Even though the track record for anime adaptations of Nitro+ games has been abysmal, I couldn’t help but hope that Steins;Gate would turn out well. After all, it’s the best visual novel ever or something according to Japan. And if it didn’t pan out, I guess I’d just fall back on the visual novel with huke’s pretty art.
And as I was watching it, I thought it was pretty funny and all. I was still trying to figure out why Japan loved this thing so much. It wasn’t until someone mentioned something about 2ch jokes that I think I got it.
So I’d known that Steins;Gate was about time travel, based on the synopsis. What I didn’t know was that the story was basically based on the John Titor story. And it the connection wasn’t superficial either. It wasn’t just, there’s a guy calling himself John Titor from the future on 2ch. A lot of details, like the IBM 5100 and the mechanics of time travel and divergence numbers, are taken straight from the story. You can think of Steins;Gate as one giant John Titor reference.
This is fascinating to me, because even though I’m not intimately familiar with the details of the John Titor story, I’ve been on the Internet long enough to remember this whole thing. It’s kind of weird to see something that was sort of the early-web version of an internet meme be used as the skeleton of a more fleshed-out story. I guess something like Densha Otoko would qualify as well, but I think there’s a lot less you can do with it to make something unique like Steins;Gate.
This whole aspect of Steins;Gate got me because I am a nerd and nerds friggin love references. I mean, look at any Shaft anime. But yes, Steins;Gate has tons of references and where there aren’t any, it’ll just create memes. For the most part, these references are all internet memes. If it’s not part of the John Titor mythos, they’ll be working in a 2ch meme. And then there’s stuff like EL PSY CONGROO and tutturu~ which seems like it was designed to be spammed across the internet.
The characters themselves are exactly the same kinds of people. After all, they encounter John Titor on 2ch. What kind of people read and post on 2ch? Daru and Okarin are really obvious otaku. But Mayuri seems relatively normal, except that she works at a maid cafe in Akiba and buys doujin at Toranoana. Okay. Even the most respectable and well-adjusted of the cast, Kurisu-TINA, is a closet VIPPER.
So I guess what’s special about Steins;Gate isn’t that it’s just a good story about a bunch of friends who fall into some time travel conspiracy. It’s that it’s a good story about a bunch of friends who are just like the people watching it who fall into a time travel conspiracy based on an internet urban legend.