Steins;Gate Ep. 22: Confessions and Devotion

How does the saying go… “The darkest hour is before the dawn?” Well, I’m sure this idiom is more lyrical than truthful, but it does apply a fair bit to this week’s episode of Steins;Gate. Here Okabe stands, at the crossroads of fate; he can either save Mayuri, his childhood friend, or Kurisu, his… his what?

“The world… will be rebuilt!”
A rainstorm forces Okabe and Kurisu to share a bit of an oft-used romantic trope: lovers seeking shelter when a sudden downpour catches them. Okabe then fumbles around in both complete darkness and his personal feelings until Kurisu sets him straight; her kiss lights up his world. You could then sort of see the world as an externalization of Okabe’s feelings. When he sees her off at Akihabara Station, it’s completely empty around them. Well, when does Tokyo ever feel so empty and abandoned? Instead, it’s more that in Okabe’s mind, no one but these time-crossed lovers need exist.

I don’t think it’s something as tacky as “Okabe has the power to directly alter the world around him,” but his story is a personal one. We thus see the world through his subjectivity. Somewhere out there, the objective world exists. We don’t directly perceive the objective world, however; we only see it filtered through our subjectivity. How I interpret the world might be completely different from how you interpret it. Of course, this isn’t problematic because, for instance, even if your yellow qualia doesn’t resemble my yellow qualia, we call it by the same name. In Steins;Gate, the audience gets the rare opportunity to see how Okabe sees his world.

Okabe’s metropolis isn’t grey and stark because the world is literally grey and stark. It’s grey and stark because this reflects Okabe’s internal state. Akihabara Station isn’t actually empty in the objective world, but like in any romantic movie where one lover sees another lover off, the stage is set only for Okabe and Kurisu. If Steins;Gate’s setting reminds anyone of cyberpunk, it isn’t because the story is actually cyberpunk, but rather that Okabe (subconsciously) believes it to be so. He thinks that he’s the mad scientist, after all.

I’ll follow you into the dark
Corny song lyrics aside, I’m a little disturbed by Okabe and Kurisu’s love. Okabe is like a twisted genie who snatches away young girls’ happiness after giving them the taste of paradise. He’s foiled SERN? The battle of Ragnarok has ended? Oh please, my good sir. The only reason why SERN could even take over the world in the first place was because Okabe started the whole mess to begin with. He opened Pandora’s box and got bitten. He then goes around and asks pretty girls to sacrifice their dreams to rectify his biggest failure, i.e. failing to protect his “hostage” Mayuri.

Why is Mayuri’s life worth Suzuha’s dementia? Why is it worth the life of Feyris’s dad? Why should Rukako stay a Ruka for Mayuri? Why must Moeka lose the one thing she believes in? Finally, why must Kurisu die for Mayuri? The last sacrifice is key. Okabe confesses to Kurisu that he cares for her more than anyone else, and yet, it is Mayuri who will live and not Kurisu. Nevermind the fact that some true end will allow both girls to live; this isn’t something Okabe is considering. And yeah, yeah… if the world line doesn’t cross the 1% threshold, SERN will take over the world, but that’s not what Kurisu and Okabe are debating. Instead, Kurisu argues that Mayuri’s death will break Okabe.

But this is what I don’t understand. He’s already seen Mayuri die countless times. He’s only seen Kurisu die once. He supposedly cares about Kurisu more than he does for Mayuri. At the very least, the affection he has for the latter is on an entirely different level than what he feels for the former. Why, then, should Mayuri’s death break Okabe any more than Kurisu’s? I’ve conjectured this in the past, and it wasn’t a popular theory, but I’m going to hazard the guess again: it’s not Mayuri’s death that will break Okabe but his failure.

The question I’m asking is why Kurisu and why now? So often, we never really wonder why two characters get together in a story: “Oh, you can’t explain love.” I think there’s a reason why the story chose Kurisu over all of the other female candidates. Okabe loves Kurisu because she’s willing to follow him on his mission. She’s even willing to put her life on the line for him to accomplish his goal. This is the ultimate sacrifice from any woman. Each of the girls in the story had to give something up in order for Okabe to return to the original timeline, but Kurisu makes the biggest sacrifice of all. The anime implicitly argues that the greatest display of love is thus complete and utter devotion to another even if one’s life is at stake.

Never has a man fought so hard to return to the status quo.

Kurisu: “You and I have come this far, from the single wish to save her! If we stop, we’ll always regret it.”

This is the only way I can rationalize why an eighteen year old genius would so eagerly discard her nascent potential. It would be one thing if Kurisu justified her decision by invoking the fate of the world, i.e. let’s not allow SERN to dominate the future, but neither of the lovers even mention SERN until the final D-Mail has been reversed. In fact, if either character truly cared about the world’s fate, the choice would be easy: let Kurisu die. Maybe the world would turn to hell if Kurisu dies anyway, but neither of them know this. Instead, Kurisu wants Okabe to let her die so he could complete his mission. Nothing else. Is this a cynical take on the show? I guess I never really saw Okabe as a true hero.

World War III?
So it turns out the world will still go to shit if Kurisu dies… not that any of the characters could have known otherwise. Okabe gets Suzuha’s phone call as if he’s a secret agent or something: once he completes a mission, another one begins. Still, I’m a little skeptical that a single man can prevent a world war. We’re all lazily taught to think the assassination of Franz Ferdinand kicked off the first world war, but let’s be honest. At that point, Europe was a pressure cooker ready to blow. International relations were severely strained due to a confluence of issues. Some archduke’s death was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. If the world’s going to break out into a major conflict any time soon, I doubt Okabe could prevent it all by his lonesome. Oh well, I guess I’m digressing too much at this point….

Everything else
Oh well, at least Okabe had the balls to confess to and kiss a girl.

How many anime heroes can muster up the courage to do that?

6 thoughts on “Steins;Gate Ep. 22: Confessions and Devotion

  1. Son Gohan

    One could say that the original “Beta” timeline (it’s weird that they call the original one “Beta” and the altered one “Alpha”, but let’s stick with the anime terminology) is the “proper” timeline before any adulterations caused by time travel happened. So Ruka should be a male, Fayris’ father should be dead and Kurisu (sadly) should be dead. So, Okabe’s choice to save Mayuri over Kurisu is justified as he is bringing back the time flow to its original course.
    As for Kurisu, she is a selfless person who, presented with the choice to save herself or a friend, would always choose to save her friend. She also helds the hope that the alternate timelines continue after the D-mail is sent.

    1. E Minor Post author

      There’s no reason to think that one timeline is better than another just because it is “original.” Assuming that the SERN takeover cancels out WW3, there are lot more happy people in the alpha timeline than the beta from a utilitarian standpoint.

      As for Kurisu, she is a selfless person

      When has this ever been established? When do we ever see her act selflessly above and beyond any other person? For the anime to suddenly assert that she’s selfless now is dubious to me.

      1. senshi

        >Son Gohan
        It isn’t strange that they call the original one “beta” because the idea of multiple world line is proposed by the people from the “alpha” world line, and the divergence meter is also created by the future Okabe and given to the current Okabe in the “alpha” line, so it makes sense that they would use their own world line as the starting reference point.

        >E Minor
        We’ve seen that a lot of times. Starting from the first time SERN invaded the lab and she helps Okabe to do his first time leap and getting shot for one (there was no guarantee that it works, and the question of what happens when to the rest of the people after Okabe jumps? They could still be killed by SERN right that instant etc). And in subsequent world lines each time she selflessly helps Okabe in his quest to save Mayuri when she could’ve walked away and flew back to America. To say the show hasn’t established Kurisu as a selfless person is not giving Kurisu the credit she deserves.

        1. E Minor Post author

          Again, none of those examples seem particularly selfless above the normal call of duty. In the first example, she took the best possible course of action rather than be essentially a tool for SERN’s domination. As for her repeatedly helping Okabe in saving Mayuri, put yourself in her situation: would you not help Okabe? I think of most of us would. Put us in her shoes now, i.e. the latest episode, and there’s no way most of us would readily trade our lives for anyone less than a loved one. Kurisu has never been shown to be this selfless. As such, I think selflessness is too simple an explanation for Kurisu’s current behavior. Rather, she’s strangely devoted to Okabe like most anime heroines.

  2. senshi

    Call me cynical but I probably wouldn’t actually, especially in all the world lines there’s nothing to go from except the word from Okabe, whom are known to go off a bit at times. It’s pretty amazing that both Daru and Kurisu tolerates Okabe in the first place – these guys are some truly generous and selfless giving friends.

    Another part of it is because Kurisu doesn’t like her existence and believes that nobody cares about her hence she’s not hesitate to throw herself away for others, this part of her personality is caused by the constant rejection by her father and how she was constantly being judge and kept at bay by her peers when she is in America working amongst people that are much older than her and envious of her intellect, so she’s always looking for the reason to prove to others and make her mark, it just happens that this is the opportunity for doing so.

    1. E Minor Post author

      But it hardly costs them anything to help Okabe most of the time. They’ve never really had to put themselves out there until now, i.e. Kurisu’s sacrifice for Mayuri’s sake. Sure, they could be skeptical of Okabe’s word, but they’re not the ones doing the dirty work, so why wouldn’t they help Okabe anyway? Besides, while the other characters don’t share Okabe’s Steiner ability, they seem to retain fleeting memories of their lives in other timelines. Who knows how many times Okabe has time-jumped. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that over time, they’ve come to subconsciously accept Okabe’s explanation.

      As for Kurisu’s back story, I’m still not convinced. I think it’s quite a leap to go from desiring other people’s acceptance to willingly throwing away one’s life for a mere friend.


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