Whenever the finale to an anime approaches, your mind begins creating various fantasies of how you imagine the ending. Taking every possibility into account, there are always those normal ones where everything goes right and it ends on a high and happy note, and then there are those depressing ones where nothing seems to go right and it ends in regret and sorrow. There are those bittersweet ones twisting love and sacrifice together, and those random, unexpected ones that nobody saw coming. Then, after all that, the finale comes and you see which one, if any, is correct. As good as it may feel to call the ‘correct’ ending, it’s much more satisfying to get the ending you desire. And that’s exactly how Steins;Gate ended.
Steins;Gate ended in the best way imaginable, especially for Okabe after going through his extraordinary journey throughout the course of the series. Not only was he able to save Mayuri, the focus for much of the latter half of the series, but he was able to save Kurisu, who died in the first timeline. Or, after watching the finale, did she? Whatever the case, the important thing is that she’s safe and alive now. It was the happy ending he spent the entire series striving to achieve and now, after three unbearably long weeks, he finally arrived at this point. Congratz, Okabe! You need some spend some time relaxing and enjoy it in the company of your friends. You deserve it.
For me, this is the ending I wanted to watch. After the entire series of Steins;Gate, I wanted something to smile at and not only through sheer brilliance of story, drama, and character development, but something where I could smile along with everyone else. The true definition of happy ending. Steins;Gate took us through countless mysteries in its infancy, highlighted with the intrigue of what time-travel could do. It passed through some comedy and character drama for a light-hearted middle that slowly grew darker and desperate, especially with the world changing beyond any reasonable control. At the halfway point, the mysteries had become afterthoughts with the gruesome truth before us and the need for time travel to correct the mistakes from reckless time travel use. It was a whole new series from this point forward and the plot assumed a new identity. Okabe had a clear goal before him and became a determined man.
The second half of Steins;Gate was really Okabe’s journey to save Mayuri from her constant death. Over the course of this quest, Okabe became closer to all his new (and old) friends, especially his one true support, Kurisu, but more distant to Mayuri and himself. No matter how much the constant reminder of death and despair dehumanized his tortured soul, with Kurisu’s assistance, Okabe was able to last through all the hardship and heartbreak through everyone else’s story in order for him to the point where he could save Mayuri. Once he arrived at that point, it became apparent that he had one final step to make but it meant the difference between saving Mayuri, the dear friend he spent so long trying to save, or Kurisu, his support who was there for Okabe and helped shoulder some of the pain he could no longer bear (Kurisu’s call in the 19th episode especially). In the end, Okabe made the choice to complete his original mission and save Mayuri. But as fate would have it and through the assistance of a real time machine, Okabe was given the opportunity to save Kurisu in the original timeline. This little extra story provided the first chance for a happy ending in the entire series since the D-mails became screwing up everything. After another episode of hopelessness and gloom, Okabe managed to do the unthinkable and enter into the perfect world-line. But it was not perfect when he got there, at least for him, so he took one more journey to solidify the memories of his time with his friends as he adventured through time. And on his last journey, he runs into Kurisu, and their new beginning is our ending. While the end was not perfect, it was completely satisfying and rewarding. Above all, it left a giant smile on my face: that’s always the sign of an incredible and gratifying finale.
What surprised me about Steins;Gate as a whole was how time travel, what I thought would be the highlight of the show, took a seat behind the drama, the story, and the characters as the main event of this anime. I hardly expected a story of this magnitude and genius in Steins;Gate, especially with the skillful usage of time travel to create further tension and explore characters beyond normal conventions. The time machine became a device for the show to use for the story’s benefit without it becoming the show itself. And this is even after the series began with the whole exploration of time travel, a curious and major mystery when the show was all about mysteries. Time travel never faded to the background but it never took the spotlight away from the story, especially when the story began accelerating at a pace and direction few had considered. Its use in this series was excellent but never overly powerful. When I think back to previous episodes of Steins;Gate and the series as a whole, the story and characters, like Kurisu and Okabe, are what materialize in my mind first. Time travel comes in somewhere right after but this anime is memorable due to its story and its characters. And if you’re curious what’s after that, it’d be the comedy. I still love the comedy in Steins;Gate.
Another impressive strength in the series was showing the characters change over time and between timelines. Showing Okabe slowly become desensitized over the second half of the series, along with Kurisu’s cheerful and brainy support really built up the relationship in a unique and enjoyable way. It felt like there was actual progress in their bond despite it being constantly reset during each leap between timelines. Moeka had probably the next best development, showing her as an awkward character for comedic relief at first but later battling severe depressing and social anxiety and eventually going crazy when Okabe stole her cell phone, her access to ‘her world’. While her story was nowhere near as sad as Okabe’s, Mayuri’s, or Kurisu’s, I enjoyed learning about her and what she was doing since she was the one who flipped Steins;Gate upside-down at the halfway point. And the other characters all developed, too, each having some of their own time in the spotlight. Having such a dynamic cast is definitely one of the aspects I’ll remember of Steins;Gate, especially how each one was explored through different timelines and then seeing them all (except the lovely and essential Suzuha) in the end in a safe and happy state.
Usually at the completion of an anime, I’m conflicted and torn since there’s a part of me that always wants more. I knew there was a special to be included on the final BD/DVD release, something to help quell my dreams and desires for more adventures in the world of Steins;Gate, but those appetizers are hardly enough to subside my ravenous hunger. So imagine how enthusiastic I was to learn that there is a movie in the works for Steins;Gate (link, with teaser). Yeah, there’s gonna be more Steins;Gate. And I cannot wait to set my sights on this series again whenever the movie is released. Perhaps the best way to conclude a near-perfect anime with an amazing finale is for there to be hope, and confirmation, that there is still more to come in the future. Ah, the future can’t come soon enough…