「存在証明のパンドラ」 (Sonzai Shōmei no Pandora)
“Pandora of Provable Existence: Forbidden Cubicle”
If there’s one single element that makes Steins;Gate 0 different from the original series, I think it’s Okabe. Hououin Kyouma is nowhere to be seen here – in many respects the character is almost unrecognizable from the first series (at least in the the first 20 or so episodes of it). Okarin has always seemed older than his years, but ironically in a very different way then from now – it was his brash confidence and assuredness that made him seem that way once. Now it’s his world-weary and beaten visage and demeanor – this is a man who’s seen way more than any man his age should have to.
But the other major change isn’t an existing character, but a new one. Maho is quite an important part of “0” – has been from the beginning, but never more so than this week. She’s the focus of this episode for most of its length, starting with the “Salieri” metaphor. Clearly she sees herself as the less brilliant and overshadowed craftsman lost in the blinding glare of genius from a colleague and rival. In her case her feelings for Kurisu seem less conflicted than Salieri’s towards Mozart – though they’re still conflicted, and movie Salieri (who’s the one that really matters more than the real one in this context) did admire and even love Mozart in his psychotic way.
It’s pretty obvious when we see Maho put a laptop into a locker in Akihabara that this is an important moment – and whose laptop it is. We don’t know who the “trustworthy” expert she has analyzing it is, but it’s a good bet that they’re not trustworthy – and neither is Leskinen, who continues to play the affable clown role a little too well. Poor Okabe – this is really just another reminder of how Sisyphean his task is. No matter how he tries to keep things from unraveling, the world goes where it wants to go – every time he heads off one potential disaster at the pass, another leak opens up somewhere else and the boulder rolls back to the bottom of the hill.
Maho is certainly an interesting sort, though I still see no real evidence that Okarin feels for her in the same way she does for him. Her dream Akiba is the old school one, the disappearing labyrinth of tech parts junkyards and swap shops that once dominated the neighborhood. She’s delighted when Okabe shows her this side of Akihabara, and she’s quite the slob too – she and Moeka are certainly doing a number on Feyris’ condo. I could have done without all those scenes at the condo – that sort of otaku pandering is the most tiresome side of Steins;Gate. But it is nice to gain some insight into who Maho is as a person.
The dynamic here is odd as hell – an A.I. based on Okabe’s true love trying to play matchmaker between he and the best friend who was obsessed with her. Okabe may talk of “moving on” but I’m skeptical that his continuing relationship with Amadeus is the way to do it. Maho doesn’t realize it, but in lumping herself in with Mayuri she’s making an ominous statement about her own chances. The thing is, I think she’s right – she’s perceptive to be certain. She’s seen the pain Okabe is carrying (“Why do you look so sad all the time?” sums up this Okabe about as well as anything could), and to him, Maho is like Mayuri – someone to be protected. But not, sadly, someone to be loved the way he loved Kurisu.