EDITOR’S NOTE: What Are You Watching? is a feature series that dives deep into why we love the anime we love. You told us what you were watching, and now we’ll dig into why.
By Kathleen Townsend
Steins;Gate will forever hold a special place in my heart.
It has mind-bending sci-fi flare, amazing characters and is packed with beautiful imagery. In a weird twist of fate, I seem to have married the IRL Okabe, who comes complete with a home science lab, experimentation with household fruit, and a regular cadence of shouting “There’s science to be done!”
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Watching Steins;Gate is always an experience for me, and I say that in the best way.
But it’s not just personal circumstance that make this anime special. Steins;Gate has very high emotional stakes, and it draws you in from the very first episode.
Let’s get started
Rintaro Okabe, resident mad scientist, forms the Future Gadget Laboratory with fellow college student and hacker Daru, as well as Okabe’s childhood best friend, Mayuri Shina. Their goal? Create gadgets for the future of science!
On the shoestring budget of a group of college kids, the group tinkers and experiments with things like bananas, microwaves, code and a lot of ingenuity. I cannot stress this enough. Most creations don’t work, and those that do lack practical purpose.
Their latest experience, though, is a resounding success in the most unforeseen of ways. Why? Well, the “Phone Microwave” does more than turn bananas into a gross, green, gel-like facsimile of itself…it sends text messages back in time. Yes, read that again.
Of course, this discovery happens by accident, when a dead woman named Kurisu Makise is suddenly, well, not dead, and holds a press conference that Okabe knows happened in the past–and was led by someone else.
So begins the adventure of Okabe and his lab partners as their experiment takes on new life. Steins;Gate is about what happens when theoretical science becomes a little too real.
El Psy Congroo
Every scientist is a little mad. So it stands to reason that Okabe, a self-proclaimed (already) mad scientist, is no exception. Going by the name Hououin Kyouma, Okabe is plagued by paranoia that a secret organization is out to get him, and you can’t help but feel a sneaking suspicion that it might just be a case of long-standing chunibyo.
Holding the keys to time comes with great responsibility…which isn’t something that Okabe tends to excel at. Trial by fire is the name of the game here, friends. Going from mad scientist to resident lab extern through parallel timelines is a bit of an undertaking.
But it isn’t just Okabe who sees a tremendous amount of character growth throughout the series, but much of the cast. No matter how unimportant a character might seem at first, they have a very real effect on Okabe and time itself. This may be a show that toys with time travel, but it’s these character interactions and the bonds between them that drive the plot forward.
Sure, romance is great, and there’s some great romance in here. But you know what’s better? The power of friendship. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. We see a lot of that in shounen. But not like this.
Okabe and Mayuri are rare examples of childhood friends who have such a powerful relationship. We don’t often get such solid friendships without overt romantic tension as these two (though, the same can’t be said about alternate timelines). And the lengths they are willing to go to in order to protect one another? Truly next level.
What would you do for your friends if you had the ability to change time and alter reality? To what lengths would you go to in order to protect them? Those questions are at the core of Steins;Gate.
There is science to be done!
No matter how fascinating I find time travel and parallel reality theory, it’s something else that draws me back to Steins;Gate every time: Raw, visceral emotion.
This is a story about love. Romantic and platonic. It’s the story of the bonds we share with each other and how much we’re willing to sacrifice to protect that. Happiness, responsibility and selflessness are all central themes here, with wants and needs clashing with what’s best for the future of the world–and its past. Holding the keys to that? That’s tough.
I feel the silence in this series. The unease of Okabe is palpable. That alone is worth a shoutout to the incredible work of Mamoru Miyano and J. Michael Tatum.
Steins;Gate is a masterwork of science fiction. Its presentation of “cool” science, ever-raising stakes and unforgettable characters make it a must-watch. It deserves every single inch of hype, and then some.
And if you haven’t started it yet, you’re in for one hell of a ride.
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