Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18: Even Knowing The Future Won’t Help You Make a Better Choice

Steins;Gate 0 - Episode 18 - Okabe

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 Episode 18 - Okabe

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).

Steins;Gate 0  Episode 18 The Professor

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?

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18 - Kagari

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.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17: Choices and Consequences

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Mayuri

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.

Steins;Gate 0 - Episode 17 - Suzuha, Maho and Mayuri

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.

Steins;Gate Episode 17 Mayuri

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.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Mayuri

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.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Okabe

That said, killing Mayuri again would be a pretty cheap emotional ploy at this particular point in time… Cliff-hanger endings.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 16: The World Or Mayuri?

Steins Gate 0 Episode 16 - Mayuri

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.

Steins Gate Episode 16 - Okabe and Banana
It’s a green banana. Obviously.

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 15: I Just Wanted To…

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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Steins13a

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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Sailor Moon S Series Review

She’s defended the world, saved the future, and is ready to just get on with her life, but there are certainly new dangers afoot that will ensure things are not peaceful for long.

  • Season 1 review: here.
  • Season 2 review: here.

Review (Spoiler Warning):

Things are going to get tricky here because seasons 1 and 2 were the only ones playing on TV with their fun English dub when I was growing up. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to watch S, Super S and finally Stars and then I had to switch to subs so all the character names changed. One of those fun parts of my early anime journey in the 90’s really. That isn’t to say there wasn’t some benefit to this given a few of the characters weren’t quite as squeaky in Japanese, but some characters actually sounded even more over the top. And I’m not sure how, but Usagi/Serena crying certainly seems even more ear-splitting in the original soundtrack. For the sake of review consistency, I’m going to try to stick to the English names for characters.

Sailor Moon3b

Sailor Moon S is kind of where Sailor Moon peaked for me. Outside of the first season, it was always my favourite and the reason for that lies squarely at the feet of the newly introduced Sailor Scouts and Rini’s new friend, Hotaru.

We’d previously met Pluto, but not like this, and Uranus and Neptune are a fantastic pair for so many reasons. Okay, we’ll overlook the fact that the pronunciation of some of the attacks is so poor that my friend and I had to look up what Uranus’ attack actually was because the version we managed to find didn’t put subs in for when they said English words and no matter how many times we listened to it we were convinced the word ‘chicken’ featured somewhere in there and that didn’t make a lot of sense. Turns out it is ‘world shaking’ and not ‘chicken’ and really that sounds like a much better attack, but all of that just added to our ongoing obsession with this show.

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It is odd that Uranus and Neptune work so well, given they are essentially taking on much the same role Tuxedo Mask had in season 1. They aren’t necessarily the scout’s allies, tell them that they are not and that they have their own agenda, and yet the almost never allow real harm to befall the scouts. Their actions are motivated by a goal they have to achieve but they don’t actually just tell the other scouts what it is. The parallel between their role and Tuxedo Mask in season 1 is further emphasises by Uranus’ not so subtle advances on Serena. Now, we kind of know she’s just teasing given Haruka (Uranus) is totally devoted to Michiru (Neptune). Which is where the English dub becomes a little dubious (I saw it much later when it was finally available on DVD), and realised that they changed these two into cousins. It seems kind of ludicrous given how close these two are and how important their relationship is to the entire narrative being constructed here, but I guess they really wanted to keep pretending that only kids were watching and that somehow seeing two female character in love would somehow be harmful. Because, watching them have their hearts ripped out apparently wasn’t.

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I will never understand censorship.

What I think makes Uranus and Neptune work so well in the role, as compared with Tuxedo Mask who became more of a running joke, is that you could actually believe that these two would burn Sailor Moon if they had to. They were cold enough and desperate enough that they might just have let her die. Whereas, there was never any doubt that Tuxedo Mask was a goody-two-shoes. Even when brainwashed he couldn’t bring himself to actually hurt Serena.

This kind of character, still technically a good guy, and yet ruthless in their devotion to their cause, was thrilling and added an edge to a show that might otherwise have just given us yet another iteration of the same old story.

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When we throw Hotaru’s character and plight in as well, we see that Sailor Moon S really was trying to step things up. This isn’t just monsters or fights or magical powers. This was a real human drama and an ongoing one. Previously characters with issues had been introduced, some magical menace would pray on them and Serena would zap it with her wand and all would be well. Hotaru’s loneliness and isolation was an ongoing theme and there was no magical and quick fix. Without spoiling the season finale, while there is an ultimately magical fix, it doesn’t exactly just make everything all better. There’s a lot of pain here and it is real human emotion that is being explored.

Which of course brings the conversation around to the villains of the piece, the Death Busters. And yes, they look every bit as ridiculous as Beryl and her minions and Prince Diamond and his. Actually, the fashion probably got worse. However, the viciousness of the monster of the week was certainly stepped up in this season. While the same sorts of patterns were followed, the stakes always felt higher and only one or two of the passing villains were so absurd that they drew out laughter rather than a desire to see them vanquished (the car one is memorably terrible).

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However, the Death Busters have a plan that seems a lot more together than either Beryl or Diamond and even though ultimately it amounts to once again destroying the world, these characters seem like they have so much more chance at success. Maybe it is because instead of living in some cave under the ice, or being a thousand years in the future, these characters are working in a laboratory and seem to be taking the whole evil plot thing far more seriously. Doesn’t assist their general poor sense of fashion or the fact that the professor’s glasses do that weird thing evil anime character glasses do where they glint in total darkness.

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If I was to throw any complaint at this season, it would be directed at Sailor Moon herself. Early on she fails against the villains and then for reasons she just gets a new compact and rod. Previously it made sense that Serenity had sent weapons back in time, but if there was a more powerful version of the basic tools, I have to wonder why she didn’t get them initially or why they weren’t ever mentioned. It is very much plot convenience, or a desire to sell new accessories. Plus, the heart rod always drove me crazy because if we thought Serena’s attacks took a long time to power up before, be prepared for the new dancing and spinning Sailor Moon. Also, Serena is such a klutz, I always wondered how she didn’t trip over her own pig-tails while powering it up.

But, I’m not just mocking the convenient power jump. The biggest issue is that Serena lost a lot of her bite in this season, and that is a trend that would continue to plague the next two seasons as well. She’s growing up, but that means she’s becoming less interesting. Less wailing and whining and ditching and more responsibility and wise, kind words of calm. It might make her a better person but it doesn’t make her as fun to watch in action. The other scouts also get seriously side lined and while they each get a story line devoted to them, ultimately they could have been ditched from this altogether and we could have just had Serena, Rini, and the new Sailor Scouts without much adjustment of the narrative.

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Still, this is definitely a solid season of Sailor Moon and for those working their way through the 90’s version of the series for the first time, this season is one to look forward to.

If you are still with me in reliving the classic Sailor Moon seasons, I’d love to know what you thought of this one so leave me a comment below.


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Karandi James

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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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