A majority of TV anime nowadays tends to pander towards otaku bait and fan service, for the sole purpose of selling the show on physical media and tying into various merchandise for fans to go crazy over. On the surface, Steins;Gate is a series that has just about everything that caters towards this audience, with its cutesy girl characters that dress up in cosplay and the fact that its based off a visual novel on the Xbox 360. While it has certainly spun into various manga, light novels and other tie in’s for the otaku masses, it is one of the most invigorating sci-fi shows that manges to balance aspects of a time traveling, paranoia thriller, whilst staying extremely funny and smart for the entire first set of 12 episodes.
The series follows Rintaro Okabe aka Hooin Kyoma, a self proclaimed mad scientist that has founded the Future Gadget Laboratory, that is dedicated to creating technology to stop the “Organization” from taking over the world. He and his associates, Itaru “Daru” Hashida, resident hacker and Mayuri Shiina, a cosplayer and supposed hostage of Okabe. Things begin to drastically change once the members induct the fourth member of the lab, the young and talented Kurisu Makise, an intelligent 18 year old that applies her knowledge to help their projects. Together, they accidentally create a sort of time machine, that is able to send messages back in time via text message and then eventually email. While at first, sending these texts and emails change minor things, events begin to drastically alter, with only Rintaro remembering the original events. Through all this, they do manage to raise attention to an actual “organization” called SERN, who sees the Future Gadget Lab as a viable threat and tries to wipe them out. From the very first episode, it just too easy for one to get hooked on Steins;Gate from its engaging premise to the colorful characters that create a very memorable series.
While in real life, Okabe would come off as an absolute lunatic, his antics and behavior, in general and towards his cohorts are just laugh out loud funny. From undermining Makise, by calling her his assistant, to the way he ditches Daru at the noodle shop, Okabe manages to show much empathy and genuine concern once SERN becomes an immediate threat. Every single character manages to contribute bits of comedy to the whole show, that makes them feel like an ensemble in a sitcom, with the backdrop being about time travel and parallel universes. Another great element of this show hands down comes from the English version of the script and the cast that Funimation grabbed for this series.
J. Michael Tatum pulls double duty by playing Okabe and adapting the script of the series, in which he knocks out both the performance and the script right out of the park. The script certainly takes some liberties in making the series aimed at American audiences, with references to Star Trek: The Next Generation and plenty of other geeky things, but for this it just absolutely works. From Trina Nishimura’s Makise, to Tyson Rinnehart’s Daru, every single person kills their Japanese counterparts in performance and really brings these characters to life.
Funimation released Steins;Gate Part 1 in a DVD/Blu-Ray Combo pack, which includes a chipboard box, to house the first and second sets to complete the series. The special features include a commentary for episodes 1 and 12, a map of Akihabara, where the characters live and various important events happen and textless intro’s and outro’s. While there isn’t that many special features, the content in this set makes up for everything that in this first portion of Steins;Gate. Funimation has certainly outdone themselves with their acquisition of Steins;Gate, which presents itself as a front runner as a well executed sci-fi show that does everything it needs to appease the hardcore fans, whilst presenting an adaptation that could bring in fans that never knew they could enjoy an anime like this. Highly Recommended!