「無限遠点のアークライト Arc-light of the Sky / 交差座標のスターダスト Milky-way Crossing」 (Mugen’en-ten no Aakuraito / Kousa Zahyou no Sutaadasuto)
“Arclight of the Point at Infinity: Arclight of the Sky””
I’ll have to leave it to more experienced heads than mine to say whether the time travel logic of this finale was internally consistent, because I’m sure I don’t know. I can tell you that as someone who’s seen everything the anime has on offer but not played the VN, the overall impression I got was that they were pretty much making stuff up as they went along here. Maybe all this makes sense within the mythology, but even if it does it still felt pretty much cobbled together for plot convenience. And if that was the case, I don’t even think consistency matters all that much.
Rather than try and pick apart that aspect of Steins;Gate 0 (again, I’ll let the anoraks handle that) I think it’s more interesting to discuss the impact of the series as a whole. And fundamentally, I think the question facing this show is the same one facing the sequel to any beloved original series – is there any compelling reason for it to exist? Apart, that is, from making money? Right now, if there is I can’t find it. That’s not to say there aren’t aspects specific to Steins;Gate 0 that I really enjoyed, but is the overall anime mythology better off for it having been produced? Or would it have been better served (as FLCL certainly would have) by leaving a masterpiece standing basically untarnished as the lasting memory of the franchise?
What was good? Well, Maho certainly. I enjoyed her character a lot – she brought quite a different sensibility than any other cast members in the franchise. I liked what she brought with her, too – Professor Leskinen (I knew he was going evil sooner or later, but he was still a lot of fun) and Amadeus. The latter added a sort of pathos that was quite different than the raw, acute agony of what Okabe was going through in the first series. This was more of a dull ache, a persistent melancholy – a constant reminder of the choice he’d made and was forced to live with.
Indeed, that was easily the best stretch of Steins;Gate 0 for me – seeing Okarin trying to transition into a more normal life, only to be forced to confront the most painful elements of his old one because of Amadeus. The first cour of “o” was certainly the better, especially the first eight episodes or so. But that’s when things went pretty seriously off the rails in my opinion, only partially recovering in the final handful of episodes. The focus on Kagari’s arc certainly didn’t help – it was pretty much the worst part of either series. But the problems for Steins;Gate 0 ran deeper than that.
As for what happened in the finale itself, if we’re going to look on the upside it did manage to construct something more like a real ending than I was expecting it to be able to. The downside to that was that it the pacing was pretty rushed in order to make that happen, which really makes me wish some of the rather extraneous fluff in the middle third of the show had been cut and the events of this ep had taken place over two weeks instead of one. There was a certain irony to the arrival of two time machines simultaneously – it really felt like a metaphor for how much had to be crammed into this episode s as to get to a logical stopping point.
It’s fitting, though, that this show should have ended on Episode 23 – and it was really more the ones in the middle that were the problem, as they tied the hands of the series in terms of what it could do at the end. Unfortunately the lasting impression I’m left with is just how much better the original series was than the sequel. It isn’t simply that the events it depicted were more compelling, though they certainly were. It’s also that it managed to feel like a self-contained narrative rather than something cobbled together from multiple VN threads, in a way the sequel couldn’t match.
I’m sure there will be more Steins;Gate to come in some form or another – this franchise is simply too valuable to too many companies to believe otherwise. Whether that will constitute more OVAs (above and beyond the Steins;Gate 0 one we know is coming in December) or something else – maybe another movie – who knows. Maybe “0” would have worked better as an multi-part OVA in fact, rather than a full series – stripped down to its essentials and adding a layer to the original mythology without trying to establish a complete alternative timeline. Maybe it didn’t meet the threshold of justifying its existence, but it had it’s moments – and it was certainly a reminder to me of just how much I loved the original Steins;Gate. El Psy Congroo.