Over the years, from watching many movies and television shows, I’ve come to realise something: making sequels is hard.

Sequels are more difficult that original shows because sequels have to “live up to the original”.

What that means most people are still working it out.

Some directors decide to make sequels with a totally different feel, like George Lucas with his prequel trilogy. (The results of that can be debated.) Others decide to just make more of the same, like J. J. Abrams did with The Force Awakens. (It was warmly received, but I debated that way back when.)

What’s the best way to create a sequel? I don’t know.

However, I do recognise a great sequel when I see one.

And Steins;Gate 0 is one of them.

I was originally drawn to Steins;Gate (the first one) by its tight cast of characters, tense plot, and its the sheer geekiness, especially with the physics aspect. (Even if some of it was fictional.)

So I was excited when the sequel was announced. Excited enough to forget my wariness of sequels.

But, as I watched the show I became worried. Early on, it seemed that the show was just covering the same old ground and playing with the same old worries and the same old people.

Which is fine for some people, but if I wanted more of the same thing, I could have rewatched the original.

But (and don’t worry about spoilers yet), just when I was about to give up, the show finished its rather long exposition, and things began changing at a frenetic pace.

The situation changed. The characters, facing new situations, developed in new and interesting ways. And while the story retained familiar elements, there was a new energy as the show began to discuss new themes, new situations, and new adventures.

I totally recommend watching it.

And now, with that, we move on the spoiler laden part of the review.

The setting

Photo Courtesy of White Fox
Yes, it’s still a time travel show. It didn’t change that radically.

One of the things that remained in both Steins;Gate and its sequel is the fact that the show boils global problems down to a very human level for the protagonists. For Okabe, the problems of World War III or a dystopian universe don’t bother him. For him, his only concern is his friends. When Suzuha tries to get him to save the world, his concern isn’t for the fact that they might return to a dystopian society, but that his friends would have to go through further suffering.

Which, whatever the case, makes Okabe feel very human. Because when it comes down to it, most people forget “the greater good” when they or their closest friends are in danger.

One of the things about the first show that might have gotten tiring after a while is the fact that they were pretty much hanging about the same three of four places the whole time. Most of the story happens in the lab itself, but in the second series, with the expansion of the cast (and Okabe’s aversion to the lab), there is an inherently different feel. Where the problems in first series sounded somewhat like armchair conspiracies, the second series takes on a bigger world, with stuff properly blowing up here and there.

Which gives the show a different feel.

The characters

The decision to develop more main characters really made the show click. While the first series was devoted mostly to Okabe and Kurisu, this second series took time to develop many of the side characters, especially Daru and Mayuri, who, although played pivotal roles in the first show, were not as developed. Both played leading roles in driving the action in the second series, compared to Okabe, who kind of just hangs around and spouts warnings until other people act first.

With Daru’s outbursts and Mayuri’s heroics, the show really did some work to develop them, giving them their own stories and lives apart from Okabe and making them proper protagonists in their own right.

The villain

Photo Courtesy of White FoxOne of the problems I’ve often seen in other sequels is that even if the main character undergoes many changes through the different storylines, the villains, or problems, sometimes don’t change. It’s the same kind of megalomania, just with a different name and a slightly different plot device.

Steins;Gate 0 doesn’t do that.

Of course, in the first series, the antagonists were SERN, the shadowy organisation whose faces in the show were the Rounders, Moeka, and Tennouji, the landlord. And they want to create a “perfect” dystopia.

But in the second series, the villain is not only an individual, he is on screen.

Professor Leskinen, despite being a great meme elsewhere online, is a marvellous change from the shadowy organisation of SERN, because while he certainly uses his own shadows, he plays a more active role in the story, leading to the sense of “why don’t you capture the stupid villain while you’re having tea with him?” and other such sentiments.

Also, unlike SERN, his desires and hopes are completely different. He (in fact), like Okabe and Kurisu, simply wants to discover what happens when people time travel. Of course, his method of going about it is far darker, because he is rather dim and can’t make a time machine like his students did, but nonetheless, as Okabe says, he is “the true mad scientist.”

Bottom line is while SERN was “trying” to be altruistic, Leskinen was a selfish old man.

Whatever the case, I think Leskinen, both as a villain and as a character, was both developed, interesting, and most important of all, different from those before him.

And that was good.

The themes

Discussing science fiction themes is one of my favourite things to do. And again, Steins;Gate 0 not only brought something new to the table, it brought something just as deep.

The first show’s obvious question was whether people should have the right to control time. Okabe tried it a lot, but then, so did SERN, and so did Suzuha. Of course, the more subtle question was the ethical choices faced by scientists, given that Okabe and his friends wrecked half of the universe before they realised that they shouldn’t have tested things without thinking about the consequences.

The second show brought in a new factor with Amadeus, questioning the limits of humanity, and the efforts to mimic humanity, and also dealt with the question of people’s responsibilities in the face of crises they have help avert (and yes, Okabe could easily prevent World War III, if you just watch the 24th episode of the original Steins;Gate).

But it still retained it’s original question of how far people should go in the name of science by introducing the maniac of Leskinen, who to be clear, is raving mad in my opinion.

But worth a discussion nonetheless.

Concluding thoughts

I haven’t really got much else to say without talking about plot points and individual scenes, honestly. But what I do have to say is that, for a sequel, Steins;Gate 0 really did a good job of honouring the original, yet bringing in new content, new characters, and new adventures.

What other thoughts do you have about Steins;Gate 0?

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