Well now, if there were any doubt it’s gone – playtime is really over. It’s becoming obvious just how much the altogether enjoyable first dozen episodes of Steins;Gate really were just the setup. The real show is starting now.
I can hardly think of a series where viewers who don’t know the source material are at a greater disadvantage than we are with this one. It’s almost impossible to really know what’s going on just based on what we’ve been told in the anime, yet in a way I think we’re the ones having more fun. We don’t have anything to nitpick over at the very least.
First development this week – Suzuha shows up at the lab just after Mayuri has been shot. She shows off some flash moves and disables Moeka’s henchmen pretty readily, but things end up at a checkmate standoff with she and Shining Finger having their Glocks pointed at each others heads. Eventually she manages to create a distraction, allowing Okarin to test Kurise’s adaptation of the telephone microwave (name subject to change) under battle conditions, at the least. He triggers the memory transfer just as Kurise is shot.
It works – but things aren’t so simple. The first thing I loved here was that the writing gave ample weight to the very real problem that was foremost in my mind. Given three hours to change what happened, just what would – and could – you do to change it? Going up against an organization that can shut down transportation and quite literally (seemingly) stop time, three hours isn’t much to play with. Where could you go that would be safe? How could you convince your friends of what was happening?
The relationship between Okarin and Mayuri has been developing beautifully, to the point where you could really sense that when something terrible happened to her (and the flags were too plentiful to ignore) it would rip your heart out. His devotion to her is pretty clear and quite moving – as is her obvious frustration at not being able to understand the part of his life that’s so important to him, his mad science. Okarin wants to protect her – he always did – but in doing so, he’s unwittingly making Mayuri sad at being shut out of what he’s so passionate about. Even in this extreme situation that same dynamic is still playing out.
What was occurring to me as this grisly Groundhog Day scenario played out was that the safest place for Mayuri at that moment would have been as far away from Okarin as possible. Did that just not occur to him, even after she died again? Or was Okarin so determined that no one else could be trusted to save Mayrui that he refused to let her out of his sight? There were some interesting philosophical questions raised as Okarin relived those three hours twice. The implication as I see it is that, even if you can jump back in time via sending consciousness backwards (apparently not creating a new timeline in doing so) you can’t fundamentally change events like someone’s death. Call it “fate”, or destiny, or what you will – but it certainly seemed to me that we were being told it was simply Mayrui’s time. Even if her second death was only partly random, the third one seemed to have nothing to do with Moeka or SERN whatsoever. It’s not a new concept by any means, this kind of “Final Destination” scenario, but based on this week’s events it seems to be the operative reality in Steins;Gate. Of course, that too could be subject to change.
Any way you view it, if it weren’t bad enough that Okarin has to watch Mayuri (“Tutturu” outgoing message? Ack – too kawaii to live!) die three times, he has to believe that it’s his fault. And honestly, it is. If he hadn’t gone down the time travel path, messed with SERN, allowed the D-mails to be sent, she’d be happily cosplaying and working at the club and bringing moe and light to everyone around her. What a weight on his shoulders, especially if he’s unable to find a way out of the trap fate has apparently laid for the two of them.
And that’s the big question going forward. What now? It occurs to me that the Final Destination paradigm can’t be the whole answer, or else the series would basically be over. Maybe if the new method of time travel can’t save a life, the old way can. With three hours to play with, Okarin could certainly try to send Mayuri a D-mail and a carefully thought-out and composed one at that. That’s assuming he gets another chance, of course, and that SERN isn’t right behind him on the subway platform. Brutal cliffhanger, anyone? How about two in a row…