After a few(?) weeks of self-imposed hiatus, I am back to bring you something from an anime series that I really liked: Steins;Gate. Obviously, this will contain spoilers for those who haven’t started and finished the series.
Steins;Gate is a show that managed to avoid attracting too much attention towards potential gaping plot holes by not focusing on the time travel concept itself. This is one of the things that made Steins;Gate so good. It never bothered to dig deeply into the concepts and physics behind time travel, only giving us explanations that are within the layman’s grasp.
You have to admit, for a given sci-fi movie, you won’t really care about anything other than the plot and just fix your focus on the underlying mechanisms that move it: the science – or at least that’s how things go for me when I’m watching a sci-fi movie. Watching a movie this way will make you notice faults like an open manhole in the middle of the street complete with a sign that says: “Open manhole. Do not fall in it.” and you will start questioning the very foundations of the show itself. And here’s where some sci-fi movies fail miserably.
However, Steins;Gate focused on what science fiction rarely does: the characters, or at least, one of them. The main character, Okarin, is probably one of the best fictional characters ever spawned by the human mind. He is childish and full of ambition, waving around his mad scientist persona to cover up that very kind, fearful and plainly human personality within. After making him go through all that crap, his personality is molded in a way that it comes off as natural, yet so unbelievably sad and twisted.
When he was in that loop trying to save Mayuri, we all knew that it will end up as another meaningless endeavor that we see happening in every time travel-related movies and series that we see. Yet we still watch it. We watch as Okarin’s persona is slowly crushed and his core personality twisted to something that starts to care only for the accomplishment of his mission, which is to prevent Mayuri’s death, while ironically starting to ignore her completely. It’s a very realistic and believable approach.
We also see how Okarin can be extremely selfish, wanting to save Mayuri even at the expense of the others like Feyris, Moeka and Ruka(ko). It is my belief that humans are generally kind, but would put less important things in his/her point of view in a compromise if there is something that he/she deems more important at stake, be it an opportunity, a relationship or a physical object. Okarin falls under this. In his mind, Mayuri is more important than Feyris, Ruka or Moeka, thus it will only make sense that he would compromise their welfare for Mayuri’s safety. Oh, so human.
But then he is faced by a heavy dilemma: Kurisu comes in the picture. Over the past weeks that Okarin is with her, Kurisu has become more and more important to Okarin, soon rivaling the level of importance that Mayuri has in his mind. He becomes hesitant. I mean, who wouldn’t be? If you save one, the other dies. You cannot argue that Okarin should just simply save Mayuri without thinking it through so that we can get a move on. No, it’s all part of what makes him all the more awesome as a character. He thought it through, and had it hard. He will be the one most affected by the death of either of them. It was his problem, more than the world’s. An unaffected audience would simply let their superego take over and pick Mayuri over Kurisu, since that would save the world from the evils of SERN. But the audience is not Okarin so they can all shut the f*ck up.
After considering his available options, and getting the help of Kurisu, he ultimately decides to save Mayuri, though he is quite affected by this decision as shown later in one of the best pieces of voice acting I have ever heard, next only to Homura’s promise in Madoka Magica episode 10, Nagisa’s simple speech in episode 15 of After Story and Lelouch’s powerful command in Code Geass episode 1. The emotions portrayed in Okarin’s “victory speech” was painfully human and fantastically self-ridiculing, and I loved it.
Steins;Gate doesn’t let go of Okarin until the very end. His personality was now completely different, becoming something akin to a true mad scientist to be respected, instead of to be laughed at, as seen in the previous episodes, his ridiculous poses are now crowning moments of awesome, and whatever he does now seems sensible, and even the cast of the anime take him very seriously, all coupled with a fantastic ending that justifies all the sh*t he’s been through. Okabe Rintarou, you are a character deserving to be one of my favorites.
I give Steins;Gate a well deserved 8/10 in MAL, along the ranks of some of my all-time favorites like Code Geass and Kanon 2006. Steins;Gate takes the top 5 spot in my all-time favorite anime, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Oh, wait. There will be a movie! Remind me to book a plane ticket to Japan when it shows up in theaters.