Okabe may have returned to the past after 3000 time leaps with new found determination but that doesn’t mean the obstacles he was facing have gotten any smaller. Episode 22 of Steins;Gate 0 has some serious brainstorming taking place before the characters face an incredibly tough choice.
Not a lot physically happens this episode. There are no mad dashes through time or characters running frantically from here to there. Yet, the episode is stronger because of it. After the marathon 3000 leaps back in time, Okabe is forced to stop and contemplate his next move and the decision the characters arrive at isn’t an easy one. Rather than rushing this process, the anime chooses to slow things down with Okabe taking a night stroll with Amadeus before making a decision with the morning. A decision that has to be made because time leaping further just isn’t possible.
However, despite the strong focus on Okabe and his issues with the decision, it is ultimately Maho who is forced to pull the trigger via Daru and you can see it breaks her heart. While less screen time is given to her farewell and contemplation, Maho really steals the thunder at the end of this episode with an emotionally wrenching sequence that actually hurt to watch. For a character I hadn’t really connected with during Steins;Gate 0, I have to say I had no complaints about how this moment played out as it really brought maximum emotional impact to the scene.
And with this episode we’re one final episode from seeing how this all ends and how Okabe Rintaro figures out how to keep both Kurisu and Mayuri alive. I’m just hoping we don’t have to watch them both die one more time before we get there.
Right, as much as I kind of feel Steins;Gate 0 has been overly drawn out for the amount of content it has and that about half the characters in it haven’t been needed for much of anything, I cannot deny the pure joy I got out of this episode. Hououin Kyouma is back.
There’s been some fairly solid narrative reasoning for Hououin Kyouma to have been missing in action for the majority of this season of Steins;Gate and yet the pure joy at his return, the way the whole show seemed to spring to life with his presence, and just how much more entertaining everything was just made me realise exactly what I’d been missing this whole time. And I get that the contrast is there for a reason, but all it did was emphasise that I haven’t really enjoyed spending time with a defeated Okabe. It might be argued that the long wait makes the return even sweeter, but for me it just makes it clear I don’t plan on rewatching this particular branch of Steins;Gate ever again. Once has been enough and there just wasn’t enough fun in the journey for me to do it over.
That said, I’m very keen on seeing how it finishes at this particular point in time. There’s been some interesting ideas along the way and some solid plot work weaving a parallel narrative that hasn’t undermined the original series. While I personally didn’t end up enjoying the characters as much as the original, I can’t deny the effort to make this fit in with the larger story.
So other than the resurgence of our favourite mad scientist, what did this episode do?
Well, Okabe completed over 3000 time leaps to make it back to the lab in time to try to save Mayuri yet again. This was impressive given how many times he might have wanted give up and how many things could have gone wrong with the plan along the way. Yet it really does show us just how committed Okabe is to his new resolve to no longer accept that there are fixed events that cannot be overcome. Which makes the end of this episode even more affective because just when it seems our hero is thing control of the situation fate or time or whatever decides to mess with him for one more round. While I don’t feel this will break Okabe’s spirit again, it is definitely not the outcome he was hoping for.
You know when things go wrong and there’s always that person who tells you not to worry because it isn’t the end of the world? For Okabe that moment isn’t coming because in this episode he really is seeing what happens after the failure to ‘fix’ the future back in 2011.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that a lot of Steins;Gate 0 hasn’t quite hit its mark for me, but credit where it is due, the decision to skip the OP this week and to deliver us muted dialogue and a scene of us looking down on a very small Okabe on the hand of a clock was the perfect one to make. It set the tone beautifully for an episode that was going to be grim in its content and it also set the scene for the transformation Okabe was going to undertake throughout this episode.
Throughout the whole first third of this episode we’re either looking down on Okabe or he is deliberately placed to seem small and insignificant against the destruction around him. As we come into contact with the other lab members in this version of the future we start seeing him trailing behind characters or being supported by them. We aren’t looking down at him so often but that is usually only because the other character in the shot is being framed as strong and steady. Finally, Okabe faces another death head on and then we see him close up and we see his decision. It’s some excellent decision making in how this episode has been directed that really draws you back into the narrative even if the content here is not exactly exceptional.
That said, the notion of printing his 2011 memories over his future self was an interesting twist and if Okabe hadn’t already made a decision to change the future no matter how many times it took, this trip has certainly cemented the necessity of changing the future into his mind. However, that’s where I’m wondering why we needed this (other than we finally get to see this future world we keep getting told about)? Okabe had already decided to use the time leap machine and find a way to change things. Reinforcement of a motive is fine and all but I can’t help but think this was less a narrative choice and more an opportunity to pander to fans who wanted to see the other lab members as gun wielding soldiers in a dystopian Akihabara.
Still, fairly solid episode and certainly one that made me pay attention even if on reflection the payoff wasn’t as great as I’d have liked.
It’s all well and good for Okabe to suddenly gain a sense of urgency and a desire to right wrongs and ‘fix’ things; however as Daru correctly points out, it is Okabe who has been ignoring them and stalling progress on the very machine that he’ll now rely on to ‘save’ everyone. Even then, the consequences of his choices are unknown so he can’t really assure anyone that he will in fact succeed.
Steins;Gate 0’s Okabe has really kind of bothered me. Admittedly seeing him at the beginning as a slightly broken shell of the mad scientist persona he used to lug around was intriguing, however the moping went on far too long. More importantly, after Okabe’s repeated rants to pretty much every character who sat still too long and didn’t run away about the importance of not messing with time because of the grave potential consequences, it is really hypocritical of him to now declare he doesn’t like the outcome of his choices and that he now wants to undo it all.
Passing the motive onto Kurisu doesn’t make it any better; in fact it makes me feel even more distanced from Okabe because he isn’t even willing to admit that he is the one once again making the choice. Claiming Kurisu didn’t sacrifice herself for Mayuri to die anyway is all well and good (probably true too), but eventually Mayuri would die so if it happened in twenty years time would that still be good cause for Okabe to suddenly decide to jump world lines again?
Despite my overall feeling of disdain toward Rintarou Okabe (a character I previously quite liked and enjoyed watching), this actually was a pretty packed and fun episode. Still, I’m thinking I’d have been happier leaving these characters after the first season. The only thing this season has added for me is a general feeling of disappointment in a protagonist who was amazing. Well, that’s a lie. I actually have a far greater respect for Daru than I did after the first season, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to justify 19 episodes of a series.
While there are some things that can be known about the future, and some choices that once made that will set things in motion, but without experiencing it, there is no way for the characters to know the outcomes of changes they make. Okabe experiences the disappointment of this first hand when he realises his choice to stay in this world line didn’t guarantee a happily ever after.
Steins;Gate 0 finally got around to revealing that the professor who has been overly interested in Okabe since the beginning is actually the guy behind a lot of what has happened. And really, what else did anyone expect, particularly given we knew the Americans were one of the factions at play, and there’s literally no other reason for the professor to have been so incredibly interested in Okabe and then Daru. It’s one of those reveals you see coming a mile away and yet it still is kind of satisfying when the show gets around to rolling it out and even his mad scientist laughter, before being pummelled in the face by Suzuha, kind of worked in context rather than sounding cartoonishly over the top villain like (Okabe did pretty much set the tone in Steins;Gate for mad scientist laughter to be accepted as part of this story).
Outside of that, we finally get the full story on Kagari and while this works well enough and fills a lot of the gaps, it overall seems really messy as a way of getting a message to your past self. And how detailed were her brainwashing instructions? How did the future professor know enough about what the characters would be doing and when for it to be affective? And while she might be brainwashed that doesn’t really explain beheading a guy with her hand – something about her suit maybe?
Overall, this episode does an excellent job of continuing the escalating tension, bringing plot points together, and if the objective of this series is to watch Okabe disintegrate as a character we definitely saw him take some damage emotionally, but as usual I’m left wondering if any of this was necessary and whether it has added anything to my original enjoyment from the first series. I’m still coming up empty on reasons why this was a needed series, and yet it isn’t as though I dislike it and it does seem to be setting up for a big finish. Here’s hoping it nails the execution.
Okabe may have made his choice but he can’t speak for all of the other lab members and this week it is their choices that will dictate the path the future will take. I guess the question we’re left with is whether there was ever a ‘right’ choice or whether all there ever is are different consequences to be experienced.
Under normal circumstances it is impossible to second guess yourself. Should you have turned left or right? Would things have been better if you’d chosen B instead of A? While we might speculate we can’t know. Steins;Gate has always had the interesting benefit of being able to not just speculated but to experience the consequences of making a different choice or pointing things in a slightly different direction. Unfortunately, it is never as simple as option A being better than option B given there are some definite down sides to every choice available.
Last week Okabe made it clear he was standing by the decision made by himself and Kurisu; the decision that kept Mayuri alive. What he didn’t factor in, mostly because he hasn’t been paying attention to her, is that Mayuri doesn’t want to just exist. It doesn’t matter to her if she goes on living if Okabe is the walking shell he’s been for the past 17 episodes. She’d rather face the possibility of death than continue in her current reality. It’s an interesting choice and one that would probably have had more impact if Mayuri had been given a bit more focus in this series, but it does mean that Okabe has to face the reality that his choice wasn’t final and it isn’t the end.
The fact that Suzuha and Mayuri’s journey is hijacked before it even begins when the guys with guns show up and the show ends on yet another cliff-hanger, is almost inconsequential. Just by making a choice these two have already changed the direction things were heading and forced Okabe into action whether he wants it or not. He can no longer pretend things are fine and that this is the final destination of his journey.
That said, killing Mayuri again would be a pretty cheap emotional ploy at this particular point in time… Cliff-hanger endings.
Have we ever seen Daru angry before? Have we ever watched Mayuri so absolutely devastated? It’s taken a while to get here, but this feels like the kind of episode I was hoping for all along.
This alternative time line has relied a lot on the knowledge of the audience to fill in the blanks. We entered this series knowing what had happened in the original series and knowing what Okabe went through the choices in front of him. And while we’ve seen the fall out of the choice he made to get to this world line, we haven’t heard from his own mouth just how he felt. It was quite obvious that he’s been holding so much back but this episode, as Daru and Maho are busted trying to duplicate the phone microwave (temporary), he just explodes.
What I loved about this was that everything he said was justified and could be understood by the audience because they’ve already been with him on his journey through countless failures. But at the same time, everything Maho and Daru said was also justified. They aren’t ready just to accept world war three nor are they ready to accept that there is no solution (of course without the memories of other time lines and not carrying that emotional baggage, their decision makes perfect sense to them).
And just in case this episode didn’t hit us with enough emotions, we get the flash back to see Mayuri’s first demise. It hits with all the impact it did right back when I watched the original series the first time. Of course, it also reminds me that most of the moments that have resonated emotionally with me in this series are throw backs to the original series. However, this episode actually does a fine job of taking the characters in a direction that wasn’t explored in the original series and is interesting. For perhaps the first time while watching this I am eagerly awaiting a decision I don’t know the answer to because it is quite likely that Daru and Maho can succeed without Okabe’s help, however it is infinitely more likely that after Okabe’s conversation with Mayuri he is finally going to accept that this world he has created isn’t the best outcome even if Mayuri is alive in it.
One thing I found particularly interesting early in the episode was the distance between Mayuri and Okabe. It’s been pretty palpable all season, but as they walk together and talk, we see almost no shots where they are on screen together, instead jumping from one to the next. It is really only when Mayuri pulls out her phone to show him a picture forcing him to move closer that the two end up in the frame together and even then Okabe looks distinctly uncomfortable. The conversation that follows is stilted and unnatural to the point that Mayuri excuses herself and essentially flees the scene leaving Okabe to go to the lab alone.
The point that Okabe made the choice to commit to this world line to save Mayuri and yet there’s more distance between them than ever, is well made without being hammered home. And this makes Mayuri’s confrontation of Okabe in the park at the end of the episode so much more powerful as she calls him on all his excuses.
While this episode doesn’t undo the fact that I’ve felt this series has been a bit plodding, I certainly enjoyed this week’s fare.
Suzuha is playing with fire, or at the very least time lines, when she decides to be more aggressive in her approach to seeing her parents together. However, what does this mean for the future?
It’s probably inevitable given Suzuha’s young age and tragic life that eventually she was going to act on an entirely selfish desire. While mostly her actions are compelled by her desire to make the future war not happen, everything this week was pure child missing her parents and it made for an emotionally compelling story-line. And yet this desire to see her parents together may very well have been the catalyst for breaking them apart if Daru hadn’t finally taken action on his own. Then again, maybe this is what was always supposed to happen given it seemed unlikely the relationship would have progressed without these events. Isn’t time travel fun?
Stepping aside from that part of the narrative, and I mean that literally given other than a couple of texts he literally never appears in that narrative at all, Okabe is meeting with Leskinen and getting very friendly over a report. Maybe I’m too suspicious but I just have to wonder why Okabe trusts an American professor who conveniently keeps turning up and has ties to Kurisu, Maho, and everything else, when it has already been speculated that maybe the Americans were the ones involved with the raid on the lab. I mean, he might just be a well-meaning guy who wants to take on Okabe as a new student, but really his ongoing appearances, his obvious desire to keep Okabe close, and everything else just screams that he is up to something.
I did have some fun this week with the episode even if I still feel overall that this series is lacking something. However, it felt more like things were getting ready to move forward and I’m hoping we do see some progress soon.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.