A mad scientist, a colorful cast of characters, and time travel come together to create a wonderful game and an anime adaptation that tops my favorites list. And there’s in fact a lot more to the series than that, which can be confusing for anybody new and interested in discovering more.
I remember being a little confused myself when I first discovered the series, and that was only a year after the anime adaptation had finished. I’m hoping to clear any confusion people have for the series and hopefully make it more approachable for those who are intimidated by the series.
Where It Comes From
Steins;Gate is a visual novel game developed by Nitroplus and Mages (formerly 5pb) as a part of their Science Adventure series, which also includes other games such as Chaos;Head and Robotics;Notes. Yes, the Steins;Gate series is, in fact, all a part of a much bigger universe. But don’t let that intimidate you!
Each series within is self-contained and at best you might miss an unimportant reference to a character from another series. There’s no need to play or watch the anime adaptations of the other series to get into Steins;Gate!
But back to what’s important. Steins;Gate released in 2009 to high praise, specifically for its plot, art, and characters. The successful sales would lead to many spin-off games, an anime, mangas, light novels, and eventually a canon sequel in 2015 titled Steins;Gate 0.
Since this article is going to have some spoilers in it, I’m going to list below how you can enjoy this series in its most popular formats (discounting spin-off games and radio dramas).
First, let’s talk about games. The original Steins;Gate visual novel can be purchased on Steam. The sequel, Steins;Gate 0, can be purchased on Steam as well. The much more recent Steins;Gate Elite that came out last year, which is an updated version of the original visual novel with footage from the anime series in place of the still image artwork, is also available to be purchased on Steam.
The anime adaptation of Steins;Gate can be watched on Hulu with the Japanese dub, or for free on Funimation with the Japanese or English dubs (minus the OVA episode which requires a subscription to watch in Japanese).
A film sequel taking place after the series and titled Steins;Gate – Load Region of Deja Vu, is available to rent or purchase on Amazon with both the Japanese and English dubs, as does Google Play with both the Japanese and English dubs of the film being a bit cheaper to buy there.
The main cast of Steins;Gate are all members of the growing Future Gadget Lab.
Rintaro Okabe – Lab member 001 and the founder of the Future Gadget Lab. He usually goes by the name Hououin Kyouma and is known to talk to himself on the phone and laugh maniacally. His ability to remember events from previous world lines is a major plot point.
Mayuri Shiina – Lab member 002 and the childhood friend of Rintaro. She is a cosplayer that works at a maid cafe. After losing her grandmother at a young age, Rintaro has been the closest person in her life.
Itaru Hashida – Lab member 003 and a self-proclaimed “super hacker”. He’s been friends with Rintaro since high school and is a huge otaku.
Kurisu Makise – Lab member 004 and the catalyst of sorts for the events of the series. Her accomplishments and work make her somewhat of a prodigy in the science world.
Kiryu Moeka – Lab member 005 and meets Okabe within the series. She’s extremely shy and rarely speaks, communicating through text messages even in face to face situations.
Luka Urushibara – Lab member 006 and a friend of Rintaro and Mayuri. His beautiful feminine appearance is at times confusing to some characters and his anxious mannerisms are explored as the series goes on.
Faris NyanNyan – Lab member 007 and a coworker of Mayuri at the maid cafe. She’s friends with everybody in the Future Gadget Lab
Suzuha Amane – Lab member 008 and a nearby part-time worker. She’s more familiar with the Future Gadget Lab than any of its members know.
It All Begins With A Microwave
The events of the series start when Rintaro Okabe attends a conference about time travel. While there he discovers the corpse of a girl he had just met earlier. He attempts to send a text message to his friend about it, only to experience reality disrupting around him as soon as he presses “send”.
He finds himself in a new reality where certain events have changed, the girl isn’t dead, and his text message was received a week earlier. What follows is the discovery of time travel (involving text messages and a microwave), his ability to remember events across various timelines/world lines, the threat of the catastrophic World War III, and both the physical and metaphysical consequences of his disruption of time.
The Anime Adaptation (and the Movie)
With White Fox studio animating it (they would also return for the movie, sequel series, and help animate extra scenes for Steins;Gate Elite), the anime debuted in 2011. The adaptation was praised for much of the same reasons as the game, as well as for staying true to the source material.
Criticisms were directed at the slow-pacing of the first half of the anime, but arguments against it (that I would agree with) were that it helped flesh out characters and motivations for the rest of the anime.
An OVA was included in the Blu-ray and DVD volume releases, taking place a few months after the end of the series. It has no bearing on the plot (it’s anime original), but it does add extra character closure. I’d say the last scene alone makes it worth it and will just warm your heart.
The film sequel to the anime series, Steins;Gate – Load Region of Deja Vu, released in 2013. Like the OVA, the film is entirely original in its premise (although it does feature some scenes from alternate routes of the game).
Unlike the series before it, the film focuses on Kurisu instead of Rintaro. While the film was seen by many as lacking in a quality plot, especially in comparison to the source material, praise was given for its role as an epilogue. I enjoyed it just for its focus on the relationship of Kurisu and Rintaro.
The sequel to Steins;Gate would be released in 2015. Set before the end of the original, the game takes place in a different world line – one where Rintaro is unable to make the final trip needed to save Kurisu and enter the “Steins;Gate” world line.
Burdened by the events that transpired, as well as his inability to save the woman he loves, Rintaro does his best to get on with his life and deal with his PTSD. However, the threat of World War III continues to loom and his desire to move on is made more complicated when he meets colleagues of Kurisu.
The anime adaptation of Steins;Gate 0 debuted in 2018. Although not as well praised as the original’s anime adaptation, with critiques applied for the removal of some scenes from the game, additional scenes added to the anime were praised for fleshing out minor characters and moments.
Personally I did not enjoy it as much as the first game’s anime adaptation, but I still had a wonderful time throughout. Some wonderful tracks from the game make their way into the anime at the best moments. Rintaro is a horribly heart-broken character in this and it hurts to watch him struggle, but it makes the final act of the series all the much sweeter.
With the goal of evolving the genre, Steins;Gate Elite was released in 2018. It’s considered an update of sorts from the original, replacing the still-image art commonly present in the genre with scenes from the anime.
White Fox would even animate extra scenes for the game, as the anime adaptation only covered the “true” route. This deviation from the typical visual novel formula was praised, as was its ease of accessibility for new players. Criticisms were aimed at the removal of some scenes and changes to some features.
Should You Watch/Play It?
I had heard mentions of the anime adaptation of Steins;Gate, and decided I wanted to give it a watch. When I found out that it was based on a game, which was all a part of a bigger universe, I thought that I would need to watch the anime adaptations of the other games as well to really understand everything.
I was so committed that I watched Chaos;Head, and I personally would never recommend anybody to watch Chaos;Head. I’ve heard wonderful things about the game, but the anime is…well it exists.
But, Steins;Gate was more than worth accidentally watching an unnecessary series beforehand. I love time travel plots and I absolutely adored the characters. The story is wonderful with even the smallest plot elements factoring in by the end.
The music fits the series, but the opening and ending songs are wonderful. Especially the opening song! I never was the type of person to flaunt my love for anime. I didn’t have a lot of merch at the time, so you only knew I was into anime if it came up in conversation.
Or if you heard my phone ring because I was rocking the anime opening for most of college. I don’t even mean like a cute midi version of it, it was straight up just Kanaka Ito belting out the chorus.
I genuinely hope that if you haven’t given this series a try yet, that you do. It’s slow at first, but it’s all worth sticking it out for. And if you do decide to experience it for yourself, I hope this article cleared your options up for you. There’s a lot more content for the series, but there’s also a lot more readily available options for consuming it.