I just reached the halfway point of Steins;Gate, and… huh. Also, !!!.

Let me explain.

I’ve heard that Steins;Gate is good for a long time now. That it is an anime about time travel with a good set of rules. Basically, that it does time travel right. But that’s all I heard and I never really looked into it. So, for whatever reason, I expected an intense, serious, anime. You know, with fate and paradoxes and calculations and technobabble or whatever. Somehow, I never heard that Steins;Gate is funny and witty as hell. Also, I always assumed that the titular “Steins;Gate” was the name of the time machine or perhaps the core principle that made time travel possible. It isn’t. Oh, and I really, really did not expect the time machine to be… a cellphone-activated microwave oven.

Instead of being a serious or stodgy show about time travel with uptight characters and some kind of time-based emergency that needs to be fixed or solved, Steins;Gate is a show with a variety of enjoyably witty characters who do a bunch of verbal sparing with each other. Oh, and after a while they occasionally they send text messages into the past.

The dialogue in this show is some of the best I’ve heard in a long time. Characters argue, they play, they insult, they verbally attack and retreat and claim victory or admit defeat. And, for whatever reason, the English dub is just dang excellent. It is definitely localized instead of translated. The gist of any given sentence or scene is preserved, but the English version may say things completely out of order or in a completely different way or even substitute in jokes that an American audience will understand. But it’s brilliant. The voice actors do an excellent job, and because it’s a localization, you don’t get that slow reading or excessive pausing you sometimes get in some otherwise good English dubs. I’m kinda looking at you Fate/Zero. The dialogue remains as snappy as it is in Japanese and it’s just a joy to listen to.

The show certainly builds slowly. I’d say it does a lot of world building, but that’s not really true. It’s set in a town similar to Tokyo or something. Not much out of the ordinary. Not much to build. But Steins;Gate sorta makes you live with the characters for a good number of episodes so you know them well by the time the real plot begins to kick in. Oh, and it kicks in. Let me repeat what I said above:

!!!

This isn’t quite a Madoka level twist, mostly because Steins;Gate has been building up to and hinting at this moment where Madoka straight up pretended to be something it isn’t, but things just got real. And I think the show is about to switch from a humorous near-slice-of-life to something much more serious. Something that actually demands the use of the time travel it has just kinda been toying with up until now.

I can’t wait to see the rest.