「二律背反のデュアル」 (Niritsuhaihan no Dyuaru)
“Dual of Antinomy: Antinomic Dual”
It’s episodes like this which make me wish I had a better memory.
Steins;Gate is a series which offers a lot of options to the viewer. Truthfully, if one is going to fully embrace the experience they have to encyclopedically understand the mythology and the specifics. And if you’re not a player of the VN, quite frankly that’s a lot more work that I prefer to have to do where the activity is watching anime (or anything else). But there’s always been a level where one could enjoy this series simply by treating it as a conventional drama, too. I distinctly remember feeling that the experience of the original Steins;Gate (which was a genuine cultural phenomenon for anime) was actually more fun for new viewers, because we could enjoy it without having to compare every tiny detail to the VN and try to dissect every event to its molecular level.
We’re at one of those nexus points now – of of those “convergence/divergence” eps that act as lynchpins for an entire season of S;G. I certainly remember enough to understand what I consider the most pertinent point – Okabe is forever faced with an impossible choice. Kurisu or Mayuri – the girl he loves like a sister or the girl he’s in love with. I don’t know what Okabe did to have this burden of the Reading Steiner thrust upon him – if you’re a believer in Buddhist Karma you’d have to assume he did some pretty terrible shit in a past life.
For Okarin, returning to an Alpha timeline is just another cruel reminder that no matter what he does, he can never truly be at peace with the choices he makes – no matter what those choices are. If Amadeus was a painful reminder of what he gave up, a day with the real Makise Kurisu is an even more agonizing one. In this world line Mayuri has died of a heart attack, and Kurisu seems to be the only one who still comes to the lab much. Both Okabe and Daru went off the rails after Mayushi died, but Okabe – blaming himself, as always – far more so. In fact it seems Kurisu installed a GPS tracker just so she could make sure he didn’t try and kill himself (at least that’s how I interpreted the scene in question).
What else do we learn in this brief field trip to Alpha? A brief cutaway to a TV showing “more quakes in Russia” certainly seems relevant. Kurisu confirms that Amadeus exists in this world line too – and more or less confirms that it will have the design for the cell phone microwave (name subject to change) within its memory (which is obviously hugely relevant). And not to be forgotten, Kurisu has rebuilt said device despite Okabe having wrecked it after Mayuri died (much to Daru’s irritation).
Mostly, though – and this ties back into that whole idea about Steins;Gate being best when you don’t dissect it (like gossamer and cartoons) – this episode is about the emotions behind it. The mythology is secondary for me to the elemental existential crisis Okarin suffers every time this happens, and the obvious love he shares with Kurisu. It should be pointed out too that while I’m not normally a fan of a string-driven soundtrack as forward as this episode’s is, it totally works in setting the mood without being too heavy-handed.
Kurisu knows exactly what she’s doing in taking Okarin to Mayushi’s grave – and that’s sad as hell for both of them. It’s a powerful scene, with wonderful close-ups of both faces. For Kurisu, kissing Okabe the way she did is probably a selfish act under the circumstances – but who can blame her? The message they choose to send back in time epitomizes just what a tragic mess this is for all the principals. Always in Steins;Gate, it comes down to to fate – just how hard it is the change one’s fate, and how hard it is to accept it. No matter how he retreats into himself Okabe can never be free of the burden he carries, it seems – and whatever he did in that past life, for the man he is in this one that seems heartbreakingly unfair.