Steins;Gate – 8

Well, if nothing else it’s now official that Ruka is the cutest trap this side of Hideyoshi. The difference, of course, is that Ruka actually wants to become a girl (and may have succeeded) and Hideyoshi wants nothing more than to be seen as a guy.

I’ll give credit where it’s due – that was one of the most exciting eps of any series this season. I was on the edge of my seat through the whole thing, right up to the cliffhanger ending. It was a pretty simple episode – Okarin conducting numerous tests of the D-mail/phone microwave to find out if his “Reading Steiner” – the ability to carry his memories through timelines – really works. But it was taut with suspense – and as the experiments continued, one really got the sense that Okarin and the team were playing with fire.

There are lots of things that aren’t explained yet. Why did Moeka’s simple act of changing cell phones cause her to be out of communication with the lab for four days? More importantly, was the experiment in changing Ruka’s gender a success? First of all, I’m highly skeptical that eating vegetables will cause a mother to have a girl – but setting that aside, given the timekeeping mechanism outlined in the previous episode – 1 second of “cooking” time = 1 hour into the past – wouldn’t they have had to run the microwave for 148,920 seconds to send a message 17 years into the past? It sure didn’t seem like that happened.

For all that, trying to change someone’s gender seems like a really bad idea. Okarin implied that he let Ruka try because the whole notion wasn’t going to work anyway, but there are hints at the end that it did – namely the way he/she covered his/her chest was Okarin stared, and the fact that Mayushi called him/her “Ruka-CHAN” instead of the normal Ruka-kun. I guess we’ll know for sure next week, but for my money I think Ruka is much more interesting as a delectable trap than just another girl in Okarin’s harem. The way everyone reacted to seeing him in Mayushi’s Rai-net cosplay (shortest skirt ever) was hilarious, especially Okarin’s “My soul is being devoured!”.  I also enjoyed the inclusion of pagers.  I had one of the things – how Goddamn old does that make me feel?

There wasn’t a whole lot of humor in the episode besides that, really – the stakes are being ratcheted up and even Okarin is taking things much more seriously. But this series has a great ability to pivot between absurd humor and unsettling suspense, so I’m not bothered by that. The dialogue remains as sharp as ever and the plot is getting more and more interesting every week. I get the sense that Okarin has no notion of just what madness he may be unleashing with all these seemingly trivial changes – and changing someone’s gender is hardly close to trivial, for that matter. I suspect the trend towards a darker tone is a permanent one, and that was probably inevitable.

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2 comments

  1. E

    It will be funny if Ruka actually is a reverse trap at the end of the episode.

    As for the vegetable thing, gender of the child is not determined by those kind of conditions for humans. While egg laying animals tend to depend on temperature for gender, humans it all about the sperm that gets there first.

    After Hourou Musuko, I have been looking at all the transgenders that have appeared in recent anime and speculating whether there is a connection or not(Probably not since much of this is too soon to have had any inspiration during its production. I will wait until I read something in the cultural studies journals I have on anime and manga.).

    It is very rare in anime for the trap to actually have gender dysphoria in my experience, since obviousness usually is the key comedy factor. They kind of mixed the two between ideal trap and sincere feelings about changing ones sex.

  2. I've learned that coincidence is a rare thing in the commercial arts world. Movies and TV are often among the first to pick up on trends that only become obvious later. This is how they make their living after all.

    While comedic traps have always been pretty common in anime, as you point out there has been a surge of "serious" transgender cases lately. Hourou Musuko, Steins;, Kuragehime… Of course these are all adaptations of source materials of varying ages, but there may be a reason behind all of it – maybe as simple as the fact that these sorts of discussions are becoming more socially acceptable.

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