I’ve been spending quite a bit of time recently using a stationary bike. It can get a bit boring so I end up getting out my iPad (other tablets are available) and watching something on Netflix while my legs do all of the work. A few weeks ago I noticed that they had the dubbed version of Steins;Gate and decided to give it a watch as I has watched the subbed version a while back.
Before I get to my thoughts, the one thing I am not going to get into is the whole sub vs dub debate. I do have my own opinion on it, but I’m leaving it for another day.
This is the story of the self-proclaimed mad scientist, Rintaro Okabe, who by accidently discovers the secrets of time travel. Using these D-mails, he is able to change the past and create new timelines, but these changes have grave consequences for one of his closest friends.
Steins;Gate is made of up three acts. Episodes one through twelve affectively sets up Okabe’s world, and sets the mechanics of what can be done through time travel. Episodes thirteen to twenty two is his attempts at getting back to the original timeline, and the final three episodes are the feel good ending.
When I watched the first few episodes I thought to myself that I was watching something fairly light hearted. Okabe in his mad scientist persona is a bit of a dick, and that everyone is playing along with his delusions. It is really clever though that these lighter episodes are used to setup everything that happens later. The world of Steins;Gate is slowly being built and I, as the viewer, am drawn into a rich series of timelines.
Then it happens. Mayuri is murdered, and we move onto the second act. As everything is setup in those early episodes, I felt that the emotions of what Rintaro is going through is stronger than the science aspect of the anime. Everything is within the concept of the time travel rules that have already been established.
Both times I’ve watched the series I got to the end of the twenty second episode I thought that the story was done and there was no need for the third acts. In fact, there is an alternative twenty third episode where after failing to save Kurisu, Rintaro decides to forgoe his mad scientist side and become an ordinary university student. This then leads to the starting point of Steins;Gate 0.
I liked the idea that Kurisu accepting that the only way of saving Mayuri is through her own death, and it fitted into the darker tone of the second half of the anime. It also plays into the idea that everything has to be undone to get back to the original timeline. I don’t feel that those final three episodes are necessary, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t like them.
The thing is, if there is one person who really needs a happy ending it is Rintaro Okabe. He goes through the preverbal ringer in his attempts at saving Mayuri, and the only way he keeps his sanity is with his conversations with Kurisu. And that brings me to probably a controversial view. There is no love triangle.
I’m not going to argue that there isn’t quite a bit of “Everybody Loves Rintaro” especially in those early episodes, but heacts that he oblivious from it all. I think that he and Mayuri care for each other deeply, but not in a romantic way. After her grandmother died, Mayuri wanted to join her, but the mad scientist Hououin Kyoma had made her his hostage. It was to protect her. Rintaro thinks that Mayuri is the most precious thing in his life, and so will do anything to save her. I think that this is a better cause for motivation.
In the science fiction genre, I’ve always believed that the hardest thing to pull off is a good time travel story. By using the concept of timelines, it generally stays away from the normal troupes. By the end I’m pulling for Rintaro simply because he deserves better.