Summertime Render Vs. Steins;Gate: Comparative Analysis

Article Contents
Part 1: Commonalities
Part 2: Major Differences
Part 3: Which is Better?


One of my favorite anime tropes – and a relatively rare one – is characters who can time-loop. They can live through a certain timeline many times, trying to achieve the future they desire. One of the most popular examples is the anime Re: Zero (Starting Life in Another World), but that’s definitely not one of the best. The best example I know of is Steins;Gate, a 2011 sci-fi anime based on visual novels. Last year, in 2022, another time-loop anime was released: Summertime Render. Because I love both series, I decided to make them the subject of an article comparing the two.

Before we jump right into analysis, there are a few disclaimers to note. First of all, this article is full of spoilers for Steins;Gate and Summertime Render. Secondly, any comments on this post that are rude, condescending, or hateful will be deleted. You may have strong opinions about a famous and classic anime like Steins;Gate, but that’s no reason to act like an ass about it. Without further ado, let’s begin a detailed look at these two anime series.

Part 1: Commonalities

The most obvious commonality between Summertime Render and Steins;Gate is the presence of a male main character with a time-looping ability. They achieve and utilize their powers in different ways, but broadly speaking, their powers are similar. Shinpei in Summertime Render has an eye originally belonging to the god Hiruko who came from another world. Using said eye, the boy can select the right future among many options by living each one. Okabe in Steins;Gate has a time machine, as well as an innate ability to recall memories from other timelines. He uses the machine to leap back in time and try to change the future.

The motivations of these characters is another thing these anime series have in common. Both Shinpei and Okabe are reliving a set timeline to reach a future where their friends and loved ones survive. Speaking of which, in both Summertime Render and Steins;Gate, those friends and loved ones die a lot. Because there are multiple worlds, and some have different outcomes than others, we see important characters die multiple times, like Shinpei’s sister Mio from Summertime Render. The character deaths in both shows are usually well done and emotionally evocative. That’s another example of something they share.

(Shinpei’s sister held at gunpoint by a shadow clone)

Summertime Render and Steins;Gate can both be appropriately classified as psychological thrillers. Any work of fiction that’s considered psychological should have strong character development, honing in on the deepest parts of the protagonist’s mind. It’s about the motivations and mental states of the characters. A thriller should include plot twists, suspense, action, and intense excitement. Thrillers are often violent and sometimes incorporate elements of horror. A psychological thriller has the elements of both genres, psychological and thriller. Let’s look at some examples briefly.

In Summertime Render, there are otherworldly creatures called shadows who copy and kill humans, “eating” their original data. This concept leads to a lot of suspenseful situations where people become victims. The anime also focuses heavily on the mind of protagonist Shinpei, who experiences dissociation as a coping mechanism to help him think objectively when battling the shadows.

In Steins:Gate, the cute character Mayuri is fated to die in most timelines. We are forced to see her die in a variety of ways, creating suspenseful and shocking scenes. The anime also “zooms in” on the mind of the main character, Okabe, who struggles to stay sane while watching his childhood friend die repeatedly. These two anime series are both good examples of psychological thrillers.

(Mayuri getting hit by a train)

In addition to interesting character psychology, Steins;Gate and Summertime Render also have psychological elements that are philosophical or theoretical in nature. They raise various questions and quandaries. There are many examples, but we shall stick to one per anime. In Steins;Gate, there’s the idea that humans are largely defined by their memories. The time-leap machine works by sending someone’s memories back in time, essentially copying and pasting the brain of the future self into the body of the past self. Are personalities informed by memories? You could discuss this sort of thing for ages.

In Summertime Render, there’s a scenario which philosophers sometimes call “the swamp man dilemma.” Let’s say that one day, a copy of you emerged from a swamp and tried to take your place. It’s not a genetic clone, but a completely perfect copy, possessing your all own memories, personality traits, and quirks. Is that person now the same as the original? Why or why not?

The swamp man dilemma comes into play in Summertime Render because the creatures called shadows can create perfect copies of people. Shadows normally replace their originals, but one shadow girl decides to work with her original, Ushio, to help save their friends. Now, there are two of Ushio that are exactly the same. The anime treats both as equally valid forms of the girl.

(Ushio and… Ushio)

Some of the same ideas and themes in Steins;Gate are also explored in Summertime Render. For instance, they both explain how time travel works, and they end up quite similar. Another example is that some key characters at some key times recall memories from other timelines. Both anime series explore human psyches when under great stress and impossible circumstances. But I that’s enough about the dark stuff for now. Summertime Render and Steins;Gate also have two more aspects in common: humor and romance.

These two anime series each have their share of lighthearted moments and goofiness. While there was nothing outrageously hilarious in either show, there was plenty of amusement to be had. Steins;Gate focuses more on comedy than Summertime Render, and often has funnier, wittier interactions between characters. However, do keep in mind that some of the humor in Steins;Gate is insensitive. (They make a joke of Okabe repeatedly calling a trans girl “a guy.” Not funny.) Summertime Render‘s humor is not as commonly displayed. When present, it mostly comes in the form of ridiculously over-the-top reactions and face expressions.

(Okabe’s dramatic lab coat poses make me smile)

As for romance, both of these shows provide a decent dose. In Steins;Gate, Kurisu or Kris is the main love interest for Okabe. The two of them have a weird kind of chemistry and seem to hate each other at surface level. They spend much of the show bickering. However, they grow close to each other at several key points in the series. The romance of Okabe and Kris has a lot of sexual tension and includes a deep, romantic kiss.

Ushio is the main love interest for Shinpei in Summertime Render. Their romance is focused on the strength of their bond and closeness. They do not have a kiss on screen, nor is there much of a sexual dynamic. Since Shinpei and Ushio are a bit younger than the Steins;Gate characters, I think it was an appropriate choice not to sexualize their relationship. It’s still very sweet and enjoyable to watch their love story.

That wraps up our discussion of the major commonalities.

(Ushio and Shinpei)

Part 2: Major Differences

Although they have a lot in common, Steins;Gate and Summertime Render are distinctly different in several ways. One example is the nature of the main character’s power. Both main characters have time-loop powers, but Shinpei’s power is not activated until he dies. In other words, he has to suffer death himself in every timeline to trigger going back in time. Okabe can activate the time-machine without such a condition. Additionally, Shinpei’s power is limited and won’t last. Every time he loops back, he loses some time. Eventually, if he loops too many times, the “edge of time” will catch up to him and he will die permanently. Okabe is only limited in the sense that his mental health won’t hold up forever.

Another difference between the two anime series is that Summertime Render has a main antagonist to challenge the hero. (Actually, there are two – Haine and Shide.) These villains are trying to achieve their own goal, which involves wiping out all the people on Shinpei’s island. What’s more, Haine and Shide can loop in time just like Shinpei. In Steins;Gate, there is no central antagonist. Some characters are certainly antagonistic to Okabe – such as Moeka the secret agent – but they are not the driving force of the plot in all timelines. Rather than thwarting the bad-guys, Steins;Gate is about making small changes in time, involving all the cast members, to get to a world where Mayuri stays alive.

(Mayuri Shiina from Steins;Gate)

Anime series are often best described by more than one genre. Summertime Render and Steins;Gate are both psychological thrillers, as mentioned in the previous section; but they also belong to other genres. While Steins;Gate is primarily science-fiction, Summertime Render is classified as supernatural due to the presence of otherworldly creatures called shadows. On a related note, the settings are also quite different in these two shows. They are both set in the 2010s, but Steins;Gate takes place in the busy urban district of Akihabara. In contrast, Summertime Render happens on the tiny rural island of Hitogashima.

Most anime shows have their own distinct art style based on the source material (usually manga or visual novels). It’s only natural that Steins;Gate and Summertime Render have wildly divergent visual styles, especially given that they were made 11 years apart. I’m not here to tell you which style is better; you can decide that based on your own preferences. I’m not an artist and I’m not great at describing visuals, but I’ll try to give a little description for both of the shows.

Steins;Gate typically has tall, thin characters with unique eyes and interesting clothing designs. The color pallet is washed-out and muted, with a lot of white lighting. Usually, the face expressions look realistic and well-referenced. As for Summertime Render, it appears polished and colorful. The way the eyes are drawn and colored is beautiful, with a modern look, but isn’t very stylized compared to Steins;Gate. The colors are bright and stand out, but they are also still semi-realistic (no blue-haired characters for instance). There’s lots of beautiful island scenery. Overall, Steins;Gate has a more distinct style, with Summertime Render being brighter and more modern.

(Moeka Kiryuu from Steins;Gate)

(Hizuru Minakata from Summertime Render)

The last difference I want to point out is a bit more subtle. Both anime series do well with presenting good character psychology. However, Steins;Gate goes much more in depth in this regard. The exploration of Okabe’s mind is especially intense and thought-provoking. Summertime Render had a lot of interesting concepts related to character psychology that it left sadly underdeveloped or unexplored (for example, Shinpei’s trauma of losing his parents when he was a small child). Anyway, those are the major differences.

Part 3: Which Is Better?

I cannot tell you which of these series is objectively better, because there is no answer. An anime’s value is subjective. What I can do, however, is share some pros and cons about both shows. I can also tell you at the end which one I like better and why (though my opinions are subject to change as I continue to re-watch anime over the years).

As explained before, both series are psychological thrillers. However, Summertime Render is rural and supernatural, while Steins;Gate is urban and sci-fi. If you’re only planning on watching one of these series and can’t decide which, this difference may the key. If you like ghost stories or strange creatures from other worlds, try Summertime Render. It also has eerie but beautiful settings like dark mountain forests and old, abandoned buildings. On the other hand, try Steins;Gate if you prefer more explanation of time travel, human conspiracies, and loose references to real science and technology. The washed-out cityscapes, white light, and faceless crowds add a subtle element of urban creepiness.

(Steins;Gate wallpaper art)

I’ve mentioned that while both series feature good character psychology, Steins;Gate is a little stronger on this front. What is the trade off, then? Well, Summertime Render features a much faster-paced plot early on and many more action scenes. Another pro/con to keep in mind is that Steins;Gate has more clever humor, but some of it is annoying or even offensive. There are various other pros and cons of these two anime series, but I think the examples I gave are sufficient for our purposes today. So, I would like to note which anime I ultimately like better and why.

I love both Steins;Gate and Summertime Render. But the answer is that if I had to choose one to stick with forever, I’d probably go with Steins;Gate. This might not be a very surprising answer, and it’s probably what most seasoned anime fans would say, too. But believe me, I thought this question over for weeks. It’s not like I made a snap decision to judge the newer one more harshly. The difference in my appreciation for these series is marginal. Summertime Render is absolutely an amazing anime, and it deserves more love. I’m still astounded by how good it is.

As for why I went with this choice, there is one main reason that swayed me. I’m not very eloquent lately, so I don’t know if I can describe it well. Steins;Gate feels more like my mental landscape in more ways than does Summertime Render. Okabe’s psychological distress, the profound themes explored, and the way the hazy lighting is… it all contributes to a sense of dissociation. Another way to put it is that Steins;Gate touches more on topics like memories, dreams, and time, which are intertwined with my experience of the world. When I think of the way my mind works, it looks vague, deep, and distressing (like Steins;Gate) more than vibrant, urgent, and action-packed (like Summertime Render).

(More Steins;Gate art)

I hope that last ramble made some level of sense. Anyway, I can’t say enough how much I love both of these series. Steins;Gate and Summertime Render are both classics as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure how long this will last, but Summertime Render is now on Hulu. If you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to watch a pirated stream, check it out there! And that’s all for today. I am 7Mononoke, and this is Anime Rants.

Thank you for reading~


2 thoughts on “Summertime Render Vs. Steins;Gate: Comparative Analysis

  1. These sound really interesting! I didn’t know that these two anime were sci-fi, I though they were like urban slice of life anime. I’ve actually been wanting to watch more anime about time travel, I’ll have to check them out! Thanks for this review, I learned a lot! Oh, and I kind of like how in Summertime Rendering there are shadow cones (like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie) but in the case of one of the characters the cone and original actually get along. It just sounds really sweet!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, this is a really interesting read, 7Mononoke. Comparing anime is never an easy task because even when they look so similar, there’s a whole lot that will set them apart. That said, both S;G and SR have enough in common that I feel would prompt people to bring in their comparison tools.

    I liked how you explained why S;G is the better one for you. And don’t get me wrong, both are amazing. S;G has very much become a cult classic at this point, one of these few anime that just has the “classic” vibe to it.

    SR, on the other hand, is a phenomenal story and a very strong production to have come from the later years. And as much as I love Steins;Gate, I have to go with Summertime Rendering. Like you said, everything in S;G contributes to that feeling of disassociation, and while it works wonderfully to that story, I do prefer SR’s approach much more. Both are phenomenal series – and who knows, maybe a rewatch of S;G will have me changing my opinion, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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