Sunday, March 18, 2012

Anime review: "Steins Gate"

I noticed "Steins Gate" several times while searching for anime I could watch, but I didn't like the the fact that it was adapted from dating-sim, and I thought the premise too goofy (something about micro-wave and time-machines). Also, I wrongly understood that there was no overall story, but that it was episodic anime. But few weeks ago I didn't have anything else to watch and somewhere on AnimeNewsNetwork read something about "Steins Gate being the best anime of the season", so I decided to give it a try after all. And it was bingo!

Main character, one Okabe Rintarou, is an idiot, plainly said. He is an almost grown man, constantly wearing a lab-coat and hangs in some room he calls his laboratory with two his friends (male hacker Daru and female childhood friend Mayuri) where they "invent" useless and usually not-working gadgets. More so, he calls himself Houin Kyoma, a mad scientist and next evil overlord. When he is in public, he constantly talks to his turned-off mobile phone, pretending he is chased by some Organization and fantasying improbable scenarios. But what happens when one of his crazy theories turns out to be the truth, and a fixed-up microwave in their apartment is really a time-machine?

"Steins Gate" starts quite slow and nothing much happens in first couple of episodes, but after that it turns in one of the best time-travelling works I ever watched. Sure, if you are a moderate science-fan, you will be able to find holes and inconsistencies in their theories. But if you are able to go with the flow, you will find this a great anime about consequences implications of time travel. I really liked how they used modern and popular references, like CERN and LHC. What differentiates this anime from similar is that they really explore the implications of time traveling, not just as a instrument of plot, but from psychological and philosophical side - what happens to time-lines he travels from, how many times can someone watch the same bad thing happens, how lonely is to meet persons again and again when they have no recollections of you, and so on. This is a kind of animated mix of "Groundhog Day" and "Conspiracy Theory"

Story is quite good, fast and it changes several times. After initial slow start, you get several fun episodes where they discover abilities of their time-machine and here start the twists. Surprisingly, episodes after 10th become quite dark and serious, not something what I would expect at the start. My worst part of the anime was three or four episodes toward the end (where Okabe has to cancel the effects of his actions) - they are too much like dating-sim and not much happens. But ending itself, two last episodes, is simply great.

Of course, all characters are good, but Okabe is quite something. You just have to love his way of speaking - pretentious rambling, making up funny names for others (and usually guessing the right spot), his "mad scientist" laugh... On the other hand, during the course of anime he proves himself surprisingly grown up, serious and caring. But fear not, he doesn't lose his goofiness. He is the primary generator of humor and are quite many funny scenes. Most of the other characters (except Daru and one other guy) are of course young girls - this was made after dating-sim after all. They are not so much developed as Okabe and they are typical characters you would expect from such anime, but this doesn't mean they are bad - on the contrary.

Visual side of the anime is good, but nothing impressive. I did like the voices of characters, especially Okabe's.

In the end, I just want to say that you must not think less of "Steins Gate" for being adapted from dating-sim - it is one full-blooded seinen anime, with great plot and character development, suitable for anybody. Consider it especially if you like harder sci-fi.

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