Anime Review: Steins;Gate

Time travel is such a fickle thing to consider: the pros and cons of altering history, the questions around if we’re living in one of those altered histories, why nobody showed up to Stephen Hawking’s time traveler convention.

Logistically, time travel seems impossible. Okabe Rintarou has other ideas. Under the alias of Hououin Kyouma, he pursues what he considers the truth. Unlocking the secret to time travel will surely grant him the infinite worldly knowledge provided by something he calls “Steins;Gate.” The extent of his success is a “phone microwave” in his apartment complex. Whatever he heats up in it, usually bananas, turns into a weird green gel.

The anime “Steins;Gate” starts with Okabe at a convention for time travel. He stumbles across scientific prodigy Kurisu Makise who makes the very bold claim that time travel is strictly impossible. She challenged every point that Okabe made. Well after the two clashed, Okabe found Kurisu bleeding out on the floor in a storage room. Frantically, he sends out an e-mail to his experiment partner, Itaru Hashida, while freaking out about the dead Kurisu.

He leaves the building. He then sees a giant mysterious machine that crashed into the convention building. Confused and distracted, he goes home. The next day, upon returning to the college, he sees Kurisu alive and well. This change in events is massively disturbing, so Okabe asks Itaru about the e-mail he sent regarding Kurisu. Itaru checks his phone to see that it arrived in his inbox a week earlier. The implication is obvious: Okabe sent his e-mail back in time, preventing Kurisu’s death.

From there, Okabe heads out to unravel the mystery. Kurisu is now implicated and closely related to time travel, and joins the two of them in their apartment. And thus, the story of “Steins;Gate” is underway.

Using this newfound knowledge that the phone microwave can send e-mails into the past, the three work together to break the secrets behind time travel. Five others join them:

  • Mayuri Shiina, Okabe’s childhood friend
  • Suzuha Amane, an upbeat and athletic tech geek
  • Luka Urushibara, a high school boy working as a shrine maiden
  • Moeka Kiryuu, a timid and mysterious ally
  • Feyris, a catgirl working in a maid cafe

What they don’t know is that all of them end up deeper in the plot than they could ever imagine.

“Steins;Gate” is a masterfully crafted anime, regardless of whether or not you find time travel theoretically possible. It starts off innocent and builds into a puzzle that only Okabe and his companions can solve. The characters are each impeccable, leaving behind an impact regardless of their role. Watching Okabe’s descent as he uncovers the truth, as well as his deepening relationship with Kurisu, is an absolute pleasure to witness. The relationships are genuine and the show tackles adult topics like death, sacrifice and gender dysphoria. The music expresses the show’s mysterious nature perfectly (Hacking to the Gate is an all-time great anime opening).

There’s a reason “Steins;Gate” is so critically acclaimed. Although it aired 10 years ago, it is still the fourth-highest-rated show on MyAnimeList, and for good reason. Regardless of whether or not you typically enjoy anime, you should head over to Hulu or Crunchyroll and check it out.