When it comes to time travel anime, the one name that is mentioned without fail is Steins;Gate. Over the past decade, it has established itself as one of the most popular and beloved anime series of all time. However, if there is one title that can claim to have handled time travel better, it is Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song.
Released in the Spring 2021 anime season, Vivy‘s story is set in a dystopian future where advanced AI have taken over the world and begun eliminating humans altogether. In an attempt to save mankind, a scientist uses time travel to recruit Diva, the world’s first autonomous AI, to change the timeline. While Vivy may not have been met with immediate fanfare, it did garner ample critical acclaim, and it makes a strong case for itself as being among the best time travel anime, and the best science-fiction anime, ever made.
What Makes Vivy a Great Science-Fiction Anime
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song sets itself apart in many regards, but the most vital aspect is its eponymous heroine. Diva, who is privately nicknamed Vivy, is the most highly advanced AI of her era, built with the sole purpose of “making everyone happy with her singing by putting her heart into it.” This vague instruction grants Vivy access to passion, empathy and even occasional irrationality — all defining characteristics of a truly sentient being. Her mission to save humanity is perfectly intertwined with her personal desire to help and protect every human so that she can one day make them happy through her songs.
Another aspect that showcases the series’ excellence as a science-fiction anime is its steady storytelling. Despite having a strong lead, the story always focuses on its plot first. The 12-episode season is divided into discrete events where the protagonists act to alter the timeline, and the development and exploration of Vivy’s character occurs within the natural flow of the narrative without disrupting its pace.
Where Steins;Gate Falters
While Steins;Gate is an outstanding series, it is definitely not without its flaws. Ironically, Vivy‘s very greatest strengths also happen to be one of Steins;Gate‘s biggest weaknesses: Steins;Gate‘s broad ensemble cast and often exposition-heavy dialogue make its pacing uneven. Its primary conflict is only revealed at the midpoint of the 25-episode season. That, along with its slow-burn narrative style and lengthy characterization through its slice-of-life hijinks, means many viewers would have left the show before it even got interesting.
However, by far the biggest flaw in Steins;Gate is its indulgence of typical harem tropes. Making sure the hero reluctantly spends a significant amount of time with each of the female characters and appeases them in order to further his plan often leads the story to stray off its main path, also interrupting the somber mood of the second half of the series. The slow setup does eventually lead to a huge payoff, with its stellar ending leaving a lasting impression on the patient viewers’ minds, but it makes subsequent rewatches all the more frustrating.
Steins;Gate vs. Vivy: The Verdict
Any great anime — or indeed, any great piece of art regardless of the medium — should transcend the bounds of its genre. Steins;Gate, despite its very specific flaws, is a great anime that can be enjoyed by fans who have no understanding of or interest in the genre of science fiction or the concepts or themes related to time travel. Though extremely underrated, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song can make the same claim. The many things that make Vivy as good as it is — be it the music, the quality of animation and fight scenes, or the philosophical subtext of what it means to be a “person” and have a “heart” — go far beyond just science fiction.
However, discerning fans who grew up on science fiction and time travel stories, be it the Terminator franchise or the more recent Tokyo Revengers, will note that the better series overall is not always the better representation of the genre. While Steins;Gate may (arguably) be the better anime overall, it is clear that Vivy is the better time travel anime.