Steins;Gate 0 Episode 14: What Happens If Okabe Isn’t The Protagonist?

It seems Okabe’s friends might be getting a little tired of waiting for the passive protagonist to act and now they are taking matters into their own hands. What does this mean as we go forward?

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There’s no doubt that Steins;Gate 0 has been characterised primarily by an Okabe Rintaro who is determined not to build a time machine and will not risk moving world lines. However, that’s always a dangerous stance for a story to have a character resist taking an action. It kind of leads the plot to stagnation and ultimately the only real way to resolve a situation like that is to either have the character do something else instead or to force their hand. After half a season of meandering, it seems like the support cast have decided to rise to the occasion with Suzuha and Daru enlisting Maho to help them recreate the time leap machine. While they aren’t the team that Okabe and Kurisu were, I’d have to say their likelihood of success is pretty good particularly this far into the season.

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But what does that actually mean for the narrative? Has it actually outgrown Okabe or is this just a way of forcing his hand without having him do a complete back-flip on his own decision not to mess with time? And part of me can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just do this earlier rather than waste all that time trying to get Okabe to come around when clearly he was adamant about not moving from his current position.

It also, of course calls into question the motives of the characters. Daru wants to help his daughter and Suzuha has always had pretty openly stated motivations to change the future from the one she escaped. It is Maho’s motive that seems fairly murky and I wonder what that will do to the enterprise.

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Well, plenty of possibilities as always for this show and yet overall I can’t help but note that I’m still not enjoying this anywhere near as much as the original. I’m not disliking it but it kind of just is at this point and while that’s kind of enough it isn’t a show I’m going to rush to recommend whereas I firmly recommend watching the original Steins;Gate.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 13: Ignore the Paradox

After spending an entire episode setting up a bootstrap paradox, this episode chooses to ignore the song in question entirely and focus in stead on where Kagari was during that missing time. I kind of wonder if they intend to get back to it or not at this point.

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Steins;Gate 0 continues to be a bit odd in that even at this midway point we seem a little short on an actual focus. The original series by the midway point made it clear what the overall goal was going to be and then it just had to accomplish that goal and iron out the wrinkles that achieving the goal created. Here, I’m not sure what anyone is actually trying to accomplish. At first it seemed Okabe wanted to maintain his status quo having decided to sacrifice Kurisu for Mayuri (which is what put them in this timeline), but now he is actively seeking out Kagari’s past and generally involving himself in things that are undoubtedly going to change his realty whether he wants them to or not.

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It is even harder to get a read on characters like Daru and Suzuha who at times seem to have tunnel vision on their goals, and yet Suzuha, for all her drive and focus, doesn’t seem to be actually making much progress to achieving anything at this point. Mayuri is still just kind of floating along, as are most of the others who hang around in the lab these days and honestly I’d be hard pressed to say what any of them are actually trying to do in this story.

Then there’s the disconnect between the intense focus on finding out the source of the song last week and then this week it isn’t mentioned at all. Mozart has come back and music in general still remains significant and is firmly linked to Kagari, but what the connection is hasn’t been established and how any of this connects to the whole AI Kurisu from the majority of the earlier episodes is also pretty unclear at this point.

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While there’s definitely hope that the second half of this might sort itself out, at this point I’m still just kind of curious but not really as into it as I’d like to be.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 12: I Wonder How They’ll Deal With This Paradox?

When time travel is involved you expect that there will be paradoxes involved, or at the very least events that will leave you asking more than a few questions, and yet this one just seems like it exists to fill time while they investigate it.

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Steins;Gate has never shied away from the fact that the narrative is very firmly built upon the mechanics of time travel. It’s plunged us into loops and paradoxes previously and ultimately it has used these to its advantage and been clever enough in its approach that it hasn’t left us all pointing at a glaring hole in the time line constructed even if there are a few questionable moments.

Yet episode 12 of Steins;Gate 0 plunges us headlong into a bootstrap paradox that it takes the entire episode and then the after credits sequence to set up and I have to wonder if the payoff will be worth it. Because either we literally do have a closed loop which will leave us forever at a loss to explain where the song originated given it seems to just perpetually exists within the loop, or someone inserted the song into this loop for some reason that I’m sure will never adequately satisfy common sense.

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Still, I have to give credit where it is due, and finally doing something with Kagari’s story rather than introducing her and then getting distracted by other things is kind of nice and a return to exploring Mayuri and Okabe’s relationship, which is fundamentally why Okabe got himself into the endless loop in the first place, is also greatly appreciated. It would be nice to see this built upon a little as we go into the second half.

So what about you: how did you feel about the episode and the knot this story seems to be tying itself into?

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 11: As If Things Are Finished

You would think Okabe would have learned by now that things are never done. There’s always some angle or thread he’s missed that will come back to bite him. Still, he feels things have come to an end bringing us to a resting point in the story.

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Things moved pretty quick this episode from finding the computer, realising the person analysing it was Daru, the attack, chase sequence, explosive violence and then Maho leaving. It all came one thing on top of the other and yet didn’t feel rushed or overly cluttered. And while this was a far more interesting episode than the previous one, it still didn’t quite pack the punch of the midway point in the original series.

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I know these two lines weren’t delivered this way, but I just had to.

Still, they’ve brought us to a point where the plot has fairly infinite possibilities for where it might go next and it will be interesting to see what they do. The cast have all assembled, this world is fully constructed, but now the plot really needs to step it up and wow us to make this spin off feel like it was worth the time.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 10: And This Is Why Characters Should Speak

So, turns out Maho is having Kurisu’s computer analysed. Why is that a problem? Oh, it will just start WW3. So why would she do that? Because Okabe doesn’t tell anyone anything.

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Okabe’s been keeping a lot of secrets for the sake of ‘protecting’ those around him. Or is it more that he’s taken on the role and enjoyed playing the martyr? Because really, who has he protected by keeping them in the dark? Basically the characters are doing things that put them at risk because they don’t know what the danger is because the one person who could point it out is keeping his mouth shut even now that it is clear that danger has come back to them.

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I can kind of understand Okabe keeping quiet when everyone else was able to get on with their ordinary lives. But after the lab was stormed and he’s jumped time lines, you would think he would realise that ordinary is not an option and would lay his cards on the table. But no. That wouldn’t lead to further plot developments fuelled by characters acting in perfectly sensible ways with the information available to them.

But it does kind of shoot any tension in the foot when you realise this whole computer issue could have been avoided if Okabe had just shared a bit of knowledge. And the reason I’m so focused on this one point of the episode is the rest of it was cleaning a room, a pyjama party that involved boob groping, and some walking around and reminiscing, so other than this one point, there’s nothing else really to talk about.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 9: Putting It Together

After returning to the former world-line, Okabe seems to have found some real motivation. Things are getting serious as the ongoing implications of jumping world-lines become more and more apparent.

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During this episode it occurred to me how heavily this particular story arc is leaning on Suzuha’s character. She’s the one with the clear knowledge of the future, or other time lines and events, and the one who seems to be trying to drive Okabe into a particular decision or path. Compared to the passive Okabe who has just been trying to wash his hands of the whole situation since the beginning of this season, Suzuha has been at the core of almost everything. And now, Okabe is taking a firm stance and we see that for the first time in Steins;Gate 0 these two characters are at odds with how to progress from here.

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There were a few strange things in this episode, that I’m certain will be explained later. Like the random fever sickness that is mentioned at the hospital and the fact that another character seems to have dreamed of the other world-line at the same time as Okabe was there. Then we have a whole bunch of things that Okabe seems to be putting together as a reason for the attack but none of it seems to be clear to the audience just yet. So I guess we’re still waiting. Either that, or I just need to watch the episode again when I can think a little more clearly.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 8: Reliving The Tragedy

It has taken 8 episodes but I finally found myself emotionally invested in an episode of Steins;Gate 0. Whether this continues, I’m not sure, but this was by far the best episode this series has given us.

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It seems almost ironic that my favourite episode of Steins;Gate 0 so far is this one which actually doesn’t really progress any of the plot points from 0 at all and is almost entirely caught up in reuniting Okabe with Kurisu and ultimately making Okabe face the choice all over again of whether to sacrifice Kurisu for Mayuri or not. And while we’ve seen this heartbreaking choices made once before, Okabe is now having to make it off the back of living the reality without Kurisu and that is a fairly unpleasant experience for him, and for the viewers who were probably doing mental cartwheels at the return of our sassy red-headed science geek.

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There were several key scenes that really lifted this episode outside of Okabe’s original reuniting with Kurisu. The first is his encounter with Daru where we see Daru for the first time really get angry at Okabe, for fairly understandable reasons given the context of the time line. We also get the grave visit which was superbly, if predictably, done.  But by far my favourite moment came when Kurisu’s passing comment about how they met triggered something in Okabe. Perhaps planting a seed that would later (or earlier in terms of the original series) see him figuring out the loophole that would allow her to survive. I quite enjoyed that moment.

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We then of course got the parting kiss between the pair and this scene looks great but they really didn’t let it stand on its own suddenly blasting us with the score and removing any kind of subtlety from the emotion of the moment. It kind of took away from what should have been a fairly anticipated moment between the pair.

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However, we now have the problem of whether or not Okabe actually returned to the previous world line or ended up somewhere else again. We also still don’t really know what’s going on with anything in the world line we were originally in with this series. None of the other characters or plot points had even a moment’s attention this week so everything just kind of got put on hold. So while I really did enjoy this reunion episode, I have to say it leaves me wondering how the next episode can possibly hold up.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 7: Leaping To Conclusions is Fun

I wondered when we would get a Mozart reference and they definitely shoved it in there. I’m just not sure it makes any sense for that kind of a logical leap when trying to figure out a random number.

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While this episode was a lot more interesting, that is probably because we’ve got bad guys waving around guns and shooting the TV. Seriously, the TV was an innocent bystander here. But while events are certainly moving along and we’re gathering allies and gearing up for intrigue, this episode still fails to engage the way even the slowest of the original’s episodes did.

And part of that is because we’ve all been waiting for this moment. Another reason is that none of these characters are as interesting in this world line as they were in the original story. Furthermore, not enough has been done to make me want to care about the AI and the ramifications of it. Other than the nostalgia trip and the emotional trip it was taking Okabe on, Amadeus hasn’t been that interesting.

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The best moment of the episode came right at the end before the credits where something I actually didn’t expect occurred and now I’m wanting to know how and why it happened. That doesn’t actually mean I’m more engaged with this story. It means that once again they’ve dropped next episode bait in the last five minutes and they are kind of hoping that keeps carrying the audience given the middle of each episode so far has been pretty ordinary.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 6: And Round and Round We Go

We’re still relying on echoes of sentiment created by a parallel narrative to make us interested in this one, and this week my brain decided it just wasn’t invested at all. By the time we get to yet another cliff-hanger ending in the episode this week, I’d more or less switched off.

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Last week I said I was getting more into this anime, this week I take that statement back. Meandering through a New Year’s gathering with dialogue that kind of seems like it echoes the group dynamic of Steins;Gate but has none of its pithy or entertaining edge, I found myself largely bored with the discussion around Kagari and then the shrine visit.

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By the time we turned into the party and the reveal to the group that Kurisu was an A.I, not that any of them met her in this time line, I could already see where things were going, so by the time the lab was stormed for our final cliff-hanger moment of drama in a direct throw back to the events of the original time-line I had already come to the conclusion that this spin-off isn’t necessary. Other than exploring the damaged side of Okabe it has offered us nothing new in six episodes and any moment of emotional resonance has come from nostalgia for the original anime. Which just makes me think I should go watch that instead.

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Now, I do intend to finish this series out for the simple reason that events later in the season of the first Steins;Gate did make earlier events take on slightly more meaning and there’s a chance that there may be a turning point for this series yet. Still, six episodes or milking nostalgia and failing to create any real points the felt new seems like a waste.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episodes 4 + 5: It’s Never Over

Episodes 4 + 5 have certainly stepped up the tension in this new series and made me interested in how the conflict will develop. I’m still not fully sold on this but I will admit I was pretty into these two episodes.

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Episodes 4 and 5 of Steins;Gate 0 bring a few interesting developments. One of them we probably could have done without, but the others are quite a welcome introduction to some conflict rather than just watching the characters interact.

I’m very curious as to the origin of Okabe’s dream and whether or not there is in fact a shift in the world line again. It isn’t impossible he’s just really traumatised and imagining things, but he did lose some time, at least if Kurisu as the AI is to be believed, and he certainly had a fairly vivid recollection of a future event that realistically he shouldn’t have lived through in the world line he is currently in.

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And bringing back Moeka was definitely always going to be a tense moment. So many horrible memories attached to her and yet Okabe is the only one to remember it. What makes this introduction even tenser is you can pretty much figure out that Ruka is going to bring the missing person into the story, so they are essentially giving information to Moeka and bringing her into their lives unnecessarily. That just reeks of plot slamming these elements together to set up future events that are unlikely to go well for the main group. Despite the obvious nature of the plot device, I had to admit I was liking this as it at least means things are moving along.

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However, the addition of a second time traveller that they’ve just never mentioned before is probably the bit that lost me. It seems so unnecessary and to have her look just like Kurisu (implying that maybe she’s a daughter) and then have her being raised by Mayuri in the future (because why not entangle everyone) all just seems so ham-fisted. While this might lead to something interesting, it was the plot development I was least impressed with in these two episodes.

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Still, I’m definitely getting more into this show now that its had some time to get going and hopefully that will continue.

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Karandi James

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