Some people have criticized the first half of Steins;Gate because much of what happens is set up. However I would argue that such things in series like these are important, vitally so. This time allowed with the characters gives viewers a reason to be attached to them so that, when the plot comes knocking, they are invested in what is happening. That is the case with Steins;Gate as the second half suddenly becomes all about the central plot of the story. Let’s not waste anytime and get into my thoughts on the second half of the series after the cut.
There is really no better way to sum up my thoughts on the last half of the series that with what I wrote above. Your enjoyment of the second half of Steins;Gate is going to be almost wholly dependent on what you thought of the first half. If you liked the characters, especially the dynamic between Okabe and Kurisu, then you are going to enjoy the rest of the series. If you didn’t, then it is going to be hard to recommend the rest, because so much of what makes it work rests on those two characters.
With the second half, we follow Okabe as he desperately tries to find a way to change the future and prevent the death of this friend Mayuri, who was lost when the agents of SERN attempted to take the time machine. However changing the past isn’t so easy, and the rest of the series follows Okabe as he tries and fails over and over to fix not only his personal future, but the fate of the entire world, because nothing is done in a vacuum, and making a time machine isn’t something you can just ignore.
Like I said before, the entire second half rests on the back and forth between the two main leads, and it is absolutely rock solid. There are few anime couples, platonic or not, that has a much chemistry than Okabe and Kurisu, who bounce off each other so damn well. There is sass, there is arguments, there is tenderness and then there is romance, and all of it is some of the best I’ve seen in the genre period. I may be biased as their type of relationship is my favorite, but I do think that both Kurisu and Okabe form a long lasting bond, and eventual romance that is both wholly believable and wholly earned.
Okabe himself takes full center stage in the back half and I really liked how, when the realities of real life and the brutal truth of what he has created smack him in the face; the mad scientist persona drops completely. He becomes a scared young man, terrified over what has happened, and devastated that his actions have and might, create so much misfortune. His constant jumps back in time, repeating the same events over and over again, and failing so many time also have a strain on him, and there are several moments where Okabe is at the end of his rope. You can’t blame him if he wants to give up, because there are times when saving Mayuri and preventing the rise of SERN seem almost impossible.
The secondary cast is also done pretty well in the second half as well. While they are very much secondary characters, and never having the importance compared to say, YU-NO’s heroines, characters like Faris, Moeka, Daru, Suzuha and Luka do well enough. They all have their moments and as Okabe tries to undo the time changes he and his friends created it helps pull back on the layers on the story and give them all more depth. The two best in my mind are Moeka and Suzuha, especially the latter as her attempts to fix the future end in a gut punch that I’m still reeling from.I am still surprised that Steins;Gate went for that call, but it was damn effective.
If there is a single major problem (aside from Luka being just ‘there’ as a character) it is that the series does feel a little rushed at the end. Once the Mayuri plot-line is solved, the story attempts to shove in a final mini Kurisu focused arc that, while connected to the overall story, does feel a tiny bit compact in the end. While I loved HOW the story returns to this point (I completely forgot about the first parts of the start, so it completely shocked me), I couldn’t helped but feel that it just felt a little tacked on. It still works though and is absolutely important to the overall plot, I just wish it had gotten another episode or two, especially when the character start throwing information at you so damn fast.
Steins;Gate is a fucking GREAT series. While parts of it do feel very much like a serious anime-version of Back to the Future, it is an (almost) tightly told story with fun science, plenty of twists and turns, and some of the best character chemistry between two leads I’ve seen to date. It is a series that walks in the halls that YU-NO: A Girl who Chants Love at the Bound of this World built, but it proudly stands on its own feet by taking those basic concepts and doing their thing with them. I don’t know many anime that involve time travel, but Steins;Gate would probably be the very best of them. I cannot wait to get back into the visual novel now that I am endeared to this characters, because I just don’t want to leave them behind just yet.