There are some light spoilers in this post. And since I’m going to talking about overarching points to Hanasaku Iroha and Steins;Gate (and make a couple other references), it might make more sense to have seen most/all of those first before you try to read this.
Hanasaku Iroha is about the craft and pride, it is about calling and following and forging a way. It is a message about generational empathy through shared exercise of overcoming adversity with a dash of cognitive dissonance and a twist of estrogen. The key ingredient is attitude. In episode 25 Nako identifies the difference maker (without spelling it out), the one thing that makes Ohana the special little girl Tohru pinned as awkward and clumsy, but ultimately she does “fest it up”; to bring a certain joy to the people around her. Just like how both opening sequences are the Kissuisou staff bustling and hustling, and it’s fun to watch. (Well, to be fair, it’s not just attitude, but that is the key ingredient.)
Steins;Gate is about doing what you’re called to do despite the situation that you have endured thus far.
To bring up Chaos;Head first for a second, the story of that is about this NEET/socially maladjusted dude and his semi-delusions. In Steins;Gate, the same idea is diluted by this compelling piece of time-traveling SF mystery, but it’s still there. We’re talking about a band of people who are also needy socially for one reason or another, with a protagonist that is socially maladjusted with some delusions of his own.
The main difference is that Takumi’s issues are played as some kind of mad-man ranting. Okarin’s issues are just an extreme case of chuunibyou. This difference is a matter of perception as the way each anime presented the eccentricities are different. I think on paper they are much closer than it seems. [And I think this is why I keep referring to Chaos;Head in Steins;Gate's context, despite the discrepancies between the two anime. That, and Super Special.]
To finally get to the punch, ever read about people complaining about self-esteem education in public schools in the 90s? And how it may be blamed for certain emerging trends towards young people and their attitude about life and people? Not that I want to apply it to Steins;Gate, but the mechanism behind the claims may be similar. If we take the perspective that Okarin is the victim of Japan’s lost decade (in a way he symbolizes that entire crowd), and in a way Steins;Gate is some larger symbol about generational conflicts, it can be said that the present state of things can be blamed on the past state of things, and those who had control over the past. I mean, the penultimate ”villain” and Kurisu’s little back story makes this painfully clear. The symbolism and analogy are just only beginning, here. What is Okabe fighting for? For a better future, am I right? [Can I have some Suzuha x Doreamon doujinshi?]
Is this why Steins;Gate can be seen as a strange coming-of-age story in which Okabe goes through these trials to redo and undo D-mails written out of the lingering regrets and uncertainties from their original senders? Only if we were [insert something regret-like] while growing up in the late 90s? Well, except Moeka’s case; but she’s kind of nuts already. The plot generator makes a compelling case, re: being able to change the past in order to change the present and future. If you read this NYT blurp about the book I linked above, it does also make the argument that this sort of self-esteem education can make you hardier. I don’t know if it does; but in traditional Japanese ways, it’s about slapping you in the face a few times so you get over yourself, so you can be yourself. I think that too would make you hardy, probably more so than staying delusional about that secret agency with acronym beginning with an S. Or was it a C? Heh, C.
PS. I really want to do a tutturu collection, but ugh no time little motivation. I guess I should see if someone did it already.