I’ve never been a huge fan of sci-fi. I know a lot of people who simply love it, but I’m not one of those people. With a few exceptions, the genre as a whole bores me to tears. It feels very redundant, with either space adventures or ridiculous time travel that all blows over my head. In general, sci-fi tends to emphasize the plot over character development, with the character’s actions having little to no effect on the greater picture. As a result, I’ve lost interest in the genre over the years. That is, until I watched Steins;Gate. It’s an excellent show (as both Chris and I have mentioned in our reviews), and while it fits the mold of a typical sci-fi show, it’s an example of how the genre can be handled in a unique, compelling way that doesn’t bleed into other shows or bore me.
Easily Understood Explanations of Real Life Quantum Theories
Something that became apparent to me early on when I started watching sci-fi shows and movies was of how idiotic I felt after watching them. High-level concepts would be explained in a couple of sentences, and the lack of explanations always bothered me. I don’t like having to ask family members to better explain the concepts of travelling at light-speed or teleporting people through beams…or something, for the reason that the show or movie didn’t do a good job of it. At that point, it’s not even a question of being smart, but being able to understand and follow a show’s concepts, and when I can’t follow what’s going happening anymore because the explanation was too short, that isn’t a good thing.
Watching Steins;Gate, it’s apparent very early on that the show relates to its audience. It knows that the average viewer may have a hard time keeping up with the scientific jargon, and as such goes out of its way to answer a viewer’s potential question through clear, thorough explanations. It’s a given that the scientific lingo is certainly prominent, but it’s not overwhelming to follow thanks to multiple explanations and imagery the show provides. Many of the concepts are introduced early on, but each are expanded on in great detail, and by the time I finished the show, there weren’t any persistent questions lingering in mind because of how well-written it is. I don’t know jack about quantum theories, but Steins;Gate explained it in a way that was easy to follow, and served as great incentive to motivate me to watch it through to the end.
Gradual Presentation of its World
When I’ve watched sci-fi in the past, I always feel like I’m being thrown head first into the setting without any background established. The latest Star Trek films, while entertaining, are examples where I felt detached from the world because there was little to no build up towards it, yet I was expected to keep up with Kirk’s adventures in space. I realize that the movies are adaptations of the original shows and what-have-you, but the movies were not generous in welcoming new viewers such as myself. The Star Trek universe is massive, and I felt overwhelmed by it all being thrown at me at once.
The world of Steins;Gate is complex, but I didn’t get that impression immediately. The setting is introduced in stages, and while it helps that it isn’t in space, the complexity of the world comes from the multiple word lines concept. Again, this too is not apparent in the beginning because the show focuses its first half on character building and setting the foundation for everything else to follow. Because of this, I never felt confused by the setting or found it to be too large of scale. The world wasn’t dumped on me all at once; it’s done in stages that allow the viewer to grasp the situation and keep up.
Establishing and Following its Own Unique Rules
Steins;Gate establishes a very specific, unique set of rules and strictly follows them. The rules are logical and easy to follow, and the show doesn’t go around breaking them whenever it feels like it. I found this to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the show because I didn’t have to question or memorize new rules in regards to the time travel presented in the show. If time travel were real, this show is the prime example of what it would be like because of its realistic take on the character’s reactions to time travel. How would people deal with it? What would they go back and change? What are the consequences of manipulating time? Steins;Gate answered all of those questions in a realistic, believable way, and made the viewing experience even better.
Characters Drive the Show Forward, Not Plot
When I watch a show, the characters are usually responsible for my overall investment in it. The characters usually need to be as equally well-written as the story is for me to really appreciate a show or movie. I’ve found that there are a lot of cases in science fiction where the characters typically take a back seat to the story. In Star Wars, I felt the series was defined by the uprising, and because of it, I felt that the characters didn’t really get a chance to shine. They had development, sure, but I felt that by the end of the series, I still knew very little about them; I knew their personalities and motives, but that was it. There was nothing else I could say about them because the uprising had so much clout, and it would have been nice to have explored that more within the films.
My favorite part of Steins;Gate is the characters and how well-written they all are. The show definitely has a story, but there’s never a point when it overpowers the characters – the characters are cognizant of the bigger picture, but they don’t adhere to the obligations of protecting or saving the world. The characters are instead driven by their personal goals, and the large-scale story is simply something that affects their missions. I appreciated that the character’s development and personalities took priority. I should mention that the English dub is phenomenal (namely, J. Michael Tatum’s performance as Okabe is excellent), and the quality of the acting really adds to the characters and makes it easy for audiences to sympathize with the characters. Steins;Gate has a great balance between dark character arcs and comedic mishaps involving time travel, and this balance is achieved thanks to the characters driving the show, not the story.
It’s the first real sci-fi show I’ve really loved, and that’s really saying something considering my dislike of the genre as a whole. It’s even made me reconsider my dislike of the genre, and while that isn’t to say I’m ready to marathon Doctor Who or something, the fact that it’s making me consider looking at the genre through a new lens is indicative of the amazing writing in Steins;Gate.