Steins;Gate – 19
「無限連鎖のアポトーシス」 (Mugenrensa no apotōshisu)
“Infinite Chain of Apoptosis”
A couple of words come to mind when considering this episodes of Steins;Gate Intense, certainly Dark, definitely. But the one that really captures it for me is “joyless”. And while it was probably a necessary evil at this stage in the story, that didn’t make it any easier to watch.
I’ve seen the early discussions of the ep focus mainly on the right and wrong of what Okarin did to Moeka, both physically and emotionally. I don’t want to wade too heavily into that quicksand. I can totally understand Okarin’s perspective – he was desperate to save Mayuri, and angry as hell at Moeka for what she did. He’s seen where things go, and it’s a bad end for Moeka as well as Mayuri (and the world). Under those circumstances I could see where almost any action might be justified.
But while it may not have been wrong, per se, it sure didn’t feel right. Yes, I did feel sorry for Moeka – very sorry for her, despite the fact that she allowed herself to be manipulated into this dark place and she was responsible for terrible things. I don’t blame Okarin for punching her to get the phone away from her, or even for the emotional pummeling he gave her (which was far worse). I just think the whole thing was ugly and terrible and seemed to last forever, and if it was a necessary evil it’s not something Okarin should look back on as his finest hour. There was a glint of pleasure in his eyes at returning some of the pain to Moeka that she’d caused to him. Kudos to Goto Saori for the amazing work she did in that scene.
Then there’s the matter of what it says about Moeka’s neighborhood that she screamed and screamed and no one came to help for 10-15 minutes, and when the Obaa-san finally did, all she could say was “Couples these days?” A man is on top of a struggling woman, a table has been tossed out the door, and screams have been heard – and that’s what you come up with? That was a display as shameful and ugly as what was happening in Moeka’s depressing apartment.
None of that overshadows the importance of events in this episode as regards to the central plot. Okarin – finally displaying some of the scientific detachment that’s so far eluded him for the most part – allows Mayuri to die so that he can precisely determine what his deadline is. As myself and many others suspected, Moeka lied about her D-mail – the real one was a message with the whereabouts of the IBN 5100 Problem is, even knowing that and having brutally ripped Moeka’s phone from her shining fingers, he can’t undo it – because she’ll only believe a contrary message from FB. We don’t know – even Moeka doesn’t – what or who FB is, except that they apparently recruited Moeka at her lowest ebb, on the verge of suicide. She’ll do anything for FB, even kill – and she’s about to be asked to do so, apparently. Yet she still betrays FB in the end, by apparently telling Okain where she’s hidden the IBN – which would, in theory, cancel out the need for him to find FB in order to send Moeka a message not to go to the Shrine to steal it.
The only real redemptive moment was Makise telling Okarin that no matter what, he’d never be alone – a lifeline to a drowning man as well as a confession – but in these circumstances I see even that as foreshadowing dark things. It’s really striking how sad all these stories are – losing parents, losing your identity, dying in cold blood, abandonment and suicide. I see a growing message here that time manipulation is fool’s gold, a rigged game that promises happiness but delivers misery. Okarin is trying to put the genie back in the bottle, but I don’t think it can be done without a severe price. Moeka’s fate is on Okarin’s shoulders now, too – she’s a tragic, unstable and lonely person who rejected the only thing he could really offer her – friendship. I suspect her story was supposed to make us feel bereft and miserable and hopeless, and it certainly did that for me. I think it sets the tone for a dark and disturbing final arc of this excellent series.