Steins;Gate gave me the most conflicted feeling I have ever felt in my life.
Skip to the last paragraph for a spoiler free review.
The best way to describe this anime is "Clannad for Elitists, Edgelords, and People Who Hate Nagisa Furukawa". It's difficult to explain without spoiling important facets of the series, but allow me to say the reason I disliked Steins;Gate as much as I did at the very end is due to the elaborately forced romantic feelings between main hero Rintarou Okabe and his red-haired, tsundere assistant who conveniently found herself into every typical rom-com cliche they could think of.
I wish I could say I've never seen a more unrealistic romance pushed so hard before, but unfortunately I have and I can only say this happens because so-and-so character is the main female protagonist and thus MUST have a romantic relationship with the MC. But I don't think that should always be the case and I think here, especially, in Steins;Gate, the show could've benefited from an atypical romantic development between Rintarou and his childhood friend, Mayuri.
Mayuri and Rintarou begin the series together, as friends of course, but they're there in the beginning. That bond is established very early in the first few episodes and even after Kurisu, the Red-Haired, Red-Faced Tsundere, appears, Rintarou is still absorbed with Mayuri's safety. Mayuri's protection consumes so much of Rintarou's heart and mind, he almost goes insane trying to save her. And it's not just this which lead me to believe he loved her, but it was the way he smiled talking to her, the moments they shared standing outside, the way Mayuri could cheer him up better than anyone else; all those things together made me believe Rintarou truly and deeply loved Mayuri.
But tell me why, 95% finished with the series, Rintarou suddenly considers Kurisu the most important person in his life; the person he "cares for the most"???? Excuse me, but, how? These two characters literally meet in the first episode and the course of their time together spans three weeks in total. Now, I may be missing something, but how is three weeks enough to undermine multiple years of friendship between Mayuri and Rintarou who shared a "hostage-kidnapper" relationship which I THOUGHT alluded to something romantic. What could Kurisu possibly do to replace Mayuri in Rintarou's heart seemingly moments before the final solution is realized? Was their relationship that expendable where a person he just met a few weeks ago suddenly became the all-consuming desire of his heart? I don't buy that for a second and I'm calling Steins;Gate out for its bullshit. Every possible sign points to Rintarou's love for Mayuri in the first basically 20 episodes of the series and suddenly, after all those wonderful cliches (the almost kiss in the dark closet, wet boobs, "it's not like i was worried about you or anything, hmph!") Rintarou "loves" Kurisu more than anyone else in the world. I deliberately ignored those cliches because for an anime hyped up and praised as much as "STEINSU-GATO", I didn't think it would stoop that low. The romantic development is juvenile at best and very disappointing especially for people like me who have a soft spot for weak and blissfully unaware females like Mayuri and Nagisa Furukawa from Clannad.
Steins;Gate tries to pull a "heart-wrenching" romance out its ass that is only convincing if you don't respect yourself enough to acknowledge overused and played out cliches common to every rom-com and harem anime on the market. Where it succeeds so much everywhere else, it fails to do its own characters justice by giving them a decently convincing relationship.
When I found out the anime's source is a visual novel, it all made sense.