Steins;Gate 0 – 23 (Fin) – Fortune Favors the Foolish

With Amadeus deleted from history, Rintarou ends up in a slightly different present, in which Leskinen never succeeded in fully brainwashing Kagari. Moeka subdues Leskinen when he pulls a gun on Rintarou, and the two head up to the roof just as Mayuri is successfully stopping Kagari and Suzuha from killing each other, by badassedly positioning her head between their handguns. Mayuri and Suzu are able to board the time machine safely after receiving the blessing of a Rintarou who’d just arrived in that time.

All the times the time machine was wiped out by a missile from a helicopter gunship, it was only seconds away from disappearing into the spacetime either, so a few extra seconds is all Mayuri and Suzu needed to get away safely, and they do, in an extremely thrilling scene that pays off all of the failure and heartache of previous attempts.

Better still, Hououin Kyouma is able to lustily gloat to Leskinen, Stratfor, DURPA and the Russians for having foiled their plans to acquire the time machine. In the timeline where Mayuri and Daru await the return of Rintarou and Suzu, two time machines briefly appear on the rooftop at once, and Mayuri gets a call from…the other Mayuri, convincing her not to let Okarin give up when he returns in the depths of despair.

Mayuri and Suzu aren’t able to stay in that timeline long lest they cause a paradox, and with the time machine all but out of fuel, they soon lose the ability to choose their next destination. But both of them seem to take their descent into temporal oblivion quite well, all things considered.

Back on the rooftop, Suzu and a defeated, blood-stained Rintarou return, and he gives his little speech about everything being hopeless and deciding he’s going to give up. Then Mayuri remembers the words of the other Mayuri, recalls when Kyouma was “born” (when he hugged her to comfort her at the cemetery) slaps Rintarou, her Hikoboshi, and convinces him not to give up.

Soonafter Rintarou receives a video D-Mail from the Rintarou in the future, and we switch to his point of view, as we watch his grainy recording unfold where and when it occurred. After sending the message, Rintarou’s next operation, Operation Altair, consists of him “deceiving the world”, as well as himself, by travelling back to another point in spacetime in the first version of the time machine to be built by Daru & Co.

Deceiving himself and the world, it turns out, is the only way to reach the Stein’s Gate. He thanks his noble, trusty Lab Members, receives a hug from Maho, and sets off to locate and rescue Mayuri and Suzu, who were lost in time but can be found thanks to something called a “Kerr black hole tracer”, the nature and operation of which are not specified (which is probably for the best).

Suffice it to say, in his experimental but still brand-new and fully-gassed time machine, and with the Kerr thingy, Rintarou successfully locates Mayuri and Suzuha, who by their perspective had just arrived themselves in the year 18,000 B.C. in a dark and stormy wasteland.

They seem ready to accept their fate with grace, but the bright light of Mayuri’s Hikoboshi appears, and from that light, Okabe Rintarou—AKA Okarin, AKA Hououin Kyouma—emerges triumphant; perhaps his most badass moment yet.

And that, folks, is where Steins;Gate 0 ends things. We don’t get to see Steins Gate, or learn whether Rintarou is right that it does exist. All we know is that they’re in a good position to reach a world line in which both Mayuri and Kurisu can live.

It took a lot of gumption, guile, teamwork, sacrifice, trauma, math…and downright foolishness, but the gang is headed in the right direction. It’s a positive, hopeful ending; an ending full of promise and excitement for what may come next for all of these kind, brave fools—even if we may not get to see it.

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Steins;Gate 0 – 22 – Another Logical Sacrifice

Thankfully, the latest setback does not shatter Hououin Kyouma just as soon as he makes his triumphant return; more importantly it does not rob Rintarou of his will to keep trying. It only forces him to jump back two days into the past and come up with a new plan. But first, they must determine what exactly is causing the convergence; it may not be the time machine itself.

Rintarou works it out with Daru and Maho. They know how to foil both Leskinen/Stratfor and DURPA, which leaves the Russians. When Nakabachi defected to Russia, they made the connection between his research and Kurisu’s. Thus, in order to prevent WWIII from occuring, they have to prevent that connection from being made.

The only way to do that is to eliminate Amadeus and all of the associated data. Without Kurisu’s memories, brain patterns, and research in digital form, Russia will never be able to complete the time machine, the war will be averted, and both Kurisu and Mayuri should be saved.

So the path to Steins;Gate requires yet another Kurisu-related sacrifice. As Amakurisu states more than once, she’s “just a program”, but it’s still unsurprisingly difficult for Rintarou and Maho to even consider deleting “her,” so similar she is to Kurisu, and yet also an individual personality in her own right.

Amakurisu has Maho send her to Rintarou’s phone, and the two enjoy a stroll together, that lasts through the night into the morning, with Rintarou showing her the city she doesn’t know and judges to be beautiful and worth saving.

Unlike her dead human self, Amakurisu live in a world where only things with a purpose exist (much like The Matrix). Her purpose is to cease existing so a better world can be unlocked. Like Kurisu, she’s ready and willing to assume that cost…but also like Kurisu, there’s a hint of sadness behind her reassuring smile.

Thanks to Daru’s improvement of D-Mail, the D-RINE (like the real-world LINE), Daru can send a save message only to himself telling him to break into VCU’s server and destroy the Amadeus AI data. Maho sends the necessary key and patch as an attachment, the Phone Microwave is fired up, and Amakurisu says her goodbyes.

When the sparks stop we end up with the divergence number of 1.123581—the Beta World Line, tantalizingly close to the 1.048596 of Steins Gate, yet not quite there. We’ll see how well Rintarou & Co. fare in the finale, which I suspect might run double-length (since there’s no episode 24).

Steins Gate – 22

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In preparation to what I suspected was going to be a rough episode for me, I entered into what’s known around the office as my “Induced Pessimism Mode”, a kind of emotional shield formed by expecting the very worst out of the story to come. A means of maintaining a healthy emotional distance from the material I’m to review.

How can I put this? That…umm…that didn’t…didin’t work. My IP-field was no match for the roller coaster that was this episode…which may have just cemented this show’s position as my all-time favorite anime, with two episodes, an OVA, and a film to go.

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I’ll reserve judgment until some time passes and I’m a little more removed from the show, but what I can say with certainty is that it is rare for me to be as moved by an episode of television as I was with this, but the entire show was brilliantly building up to it. A part of me would be content with this as the show’s finale; not just because it will be so very hard to top these 23 minutes and 39 seconds, but because I’m not certain how much more wrenching and rending my gut and heart can take, respectively.

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I thought Okabe would fight. I though he wouldn’t accept that one woman he loves would have to die so another could live. I thought he’d run around Akiba and find something or someone who would help him find a third way. And while I had an inkling Kurisu would be more accepting of the situation, I also expected her to come up with some kind of scientific loophole Okabe couldn’t have thought of.

None of that happens. Kurisu lies on the roof of the building where she’s stabbed in the Beta World line several floors below. Then it rains, she and Okabe retreat to a stairwell where she repairs his lab coat in the dark with pink thread and trade barbs about each others’ skinniness. She fixes the coat because it’s something she can fix.

She also tells him she remembers bits and pieces from his other time leaps, in which she watched him suffer and try again and again in vain to save Mayuri. Such memories not only make her amazed that someone would go so far for someone else, a quality she clearly admires in Okabe, but it also makes her feel guilty that she is the last remaining obstacle to realizing that goal.

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Okabe does race back to the lab, to time leap back as far as he can go; to gain a fresh set of days to formulate a plan…but Kurisu, having chased after him, stays his hand. No more running. There’s an Alpha line and a Beta line, there’s only one way to save Mayuri, as opposed to no way to save her. She thanks Okabe for trying, but won’t let him destroy himself watching Mayuri die anymore. Okabe accepts defeat, apologizes, and gathers Kurisu in a hug.

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Kurisu then tries to comfort him, and herself, with theories that the Kurisu of twenty days ago might have found unscientific, naive, and even ridiculous, but she sells them fully here and now. If she can remember bits and pieces from other world lines, she posits, maybe all of the minds of the Kurisus from those lines are connected to form a whole that is beyond time.

Beliefs, desires, and love could transcend the boundaries of the fourth dimension. She may die in one world line, but she’d remain alive in countless others, all contributing to that whole. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful?” she asks twice, knowing it’s little consolation.

Then Okabe takes her by surprise by finally confessing he’s in love with her, and will never forget her.

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I’m not sure what’s more adorably fantastic: that Kurisu’s reply is to make Okabe close his eyes while she gets on tiptoe to kiss him, or the marvelously nerdy explanation for it, delivered in a trembling, flustered voice:

“I-I didn’t want to do that, okay? But experiences such as your first kiss are stored in the hippocampus with your strong memories, which are harder to forget. Thus–“

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You know what, I do know what’s more adorably fantastic: when Okabe confesses that wasn’t his first kiss, that it left a weak impression, and that they have to kiss again to make a stronger one. Kurisu has no problem with that logic, nor do I. Who’d have thought when these two first met that they’d be capable of such unabashed romantic words and gestures?

The entire lab scene sets a new high watermark of excellence. What’s also amazing is just how fast it all happens, and how Kurisu notes how fast it is, referencing Einstein’s theory of relativity to the situation, since now, when she and Okabe want nothing more than for time to stop entirely does it feel like it’s moving faster than ever.

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The setting changes from the warm, dark, cocoon-like lab where they made their love for each other clear to the bleak, blinding outside of the train station where they say goodbye, which again happens unconventionally, with Kurisu lobbing a Dr. Pepper nowhere near Okabe, mouthing “Sayonara” while he’s turned to pick it up, then vanishing. No long tearful goodbye, but a quick rip of the band-aid. But it’s a goodbye knowing that Dr. Pepper is the drink of the chosen ones…and Kurisu chose him.

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As Okabe glances at the pink stitching on his coat, the pain clear and harsh in his face, Kurisu stands on the train platform where she’ll be borne back to America, but is really there to be taken away from the world line where Okabe lives; at least this Okabe.

Her parting wish is that in everything he experiences and desires and loves in the Beta World Line he’s headed to, if he remembers her one in a hundred times, she’ll be happy, “beyond the 1% barrier.” It’s another gorgeous sentiment from an unusually poetic Kurisu this week, but it can’t dull the utter emotional devastation I’m going through as I watch.

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Okabe fights back tears as he delivers a rousing, selfless speech to Mayuri and Daru,  thanking everyone who helped him get this far and expressing his gratitude to those he sacrificed before hitting the button that will change the world. Just a heartbeat after hitting the key, Kurisu bursts back into the lab and says “I’m also in…” before the shift occurs, sending him past the 1% barrier, in a world where there was never a Lab Member 004, and where there are no pink stitches on his coat.

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Puffing up his chest and playing the role of Hououin Kyouma once more, he claims victory before his remaining lab members. The “Battle of Ragnarok”—or more precisely, “The Battle to Save Mayuri” is over, and he has conquered time itself, foiled SERN’s schemes, and reset the world’s power structure, with all the unhinged passion of a sweat-drenched preacher man.

Mayuri then calmly talks him down, aware of everything that he did and everything he gave up for her sake, and tells him “he can cry for himself.” He then looks forward, to a life without the IBN; without the Phone Microwave; without Hououin Kyouma. And “it’s all for the best…right Kurisu?”

For the first time, the ending music is different, and it sounds very much like a reproach to his question; a dark, stirring piece of music with the gravitas of a final dungeon.

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Okabe spoke of “complete victory” in turning the page on all the pain and sacrifice of those twenty days. But then the end credits suddenly fizzle out, and it’s pretty clear that nothing is complete after all. Rather, it is the choice of Steins Gate that here, in the Beta World Line, Okabe fight at least one more battle, for far higher stakes in the grand scheme of things than two girls’ lives. This new destiny is brought to his attention by Amane Suzuha, freshly arrived from 2036, calling Okabe on her father Daru’s phone to beseech him to stop World War III. Damn.

This is Steins;Gate throwing down the gauntlet. Having delivered a phenomenal episode that wouldn’t have made a bad finale at all, the fact is there are two more episodes to go (and an OVA…and a film). As blown away as I was to this point, Steins;Gate isn’t done with me, and it’s not content to rest on the laurels it has already earned.

And you know what? I have every confidence in the world that it will deliver. I’m ready to go a couple more rounds.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 01

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It’s 2095, the world map has been redrawn and three billion people died in WWIII, and yes, people are still classist dicks to each other! Hooray! At the National Magic University Affiliated First High School—a suspiciously fancy and hoity-toity facility considering the world blew the shit up not too long ago—administrators decided to split the classes into elite “blooms” and lowly “weeds”, giving the former fancier insignia to go along with their inflated sense of superiority.

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It seems like a pretty silly idea as opposed to, oh I don’t know, just having separate schools for the two courses…but whaevs. Brideing the Blooms and the Weeds are the Shiba siblings Tatsuya and Miyuki, who are often mistaken for twins because they’re so close—both in age and intimacy. Seriously, no Oreimo-style tsundereness on display here; Miyuki is super-caring, affectionate, dutiful sister who greatly admires her big bro and doesn’t like it when he’s slighted by family or enrolled as a reserve. They may be too close, but if Tetsuya minds, he doesn’t let on. Their quasi-romantic behavior is played up for mild laughter throughout.

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I’m not going to lie: not a whole lot happened this week aside from the show laying out the world’s history, introducing the cast, demonstrating how magic works (it’s a man-made technology here) and setting up future alliances and conflicts. But I also can’t really pick out any glaring flaws; the execution was very polished, with even wide shots of masses of students fully drawn and colored. Ishida Kana did a great job with Aquarion Evol’s female characters, and I’m digging his character designs and classy uniforms here as well, esp. the way the girls’ skirts bear different patterns based on their magical focus.

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There’s also a nice low-key futuristic quality to Iwasaki Taku’s subtle score. I see promise in Miyuki being torn betweeen the two classes, the triangle between Tatsuya, Miyuki, and perhaps Shibata, as well as the playful aggression between Erika and Leo. And Tatsuya’s way of equitably diffusing the fight at the end with his analytical adeptness shows he’s not just a punch-and-kick kinda protagonist. Oh, and hey, nobody’s trying to assassinate anyone!

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Jormungand – 24 (Fin)

Two years after Jonah left Koko, the entire world has been set ablaze by wars and sits on the brink of WWIII. Koko hires Kasper’s men, including Jonah, to guard her as they launch the completed quantum computer into orbit in Kazakhstan. Kasper knows her plan, but he tells her it won’t stop him from selling weapons. Jonah decides to quit, and wanders on his own. Two days later he is in Baku, where Koko and her team are waiting for him. She’ll stop an impending New Soviet attack on the oil fields by activating Jormungand. Jonah agrees to return to her side.

Well, unless there’s a film or another season to follow up, we’ll never see the new world Koko Hekmatyar created, with the help of her hot female scientist friends and merry band of bodyguards. But we’re okay with that. Ending things the very moment she activates Jormungand still leaves open infinite possibilities. Will her way work? Conventional wisdom says no; and so does Kasper. He makes the argument we made last week: people will fight with rocks and sticks if they have to. But Koko is surely well aware of this and any other arguments.

Bottom line: rocks and sticks can’t cause the same mass death and destruction as bullets and bombs from the sky. She also believes putting a proverbial leash on humanity will humiliate them into submission. If they are as nasty, brutish and short as Kasper (and Hobbes) think, there may be nothing Koko or anyone else can do to stop the human urge to wage war. But it’s nice to think that just as two years of watching the world ignite taught Jonah that Koko’s plan is worth a try, perhaps a few years without the use of the skies will convince calmer heads that peace is worth a try.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)