Steins Gate – 07

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‘Cursed with success’…that is where we find Okabe Rintarou at this stage in the game. He wanted to open “Steins Gate”…well, now he has. The question becomes, what to do with this new-found ‘power to change the past’…and how he handles the humongous burden of responsibility that comes with it. Oh, and how to deal with a new lab member who texts him a constant stream of questions with the odd request snuck in.

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Naturally, Okarin decides to use the Phone Microwave try to win the lottery! Not the 200 million-yen jackpot, but the 700K one two tiers down; less conspicuous. But what I like about this is that it’s not just about money. It’s far easier to send lottery numbers to the past to prove the system works than attempting to send, say, instructions for achieving world peace. There’s a much bigger margin of error with something complex like that.

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Mayushii and Kurisu object, but can’t think of a more practical means of testing the phone, so they go with that. During the expeiment, the same hesitation that led to Okarin requesting a lower-tier lottery takes grip, and he wonders if this is really okay after all. Just because one can do something doesn’t meant he must, right?

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In the end, he sends the text…and something happens, something only he is aware of: he finds himself in a time when the experiment they just tried never occurred. This is the first time since the stabbing incident that time has moved to such a dramatic extent. This is no longer the exclusive realm of gel-banas.

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It’s confirmed that this is a brand-new timeline (or world line) when Ruka arrives to report that the lotto ticket Okarin told him to buy was off by just one number. A glance at the coffee table shows a Dr. Pepper, when previously Kurisu said it was sold out and bought veggie juice instead. Yes, a character’s beverage preference factored into his assessment of the timeline changing.

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Far from jubilant or pumped up over another momentous victory, Okarin seems lost and disoriented, and probably due in no small part to the fact that only he remembers the previous timeline, when he sent the lotto numbers back. Just like before with Kurisu being stabbed, he’s all alone in possessing that knowledge.

Suzuha notices he’s not quite right, and even takes the extraordinary step of closely examining his eyes for ‘chips’ or other evidence of brainwashing, finding nothing. If he’s looking for some stability and answers, she suggests he contact John Titor.

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Okarin does just that, but not before shutting down all experiments until further notice and dismissing the lab staff; only Kurisu stays, perhaps worried about Okarin. In the dark the two sit; Kurisu skimming a magazine, Okarin sending a detailed text to Titor and eagerly awating a response. He gets one from Titor, but not before he gets a string of messages from nearly everyone else.

From Ruka’s apology to Daru calling about leaving his wallet in the lab (big mistake!) to a loving chat with Mayushii (curiously nothing from Moeka in that time), it’s almost a showcase of the bonds he’s forged thus far, along with Kurisu being right there in the room with him. Bonds that could crumble or cease to exist if he fiddles too much with the past.

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Titor’s message does little to allay Okarin’s anxiety. His talk of Okarin’s apparent ‘power’ to maintain his memories across world lines and the ‘freedom’ that lies beyond Divergence 1% causes Okarin to slam his phone down in incredulity, half-unwilling to listen to any more (ironic, considering the weird crap he always spews. But then again, he and everyone know that’s nonsense. In this case, he’s not sure.)

The kicker: Titor wants Okarin to become ‘the messiah’ and change the future. He should have added at the end: “No pressure, dog.”

At this point I can see Okarin going in one of two possible directions. He could either press forward, having faith in his abilities and leaning on his friends, or retreat from the whole enterprise, inviting SERN or others to futz with the future in his stead. Neither path is without risk, but I’m hoping he takes the former. Better the devil I know.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 13

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Cross Ange wastes no time getting back into the swing of things, picking up where we left off: an obviously phony ‘rescue flotilla’ commanded by Julio. He’s only after Angelise, Villkiss, and other Mail Riders, and he gives orders to exterminate the rest.

Everyone has to decide what to do quickly. Jill proclaims the official start of the rebellion and orders all of Arzenal’s defenses turned against Julio’s fleet. She also orders Salia to retrieve Ange at all costs. Yes, retrieving the real savior is now pretty much the most important thing poor Salia can do.

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Ange isn’t interested in going along with Salia or Jill. At the moment, she’s only thinking short-term: Get Julio. Momoka helps spring her (with pepper, of all things), and after assessing the slaughter (and taking out child-killing soldiers whose defense is ‘just following orders’, which is never a good defense) she races to Villkiss.

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Even though she’s totally outmatched, Salia still tries to stop Ange, who is having none of it, trashing Salia’s mail and ditching her in the sea. Salia must watch helplessly as the woman who has all the power and privilege and importance she doesn’t have utterly reject it for her own reasons.

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Back in Arzenal’s wreck of a landing bay, Hilda displays bravery and selflessness despite the odds, even literally taking a bullet for Chris, whom she scorned so bitterly not too long ago. As the three reunited girls take off, an errant human solider gets a headshot on Chris. Damn.

However, the cutting back to Chris, followed by Embryo eventually healing her, makes this nothing more than a close call, though at this point both Hilda and Rose still think she’s dead.

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Free of Salia, Ange paints the sea red by sinking every ship in Julio’s fleet before slicing off the front of the bridge where he cowers and bargains for his life. Before Ange can finish him, Embryo blocks her blow with his own paramail, not wanting her ‘divine flame’ to be tarnished ‘burning useless things.’ He kills Julio himself, likely pissed off the emperor launched the Arzenal attack without his leave.

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While Julio is eaten up by the white light of destruction, and Good Riddance, Riza takes wing and escapes—topless, no less—suddenly down a royal puppet. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her, boring a character as she is. Meanwhile, with no one left alive on Arzenal, Jill sets off with the survivors aboard the submarine Aurora (which we’re just now hearing about) to start her rebellion in earnest.

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“Own-Agenda Ange”, meanwhile, does something else new with her Villkiss when Embryo targets an approaching Tusk (with Vivian), who says Embryo is a very dangerous dude (and is probably right). Villkiss turns blue, sidles up to Tusk’s ride, and they teleport away before Embryo can destroy him.

Good:

  • A great overarching sense of all hell breaking loose, because it does
  • Nice character beats with Ange/Salia hitting a new low and Hilda/Chris/Roselie reconciling
  • Tusk was used sparingly but well this week, kicking ass and saving Vivian.
  • Julio’s dead. Who’s in charge of the empire now?
  • The new opening theme is fantastic.

Not so good:

  • Julio’s fleet and assault force was awfully easy to defeat.
  • lot of people died, and died horribly, but they were all nameless extras.
  • Where the heck did that awesome sub come from?
  • Another “Tusk and Ange on an island’ episode next week. Oh dear…

Verdict: Lots of huge and exciting developments this week, delivered with confidence, if not finesse. We’ll see where they lead. The Norma are now far less numerous and more vulnerable without a base, but the empire took its licks, too. Not a bad start at all for Cross Ange’s second half.

P.S. I just discovered Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Gakuen, which is a comedy 4koma that puts the same cast in a high school setting. Take that for what you will.

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Franklin’s Take:

This week got all the explodey-killy terror we’ve come to expect from Ange and… just sort of flailed around incoherently and undid the most meaningful emotional moments. Dead Chris and children revive, Vivian is rescued, and Ange still gets to win the day no matter how much she runs off on her own.

If i still thought as highly of this show as I once did, I’d wonder if the entire structure was making fun of red herrings. For example, the episode opens by introducing FIVE new mail pilots who, presumably, immediately die off camera.

But thirteen episodes in and I wonder how well thought out or intentionally critical Ange really is? Sure, it can be over the top and ruthless. But is it all just for shock value or is there a point to this?

For now, I’m not really sure…

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Steins Gate – 06

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At this point, Suzu is about as close as you can get to being an FGL member without being one, which might be tricky what with her apparent incompatibility with Kurisu. But as she overhears from the lab’s open window, much of the “round table” is spent figuring out what to name the time-travelling email.

References to other time travel-related media fly, from Back to the Future to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, before Kurisu settles the matter with the short but memorable “D-Mail.”

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With the phenomenon thus named, they proceed experimentation, operating under Okarin’s prediction that if the microwave is opened at a specific window of time the D-mails point to, the text and banana will be sent back. And sure enough, it works, depositing the d-mail in pieces to five days ago, and depositing a gel-bana back on the bunch.

It’s the latest among increasingly common examples of one of the simplest answers being the correct one. That it was wrought by Okarin, who prefers to “feel” science rather than show his work, adds credence to his indispensability as the one lab member with the faith—or will—to come to such conclusions.

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But as he and Daru hit the store to resupply their food stores, Okarin notices cups of green gelatin, shaking him from his high of victory ordinary life he’s always embellished with the baroque trappings of chuunibyou suddenly isn’t ordinary anymore. Shit is real, and it’s dangerous.

I for one appreciate S;G for maintaining that while Okarin has gotten by through various means outside of his control, he still doesn’t have any control. He may well be in over his head, and he knows it.

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What he doesn’t quite know is who Kiryuu Moeka is and why she insists on texting him so persistently. I love how she even tries to communicate with him in person through texts, and is crestfallen to learn his cell phone isn’t on him (but of course it isn’t enough for him to say, ‘it’s not on me’, he has to mention ‘it’s being used for a history-making experiment’. I also like how Moeka pretends Daru isn’t there, which is the proper response to someone looking you up and down.

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While Daru was leering at Moeka and Okarin was wigging out over green jello, prodigal perverted genius girl Kurisu was continuing the experiments, which leads Tennouji to complain about the intense vibrations. Okarin appeases him for the time being, but Kurisu already has the jist of the D-mail process, including the fact that one second on the microwave timer equals one hour back in time. Her work here makes me glad someone in the lab has the diligence and the attention span to…do the work.

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Okarin celebrates the occasion with another grand declaration that is in no way shape for form accurate (they weren’t the first to develop time machine, and they didn’t ‘develop’ it so much as ‘stumble upon it’). But it seems again like the general putting on a brave face in order to maintain morale.

The fear and doubt he’s hiding manifests in a bizarre dream that is equal parts disturbing and cryptically informative. A voice from the event horizon of a black hole urges him to look forward, not back, and ‘reach the end.’

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He awakes to a one-sided text conversation by Moeka on his phone that is still in progress, right up to the point he’s able to open his door after she sends a text saying she’s about to knock, but before she actually knocks, requesting to see the 5100.

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Her explanation that texting is easier for her than talking seems to hold water, as her texts are a lot more expressive. This idea of such an expressive personality hiding behind a stoic, taciturn mask, yet asserting itself digitally, is highly intriguing. Moeka is the type who believes the proper combo of emoji will be enough to convince Okarin to lend her the 5100.

It’s also a lot of fun to watch Daru, Mayushii and Kurisu arrive at the lab one by one and immediately start talking about their top-secret time machine. It’s not particularly irresponsible behavior on the part of the three, just an overabundance of casualness that comes from a group gelling (no pun intended) nicely in a short time.

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But that also means Okarin has to bring Moeka into the fold as Member #005. I like the choice, sudden that it is, but one of these days, someone is going to hear too much who isn’t so harmless. And that’s assuming Moeka is harmless.

Kurisu has brought scientific discipline to the operation which is key, but someone will eventually have to be thinking about security, beyond recruiting anyone within earshot. I just hope they don’t think about it too late.

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