February is the month of love, yet while Shallow Dives always likes to have our time of love in the summer, I won’t turn away a chance to do something for Valentine’s Day. Aside from our month long look at the infamous Yosuga no Sora, I am also going to spend some time talking about two of my favorite anime relationships. Let’s not waste anytime and after the cut, take a character dive into Steins;Gate‘s Rintaro Okabe and Makise Kurisu.
As much as I am an anime fan, I am not that big of a romance guy. While I love a good romance, It’s never been a massive thing for me. Romance manga and anime never really pulled me in, mostly because I just don’t find a story focused on a romance to be that compelling. However what I have enjoyed is when a great series has two characters that really click well together. Such is the case with Steins;Gate and it’s two main leads. I’ve gushed about both of these characters before, and I think it is well deserved. Kurisu and Okabe are almost 90% of why Steins;Gate is as successful as it is. While the time traveling adventures are interesting, the weight of the story is carried by these two characters and the banter and relationship that forms from it. Without the great chemistry of Okabe and Kurisu, Steins;Gate would probably have never found its level of success.
That success is built upon not making their relationship the central focus of the series, and furthermore, not tying Steins;Gate to two scientists trying to one up each other. While both Okabe and Kurisu have egos, and are both clearly intelligent, there is little if any, dick measuring going on between them. While they have banter over certain theories, and their first meeting does have Kurisu giving him an intellectual beat-down, their relationship isn’t about trying to find out who is smarter. What is even better is that Kurisu, like most female characters in anime, is given the freedom to actually just be herself. She doesn’t have to prove anything to the audience, or even Okabe. There is no justifying her place among the group, no trying to one up or boast about her intelligence because of the perceived “handicap” of being a woman. Okabe just accepts that Kurisu is smart, probably more so than him, and the story focus on telling its story. The romance doesn’t even come until the last quarter of the series, with so much of the story just focusing on them being friends, working with each other and the other members of the lab working out the mysteries of time travel. Yet that build up and time spent without it makes the payoff work so perfectly.
Okabe’s mad scientist persona, and his constant teasing of Kurisu with the nicknames is also important to this. This constant banter and comical bickering between the two allows Kurisu to once again step outside her character role as a scientist and thinker. It is completely refreshing, even in anime to see that despite being an intellectual, Kurisu is not a complete doormat, she has feelings, emotions, ambitions, fears and desires, and is actually able to hold a conversation with a variety of people. Like with the other relationship I will talk about this month, having Okabe and Kurisu meet up and develop a bond gives helps fill the gaps in their personalities: Okabe serves as a vent for Kurisu is actually just be what she really is: a really smart and dweeby teenager, while Kurisu provides a cynical reality check on Okabe’s supposed maniacal delusions. A simple case of opposites attracts sure, but it works so damn well.
This may not be the most in-depth look at these two characters, and I’m sure I’m missing stuff that others can explain better, but Okabe Rintaro and Makise Kurisu are one of my favorite anime couples for a reason. They are people first, and have a story arc and life beyond the fact that they are attracted to each other. Their relationship isn’t about hidden emotions, or making googly eyes at each other or even the tsundere nature that Kurisu hilariously tries to hide. It’s two people working together and solving a problem. They are friends, colleagues, and comical rivals first, and lovers second. It was just plain fun to watch these characters just talk with each other, and let the pieces fall where they may. Sometimes that is more than enough.