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Steins; Gate Review — B+

Steins; Gate tells the tale of Okabe Rintarou Hououin Kyouma, a mad scientist who has developed a time machine that allows him to send text messages to the past. He experiments with it, changing the future slightly, only to discover that his friend is fated to die. The rest of the story chronicles his efforts to save her.

There’s a lot to like about Stein’s; Gate. We have a great setting, complete with time travel, paradoxes and international criminal conspiracies, led by the most evil organization in history, CERN, with their diabolical plan to construct the Large Hadron Collider.

But the best part is simply the characters and their interactions. I enjoyed watching them hang out in the lab nearly as much as I enjoyed the time travel. Okabe is a fun character, hovering on the border of insanity. It’s mostly an act, but it’s still a pleasure to watch, especially with the excellent work done by his voice actor. The best evil laugh since Lelouch?

Okabe only gets better coupled with Christina, who argues with him all the time. Steins; Gate sports the sharpest and wittiest dialogue of the year.

The show’s biggest weakness is the harem setup: there is a sequence of episodes whose sole purpose is to add girls to the harem. Ruka in particular seemed utterly pointless (and Feyris to a lesser extent). But this only lasts a few episodes.

Otherwise, it’s a great show, with enjoyable characters and a mystery that keeps you guessing. Go watch it if you haven’t already. El Psy Congroo.

  • Plot / Script – 10 / 10 – The best dialogue this year.
  • Characters – 9 / 10 – Mostly strong, although a few of the haremettes are weak.
  • Production – 9 / 10 – A dark, gritty feel. Superb voice acting for Okabe.
  • Overall – B+

Recommendations – Noein, The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Steins; Gate 24 — The Choice of Steins Gate

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience.  And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
— Theodore Parker

A Happy Ending

It was kind of a cop-out, it shat all over the sci-fi world that had been built up, and it made all the effort to save Mayushii seem like a waste of time by comparison. It was way too easy with help from the future, and Okabe didn’t even need to bleed himself to death. Poor planning, that artificial blood, by the way. I’m glad the universe was left in such capable hands.

But hey, at least it made me feel good. That kind of thing’s nice once in a while too.

Revisiting all the lab members to hand out their badges again was particularly satisfying. Even Moeka gets a happy ending, replacing Suzuha at Mr. Braun’s store. Suzuha’s badge is waiting in the closet. And Okabe has foretold her birth. The perks of being a time traveler just keep looking better and better.

The scene where Okabe and Christina reunited in the new timeline was very well produced. They had all the faces of the crowd going by, which the viewer is scanning for Christina. Then you see her, and time itself freezes. Other shows have done similar things before, such as the reincarnation reunion at the crossroads in Kannazuki no Miko (and does anyone remember some show where the reincarnations meet again on a train platform? I can’t remember what it was…).  But Steins; Gate surpassed them both in terms of timing and emotional impact.

I Am Hououin Kyouma!

But seriously, the highlights of the episode were Okabe’s cool poses. And him outsmarting his future self.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Steins; Gate turned out great. It makes me wonder how Chaos; Head could have turned out with better direction. I loved watching the banter between Okabe and Christina. The show made for some great speculation regarding the mystery as well. But like all mysteries, it was most interesting before it was solved.

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Steins; Gate 23 — Open the Steins Gate!

I’m split about this episode. One one hand, I enjoyed it: the repeat of Christina’s death was pretty exciting, and Okabe returned to being Hououin Kyouma. But on the other hand, it just felt cheap. Okabe spent so much effort saving Mayuri, but now his future self just tells him what to do?

Christina’s Death: Take Two

I did like this scene (even if I have issues as to how we got here). Once it was revealed that the guy giving the talk was Christina’s father, everything clicked into place. Those kinds of *snap* moments are rare and hard to come by. From this, it became clear right away why Christina was attending the nutjob convention in the first place and who would kill her. Plus the events of the first episode made a lot more sense.

The creators did a nice job at including Okabe into what should have been a touching father-daughter reunion. I liked especially how Christina’s father decided that Christina and Okabe were conspiring to ruin him. It’s a reasonable conclusion, even if it’s wrong.

No Free Lunch

Okabe just finished reliving Mayushii’s death over and over again. But now, he gets a time travelling girl and a message from himself in the future telling him exactly what to do. It just feels like a cheap ending tacked onto the end of the VN as an afterthought to make everybody happy.

In the uncountable set of multiverses, there is exactly one timeline which will break free of local attractors and make everyone happy. We know this because… of science! From the future! And it just so happens that we’re one step away from reaching this perfect universe right now! It shouldn’t take much math to convince anyone that the probability of this happening is zero.

Inconsistencies and Changing the Rules

I probably shouldn’t think about time travel in Steins; Gate too much, because it’ll just make my head hurt. The show seemed to have a well-defined set of rules governing time travel, but this episode felt like the creators punched in the cheat code so we can get the ending where everyone lives happily ever after. One thing that changed is minor: Suzuha’s time machine can go forward now. That can easily be explained from improvements in Okabe and Daru’s research.

But the change that bothered me the most is Okabe receiving a message from himself in the future. What? How? Every other time Okabe has sent a message to the past, he doesn’t remember receiving it. If his future self can send messages without Okabe himself experiencing sending them, why didn’t that happen in the Mayushii timeline as well? Why did Okabe have to live up to the point he sent the message every other time, but not this time? It seems inconsistent.

In the same vein, why did the Okabe in the universe where he killed Christina have to send the message in the first place? Couldn’t the Okabe that sent Suzuha have done the same thing? He already knew that Okabe would need to receive the message. If he knew that Okabe needed to receive the message, couldn’t he have just sent the message himself?

Another thing: Christina saw the Okabe from the future originally, in the first episode (go watch it again if you don’t believe me). Now, to prevent her death, he can’t change what the other Okabe experiences. But he already did. Christina met the future Okabe before. Hopefully the remaining episodes will clear things up, but it all feels like a giant pretzel of contradictions to me. Does anyone have some better ideas for how to resolve the seeming contradictions? (no VN spoilers please)

Pet Peeves

It annoys me when science fiction shows make the entire universe anthropocentric. In this episode, the multiverse will explode in a set of contradictions if Okabe happens to see himself in the past. Right. Future Okabe has already affected past Okabe, and the light cone has become a light donut regardless of whether Okabe’s mind recognizes that fact. The universe is non-causal (or dissipates in a puff of contradictions, if Steins; Gate is to be believed). On the other hand, perhaps the universe is anthropocentric, and the universe disintegrates not because of non-causality but because Okabe’s mind recognized a contradiction in the structure of the universe. Then Okabe’s mind (from the future) can recognize the contradiction regardless of whether he sees himself. Either way, the idea of the universe self-destructing after causality is broken is silly: causality has already been broken. Furthermore, if we assume that all possible universes exist (as is implied), an infinite number of self-contradictory universes exist. Goodbye multiverse.

A similar application of anthropocentrism occurs in Noein. Haruka is the Steins Dragon’s Gate, and hers is the absolute reference frame (she’s the only one who matters when it comes to looking inside Schrodinger’s box). Some guy dies behind a door, and Haruka knows it. If Haruka opens the door and looks at him, he’ll die for real, and if she doesn’t he won’t. It depends on the mental act of seeing rather than the physical or mental act of observing.

This is just silly. Why are these stupid humans so full of themselves?

Hououin Kyouma Returns

Bwah ha ha ha!

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Steins; Gate 21 — The Hostage has Escaped

Through death.

So this was another Mayushii episode, the calm before the storm in which Okabe spends some time with her before the final battle.

I’ll be honest: with Okabe’s all-encompassing drive to save Mayushii, I’m surprised that even Christina’s impending death was able to sway him from his course. But as Mayushii dies again and again, I expect him to at least attempt something (if Christina doesn’t do it herself first). Christina’s death may be the key to preventing Mayushii’s death: her murder is much more suspicious than Mayushii’s diverse array of deaths, and seems to have a clear-cut cause other than the spirit of the universe conspiring against her. This also means that it will be easier to prevent. And who’s to say if Mayushii won’t die just a day later in the original universe as well? What Okabe really needs to do is bring the watch to get repaired, that should keep her going for a few more years.

This episode continued to bring home how unavoidable fate is in the Steins; Gate multiverse. Okabe tried to commit suicide to save Mayushii, only for her to jump in front of the car to save him. The only way to change fate is to run away to a different timeline. But this seems to me like an intrinsically selfish action, unless we accept the notion that there is one true universe, the one Okabe inhabits. Otherwise, the characters in all the other universes are still left to their fates. It is only Okabe that gets a happy ending. In this sense, to say that Okabe is doing everything for Mayushii’s sake is foolish. The Mayushiis that will die, will die, regardless of Okabe’s actions. The only thing he controls is whether he lives in a universe with a living or a dead Mayushii.

On her deathbed, Mayushii confesses that she is grateful she was finally “useful” to Okabe. Of course, Okabe does not feel the same about this particular act of “usefulness,” but regardless… She mentions the same thing on the phone, that she is being a burden to Okabe. And then once again in the graveyard, where she worries about Okabe’s suffering. My guess is that Mayushii’s realization of self-worth will be integral to her eventual salvation.

The bleeding over of the parallel universes continues in full force, with Mayushii now remembering her own deaths and all of the lab members, including Suzu who she should have never met in this timeline. Soon everyone will be seeing Steiner. The only one left is Christina, and once she does remember the past universes, I’m sure she’ll make more sense of things than Okabe.

Speaking of Christina, the dialogue between her and Okabe continues to be superb, twenty episodes later. Here’s my favorite sequence from this episode:

Ah, I can’t get enough of this. I’m kind of surprised Okabe actually thought he was fooling anyone though. The next episode should be good: it looks like it will be Christina-centric, with her hunting the building she was killed in for clues.