This review contains spoilers for Steins; Gate
I only very recently completed the original Steins;Gate - Steins;Gate 0 had already begun airing by the time I finished my binge-watch of the first series. Watching the two shows back-to-back, I can say that Steins;Gate 0 is a worthy successor (kind of) to the 2011 masterpiece.
I was excited just by the very premise of the show. Serving as a midquel (though you could argue that it's both a sequel and prequel (it's confusing, as time travel stories are)), the show follows an alternate outcome of episode 23 known as 23B, denoting it as the beta worldline. If you recall, in the original episode 23 Okabe becomes depressed after his failure to save Kurisu. He refuses to try again, but finds his resolve once Mayuri slaps sense into him. He then views a video sent to him from the future. 23B sets up the alternate timeline where Mayuri doesn’t convince Okabe to try again. This timeline is the one in which Okabe records the video for his past self to view.
While it’s not vital, I recommend viewing 23B before watching 0. Furthermore, I do not recommend watching this show before Steins;Gate.
Besides Steins; Gate, OVA, 23B, then Steins; Gate 0, a possible watch order is Steins; Gate episode 1-22, 23B, Steins; Gate 0,episode 23, episode 24, then the OVA. Steins; Gate opens up a new level of depth to Steins;Gate saga that fans are sure to enjoy.
Like the original show, Steins; Gate follows Okabe Rintaro. In his depression,he’s retired the persona of Hououin Kyouma. It’s harrowing to see the difference. In 0, we see the depression he suffered in the original series taken to its logical extreme, and while it gives the show an air of dismalness, it’s quite interesting. You can even see the difference in clothing - with Kyouma of course sporting his white lab coat and Okabe donning a pitch black outfit.
The characters you love all return for 0 with their personalities intact. Given that their personalities are the same, it’s always interesting to see how they interact with a completely different Okabe. While some characters (such as Faris) have slightly reduced roles, others (such as Moeka) enjoy more screen time. There are also some new characters thrown into the mix to keep the story fresh. Among these are the amnesiac Kagari and Hiyajo Maho, a former colleague of Kurisu’s who’s still reeling from her death. A character that many won’t expect even makes an appearance down the line.
The animation and art direction is beautiful as ever. While there are some hiccups in action scenes, these don’t really detract from the experience.
The music is still top-notch Their placement helped make certain scenes that much more poignant. The new opening and ending themes are up there with the original. Tracks such as Gate of Steiner make a return, further tying together the shows while providing emotional gut punches.
Speaking of gut-punches, let’s talk about the story. It’s great, but it’s important to note that 0 doesn’t really have the same “punch” that Steins;Gate did. The first half is often stated to be slow, then episode twelve throws viewers for a loop with the sudden slaying of Mayuri. I want to emphasis that viewers shouldn’t go into 0 expecting this same type of “drop.” If they do, they’ll just have the feeling of holding their breath for a payoff that may not ever come. The big twists have already came, with Steins;Gate 0 dealing with their aftershocks. While this may make the show less “shocking” than its predecessor, it ensures that the feeling of dread and anxiety is always present.
Still, Steins;Gate 0, does have some swerves, they’re just arguably not as impressive as the original’s. Part of this is due to the plot, but part of this is simply due to already experiencing the emotional roller coaster that is Steins; Gate.
As far as things I don’t like...they’re aren’t many. In fact, I can’t really think of any. While the plot-twists arguably weren’t as big as the original, the show is still quite tense. Despite the somber mood, the show still somehow manages to have its lighthearted moments. While this would normally detract from a story such as this, the creators know how to use it well, serving as a breath of fresh air, but never feeling intrusive. Given that viewers are expecting a foregone conclusion, it’s quite telling that 0 still manages to be suspenseful.
While I was inclined to state 0 as being slightly inferior to the original, there were parts towards that were even more awesome than the original series.
Going in expecting 0 to be just like Steins;Gate will undoubtedly cause some disappointment. But even if you do, I’m certain fans of the show will quickly learn to appreciate the differences. Some sequels falter, some rise to be better than their predecessors. It’s hard to be just as good as a 10/10 show, but Steins;Gate 0 manages to get there, all the same.