Steins Gate – 18

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Is Steins;Gate a harem? If it is, it’s one of the best applications of the genre I’ve seen, doubly impressive considering it’s not just a harem, but a harem operating in tandem with and irreparably melded to its central time travel mystery. Each world line is like a path in a dating sim, allowing the show to explore each girl to their fullest potential, only to reset once Okarin cancels the girls’ d-mails.

One way of looking at the sequence thus far is that the divergence factor has strayed from its ideal of 1.0 because too many other potential romances are hanging out there for Okarin. With Suzuha, Feyris, and now Ruka, he is eliminating those potentials one by one, with only Moeka (who has fallen off the face of the earth) and Kurisu (who has looked more like his ideal mate from the start) remaining.

Before all this started, there was only one woman in his life: Mayushii; a situation he clearly took for granted (though they’re more siblings than lovers). Will the universe only deign to spare her if Okarin sheds himself of all the other women in his life who love him?

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I say one woman there, because even though he’s more traditionally feminine by a large margin than any of the others, Urushibara Ruka is a guy. He was a guy in Okarin’s original world line, and thus is “supposed” to be a guy. There’s no delicate way of telling the female Ruka this, but when he tells her Mayushii’s life is at stake, Ruka agrees to go back to being a guy.

In exchange, Okarin will be her boyfriend for one day…because she loves him; a confession that it turns out she can only make in this world line where she’s female.

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With no other choice, Okarin agrees to the date, despite reservations about going out with someone he’s always known to be a guy. But more to the point, Okarin has never been on a date, period. The word “date” is as foreign to him as “Large Hadron Collider” is to Snooki. For that matter, no one in the Future Gadget Lab has the slightest bit of romantic experience.

That’s because they’re all a bunch of weirdos, geeks; and nerds; so caught up in their particular passions and hobbies that they hardly have time to eat or sleep, let alone date. Kurisu can only go so far in her mocking of Okarin’s ignorance and virgin-status, because she is just as clueless and just as much a virgin…only an American one.

(Note that I don’t count Daru’s romantic “experience”, since it’s all 2D, and his present self hasn’t actually concieved Suzu yet.)

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But it’s not just that Okarin is scared of dates. Dating is just not something he’d ever feel the need to do, period. He’s perfectly capable of hanging out with and conversing with and having fun with Kurisu and Mayushii and Ruka, without the rigid structures of courtship getting in the way.

Kurisu, for her part, seems invested in making sure Okarin doesn’t make an ass of himself. Even when the “Dating for Idiots” book tells him to wear something “clean”, Kurisu understands that doesn’t mean a sterile lab coat (though that wouldn’t be odd at all in Akiba). She also knows how to tie a tie.

Watching her fuss over Okarin’s appearance is a joy to watch, because at the end of the day she knows Ruka, who will turn back into a guy, isn’t a threat to her own designs on Okarin, which we know her to harbor.

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She drags Daru along with her to tail Okarin and Ruka and offer advice when it looks like he’s in trouble, via texts (one could call them “L-mails”, where the “L” is for “love”), and I got the distinct feeling she was getting a special vicarious thrill out of it.

As for Okarin, well…having his encounter with Ruka suddenly be categorized as a date stiffens him and turns him into a boring, distant mess, ruining the nice vibes Ruka is putting out. Of course, Ruka’s hapless attempts at small talk also contribute to the awkwardness, but super-props to her seiyu Kobayashi Yuu both in these scenes and everywhere else. They’re trying.

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Things take a turn for the Steins;gate-ian when Ruka asks Okarin if he remembers how they met. Turns out Okarin protected Ruka from some guys with cameras who likely assumed she was a shrine maiden. It’s clear that Okarin was acting according to his own ideals and code, rather than protecting her for the sake of sticking to the script from some book.

After saving Ruka, he told him despite how he looks, he’s a guy. Now, hold on! This is the female Ruka bringing up this memory of when she told Okarin she was a guy. Ruka herself realizes the paradoxical slip-up, and can’t explain it. Okarin knows, though: it’s more of that temporal “leakage” or “Reading Steiner Lite” that also befell Feyris when she saw both versions of the cafe.

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In the end, Ruka thanks Okarin from the bottom of her heart for the date, hands him her mom’s pager number and flees, barely holding back tears. It isn’t until he returns home that Okarin realizes the date wasn’t complete until he went back as “Hououin Kyouma” to train Ruka with her sword. Both are a lot more comfortable this, and Kurisu, Daru, and Mayushii can only look on in an “attaboy” kind of way.

When that’s over, Ruka confesses that she really doesn’t want to go back to being a guy, because it means she’ll have to repress her feelings for him, and even if she didn’t, simply may not be able to love him in the same way. Okarin assures her that regardless of whether she’s a he or he’s a she, He is Kyouma and she is Ruka, and that will never change as long as they both live, so she needn’t worry.

(Ruka also confesses to having accidentally broken the IBN 5100 while cleaning the room where it was stored, a surprisingly mundane fate for the crucial machine/red herring.)

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When Okarin sends the d-mail, Ruka’s appearance hasn’t changed in the slightest; only his answer to Okarin’s question “Do you like me?” Ruka blushes, but says he “respects” him, and Okarin knows things are back to “normal.”

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Okarin returns to the lab to see his labmates having a quiet evening sewing, reading, and surfing. He doesn’t assume everything’s alright yet, because the divergence meter is still around 0.5. The only d-mails that remain in effect now (that I remember) include the one where Moeka warned herself not to buy a new phone, the lottery numbers to the past…and Kurisu’s stabbing.

That has me thinking that once all of the d-mails he’s ever sent were undone, Mayushii will in all likelihood be saved from a premature death…but at the cost of erasing his entire relationship with Kurisu to this point. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t meet for the first time again, and start over from scratch. A girl can dream.

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Steins Gate – 16

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Steins;Gate giveth, and Steins;Gate taketh away. In the business Okarin & Co. are in, nothing comes easily, and nothing is free. But no matter what it sets out to accomplish in any given episode, it doesn’t do anything half-assed. I was already looking forward to re-watching Steins;Gate to see Suzuha in a new light. This episode not only puts her in another new light, but Daru in one as well.

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And doggone it, it was looking pretty grim there, but then Mayushii channels Inspector Tsunemori (another Hana-Kana institution), and discovers the identity of Suzuha’s father, just like she set out to do. The way “Barrel” means “Taru” in Japanese; the fact that Okarin and Barrel started the resistance in the future; the fact that they both worked on a time machine in Akiba in 2010; and finally, the baroque “Future Gadget” designation assigned to the machine, a truly inspired clue. Only one person can fit all those criteria: Daru, AKA Hashida Itaru.

Detective Shiina is Natural Po-lice…but The Job will not save her. That’s up to Okarin!

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She could have gone a little further: the reason Daru is able to fix the machine so quickly is that he’s the one who designed it. Also, and I only noticed it after the fact, but Daru and Suzu have very similar hair and eye color. This is yet another shocking twist with ample evidence embedded in everything that had come before. Now, before Suzu leaves, she gets to say hello and goodbye to the father she never knew.

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That turns out to be a good thing, since Okarin learns from Daru (whom Suzu first told) that the time machine only goes backwards; once goes back to the 1970s, she can’t come back. That means whether she succeeds or fails in obtaining the IBN 5100, this truly is Goodbye. A few hours for everyone else will be 35 years for her. Then, at the agreed-upon time, it’s Mr. Braun, not her, at the door. Suzu died ten years ago.

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In her letter to Okarin, she laments that something went wrong with the machine, and she passed through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, not remembering who she was or her vital duty. Her window to acquire the computer passed, the machine was no longer usable, and after 25 years, she succumbed to her regret and committed suicide.

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That’s basically the worst ending I could have imagined for Amane Suzuha: she got to see her dad before she left, but everything after that was a disaster. She blamed herself, for making an unnecessary detour to 2010 to see her father as a young man. Before the lightning storm that damaged the time machine, Okarin stopped her from leaving. Now that he knows what became of that, Okarin sends that him in the past another D-mail, telling him to let Suzuha go.

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Mayushii protests, but it’s for the best. I don’t see how Okarin had any other choice. Forget the mission or even saving Mayushii; there was no way he was going to let her go through those torturous decades, confused and alone, because he stopped her from going when she should have. In the timeline that results from that D-mail, Suzuha dies of an illness, not suicide, having taken Mr. Braun in after his house burnt down.

Between the lives the old Suzuha touched and what she left behind, from her beloved bike to Okarin’s Divergence Meter, her absence feels so palpable and long-lasted, even though we just saw her, young and full of confidence. If that really was goodbye for Suzuha, I must admit to being a little heartbroken.

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But the loss of Suzuha seems to have meant the regaining of Mayushii. The meter registers a slightly higher number (though still not 1.0), and the hour and minute of her death or murder by any and all means passes without incident. Okarin and I are both super-relieved to find her curled up on the lab couch, napping away. We still don’t know where the IBN is, but perhaps Okarin has one less thing to worry about…maybe? …Please?

10_brav2RABUJOI World Heritage List

Steins Gate – 14

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As expected, Rintarou can’t stop Mayuri from getting killed. Either Moeka and her goons, or what he can only describe as ‘fate’ always gets her in the end. The show doesn’t get too gorey about the myriad ways Mayuri meets her end (though the sight of a Jelly Mayuri, half-stuck in the wall, possibly in the 18th century, is properly disturbing), but it gets the point across efficiently: Rintarou’s plan isn’t going to work. He’s missing a big piece of the puzzle.

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Not only that, but he simply can’t go on like this. I opined last week that even if using the time leap machine over and over had no major physical side effects, the trauma of watching Mayuri die over and over would eventually drive him mad. To his credit, he breaks the futile cycle of attempting to save Mayuri on his own before that happens.

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Or to be more precise, it’s Kurisu who breaks the cycle, by noticing something is not right with her friend and finally coaxing an explanation out of him, during which he even calls her by her real name.

I must add, this is Kurisu at her absolute best, and also the point at which she’s almost switched roles with Rintarou. Where before he was the wide-eyed dreamer, those time leaps have worn him down. Kurisu sees that, and decides to be the voice of hope and faith when she can tell he’s running low on both. She even strikes a baller chuuni pose that even gets him to crack a smile.

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When she smiles back and offers her hand. In a nifty bit of animation, Rintarou hesitates in taking it, but she gently tugs at his hand and guides it into her own. There’s so much in that simple gesture, which makes it all the more sad when she sets up the time leap machine and sends him back.

It’s sad because the awesome Kurisu she is now, who Rintarou calls “Kurisu” and proudly brags about her invention, will cease to be. Then again, this is nothing new; countless wonderful moments between these two have already vanished from time, both before and during Rintarou’s failed attempts to save Mayuri.

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When Rintarou is sent five hours back–to the time Mayuri finished her cosplay outfit around the same time Kurisu finished the machine–past Kurisu is a little harder to convince than future Kurisu told him she’d be. But when he repeats the keyphrase she gave him about “My Fork”, something very private and embarrassing, she’s on board too. Good. With Kurisu by his side, they’re much more likely to figure this out.

Also, “Screw you, future me” is one hell of a one-liner.

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Kurisu warns Rintarou that failing to build the time machine alone may not be what is causing Mayuri’s deaths. Suzuha joins them, actually backs up her “nemesis”, and sneaks them into the Radio Kaikan building where the satellite crashed.

A sprawling but surprisingly gripping infodump ensues, replete with visual aids like braided ropes (along with her own braids) and a divergence meter made from Nixie tubes she says Rintarou himself will build in the future (thus explaining those numbers we see whenever he leaps. I kept thinking about writing them down, but didn’t).

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I’m not a fan of infodumps, but I, like Rintarou, have thirsted for answers (some answers…not all) for so long I welcomed the explanations, even as I wondered who the hell this crazy-athletic, all-knowing girl really is. We learn that, too: SHE is ‘John Titor’, from the year 2036, and the crashed satellite is her time machine.

I was impressed with how swiftly the story has moved from Rintarou realizing his plan to save Mayuri on his own is a dead-end, to teaming up with Kurisu and growing a little closer, to Suzuha finally revealing who and what she is and introducing a new time machine that could expand their reach across the time continuum. Rintarou may be the one who saves the world, according to Titor, but he’s going to need a lot of help from his friends.

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Steins Gate – 10

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This episode gets off to a rather…ahem…inauspicious start, with Okarin, still convinced Ruka is a guy, does terrible things to her to prove that fact, only to cower in terror at the fact that yup, she is, in point of fact, a girl, then accept whatever off-camera punishment Kurisu arranges for him, because frankly, he’s lucky he gets to keep that hand.

In his defense, Okarin is understandably having increasing difficulty keeping track of all the changes, and while Akiba’s flavor has fundamentally changed, his relationships seem to be pretty much the same, so he must have assumed their genders stayed the same as well.

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It’s not surprising then, for Okarin to take up Suzuha’s offer of a bike ride, even if he’s to do the pedaling: some fresh air will do him good. But instead of clearing his head, it introduces a fresh dilemma which his D-mail technology may be able to solve: Suzuha’s absent father.

His mad scientist schtick is fooling no one: Okarin is a nice guywho will do everything in his power to help his friends, and Suzuha is one of them. So he makes her Member #008 and orders her to come to the lab and text her father not to leave. Sure, her dad may not have had a cell phone back when he left, but maybe he has a pager.

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Suzuha is touched by Okarin’s offer, but departs on her own, in a gorgeously-composed shot that just screams “Sayonara.”

Okarin musters the rest of the lab to arrange a party for Suzuha. He gets a troubling text from an unknown sender saying he’s being watched, with a photo of red jello attached (apparently aware of Okarin’s experience with green jello). But he can’t be troubled too long, since he has a feeling Suzuha won’t come back unless he follows her. Kurisu forbids him to do this, and sends him out to the stores with Mayushii.

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While on the way home, Mayushii reminisces about a time years ago when Okarin had a fever so bad she feared he’d die. She believes her prayers to the sky saved his life (though he gives Steins Gate credit). Is it just me, or are Okarin and Mayushii’s one-on-ones are getting more and more…wistful? It almost feels like she’s trying to remind Okarin how important he is to her, so he’d better not leave her behind.

But it’s more than that: Okarin’s behavior right after Feyris sent her D-mail reminded Mayushii of when he had the fever. Okarin takes that to mean that time he had the fever must have been when his “Reading Steiner” ability first awakened.

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Back in the lab, we get some lovely slice-of-lify dinner prep, with the implication that Kurisu isn’t the best cook despite her scientific genius. It’s fluffy, but it’s good fluff that reminds us how tight-knit a family the Future Gadget Lab has become.

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When futzing some of the lab’s other invented gadgets, the power goes out, which nets us a very intimate exchange between Okarin and Kurisu. It’s as if the darkness has given her cover to say things she wouldn’t say in the light. Again, the camerawork excels, as we get awesome closeups Okarin and Kurisu’s barely lit faces.

When the lights come on we see that for a lot of that time, their faces were merely inches apart, and those shots of them were from their own points of view. For all we know, Kurisu could have been leaning in for a kiss; really nice stuff. Okarin said his relationships have remained the same through all these world lines…but I’d argue that his relationship Kurisu is steadily growing.

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I also find Okarin’s rationale for continuing the D-mail experiments even in the face of all the risks: He’s a mad scientist, dammit, and he’s not going to let Ruka becoming a girl, Akiba ceasing to be an otaku haven, or even threatening red jello texts stop his march to destiny. But really, as I said, he wants to help his friends out, and more to the point, simply wants those friends around, and happy.

To that end, when Suzu is a no-show, he D-mails himself to keep tabs on her, and the next morning learns she attended the party after all. Even though she doesn’t know her dad’s phone number, she had a lot of fun. But what did this latest favor to a friend cost him? The beauty of S;G is that changes need not be immediately apparent; indeed, it’s more fun when they sneak up when least expected.

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Steins Gate – 08

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As S;G is a slow-burn sci-fi mystery with an absolutely kick-ass cast and world-class dialogue, I’m quite content with only incremental changes to the status quo. Big changes too soon mean we risk losing the people we’ve come to know and love. But as the rabbit hole widens, it seems more and more likely that we’re working towards that kind of result. After all, the changes the D-mails have been cumulative…at least so far.

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While John Titor’s words about powers and messiahs unsettled Okarin, it’s still way too soon to start confronting something of that magnitude yet. He sticks with science, which is repeating a process over and over, observing and recording the changes, and forming a theories around that data. In other words, we’re still in trial-and-error mode.

To her credit, the Kurisu of this new world line Okarin finds himself in doesn’t doubt what he says about the D-mail already being sent. One thing that can often bog down time travel themed shows is when the time traveler has to continually explain and re-explain to others what is going on, without being dismissed as crazy.

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Kurisu may think Okarin is crazy anyway—among other things—but she trusts him in this, especially because there’s concrete proof. So they press on with the experiments, with Moeka enthusiastically volunteering to send a D-mail to herself, warning her not to buy the new phone she presently wishes she hadn’t bought. Just before they begin, Ruka stops by with a watermelon to apologize for screwing up the lotto numbers.

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Once the phone microwave is activated and the d-mail sent, Okarin ‘travels’ yet again, to a world line where Moeka is absent from the lab and no one’s ever heard of her.

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Okarin is initially worried she ceased to exist, but the change was far more minor: she’s still around and still knows him, she just never visited the lab and thus never became Member 005 or met the others.

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Kurisu picks up on his behavior quicker this time, suspecting another d-mail was sent and puts the pieces together. But she’s still incredulous about whether his power to retain memories across world lines “Reading Steiner”, is real. Okarin himself can’t be sure yet, nor can he take everything Titor says as the gospel. More experimentation is needed.

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Ruka does come by in this timeline, having actually come by before with the watermelon, but turned back home when he accidentally eavesdropped on Okarin’s outburst about Moeka being missing (accidental eavesdropping seems to be a common thing on this show).

Mayushii pounces on him and makes him try on cosplay outfits, but Ruka is eventually able to tell Okarin his real reason for coming: he wants to send a d-mail. Specifically, one that will make him a girl.

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Kurisu is confused by his request, because all this time she thought Ruka was a girl, and was the only lab member still in the dark. Her reaction to learning the truth is suitably priceless, with simple yet effective comic timing.

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Okarin isn’t opposed to sending a text to Ruka’s mother asking her to eat more vegetables (which some believe increases the chances of having a girl), and officially recruits him Member #006, but they run into an interesting technological hitch: Ruka was born in 1993, three years before cell phones took off in Japan, making a typical d-mail impossible.

The gang arrives at a very elegant and clever solution on the fly: paring down the message so it can be sent as a sequence of numbers to his mom’s pocket pager.

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The D-mail is sent, and the world line changes (a previous mail Daru sent to himself doesn’t cause this effect). For a moment, Okarin appears alone in the dark lab. Did Ruka’s D-mail end up negating all of Okarin’s relationships as well as the Future Gadget Lab itself? 

Then he turns around, and no, they’re all still there, just in different positions. Whew. Ruka is still wearing androgynous clothes, too, so he can’t discern whether his gender changed to female (and Kurisu scolds him for starting). But if he asks them, it’s a good bet they’ve still never met Moeka, and Daru still lost the Feyris cup, and Ruka still lost the lottery by one number.

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So far, the effects seem to be cumulative, though I may be grossly oversimplifying things. The bottom line is, D-mails sent for one specific purpose end up causing totally unpredictable side effects. Okarin can’t even immediately detect what changed, only that something must have changed.

If the timeline he’s familiar with is a sheet of ice he’s treading upon, the D-mails are creating small cracks. How many more will that sheet bear before it collapses under his weight? Or are D-mails just as likely to seal cracks as create them?

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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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Steins Gate – 04

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Yes, Okarin has discovered a dark secret that involves at least one death, but to Steins;Gate‘s credit, the higher stakes aren’t used as an excuse to suck all the fun and joy out of the episode. In fact, this might be the funniest episode yet, as Okarin goes to great lengths to acquire the infamous IBN 5100 Portable PC.

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The plan to pursue the 5100 is a seed in part planted by his new neighbor Suzuha, who insists to her boss and Okarin that she’s an adult and a soldier, respectively. Does this mean she’s, like, a real soldier? Why is she really there? It can’t just be because she loves CRTS…

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Daru is like the universe—constantly expanding.

As for Mayushii, she isn’t throwing out any weird vibes this week, though she does reach for the sky again, something she does often enough that Okarin gives the ‘move’ a nickname: Stardust Handshake. Of course, Okarin seems to give everyone and everything nicknames…some more than one.

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Meanwhile, Kurisu sulks in her hotel room. She’s held the belief that time travel is theoretically impossible for so long, and then that tall, crazy man-child had to come into her life and throw everything into doubt. Or rather, he’s forcing doors open she’d rather were kept closed.

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With Daru out cold after his hacking binge and Mayshii having to work at the cafe, Okarin goes out into Akiba in search of a 5100 and as fate would have it, crosses paths with Kurisu. He asks her to come back to the lab and assist them, but she’s wishy-washy, which is apropos, since their next stop is a laundromat.

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Here, Okarin finally gets his ‘assistant’ “Christina” to reveal why she doesn’t want to accept what she saw: because she doesn’t want to ‘make the same mistake’ her father made. Did her father get into time travel research and was laughed out of the scientific community? Or did he actually travel through time? We don’t get that much, but we do get this:

You don’t have to come anymore. But I’ll tell you this…No one else will ever have the title of Lab Member 004. That number will be yours forever.

That’s one awesome parting speech. So awesome, in fact, that Okarin couldn’t help using it even though he still had to wait for the laundry. Kurisu is the one who leaves, but not before he tells her about the importance of the IBN 5100, which she dismisses as more nonsense.

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Okarin gets a tip from Mayushii that Feyris may have info on the old PC, so Okarin, already on his cell in a no-cell restaurant, spills nowhere near enough change to pay for his meal on the table and books it to the cat-maid cafe, where a “Feyris Cup” is underway. Feyris makes him play her at Rai-Net Battler in exchange or information. Okarin explains his laughably quick defeat with the exuse that he’s short on time.

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Feyris’ info is scant at best, but the last thing she mentions—that she last saw the PC at an Akibahara shrine—is all Okarin needs to know to determine his next destination.

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After a phone conversation in which Okarin and Kurisu bicker over the phone like an old married couple (and they truly are fun to listen to), Kurisu gets that destination out of him and meets him there, much to his surprise and her…well…self-disappointment?

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A programmer friend of hers confirmed what he was saying about the 5100 wasn’t nonsense, so there she is, giving him yet another chance. We also get to see the friendly and far less combative Kurisu as she formally meets Ruka—without learning his true gender.

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According to Ruka’s father, the IBN 5100 was donated to the shrine by a man ten years ago, who said one day a young man would come asking about it. Ruka’s dad has no problem letting Okarin borrow it. The only hitch is that the old ‘portable’ PC is quite bulky. As Kurisu balks at Okarin’s orders to assist him with it and the two bicker some more, Ruka’s dad also remarks how the two must be old friends.

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Truly, they must have been fated to meet and bicker. Okarin wins this particular battle, and Kurisu helps him drag the 5100 back to the lab. Soon, Daru will be rested and have clean clothes, and SERN’s secrets will be laid bare. If the damn thing works, that is.

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Stray Observations:

  • Okarin considers an exchange of information with “Shining Finger”, but she has no information to share, so Moeka remains in the background this week.
  • He also calls Kurisu “Assistant”, “Christina”, and “The Zombie”. Kurisu would rather he call him one of those than keep alternating, while I think Okarin prefers to alternate, depending on the situation.
  • Okarin seems disappointed that the spinning of the clothes doesn’t ‘change’ them.
  • “Christina was struck by lightning on the grassy plains of Arkansas…” I wouldn’t have minded him going on a little bit further with this tale.
  • “Theories are nothing more than words.”

Steins Gate – 03

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Rintarou: Then is this too, the choice of Steins Gate?
Kurisu: ‘Steins Gate?’
Daru: Something Okarin made up. It doesn’t really mean anything.
Kurisu: I’m sure. He’s mixing up his German and English.
Rintarou: …Take your shoes off!

It’s becoming more and more of a delight just to listen to Rintarou, Mayuri, Daru, and now Kurisu talk, particularly to each other. Just three episodes in and the voice actors are already like a finely-hewed ensemble, never missing a beat. I’m also loving the fact that, at this point, the title of the show is just gibberish Rintarou made up.

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Daru: Miss Makise? Miss Makise? Could you say, “Who’d eat a pervert’s banana, anyways?” once more, do you think? If possible, with an upset expression.

They get to play some jazz this time, as Kurisu invites herself in (she says she knocked), and makes a couple of snide remarks about the ‘lab’ and Japanese men. When she concludes she’s dealing with two perverts, they retort that it essentially takes one to know one, something she cannot dispute, flushed as she is.

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They eventually come to an agreement in which Kurisu (or “Christina”, or “Zombie”, or “Perverted Girl Genius”) will join the Future Gadget Lab as Member #004 (which really makes Mayushii’s day) and won’t sue the guys for sexual harassment in exchange for access to the phone microwave that’s turning bananas into green gel.

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With an accord reached, they get to work testing the microwave, thoughtlessly using Mayuri’s candy as a subject. When she opens the door to it before the experiment is complete (not wanting the food to burn), it causes an electrical surge that cracks the desk clean in two. Rintarou instinctively pulls Mayuri to the floor and shields her.

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The equipment is trashed, but with two concrete pieces of evidence—both the banana and his text messages about Kurisu’s stabbing—he’s ready to declare that what they’ve gone and made, quite by accident, is nothing less than a time machine, something that upsets Kurisu to the point she runs out of the lab, never to return to the episode.

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Talk turns to SERN and the Large Hadron Collider (it’s very nice how the show draws from real-world science, as Psycho-Pass drew from philosophy), the ominous Organization that John Titor said would ‘dominate the world’ in the 2030s, when he’s from. With their time machine in pieces and more proof needed, Rintarou directs Daru to hack into SERN to see if they can find any dirt.

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The seriousness of Okarin’s request is such that Daru is utterly distracted from the fact that Okarin is straight-up walking out on the bill. Let it be known that Rintarou is not utterly without skills; for one thing, he can slink away from financial responsibility like a boss.

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Outside the lab, Suzuha is goofing off with her bike, but accidentally overheard Rintarou and Daru’s talk about SERN. She even assumes Rintarou just got a text about ‘someone dying.’ Rather, he’s getting texts almost non-stop from Moeka, eager to get info on the rare PC, the IBN 5100, which Suzuha also knows about because she reads @channel. Suzuha’s timely arrival on Rintarou’s doorstep, along with her rapidly amassed knowledge of the situation, is contributing to her giving be a strange vibe.

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As Daru pulls an all-nighter attempting to hack into SERN as ordered, Rintarou hits @Chan, where ‘John Titor’ continues his lectures for anyone who will hear. Rintarou inserts himself in the discussion, and peaks Titor’s interest when he says there was another John Titor who arrived in 2000. World line shifts delete memories, he says, and yet Rintarou retains memories from another world line.

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To go off on a brief tangeant, I must say I’ve gotten used to the curious palette of Steins;Gate, in which most colors are extremely understated and low in saturation, while the sky is a deep, blazing cobalt blue quite different from the azure skies of our own world. It’s a small detail, but I felt it worth mentioning, since I’m sure the contrast between the deep dense sky and the comparatively washed-out world below was a very conscious aesthetic choice.

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Speaking of weird vibes: I didn’t just get them from Suzuha this week, but from Mayuri as well. She plays dumb all the time, but could that be an act? Did she intentionally sabotage the phone microwave at that crucial time for some reason? Is the staying close to Rintarou for reasons other than love or loyalty to a childhood friend? These are merely rhetorical questions based on random thoughts; no need to answer them.

Vibes aside, Rintarou and Mayuri still have adorable chemistry, best demonstrated by their little hot soup can content exchange negotiations on the roof.

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When they return to the lab, Daru has broken into SERN, though not with admin privileges. “Wow. I don’t understand, but wow,” Mayushii pointedly remarks. There, to everyone’s shock, most of all Rintarou’s, they find the ‘smoking gun’ he was hoping for: an email about how generating a miniature black hole with the LHC was successful, contradicting their public position.

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When they dig deeper into the “Z-Program Experiment Report 137”,  they find that the result of the experiment was “Error. Human is Dead, mismatch.” Now the Future Gadget Lab is really in the tall grass, where they’ll have to watch out for snakes.

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Steins Gate – 02

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We the audience are totally on board with the fact time has somehow shifted, and can fully appreciate how the presence of a suddenly-alive Makise Kurisu is a highly strange occurrence to Rintarou, and evidence of a very strange phenomenon afoot.

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However, Rintarou has a way of going about things precisely the wrong way, getting all up in Kurisu’s face and poking and prodding her like a test subject. If it wasn’t for Daru’s interceding, he would have likely ended up with a bloody nose at best or arrested at worst. Put simply: this exchange shows that Rintarou has a lot of work to do before he can start convincing people strange things are happening, and a lot of that is in the presentation.

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Total Defeat

When Kurisu is the one who ends up talking at the re-scheduled lecture, she starts in an undesirable direction for Rintarou: calling the very concept of time machines “foolish”. Rintarou rudely interrupts, but Kurisu is ready to take him down in a calculation-laced argument she dominates utterly, undercutting his credibility even more.

Here is a fellow scientific mind with published articles who would have possibly lent at least a half-open ear, had Rintarou simply interacted with her in a more civil manner. The message here is clear: whatever is going on, he’s the wrong messenger for it; he’s not ready for the big leagues.

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“But he’s a guy…”

Steins;Gate takenth away from Rintarou, but it also giveth, by introducing the very feminine Urushibara Ruka. Unlike Kurisu or even Daru, she’s fully invested in his Chuunibyou delusions, taking the 980-yen sword he ‘bestowed’ upon her and promising to swing it every day until she ‘awakens its power’. The only problem is Ruka isn’t a ‘she’ but a ‘he’.

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Whoa…that was an incredible hand-touch right there.

Ruka and Mayuri both seem to harbor romantic feelings for Rintarou, which explains their higher ‘tolerance’ for his tomfoolery. It also makes them biased in the eyes and minds of others, meaning they wouldn’t be taken any more seriously than Rintarou himself if they vouched for his story. More likely, Ruka and Mayuri would ‘believe’ what he said, but just like they ‘believe’ in everything else he says, out of a kind of obligation.

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Add Amane Suzuha to that list. While only the thinnest of love interests so far, she is a real-life girl of an age with Rintarou, who was just hired (as in, right in front of him in the shortest job interview ever) to help the landlord’s TV repair shop. Suzuha’s comments on ‘what’s popular these days’ and unfamiliarity with fresh produce suggest a certain precociousness that could make her another member of what I’ll call, for now, “Okarin’s Panel of Scientific Peers.”

They’re not like-minded for a multitude of reasons…but they do like his mind. Rintarou tossing her an ear of corn to Suzuha at the last minute demonstrates that for all his ranting and maniacal laughing, he can be a kind and affable fellow, not to mention fun.

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While on a Dr. Pepper-fueled all-night internet excavation, Rintarou confirms that the lecture was cancelled due to the satellite crash, that Kurisu was never stabbed, making him wonder if he simply hallucinated the whole thing.

Then things get stranger when he finds an “@chan” poster posing as his hero, John Titor, an alleged time traveller who arrived in 2000 and wrote several books expousing theories about “World Lines”, the infinite timelines one can travel through and manipulate with the proper means.

However, a Google search of “John Titor” brings up almost nothing, while his shelf of John Titor books is empty. The John Titor he knew simply doesn’t exist.

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The next morning, while on an intersection, he hears the clicks of a smartphone camera from a bespectacled lady, who retreats. He catches up to her and learns she’s documenting everywhere she’s been and everything she’s seen. My immediate impression is, ‘this lady is going through something like the same thing as Rintarou.” She also shows him an old-fashioned PC, and when he doesn’t recognize it, asks him if he knows who does.

Here, again, Rintarou shows his capacity to function not only as a normal member of society in spite of his apparently permanent Chuunibyou syndrome: instead of simply giving this random stranger Daru’s contact info, he acts as a go-between instead.

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He meets with Daru at the cat maid cafe where Mayuri works (wearing a blond wig) , along with another member of Rintarou’s ‘fan club’, “Feyris”, who is also fully-invested in an ongoing chuunibyou conversation about her training. Daru, for his part, curses RIntarou, apparently for inflicting such nonsense upon one of the girls at his preferred cat maid cafe. Yes, I’m aware of the irony in that statement.

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But I’m not sure Feyris is necessarily a ‘victim’ of Rintarou’s nonsense; she may have been into it before and is simply happy to have someone on the same ‘wavelength’. There’s also a certain portentousness to the message “The World’s In Danger!” written in ketchup on their omelette rice; as if Feyris is subconsciously attuned to matters she’s not conciously aware of yet.

In any case, Daru identifies the PC as an extremely rare and commercially unsuccessful early model that may not have actually ever existed, something he’s probably right about. Rintarou also gets an extremely florid text from the mysterious girl, one Kiryuu Moeka, and tells Daru to thank him for not exposing him to a potential nutcase. Yes, I’m aware of the irony in that statement, as well.

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Daru: Why would you think that?
Rintarou: It’s my intuition as a mad scientist.
Daru: So, no reason.

That’s the relationship of these two, in a nutshell, so far. Daru is willing to go along with all these strange inventions, but he reserves the right to provide skeptical/snarky commentary in the process.

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But when the banana (CLEARLY MARKED as the EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY of Mayushii, yet stolen anyway) they put in the newly-adjusted Phone Microwave (name subject to change), and it disappears, only to show up in green ‘gel-bana’ form, yet fully attached to the bunch, Rintarou suddenly gains a degree of credibility…even though he’s just as freaked out as Daru.

I’ll admit the first episode was a little awkward, but this one made great strides, efficiently introducing vibrant new faces, nudging forward the engrossing time travel mystery, and employing lots of witty banter that had be laughing a lot more than I was expecting.

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