done overall. The only real issue I have with it is that some of the characters are voiced in really exaggerated ways, the most prominent examples being Moeka and Mayuri, and it really undercuts the serious moments of the series. The music suits the series well and helps set the tone.
The yuri factor is a 2/10. The beginning has some deliberately homoerotic moments between Mayuri and Kurisu. The reason I say it’s deliberate is that the characters themselves draw attention to it.
My Final rating for Steins;Gate is a 7.5/10. It could be better, but it’s certainly a good anime. It presents some intriguing ideas, interesting characters and a good scenario.