Air date: April 6, 2011 — September 14, 2011
With the disclaimer that I’m not familiar with the video game the eponymous anime is based off of, nor the other games and their respective animes in the Science Adventure series, I begin by saying: it was eerie. But the good kind…overall.
I finished watching the anime a few days ago, after a few months of watching 1–2 episodes a week (why this is pertinent might elucidate itself later). There’s a second season (Steins; Gate 0), following an alternate ending to the first season, written by the same writer but different director(s).
Time travel as a plot device is incredibly easy to botch. Even the fairly easy-to-follow plot in Avengers Endgame left many viewers confused, debating the butterfly effect, and the idea of multiple worlds or “dimensions”. Even if you believe time travel won’t ever be possible, it has to be consistent within the rules established in the world, and follow some cohesive line of logic.
Steins; Gate in this regard is a plot follows many details to a tee (I say many, not all, because I need a rewatching to ensure everything was accounted for)—even details easily forgotten or missed in the background noise. Because of this, it’s an anime that demands to be watched multiple times because in the first viewing I failed to take note of “irrelevant” details that litter the first half of the anime but become unambiguously vital in the last half. The anime takes its sweet time to establish character motivations, personalities, and goals, centering Rintaro Okabe as not the sole protagonist but simply the one we follow among a vibrant cast who play their own roles in shaping the story. Okabe, a university student and the head of small lab, assumes the place of a self-professed mad scientist, which naturally accompanies a catalog of eccentric behaviors and socially inept moments.
He’s joined by Mayuri Shina, a childhood friend, and Itaru Hashida, a hacker and manga/anima/maid cafe aficionado. As their lab grows, the discovery of messages that can be sent into the past to change events catapults them into a mystery and dystopia of global-proportions, setting in motion events long before they (and we) can foretell them.