It seems quite fitting that Production I.G. should have cranked out this episode on a day when so many nut-jobs and gullible lost souls are praying for an ancient prediction that doesn’t even predict the end of the world to end the world and put them put them out of their misery. I’ve always found R;N to be a great watch because of the beautiful visuals and natural ease of the dialogue, but this week it leveled up big-time in terms of the big plot, setting the stage for what should be a killer second cour after the usual NoitaminA hiatus. With an overload of conspiracy and Frau Bow, this just might have been the best episode yet.
A quick roundup up the expositional nuggets:
- A specific mention of SERN by Kona-kun. I believe that’s the first of the series.
- Nae announces she’s going to Tokyo, but doesn’t say why
- A mention of something called “Project Mars”
- Three top-ranked Kill-Ballad players dead of “accidental” causes – six months ago
And from the third Kimijima Report:
- “Project Atom”, launched by the Committee of 300
- Human Domestication Project – the “114th approved plan” – project put in the hands of the Tavistock Institute
- International robotics firms – including Exoskeleton, where Misaki works – are part of the conspiracy
This is all classic conspiracy stuff to be sure – the Committee of 300 and Tavistock Institute thread leads straight to Illuminati mythology. But that fits the 5pb model nicely, and now we’re starting to get a sense of how all this fits together. It isn’t a natural phenomenon that’s causing the sun to go haywire, it’s a man-made one – seemingly part of a larger plan to dramatically slash the population of humans on Earth, presumably so they don’t suck so much resources from the planet’s teat that there isn’t enough for the powers in the “Unseen Hand” to suckle for as long as they want. It’s not all that far off from some well-established economic theories in philosophy, if not in methodology.
Where this really becomes artful is the way all the personal elements of the story are becoming linked to the conspiracy. We have Kona-chan, of course, whose mother was the director of the final “Gunvarrel” episode – an episode of which some 4 minutes and 31 seconds has leaked. It’s easy enough to see why it wasn’t aired, for reasons I speculated on a couple episodes back – painting a doomsday scenario so bleak it brings Aki-chan to tears. In point of fact, it paints the same picture as the Kitijima Reports, of a massive laser being fired during high solar activity, piercing a sunspot and causing a massive solar storm that lays waste to Earth. Fittingly – especially for today – the last words of the episode are ‘The world has ended.”
The deaths of the three Kill-Balladiers hit awfully close to home for Kai, of course, and the last thing he sees in the episode is Misaki’s face on his console warning him to forget everything he knows about the Kitijima Reports. Why were these people killed – and who’s been assuming their identity? What’s fascinating is the way everything seems to be coming to a head – in addition to Kai finding the Kitijma Reports, the “Gunvarrel” episode has leaked, and a rogue group of “enthusiasts” has started a doomsday clock, much to the displeasure of Misaki’s boss at Exoskeleton. When he’s told of the Gunvarrel leak the first thing he assumes – with some dread – is that “Kaminagi” is involved. He also sends his assistant to Tokyo (hey, isn’t that where Nae is headed?) and says he’ll deal with the Gunvarrel crisis himself. In his own words “The timing is too perfect” – and I can’t help but wonder what happened with the first 113 approved projects (which presumably date back to 1727).
In the midst of all this conspiracy, we still have the same extraordinarily interesting character interaction – much as was a strength of Steins;Gate. There’s Kai’s reaction when he defeats the top-ranked K-B player for starters – not only is he more fired-up than we’ve see him, he even says “I’m all fired up!” like he means it. He and Frau Bow are developing a relationship that’s starting to rival Kai and Aki’s as one of the best this season – there’s no question that despite all her fetishes (she seems to ascribe to pretty much all of them) Kona-chan is seriously warm for Kai’s form, which she sees more of than ever thanks to a freak rainstorm. I think he may be feeling some stirrings himself, in fact. As she always does, Kona-kun threatens to steal every scene she’s in with her “Weak in a sexual way!” and “Kitijima Report plz!” chain-of-consciousness patter. She may just be the funniest character of the season, and given 5pb’s track record of osanajimi not faring well in the romance department, she may just have a chance.
The common thread that runs through Steins;Gate to Robotics;Notes includes the conspiracy framework, of course, but for me what really links the two series is the outstanding dialogue. This is very well-written stuff – genuinely interesting characters in complex relationships – and once again we’re seeing a terrific rhythm to the banter, like an old Hollywood comedy. I’ve said before that the two shows are much more alike than most viewers credit them with, and while R;N is certainly the more innocent and idealistic of the two – as befits the age of the main cast – it carries on the tradition of telling a big story in the style of a character-driven series. And for me, it’s working beautifully once again.