Let’s be completely honest with each other here. STEINS;GATE really isn’t a great anime. This is just my personal opinion, of course, but I think the show has too many problems to be considered spectacular. In keeping with our theme of honesty here, I’ll admit there were moments STEINS;GATE sucked me in with its chaotic events. These moments, however, were few and far between; and they certainly don’t make up for the number of problems present. To be clear, my goal in writing this article isn’t to antagonize this series and demonize it’s fans. I fully understand why people support this series, but we’re all anime fans here right? We should be able to express our viewpoints about popular shows even if they’re negative. To this extent, I’ll be talking about everything I think makes STEINS;GATE overrated.

Minor spoilers for STEINS;GATE follow.

Ryuichi’s Kindness and the Task of the SCHOOL BABYSITTERS

Open STEINS;GATE!

STEINS;GATE is an adaptation of a visual novel of the same name. It follows Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” who runs a makeshift laboratory in his apartment with his childhood friends, Mayuri and Daru. One day, Okabe and Mayuri attend a conference about time travel. Okabe bumps into neuroscientist Kurisu Makise along the way, who claims to have just met him. Dismissing this odd notion, Okabe presses on. Briefly, after their encounter, Okabe hears a scream and discovers Kurisu’s dead body. He sends an email to Daru about the event, then experiences a weird sensation. When he comes to, Okabe notices his town has changed and that Kurisu is somehow still alive. Furthermore, Okabe discovers that Daru received the email minutes before he sent it. The lab members deduce that they somehow manipulated time and set out to expand on their newfound discovery.

Okabe, Mayori, Kurisu, Moeka, and Daru all discussing time travel
The cast of STEINS;GATE hard at work | Image: Crunchyroll

The companies 5bp and Nitroplus released STEINS;GATE (the visual novel) in 2009, and it did surprisingly well for a game of its genre. In my experience, people typically shy away from visual novels because they feel that it’s more like a book than a game. Despite this, STEINS;GATE sold 16,434 copies in its first week after being released. By 2015, the series sold over 1 million copies, and 100,000 copies of the sequel game STEINS;GATE 0. The game’s reception became so popular that manga artist Yomi Sarachi adapted it into a manga in 2009, which had mixed reviews. The animation studio White Fox then created the anime adaptation in 2011, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Aside from critics, most anime fans loved the anime, so, disliking it is a controversial opinion. However, I think there are many things wrong with it that need to be talked about.

Slow and Steady Doesn’t Win the Race

Regardless of whether you love or hate STEINS;GATE, this is one thing everyone should agree on. The first half of the show moves at a snail’s pace. The first three episodes are jarring and make the series very difficult to get into. I understand that some time is necessary to set up the complex concept of time travel, but pilot episodes should be exciting. At the very least, there should be something that makes this series compelling or different from others right off the bat (see ELFEN LIED’s pilot). The most interesting thing that happens in the first episode of STEINS;GATE is Okabe’s discovery of Kurisu’s dead body. While this is intriguing, it’s nothing special for a show in the thriller genre. Additionally, plenty of anime, namely MONSTER, begin the same way and are much less confusing.

STEINS;GATE changes gears midway through the series. The storyline picks up and some interesting ideas and concepts are expanded upon. However, the last 12 episodes, in particular, seemed rushed. It felt as though STEINS;GATE dug itself into an early hole with its slow pace then scrambled to squeeze everything in before the series finale. There’s no denying that patience is key here, but many people won’t enjoy watching past those rudimentary beginning episodes.

A bloodied Okabe saying "i'm so tired" perfectly sums up how people feel waiting for STEINS;GATE to turnaround
How newcomers to STEINS;GATE feel waiting for the show to turn around | Image: Crunchyroll

How ELFEN LIED Successfully Uses Transgression to Stand Out

Weak Supporting Cast

This is my biggest gripe with STEINS;GATE. Aside from Okabe and Kurisu, every single supporting character feels forgettable. More than this, each supporting character does little more than fulfill a trope or get on your nerves somehow. Mayuri is a super sweet character. She wears her heart on her sleeve and seems like she unconditionally loves everything in the world. She’s a character worth adoring, but her signature catchphrase “tuturu!” drove me absolutely crazy throughout the series. Putting this aside, she doesn’t have anything to take her character to the next level. Her background story shows she became friends with Okabe because she suffered from depression as a child after her grandmother passed away. Okabe helped shoulder her burden and the two formed a deep bond. It’s not a bad backstory, but it paints Okabe as a “white knight” who merely saved Mayuri from herself.

Arguably the worst character in the show is Daru, who fulfills the “nerd” stereotype to the max. He is overweight, socially inept, and is obsessed with women (particularly animated ones). However, he’s a technology savant, which allows him to contribute to a lot of the plot. I find it funny when characters poke fun at harmless stereotypes like these so, initially, I really liked Daru. As the series progressed though, his antics grew stale and became flat-out uncomfortable. There are several times in the show where he and Okabe go well out of their way to make sexual innuendos in front of Kurisu. After a while it didn’t matter how important he was to the story, he was just annoying.

Daru asking Kurisu to say "who'd eat a pervert's banana anyway?"
Oh Daru, when will you learn… | Image: Crunchyroll

From what I understand, the visual novel develops each character better. Unfortunately, the anime fails to make most of the supporting cast likable or memorable.

Kurisu and Okabe’s Romance Felt Forced

I usually don’t like to single out romances as a focal point in a series. However, Okabe and Kurisu’s relationship becomes important in the final episodes and is a plot point early on in STEINS;GATE 0. Their romantic relationship begins forming in episode 11 when Kurisu confides a personal secret in Okabe. She says that her own father loathes her for accomplishing more as a scientist than he ever has in science. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the heartfelt moment. It was something extremely difficult for Kurisu to say and was a moment of levity during a stressful time in their lives. Unfortunately, this is the only genuine moment the two share. They spend the rest of the series butting heads and arguing over trivial things. Overall, it just felt like an infantile way to convey a romance that ends up being important in the series.

Kurisu and Okabe Bonding
Kurisu and Okabe bonding | Image: Crunchyroll

Given that their relationship is so important I would have liked to see Kurisu and Okabe’s romance developed more in the anime. I can’t help but feel another bonding scene or two, in addition to the aforementioned one, would have really driven this romance home. Instead, Okabe randomly comes to terms with his feelings two episodes before the series ends, and Kurisu somehow reciprocates his feelings despite being teased by him throughout most of the series. STEINS;GATE 0 is only three episodes in, so maybe it will fix this problem somehow. Unfortunately, though, I think the damage has already been done.

Random Harem Moments Ruin a Great Storyline

I hate fan service/harem moments in anime, but I can understand them if it contributes to a greater point. For example, Kaname Chidori from FULL METAL PANIC! is a victim of fan service quite often. But, this contrasts well with her love interest Sousuke Sagara. He is very serious and dense in matters that don’t involve being a soldier. As a balance, Kaname is exaggerated in things like sexuality to highlight elements that aren’t associated with Sousuke’s mundane personality. Even this view might be reaching too far, but it still at least explains the seemingly random harem moments present in this action series.

My issue isn’t so much about fan service. STEINS;GATE isn’t the first anime to incorporate sexuality, and it certainly won’t be the last. My issue is how obviously out-of-place this sexual element feels. STEINS;GATE devotes itself to scientific principles, which makes it a little different from other anime. It uses chaos theory and the butterfly effect to build an emotionally engaging storyline that really makes people ruminate over the dangers of playing God. Since these principles aren’t exactly common knowledge, STEINS;GATE spends a lot of time explaining these concepts through formulas, equations, and moral discussions. The same characters (notably Kurisu and Okabe) that discuss these scientific principles in-depth also talk about their respective virginities and whether it is okay to eat bananas while looking happy. The contrast between sexuality and science doesn’t feel natural here and, in my opinion, hurts the show’s core scientific themes.

Kurisu once again blushing in STEINS;GATE
If I had a dollar for every time Kurisu blushed in STEINS;GATE…. | Image: Crunchyroll

Anime Watchlist: WOLF’S RAIN

Change my Mind, STEINS;GATE 0!

Many series don’t get the opportunity to correct their mistakes from the past. However, STEINS;GATE 0 has the potential to do exactly that. This sequel series is already three episodes in and seems like a promising show so far.

The biggest thing on my wishlist is for STEINS;GATE 0 to adapt as much material from its visual novel as possible. The original STEINS;GATE anime left out important details from the visual novel that could have made the series better. If STEINS;GATE 0 can avoid this mistake and stay true to its original source, the one everyone fell in love with, then the anime should undoubtedly be a success. If that’s the case, then STEINS;GATE 0 might succeed in changing my mind about the series!

Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll

12 Comments

  1. Zack Christensen

    October 27, 2018 at 3:07 am

    Hahahaha, No! Honestly, what was the point of writing this article? I’m not trying to be mean, but this more so feels like your own personal grievances with the show rather than actual reasons why the show is “bad”. Basically from what you wrote my understanding is that the show doesn’t suit your taste, which does not equate to the show being “bad”. What people don’t seem to understand especially when they say they don’t like the first half because it’s “slow” is that it’s necessary to set up the story, world building and relationships. Another thing is you say that many people don’t like the first half because of the “snail pace” but there’s two sides of the same coin. The reason why people loved the second half of the show, was because they enjoyed the first half just as much. I personally loved the first half of the show, and many others do too. Hey maybe comicverse should hire me to write reviews because I’m 100% certain that I can write articles just as “good” as yours in 20 minutes. This article is just one giant nitpick and not a critical review, please learn to discern the difference.

    Reply

  2. Wychocki Fakeman (@wychocki)

    October 7, 2018 at 5:13 am

    Just really quick, all of your criticisms are pretty valid in my opinion too, except I didn’t really have a problem with Okabe/Kurisu romance, I remember thinking how in every timeline, Okabe realized the Kurisu was always the only one able to grasp the depths of the struggles he was facing and actually offer a helping hand. But the main point I want to make, is that when you have a series as widely acclaimed as one like Steins;Gate, there’s almost always a case to be made for it being overrated, as everything has a few flaws. To me though, after finishing it, I didn’t feel like any of the flaws took away from the experience enough for me to see it as anything less than great. I agree that there were some flaws harem moments and I hate Daru, too, but I was still pulled into the story despite those problems. It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t jump on someone for claiming it’s a masterpiece. I might say yeah it’s really good, not sure about masterpiece, but ultimately, I don’t think the show doesn’t deserve the wide acclaim that it gets. It has a lot going for it despite the issues that slip though.

    Reply

  3. Lul

    August 11, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Chaos; series is dead because of how overrated Steins;Gate is
    some day
    we’ll get some good Chaos; series anime adaption

    Reply

  4. Rishank Gupta

    August 5, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    yes the first few episode were slow paced they were necessary in trying to introduce character establish their relationship, if they had skipped or made a time skip from kurisu joining the lab to creation of time leap machine then you wouldn’t have cared for these character when their part in story comes, it shows us value of all those things okabe had to sacrifice in order to save mayuri, and it also slowly depicts how each of his decision is changing the world so that when it comes bak to bite him in the ass you know how he screwed up

    Reply

  5. Mad Scientist

    June 26, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    Legal Loli For the Win

    Reply

  6. Tyler W Durham

    June 22, 2018 at 12:21 am

    Sorry, this show is in my top 10. I personally thought it was excellent.

    Reply

  7. murtuza salman

    June 17, 2018 at 9:57 pm

    I don’t think that it’s overrated,I know the story is.slow but I think it’s somhow an overwhelmingly cute story where okabe tries to save his friends.

    Reply

  8. Aaron Schrader

    May 21, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    Pretty sure you’re alon in thinking Steins;Gate is overrated here. The above comments sum up my thoughts very nicely

    Reply

    • Diego M

      June 15, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Nop, he’s not alone. The slow pacing of the first episodes are awful, most people don’t even care to adress it just because they played the visual novels or either because they aren’t that critical.

      Reply

  9. João Pedro Ramos (JpNex)

    May 15, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    Your argument for the romance being forced ignores a lot of their relationship. First of all, there were FAR more momments aside from the one you mentioned. Their talk in the lab party, Kurisu thanking Okabe on that bridge and helping him after all those time leaps in the exactly same place. This not the count the numerous times she helped him get trough hell, he relied on her when no one was there for him. You also wrongly assumes that their arguments diminishes the romance, when it’s actually the other way around. Both of them are social akwards, Kurisu in special had very little contact with casual situations before going to the lab. Their teasing is what makes them get close to each other, their arguments are something that they like and created great chemistry between them, and as they are trying to hide their feelings, a bunch of sexual tension appears. Im the end of the day, it’s trough trivial events that we all fall in love. Search for the trope Billigerant Sexual Tension and you might grasp it better.

    I also feel like that you misunderstood what truly is important in the series. The scientific part is secondary, Steins;Gate is far more about Akihabara’s culture, character drama and the theme of growing up. The sci fi is only a background. Their interactions isn’t distracting from anything.

    Reply

  10. bioniclefanatic

    May 15, 2018 at 5:51 am

    Saying Steins;Gate is bad because it was confusing is as inane as saying that Death Note was bad because the protagonist was a badguy. *That. Was. The. Point.* If the first episode was so mind-bending for you that it engenders a dissonance to the plight of the cliché but arguably well-written characters, then maybe this isn’t the anime for you. I don’t want to use the term “to intelligent for you”, but you’re making it damn hard not to.

    Steins;Gate takes your head and puts it through the wringer with that first episode. What makes the narrative gold instead of dirt (like Chaos;Head) is that everything eventually makes sense: it isn’t just random nonsense being flung about willy-nilly. What makes it even better is that you’re not alone; Okabe is experiencing the sense of WTF at the same time you are. The story isn’t holding anything back, Sherlock-style. You’re going through the journey of discovery along with the protagonist.

    I find it really weird that most people consider the first half of the series to be boring, as I enjoyed those the most. Those episodes are the building blocks for the whole series, the groundwork for the climatic final few. They’re not just dithying about, Haruhi Suzumiya-style. They’re constantly building the world, establishing the rules, testing those rules to their limits, setting up the relationships between the characters, and ultimately attempting to unravel the mystery that the original episode posed: that being, “what the hell is going on?”. If you’ve already tuned out, if you’ve decided that you don’t care why the world is so messed up, then you’re going to find it dull. It’s simple as that.

    What also helps investment are the characters, and the emotional depth they lend to what’s happening on-screen. And if you’ve switched off after that first episode, if you’ve put up walls, then you’re not going to become invested. Yes, they’re cliché on the surface. Okabe is an awkward delusional conspiracy nut, Daru is a neckbeard without the neckbeard, Mayuri is a ditzy child, and Kurisu is a tsundere with daddy issues. And yet, they all change over the course of the show. Okabe’s transformation is the most obvious to us, because his memories are the only constant across worldlines, but that doesn’t mean the other characters remain static. Daru gets a taste of responsibility by meeting Suzuha, Mayuri sacrifices herself to save Okabe, and Kurisu confronts her father in an attempt to make amends (albeit with consequences that kick off the whole adventure). These aren’t complex characters in the way that Light Yagami is with his god complex, they’re everyday people with everyday interests. That’s what makes it all the more powerful for the viewer when crazy shenanigans start to mess up their lives: because they feel real. But again, if you’ve tuned out due to that first episode being “too confusing” (even though that’s the point, as it’s made abundantly clear), then you’re not going to see “real”. You’re going to see “boring”.

    If there’s one point I agree with, then it’s the fanservice. It *does* feel out of place, but at the same time it’s a lot less prominent that you make it out to be; and it makes narrative sense. The second episode is particularly cringeworthy, but even then it serves to highlight the awkwardness of two dorks having a strange girl suddenly in their midst. It would have been nice if they’d toned it back a little, but compared to most anime it’s positively tame.

    But hey, what do I know? I’m just a mad anime noob.

    Reply

  11. nou

    May 13, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    No, u

    Reply

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