It’s finally time to review the best series of 2011 and what a series it was. Steins;Gate attracted a bit of attention at the beginning for it’s sci-fi plot and a resemblance to Chaos;Head which aired two years before. On top of that, we had a bunch of unknowns in the staff: a small animation studio, low-key co-directors, etc. and already the stage was set for Steins;Gate to become a classic for at least this decade. When the first episode aired, many heads were scratched. It was criticized for stuffing so much information in just 24 minutes and some were afraid the show would turn into Chaos;Head (a poorly adapted visual novel from Nitroplus/5pb. from Madhouse [?!]). Yet afterwards the show was much more quieter than what the first episode led on and focused on developing our central cast and when we finally hit the halfway mark (episode 12), all hell breaks loose and the show begins its trek to widespread acclaim. I won’t spoil the juicy bits (the rest are in white text for those who want to see them), but after the 12th episode, it wasn’t some otaku pandering series with a bombastic main character. It had a goal – a mission to fufill – and we the viewers got to see first hand this amazing mission unfold beautifully and masterfully with the input of very skilled animators and screenwriters. As soon as the second half started, we’re seeing firsthand the immediate moments following the death of Mayuri at the hands of SERNand Okabe is of course shaken and reacting on emotion rather than logic. Such an action is always seen in anime, but the magnitude of Okabe’s devotion to saving Mayuri by going back over and over again is extremely heartbreaking and the staff at White Fox did such a beautiful job in pulling the strings of the viewer’s emotions. But for me the biggest “wham” moment came at the very end of episode 22 in which, very skillfully, during the altered ED sequence there was random intervals of static and finally the ringing of a phone in which Daru answers and hands to Okabe finding out that Suzuha from 2036 is urging him to go the radio tower and stop World War III from happening. It was then i thought “my god, can this series be any more amazing?”. It really could have ended there – 22 episodes aren’t rare – and still would have been truly an amazing series albeit with a very bittersweet ending. But the folks at White Fox were dead serious in making a faithful adaptation and went on to adapt the visual novel’s True Route which immediately begins happening on episode 23. Of course true to Steins;Gate’s nature, things that were hinted early on in the series that may be a huge game changer much later in the series were popping up, so much that people went (including myself) and re-watched the first episode and “mindblown” doesn’t even begin to explain the result. As much as i want to keep talking about what happened afterwards, i’ll stop in favor of those who haven’t finished or haven’t started this series.
To the production values: The animation wasn’t one of the best, but White Fox did a great job in handling this series. It was really high-quality animation for 24 episodes, though there were alot of dark scenes that i couldn’t see at all and can’t understand why they were so dark (censoring? what?) but other than that i have no qualms. The music was very low-key for me: it didn’t really start to hit me until the last 5 or so episodes when the really epic stuff came at the viewers at breathtaking speeds. The 23rd episode used the Steins;Gate VN opening “Sky Clad Observer” and it really felt in place and remains at the top of my playlist on my iPod Touch. The song for me felt so uplifting like it was saying “Hey don’t give up! We’re not done yet, you’re coming along with us!” and i was truly mesmerized by it. Basically i realize that everything about this series is low-key when it is appropriate but when the real huge moments come, everything – the music, animation, characters – completely improves. Much like stockpiling weaponry, White Fox was saving the best animation and music for the best scenes and that is a major accomplishment.
Finally i will add this: Me and many other viewers completely were enthralled by this series. If you haven’t seen it, now would be a good time to: this is the perfect series for watching it in one fell swoop as the terminology and the plot twists are extreme. The animation staff at White Fox went far and beyond what most animators/studios do nowadays, and for that i humbly salute their efforts: they made this series amazing not only for the VN fans, but for us first-timers as well. Co-Directors Takuya Satou and Hiroshi Hamasaki, Series composition and screenplay Jukki Hanada, Character designer Kyuuta Sakai, key animators and everyone at studio White Fox: you have truly made me realize that anime can still evolve and still be fresh and innovative in an age filled with cliches and fallbacks.
El. Psy. Congroo.
Animation: 9/10 – Not the best this year, alot of scenes were very hard to see but White Fox did a fairly good job here. The animation was very good at the right moments and key scenes of the series. I do like the stylish looking OP though: it really makes you feel like you’re going through different world lines. The animation set the mood up very well even if it wasn’t the most flashiest, but in this case: substance beats style.
Story: 10/10 – Probably the best storytelling this year. Steins;Gate gives attention to detail to some of the most insignificant items (metal oopa, anyone?), leaves you with various hints to piece what will happen next…only to find out that something completely different actually happened and balanced comedy, drama and even romance very well. Props to the main staff for staying mainly true to the VN. It ranks up with Baccano! in terms of masterful storytelling, though falls just a bit short. If anything, just watch for how amazingly well the plot is told. Just imagine Rika from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai screaming “Amazing” in her…eccentric voice: that’s exactly how i felt right after the ending.
Music: 8/10 – Wasn’t that much noticeable at first, but some great tracks like Another Heaven, Gate of Steiner, Fake Verthandi and Sky Clad Kansokusha show up at the right moments. The OP and ED are also very pleasant. S;G’s music is faint and subjugated to the background (literally), but the music knows how to make a scene more stronger when the time arrives for it.
Characters: 9/10 – Many will argue the S;G characters are the strongest aspect of the series. I disagree, but i will admit they serve a central and vital role. Even characters like Daru, who didn’t get enough screentime, were really wonderful to watch and none of the characters got boring or annoying at all. I was really contemplating a 10 score here, but Daru and a few other key characters weren’t as developed.
Enjoyment: 10/10 – Steins;Gate became my #4 favorite series of all time when it was on episode 20 and shot up to #2 after the finale. I think this series can really appeal to a wide audience and the science geeks will just love the time traveling plot very well. I loved Steins;Gate because it knew when to take itself seriously and when to take a breather and flesh out the supporting cast and the romance between Okabe and Kurisu was genuine and completely grew throughout the series. I was literally on edge waiting for new episodes, and yes i thoroughly enjoyed my Dr. Pepper for the last episode 🙂 .
Steins;Gate Score Tally:
Animation – 9/10
Story – 15/15
Characters – 18/20
Sound – 8/10
Enjoyment – 45/45
Total – 95/100