Steins; Gate: The Story of the Beginning and the End

Steins Gate - Cover 1

Slight spoilers ahead – please be forewarned if you haven’t had the chance to acquaint yourself with Steins; Gate.

I stumbled across Steins; Gate on a whim. It was sitting in a corner of Netflix, looking a little forlorn and abandoned. It is the year of 2021, 10 years after Steins; Gate was released, 11 years since the summer of the Prologue of the Beginning and the End.

Truth be told, I was not looking for it. I was not even looking for any anime in particular. Subconsciously, I just wanted something edgy, exciting. Anything to kick me out of the slumber that I felt, have been feeling, in regard to my choice of entertainment in general. (My heart isn’t ready for the last season of Attack on Titan yet, but it will be soon.)

Truth also be told, when I looked at the thumbnail of Steins; Gate, I realised I couldn’t remember a single thing about it save the main characters’ names. Okabe Rintarou, Makise Kurisu, Shiina Mayuri. And the others. I knew it was a time travelling science fiction show, but that was it.

Okay, maybe it would be good to rewatch this at this point. I thought. I could hardly remember the plot at all, and it would almost be brand new. I couldn’t even remember whether it had a happy or a sad ending.

And thus I was transported back to Akihabara, August 2010.

The Prologue of the Beginning and the End

Mayuri - Reaching Out to the Sun - GIF

A good series is like a good book. Everything you revisit it, something new jumps out at you.

For a series that is based on time travelling, it is perhaps predictable that the entirety of the events of the story takes place over a span of what two weeks, in chronological order. The reason why time travel is such an interesting sub-genre of science fiction is because the science in relation to it has not been fully developed or excavated. Many scientific theories remain as hypotheses. And so pseudo-science comes in to fill up the lacuna. Couple that with a little imagination, good grip on pacing, and the exploitation of the paradoxes and human conflict that comes with it, and voila! you have a psychological thriller in the making.

Human conflict is the central core of a good thriller, and this is where Steins; Gate shines at its best. We see our main character’s obsession with experimentation and greed of knowledge lead him to make choices that literally changes the lives of the people around him forever. When the realisation hits him, the damage is done. But what he knows cannot be un-known to him, and that is the crux of his despair as he tries to undo the damage, altering the lives of everybody whom he cares and he loves. His ability to retain his memories is both a blessing and a curse; doomed to remember the lives he had fundamentally altered with his bare hands, with all these made the more excruciating because of the memories made with the people he cares about all zipped away the moment he decides to alter the world line yet again. On top of all of this, his ability to traverse world lines invites the burden of being the potential saviour of the world and only person [/start spoiler] with the power to prevent World War III [/end spoiler].

Steins; Gate starts out slow, almost deliberately. We see plenty of dialogue between the characters, carving out their personalities with the banter between them. The goofy, insider jokes and the Japanese NEET or otaku-centric references – specifically to anime festivals, maid cafes and other moe clichés, and the setting of Akihabara, make its target audience completely at ease and familiar with this eccentric bunch.

Not surprisingly, this has the effect of making the drama pack a huge punch to our guts when the bomb drops onto our characters. Like a hamster on a mill, Okabe races against time, with time, and through time trying to save the life of his precious childhood friend. Each other person’s life that he has forcibly changed weighs against him, heavy in his guilt as he knows the sacrifices they made, even if they no longer remember the same after he alters the world line. In the new role he has found himself in and through his struggles, he finds his light in the form of Makise Kurisu, who has not had the benefit of having the same time travelling abilities, but whose intelligence enables her to catch on quickly and deduce solutions for the harried, disconcerted Okabe who is on the edge of being hysterical in his repeated failures to save his friend.

The Human Conflict of the Time Travel Paradox

Steins Gate - Okabe and Kurisu - 1

True love is about sacrifice, and this weighs heavily in this story. Okabe sacrifices his sanity by living through his precious friend’s death repeatedly, Kurisu tries to sacrifice her life to give Okabe what he wanted – a living Mayuri, Faris sacrifices her family so that her prince, Okabe could achieve what he wanted, and Rukako sacrifices his wish to be a girl, Suzuha sacrifices her life in another world to give effect to her mission of saving the world. Arguably, what this series is really depicting is not really just about romantic love but about the emotional bonds between people that thrive beyond romantic love. As it is established in the series, while Okabe and Kurisu are in love with one another, their choices remain beyond the love between them – both of them still chose to do what they felt was the right thing, albeit this is motivated by wanting each other to be happy and not to regret the choice they are making.

Imaginative Pseudo-Science at its best

If there is one thing I think that makes Steins; Gate stand out as an intricate story is how closely it tries to follow the real-life concepts which it is based on. It never failed to astonish me, throughout the series, how real these concepts are, from CERN (SERN) to the LHC (large hadron collider), the black hole, John Titor, and the butterfly effect. Watching the series is like a lesson on the science of time travel itself, and objectively and for the most part of it, the pseudo-science of the series interweaves with the plot development in a manner which stands up to scrutiny (at least from the perspective of my simple mind). Steins; Gate exemplifies one of the core characteristics of good anime: the ability to follow the rules which it has established. It has arguably gone further to achieve the objective of expanding how the story can develop within the limitations of those rules, and that’s where its creativity lies. It is imaginative pseudo-science in the backdrop and emotional conflict in the foreground, the latter which propels character development and evokes sympathy and empathy as to Okabe’s less-than-enviable plight.

A Series Worth Rewatching?

Steins; Gate is a story that yields more when you revisit it. Looking back, my first visit to the Steins; Gate universe may not have created any lasting impression for me because there is too much to unpack and I probably did not bother researching on the concepts that form the foundation of the story. I was also probably too caught up with the fact that I preferred Mayuri over Kurisu – but rewatching the series from a clean slate of mind enabled me to look more objectively at Kurisu as a character of intricacies, and admittedly I would have to say that Kurisu and Okabe make more of a better match of equals than Okabe and Mayuri ever would be. In prioritising plot development and Okabe’s emotional conflict, Steins; Gate also had to sacrifice Mayuri’s character development, which did not help in the popularity of her character vis-à-vis the intelligent and tsundere (read: extremely lovable) Kurisu. I hope that Steins; Gate 0 (which I am still watching at the time of this post) would help to flesh out the side characters more including Mayuri and which gives me enough ammunition to update this post.

Thank you for reading to the end, and I apologise for being away for so long (too much things have happened in the past 5 years, which is a story for another day). To all new visitors, hope you have enjoyed this post; to all my old visitors, hope you have been well, welcome back and feel free to drop me a comment / message below. Hope to catch up with you guys, and cheers ^^ 

Liebster Award Nominations (Part 2) by Otakurui and Takuto’s Anime Cafe

How fortunate I am to be nominated again by two lovely people, Otakurui and Takuto’s Anime Cafe, within a span of weeks from my first nomination! 😀 Thank you for the nominations, and I am really honoured that you guys find my blog worthy of this award. 🙂

I’ll just be doing the questions and not be doing any nominations this time around 😀

Otakurui’s questions:

1. How long have you been blogging and what made you start?

I have answered this before but no mind I shall answer it again 🙂 I have been blogging about anime since around 2 years ago, but this isn’t the first blog I have. My other blog is still in existence in some other corner of the Internet though it contains many juvenile reviews which I am shy to refer to here hehe.

I started because I had too many thoughts running through my head whenever I watch or read something and I thought it would be a waste if I didn’t write them down somewhere.

2. What is your favourite colour?

I don’t actually have one; but I would have to go for blue. My bedroom wall is painted blue, my bay window cushions are blue, my curtains are blue, my bedsheets and pillow covers are blue. Must be a special colour for me to obstinately choose to splash the same colour palette over everything else, huh.

3. What is your favourite place and why?

This place is in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan. I absolutely love this quaint little town not only because it has a gorgeous music box museum, but also I have really good memories running down the streets clad head to toe in thick winter wear, exploring the really interesting shops on the side of the canal, and eating freshly grilled Hokkaido scallops topped with melted cheese at only 100 yen at a roadside stall 🙂

Otaru’s music box museum!

I have all plans to revisit this place in the near future!

4. Can you describe yourself in 3 words?

Daydreamer, shy, short. 😀

5. Favourite film?

I put the Red Cliff the other time I believe, but now I want to draw your attention to The Pianist this time 😀 Its a really good movie about WWII atrocities, and I daresay its quite well known.

6. Can you tell me a story of an event from your memory?(Recycled from thelimitlessimagination because I loved the question)

Didn’t expect myself to end up having to answer my own question! Hmm I’ll just recount a story from my travels.

My friends and I were on board this Swiss train that circled the Alps which I have forgotten the name of; and we decided to order this bottle of wine just to splurge a little. We had previously paid for everything including train tickets, surcharges with my friend’s dad’s credit card but we didn’t buy any included meals with the train ride (We brought our own food, which consisted of bread at least a day old and some spread/dip to eat it with, because Swiss meals are REALLY expensive) so the wine was extra charge.

As we are travelling along the railway admiring the Swiss mountain scenery, we had initially planned to get off at this certain tourist stop. So a few stops before that, just before the train stopped at an interim stop, I decided to go to the washroom. Just as I was in the middle of relieving myself, one of my friends came banging on the door of the restroom telling me they made a mistake and we had to get out there and then. An unpleasant shock it was as I scrambled out of the restroom, grabbed all of my backpacks and tumbled out of the train before the doors closed.

We then just realised we were literally in the middle of nowhere deep in the mountains. (We were also the only ones who got off which an entire train staring at us through the windows). Unsure about whether to go up the train again, which had stalled, we just sort of hovered around the station. My friend whispered to us “Were they not gonna charge us that bottle of wine?” We spotted the waitresses and conductors running within the train itself but we just stood there and waited to see if anybody came out. Nobody did and the train chugged off.

So .. in the end we didn’t pay for that bottle of wine. When we got back, my friend also said there wasn’t any sudden surcharge on her dad’s credit card (which the train company had the details of).

(This story isn’t supposed to be funny or anything, but it was the first time nobody asked me to pay for something I was supposed to.)

7. The sea or the countryside?

Countryside. I already live surrounded by the sea so the sea isn’t that special to me 😀

8. Do you have a favourite character? If so who are they and why?

Oh man I know my answer to this without even having to think. Naturally, its Lelouch Lamperouge fom Code Geass. Mandatory portrait follows:

Why? Lelouch is the most morally ambiguous and complex character I have ever seen. He’s extremely intelligent (Light Yagami level), plans out the most daring, risky strategies to outwit his enemies, has certain very strong and questionable ideals about justice that he acts on. With a theatrical flair and flamboyant gestures, his charisma and ability to garner followers is unrivaled, which makes him really entertaining to watch. Yet, he is actually the most vulnerable to the most human of emotions of love and care for his friends and family, and he suffers because of the decisions he has had to make. He is in fact, an extremely flawed character who makes mistakes and tries his best to make up for them. His ultimate decisions will simply crush you once you know what he is trying to do and when you see the sacrifices he makes. This is also my most admired character of all times.

(ugh, what I have written here doesn’t even do him justice :()

JUST WATCH CODE GEASS IF YOU HAVEN’T. The story is unique enough to blow your mind, not even counting the characters who make up part of the charm, including C.C my first girl crush ever. 😀

9. What do you like to do when you have spare time?

What does an otaku like to do in her spare time? Watch anime. Read manga. Repeat. 8D

10. If you were an animal, what would you be?

An eagle 🙂 This may be just my weirdness showing itself but I think eagles are handsome and cool. 😀 They also have nicely coloured feathers and they have extremely good vision. And they are strong. Not to mention eagles are birds which means freedom 😀

11. What are you doing right now (apart from answering these questions)?

Trying to read a journal article about regulatory compliance in banking.

Now for Takuto’s Anime Cafe’s questions!

1. What is your favorite Japanese animation studio?

Statistically speaking, according to my MALgraph, it says Production I.G. which of course has produced and animated many awesome, impactful anime like Shingeki no Kyojin, Eden of the East, Fairy Tail, Haikyuu!!, Kaleido Star, Kimi ni Todoke, Honey and Clover, Kuroko no Baske and Psycho Pass.

But … I would have to go with BONES for its consistency in delivering quality animation and for choosing the right light novels and stories to bring to the big screens. Thank you for Zetsuen no Tempest, Darker than Black, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Ouran High School Host Club. 🙂

2. What do you do for fun besides anime stuff?

I read fiction; mostly Chinese for the crazy ideas and English general fiction for the psychotic protagonists and weird stories. (American Psycho, Flowers in the Attic anybody?) I have a lot of YA fiction on my to-read list but I generally don’t like to start those unless I get titles personally recommended to me.

3. Cats or dogs?

A dog person through and through. I want an animal friend, not another human-like creature 🙂

4. Yaoi or Yuri >.< or none!?

I am strictly not for any, though I am more tolerant of yaoi than yuri.

5. What was the first anime you have watched?

I believe it was Vampire Knight. I was enamoured with the manga’s art and went right onto the anime. But it didn’t get me into serious anime watching because I really dislike Kaname (and I still do.)

6. What do you like most about anime?

How it made me realise that I still had so many emotions untapped inside me. I used to think I was cold and almost dead inside, until I watched Code Geass, which made me feel more alive than I ever did.

7. Do you see yourself still with anime ten years down the line?

I am actually afraid to answer this question because I am not sure whether it is a yes or a no. I love anime a lot but anime comes with a lot of social stigma and I am not sure whether I will be scorned at if I still watch it at 30. But if I still love it I don’t really have a choice there right?

8. What do you think of fanservice in anime?

Fanservice is a funny thing. You could throw me the same amount of fanservice in two different anime, and I could be either downright irritated or straight up enjoying the visuals (even if its boobs and panty-shots). So it probably depends on the anime.

9. What anime made you scratch your head for a while?

Neon Genesis Evangelion. I am still scratching my head as of now 😀 There’s a way of finding out the significance and symbolism of everything but I just haven’t gotten around to researching either ….

10. Do you recommend anime to non anime fans around you, or do you keep it to yourself?

I don’t because its hard to recommend it to people who just plain don’t like Japanese culture, or who have tried anime before but didn’t like it. And when I appear to excited about it, it achieves the opposite effect on people so I try to play it off cool. Its hard though ><

11. If this café served actual beverages/food by an anime character to you, what would you order and from whom??

Ooh I would want a Maid’s Parfait (if these things actually existed). I would prefer my server to be .. Mayuri from Steins; Gate (I like her cos she’s really cute! :D)

Thank you again for the nominations and that’s all from me for now! 😀 I have had immense fun writing this post yet again hehehe. Do remember to check out Otakurui and Takuto’s Anime Cafe for their insightful anime commentaries and posts! 🙂