Steins;Gate on Ice

Navigating the choices, or the lack thereof, in life

Published by Diane Zhou in March 2022


Do our choices still matter when we cannot change the outcome? When time moves forward relentlessly? Although the future seems set in stone, there may be meaningful choices to make that shape our feelings and memories around whatever fate we meet. Diane navigates the choices, or the lack thereof, that life presents.



WARNING: Spoilers for Steins;Gate ahead!

The Burden of Choice

If it were true that “hindsight is 20/20,” time travel would be an amazing power that could help us redo the past and erase regret. But would we know what choices would lead to a better outcome just from one experience gone awry? How would we know whether a better outcome is even possible?

The trials of Rintaro Okabe from Steins;Gate suggest that the answer is no. With the coveted power of time travel, Rintaro and his friends become targeted by a large organization, leading to the death of Mayuri Shiina, Rintaro’s childhood friend. Rintaro uses his “Reading Steiner” ability of retaining his memories while changing timelines to arrive at one where Mayuri survives. After making countless attempts and watching Mayuri die thousands of times, he finally finds a sequence of choices that saves Mayuri, only to discover that instead, his love interest Kurisu Makise must die.

Although Rintaro eventually lands in the ideal “Steins Gate” world line where both Mayuri and Kurisu live, in the process he suffered from the lonely burden of being the only one who remembers everything that happened in the other timelines, and the inability to move forward because he always has the choice to go back in time. I don’t imagine many people would be able to shoulder what Rintaro did mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

“No one knows the future. It’s because the past cannot be undone that people can accept all sorts of pain, adversity, and cruel accidents, yet still move forward.” ~ Rintaro Okabe

I wanted to skate to a program inspired by Steins;Gate to reflect on the seemingly thin line between the freedom and burden of choice.

Creative Process

Music

I first stumbled upon the Symphonic Reunion version of the song “Gate of Steiner” and felt drawn into the wistful nature of the music. I then discovered the original song by Eri Sasaki and resonated with the lyrics’ melancholy pondering of how we are trapped in time and space.

Time is so sad and fleeting
Can’t be controlled, like a river, never stops
Space is emptiness, dark and so cold
Can you define its presence, does it exist?

Ultimately, I chose to skate to the instrumental version because I felt that it would fit my style of skating better.

Choreography

This Anime on Ice program doubled as my Senior Free Skate program for U.S. Figure Skating intercollegiate competitions. That meant that I had to include a certain composition of technical elements in the program.

Elin Schran choreographed this program for me and did an amazing job of incorporating all of the required elements while having artistic moments throughout that convey the feelings behind the program. Movements such as swaying back and forth, looping around in place before moving on, and sometimes slowing down and pausing reflect the overall vibe of wanting to waver but being forced to keep moving forward.

Dress

The dress I wore for “Gate of Steiner” was not designed specifically for this program. A dressmaker originally created it for my program to “Turandot” and I used it again for my program to “Reflections of Passion”; both were also routines specifically choreographed for competitions. However, I feel that the dress has really found its place with “Gate of Steiner” — the blue color and the sparkles evoke an image of the sky and the stars, of space and time.

Fun fact: I had my hair dyed subtly burgundy as a reference to Kurisu Makise.

2018 MIT Intercollegiate Competition

3rd place at the 2018 MIT Intercollegiate Competition, Senior Free Skate event

Reflection

The circumstances surrounding the time that I skated to this program were some of the most challenging and uncertain that I had encountered up until that point in my life. Interestingly, in the four years that have passed since then, the way I remember those times has changed with more life experience. If our feelings and perspectives about the exact same events can be different depending on who experiences them and how much time has passed, perhaps in a strange way, the past can be changed, or at least we have a meaningful choice in how we proceed with moving forward from the past.

Artwork by Julie Liu