So Okarin was indeed faced with a no-win scenario after the events of episode 16. But my speculation was off – it wasn’t whether to save Mayuri or Kurisu, it was Mayuri or Feyris-tan’s father.
Mind you, I still sense that things are going to go down that road sooner or later – there’s a timeline out there where Kurisu dies, and my gut tells me Okarin is going to have to face that down sooner or later. But for now it looks as if Kurisu’s absence at the end of 16 was either a troll or a completely insignificant detail seized on by an overeager audience, as there she was safe and sound in the pre-open of 17. In fact, everything seemed just fine – except one day later than before, Mayuri’s watch stopped. And the door was kicked open, and the rest is history – one of them, anyway.
A cynical viewer might ask how Okarin managed to project himself back this time, given that the attack by Moeka’s group seemed to catch him completely by surprise. But do so he did, as his own personal “Groundhog Day” was still playing out with only the details changed, but the tragic results the same. This time, Kurisu’s advice was to find a way to cancel out all the D-mails that were sent in the current timeline, thus hopefully getting us back to a timeline where the IBN 5100 was back at the Shrine when he needed it and Mayuri might live. After some of the most blatant flirting between them yet – Kurisu is becoming more dere and less tsun all the time – Okarin starts out on the seemingly daunting task of trying to undo all the D-mails that led to the tragic results two days hence.
As I understand this mythology, Okarin can’t undo the D-mails because they’ve never actually been sent in this timeline now that their effects have been felt – the only thing he can do is to take steps to counteract the effects of the D-mails. The starting point is Feyris-nyan, and it’s her story that dominates the episode – but there’s still Ruka and Moeka’s D-mails to worry about, just for starters. For me, the drama surrounding Feyris was a step down from the magnum opus that was Suzuha’s story, but it was still effective. The most interesting element was that after Okarin told her the details of what had happened, Feyris’ memories of the old timeline – where her Daddy was killed – came trickling back and started getting all jumbled up with her “real” memories. Now, is this something special about her, some limited Reading Steiner of her own? Or, as I suspect, is this something that would happen to anyone if Okarin gave them the same information?
That really does lead to the fascinating philosophical question of just what “reality” is, – is one of Feyris’ realities more “real” than the other? Is this timeline where Daddy lives, the one she calls a dream, any more a dream and less real than the one where he died, just because she remembered it? After she selflessly decides to send another D-mail and give up her father as a way to help Mayushi, it appears she still remembers what happened, so that’s now three realities she has memories of.
My strong suspicion is that this won’t be enough. Logically, it can be assumed that Moeka won’t be cooperative about changing the past, and that her D-mail was likely to simply tell herself where the IBN 5100 was so she could steal it. For now it’s easy to suppose that Okarin will concentrate on counteracting Ruka’s D-mail (“Ruka-Mama – eat lots and lots of sukiyaki and tonkatsu and your child will be a genius!”) and turning Ruka back into a boy. While that’s fine with me – I’ve said from the beginning that cute flat girls are a dime-a-dozen in anime, but adorable Trap-Miko’s are a rare thing indeed – I don’t see how that will get the IBN back, in and of itself.
Oh, well. For now, anyway, things have taken a step back towards the timeline we were in way back at the beginning, and Akiba is Akiba again. I would be remiss in pointing out that as things systematically revert back, they’re reverting back to a timeline where Kurisu is dead – but why belabor the point? I won’t pretend I know what’s going to happen next and I don’t mind that, as even the relatively unspectacular eps like this one are still entertaining and emotionally involving.