Beware spoilers for Steins;Gate
Are you a believer of fate? While I, myself, am not, it’s an incredibly interesting concept to think about. The idea that no matter what you do, some things are destined to happen. Given the power to try and change them time and time again, yet never being able to succeed, could destroy a man like a shining oasis just out of reach of a man dying in a desert. Such is the case for everyone’s favorite “mad scientist” Rintaro Okabe.
At the end of Steins;Gate, Okabe manages to reach the Steins Gate worldline and save both Mayuri and Kurisu from their seemingly inevitable deaths. However, you may remember that Okabe failed to save Kurisu once, causing him to fall back into his hopeless despair. Even with another chance to save her, he initially refused, believing it to be impossible. This was only broken by an encouraging Mayuri and a message sent from himself 25 years in the future. Steins;Gate 0 takes place between these two attempts to save her, so to speak, as in this timeline, he never goes the second time and Kurisu’s life is never saved.
Our story begins several months after that fateful encounter. Okabe has given up the persona of the mad scientist Hououin Kyouma and tries to live life as a normal college student (one who’s technically responsible for the death of his only true love and is constantly tormented by the thought, but normal nonetheless). However, everything changes when he comes into contact with Maho Hiyajo (otherwise known as Science Loli), who is announcing her team’s work on Amadeus, a program capable of forming true artificial intelligence by copying the brainwaves and thought patterns of a person. After some talking with her and her partner, Alexis Leskinen, Okabe is brought on to help test Amadeus through regular interaction, like a Turing test of sorts. And so, as he deals with the trauma of what happened, he pushes on. It doesn’t last long, though, as the mistakes of his past come back to haunt him and his friends on an unprecedented scale.
As far as the story goes, I say it’s even better than the first. With all the world-building and most of the character introductions out of the way from the first season, Steins;Gate 0 is able to jump right into the story. As it unfolds, we are able to witness a broken Okabe struggle to come to terms with the traumas that have befallen him while also witnessing the same humorous and heartfelt interactions of the Future Gadget Laboratory members as they make their way through the challenges that face them. It gives a nice blend of pain and happiness that not many works can pull off to such a degree. Each second has something going on and you’ll be dragged this way and that on the same rollercoaster of fun, sorrow, suspense, and thrill that made the first season work so well.
The characters, once again, are simply incredibly written and played. Many characters face little change from their original selves, keeping many of their traits like Mayuri’s lovable purity to Daru’s laughable impurity. However, we also get to see some more effort put into the side plots, such as exploring the father/daughter dynamic of Daru and Suzuha in more depth. Rather than the entire story revolving around Okabe, we are given a look into the other characters, which is something I felt the first season lacked. Overall, it’s clear that these characters were treated with care when it came to crafting everything about them, from their developed personalities to even their attire. It’s given a level of quality that is scarcely found. This goes for the voice acting as well. Each one once again fits their character so well, you’d think that they were designed around the voices alone. In every line, the characters express a range of emotions that work well with each scene.
As for the art, animation, and music, once again do they shine. From the bustling streets of Akihabara to the chaotic Future Gadget Lab and it’s members, White Fox does well to translate the watercolor-styled depictions in the visual novel into a lively anime-suitable adaptation that still stays true to the source (aside from Kurisu’s hair, which remains a deep crimson despite it being a chestnut color in the VNs. That bugs me.). As for the animation, there really isn’t much to say. It does what it’s supposed to do and it does it well. No complaints from me. The music, though, is something to remember. Although the intro will never beat the first season’s, it is still is enjoyable enough to wind up in my playlist from time to time. The background music sets are still some of my favorite in anime, pulling in every emotion in the scene and emphasizing it beautifully, from the moments of dark pain to those of amusing banter. It fits like a glove.
Overall, Steins;Gate 0 does not let down on any front. Every part of it works so well with one another to make up another great season and a fitting end to Steins;Gate. When it all draws to a close, you’re left reeling from the experience of it grabbing you by the hand, holding you close, and punching you in the gut with heart-wrenching tragedy while caressing you with moments of calming beauty. At the end of the ride, though, you’re left fulfilled as the pieces have fallen into place. Much like the first season, Steins;Gate 0 is one of the few anime that actually left me shedding a tear. That alone is enough to make sure that I recommend this, but with everything else that it brings, the only word that I feel fits to describe it is “masterpiece”. So go watch Steins;Gate if you haven’t already and immediately follow up with Steins;Gate 0. I’m sure it will be one you’ll never forget.