What a gut punch for an ending. We knew best girl wouldn’t be around to stay, but did they have to make her departure so bittersweet? But I get it now; I finally understand the story that Steins;Gate 0 is trying to tell. It’s just… weird. And honestly, I’m not sure if I’m completely onboard with this series’ existence despite everything. But let’s start from the beginning. After last week’s episode, Rintaro ends up in an alpha world line in which he had never sacrificed Kurisu for Mayuri. Think back to episode 22 of the original series. Rintaro didn’t want to return to a beta world line, because this meant Kurisu would have to die. He had to sacrifice either Mayuri or Kurisu. In the end, she convinced him to save Mayuri, and he confessed his love to her. They shared a kiss, then lots of emotional stuff followed. The next day, as soon as he pressed the button that would shift him back to a beta world line, Kurisu burst into the room to return his confession. She also loved him. Unfortunately, she was too late. Well, what if she wasn’t too late? This episode seems to explore that possibility, and the sad truth is that reality is grim for Rintaro no matter who he chooses to sacrifice.
Kurisu tells Rintaro that she’s surprised to see him back at the lab. Ever since Mayuri died, he hasn’t been back. Sounds familiar, right? When he meets up with the rest of his friends, we learn that the Rintaro in this world line is no different from the Rintaro that we see right now. He’s a sad, pathetic man who has lost all confidence and joy in his life. It doesn’t matter who he saves. It doesn’t matter if he chooses the love of his life or his childhood friend. Either way, he’s going to suffer. The only solution is to save both girls. And at first, I got super frustrated as I watched this week’s episode. Why? Because Kurisu is so goddamn supportive of Rintaro. She’s always been supportive of him. Even in the original series, she convinced him to save Mayuri, and she does the same again here. Even though Rintaro had supposedly smashed the Phone Microwave in this world line, she even went and rebuilt it so that he could one day save Mayuri. So the events of Steins;Gate episode 22 happen all over again albeit slightly delayed. Once again, she kisses him. Once again, he didn’t want to go back, but she guides him towards his destiny. And as I’m watching this, I’m just like, “Why’s it gotta be like this? Why did Mayuri have to let Rintaro give up?”
That’s because I had Steins;Gate 0 all wrong. I thought it was a “what-if” story, and as a result, I found it wholly unsatisfying. Look, I joke a lot about Mayuri being the worst girl on the show, but back in the original series, she gave Rintaro the pep talk that he needed. She even slapped him across the face to get her point across. So I didn’t understand why they had to make the worst girl even worse. Why explore an alternate reality in which we get a crappier Mayuri, a crappier Rintaro, and a crappier Kurisu (in the form of Amadeus)? We already got the true ending, so why are we rehashing the entire plot but with inferior versions of the main characters? But that’s where I was wrong. Steins;Gate 0 isn’t a what-if story at all. It’s the story that we never got. We’ve been rumbled. We thought episode 23 naturally followed episode 22 in the original series, but there’s actually a huge gap between the two. Yep, Steins;Gate 0 is that gap. So it should be Steins;Gate 1-22, then 23 Beta, Steins;Gate 0, then finally Steins;Gate 23 and 24. I was frustrated with Steins;Gate 0 ’cause I didn’t know it was actually necessary. Now, if you already knew this, you’re probably thinking, “No shit, dude!” But can you really blame me?
First, the naming is totally confusing. Why call it Steins;Gate 0 if it’s not a prequel? Secondly, I don’t read the promo materials. I don’t touch the visual novels. I go into most of anime series as blind as possible. I might quickly scan through a trailer, but that’s it. So with the original series being a distant memory in my mind, I naturally assumed that Steins;Gate 0 was a “what-if” story. After all, why are we telling this out of order? In what other piece of fiction would you go halfway through, suddenly skip to the true ending, then after seven years have passed, hop back to the midpoint? It’s such a confusing, convoluted way to tell a tale. Luckily, this week’s ending does add something to our understanding of one event from the original series. Like I’ve outlined above, it helps us see the original ending to episode 22 in a new light. The person who made sure Kurisu would always be late ends up being herself. Not only does she sacrifice herself for Rintaro’s sake (as well as Mayuri’s), she even sacrifices her chance to confess her love to him. Seeing her run to confess to Rintaro, seeing her receive the message right before she entered the lab — we need a lot more of this sort of thing. We need less parties, less cosplaying, and more recontextualizing of powerful moments from the original series.
By the way, I thought the song that played during the ending felt totally out of place. Way too cheerful. Also, it’s interesting to see Kurisu also warn Rintaro to stay away from Amadeus but for different reasons than Maho. It’s obvious to us that someone — Alexis, maybe? — wants Rintaro to help tease out Kurisu’s time traveling theory from her memories. I’m just not sure why our hero is so oblivious to this fact. Maybe he’s blinded by the ability to talk to a copy of Kurisu that the possibility of triggering WW3 never crossed his mind. Finally, where the hell did he end up?
“I was frustrated with Steins;Gate 0 ’cause I didn’t know it was actually necessary. ”
Damn…I wasn’t aware that you didn’t know. I mean in a way you’re still weren’t wrong about this being a “what if” story. I mean it still is a “what if” with the difference being that this “what if” scenario is canon to the original courtesy of the ole narrative benefits of time travel; it needs to happen so we can get the true ending in the first place. This kind of leads me to into the whole “controversial” opinion you had about what should have been the true ending of the original anime. As I stated last time, as much as I agreed with your initial take that the end of ep 22 would have been a more poignant ending, I completely understand why 23&24 are considered the true ending. If anything, Steins’gate zero continues the argument that the original started in that it has always been about the journey to the happy ending. The blood, sweat, and tears of setting up the possibility of achieving the steins;gate timeline by manipulating the laws of chaos theory champions the themes of overcoming fate that most time travel stories love to flirt with. Through steins;gate 0, we have no choice but to appreciate the significance of its happy end; tt screams to its audience: “No, ep 23 and 24 was not a cop-out and here is why!!!”.
I mean granted some are always going to be of the opinion that the true end is a cop-out no matter how you slice it, and that’s fair; but we also need to keep in my mind that the Rintarou we’re following now is that one that eventually grows up to be old-man Okabe from the original steins gate. His tragedy is that he’ll NEVER get to be with Kurisu; he’ll never be able to reap the benefits of being in a world line where Mayuri and Kurisu are alive. From that perspective, he’s already experienced the bittersweet ending of ep 22; he’ll never be able to bask in that happiness of the original’s end. That said, Rintarou 0 is doing all this just so there is potential for another version of himself to have the chance to see the people he loves smiling. As he’s the ultimate observer, his ability to define possibilities and collapse waveforms is their only hope of attaining Steins; gate, a timeline that Rintaro 0 or his buddies will never see.
Rintaro probably regrets having never tried again when he failed, but ironically he needed to fail the first time so that his drive would become an obsession for the sake of getting the original’s ending. Steins gate 0 then, is all about regret and overcoming the psychological strain of such self-loathing. Kurisu from the alpha world line feels regret; we see from the prologue of Steins;gate zero that future Mayuri is filled with regret from coddling Rintarou after he failed to save Kurisu rather than pushing him to try again. It is through this regret, that these characters will come to terms with their inner-demons and fight tooth and nail through the upcoming trails to give themselves that second chance to do things right. It’s that ultimate desire to fight for a better tomorrow that recrudesces back to the end of the original steins;gate, making that ending resonate much deeper than it ever did before.
Like I said up above, I’m still not onboard with Steins;Gate 0, because now I can’t help but view this series and Steins;Gate as one continuous story that must be taken together. And when you do that, the pacing just gets all messed up. Before I watched this week’s episode, one of my biggest complaints was basically, “Why are we doing this again? Why are we rehashing the same feelings, the same anguish, the same themes, so on and so forth?” But even though I now see that Steins;Gate 0 is canon, my misgivings haven’t gone away. They’ve just changed context: “Why are having these negative feelings, anguish and themes for 48 episodes?” It’s too much. Could you honestly watch this many episodes of a guy being tortured like Prometheus chained to a rock for daring to bring us the secrets of time travel? I liked the bittersweet ending of having to pick one girl or the other and the protagonist accepting that fate was beyond his control. Man should know his place and not try to comprehend things that are outside of his grasp. But we are greedy. We want both of our waifus. So in order to have everything go his way, however, he has to go through hell and back twice, and I’m just like… that’s heroic and all, but 48 episodes? Really? I like Darling in the Franxx, but I wouldn’t even watch 48 episodes of that. Eureka Seven is one of my favorite series of all time, but I still felt like 50 episodes was a handful of episodes too long. I’m only eight episodes into this series and I already feel drained.
Does your tolerance for the episode count depend on the content of the series itself or do you just have a preference for shows not being over a certain episode capacity. I’m very fond of Eureka seven but in retrospect, I’d probably had preferred it to be 38 episodes at most.
Content. Say what you need to say, no more no less.
Hmm… I don’t recall a number like this in the visual novel, so definitely something original. Though compared to other numbers, this one comes close to a number in one route. Might possibly be heading towards a revised version of it, possibly.