The eccentric, self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintarou Okabe has become a shell of his former self. Depressed and traumatized after failing to rescue his friend Makise Kurisu, he has decided to forsake his mad scientist alter ego and live as an ordinary college student. Surrounded by friends who know little of his time travel experiences, Okabe spends his days trying to forget the horrors of his adventures alone. While working as a receptionist at a college technology forum, Okabe meets the short, spunky Maho Hiyajo, who later turns out to be the interpreter at the forum's presentation, conducted by Professor Alexis Leskinen. In front of a stunned crowd, Alexis and Maho unveil Amadeus—a revolutionary AI capable of storing a person's memories and creating a perfect simulation of that person complete with their personality and quirks. Meeting with Maho and Alexis after the presentation, Okabe learns that the two were Kurisu's colleagues in university, and that they have simulated her in Amadeus. Hired by Alexis to research the simulation's behavior, Okabe is given the chance to interact with the shadow of a long-lost dear friend. Dangerously tangled in the past, Okabe must face the harsh reality and carefully maneuver around the disastrous consequences that come with disturbing the natural flow of time. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
What happens when the hero fails to save the day and just gives up?
According to Steins;Gate 0, he spirals into a state of complete depression and despair, becoming a shell of his former self.
Steins;Gate 0 is an alternate future where protagonist Okabe Rintarou fails to save Makise Kurisu. It’s sort of a “what if” story that shows what would happen if Okabe gave up on trying to reach the sacred Steins;Gate world line in which everyone is happy and there’s no apocalypse in the near future. To put it bluntly, S;G0 was a success. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been so thoroughly entertained by an anime. Even though it doesn’t quite match the quality of the original in my mind, S;G0 was still able to live up to the high expectations set by its predecessor, and it tells a truly compelling narrative.
It’s amazing how the personality change of one person can affect so many. The mad scientist Hououin Kyouma died alongside Kurisu in the beta world line where this story takes place, leaving behind a nihilistic and broken Okabe Rintarou. Viewers can clearly see just how hard the rest of the cast, especially Mayuri, take Okabe’s character transformation. Gone is the humorous banter and close companionship that the characters shared in the original Steins;Gate. It has been replaced with a dark and uncomfortable atmosphere, and as someone who was warmed by Okabe’s positive relationships with his friends, it’s downright depressing to watch.
An even harder loss to swallow is Makise Kurisu. She’s quite frankly an amazing character. Makise is intelligent, attractive, a bit of a tsundere and an otaku, has a lot of great and funny moments in the original anime, and is just admirably supportive of Okabe, acting as his crutch during his times of despair. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call her an ideal girl. She even sacrifices herself so that Okabe can live in an beta world line in which Mayuri lives. Wow, she might just be a bit too perfect…Although she’s dead in S;G0, there’s an amazing episode where Okabe transitions into an alpha world line where Kurisu is alive, yet Mayuri is deceased. The episode is basically there to remind us just how phenomenal Makise is, and that makes it all the more painful when Okabe returns to the beta world line, leaving Kurisu behind. I’m not gonna lie, I was starting to get a little emotional at the end of the episode.
So with Makise deceased in this world line and Okabe having suppressed his flamboyant mad scientist nature in favor of a more emo persona, you might think that this anime is a lot weaker than its predecessor in the character department. Well, while I can admit the the original Steins;Gate is superior when it comes to characterization, the cast of S;G0 is still quite amazing in its own right.
Okabe really is one of the greatest anime protagonist out there. One of the things that makes him so good is his ability to be unrealistically ridiculous with his bouts of chuunibyouism while being able to transition to a more solemn and vulnerable state when things get serious. The latter is heavily demonstrated in this anime, as the old, care free Okabe is gone, replaced by a serious man who still strives to help his friends, but struggles with his own doubts and insecurities. This portrays him as being truly human, because let’s be real, I don’t think any of us would be able to keep up a cheery image if we went through all of the pain that Okabe has faced. But do not despair, because Okabe’s depression doesn’t last forever.
Because just like the majestic phoenix, Hououin Kyouma ascends from the ashes and is born anew.
I won’t spoil anything specific, but near the very end of the anime, Okabe finally regains his drive and determination, and once again becomes the mad scientist that we all know and love. For that entire episode, I had a big, stupid grin on my face. It was so refreshing to see the old Okabe again after so long, and literally every chuuni thing he did made me nearly burst out laughing. But he didn’t go back to his old self on his own. No, his awakening can be truly attributed to the admirable support of his friends.
With Makise gone, the title of female protagonist goes to her scientist loli upperclassmen friend Maho Hiyajou. Now Makise has some pretty big shoes to fill, and being a loli, Maho’s feet might be too small to fit- oh wait, this is an idiom…whoops…Well anyway, Maho ended up being a great addition to the cast. She might seem a bit one dimensional on the surface with her main defining feature being her desire to surpass Kurisu, but I can assure you that there is so much more to her character. Despite her small stature, Maho has a big part to play in the anime. She gives several inspirational speeches that help to push Okabe forward, constructs the time leap machine in Kurisu’s absence, shows vulnerabilities despite her general awesomeness, and has many funny and entertaining moments in the show. Does she reach Kurisu’s level? I don’t think so, but she’s a great character nonetheless.
I actually liked Daru a good deal more this time around. Perhaps it was because Okabe became somewhat of a vegetable for awhile, which allowed for Daru’s personality to shine through. He actually has a nice lighthearted arc with his future wife and daughter Suzuha that develops his character. He provides some pretty good comic relief on occasion, and, along with Maho, is easily the most useful lab member to Okabe.
Mayuri’s role is important because through her, viewers can clearly see just how much the cast is negatively affected by Okabe’s give up attitude. Gone are the kawaii tuturus~ and upbeat personality. They’ve been replaced with a sad girl who just wants her prince Okabe to be happy. She feels herself slowly distancing from Okabe throughout the show, and even decides to time travel herself so that she can motivate Okabe to not give up on trying to save Kurisu. I found this to be quite admirable, and really like how the anime handled her character.
The other familiar faces from Steins;Gate unfortunately don’t play much of a role in S;G0, but they all still contribute to the story in there own way, so it’s only fair to give some of them a shout out.
Suzuha just wants Okabe to reach Steins;Gate. She desperately tries to get him to time travel in order to fulfill the duty bestowed upon her by her father, and it hurts to see her fail. When it comes to Ruka, there’s a touching moment where Ruka expresses a desire to help Okabe out in any way possible. Ruka feels left out of all of the secrets and just wants to be useful. It’s just a small moment, but it shows just how caring Ruka can be, and I really appreciate that…but he’s a dude. It’s also worth mentioning that his future self is pretty badass. And Faris…well, umm, she’s still a cute neko girl, so…yeah.
Out of the new characters aside from Maho, Professor Leskinen is easily the most memorable. He’s an American in Japan, so as you can imagine, he has many comedic misunderstandings, such as his iconic “WHERE ARE THE JAPANESE SHAMAN GIRLS LINTAHLO?” line. He’s a pretty cool dude, and ends up playing an important role in the anime.
One issue that I do have is that for the longest time, I wasn’t exactly sure what the primary conflict was. I assumed that it was to get to the Steins;Gate world line, but there are so many different things going on that it felt to me like the end goal was sort of being overshadowed. Don’t get me wrong, I highly enjoyed these other plot points. You have Okabe trying to deal with his depression, Suzuha trying to get him to time travel, Maho trying to get out of Kurisu’s shadow, the mystery behind Kagari, the whole Amadeus ordeal, the threat from America and Russia…yeah, you get the point. Maybe it’s just me, but for awhile I wasn’t entirely sure where the anime was going. Of course, all of these things do actually correlate well with one another and contribute to what is to me a great story. I just wish it was a bit more focused.
So something about Steins;Gate 0 that I’m sure most people will overlook is how it provides a model example for how comedy in an anime should be handled. I know, this is probably a weird statement to make considering the genre of the anime, but it’s true, and S;G0’s seamless implementation of comedic elements is honestly quite praiseworthy. Intertwining with the generally dark and psychological atmosphere of the show, the lighthearted moments are really able to shine through without being the least bit detrimental to the story progression. In many cases, they even proved to be a much needed breath of fresh air and fun. There are also a few fan service scenes (if you can even call them that considering how safe they are) primarily focused on Maho-tan, so if you’re not into lolis, you might actually be turned off by these moments. I, of course, being a man of culture, agree with Daru’s wise statement of “legal loli for the win!” Because remember, Maho is 21, so it’s all perfectly legal. Definitely. No sirens, no FBI.
When it comes to the technical aspects of the show, I have to say, the sound quality is simply fantastic. The opening theme song Fatima quickly rose to my favorite opening of the year, the endings were great as well, and the soundtrack just fits the anime perfectly. Steins;Gate also has my two favorite seiyuu, Mamoru Miyano and Kana Hanazawa, so that’s a big bonus. And the other voice actors do an amazing job as well. So yeah, I really have no complaints at all when it comes to the sound.
My biggest issue with this show would be it’s visuals. So this anime came out seven years after it’s predecessor, yet there are absolutely no improvements with the visual quality whatsoever. Now they didn’t get worse either, and I can understand the need to keep the visuals similar and consistent between the two anime. But I still expected the animation to be at least a little more polished and detailed. Oh, and some of the action scenes near the end to me just looked really cringy, which is unfortunate. But the character designs are still great, and the artistic quality of the show is still pretty good, despite the flaws I mentioned. It’s just that I have to be a bit nitpicky since this wouldn’t be much of a review if I didn’t point out the flaws, right?
Steins;Gate 0 is a great anime. Even with it’s male lead acting as a shell of his former self for some time and the female lead dead, it was still able to weave an exciting, albeit a bit unfocused at times, tale about the repercussions of time travel, and is filled with an endearing cast of characters. It may just be the telling of an alternate ending to the original anime, but it was simply an enjoyable ride. I was thoroughly entertained by every episode, and can definitely say that Steins;Gate 0 is one of the better anime that I’ve seen in recent memory.