In my review of Steins;Gate, part 1, I started out with the series’ tagline: “The microwave is a time machine.” It seems only appropriate to tell you the tagline for part 2: “The microwave is a time machine and the girl always gets shot.” If that’s not warning enough, let me be up front and say that this will be a bit spoiler-y. Normally I try very hard to keep spoilers out of my reviews, but seeing how part 1 ends with this particular incident and it’s the driving force behind the majority of part 2, it’ll have to be said. You’ve been warned.
Part 1 ended with the Future Gadget Laboratory throwing a party in order to celebrate the success of their time machine, which has been tweaked to allow a person to send his or her consciousness back in time by up to two days. The lab is suddenly stormed by armed men who take the members hostage. Moeka, a friend of Okarin and a lab member herself, announces that she is a spy for SERN and is there to take them into custody. Mayuri, however, is deemed unnecessary and executed on the spot. Okarin makes a desperate jump back in time in order to save Mayuri and protect the lab members. But Mayuri dies again, this time run over by a car. Another time leap and she dies after accidentally being pushed in front of an oncoming train. Again and again, Mayuri’s time is up and Okarin can’t protect her.
This inevitable death is what drives Okarin to undo the work done in the first half of the series. All of the lab members’ D-Mails have brought them to the current timeline, one that ends with a totalitarian world ruled by SERN in 2036. Okarin must erase or overwrite the D-Mails previously sent in order to return to the original timeline. Not every lab member is willing to undo the D-Mails. As Okarin works to persuade them, he uncovers each member’s past, as well as their secrets. Even as the timelines come closer to merging, our resident mad scientist realizes that he may not be able to save everyone.
Whereas the first half of the series seemed aimless and off-the-wall, Steins;Gate part 2 is serious and emotionally hard-hitting. It seems to be a trend with this series that for every uplifting, light-hearted moment there will be an equally tragic, unexpectedly gut-wrenching moment that will leave you a bit of a wreck. Okarin’s mad scientist persona has been a wonderful act; we get a glimpse beyond the lab coat when he is at his most desperate. I was surprised by how much I cared about these characters and mourned their sacrifices. Friends, family members, and identity are given up in exchange for saving Mayuri and the future. Seeing her repeated death takes a toll on Okarin, who becomes less the evil genius we’ve grown to love and more numb toward the people he’s trying to protect. The series leaves viewers to ask how much of themselves they’d be willing to give up to save someone.
While the artwork itself doesn’t change from the first part of the series, visually the tone becomes much darker. Shadows deepen, apartments become dreary and confining, and there’s an abundance of rain. There’s little of the oddball comedy featured earlier in the show. One episode, which explored Moeka’s history, left me glancing over my shoulder and turning on all the lights in the house. I failed to mention this in my first review, but the voice actors for the English-dubbed release do an exceptional job. Their portrayals are memorable and breath life into the characters. Veteran voice actor J. Michael Tatum is amazing as Okarin, capturing his bravado, passion, and despair. Every character plays an important part in the series, becoming meaningful in unexpected ways, and the voice actors shine in their roles.
Steins;Gate is very much a character-driven story. Compared to the first half of the series, this half deeply explores its cast’s motivations and histories. The second part of the series is also remarkably violent and dark. There is a great deal of violence, particularly towards women. While this typically happens off screen, it is still disturbing.
For fans of science fiction, this is an excellent series to pick up. It explores time travel theories in a way that isn’t too daunting, but is still grounded in science. More confusing may be the arrangement of the show’s narrative – this is truly a case of the end is the beginning is the end.
You know that feeling you get when you’re putting a puzzle together and you finally understand the picture the pieces are forming? That’s the feeling you get as Steins;Gate draws to a close. You recognize the symbolism, the odd breaks of flashing numbers, and the significance of the credits. I enjoyed that, at 25 episodes, this is an easy series to watch. No worrying about tons of seasons or an excessive amount of episodes. For having so many plot points, the conclusion is satisfying and left me wanting to watch it all over again. Steins;Gate is one of the best recent anime available and well worth adding to your collection.