The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 03 – Shinkansen Standoff

I’m a week behind, but I finally got around to watching the continuation of one of the most promising, quality anime of the Covid-shortened Spring season, Balance: UNLIMITED. And I’m happy to report it’s just as solid, though this episode wasn’t quite as flashy as the first two. That said, I’m glad we get to meet Daisuke’s gran, one of the few people who can put him in his place.

When she tells him to accept his senpai Haru’s coaching, Daisuke has no choice but to comply. On the way back to Tokyo via Shinkansen, Haru finds himself sitting next to an unassuming-looking hungry college dropout, and gives him his onigiri.

Haru figures he has this guy pegged, but upon reaching Tokyo the platform is suddenly evacuated due to a standoff: that same mild-mannered seeming kid has a woman at gunpoint and is streaming the standoff live on “ChainTube”. We learn from bystanders that whoever scores ten million views in one day will earn 100 million “coins”, which is presumably a lot.

While Haru is first on the scene to to being a passenger, the First Division unceremoniously shoos him off. We flash back to a bank robbery in which he shot and killed a civilian who had pulled a gun on him after he shot the robber. While the First Division and his former partner don’t trust him anymore, Daisuke has no such compunctions, and in fact is obligated to follow Haru’s lead, having promised his grandmother.

Haru’s objective is to resolve the standoff without anyone dying, and Daisuke has the resources to put them in the best possible position to achieve it. That includes smoke rockets fired from the boot of his Bentley, a laser capable of cutting through the train’s windshield, the perp’s email records…and a gun, which the police Chief says he must use to shoot the perp if he gets a clear shot.

Once again Daisuke’s resources enable another way: having earlier asked his AI to provide info on the hostages in the car, he learns they’re a fan club for a male vocal quartet. Seeing their farewell concert is a matter for which they’re willing to risk their lives, something the young perp didn’t count on.

So Daisuke has the group choppered in to perform a quick impromptu show the group of fans can watch from within the train. The fans bum rush the perp, who loses the gun, only for the fan everyone thought he shot (but was just playing possum) knocks another gun into his hands.

Daisuke calmly approaches the perp and gets him to stand down with a promise to pay for his sister’s surgery—the money for which he was live-streaming the standoff. When Haru asks him how he knew the kid wouldn’t shoot, I was ready for Daisuke to say “My suit is bulletproof.” It probably is, but the real reason is that Haru told him it wasn’t in the kid to kill, and following his gran’s directive, trusted in his senpai.

Steins;Gate 0 – 01 – In Which the Steins;Gate is Never Achieved (First Impressions)

Are we having fun yet

What if, at the end of episode 23 of Steins;Gate, Okabe, his coat still stained with Kurisu’s blood, didn’t get slapped by Mayushii, or told by Suzuha he had to fail once in order to unlock the video message on his phone, and thus never heard about Operation Skuld. In short, what if he never saved Kurisu? That’s where Steins;Gate 0 starts. It bypasses the happy ending of the 2011 anime.

Instead of slapping him, Mayushii gave Okabe a comforting hug, and from that point on there would be no more jumping between world lines, no more Hououin Kyouma, and no more Future Gadget Lab. Okabe goes back to college and settles into the life of a “full-fledged normal.” But in the distant future, on the same world line as the present day, WWIII is raging as Suzuha warned.

Familiar faces and places, but a far more somber mood

The same circle of friends remains, but Okabe sees less of them, partly due to college, and partly, perhaps, to avoid situations that will worsen his already fragile grip on sanity. Simply putting one foot in front of the other seems to be a challenge for him.

An encounter with Mayushii eventually leads to the whole gang getting back together at the lab, where Itaru is doing his usual thing, only with his daughter Suzuha around, nagging him to build the damn time machine already.

But there’s the distinct feeling things aren’t quite the same, they never will be, and it’s due in large part because Kurisu is gone, and because Okabe was the one who accidentally killed her, as if his hand were guided by that indelible fate.

Mad Scientist no more

When going to the bathroom Okabe encounters Suzuha (who was hiding from her future-mother Yuka), and the two go to the roof. Suzuha hasn’t given up, and reiterates that if nothing is done, the world line they’re in will be destroyed by war and billions will die.

Her memory of that hellish future is still clear as day, judging by her horrified reaction to something one hears dozens of times every day in a peaceful city: an airplane cruising overhead.

Okabe hears her, but he doesn’t believe there’s anything more he can do. No matter how many world lines he drifts through, the overarching constant is that he only has the power to change or control so much, and the rest is in the “domain of god.” Whatever he does, the universe will self-correct. There may be no stopping WWIII from happening. Suzuha hopes he’ll reconsider.

Trying to live life in a forward direction, but his trauma is never far behind

But Okabe is on a new path, and saving the world (at least that way) isn’t a part of that path. Neither is visiting the lab as much as he once did. Mayushii notes that it felt good for everyone to be there, but that there are times that she feels so lonely there she could cry, even though Itaru is there (and when he wasn’t, she waited for Kyouma countless times).

Okabe knows a part of her must sense that Kurisu is the missing piece, but insists that she, he and Daru were the only ones ever in the lab. But that’s a lie.

While having drinks with other college students and professors, Okabe suddenly has a vision of Kurisu’s demise and runs outside, ready to hurl. Like Mayushii, he can feel her loss, and because he blames himself, it’s all the more visceral, constantly tugging at him.

“Legal Chibi FTW”, as Daru would probably say

And if he feels Makise Kurisu the person is permanently gone from his life, her legacy lives on in the scientific world, as he witnesses first hand attending the Akihabara Techno Forum lecture on the “AI Revolution” being given by the chief researcher of the Brain Science Institute of the college Kurisu used to attend.

There, he meets the very diminutive, but definitely 21-year-old, Hiyajo Maho, who not only also works at the BSI, but to his surprise, serves as the English-speaking chief’s interpreter for the largely Japanese audience. (Kiryuu Moeka is there too, someone Okabe no doubt wants nothing to do with).

As it turns out, the march of progress did not stop with Kurisu’s untimely death. Her scientific colleagues have used her ingenious theories on preserving memories as data to develop an artificial intelligence system unlike any other—an AI with human feelings and memories…with a heart. That system is called Amadeus…and its reveal scares the daylights out of Okabe.

Having gotten the happy ending I all but demanded back in its original run, this new Steins;Gate is a welcome opportunity to explore a darker path on Okabe & Co.’s journey. S;G didn’t let me down before, and I have no reason to fear it will let me down here either, so I’m ready to dive deeper in to what Suzuha calls “the worst world line imaginable,” quoting her dad, future-Daru.