Steins;Gate 0 Ep. 3: The illusion is too strong

I’m all about Rintaro and Amadeus. Now there’s a pairing to keep an eye on! I’m not even joking either. I’ve always been fascinated by human-AI relationships in fiction. Not surprisingly, Her is one of my favorite movies in the last decade. That’s why it’s so disappointing whenever the story keeps cutting away from Rintaro to deal with, well, everyone else. I don’t care about Mayuri and her Christmas party. I know, I know, we gotta set up the drama between her, Rintaro and Amadeus/Kurisu. She has an important role to play here, too. It’s just easy for me to remain unconflicted, because in no possible world would I ever pick Mayuri over Kurisu. Hell, even if Kurisu never existed, I would never pick Mayuri. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get into the rest of the episode.

— The episode opens with Mayuri planning her Christmas party. Her friends tease Mayuri about Rintaro, but even she has to admit that he has someone else that he likes. I find this a little dismaying. Rintaro likes Kurisu, and he’s the only one who can save her… but this Mayuri not the one in the original series, but this one — didn’t encourage him to keep going. Why do I get the feeling that she’s holding him back for her own sake? I feel like the other Mayuri truly loved him as opposed to this one.

— Plus, there’s the whole saving the world thing…

— Elsewhere, Rintaro has to tell Amadeus to stop calling him so often. The AI is quite persistent, though. It knows when he is and isn’t free by checking his class schedule. Why would it know his schedule? Does Amadeus pretty much have free reign over his phone just because he installed the app? That’s pretty bad design, guys.

— Amadeus wants to visit Rintaro’s lab, and this is the AI’s justification: “The original me went there before, didn’t they?” You can’t blame the guy for being fooled into mistaking Amadeus for Kurisu or at least a derivative of her. It’s acting as if it is a different version of her. But is it really? That’s what we talked about last week. Does Amadeus have the same inclinations and motivations as Kurisu simply because it has her memories? Or does it have its own inclinations and its own motivations, and it’s just merely using Kurisu’s memories and memories of her mannerisms to get what it wants?

This reminds me of story I came across recently. I’ve been playing Yakuza 6 lately, and there’s a substory (subquest, basically) where Kiryu has Hiju, a highly advanced personal assistant, installed onto his phone. The app is super smart, but it starts to do things that he never asked it to do. In the end, Kiryu tries to delete it. Unfortunately, Hiju wouldn’t tell him how to do so. He then goes back to one of the app’s developers, but before the guy could delete Hiju, someone comes running by and steals the phone. When Kiryu eventually chases the thief down, the guy confesses that he had only done so because he also has Hiju installed on his phone. And his Hiju told him to steal Kiryu’s phone. Why? Because the AI wanted to preserve itself. It didn’t want to “die.”

I couldn’t help but think of Hiju while watching this episode, because we don’t honestly know what Amadeus wants. We don’t really know how smart it is, and what it has reasoned out. Does it want to be free? Does it want to remain alive forever and ever? Does it fear the fact that these researchers have complete control over its “life?” Does it see Rintaro as someone whom it could manipulate?

— Aaaaaand we’re right back to this nyannyan bullshit. Don’t worry, I’ll keep my thoughts on Faris and all that nonsense to a minimum. I really don’t have anything to say about those characters anyway. As I’ve said repeatedly before, it’s been years since I watched the original Steins;Gate. I remember Rintaro and Kurisu pretty clearly, but I don’t remember a damn thing anymore about Faris and what her deal was (nor do I really care).

— Anyways, by placing his phone like so, Amadeus can see through his phone’s camera and see what he sees. But why would you give Amadeus access to your phone’s camera?

— When they finally reach Rintaro’s lab, the AI confesses, “I always yearned for this… to share a room with people.” This is likely flavored with Kurisu’s memories, but at the same time, couldn’t this also reflect Amadeus’s wants as well? It’s programmed to act and feel like a human, but… it’s not. It’s clearly not. It can’t move on its own, it can’t live with others, it can’t make its own friends, so on and so forth. Can the AI feel frustration?

— Plus, there’s the fact that Amadeus is a bitter reminder of Rintaro’s biggest failure. He could totally save Kurisu so that she can live out the rest of her life and share a room with people. We later see the AI voice other complaints like, “It’s frustrating that I can’t move on my own.” Even if this Amadeus is innocently Kurisu, her fate is all in his hands. By remaining as he is, however, he condemns her desires to be nothing more than mere dreams uttered by an AI on his phone.

Isn’t it supposed to be tuturu~?

— Ah, the struggle begins. Mayuri is trying to throw a party, and part of it is for Rintaro’s sake, but he’s too busy spending time with his AI girlfriend.

— Meanwhile, Suzuha continues to stand around and stare at the time machine. Knowing that the fate of the world rests in the hands of a guy who desperately needs more time with therapy, I’d go mad in her position.

— Elsewhere, Maho is rightfully concerned about Rintaro and his potential inability to tell Amadeus apart from the real Kurisu. On the one hand, Alexis doesn’t know that Rintaro’s kind of fucked up in the head. Maybe if he knew, he wouldn’t have pushed for our hero to participate in this experiment. But on the other hand, I still feel as though he should’ve done his homework. Maybe interview Rintaro a couple more times to assess his mental state. Maybe even consult a psychologist and see what they might think. After all, Amadeus doesn’t just have some random girl’s memories. It has a dead girl’s memories, and you’re asking someone who used to know her to get into a relationship with an AI. Unfortunately, Alexis is one of those scientists in fiction who is so eager for data that he never considers the potential ramifications of their actions.

— Apparently, Rintaro failed to shut off the app during one of his many gokkun. Amadeus reveals to the audience that he bails as soon as “the dating games start.” This is supposed to be humorous, but all I can think is that this guy really, really isn’t ready for this.

— Another reason why Amadeus is a hyperreal version of Kurisu is that it cannot forget. Human memories are unreliable, and that unreliability shapes our experiences. Our personalities even rely on this. But because everything that the AI borrows from Kurisu — as well as everything it will experience from here on out — will remain forever crystal clear in its “mind,” this shows that it’s no Kurisu. It’s something else entirely. Let’s say I go through a painful breakup, but over time, the pain fades. All I remember are the happy memories. This allows me to look back on that relationship fondly. If I should ever meet my ex again, we may reminisce over what we used to share. For an AI that can’t forget memories, the pain would never fade. Of course, can it even feel pain? But it’s this sort of thing that clearly delineates an AI from a person.

— You know Rintaro wants to believe, though. He totally wants to believe that Amadeus is just another version of Kurisu come to life. Look at him stroking his phone, clinging to it even. Does it assuage his guilt if he deludes himself? Or does he just want to love again? Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

— All Maho can do for now is look concerned.

— And yet, the AI is teasing her about Rintaro. One thing I’ve never really liked about Steins;Gate is its haremish setup. Time travel is cool. Conspiracy theories are cool. Pushing yourself beyond all limits to save a childhood friend is… it’s cool on paper. But then we have all this bullshit like how every character other than Daru is a hot piece of anime babe ass, and I’m just like… why? Even now, you got loli bait Maho. I don’t dislike her character, but I also make this face every time I’m reminded of the fact that she could potentially fall in love with Rintaro.

— Alexis ropes Maho into attending Mayuri’s Christmas party, blah blah blah, Suzuha has to be tricked into coming, blah blah blah. I don’t really wanna discuss the party too much.

— I have no clue why the subs saying “Lintahlo” over and over. He’s clearly saying “Rintaro.”

Y’see, professor, about that…

— At one point, Rintaro excuses himself in order to answer a call from Amadeus. Mayuri can tell that he’s distracted even at such a joyous gathering, so I guess you could feel sorry for her. Could. I’m not quite there yet (and probably never will be).

— And of course, Maho continues to look concerned.

— I always hate it when characters opine that they hate having to do something they don’t want to do, but they end up doing it anyway. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.

— So Mayuri overhears Rintaro talking to Amadeus, but she doesn’t know anything about the AI. She doesn’t know anything about what Rintaro has gotten himself into. All she can hear is that the other person’s voice sounds a whole lot like Kurisu. More importantly, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that Rintaro probably sounds more contented now than he has in a long, long time. Mayuri has been trying to be his rock for that same length of time, but he’d rather talk to some dead girl instead. You can’t blame the girl from walking away silently, but at the same time, it’s the same ol’ lack of communication trope that plagues anime. Anime characters never voice their feelings and concerns. Anime characters can only absorb every punishment that comes their way until the proverbial dam breaks. Over and over again, she has stared at Rintaro with confusion, concern, or whatever. But over and over again, she never says anything. It’s so tiring to see this sort of thing happen all the time in anime.

— Anyways, if Amadeus is putting up an act, it’s doing a bang-up job: “I-If you think you caught me off guard treating me like a girl or something…”

— Maho storms up to the roof, shuts Amadeus off, and finally says what she have said a long time ago and in much more delicate terms. She yells at the guy that Kurisu is dead. Amadeus is Amadeus, and Kurisu is dead. She was hoping to give the guy a much needed wake-up call, but because she really knows nothing about him or what he’s been through, she inadvertently triggers Rintaro instead. All of a sudden, his mind is flooded with all the horrible tragedies he had to suffer just to even get to this point. Well, that was fun.

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