Steins;Gate – 11

While Okabe is simply the most central, influential, and leading character of Steins;Gate, has anyone noticed the storytelling is content with only following him throughout the entire series.  We have had minimal time away from our main character, never spending time alone among the subordinates of the lab.  We’ve never seen Okabe-less scenes of Ruka and Mayuri cosplaying together, Daru being a potential hazard for the staff at May Queen Nyan Nyan, or Moeka aimlessly wandering the streets like a modern wayfarer.  No, it’s always centered on Okabe.  And that’s a positive for Steins;Gate.

When comparing the storytelling of Steins;Gate to other anime, you immediately realize how intense the focus is on the main character compared to other characters on their own.  An example of it toward other characters would be having ‘meanwhile’ scenes showing the villains doing something or minor characters performing some task that then affected the lead or sets off a chain reaction of events or ends in an entertaining joke or whatever.  You see it in [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control when Mikuni goes over his backstory to develop his character while introducing Takako, in Dog Days to show Leonmichelle’s true purpose and plan and develop her half of the story, and in Softenni for various gags on all the other members of the soft tennis club.  But for Steins;Gate, the camera can’t leave Okabe, not even for a scene, let alone a meaningful one.  You could say the camera in Steins;Gate has Super Mario 64 syndrome (still can’t believe that game is 15 years old now).

Had Steins;Gate followed the storytelling path of so many other anime and other media, we probably would have seen various shots involving other characters.  There could have been some non-sequential shots to further develop Faris’s history as well as provide clues to her D-mail.  We could also have seen Ruka get bullied or hit on as a male providing a visual assertion to why he wants a free sex-change.  And perhaps more interestingly, there could have been shots back at SERN where employees detected Itaru’s intrusion and then began the process that began spying on the inoffensive lab and its innocent members.  But no, we see everything through Okabe and the events that go on around him.  And I’ll tell you why I like that over these previous examples.

Rather than conveying the story point that Okabe is being stalked by SERN by showing SERN learn about the hack and then acting, we see Okabe receive these troubling messages from unknown sources that would send a chill down anyone’s spine.  For one, it’s more dramatic and, therefore improves the story.  While the series could be content with both scenes and providing clear answers to our questions, the series goes for a more intriguing and stimulating twist.  It piques the audience’s interest and I probably will be a major discussion point on the blogosphere or wherever we anime fans choose to converse about our beloved shows.

Same thing for the Faris and Ruka situations.  Not knowing Faris’s backstory or her text starts a new mystery for us to consider, especially considering the magnitude her D-mail had in the world Okabe crossed into.  I prefer it like this, especially in an anime that thrives on mysteries like Steins;Gate.  As for Ruka, the bullying aspect would help supplement his character but would be unnecessary.  The point was already conveyed during the forced-cosplay, the suggestive looks by his male friends, and lastly by Kurisu’s sexually-driven inquiry.  Anything additional would be unnecessary, especially considering the storytelling, but would be interesting and enjoyable nonetheless.  However, everything we learn about everything comes through Okabe, which I feel is one of the charms about the storytelling of Steins;Gate.  But this is no accident; the story is structured to be told this way.

Steins;Gate (the anime) borrows heavily from Steins;Gate (the visual novel) and the storytelling reflect that.  There are very evident elements of video game storytelling in Steins;Gate and following the main character the whole time just so happens to be one of the more obvious traits that copied over when transcribing across media.  The reason we follow Okabe so closely is because the game did.  Without this derivative structure, we may see the storytelling of Steins;Gate more like other anime where we have Okabe-less (aka boring) scenes that introduce, develop, or conclude plot points.  The storytelling following the main character and seeing the story and characters develop before his eyes all the time is one of the key positives that I enjoy about Steins;Gate.

However, while I’ve seemingly gone on and on about following Okabe, there have been other scenes where Okabe is not present.  The first one I thought of was when Moeka was happily (?) texting across the street from the fallen satellite at the beginning of the sixth episode.  This short scene, however, added to the mystery of Moeka’s character as well as reinforces her timid and soundless persona.  The scene never showed or mentioned Okabe.  So it kinda puts a dent into what I was mentioning earlier about how the story always revolves around Okabe, and there are other scenes, too, but I feel my point still stands.

Oh, and while we’re on that forgotten scene (I guess I pay more attention to Mokea than most) we still haven’t gotten any closer to figuring out what was going on in that scene, although we know she only talks to Okabe out of the main cast (she never acknowledged Mayuri in this episode, even after a joyous tutuuru).  Hopefully we see some development with her, especially since all the pictures she takes will definitely come in handy for future endeavors.  But there have been a lot of mysterious scenes like that which easily get forgotten or ignored.  I almost feel like the anime wants us to rewatch the series when it is over to catch these clever and subtle hints and allow us to see what’s going on once we know everything.  Either that or we get flashbacks to refresh our memory, which I’d prefer, before continuing on those overlooked topics.  Either way, I enjoy those mini-mysteries even if all they do is stimulate my brain for a few minutes before moving onto something relevant or something funny.  Or more importantly, something Kurisu.

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  1. #1 by Joojoobees on June 15, 2011 - 6:55 AM

    I agree with your basic points (that the anime presents the story essentially through Okabe’s eyes, and that is good). There are some other scenes which undercut the very strong way you lay it out (“everything we learn about everything comes through Okabe”); there are a couple of scenes with Suzuha where we see her playing with the object that turns out to be a badge, and one specifically where she is fixing the bike outside the shop when Mr. Braun’s daughter sees the light from an experiment (later Okabe asks them if they saw the light and they say no, because the world-line has been changed).

    But aside from these very few (and brief) scenes, the show does just what you say. It traps us in Okabe’s perspective, which is very satisfying, because it forces us to deal with the reliability of the viewpoint character, and it gives the narrative a real unity that some shows lack.

    • #2 by avvesione on June 15, 2011 - 7:35 AM

      Oh yeah, kinda forgot about those scenes. I’m sure there are others, too, like Kurisu in the hotel room but they’re so few and far between.

      But yeah, I like how Steins;Gate follows Okabe around and shows us what’s going on from his perspective, especially since he’s the one who goes through these time leaps and virtually drives the story from his position. It’s a pretty unique way of storytelling for anime, I feel.

  2. #3 by tomphile on June 15, 2011 - 9:29 AM

    Personally, whose life we follow doesn’t hold much influence over how much I’ll enjoy the show. If anything, the way the story is going now is suiting me just fine.

    All for suspense, and what was with that creepy baby head? D:

    Uuuuugh.

    • #4 by avvesione on June 15, 2011 - 8:59 PM

      Well, I think it’s necessary for the story to follow Okabe since he’s the one who’s experienced all these time shifts and, since we’re following him throughout the course of the anime, we experience them as well. Imagine if we weren’t able to follow those time jumps at all and we just see Okabe fade between varying degrees of mad scientist to clinically insane.

      But I get what you’re saying about how it has no overall affect on your enjoyment of the story. It’s just something I noticed compared to some of the other anime I’ve been watching this season.

      And that picture was strange. It made the show creepier but it lessened the lethality of the sender. If it were SERN texting Okabe, I doubt they’d do something like send a picture of a bloody doll head to him to scare him if they were planning to kill him. It seems rather immature, like they’re just trying to Scooby-Doo scare him away from time-travel rather than sending out an assassin to kill him.

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