Steins;Gate 0 – 07 – Mr. Braun (and Wikipedia) to the Rescue

The standoff with what is apparently the “Rounders” of SERN mercifully ends without any tragic deaths, thanks to the sudden arrival of Tennouji, who makes quick work of the masked bandits, while Suzu frees their quarry Kagari from their clutches.

Their leader in black has a female figure, but Okabe almost immediately doubts it was Kiryuu Moeka again because the Akiba boss from the other world line was Braun; it would  make no sense for him to hinder the Rounders here. Something else is clearly up.

The first priority is ensuring Kagari’s safety going forward now that they know she’s particularly susceptible to capture. She continues to stay at Ruka’s place, which Daru fortifies with motion sensors while Suzuha keeps a sleepless watch.

Ruka can tell something’s up, and wants Suzuha to explain why she uses the family-based honorifics she uses…but Suzuha isn’t talking. She (rightly) believes Okabe wants to keep Ruka from learning anything about other worlds, so that he can stay in the one he’s in.

The next day Okabe visits Tennouji at the shop to explain the disturbance he had to break up (not the kind of landlord duties he likes undertaking, even if he’s more than capable). Okabe first confirms that Tennouji is indeed Ferdinand Braun, affiliated with the Rounders.

Braun concedes that Okabe is disturbingly accurate about things he has no business knowing, and in the absence of more credible explanations is willing to at least hear him out about time travel and world lines. He agrees to keep Kagari under his protection, hiring her and Suzuha as part-timers, but insists Okabe get to work discovering the identity and goals of Kagari’s would-be captors.

One clue is the alphanumeric code uttered by two of the Rounders: K6205, whom Mayushii’s friend Kaede is able to identify as possibly a Köchel number; those used to catalog the works of Mozart. Specifically, K. 620, his opera The Magic Flute, which is packed with Masonic elements.

Scene 5 of Act 2 involves a man being ordered to marry an elderly woman or he’ll be imprisoned forever. When he does, she’s transformed into a young and beautiful young woman, only for priests to hold him back, warning that he’s not yet worthy of her.

I learned all of this on Wikipedia, as Daru and the others’ primary source of research (always a good place to start, anyways). But one can’t think of the Mozart connection without also thinking about his middle name: Amadeus; ‘loved by God’.

Amadeus is still offline and when Okabe calls Hiyajou, she expresses her fear the server has been taken over. But moments after Hiyajou hangs up Okabe gets a call from Amadeus. It’s highly distorted and garbled, but Amakurisu pleads for help clearly enough.

That’s when Okabe enters Reading Steiner, the Divergence Meter’s Nixie Tube numbers flutter furiously. He ends up alone in the lab, the TV no longer shot through, and the Amadeus app gone from his phone’s home screen. It’s a World Line Change, people, and what do you know, Kurisu is alive in this one.

Just like the first Steins;Gate series, S;G 0 started off slow, but there was always the possibility, even probability that one big event after another was bound to go down soon. Now we’re there, with Okabe, in a totally different world than the one in which started, with no knowledge of how he got there, whether he’s been there before, or if he’ll ever get back.

Not to mention the fact that without even trying he’s been reunited with the only woman he’s ever loved. Depending on how things go, he may not even want to leave…but where Steins;Gate is concerned, getting something you want almost always means losing something you need.

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 06

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This is probably my last Netoge review. It’s not unwatchable, and there’s a certain charm about it that draws you in, but it’s so safe, and formulaic, and devoid of interpersonal conflict and stakes. I’m not saying I need conflict in my rom-coms, but it does spice things up, and its absence in Netoge is impossible to overlook. Cute character designs, in this case, aren’t enough to sustain my interest.

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Netoge doesn’t do itself any favors in its latest outing, which, Ako studying and passing her exams aside, is all about one thing: Nishimura properly confessing to Ako. He spends the whole episode worried about how and when to do it, completely oblivious to the fact a girl like Ako would naturally reject an offer to be his girlfriend, because she already considers herself his wife, both on- and offline.

It would be one thing if Nishimura/Rusian actually had to lift a finger for Ako’s affections, or if Segawa or Kyou took exception to that finger-lifting because they harbored feelings for him. But he’s already got the girl. She’s presented herself nude for him, for crying out loud! All he has left to do is come to terms with the fact he has her, and in the process learn more about her…if there is anyting else to learn, that is.

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I’m sorry, but watching the interminable process of this particular lug hesitating at the finish line just doesn’t sound appealing. The other two female leads playing game matchmakers from the sidelines only serve to make things even easier for him, making it that much more frustrating that he’s not able to seal the deal. It also makes the intense love Ako has for him feel unearned; shallow, even.

Sorry Netoge, but this isn’t working, and the promise of a beach episode isn’t enough to change my mind: I’m announcing a summary divorce!

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 05

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Turns out Sette-san isn’t Nishimura’s sister, but his pink-haired classmate (and friend of Segawa’s), Akiyama. She teases both him and Ako by glomming on him in class, but she causes a lot more trouble than she expected, as she creates an environment Ako no longer feels comfortable in. She even suggests the club play an FPS unrelated to LA, likely to avoid Akiyama/Sette.

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Ako then recedes again from school life, vowing only to live in LA, where she knows Rusian is his wife, if nowhere else. At long last, Nishimura’s wishy-washiness and failure to clearly define his real world relationship with Ako has been laid bare, and this is the sum product: an Ako more reclusive than ever, who wishes to “reincarnate” into someone cooler.

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The club pretty easily figures out that Ako herself is caught up in a spiral of stubbornness and a desire not to lose further face, and that Nishimura is the only one who has a shot to bring her back to school. While walking home with Segawa, she relays to him how important he was to Ako, both in the game and in her life, and how she, like Ako, wouldn’t mind spending a good long time with Nishimura…gaming, of course. Just gaming. As usual, Segawa fools precisely no one but the guy she’s trying to pretend she doesn’t like.

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When he arrives at Ako’s house, Nishimura is confronted by Ako’s mom, who looks more like an equally attractive older sister and is delighted that Ako’s “future husband” has come to sort her “problem daughter” out. She then shuffles off to work, leaving him with the key to Ako’s room, of all things.

When he enters, Ako isn’t ready for him, being in her underwear and all. When she tells him she is ready and he can come in, she’s totally naked, revealing her and Nishimura’s definitions of “ready” in this instance differ greatly. She eventually gets some damn clothes on, however, and to her surprise, Nishimura isn’t there to drag her back to school; he’s just there to play LA with her.

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After a day of this, during which they were supposed to be at school, Nishimura essentially proposes mutually assured destruction: if Ako can stay home forever and never go to school or see any of their friends, so can he, and whatever fallout there is from that, so be it.

While I kinda doubt Nishimura’s parents would allow him to ruin his chances of getting into college or securing a good job, Ako is touched by Rusian’s devotion. The knowledge that he’d stay home with her forever if that’s what she eventually decided gives her the strength to tough it out at school with him.

Once she’s there, Akiyama mends fences by proclaiming to Ako’s peers that she has a dutiful boyfriend who visited her when she wasn’t feeling well. That’s a narrative Ako can get behind. Do I buy that it’s enough to mitigate all her other mental and social issues? Not really. Is Nishimura now Ako’s explicitly public boyfriend? No. Is that fundamental ambiguity a problem going forward? Certainly.

Furthermore, the last few episodes have felt like slightly-tweaked versions of the same story, beginning and ending in virtually the same space. Characters can talk about Ako “progressing”, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

And everyone’s too…nice. This is high school, where are the “normie” antagonists? Those issues, combined with its Thursday night time slot (my movie night) and lackluster production values, are making this a hard show to stick with.

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 04

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There were three main story thrusts this week: Segawa’s attempts to keep her “twisted” net game-playing second life a secret; Nishimura’s insistence on drawing semantic boundaries in his relationship with an ever-increasingly enthusiastic Ako; and the introduction of Sette, who immediately threatens to rend the married couple asunder.

The first two stories are re-treads of what we’ve already seen: Segawa isn’t ready to be totally exposed for the gamer she is, even as she fails to realize all the effort and stress she’s exerting is to perpetuate a lie, and not even a necessary one.

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This doesn’t seem to be that hostile a school environment, socially speaking, and Nishimura is proof you can be openly otaku without becoming a pariah.

Segawa’s issue is that she doesn’t want to be viewed for what she really is, but rather some obscure ideal she must have consumed somewhere. The “perfect high school life” she seeks will always be a mirage as long as she’s mired in efforts to maintain a false identity.

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Also a bit of a re-tread, with little progress one way or another, is Nishimura’s careful dance with Ako. In spite of his mates having a good idea what his hobbies are, like Segawa he’s trying to have his normal life cake and eat it too; project an image of someone at least more normal than Ako.

And while he’s clearly uncomfortable with anyone mistaking Ako for his girlfriend or wife, the reality is he’s become very close to this person. I had thought they’d reached more of an understanding, but Nishimura’s discomfort and awkwardness in the fact of any advance by Ako…it’s all a bit dilatory.

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Ako doesn’t help matters by overreacting to every interaction Nishimura has with the opposite sex. It was Nekohime/his teacher last week, and Segawa’s friend Akiyama this week.

But Sette looks to be the first true threat she should actually worry about, but not because the newbie is in danger of usurping her role as Rusian’s wife, but seems more like and admiring imouto.  Heck, Sette could well be Nishimura’s real-life sister for all I know.

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 03

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The “Modern Communication Electronic Game Club” (too wordy IMO) has been ostensibly organized with the purpose of getting Ako to discern between the real world and the game world, but the road to that outcome is a long and perilous one, as Rusi—er—Nishimura quickly finds out.

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That being said, there is only a slight learning curve to playing in the same room together, and the party eventually gets more efficient in their first grinding session. Ako, under Nishimura’s guidance, equips herself properly. I also liked how Ako had to be reminded she doesn’t have to chat in-game; he’s right there. Force of habit!

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After the session, Ako is in a glow of happiness, a parade Nishimura really doesn’t want to rain on, because he must realize on some level it’s not the end of the world for the two of them to be mistaken for boyfriend and girlfriend, if not more.

But as the club sessions continue, Segawa points out that they seem having the opposite effect on Ako: only bringing the two worlds that should be separate closer together. Nishimura seeks guidance from Nekohime, the cross-player he previously proposed to, but Ako gets wind of it and her jealous side is revealed.

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After a pretty harsh sit-down with Ako, Nishimura tells her flat-out they’re not married in the real world, they’re just classmates and friends. The full effect of that statement doesn’t come until Ako doesn’t show up for school the next day, and in-game talks about meeting offline with a “friend” who is a guy (whom I immediately assumed was Nekohime).

Nishimura wants to stop her from meeting a random dude on her own offline, but is worried he’d be going against his code of keeping world separate if he did. Balderdash, say both Segawa and Goshouin, in a united front against Nishimura’s wishy-washiness.

It’s clear he likes real-life Ako too, and so there’s no way he’d stand by and let her do something imprudent at best and potentially dangerous at worst. I like how the other two girls in the club are supportive of what Nishimura and Ako have, and quick to show him the proper path.

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In a nice twist, we don’t get the heartfelt reunion between Nishimura and Ako I thought was coming. Instead, the cross-playing Nekohime turns out to not only be a woman, but Nishimura’s teacher, Saitou-sensei. Which means that yes, he once unknowingly proposed to his teacher.

Now, this is an awkward situation for all parties involved—save Ako, who has come prepared to punish whoever the real Nekohime turned out to be, teacher or no, for breaking her beloved Rusian’s pure heart.

For a second, I thought like Nishimura and Saitou that she was about to pull some kind of serious weapon. Thankfully, it’s just a toy mage staff; but Saitou still instinctively defends herself, taking Ako out.

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That puts Saitou in the pefect position—from the club’s perspective—to fill a role the club needed to ensure its survival: a faculty advisor. As someone who not only understands the club’s purpose but also plays LA, she’s the perfect person to advise the club (whether it’s under duress or not).

As for the purpose of the club, well, it seems to have taught Nishimura more of a lesson than Ako. While she considers the two worlds too similar, he’s kept them too separate, putting his actions an his manner with real-life Ako at odds with his actual feelings for her.

Yes, Ako still needs work in the real world, but that’s accomplished here too when Saitou makes her agree to come to school as much as she can. Another fine Netoge that highlights a rarity in these kinds of shows: a club in which all the members are likable characters that still have their own personalities and quirks. Rusian and Ako are also a lovely, fun-to-watch couple, even if Rusian has trouble seeing them as such.

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