Steins;Gate 0 – Part Two (Episodes 13-24) (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 294 minutes approx
Once again, we find ourselves caught up in the complex rabbit hole of intrigue, mystery, betrayal, and time travel as Steins;Gate 0 rolls on. As the first volume of this elliptical sequel ended, amnesiac war orphan Kagari Shiina was starting to reclaim bits of her lost memory, crucially that she was adopted by Mayuri Shiina in the future.
Mayuri has her moment in the spotlight in this concluding part of the story, though it is only in part due to Kagari’s presence, the rest revolving around her unrequited love for series protagonist Rintaro Okabe. But first, there are issues with Kagari that need to be addressed first and we pick up the story with her having suddenly disappeared one rainy afternoon.
During the search, Okabe and Moeka Kiryu visit the location where Karagi was originally found as a child, learning that it used to be a facility that once experimented on people, leading to the conclusion Karagi’s amnesia and occasional odd behaviour may have been the result of brainwashing. But who would do such a thing and why?
This is a recurring question asked in this final set of episodes to wrap up Steins;Gate 0 and as you might expect, the answer is never easily arrived at. In fact, the closer Okabe and friends get to an answer, new questions arise sending them back to the drawing board. It’s lucky they have a time machine so they go back in time and get the answers first hand, right?
Actually it is the time machine that is the root of their problems this time around with Karagi being a vital part of just one of the nefarious parties keen on getting their hands on it, whilst others wish to destroy it to start World War III instead. If the Amadeus Arc in the first volume made the progress of the show seem meandering, this is somewhat rectified by the glut of action packed shootouts, violent fights, and nail biting races against time featured in this collection.
Whilst much of the first volume was about the theory of time travel, this one sees that theory put into action on many occasions, recalling the excitement and wonder of the original Steins;Gate series hitherto missing in earlier episodes. There is still the need for some foundation laying before we get to these points, such as otaku hacker Daru wooing Yuki Amane otherwise their daughter Suzuha won’t be born (complete with diegetic Back To The Future reference).
By reintroducing the time travel aspect of the story, things start to come full circle in repeating key events of the first series, namely the return of the Mad Scientist Kyouma Hououin. After failing to save Mayurii’s life on numerous occasions despite the ability to time leap, Okabe realises he has to get serious and reverts to his alter ego, lifting him out of his depression and back in the game as an unstoppable science genius.
It is likely this was a missing factor from the first half of this series that had so many fans wonder where the show they loved so much had disappeared to, so they have cause to rejoice with his timely return. But Okabe is not the only character to undergo a drastic personality change – the time hopping gimmick sees many of the cast evolve into people totally different to how we currently know them.
Since the source material is a visual novel video game with multiple outcomes, these possibilities have been cleverly integrated into the plot, ramping up the drama whenever they yield a disastrous result for our heroes. This does incur much repetition but nothing as bad as the infamous Endless Eight Arc in the second season of Haruhi Suzumiya, and definitely more relevant to forwarding the plot.
Of course, time travel stories always bring with them a unique set of problems that viewers will likely spot that writers may not notice or simply ignore. In this case, there is one glaring issue regarding Okabe’s numerous failed rescue attempts that beg the question why he didn’t ensure precautionary measures to stop the inevitable recurring, though I imagine this was simply to eke out of the drama of Okabe being beaten to the punch every time.
Forgive me if that sounds obtuse but sci-fi anime is in a league of its own when it comes to using (and abusing) the rules and mechanics of science to fit its narrative, and Steins;Gate has already proven itself a champion in that field. Once the science speak regarding time travel begins in earnest, it is prime mumbo jumbo but convincing mumbo jumbo, unless you know any better.
Regardless of how credible its scientific credentials are, the last few episodes are tightly wound like a coil, each one threatening to explode and pierce us in the eye at any given moment. The twists are self-contained and self-referential, yet serve to challenge both our protagonists and the audience, upping the stakes of the success of their missions in every timeline to produce some truly gripping drama.
Anime adaptations have a history of building to a promising climax which often fails to meet expectations, and the way Steins;Gate 0 ends will fall somewhere in between the two extremes. The ending leaves things open to further adventures, though admittedly is a little goofy, but it is not like the whole show isn’t built on a fanciful premise in the first place. Following the last episode with an OVA about Valentine’s Day is a flat way to end this release.
It took a while to find its groove but Steins;Gate 0 is able to make a return to the former glory of the first series with this thrilling, taut, inventive, if overly complex second half, whilst creating its own path towards something fresh and equally intriguing. Hopefully those unimpressed with the first volume with find their faith restored here – if not, they can always go back to the start and try again!
English Language 5.1 True HD
Japanese Language 2.0 True HD
Episode 20 Commentary
Episode 18 Video Commentary
Textless Opening Song – “Fatima” Ver. 1
Textless Opening Song – “Fatima” Ver. 2
Textless Closing Song – “World-Line”
Rating – ****
Man In Black