「永劫回帰のパンドラ」 (Eigu Kaiki no Pandora)
“Pandora of Eternal Return: Pandora’s Box”
After last week’s relative blockbuster of an episode, this time Steins;Gate 0 is clearly in transition mode. That’s often the case with plot-heavy suspense series anyway, but especially so with ones adapted from VNs. In a sense they often remind of riding in a stick shift car when a gear change doesn’t quite go seamlessly – you can feel the “clunk” as the transmission signals its displeasure. But hey, you can’t drive around the neighborhood in 5th…
By all appearances, Okabe seems to have woken up in a worldline unchanged from the one he left before his latest Reading Steiner experience. I wouldn’t swear to that, because in this series the changes can be subtle – but Mayuri is alive, Amadeus is on his phone, the lab has been attacked in recent days. We also continue to see background mentions of earthquakes in Russia, with the media now speculating that it’s nuclear testing but that’s not going to turn out to the case. Also of note is that Feyris’ friend Nakase – who’s a side character if ever there was one – is in the same hospital Rintarou awakes in, supposedly suffering from a mysterious “new encephalitis”. And she seems to have been dreaming of the world line Okabe just visited – which is a bit of an unexpected twist.
Suzuha is not all happy about what’s happened, taking it as a sign that either the Russians or the Americans are getting close in their attempts to complete a time machine. In the real world of course it’s hard to imagine the Americans and Russians in any sort of adversarial situation as things stand, but the Moscovian Candidate wasn’t a thing when this series was released as a visual novel so I won’t hold that against it for realism points. I do, however, struggle a bit with Suzuha pulling a gun on Okarin and trying to coerce him into returning to July 28 – and then shooting it, grazing his cheek. I get her despair and desperation, but that seemed like a bit of a reach to me.
In any event Okabe has obviously decided that he no longer has the luxury of pretending his old life never happened and playing the good normie student. With the lab clearly under threat and reason to suspect very powerful forces are behind it, the safety of those in a position to know too much is paramount – Kagari and Maho (who Okarin stashes at Feyris’ luxury pad for now) primarily. He then seeks our Mr. Braun for some help in figuring out who might be behind it – and while Braun regurgitates a bunch of acronyms like DURPA it’s pretty clear some sort of shadowy secret organization (probably American) is behind all this.
Despite Suzuha’s unhinged behavior she is basically right – the clock is ticking if there’s anything to be done to forestall the terrible future she’s come back to prevent. The superpowers are closing in on success, the battery on her own time machine is on its last legs, and sinister forces know there’s useful information tying these characters together. The problem, however, is as Okarin says – it’s not so easy to change worldlines, and the change you do manage to foment may not be for the better. The universe doesn’t like to be manipulated, and when things change there’s always a price to be paid. Okabe knows that better than anyone, and no gun pointed at his face is going to make him forget it.