This will contain Major Spoilers for the Visual Novel, Anime, Steins;Gate 0, and Steins;Gate film.
I just finished the Steins;Gate visual novel earlier this morning by finishing up with the True Ending of the Visual Novel. I had been a long-time fan of the series thanks to the anime and reawakened interest thanks to Steins;Gate 0’s anime. I never had time to read through the Steins;Gate visual novel before, but after realizing I was wasting too much time on Youtube videos, I decided to just spend time playing it because I knew it was going to be enjoyable. I decided to get both Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 0 on my PSVita due to lack of games on the handheld. My last save file from years ago was Chapter 2 and that’s where I continued onwards from. I mostly remembered the contents from earlier thanks to having watched the anime beforehand and being surprised by Okabe’s chunibyo dialogue. His persona of Hououin Kyouma is something I was obviously aware of, but what surprised me was that a lot of his dialogue in the very beginning seemed to be eerily foreshadowing the events of Steins;Gate 0. If not for having watched the anime, I wouldn’t have noticed it. Even dialogue in later chapters, such as Kurisu and Okabe talking about the possibilities of what happens if you transmit your memories into someone else’s mind, seem to be foreshadowing a rather tragic background story in Steins;Gate 0. It seems as if the studio 5pb. Inc (now known as the Mages Inc) had already plotted out writing the main story of Steins;Gate 0 prior to completing and publishing Steins;Gate. This is actually less surprising than at first glance when I looked up their other visual novel games. The series Muv-Luv is highly acclaimed for its foreshadowing between its main games, Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative from what I hear by fans of the series. Looking through the company’s history, I’m surprised to learn they could make Chaos;Head which was honestly awful from what I observed of its anime. Steins;Gate is such a fantastic story that I’m surprised two of the most prominent writers / scenario developers of Steins;Gate were behind that awful trainwreck Chaos;Head. Perhaps it was a learning curve and learning from their mistakes that helped shape Steins;Gate into a great story that became a popular hit for anime fans and visual novel readers.
After having read and acquired all the ending paths, I think the Steins;Gate anime was actually the best possible adaption that was possible considering the massive content of the visual novel itself. In fact, I’d say that they improved on some elements. For example, near the end of the story, when Okabe watches the video from his future self, the future Okabe is the one to give instructions on what to do to save Makise Kurisu to the current Okabe and forge a path to Steins;Gate. In the anime, Okabe finds the behavior of his future self to be absolutely laughable and stupid and then Mayuri slaps him to help him get a grip on himself. In the visual novel, Mayuri slapped Okabe to get him out of post-traumatic stress from killing Kurisu in the first travel back to July 28th in order to save her and the pep talk from his future self (who goes in circles for many paragraphs regarding Okabe’s feelings) is what convinces Okabe to try again, but the future Okabe doesn’t provide clear instructions on what is needed to be done. Some visual novel fans may hate me for saying this, but the anime version makes more logical sense. Future Okabe gives the impression that he thought about how to save Kurisu for 14 – 15 years, but the best he can do is a pep talk? The anime version of Future Okabe providing clear instructions obviously has more logic to it. The emotional scenes they skipped regarding Lukako’s love for Okabe, Okabe lying to Faris about the possibility of seeing her father again, and the God complex Okabe displays in Suzuha’s ending route were nevertheless aspects of alternative endings and while we don’t get the emotional gutpunch of those endings, it was clear the anime was going for the true ending route thanks to Kurisu speaking on her problems with her father so I think the anime actually made the right decision. Personally, I hate when anime goes for bad endings with the expectation people need to purchase the visual novel or video game to experience the true ending. I liked that – during its time – Steins;Gate broke that mold and the payoff was a massive success from what I see.
When comparing the anime and visual novel, I do admit that there are weaknesses on the anime’s front regarding the depth of the characters. We get the impression that Lukako and Okabe have recognized each other as friends in the anime, whereas it is made clear that Lukako deeply loves Okabe regardless of Lukako’s gender and that the societal views on homosexual love is what pushed Lukako into wanting to be a girl. While some Westerners may be keen on censuring Japan for its lack of same-sex marriage laws even now, it is important to point out that it was Japan that invigorated discussion and opened the conversation up on homosexual love and homosexual relationships with video games such as Persona 4 back when the United States had resolutely affirmed their contempt for gay and lesbian relationships. It’s easy to hate on a foreign, and frankly mostly superior, culture what with the West’s inferiority complex and forget that Japan was mostly ahead of the US on matters pertaining to homosexual love and homosexual relationships for the vast majority of time that it became public debate. I thought Moeka was developed equally as well between the anime and visual novel, Suzuha was well developed in both mediums from what I remember in the anime, and while we don’t get the full splendor of Faris’s character . . . I think what we did get in the anime was well developed for the specific purpose of her character. Before reading the visual novel, I was a bit saddened that we never learned about Nae’s plot twist in the anime, but after reading the visual novel, I understand that it really didn’t serve any greater narrative function beyond showing how twisted people can become due to the power of time travel. Overall, while the visual novel is certainly superior in presentation, from what I recall of the anime, I think the anime did a great job regardless.
This brings me to the four most important characters in the series. I would say that Daru is a lot funnier and gives a good-natured vibe to a far greater degree in the visual novel than the anime. Anime Daru creeped me out from what I remember of him, whereas visual novel Daru seems genuinely funny and less creepy or serious about his otaku jokes. He and Makise Kurisu are Okabe Rintaro’s reliable and trustworthy friends. I don’t really remember why I feel such a massive difference with anime and visual novel Daru, but the best I can say is that visual novel Daru comes off as a real person and anime Daru (from Steins;Gate, not the Steins;Gate 0 anime where I feel this is corrected) just didn’t have the charm due to his dialogue. Shiina Mayuri feels like the same person in both anime and visual novel and I think both mediums did great work portraying her character and personality. The visual novel and anime versions of Okabe Rintaro / Hououin Kyouma both have pros and cons such as being able to read Okabe’s thoughts in the visual novel whereas in the anime, we have to interpret his actions but the anime itself provides narrative corrections for some of the visual novel’s slip-ups like the video of future Okabe and anime Okabe’s reaction to the future Okabe video. Okabe’s more agnostic viewpoint regarding attractor fields and how he views them in the same synonyms as Fate or God makes more sense in the visual novel than when his Steins;Gate 0 counterpart starts rambling about it being wrong to mess with time because it is tampering with the power of God since his Steins;Gate anime counterpart doesn’t seem to pursue that question deeply from what I recall. I had briefly thought maybe the August 11th events of Okabe asking Moeka about the IBN 5100 might count as a narrative pitfall (I think this was in Chapter 4 or 5, it was the first time Okabe and group were going to Faris’s apartment), but he had no way of knowing that Moeka was part of SERN’s Rounders or that she was a potential killer. Okabe understood the risks, but didn’t stop seeing it as fun and games on an emotional level until Mayuri was murdered in front of him. I had briefly considered that perhaps Lukako’s struggles being after Faris’s loss of her father seemed off as the choice to create an alternate ending, but it makes logical sense from the plot’s standpoint since the point was reacquiring the IBN 5100 to hack SERN’s database. Finally, the difference between the visual novel and anime depictions of Makise Kurisu. To my surprise, what I felt was good development has been reduced to being merely adequate for the anime version since parts of Kurisu’s personality wasn’t even brought up until the Steins;Gate 0 anime such as her @channel usage, whereas the visual novel actually has it be a tertiary component of the plot regarding Suzuha and Kurisu’s animosity towards each other. I think the anime wanted to clearly signal that it was going to do either the Kurisu or True ending path which is why Kurisu’s solitary scenes with Okabe are about discussing her father (scenes in the visual novel that are missable, if you aren’t pursuing Kurisu’s route or the True Ending route). While I understand the need to make space for adequate development for all the characters and especially the other main characters like Mayuri and Okabe himself, I do think this is knocks the anime down a considerable peg compared to the visual novel because the visual novel’s main story does something incredibly intriguing with Kurisu’s character beyond all the tsundere dialogue and lampshades. It’s to the extent that I’d rate anime Kurisu’s development as adequate to good, whereas visual novel Kurisu is excellent. The primary reason for that is the helpful suggestions that Makise Kurisu gives to Okabe Rintaro throughout the main story of Steins;Gate and its narrative purpose. It’s made clear that what Okabe really falls in love with is Kurisu’s darker side as an objective scientist and her narcissism. While Kurisu falls in love with Okabe because of his compassion for Mayuri, his tireless and selfless effort to save Mayuri’s life, and even his Chuniybou antics; what Okabe falls in love with in the visual novel, which isn’t explored in the anime from what I recall, is Kurisu’s objectivity, rationalistic outlook, and consequentialist morality. When Okabe explains that he’s running out of time with saving Mayuri and can’t be bogged down by Lukako’s emotional anguish due to his personal mission to save Mayuri, Kurisu takes a firm stance and suggests physical violence as a possible last resort should it be necessary because it can be undone if Okabe leaps backwards in time and therefore no permanent harm is committed. When Okabe fights with Moeka to get her phone, if you choose to receive the call from Kurisu, then Kurisu suggests the possibility of killing Moeka since sending the D-mail will likely cause the murder to be undone and if that doesn’t work then Okabe can leap back in time anyway so that something else kills Moeka while Okabe’s life isn’t effected. Okabe can always count on Kurisu’s help as a reliable confidante and someone who will always trust that his bizarre time leap explanations are the truth, because of her inherent arrogance in believing her scientific theories to be correct and the Time Machine technology that she builds to be flawless. Even if she takes great strides to warn Okabe of what would happen if such technology fails, she still believes in her own capabilities. When viewing Kurisu’s trust in her own abilities and theories from this viewpoint, despite her father being an absolutely horrible man whose inferiority complex over his own daughter’s achievements leads to a completely unjustified hatred for her, he was correct in pointing out that Kurisu is very arrogant and it is precisely because of this intrinsic arrogance within her character that Okabe can rely upon her help in every time loop. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Kurisu’s character in the visual novel is that it is made clear, even explicitly said by Okabe in the Moeka scene mentioned prior, that Makise Kurisu is not a hypocrite. Nothing about her consequentialist ethics, her scientific objectivity, or her rationalism is hypocritical in the slightest; not even her suggestions to physically harm or murder as a last resort are hypocritical. On a narrative standpoint, this character really calls into question what value there is in demanding other people not be hypocrites, because if Kurisu was a hypocrite, then she’d be more of an ethical and altruistic person but it is specifically her lack of hypocrisy that makes her a consequentialist with a strict focus on efficacy over compassion.
There are themes and metaphors celebrating Abrahamic cultural concepts; for example, Kurisu has several conversations where her speeches and the trajectory of her journey are clear metaphors for Jesus Christ. To be blunt, Kurisu is clearly a metaphor for Jesus Christ. Okabe’s quips of Christina, the sparse amount of comments pertaining to Christianity, and Kurisu’s reliability for Okabe’s journey throughout the game all serve as indicators. The True Ending, with Okabe spilling his own blood for Kurisu, is literally so she can rise again but alive and her return to life will create the new worldline of Steins;Gate. Although not pertaining to Kurisu herself, the theme of forgiveness is even explored with Moeka after she betrayed the group during Suzuha’s party in what Okabe himself referred to as “The Last Supper” before Moeka was revealed to be an agent of Sern. Even the final scene where Okabe meets Kurisu again by random chance has the revelation that everyone has Reading Steiner and thus carries their memories so that Okabe is no longer carrying the burden of those sacrifices. Thus, meeting Kurisu takes away the burdens that Okabe has accumulated and redeemed them when he finds Kurisu; analogous to Jesus taking away sins when people “come to Christ” and are thus “redeemed” by Jesus Christ in the mythology of the Bible. Likewise, bringing Kurisu back to the world ends an apocalyptic war-torn future similar to Jesus Christ ushering a peaceful world after Armageddon (although, there is some wiggle room for interpretation here since Jesus himself participates in violence to end Satan’s side or some such nonsense according to some Christian sects regarding their mythology). If that isn’t enough, then I’d like to point to Mayuri’s ending where Okabe explicitly references Kurisu as a God for her self-sacrifice to keep Mayuri safe and end Sern’s future domination of the human race in the Alpha worldline. I may plan on writing a thematic analysis on Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 0 once I finish the Steins;Gate 0 visual novel and acquire all endings as the anime made me notice striking parallels between its events and the Islamic Judgment Day mythology.
Overall I really enjoyed this visual novel from start to finish and highly recommend it. I actually really enjoyed how they used the Abrahamic metaphors which is a serendipitous surprise in and of itself for me. I felt the plot, the entirety of the cast of characters, and the narrative were all greatly done. The visual novel is definitely a slow burn story though and it doesn’t pick up on the main thrust of the conflict until Chapters 5 and 6. I really enjoyed all the time travel theorizing and jargon though and the visual novel provides a tips section for definitions. Overall, I’d rate it as a 9.9 out of 10. Absolutely satisfying.
9.9 / 10.