Another anime entry in the Semicolon;Adventure series.
I'd like to preface this with a disclaimer. This preview is written from the perspective of someone who has already read the Steins;Gate 0 visual novel and spoils some major plot points from Steins;Gate.
This latest entry in the Science Adventure series covers a "what if", or more accurately "what else", scenario of Steins;Gate. The story takes place on the Beta world lines, where Kurisu dies and the D-Mail that kicks off the events of Steins;Gate was never sent. Steins;Gate 0 serves to elucidate what happened to the Okabe that failed to save Kurisu, and eventually sends a video message to his past self to forge a path to the Steins;Gate world line.
The story begins with Okabe attempting to find normalcy in his life after escaping the Alpha world lines only to fail to save Kurisu. In dealing with the PTSD the events of Steins;Gate caused him, he shed his former persona, Hououin Kyouma, and with it all his habits of speaking into his powered off cell phone and his bombastic proclamations of Norse themed conspiracy theories. No longer an active member of the Future Gadget Lab, he sports a blazer and slacks instead of his trademarked lab coat. All this serves to underscore just how much his failure to save Kurisu has affected him.
The rest of the episode is spent introducing us to the new characters, and showing how Okabe's transformation has strained his relationship with his former labmates. The first new character we meet is Yuki Amane, Daru's future wife and mother of Suzuha. All we know about her is she's one of Mayuri's cosplaying friends and the gang told her that Suzuha is Daru's sister instead of trying to explain time travel to her. After some antics, we meet our next new character, Maho Hiyajo.
This diminutive woman, the preordained "best girl" of the series, is a brain genius who works at the same American university that Kurisu worked at before being murdered. The episode comes to its conclusion with Maho and her adviser revealing the existence of their AI made from digitized memories founded on research conducted by Kurisu herself.
As an adaptation, it excels in an number of ways. It has excellent sound design, and a solid score to pair with it. I'm no expert on anime direction, but it seems like the director has a fondness of extreme closeups with expressive eyes. It's quite effective at conveying emotion, but I worry it might get a little bit stale as the series goes on. I would also be remiss to not mention this series suffers from the same banding issues Steins;Gate did. So, if you're sensitive to that, this simulcast might not be for you.
At its core, though, Steins;Gate 0 is a story from Steins;Gate that the creators felt was worth expanding on. This brings us to the main reason you might not want to watch Steins;Gate 0. The entire story already assumes you have an investment in these characters. The characters relationships are glossed over in the premiere because you're already expected to know them. If you didn't like the original, you're unlikely to find anything different enough to change your mind about its sequel. However, it's still sufficiently different from its predecessor that fans of the original will find it fresh. Without spoiling anything, the narrative structure of the Steins;Gate 0 visual novel is radically different from its prequel, which makes me excited to see how it they've chosen to adapt it.
Verdict: Liked Steins;Gate? Watch it. Didn't like Steins;Gate? Don't bother. Haven't seen Steins;Gate? Get on it.
Header image by Blick