Yuru Camp△ – 11 – Campvengers: Sukiyaki War

Yuru Camp gets right down to the “final battle” of the season: the big unified Christmas Camping trip. After ten episodes of “forming a new team”, we finally get to watch them together in action, much like the Avengers was the culmination of numerous smaller stories. But first the team must meet at the appointed place and time: Asagiri Plateau Campgrounds, 2 PM.

There’s nothing like the beginning of these kinds of trips…so exciting and full of promise! Chiaki and Aoi are the first to arrive, having gotten a ride from Toba-sensei in her rugged-yet-cute Suzuki Hustler. They assure her not to worry about hiding her drinking, as she should enjoy the trip too. The next time they turn around, she’s tucking into her bacon and beer. It’s only noon, so they head to a nearby ice cream parlor.

Next to arrive is Rin via moped, who is also early. Even though she sees Aoi and Chiaki checked her in, they’re nowhere to be found (she fails to notice the sleeping Toba-sensei), so she sets her tent up where she feels is best, looking on her completed work with hands on her hips and a quietly spirited “Yosh!” A little later, “the hyper one” arrives, dropped off by her big sis.

Rather than join Aoi and Chiaki at the ice cream place, Rin whips up a tasty s’more-adjacent treat by placing stove-toasted marshmallows within chocolate sandwich cookies. Nadeshiko approves. When Aoi and Chiaki see that firewood is available for cheap, Rin takes her moped to their location to load it up…leaving one bundle for Chiaki to lug on her own.

Rin then gets a cryptic text from Saitou, saying she’s sent an “assassin” to the campsite. Turns out it’s just her fluffy Chihuahua Chikuwa, whom both Nadeshiko and Rin beckon to, only to be passed by in favor of the warm space beneath the sleeping Toba-sensei’s chair.

Everyone marvels at Saitou’s wonderful (and expensive!) down sleeping bag, then wander over to Rin’s spot to marvel at her setup. Rin isn’t used to the attention, but she doesn’t dislike it. Then the girls break out a frisbee and run around with the little kids, having fun and making the most of Asagiri’s wide open spaces.

As the sun starts to drop and the kids and their parents take off, the group has some hot cocoa—which of course Toba-sensei laces with rum. The group sits back and watch Fujiyama turn red, and then Aoi gets dinner started. Following the advice of her granny who told her to keep things simple when it comes to high quality beef (always good advice), she whips up a big pot of Kansai-style A5 beef sukiyaki.

When the sun is gone and it drops to freezing, Nadeshiko shows everyone her patent-pending “Blankiemonster” method of preserving body heat. Aoi delights in the different ways each girl reacts to the deliciousness of the dish, from Saitou and Rin’s quiet appreciation to Nadeshiko and Chiaki’s “full-body expressionism.” Toba-sensei cries because she forgot to bring sake, the perfect companion to sukiyaki.

Saitou then breaks out the Christmas trappings, including a little tree and Santa costumes for everyone and a reindeer headband for her pup. But Aoi isn’t done, using the leftover broth and onions and garlic fried in Chiaki’s skillet to make tomato sukiyaki, an altogether different experience.

When that’s done, she prepares for a third round of food, this time with cheese pasta. Only she and Nadeshiko seem game, but everyone else commits to no more than a bite or two, stuffed as they are. But disaster strikes: the stove runs out of gas, and Toba-sensei’s cylinder also runs out. Not only can they not use the range to make the pasta, but Nadeshiko won’t be able to make breakfast in the morning!

Nadeshiko starts to weep with despair, but Rin’s got this, changing back into her street clothes and heading out on her moped to a convenience store to buy more gas. Nadeshiko also asks her to buy a tube of ginger. Toba-sensei wants booze, but Rin’s too young to buy it, so tough.

As she heads out into the bitter cold night on her trusty steed, primed to return the hero of the group, a smile comes to Rin’s face: just as Saitou had said, it’s an entirely different vibe camping with a group, and especially so with this group of colorful characters. Rin admits that while it’s different fun, it’s still fun as hell—just as it’s ridiculously fun for the viewer to vicariously share in all their experiences.

Yuru Camp△ – 10 – It’s All Coming up Outclub

Rin’s Backup Post-Exams Solo Camping Trip takes a turn from relaxing to nerve-wracking when she oversleeps at the hot springs, leading to an hour-and-a-half drive to the campground on increasingly dark and unnerving roads. She’s just 500 meters from her destination when she comes across another “road closed” barrier. A detour would add three hours to her trip!

Fortunately, Rin still has a cell signal, which enables Chiaki (still at Nadeshiko’s) to call her up, telling her to ignore the sign, as it must’ve been left there on accident; happens all the time. Sure enough, Rin’s path to the campground is unimpeded, but then she has to contend with heavy winds threatening to blow her tent away!

Rin finally gets the tent set up and is able to soak in the true reward of her labors: another breathtaking nighttime vista. She then browns and crisps her konbini-purchased steamed bun with some butter on her sandwich grille and brews some roasted tea from the mountaineer lady.

Rin laments being “bad at traveling”, but her present situation enjoying a steamed bun and tea beside her fully set-up campsite contradict her claim. After Nadeshiko got sick, all of Rin’s careful preparation in previous trips made it possible for her to wing it on short notice. I’d say she did fine, all things considered!

Rin then gets a call from Nadeshiko, who Rin instantly recognizes is actually Chiaki doing a Nadeshiko impression. Still, she thanks Chiaki for the tip that saved her three hours of potentially dangerous riding, and Chiaki immediately cashes in the goodwill she earned by being the one to formally invite Rin to the Outclub’s Christmas Camping.

Rin turns her down flat, but then Saitou texts her saying that she’ll be going on the trip…and bringing her cute Chihuahua. Saitou knows Rin likes camping alone, but there’s a different kind of fun to be had in a group. And Saitou is right when she says Nadeshiko was really looking forward to Rin joining them. Also, dog. As Chiaki leaves Nadeshiko’s later that night, she gets a tentative “I’ll think about it” from Rin.

Back at school, Rin passes Toba-sensei in the hall and thinks she recognizes her. Toba is currently being politely nudged into advising a club like all the other teachers, so it’s clear by the end of the episode it will be the Outclub. Nadeshiko and Chiaki learn that Aoi won a bunch of high-quality meat, and are treating her like a queen when Saitou enters.

The four take their Christmas Camping planning meeting outdoors, where Chiaki also shows off her new campfire stand—a compromise buy after the cost of a full set (¥30,000) caused her nose to bleed. Saitou tells them she ordered a sleeping bag after all: a ¥45,000 deluxe alpine model her dad bought for her.

After texting Rin to pick a campground, as they can’t decide, the club discusses exchanging gifts. Due to the costs of camping eating up what cash they have (Saitou excluded), Nadeshiko proposes exchange of “hospitality”, e.g. cooked meals. Saitou gets a kick out of the three girls’ antics, but the meeting is interrupted by Toba-sensei, concerned about their fire.

Since Toba-sensei is new to the school, she didn’t know the Outclub has permission to build fires from the Hiking Club’s faculty advisor, who also advises other clubs. He uses the opportunity to dump the Outclub on Toba-sensei, so he has a club and he has one less.

Toba-sensei is loath to have her precious drinking and drama-watching time stolen by other things, but once she learns the Outclub’s laid-back activities, she starts to realize she dodged a bullet. There are way more laborious clubs to advise!

Rin recommends the Asagiri Plateau for their campsite, and the other four girls agree in sequence on her phone, which makes her smile. Then it suddenly dawns on Nadeshiko after a close look at Toba-sensei, and she uses Saitou’s phone’s stylis to draw a crude hoodie and booze bottles on the pic she sends to Rin, confirming it’s the tipsy lady from Lake Shibire!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 22 – Tainted Love

Older Hanyuu lets Satoko basically fumble her way through the first few loops, no doubt trying to determine how far the “child of man” can get in trying to overturn Rika’s will to leave Hinamizawa absent any information. The answer: Not that far! 

First Satoko interrupts Rika’s dream spiel by leaving the bookstore, explaining how things will turn out, and then making Rika choose, right there and then: St. Lucia, or her. When Rika (notably in the voice of her older self) states that she can’t choose, Satoko jumps in front of a passing truck, painting her best friend’s face with her blood.

Having tried the aggressive route to refusing Rika’s dream, Satoko tries a more preemptive method, getting Rika up at the crack of dawn, showing her the beauty of Hinamizawa in hopes of swaying her. It doesn’t work, so Satoko slits her own throat.

In the classroom, she throws Rika’s exam prep book to the floor, then tears it in two, but Rika won’t stop studying, so Rika takes one of her pencils and stabs herself in the neck. Before long she and Rika are simply yelling at each other while wrestling, and both end up drowning in a canal.

All these loops do is frustrate Satoko. While the deity has been quite entertained, she decides to give Satoko the first key clue: Rika has also been living in loops. Not only that, but far, far moe than Satoko; one hundred years’ worth. Now Satoko understands how uphill her battle truly is, because Rika’s will has been reinforced by a century of failure and despair.

After being given a glimpse of one of Rika’s loops (the one in which Keiichi gets H syndrome and beats everyone to death with a bat), she determines that she needs to fully educate herself in order to have any chance of defeating Rika. That means watching all one hundred years of Rika’s loops…and I thought she detested studying!

Those horrific memories eventually go by and Satoko has seen it all. As with any huge and abrupt passage of time longer than the average human life, it’s hard to fully grasp what Satoko endured, but the her that exists in the “in-between” plane seems more mature, focused, resolved, and most importantly, informed.

When she hears that just before the victory over the Mountain Dogs Rika was at the end of her rope and ready to give up, Satoko realizes it is simply a matter of getting Rika to once again lose the will to go on, only this time make it stick. Like the games in their club, there can only be one winner.

It’s here where I take a step back and somewhat shudder at the notion of Satoko treating Rika like the enemy. Rika’s will is who Rika is, and by trying to destroy it, she’s trying to selfishly craft a new, more malleable Rika to her own specs. Rika, in turn, is trying to mold Satoko to fit her future dreams, and has a head start. It just doesn’t seem either of them love each other as much as they love their own wills. At this point, maybe they just…shouldn’t be friends anymore?!

What is missing is Rika’s awareness that Satoko is looping. So she asks the deity to make it so Rika’s memory persist through the loops, so Satoko is always dealing with the “same” Rika. The only thing Rika won’t remember is the cause of her death prior to Satoko’s, which she also intends to use in the battle of wills she intends to win, no matter the cost.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 07 – Changing Hair, Saving Face

In the morning, Ichika is awake earlier than usual: still later than the other quints but apparently still before Fuutarou. She, Nino and Itsuki assume Miku woke up earlier still and Yotsuba is out looking for her. Thankfully no one assumes Miku went back to sleep in her own bed, forgetting Fuutarou was spending the night.

Five sisters, five bedrooms, and five wake-up times mixed up lend Fuutarou a fighting chance of keeping Nino and Itsuki from discovering something they’d probably never forgive him for. And he could really use a break where those two are concerned.

Thankfully, Ichika is as good as her word when it comes to doing her part to mend fences. Itsuki feels she’s at an impasse; that no matter how hard she tries she and Fuutarou simply can’t get along and butt heads over issues big and small. But unlike Nino, she is trying. Itsuki truly is a lot like Fuutarou in that they both realize they were in the wrong and want to make up, but aren’t sure how.

That’s when Ichika gets an idea: what if Itsuki saved face…by changing her hairstyle to that of Miku’s and approaching Fuutarou that way? Ichika tussles and teases her hair, and even Nino gets in on the fun, making sure the disguise job is done right. When she knocks on Miku’s door, Fuutarou answers, but realizes it’s Itsuki from her pajamas. After awkwardly dismissing her, he retreats to the library with Ichika, meeting up with Yotsuba.

While Itsuki’s gesture ended in failure, she and Fuutarou get a second chance when Ichika asks him to go back and grab her pencil case from home. At the front door the real Miku is about to leave for the library, and tries to ask Fuutarou about their sleeping arrangements, but Fuutarou reflects.

Back in the apartment, Itsuki’s hair is back to normal but she’s fallen asleep studying at the desk with Miku’s headphones. Fuutarou wakes her up, and they proceed to pretend that he’s mistaking her for Miku trying to skip out on studying at the library. In the midst of the charade he manages to slip in a knowing apology, and Itsuki is able to apologize in return.

You can really feel how happy and relieved both Fuutarou and Itsuki are to have made up, and how much Itsuki appreciates being praised for getting as far as she’s gotten studying alone out of stubbornness. Neither party is presented as unreasonable, just hesitant to lose face or make things worse.

They only needed the right conditions to reconcile, and thanks to Ichika, they got them. With that, four of the five quints are now in the study group, and Fuutarou spends their final day and night before the exams at their place helping them cram. But when the morning arrives, everyone oversleeps, and they have to make an epic mad dash to school.

This dash scene is heavily symbolic of all the growth in Fuutarou’s relationship with the quints. Where once they were all running from him, now they’re running with him, hopefully towards academic victory. As the most athletic of all of them, Yotsuba takes a huge lead, while Itsuki’s sudden hunger pangs require a konbini detour.

The result is everyone but Yotsuba is a few minutes late. In order to get past the strict teacher guarding the entrance, each of the quints dons a Yotsuba ribbon to disguise themselves as the sister who arrived on time. Fuutarou also tries this tactic—because honestly, why not?!—but it fails and he gets in trouble. But the quints are safe and sound, and as he’s dragged to the faculty office, he shouts out some final words of encouragement.

It turns out Itsuki learned from her father that he planned to ask for Fuutarou’s resignation if any of them failed. Knowing that, Itsuki redoubled her studying efforts, for, as she says, “Raiha-chan’s sake”. Yet even though Nino already knew he’d get canned, which is what she wanted from the start, she’s still determined to do her best out of pride, even without Yotsuba’s urging.

Unfortunately in such a short time and with so many distractions and setbacks, Fuutarou could only do so much for the quints. As a result, each of them only passes one out of the five subjects each. True to form, each quint passed a different subject, with Miku scoring the highest single score in social studies.

Fuutarou gathers the quints in the library, resigned to his fate, and gets on the horn to their dad to recommend he find them a better tutor before reporting the midterm scores. But then, without warning, Nino snatches the phone out of his hand and has a little chat with her Papa. She asks why he set such a harsh condition, and confirms it was a test to determine if Fuutarou was the right fit. Nino tells her dad they won’t know that just from their grades, to which he responds it’s the primary factor.

Then Nino does something Fuutarou never thought in a million years she’d do, considering her attitude towards him thus far: lie to her dad, for his sake. Well, not lie exactly, but nevertheless a lie through omission of the full truth. Her precise wording is “The five of us together avoided failing all five subjects.” Her dad believes Nino, because she carries that clout, and agrees to let Fuutarou continue to tutor them.

Fuutarou surely wasn’t the only factor in Nino’s change of heart. She has her sisters and their respective futures to consider, and wouldn’t want to hurt them by taking away a tutor with whom they’re making legitimate progress. She probably also remembered that if Fuutarou were canned it would also hurt Raiha.

But Fuutarou himself was a key factor for Nino nevertheless, and ensuring he sticks with the group is both a vote of confidence and a challenge for him to not squander the life line she secured for him. Her white lie worked this time, but probably won’t work again.

With that, Yotsuba suggests they start reviewing their answers, but Fuutarou remembers the importance of rewards for a job well done, and treats the quints to parfaits, getting them to explode with laughter just by saying “parfaits.” As for Fuutarou’s own scores? 100s on everything. Tutoring the quints didn’t result in the slightest drop. He can do this. They can do this!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 06 – Dad Wants Results

As a result of all his help at the fireworks festival, Fuutarou is well-liked enough by Ichika that she walks to school with him, something any lad in his right mind would die for! But as good terms as he’s on with the eldest quint, the youngest continues to harbor a deep animosity for him.

Itsuki still holds a grudge for him refusing to help her study back when they met. She and Nino remain outside the study circle, and his attempts to convince them to join it are rejected with prejudice. That said, Fuutarou was way too loose with his words to Nino in front of her friends, making it sound like the two of them slept together!

Fuutarou remains committed to studying, so he declines to join Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba for parfaits, but Itsuki flags him down on the way home and puts him on the phone with their father, who informs Fuutarou in no uncertain terms that he expects results for his investment: if any of his daughters fails the upcoming midterms, he’ll be fired.

It’s a gut punch for Fuutarou, who doesn’t immediately react well to the warning, as he takes out his anxiety on Itsuki, who is convinced he’s only doing this for the money and doesn’t want his half-assed help after rejecting her. The two end things in a bad place, declaring they’ll never work with one another ever.

When Fuutarou comes to the quints’ place so he work with Ichika, Miku, and Yotsuba, Itsuki is nowhere to be found, but Nino is around, so he can’t let the others know the cost of failure lest Nino exploit that information to sabotage him. Nino gets the info anyway when she pretends to be Itsuki while Fuutarou is in the bath. I guess her goodwill toward him didn’t last past the fireworks festival, huh?

Meanwhile, Ichika has picked up on Miku’s feelings for Fuutarou, and makes every effort to put the two in closer contact with one another, from insisting Fuutarou spend the night (hence the bath) to plain ol’ shoving Miku into Fuutarou’s chest, then having Yotsuba check his pulse…which is high, but to be fair Yotsuba chased him around the house!

When Miku comes right out and asks him what type of girl he likes, Fuutarou only doles out his three top qualities in a girl after the three each complete a page of notes. Ichika invites Fuutarou onto the balcony for a break, and brings up his fight with Itsuki. She sees Itsuki and Fuutarou as “too alike” for their own good, but thinks it’s fine for friends to fight, but as friends, not sworn enemies.

She also knows both of them are stubborn and its holding up their reconciling. She’ll do what she can for him, but at the end of the day it’s up to him to make things right with her. Fuutarou is impressed with how much of an “oldest sister” Ichika is, and follows her advice to praise her by patting her head, causing her to blush profusely.

Still, Ichika is being the good big sister by deferring to Miku’s feelings regarding Fuutarou…at least for now. When it’s time for bed, Miku bunks with Ichika and volunteers her bed for him, only to drowsily return to her bed out of habit after going to the bathroom. Fuutarou wakes up to find Miku curled up beside him!

Whatever consequences result from this innocent mix-up will pale in comparison to what happens if any of the sisters fails the midterms. This isn’t just about Fuutarou losing his job and the money his family needs. He’ll suddenly be cut off from the five young women who are gradually helping him grow as a person, just as he’s helping them. So I hope, for all their sakes, he finds a way to help them all pass.

Steins;Gate 0 – 04 – Another Girl Lost in Time

Okabe experiences a number of strange flashes in various world lines before waking up in bed, only to eventually return to the roof of the lab with Maho. They include running from enemy forces (likely in the bad future) and answering a mysterious phone call. He wonders if he somehow experienced Reading Steiner, and fears for the worst.

Thankfully, both Mayushii and everyone else are fine, so if there was a world line change, it was a subtle one, at least in terms of how it affected his life. Later, Amakurisu suggests Okabe give his mismatched present (a sexy red dress) to Maho, saying she’d likely be “surprisingly happy.”

Okabe doesn’t do that, but both Maho and Leskinen can tell he’s gotten close to Amadeus in not much time at all, feeding Leskinen’s hope that the AI will be able to fall in love, which would obviously be a huge breakthrough.

It seems like fate that they’d find the person who just happened to be in love with the real Kurisu. Maho just wants to know more about the side of her good friend and colleague that she never knew, lamenting that she “knows nothing”, despite the fact she is not Jon Snow.

Meanwhile, as Suzuha tries to get her eventual dad to go on a date with her eventual mother, Daru senses Suzu is hiding something, and isn’t thrown off by Suzu’s weak “it’s nothing.” What Daru learns is that Suzu did not board the Time Machine alone, but took Future Mayushii’s adopted war orphan daughter, Kagari.

In 1998, Suzuha and the 11-year-old Kagari were separated in Akiba, meaning in the present she’s a 22-year-old woman. Suzuha has been busy searching for her, with no success. Daru relays this information to Okabe, along with a request to help with the search.

Okabe quickly agrees, and when Amakurisu gets word of his task, she offers to search the vast networks she has access to in order to assist him. He pockets that offer for now, not wanting himself or Amakurisu to get into any unnecessary trouble (doing what she proposed may not be legal, strictly speaking).

After a flashback to 1998 when Kagari pulled a gun on Suzu in order to stop her from changing the future (the one in which her mother Mayushii lived), we’re back in the present, where Okabe asks Rukako and Feyris (who both grew up in Akiba) to put feelers out about a girl.

Feyris gets back to him about a “ghost with braids” asking people about a lost little girl (obviously Suzuha), but nothing concrete about Kagari. As Okabe is receiving Feyris’ call, he spots Dr. Leskinen turning a corner, but when he follows him he hits a dead end of boxes. Weird.

When Okabe returns to the lab, Daru has called someone he apparently knows who may have information for them. While waiting for this person to arrive, Okabe gets a call from Rukako with an urgent request to come meet him at his house, and no other time will do.

Then there’s a knock on the door, and who should be on the other end but Kiryuu Moeka, the sight of whom triggers all of the awful dealings Okabe had with her in other world lines. Oddly, I knew with some certainty that it would be her, partly because there was just something off about the suddenness of Daru’s connection.

Of course, this may not be a Killer Kiryuu…but from the glimpse of the hair of Rukako’s guest, it’s pretty clear her assistance isn’t needed to find Kagari…Kagari is that guest. All Okabe has to do is go to Rukako’s and he’s found her. The question is, will he be able to?

Steins;Gate 0 – 03 – Easy to Be Deluded

As Mayushii organizes a huge Christmas bash to cheer up Suzuha, Okabe is finding Amakurisu’s constant calls a nuisance. But she insists he keep his promises to her by showing her the lab. While her first impression is that it’s a dump, she admits she always yearned to share a room with people, with “forks and spoons and stuff.” She already feels so much like Kurisu, it’s almost as if Okabe’s Facetiming the real thing.

As Suzuha is visited by her benefactor Feyris to try to convince her to come to the party, all Suzu can think about is how to convince Okabe to accompany her to the Steins Gate.

At the Brain Institute, Leskinen is excited to see what comes of Okabe convering with Amakurisu, while Hiyajou is more weary, thinking of displacement behavior and knowing firsthand how easy it is to replace the Kurisu she lost with Amakurisu in her mind.  Leskinen has an answer for that as well: go out with Okabe for Christmas Eve.

The next day Leskinen and Hiyajou meet with Okabe, but before they do, Okabe and Amakurisu have a crucial conversation on her true nature as an “incomplete AI” due to the fact everything she sees and hears is logged, meaning she can never “forget” by anything resembling the same methods real humans forget, which is not so much about missing information as information that slowly changes over days, months…or decades.

Along those lines, Okabe and Hiyajou are at the mercy of their memories of Kurisu, which are constantly meshing with Amakurisu, to the point she feels more and more real.

Hiyajou looks the tiniest bit disappointed when Okabe says he has plans for the Eve (even if she likely wasn’t going to take Amakurisu or Leskinen’s advice and ask him out), but Okabe presents a third way: he invites them both to the party.

Everyone ends up turning up—even Suzu, whom Daru fooled and who nearly killed her mother when they all surprised her—and it’s a jolly good time, bringing back life and vitality to the lab. They even get in another “Hiyajou is kid-sized” gag when Nao asks her what grade she’s in, while Leskinen mistakes Ruka for a girl (though he’s dead sexy regardless).

Okabe’s participation in the party is interrupted by a call from Amakurisu, which he goes to the roof to answer. When he takes a while, Mayushii follows him up there, and after overhearing him talking with someone (whether she knows it’s Kurisu), heads back to the lab. Poor Mayushii, who had to tell her cosplay buddies that despite how close they are, Okabe likes someone else…without mentioning that someone else is dead, of course.

One thing Amakurisu will never forget is that Okabe called her Christina when they first met, and one of her three theories is spot on: it’s the name he used to call the real Kurisu (whom she calls “Original Me”). She didn’t think that theory was likely because of the way she knew she’d react, and says the exact same words she always said to him, and in the same way. He confesses he used to call Kurisu that because he was too embarrassed to use her real name.

The problem is, he’s talking to Amakurisu as if she were Kurisu. Escaping a Santa costume photo shoot, Hiyajou, who came to the roof to check on Okabe right after Mayushii, snatches his phone from him and turns off the app. The Amadeus app. Not a Facetime call with Makise Kurisu, whom she tells Okabe “isn’t here anymore.”

This upsets Okabe greatly, as if suddenly lifted from some kind of spell, and triggers a torrent of muddled memories from other world lines. Hiyajou may have thought Okabe was just another good friend of Kurisu’s who’d be all-too-easily deluded by Amadeus, but there’s a lot more going on than she knows or would quickly believe.

Like, say, the fact that Suzuha is from the future and her father is inventing a time machine.

Steins;Gate 0 – 02 – Okabe Chooses Not to Run While He Still Can

When Dr. Leskinen (through Hiyajou Maho) announces he’s about to demonstrate an AI developed from memories stored as data, and there’s a bit of a delay before the Amadeus program starts up, a skeptic stands up and deems such a venture “insanity,” calling into question the research of a 17-year-old like the late Makise Kurisu.

He’s quickly rebuffed, not by Leskinen or Hiyajou, but by Okabe, who won’t stand by silently and let such slander pass. All scientific advances are borne from a desire to make the impossible possible, after all. With his outburst he gains the attention and applause of Leskinen.

Then the Amadeus demonstration proceeds, with an AI version of Hiyajou using her memories from four days ago splashes across the screen, making discreet observations about the room around her and also forgetting certain information. It really is Hiyajou from four days in the past…sort of.

At the social event that follows the seminar, Okabe and Hiyajou both end up in an isolate corner together, neither very good at such functions…and they find an easy, casual chemistry together. Hiyajou is an adult, and thus able to overlook Okabe’s initial misunderstanding about her age due to her stature.

When she discusses some of the problems she and Leskinen are still having with Amadeus, Okabe is reminded of Kurisu’s lecture about Top-down memory search signals, impressing Hiyajou. He then admits he can converse about such things because he was a friend of Kurisu’s.

She was more of a kohai to Hiyajou, but when they discuss her at length she can’t help but tear up, as it’s clear she cherished her kohai deeply; Okabe doesn’t look far behind with the tears, but manages to maintain his composure.

Leskinen then cuts into the conversation, and when he learns Okabe was a friend of Kurisu, he suggests to Hiyajou that they should introduce him to another Amadeus AI program they’re working on…using the eight month-old memories and taking the form of none other than Makise Kurisu.

Okabe thought he’d never see or hear Kurisu ever again, but after seeing how closely Hiyajou’s version of Amadeus emulated her living counterpart, it’s a stunning proposition. Hiyajou warns that the closer he was to Kurisu, the crueler meeting her Amadeus version will be.

Still, Okabe can’t resist accepting the invitation to the Brain Science Institute, where Hiyajou is waiting outside for him and guides him inside, all the while continuing to warn him that he may be in for a thoroughly heartbreaking experience—especially if he knew her better than Hiyajou.

The venue in which Okabe is poised to meet the digital “ghost” of Kurisu couldn’t be more spartan: a drab room empty save for an unassuming PC station with a single shortcut on the desktop. Hiyajou clicks on the application and steps aside for Okabe to behold.

Okabe reacts how one expected him to, and how anyone who’d just seen a ghost of a loved one might react. Part shock and despair, but also part wonder and relief. Leskinen and Hiyajou really did make the impossible possible; at least what Okabe had concluded would be impossible.

However, this Kurisu of the Beta World Line of eight months ago does not remember Okabe. Considering Miyajou’s Amadeus counterpart couldn’t remember the pajamas she wore a week ago, perhaps that’s part of the human flaws inherent in the program? Then again, perhaps not; it’s likelier the Kurisu whose data they used simply hadn’t met him yet—to say nothing of falling in love.

Speaking of love, “Amakurisu” is sharp enough to sense the nice vibes coming off of Hiyajou and Okabe, and briefly takes Hiyajou aside to address that observation, much to Hiyajou’s chagrin. Her blushing at the party and here suggest she has at least a passing affinity for the former Mad Scientist, something Amakurisu picked up on almost immediately; a testament to the program’s sophistication.

Amakurisu’s response to Okabe’s first question put to her—about what she thinks about the possibility of constructing a time machine—is actually different from the answer he got from the real Kurisu. The late Kurisu dismissed such machines as impossible, but Amakurisu adds the caveat that her belief in their impossibility doesn’t mean they actually are impossible, just that the crucial discovery that would make them possible has yet to be found.

Were she willing to dismiss the possibility of such a discovery, she’d be scarcely better than the skeptic Okabe took down back at the seminar. Okabe wonders if the difference in views is a matter of the difference between world lines, but it could also be a product of Amadeus having learned through conversations with Leskinen and Hiyajou, thus making her a being distinct from the person whose memories form her foundation.

When Leskinen makes an appearance and greets Okabe in English, Okabe’s attempt to respond in English nets him criticism from Amakurisu, causing him to instinctively call her “Christina”, something he does a couple more times, confusing everyone around them but also piquing their curiosity.

Ultimately, Leskinen wants Okabe to be a “tester”, talking with Amadeus on a semi-regular basis so they can collect more data than if just he and Hiyajou continued chatting with her (plus they’re running out of things to talk about, so “fresh blood” is crucial to the program). To that end, they give him an app that not only allows him to contact Amakurisu, but allows her to call him whenever “she” likes.

And she does just that…calling him eight times; the last few attempts occurring while Okabe is on a walk with Mayushii, who is planning a Christmas party to cheer Suzuha up and thinks Okabe should attend so he and Suzuha can make up. Mayushii notices someone calling him repeatedly and steps aside to let him address it.

When Okabe finally answers her call, Amakurisu is not pleased, and Okabe can’t help but admit that she really is Makise Kurisu, all stubborn and moody and spunky and wonderful. Sure, it’s not really her, but it’s most definitely a version of her, and having lived the last few months with a grey cloud over his head, there’s surely overwhelming comfort in the “next best thing”.

I’m frankly bowled over by the amount of material just the first two episodes of Steins;Gate 0 has managed to cover, and how deeply involved and invested I already am in this very bittersweet story. Yahagi Sayuri does some really fine work as Hiyajou, and just hearing Imai Asami’s voice again nearly brought tears to my eyes. We’re off to a stirring start.