Isekai, Ranked

If Anime is escapism, there is no better way to escape than Isekai’s theme of plunging Into Another World, where our niche skills and routine possessions may shake the fabric of reality! From MMO-inspired, to hard fantasy, there are many types of Isekai on this list. However, there are no movies, nor series we haven’t seen recently. Bring all disagreements to the comments below!

1. Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World
Re:Zero takes Isekai’s love for fish-out-of-water stories on step further: through brutal, expectation breaking blind sides, it makes the viewer a fish out of water too! Dripping with fantastic animation, Re:Zero’s true strength is the balance of its highly detailed world without over explaining its magic system, time loop mechanic and political systems. It also earns bonus points for  limiting the application of its protagonist’s powerful magic and technological advantages.

2. Sword Art Online (1st season) 
In the narrowest of second places, SAO pairs top shelf animation with an approachable cast and easy to appreciate central conflict. Put its lovingly constructed MMO setting aside, and Kirito’s mistakes and occasional darkness elevate him above his potentially generic good-at-everything character type and Asuka plays the strongest heroine/love interest on the list.

3. Now and Then, Here and There
Imagine if Digimon told a bleak story about sex trafficking child soldiers trapped on a waterless world with a maniac king? NTHT’s intense swerve from adorable into darkness is on par with Re:Zero and, much like Natsuki Subaru, HTHT’s Shu must rely on ‘durability’ and ‘heart’ to make it through. While some of it’s later tragic moments are predictable, this f’ed-up little anime scores major points for telling a complete story and having that story grow Shu from simpleton into a conflicted young adult.

4. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
While Ledo’s post-earth scifi origin may stretch the common definition of Isekai, being trapped in a primitive culture that treats him (and his AI-driven mech Chamber) like a hero of old does not. Beautifully, Gargantia flips the script and makes Red’s overwhelming power, and killing in general, counter productive and at odds with the local people.

5. Yōjo Senki / The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Give us World War I with magic, a gender swapped villain as our protagonist, and God as our antagonist, and you’ve given us something pretty damn original. Like Gargantia, this reborn in another world captures thinking differently about the world can be as powerful and terrifying as unworldly strength. Without question, Yojo Senki’s cast is the most uniquely imagined on this list.

6. No Game No Life
Like Tanya, the Blank twins piss off god and are sent to another world as punishment. However, their punishment is much more stylish and… harem. Underneath NGNL’s acid-soaked panties, over the top protagonists and the psychedelic color pallet, is a show featuring thoughtful puzzles and imaginative spins on classic gamble-to-win story telling. Sadly, its story ends unfinished…

7. KonoSuba
One part jab at Isekai and one part love letter to the starting town of every fantasy MMO, KonoSuba is all parts ruthlessly funny! While this reborn in another world (with a goddess!) show is not as smartly written as NGNL, and it becomes repetitive after a time, the constant frenetic action more than makes up for it.

8. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Quiet, thoughtful, and full of sadness, this hard fantasy Isekai doesn’t care if its heroes are reborn in another world or trapped in a dungeon crawl afterlife. Building family bonds and connecting with people who would not normally be friends is all that matters… and it’s lovingly animated to boot!

9. ReCreators
As a reverse Isekai, ReCreators distinguishes itself by bringing the other world to us. The experience is fantastically animated and packed with clever dialog that somehow breaths sincerity into a profoundly silly plot. The cast is quite diverse, both in design and personality, which keeps the action fresh, yet somehow cohesive throughout. It’s only major flaw is, the final act, which is way to drawn out.

10. The Devil is a Part Timer
No I’m not kidding! This reverse Isekai’s premise that the Devil is trapped in our world and must work at McDonnald’s to get by is charming. While DiaPT’s humor isn’t particularly specific to the devil, the jokes are punchy, and the overall plot develops at a respectable pace. As an added treat, the opening gothic fantasy fight scenes are surprisingly well animated.

11. Log Horizon (1st season)
Most exposition heavy, trapped in an MMO themed Isekai featuring ‘top ranked’ players crumble after a few episodes. More often than not, these shows try too hard to sell the coolness of their game worlds, user interfaces, and central characters. Miraculously, Log Horizon gets better mid season with a simple question: if former NPCs have personalities, can grow and learn, and even die, are they more human than the former players that dismiss them as background texture? Still, it takes Log Horizon six episodes to get going and good lord is it gray looking…

12. Overlord (3 Seasons)
This transported into an MMO Isekai mirrors its main character: it is competent but not sure what it should be doing at any given moment. Sometimes the protagonists are villains and sometimes they are heroes. More often than not, characters are given lavish screen time to develop, only to be slaughtered whimsically. The resulting narrative is full of call backs and revealed foreshadowing… yet hasn’t gone very far in 3 seasons and hasn’t asked any interesting questions along the way.

13. El Hazard – The Magnificent World (OAV/TV)
Predestined paradox, trans-dimensional time jumping high school students (and their drunk gym teacher) are trapped in an Arabian Nights’like land besieged by sentient bugs, a secret tribe of assassins from another dimension, and a death star like eye of god orbiting nearby. If you watched anime in the 1990s it will all be familiar but it still manages to feel original yet cohesive production. The character abilities are wonderful, the tragedy is nice, and plenty is left up to your own imagination to fill in the blanks. A bland, fault free, protagonist and a boy-crazy harem vibe are the only reasons it isn’t higher on the list.

14. Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri
This invading the other world Isekai flips the script to deliver political intrigue, clash of culture, and commentary on Japanese society. It loses points for being a overly harem, relying on super dumb/super evil antagonists, and a dull protagonist but it’s fun enough to watch.

15. Juuni Kokuki (The Twelve Kingdoms)
This brought back to the world you actually were born in Isekai begins with a whiney good-girl who doesn’t want to be queen pissing off her not-friend, who would really like to live in another world, but no one cares, because she’s not the chosen one. Whiney protagonist who has limited agency over the plot aside, that central theme, and the magic and political intrigue around it grow nicely over time. Sadly, the second arc introduces a new character, tons of vocabulary heavy exposition, and just drags. The result is a slightly dated looking show but completely watchable show.

16. Drifters
Stylishly violent, strikingly ugly, historical character filled and utterly bonkers, this reborn in another world Isekai’s uniqueness will hold your attention. Even if you do not want it to.

17. Rise of the Shield Hero (2 Seasons)
On paper, this transported to an MMO world Isekai’s “treat the hero like crap,” “watch him accept the role of a slave-buying villain” and ultimately “rise to become the true hero” concept is great. Revealing that the world he’s saving may be less redeemable than the world the invaders are trying to save is also great. Too bad its padded and many of the arbitrary delays and narrative dead ends feel like cop outs.

18. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
While it lacks the initial hardcore’ness of Shield Hero, this reborn in another world Isekai is pleasantly animated and full of heart. The idea that naming monsters grants them power is a pretty neat mechanic too. It just sort bounces from idea to idea without a sense of purpose of resolution. One minute it’s a story of unlikely friendship, then magic destiny, then town builder, then harem, and onto magic school and isn’t about anything in particular until a hastily thrown together plot ties it up at the end. It scores points for making its hero a slime… although the reborn aspect never feels played with or justified.

19. Angel Beats!
If the gun fetish, kids fighting a loli-angel instead of attending school in the afterlife plot weren’t so dumb and drawn out, this rebirth story’s touching moments would push it much higher. There’s a really good tale of life cut short, reunion after death, and again after rebirth here and it gets major bonus points for finishing the story it had to tell. Totally squandered.

20. Death March / Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku
Like Shield Hero, this reborn in an MMO Isekai is actually quite good looking. However, its Gary-Stue protagonist, harem and absurd narrative padding make it far less interesting.  OMG how many episodes are about making lunch?! That’s too bad because the concept of code-like “copy and paste” magic system is pretty neat.

21. Wiseman’s Grandson / Kenja no Mago
Despite opening with a modern day man being killed, this reborn into a fantasy world Isekai is more Magic School than Isekai. The only thread that connects the protagonist’s lives is that he can look at magic with an eye for process instead of outcome. The result is harmless easy watching but harem elements, a slow pace and lack of getting anywhere narratively hold it back.

22. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
This summoned into an MMO Isekai starts off as charming, but ecchi-heavy, before abruptly turning dark at the end of the season. We’re talking ‘make a child watch as her best friend is slowly tortured to death’ and creepo ‘finger-bang a loli cat girl in order to give birth to the demon inside her’ level dark. While those elements elevate HNtSaDL above niche appeal of its harm and MMO content, they aren’t so interesting to earn my recommendation.

23. Problem Children are coming from Another World, Aren’t They?
T
he non-ecchi poor man’s No Game no Life features a talking cat that only some characters can understand and dreadful music. TFW smooth jazz? There’s some cuteness to be had, and the solutions to gambling games can be clever, but the overall vibe is low energy. It loses drama points because its protagonist is as smart as a god and physically stronger.

24. Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?
This poor man’s Konosuba is occasionally funny, satire of RPG conventions and family relationships. Mama’s skill that interrupts whatever her son is doing, no matter what it is or where he is in the game world, is particularly charming. Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding the creepo factor of sexualizing that family relationship.

25. Restaurant from Another World
My mom is secretly from another world and my restaurant’s front door connects back to that world each day is certainly unique, but it’s structured more like a food-porn show than Isekai. While the linkages of each patron become clear over time, few characters are not aware of those connections themselves. The result never feels like it gets anywhere.

26. Dot Hack//Sign
This stuck in an MMO Isekai dedicates too much animation and story to grunting, chuffing, whimpering, and sighing. Combined with a grotesque color pallet, hilariously terrible early 2000’s character designs, and awkward ‘weapon up’ pose each character takes, and it just bleeds out before you can invest in the character drama.

27. In Another World With My Smartphone
Stories without risk are still watchable when they immerse us an interesting world, or delve into niche details like food or how magic works, or hilariously us with harems and sex appeal. Smartphone fails all of these things. Worse, it does nothing with it’s one idea: protagonist Touya is reborn in a fantasy world with smartphone. Except, GOD GIVES HIM GOD TIER MAGIC FROM THE GET-GO! Ironically, Re:Zero and No Game No Life both use of a cell phones in more interesting ways, and Tanya’s God isn’t even comparable. Unoriginal, unfunny, not dramatic, not sexy, not worth watching.

28. Maou-sama, Retry!
This transported to an MMO Isekai’s trash production values, and bizarre characters are hard to take seriously. The results are sometimes so terrible they are funny, such as incompetent background music transitions and detailed horses hiding at the edges of the frame. Sadly, a bland harem and complete lack of narrative objective kill the mood.

29. Isekai Izakaya
Imagine a low energy, public access style show, with a tourism theme, that featuring a modern Japanese restaurant that serves fantasy world patrons…

30. Isekai Cheat Magician
A loveless summoned to a fantasy world Isekai who’s protagonists are the most powerful and purely good characters could deserve a niche rating. Not this one. The narrative sort of ‘skips the boring stuff’ and, in doing so, skips character development. Hilariously, what the narrative does show is poorly animated, always underwhelming magic battle scenes or people standing around talking.

31. Endride
Without dialog, this stumbled into a magic world Isekai’s vibrant color and crisp art would be watchable. The fact that the world is somehow inside of Earth’s core and the sparse use of mythology are unique, but its dumb-as-bricks whiny teen protagonists have the maturity of a small children. There are many unintentionally funny moments like scientists using gigantic laptops or the king’s magic weapon looking like a safety pin. Ultimately, the cast is so unlikeable that the show itself is unwatchable.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 17 – Breaking Out of Her Shell

Ayado and Itou’s tearful reunion is prefaced by a brief foray into Ayado’s past, when her first love was a manga character (and not even a main character!) and she became invisible to 3D guys, with tastes that didn’t jive with the other girls. With kind, no-nonsense civil servant parents who left her to her own devices, before she knew it Ayado found herself locked in a shell.

Her new friends helped her break through and emerge from that shell, but her crush on Hikari and his subsequent rejection of her was a roller coaster of pain and embarrassment made her afraid to ever stray towards “that territory” again. That is, until her fear of Itou leaving her was greater than her fear of said territory.

When Ayado tearfully asks to be part of Itou’s life again, Itou tears up too, requiring them to share the handkerchief she borrowed from him. Ayado then reports what’s happened to Hikari and Iroha, and the next day Hikari is ready with a congratulatory cake. Longtime “Ayatou”shippers, Hikari among them, can now let out a sigh of relief and shed a tear or two of joy.

Meanwhile, Iroha finally gets to visit Hikari’s house again, and just when she starts to kiss him, his mom barges in to announce udon is for dinner. Hikari is astounded how quickly and naturally Iroha slips into his family’s rhythm, as if she was always meant to be there; his dad thanks her for all her help, while even Kaoru asks if he can call her big sister.

It’s certainly nice for Hikari to be done with soap opera stuff for the time being, but while Itou and Ayado quickly agree to go to a movie for their first date, Ayado experiences what’s best described as “joy overload.” Simply being near Itou, having his attention, and feeling the warmth of his hand has her fantasizing about doing much more serious things with him.

Because this is Ayado and Itou we’re talking about, her self-consciousness leads to her acting strangely, which Itou misinterprets as her having second thoughts about dating. But unlike past Ayado and Itou miscommunications, Ayado clenches her fists and sets the record straight before the day (and episode) is out.

Realizing she hasn’t actually verbalized how she feels, she starts by telling Itou he’s got it all wrong; far from not wanting to date him, she’s ecstatic beyond belief at the very idea, because she loves him. Then she does what she wanted to do all day and kisses him, and he kisses her back.

From there, no longer confined by any shell, Ayado asks if Itou would mind if she “hit him with the full force of her desires,” to which he wisely suggests they take things slowly. They may be a couple, but they still have a lot of learning about each other—not to mention themselves—to do. It’s a process we’ve already seen unfold with Hikari and Iroha with mostly good results. And so now Ishino and Takanashi are the only remaining singles in the group of friends.

Steins;Gate 0 – 24 (OVA) – The Very Definition of “Unnecessary”

If this was the first episode of Steins;Gate you ever watched, let’s just say it’s highly unlikely you’d never, ever watch another.

But perhaps that’s unfair: this is an extra episode; it’s only meant to be a fun character supplement between two more vital episodes that aired. It isn’t meant to contribute much insight into anyone or anything, and in this it succeeds.

The plot, such as it is, is this: All the girls (plus Ruka) make chocolates, while Suzu worries about who Kagari’s valentine is. This leads to some funny scenes in her imagination involving Kagari with Tennouji or Rintarou.

Faris’ exasperation at no one knowing how to make chocolates (aside from Ruka and Yuki, who show up late) is amusing enough, especially when she almost fades into “pure white” from exhaustion.

But otherwise, to paraphrase both Kurisu and Amakurisu, it’s better to not watch and regret then to regret having watched. You’re better off watching the first show’s OVA instead.

Steins;Gate 0 – 23 (Fin) – Fortune Favors the Foolish

With Amadeus deleted from history, Rintarou ends up in a slightly different present, in which Leskinen never succeeded in fully brainwashing Kagari. Moeka subdues Leskinen when he pulls a gun on Rintarou, and the two head up to the roof just as Mayuri is successfully stopping Kagari and Suzuha from killing each other, by badassedly positioning her head between their handguns. Mayuri and Suzu are able to board the time machine safely after receiving the blessing of a Rintarou who’d just arrived in that time.

All the times the time machine was wiped out by a missile from a helicopter gunship, it was only seconds away from disappearing into the spacetime either, so a few extra seconds is all Mayuri and Suzu needed to get away safely, and they do, in an extremely thrilling scene that pays off all of the failure and heartache of previous attempts.

Better still, Hououin Kyouma is able to lustily gloat to Leskinen, Stratfor, DURPA and the Russians for having foiled their plans to acquire the time machine. In the timeline where Mayuri and Daru await the return of Rintarou and Suzu, two time machines briefly appear on the rooftop at once, and Mayuri gets a call from…the other Mayuri, convincing her not to let Okarin give up when he returns in the depths of despair.

Mayuri and Suzu aren’t able to stay in that timeline long lest they cause a paradox, and with the time machine all but out of fuel, they soon lose the ability to choose their next destination. But both of them seem to take their descent into temporal oblivion quite well, all things considered.

Back on the rooftop, Suzu and a defeated, blood-stained Rintarou return, and he gives his little speech about everything being hopeless and deciding he’s going to give up. Then Mayuri remembers the words of the other Mayuri, recalls when Kyouma was “born” (when he hugged her to comfort her at the cemetery) slaps Rintarou, her Hikoboshi, and convinces him not to give up.

Soonafter Rintarou receives a video D-Mail from the Rintarou in the future, and we switch to his point of view, as we watch his grainy recording unfold where and when it occurred. After sending the message, Rintarou’s next operation, Operation Altair, consists of him “deceiving the world”, as well as himself, by travelling back to another point in spacetime in the first version of the time machine to be built by Daru & Co.

Deceiving himself and the world, it turns out, is the only way to reach the Stein’s Gate. He thanks his noble, trusty Lab Members, receives a hug from Maho, and sets off to locate and rescue Mayuri and Suzu, who were lost in time but can be found thanks to something called a “Kerr black hole tracer”, the nature and operation of which are not specified (which is probably for the best).

Suffice it to say, in his experimental but still brand-new and fully-gassed time machine, and with the Kerr thingy, Rintarou successfully locates Mayuri and Suzuha, who by their perspective had just arrived themselves in the year 18,000 B.C. in a dark and stormy wasteland.

They seem ready to accept their fate with grace, but the bright light of Mayuri’s Hikoboshi appears, and from that light, Okabe Rintarou—AKA Okarin, AKA Hououin Kyouma—emerges triumphant; perhaps his most badass moment yet.

And that, folks, is where Steins;Gate 0 ends things. We don’t get to see Steins Gate, or learn whether Rintarou is right that it does exist. All we know is that they’re in a good position to reach a world line in which both Mayuri and Kurisu can live.

It took a lot of gumption, guile, teamwork, sacrifice, trauma, math…and downright foolishness, but the gang is headed in the right direction. It’s a positive, hopeful ending; an ending full of promise and excitement for what may come next for all of these kind, brave fools—even if we may not get to see it.

Steins;Gate 0 – 22 – Another Logical Sacrifice

Thankfully, the latest setback does not shatter Hououin Kyouma just as soon as he makes his triumphant return; more importantly it does not rob Rintarou of his will to keep trying. It only forces him to jump back two days into the past and come up with a new plan. But first, they must determine what exactly is causing the convergence; it may not be the time machine itself.

Rintarou works it out with Daru and Maho. They know how to foil both Leskinen/Stratfor and DURPA, which leaves the Russians. When Nakabachi defected to Russia, they made the connection between his research and Kurisu’s. Thus, in order to prevent WWIII from occuring, they have to prevent that connection from being made.

The only way to do that is to eliminate Amadeus and all of the associated data. Without Kurisu’s memories, brain patterns, and research in digital form, Russia will never be able to complete the time machine, the war will be averted, and both Kurisu and Mayuri should be saved.

So the path to Steins;Gate requires yet another Kurisu-related sacrifice. As Amakurisu states more than once, she’s “just a program”, but it’s still unsurprisingly difficult for Rintarou and Maho to even consider deleting “her,” so similar she is to Kurisu, and yet also an individual personality in her own right.

Amakurisu has Maho send her to Rintarou’s phone, and the two enjoy a stroll together, that lasts through the night into the morning, with Rintarou showing her the city she doesn’t know and judges to be beautiful and worth saving.

Unlike her dead human self, Amakurisu live in a world where only things with a purpose exist (much like The Matrix). Her purpose is to cease existing so a better world can be unlocked. Like Kurisu, she’s ready and willing to assume that cost…but also like Kurisu, there’s a hint of sadness behind her reassuring smile.

Thanks to Daru’s improvement of D-Mail, the D-RINE (like the real-world LINE), Daru can send a save message only to himself telling him to break into VCU’s server and destroy the Amadeus AI data. Maho sends the necessary key and patch as an attachment, the Phone Microwave is fired up, and Amakurisu says her goodbyes.

When the sparks stop we end up with the divergence number of 1.123581—the Beta World Line, tantalizingly close to the 1.048596 of Steins Gate, yet not quite there. We’ll see how well Rintarou & Co. fare in the finale, which I suspect might run double-length (since there’s no episode 24).

Steins;Gate 0 – 21 – Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Lab Members

Thanks to Maho’s improvements, the time leap machine can send Rintarou back 336 hours instead of 48. It’s truly a case of Salieri surpassing Mozart. But he’ll still need to make three thousand such jumps to return to 2011 in order to foil Leskinen, Stratfor, and Durpa and get Mayuri and Suzuha safely off in the time machine on the roof.

That’s a lot of jumps, but Rintarou is committed. Nobody in 2036 particularly likes how things turned out (Rukako has bought it, and soon all of them will), so they’re all for him changing the world if he can. The first jump goes well, but it and many many more after it will require that Rintarou wake up after a long coma.

He gets better and better at convincing Amadeus that he’s indeed from the future, and each time, his friends send him on his way. He even gets to see Lil’ Suzuha! Eventually, he reaches the time where two weeks earlier he’ll no longer have Valkyrie HQ to rely on to time leap.

It’s the day he’s captured, tortured, and allegedly killed. However, things go differently this time, as Amakurisu suggests he uninstall her program and ditch all other tech the enemy is using to track him, while all of his friends act as decoys.

The Leskinen of that time knows he’s lost this round, while the Daru of that time and everyone else sees Rintarou off as he…well, he kinda runs all the way back to 2011. Not sure how that happened, actually, but I’m assuming he didn’t actually run back in time, but managed to escape the enemy and find another means of time leaping.

In any case, when he returns, he’s indistinguishable from the Rintarou of that time, so Maho and Daru think nothing of him showing up in the lab. However, he demands that one of them punch him for being such a whiny little bitch for so long, and Daru does just that.

Daru had no way of knowing what his right hook (or whatever; not a boxing expert) would lead to…the Awakening of Hououin Kyouma from a deep slumber. It took twenty and a half episodes, but we finally get to hear that ridiculous mad scientist laugh. It’s a sight for sore ears.

Not ten seconds after awakening, he’s giving Maho a nickname (“loli girl”) and a weird alternate name (“Safina”). He also dubs her Lab Member 009 and calls an all-hands meeting of the other members, who are just as happy as Daru that their Fearless Leader Kyouma is back.

Maho eventually gets it too: this “Kyouma” fellow has charisma, and rather than dragging everyone and the mood down, he’s galvanizing it. And yet, the same old Rintarou dwells within him, it’s just that he’s done running and cowering, and whining. It’s time for ACTION.

After meeting with the lab members, Kyouma talks with Ferdinand Braun downstairs and makes a number of arrangements roughly a half-hour before Akiba became a war zone in the other timelines. This time, the woman in black with the helmet isn’t Kagari, it’s Moeka, who is on Kyouma’s side in this World Line. Talk about an awesome reveal.

Yep, it sure looks like Hououin Kyouma was the missing variable in the formula to foil Leskinen’s plans and ensure Operation Arclight went off without a hitch. It’s a triumphant, righteous moment. It doesn’t last long.

Even though Mayuri and Suzuha get in the time machine and set off far earlier than previous times, that damned attack helicopter still peeks out from behind a building, launches its missile, and destroys the machine in front of Kyouma and Moeka.

Apparently, not enough conditions were met to avoid the convergence. Clearly it’s not enough to neutralize Kagari and Leskinen; something has to be done about the helicopter. I feel bad for Rintarou having to start all over again right after his grand awakening, but no one ever said changing the world was easy or pleasant.

Steins;Gate 0 – 20 – The Darkest Timeline

Something went terribly wrong during Rintarou’s second attempt. As a result, he wakes up in a post-apocalyptic future where Akiba is in ruins, roving soldiers will shoot you as soon as look at you, and that gorgeous blue sky Steins;Gate is known for is nowhere to be seen. Worse still, Rintarou has never looked weaker or more haggard; not exactly the person you expect to be able to do anything about this situation.

Fortunately for him, he still has friends in this timeline. For someone like Suzuha, who grew up in this shit, she seems right at home. But I don’t think I’ll ever get used to a skinny Daru, not to mention Feyris and Rukako going commando (and by that I mean actually becoming commandos, not going without underwear). It’s your prototypical Dark Future, where everyone’s just trying to survive.

It’s tragic, then, that Rukako meets his end just as Rintarou wakes up, dying in Rintarou’s arms serving as a proverbial glass of cold water in the face. Losing Kurisu, Kagari, Mayuri, and now Rukako, Rintarou knows he can’t just sit around satisfied he’s still alive.

His body may be 2036, but his mind is 2011, and so he’s still got enough hope left in that head to make yet another go at finding the Steins Gate. Daru and Maho have managed to keep the Time Leap Machine in working order; he tells them to get it ready. Frankly, I can’t blame the guy: I wouldn’t want to spend one minute longer than I had to in such a drab hell.

Any future would be better than this one…unless of course he manages to find one that’s even worse, where rather than still having some his beloved friends around, he’s completely alone, and without the means to ever time leap again. I’m hoping he can score some kind of a win with his next attempt.

Steins;Gate 0 – 19 – First Attempt

In response to the shock of the evening’s events that have led to the destruction of the time machine, the recriminations fly between Rintarou, Daru and Maho. All of a sudden, Rintarou demands that Daru and Maho finish the Time Leap Machine so he can go back and try to undo what’s been done.

This leads Maho to admit that, at present, she doesn’t have the know-how to discover the secrets of machine by herself in time (it will only go back about 48 hours). That means having to sacrifice her desired quest to attain the same answers as Kurisu, and instead just be given the answers by Rintarou.

Considering the stakes and the tiny window of time they have to work with, it’s the only choice she could have made, though it sets aside her scientific pursuits and just getting the thing built ASAP, it cements her role as an official Lab Member, working together as a team.

While Rintarou verifys that there were no remains of Mayuri and Suzuha— suggesting they may not be dead—the time leap machine construction proceeds anyway, seeing as how there’s far too much uncertainty about the fate of the two young women to simply sit back and do nothing. (We don’t learn anything more about the nature of Mayuri’s text, or whether it was a D-mail).

Feyris and Ruka do their part keeping the machine-building team fed and refreshed as they work tirelessly for the next 48-odd hours, successfully hacking into CERN and even getting Tennouji to switch on the 42″ CRT downstairs. Rintarou observes that the lab is suddenly a lot “livelier” and more fun than it had been in a long time. It’s just too bad Mayuri isn’t there to see it.

But enough “too bads”; it’s time for action. After waking up and mistaking Maho’s sun-bathed black hair for Kurisu’s red locks, Rintarou gathers the troops, an in a speech (that unfortunately doesn’t devolve into the chuunibyou intensity of Hououin Kyouma), thanks everyone for their hard work, including Amadeus, who blushes when he calls her Kurisu.

With that, the Phone Microwave (Temporary Name) Unit-02 is activated, and Rintarou leaps two about two days before the shit hit the fan (July 7). With so little time having passed since his origin, Rintarou has little trouble convincing Daru and Maho that he is indeed from the future, and they need to get to work deleting Leskinen’s data to preempt his move against them.

Rintarou also arrives at the rooftop of the Radio building a full hour earlier than “last time”, and rather than getting shot by Suzuha, Mayuri is successful in convincing him not to stop her from carrying out Operation Arclight – going back to August 21st and convincing him not to give up on searching for the Steins Gate.

Unfortunately, Judy Reyes, Kagari, and Leskinen interfere earlier than last time. Suzu and Rintarou are able to subdue Judy (who apparently represents DURPA), but Kagari and Leskinen appear shortly thereafter. Thankfully, this time we don’t have to sit and listen to him explain his plan and laugh like a Bond villain.

Suzu and Mayuri seal themselves in the Time Machine and it begins to activate…but Leskinen calls his air support to fire a missle at the machine, and Rintarou is right back where he started. His purpose for going back—saving Mayuri, Suzuha, and Kagari—has failed, and he fears that like saving Mayuri in the Alpha World Line, there may be no way to save the time machine in the Beta.

However, there’s no reason he can’t go back to the lab, have Daru and Maho finish the machine, and leap back again—and that’s exactly what he does. s he said in his speech before his first attempt, he’s prepared to fail dozens, hundreds, thousands, even a million times, but he won’t give up as long as he has the means to continue. Maho tells him to tell all her counterparts he meets that she promises to help for as long as it takes.

However, something strange happens after his second attempt: there seems to be a longer delay before he actually leaps, and the screen that displays the date and time for us suddenly stops a July 6 and cracks. That doesn’t bode well for having a third attempt, let alone thousands more…not to mention there are only four episodes remaining.

Steins;Gate 0 – 18 – What is this New Devilry

What happens this week? God, what doesn’t happen this week?! (Oh wait; sorry, “there is no God…”) But first, a couple of misconceptions I’d gathered at the end of the last outing. Mayuri is not dead; a bullet only grazed her head.

Also, Kagari/K2605 didn’t shoot her; it really was a stray from the soldiers. Far from being her attempted murderer, Kagari completely loses it on the troops in her mother’s name, lopping off their heads and shooting them with their own rifles.

When Mayuri gets a (pained) look at her future adoptive daughter, K2605 snaps out of it and becomes regular Kagari again. But nobody’s out of danger yet. Maho and Daru are still being held captive by soldiers, and the mastermind finally reveals himself, first to Rintarou, then to everyone else on that rooftop.

It’s Professor Leskinen. He, or rather numerous “hes” throughout history, are behind everything: the “voice of God” in Kagari’s head to manipulating events so Kurisu would die but her memories of the time machine would be preserved through Amadeus.

Leskinen/s have been preparing for this very day, the perfect time when competing global powers (Stratfor and DURPA) converge on the Time Machine, allowing him to swoop in and snatch it for himself.

I’m pretty sure I never suspected Leskinen was the Big Bad; only when they showed part of the face of the guy who brainwashed Kagari did I comment that he didn’t look like Leskinen. Now Judy Reyes I suspected (who drinks red wine on a plane? A little turbulence and you’re wearing it), but not the mostly harmless-seeming bad Japanese-speaking professor.

Of course, Lesky relied on the “soft-heartedness” of everyone from Maho to Rintarou to facilitate his plan, and was all too willing to appear harmless until it was too late to stop him. His reveal is a double-edged sword: there’s more clarity now to who Rintarou & Co. are up against, but “villain spends inordinate amount of time explaining his evil scheme” cliche really has been done to death.

It’s a bit disappointing to see Lesky reduced to a chortling mad scientist, but at least there’s a kind of dark symmetry with Rintarou’s long-dormant Hououin Kyouma. Oh, and thanks to wasting so much time explaining his plan, he ends up never getting to even implement it. Instead, Kagari uses her remaining strength to grab him.

He puts a couple more bullets into her but she doesn’t let go, giving Suzu time to take care of the rest. Only her dad can stop her from beating Leskinen to death. Then things get really crazy when a Black Hawk helicopter opens fire on the roof before another team of soldiers drops in.

Then an Apache helicopter shoots the Black Hawk, causing enough chaos for Mayuri to grab Suzuha and do what they originally set out to do: use the time machine. After bidding Rintarou farewell, the machine is activated and begins to glow green, but one of the helicopters fires a missile at it. There’s an explosion, and the among the resulting debris is a part of the machine.

Did Mayuri and Suzuha fail to get out in time? We don’t know for sure (just like I wasn’t sure Mayuri was killed or Kagari didn’t kill her last week). If they made it, perhaps we’ll pick up on their experience, and Mayuri will be able to undertake her first big mission as Lab Member #002.

Furthering the confusion is a lengthy text Rintarou gets from Mayuri. Is it just a text she sent in the present that simply took a while to get to him, or is it a D-mail? The timing suggests the latter.

If they didn’t make it, there’s still the Phone Microwave and Daru and Maho’s know-how (not to mention a captive Leskinen), and they’ll be making more green bananas. In either case, Rintarou & Co. are down, but far from out.

Steins;Gate 0 – 17 – Fiasco

I could say “if only Suzu had left in more of a hurry”, but “if onlys” are at the very core of Steins;Gate. The future is the product of countless “if onlys” that were combined just so. Besides, there’s an element of inevitability, such that Suzu’s departure was meant to be delayed by Mayuri, and Mayuri was meant to know everything everyone else knows.

Suzu, Daru, and Maho tell her what they know, and it confirms what she suspected: Rintarou is in this state because he lost Kurisu, whom he loved. Mayuri exclaims that she loves Okarin every bit as much as Kurisu did if not more, but loved Hououin Kyouma even more than that, even though that persona has vanished, along with any joy in Rintarou’s life.

Because she loves him so much, Mayuri cannot stand by and allow him to remain so sad. So she decides not to stop Suzuha, but to join her on her trip back to August 21 of last year, in hopes they can both find the Steins Gate World Line. Rintarou races to the rooftop to plead with Mayuri not to go, but she’s determined to, as she poetically puts it, “clear away the clouds that loom over his sky”.

By having to deal with both Mayuri and Rintarou (the latter of whom she shoots, grazing his leg). Suzuha wastes a lot of time she should be using to get out of 2011 while she still can. She even leaves Mayuri alone on the rooftop as she takes Rintarou aside to patch him up.

The cell network blackout should have been a sign—a very ominous sign—that her window for escaping to the past was becoming smaller with every passing second. Earlier in the lab, Daru, Rintarou and Maho find messages from AmaKurisu on @channel, and Maho learns that the system was hacked and Kurisu’s memory data stolen.

All of the actions and inactions, observations and failures to observe, culminate in a D-Mail being sent to Suzuha from 2025; the first of this 0 arc. It’s from the future Daru, but from a slightly different world line than the one she left. The lines diverged when Suzuha and Mayuri decided to use the time machine. But they never get to actually use it.

Instead, Mayuri is taken hostage (making her announcement back in the lab heart-breakingly prescient) and the entire rooftop is swarming with soldiers; I’m guessing the Americans. They surround Suzuha and force her to surrender, but she has one more ace up her sleeve in the form of a knife hidden in the time machine.

Suzuha goes on a mini-rampage, but there are too many soldiers to take out, and in the mean time Mayuri is badly exposed. Just steps away from the safety of the stairs, she’s shot in the head and falls lifelessly to the ground. At first I thought it was just a stray bullet—there were so many—but the headshot is the work of Mayuri’s own future daughter Kagari, AKA K2605.

Never mind “if onlys”—I can’t see how this could have possibly gone worse.

Steins;Gate 0 – 16 – It’s Not Just a Cheap Coat

Daru and Maho are hard at work on “Phone Microwave (Temporary) Unit-02”; progress is slow and full of smoky setbacks, but neither party has any intention of giving up anytime soon. Meanwhile, in Mayuri’s words, the “normie life” of Rintarou (who has given up on trying to have both Kurisu and Mayuri in his life, without starting WWIII) is taking off, and he can’t tell how left behind she feels.

Rintarou can’t so much have a conversation with her without checking his buzzing phone. He says things like his going to America is “good for everyone”, even though it’s not good at all for her. She decides not to go eat with him, but ends up encountering Ruka, who calls her Rintarou’s “Orihime-sama”, pertaining to Vega and the heroine of the story upon which the Tanabata festival is based.

While the lovers representing Vega and Altair were banished to opposite ends of the galaxy, once a year a flock of magpies forms a bridge for them to meet. Mayuri, who can tell that Rintarou loved/loves Kurisu and not her, can’t subscribe to Ruka’s assertion, and all Ruka can do is offer a handkerchief to dry Mayuri’s tears.

Rintarou suddenly arrives at the lab while Maho is showering and Daru is unprepared. He’s ready to drag Daru along with him to America, but the trash is full of bananas and there’s a curtain covering the back of the lab. A light dawns in Rintarou’s head, and his initial suspicions are proven right when he pulls a bunch of slimy green ‘nanners from the trash.

When he discovers the new Phone Microwave, he whips himself into a damn frenzy trying to remind Daru just how much torture he endured and who died last time the device was constructed. Eventually his rantings are interrupted by Maho (in a towel, at first), but he soon turns on her, going so far as to call her a murderer if she proceeds. That earns him a much-deserved punch to the face.

Once heads have cooled a bit, Rintarou and Maho debate the “laws of the world” and whether messing with them is “challenging God.” While Maho can appreciate and even respect certain aspects of Rintarou’s theory about how the world works, she doesn’t believe humans would have the ability to make a time machine if they were never meant to.

Rintarou rebuts, telling her how she couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to fail and fail hundreds and thousands of times, which is laughable to us because we know that the entire time Kurisu was alive, Maho was struggling and failing to reach any of the breakthroughs or earn any of the accolades or gain any of the fame her kohai had. But she never gave up then, and she’s not giving up now, no matter how much Rintarou yells at her.

Rintarou skulks off, and by chance, ends up encountering Mayuri in the park where they used to spend a lot of time before they met Daru. She used to wait for Rintarou just as we saw her wait outside his college in the present. What Rintarou doesn’t know, but eventually finds out as she talks, is that Mayuri heard every word in his rant back at the lab about how saving Kurisu meant killing her off.

She also tearfully notes how much he’s looked like he’s suffered ever since he made the decision, which makes her think he might’ve made the wrong choice. There’s no way he can be okay with how things have turned out if he has that look. His eyes have always betrayed how he actually feels. Rintarou is devastated, and tries to tell Mayuri to do the impossible: “not think about it.” Things aren’t that simple, Okarin. The clouds part, revealing Vega and Altair.

This was an emotional powerhouse of an episode, with clashes between characters of an intensity that’s been mostly missing from this season. With those scenes came brilliant performances from Miyano Mamoru, Hanazawa Kana, Seki Tomokazu and Yahagi Sayuri. Also brilliant is the fact that there are no right or wrong answers.

As Daru and Maho search for that one perfect solution to the formula among an infinite possibilities—for the Steins Gate—they must be cognizant of the fact that they are imperfect, lest the despair Rintarou has already experienced not only return, but worsen.

Steins;Gate 0 – 15 – MOE MOE KYUN

Up to this point, it looked like things were going well for Daru and Yuki. Not fast, but good. Both were comfortable with the pace. Suzuha isn’t satisfied with his dad’s pace, so gets Feyris to doctor a photo to make it look like she’s slowly fading from time—Back to the Future style—because Daru isn’t spending enough time with her future mother. Meanwhile, Maho returns to Japan…but doesn’t have much to do at first.

She joins Suzuha, who gathers all of the other women (plus Ruka, minus Nae) to put Daru through a kind of “Dating Boot Camp”, even going so far as to have Maho hook him up to some kind of ridiculous “sleep learning” device.

The resulting Daru is confident—suave, even. But no matter how good his fancy date with Yuki looks from afar, in the end, Yuki has simply seen and heared and endured enough, and gives Daru the “oh look at the time.”

Daru needs time alone, and Suzu thinks she’s torpedoed her own birth. She thinks of the time her mom sacrificed herself to save her from a killer drone. She admits to Daru that the photo and stuff was a lie because she wanted to watch him and Yuki fall in love firsthand.

Daru was on to Suzuha all along (he is her dad, after all), but is grateful for the little push in the back he needed. He calls Yuki, apologizes for the first date, and she grants him a second in as many days, suggesting Suzu never had anything to worry about.

The nature of the date also suggests that any kind of unnatural meddling in Daru and Yuki’s romance would be fruitless, because Yuki likes Daru just the way he normally is, right down to the way he confesses, which is up in the title of this review. Justhewayouarism; clearly Yuki was a student of Fred Rogers.

After Yuki and Suzu talk post-Daru’s confession, they share a knowing hug that almost makes be think Yuki is aware of exactly who Suzu is. I mean, why not? Daru knows Suzu is his daughter, why wouldn’t Yuki instinctively know she’s her mother? As for Suzu’s sour face after departing from Yuki’s embrace, what was that all about? Does she sense K6205 watching her from on high?

This was an inoffensive enough little palate-cleanser for the coming trials involving Maho, Daru, the time leap machine, etc. But it lacked stakes, as I never believed Suzuha’s never being born was particularly likely, and certainly not something that would be determined in one episode.

As I said, Maho was mostly wasted this week, though I’m keeping an eye on the widening distance between Rintarou and Mayuri. It’s not that he doesn’t want to hang out with her ever; he’s just a very busy dude right now.

Steins;Gate 0 – 14 – The Voice of God Can Be a Real Pain in the Ass Sometimes

Steins;Gate 0 comes out of its one-week break between Spring and Summer with authority, delivering a tantalizing blend of drama, tension, and purpose. Roughly half a year has passed since a brainwashed Kagari was taken by forces unknown, which means we’re already at a point where the likes of Rintarou and Mayuri have reached the “acceptance” phase of loss. There was a time when he’d search endlessly and fruitlessly, but absent clues or recourse…life goes on.

In Rintarou’s case, “life going on” means continuing not to pursue any kind of objectives relating to time travel, which means Suzuha and Daru are on their own. While Daru has made some progress, he’s still far from restoring the Phone Microwave, which prompts Suzu to reach out to Maho (back in America) for her assistance and scientific know-how.

The only problem is, a sleep-deprived Maho continues to suffer from her Salieri complex: even if she has the ability to repeat what “Mozart” accomplished in another world line, she lacks the confidence to implement it. She doesn’t agree to assist Suzu because she’s afraid she’ll fail; she’ll let everyone down where Kurisu wouldn’t.

Word comes that Fubuki is in the hospital again; Suzu makes her dad Daru use it as another opportunity to interact with her mother (worried she may never be born in the future). Thankfully, it’s a false alarm; the doctors simply wanted to run more tests on Fubuki…though I wonder whether this is some kind of foreshadowing for further ill effects of time travel.

While at the hospital, Rintarou meets Dr. Leskinen, who doesn’t hesitate to take several pictures of their encounter for the benefit of Maho. Daru learns for the first time that Rintarou may be bound for America to study and eventually join Leskinen’s research group, but Leskinen made sure not to set a concrete date for Rintarou to do so.

Suzuha finds Kagari’s metal opa in the hallway outside the lab, which is strange, because there’s no way she nor anyone else wouldn’t have noticed it for half a year; it must have been left there on purpose. Sure enough, Suzu pretends to be in the shower when an uninvited guest helps herself inside the lab.

Suzu, unquestionably the most militarily capable of Rintarou’s circle of friends (not counting Tennouji) gets the jump on the helmeted intruder in black, and when she forces her to take off her helmet, it’s revealed to be Kagari, or rather a fully-brainwashed Kagari in “Bureau Mode.” She’s come for her Opa, and when Suzu doesn’t produce it, Kagari goes mad and attacks.

Kagari isn’t too much of a challenge to Suzu, until Daru shows up and Kagari slashes Suzu across the abdomen. Kagari snatches up the Opa and flees, and Suzu isn’t able to catch up to her. But as she fled, Daru noticed Kagari was crying. Their Kagari is still in there, somewhere, and she needs their help. But if what Suzu suspects is true, they can’t help her without a time machine.

Suzu also notes that Kagari mentioned she “heard the voice of God” both in the present and twelve years ago when she held her up with a gun. She goes on to believe Kagari, like so many of her “Valkyrie comrades”, is the victim of the “Bureau’s Professor,” who thankfully doesn’t look much like Leskinen (from what little we see of him).

Suzu and Daru beseech Maho via “Skipe” one more time to assist them in building a time leap machine; Maho can tell they’re more desperate than before, yet still doubts herself. But after looking at Amakurisu, something clicks in her head, and she starts packing for Japan.

Rather than searching Kurisu’s work for all the answers, Maho intends to go down the same path and reach the answers herself. After all, no one acknowledged and valued Mozart’s talent more than Salieri. If anyone can do what Kurisu did when it comes to time travel technology, it’s Maho. I’m glad she finally realizes that.