A Closer look at Steins;Gate or How I am Mad Scientist, it’s so cool
September 17, 2011 15 Comments
This article contains heavy spoilers to the show, Steins;Gate, so be forewarned when you read this article.
Now let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed Steins;Gate. Probably is one of my favorite shows of the year so far. I feel almost obligated to say this as I find it’s extremely exhausting/frustrating/obnoxious to see fanboys flip their shit over criticism on their favorite shows. I’ve read and written enough articles to know this. Without further adieu, I feel prompted to address some issues I’ve noticed with Steins;Gate. Don’t get me wrong though. S;G had great writing, well thought out and interesting characters, more notable than some of the ones in other popular shows released earlier this year. But with a series like Steins;Gate, there’s some risky business with its ideas.
Being a show with timetraveling elements, it makes jumps and bounds onto complex ideas. Time traveling, or in S;G’s case, timeline alternation, in any kind of form of story writing, can be difficult to properly write about. The ideas of time traveling can be more complicated than a 16 x 16 x 16 rubix cube, not to mention no one is really sure how it works. However, looking at Steins;Gate logically, there’s quite a number of inconsistencies with its ideals. Of course, we’ll accept that the characters simply have a machine capable of sending messages back into the past. How it’s capable of working, we’re not entirely sure, but that’s besides the point. The cast of Steins;Gate are able to bend the timeline by sending text messages into the past. However, not everything is in accordance with their expectations. Let’s go back to the early episodes when the characters find out that they can seriously change shit around. One simple text message, drastically changes the outcome of the present. Or by the common name of this phenomenon, the butterfly effect.
Among the first things the characters do with this nifty little device, is send winning numbers of the lottery to Okabe in the past. As the present immediately changes, only Okabe has a recollection of the events in the previous timeline. Why only him? Because he’s the key to Steins;Gate as everyone sees later on. Ok fine, he’s John Conner, but that doesn’t necessarily make him God. He’s not capable of controlling fate in any way he wants. About halfway into the series, it’s discovered that Mayuri’s fate is death. Okabe is only capable of delaying it, by simply reversing the d-mails of other people. Even so, her fate is inevitable. The way it’s set up is just as about right as I’d expect. It’s just like the beginning of the Time Machine (2002) movie, where no matter how many times the main character goes back into time to prevent the death of a loved one, the same fate cannot be avoided. One death is replaced by another. Or it can be seen in the time traveling movies like The Terminator, where no matter how many times John Conner and his mother, try to prevent the apocalyptic future, the same results are inevitable, and so the war on machines does occur, just as expected. It seems the law generally agreed upon when it comes to time travel, is that things will always find a way to come to the same result, no matter what.
But this brings me back to my main point at how contradicting Steins;Gate can be with itself. Mayuri can be “saved”, but only in a timeline where her fate isn’t death at all. However, Kurisu’s fate is death is the first, or Alpha timeline, as the viewers can recall from the first episode. Kurisu died from a stabbing, as seen by our main protagonist, as he had seen her motionless body over a pool of blood. The way they resolve this in the series is that they simply fake her death by tazing and leaving her over a pool of Okabe’s own blood. Very touching, isn’t it? The way they solve this is a loophole in the timeline, where she doesn’t necessarily have to die, due to Okabe never actually seeing how she dies. Mayuri’s fate couldn’t be avoided because Okabe witnessed before his eyes. Of course, the creators play it out safely, allowing her to live in both timelines, for the sake of a happy ending. Okabe gets what he wants, and everything is peaches and cream. Somehow, it’s a little disappointing. The ending was nice, but it was just that. Just nice. I feel like there’s some great sacrifice to be made here. Yeah Okabe risked his own life, but he’s fine and dandy later on as we see in the epilogue. It’s kinda bullshit. The way Okabe can simply open up a new dimension to “make things right”, feels like he gets too many chances to do what he wants.
Now I’m going to go on a limb here and say the most logical way they could’ve gone about it, is if Okabe had to make the big decision to choose between saving the life of one person over another. Hell, that would really spice things up. The way that set it up in the show is that in Timeline A, Kurisu dies, Mayuri lives, and in Timeline B, the timeline most of the show takes place in, Mayuri dies, and Kurisu lives. I can see that the writers went with erasing all of those three weeks, for the sake of emotional appeal, but it just boils down to making the right decision, not giving everything what everyone wants. I thought it was absolutely great how Mayuri, a character everyone loved so much, is killed out of nowhere. It’s daring and risky, but ultimately works. Seeing Okabe make such a difficult decision would’ve blown this show up to being a masterpiece, in my opinion.The fact that they centered the result on setting the Okabe in the past to seeing a bloodied Kurisu, feels like they’re cheesing their way out of this sticky situation.
The whole situation with WW3 is a bit of a stretch, well… a long stretch. Yeah, millions of lives are at stake, but in the end, the most important things are the people the main character is close with. Between a childhood friend, and a lover, it would’ve driven the audience insane how Okabe would try to handle the situation. Personally, I think Mayuri should’ve been the one to go. True, it would’ve been a huge waste of effort from all those times Okabe time jumped, reversing all the d-mails to delay her death. But coming to terms with her fate, would’ve felt much more emotionally impactful. Yeah it would be tough dealing with the death of a very likable character, but somehow I feel it’s for the best.
Aside from those inconsistencies, there were a few other things that rubbed me the wrong way as well. As Okabe jumps back and forth through timelines, some of characters will make some mention about how things used to be certain way, as if they have some memory from the other timelines. Here’s whats wrong with this. It’s a very different timeline than they’re in, not to mention they didn’t have any recollection about meeting people that they’ve met before in another timeline. For example, the way Mayuri notes in the first timeline how it felt like Kurisu used to sit in the computer chair in the office, despite never having met her. It’s odd the way they go about saying things like this. It leaves implications that one timeline is “incorrect”which isn’t necessarily true. Suppose a set of events were meant to occur for the sake of others . It’s rather difficult to say which is suppose to happen in either timelines. The first timeline is where Kurisu dies and WW3 occurs as a result. Would it have occurred anyway in the second timeline where she lives? It’s all speculation at this point, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.
I wouldn’t be making these ‘nitpicks’ at the show if it decided to be a little more silly than that, but for a show like Steins;Gate, it dared to go on and make use of some very complex ideas. It’s great that they’re took risks like that, but like I stated earlier, it can present some logical inconsistencies. Anyone could just say, “Well that’s anime for you, it doesn’t have to make complete sense, only entertaining.” I just can’t help but consider the imperfections of Steins;Gate, for all that it’s worth to be such a thought-provoking show. Regardless though, Steins;Gate is a great show, one of the best I’ve seen this year.
I will say though, the last bit of the ending where Okabe and Kurisu cross paths with one another was a nice touch. It’s nice to see that fate will always bring those two together. It is pretty similar to the ending of the movie, The Butterfly Effect, so it’s not exactly original, but it works. Fate is just among those phenomenon we’ll never really understand completely, just like the butterfly effect. Somehow things just have a way of working themselves out.