OP: “Fatima (ファティマ)” by Kanako Itou
「閉時曲線のエピグラフ」 (Heijikyokusen no Epigurafu)
“Epigraph of the Closed Curve: Closed Epigraph”
Note: Needless to say, please avoid any VN spoilers in the comments. The rule here is if it’s appeared in the anime, it’s fair game – if not, it’s 100% banned. And no spoilers disguised as “speculation” either (yes, I can almost always tell). Thank you for your understanding.
I’ve been a hard sell about this sequel, no question. I wondered whether it had any urgent reason to exists in the first place, yes. But as well, whether it would be able to recapture the magic seven years later with a new director in charge. There’s always a danger with unnecessary sequels to classics that the legacy is tarnished – and no matter what anyone says, a subpar sequel does tarnish the legacy. And maybe just a little part of me was worried that the me of today wouldn’t have liked the original Steins;Gate as much as the me of 2011.
Are those doubts totally dissipated? No, not yet. But this episode was so strong that it went a long way towards getting me to buy in. It felt relevant, urgent and focused – and it was narratively pretty rock-solid as well. Not only that, what impressed me was how different this seemed from the original S;G – just as effective but completely distinct in terms of tone and style. If “O” can pull that off over the course of an entire series, than it will have proved its worth beyond any reasonable doubts I might have. But we’re still a good ways from being at that point.
Amadeus is the key to all this, at least so far. When catcalls arise from the peanut gallery at the conference as Kurisu’s theory is explained, Okabe rises in protest – in part, as Hiyajou-san ventures, in defense of Kurisu, but also because those doubts cut against the scientist in him. Okabe’s love for and regret over Kurisu has profoundly impacted him in many ways. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that it’s forced him to repress who he is – a mad scientist, basically – in order to suppress his painful memories.
The wrinkle comes when Hiyajou (who notes that she’s from Okinawa) lets it slip to Okabe at the reception that there’s more than one Amadeus – there’s one with Professor Leskinen’s memories, and one with Kurisu’s as well. Those memories are from eight months earlier, and when she hears Okabe’s half-truth explanation for how he knew Kurisu, Hiyajou offers him the chance to speak with “her”. But admirably Hiyajou pulls no punches – she warns him that he’s letting himself in for an even more painful future if he agrees to interact with this Kurisu, who seems all too much like a real person but in the end, is not.
It’s worth noting yet again just how great Miyano Mamoru can be in the right role – and Okarin is the right role. Miyano is so much more than the caricature of himself typecasting often forces him to be, and it’s wonderful to hear him stretch his acting muscles again (he should thus be limber for Chihayafuru Season 3). His performance as Okabe interacts with “Kurisu” is subtle and restrained, expressing so much emotion without the histrionics we’ve come to expect from his roles. And indeed, this Amadeus seems so real – all of the quirks Okabe loved about Kurisu exist in the ghost in the machine.
Obviously we’re talking about science fiction here, but this premise dances close enough to theoretical possibility to present some unsettling questions. It’s obvious that Kurisu is self-aware enough to be lonely – the professor and Hiyajou talk to her, but they’re running out of things to say. And they’ve apparently given her the ability to make outbound calls – which she clearly has been doing with Hiyajou (who swipes her on her iPhone when her questions get to personal) and after their meeting, to Okarin. Does this mean that Kurisu is aware and conscious of herself in there all the time, even when no one has “turned her on” to engage in conversation?
I can only imagine that this interaction with her ghost will make Okabe that much more aware of the possibility that he might just find a way to bring the real Kurisu back. It’s no coincidence, after all, that the first question he asks Amadeus is whether someone might one day build a time machine. “Though experiment”, yes (and the answer is a little different from last time) but there’s a Freudian non-coincidental note here too. The old Okarin is definitely still in there, and the natural inclination is to want to see him come out. But it’s so compelling to see Steins;Gate thrive with a completely different identity that part of me hopes that doesn’t happen for a while yet.
“LAST GAME” by Zwei