Steins;Gate – 19 Review
The life-saving power of a suspicious SMS
Another episode that concentrates on Okabe’s efforts to save Mayuri. After last weeks rather cheesy episode this one goes into much darker territory (literally as you can see on the screenshot above). Especially since Okabe doesn’t seem like a hero at all. Not even an anti-hero. At this point he just tries to save Mayuri – no matter the cost.
The episode opens with Okabe gloomily staring into space. While Mayuri tries to cheer him up, he leaves the room and takes Makise with him. He decides to tell Makise (again) the truth of what’s happening and like expected she agrees to help him. The plan is that Kurisu will accompany Mayuri the next day while Okabe searches Moeka to nullify her D-Mail where she told supposedly her past self to buy a new phone. But as Okabe (after some investigation) arrives at her home, he finds out that Moeka killed herself the last night.
Unable to stop the fate of Mayuri he waits in his laboratory for Makise’s call which eventually comes. With that he knows now at what time Mayuri dies in this world-line and he travels back in time again to talk to Moeka before she kills herself. Arriving in the past he tells Makise what’s happening and goes to Moeka which still lives at this point.
“I can do those things… Because I’m not a hero!” – Okabe
What he founds in her room is her sitting in a dark corner typing “FB” into her phone while also repeating that name. Needing the phone with which the D-Mail was sent to nullify the D-Mail which was sent from that phone he starts to fight with her and finally wrestles the phone away from her. As he leaves her flat and leans against the door to stop her from getting her phone back, he sends the D-Mail to nullify Moeka’s D-Mail. But the world-line doesn’t change.
Opening the door again as Moeka throws in obsessive desperation her table at the door, Okabe dodges it and pushes Moeka hard to the ground. Holding her down he starts to intimidate her to tell him about the D-Mail’s content by revealing that she won’t get Messages from FB anymore and that she will kill herself some days later because of that. She finally confesses that her D-Mail told her past self where the IBN 5100 was at that point so that she could steal it.
After that Okabe asks her about the mysterious FB who he assumes is the leader of the organization that gave Moeka the order to kill Mayuri in another world-line. Moeka compares then FB to a “mother” in the sense of the place it offered the directionless and depressive Moeka. Finally finding a meaning to her life Moeka follows FB’s orders fanatically and shows Okeba the advantages of that devotion by remarking that she found a place live with meeting Okabe and his friends. But she later adds in response to Okabe that she would also kill one of these friends if she was ordered to, specifically Mayuri in this case. At this point Okabe sends a D-Mail from her phone that should nullify her trust in the D-Mail’s info about the IBN’s location. But again nothing happens and Okabe concludes that only a D-Mail from FB would change Moeka’s mind. Therefore he’s going off to search for that person. While he’s already leaving Moeka’s flat he’s stopped by Moeka who gives him the location of the stolen IBN 5100 much to Okabe’s surprise.
It’s getting dark if one tries to justify what Okabe’s doing right now. This part of the series just seems to force itself to be tragic while also trying to include some typical VN-Fanservice-moments in the story. The whole Harem-concept just doesn’t work with Steins;Gate and it never was a series made for this stuff. It got absurd when all the girls who sent a D-Mail that made their life better had to undo those just so that Okabe can save Mayuri. It isn’t quite in the spirit of Spock’s “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” and it isn’t a plot that wants to condemn utilitarian thinking either. Okabe just does what he wants – and the rest of the world has to suffer for it seemingly.
It was absurd when the characters before Moeka accepted their returning unhappiness because they just loved Okabe that much (well, it is a harem after all, isn’t it?) – but Moeka? That part was a bit problematic. Since she’s essentially a “villain”, the series thought, it’s okay to just let Okabe use violence to get what he needs. He just beats her, intimidates her with some ugly truths and then concludes the whole thing with “I will save you from killing yourself!”… Well, he didn’t quite use those words but that’s what he said essentially. Of course he said that because he’s a hero but beating the shit out of her and scaring her by shouting some nasty things at her wasn’t that heroic at all. That feeling is also heightened by revealing how messed up Moeka is, she practically considered suicide at one point. This isn’t the sort of person one should beat and confront with nasty truths.
The Wonderful Life of Moeka – It’s not a fairy tale, believe me…
One major inconsistency in this episode was the neighbor-lady that came out due to Moeka’s screaming and her pounding against the door. So, yeah, she comes to Moekas room, sees Moeka on the ground struggling with a stranger, the stranger keeping Moeka silent and assumes that the way both of them behave is… “just a thing modern couples do”. She really has a nice neighbourhood…
Another rather strange thing is Moeka’s reaction to the strange Mail she got from FB. She’s about to kill herself – but some stranger offering her a job changes her mind? That’s all it takes for her to stop killing herself? Someone telling her via SMS out of the blue that she got a job? It just shows HOW messed up she is in the end. But even if that was the purpose, I don’t really like these explanations that rely on a extreme characterization, these characters should show their craziness from start to finish. But most of the time it’s just a plot-convenient thing where explanations are only assumptions by the viewer (like in this case) or vague/irrational comments by the character that are suddenly part of that character without ever hinting at that part before. I just don’t see the change here that made out of a depressed sociopath an obsessive-compulsive handy-fanatic. One mail shouldn’t be enough. And it might not be a big thing considering the big picture of the whole series but those details are the stuff that make a good anime great.
“And an expression of mild befuddlement crossed her face as the person who beat her a few seconds ago declared that he will save her – from suicide…”
The good things about the episode was definitely Okabe that is now ready to just do anything to save Mayuri. The changes in his interaction with his surroundings are subtle and Steins;Gate is one of the few series that are more character-driven than plot-driven. While the message of it may seem immoral and rather strange, the way it’s shown character-wise is really good. The whole series revolves around Okabe and the rest of the characters as they change and struggle with the plot-developments. And with good characterizations in the centre of a character-driven-plot one is ready to forgive much of what Okabe does right now to save Mayuri, I think. It’s a dangerous balance-act that Steins;Gate does right now by making Mayuri’s rescue a necessity with dark consequences. It all depends what kind of character Okabe’ll become in the end after the world… I mean, Mayuri is saved (another sign of how character-driven the series is).
Steins;Gate remains a strong series that continues what it set out to do in the first half but one should reasonably ask himself if it was really necessary to go that much out of the way with the plot to say that no price is too high as long as one gets the desired prize in the end.