Steins;Gate – 20 review
“Life – loathe it or ignore it. You can’t like it.”
Steins;Gate is back to its greatness before the mess with the D-Mails began and the story connected to the Moeka-arc gets here a nice twist and a solid ending. So, if you haven’t seen Steins;Gate 20 yet I wouldn’t advise you to read on because the plot-twist of this episode is quite good, I think.
The episode starts with a flashback to the ending of the talk between Okabe and Moeka as the former proclaims his heroic intentions to save Mayuri and Moeka at any cost while the latter reveals the location of the IBN 5100 to Okabe. The next day Okabe goes to the coin-locker but realizes that he can’t open it and goes back to his lab to get a crowbar. Kurisu stops him from going with the crowbar asks for an explanation. After Okabe has explained to her what has happened so far to him she theorizes that Okabe can’t get the IBN 5100 as long as he hasn’t erased the D-Mail to Moeka. Okabe accepts this theory reluctantly and plans to stake out the coin locker to find out who FB is. While waiting for FB to appear Moeka appears and admits that she also wants to know who FB is. Okabe agrees to her accompanying him in his search for FB and phones Kurisu about this who’s together with Mayuri at this moment. As they both walk back to the lab Mayuri remarks sorrowfully that she feels like she hasn’t talked to Okabe for a long time. Before Kurisu can answer that they arrive at the lab and meet Nae and Mr. Braun who then complains about Okabe but also remarks that he envies him for his lifestyle and friends.
Back to Okabe and Moeka nothing has happened as Moeka suddenly gets a message from FB. Okabe asks her to show him the message and Moeka reluctantly agrees to that and shows him the message which basically just consoled Moeka like a mother would. In the morning after that a man appears who takes the IBN from the coin locker with him. After switching the messenger multiple times the IBN finally ends up with Mr. Braun. Following Mr. Braun to his house Moeka and Okabe wait the whole night keeping his house under surveillance. The next day Mr. Braun drives the IBN to the airport from where it then goes to France the location of SERN.
After that Moeka and Okabe meet Kurisu and tell her about what they’ve found out. Kurisu reminds Okabe about Mayuri’s remark concerning the way she hasn’t spoken to him for a long time. Okabe is sorry but doesn’t seem to see a way to change that. Instead he proposes to meet Mr. Braun and ask him about his connection to SERN. Arriving at Mr. Braun’s place Okabe confronts him with his knowledge and Mr. Braun answers looking at Moeka that M4 has betrayed his trust and that they should go to another place to talk with that acknowledging that he’s FB (Ferdinand Braun). At a building site Mr. Braun explains how he took the guise of the person each of his agents needed the most (in case of Moeka a mother) to manipulate them. Shocked Okabe accuses him of not honouring the memory of Suzuha who took him in. Braun then tells of his painful life in the gutter alone and hungry. Forced by the circumstances he took the chance to get away from that life that was offered to him – even if it meant that he had to become evil. And like the marionette of SERN he became he made his agents (like Moeka) marionettes bending to his will. He then continues by saying that marionettes without strings are useless and that he stopped phoning Moeka because he didn’t need her. Drawing a gun he then shoots Moeka accepting that her mission is accomplished. After that he shoots himself to make sure that Nae is kept out of his dark work.
“You know, I’m actually a really nice guy but you know how it is with these things… The exception proves the rule.”
Shocked Okabe just throws up and is reminded by Kurisu to use Braun’s handy for the D-Mail. After Okabe had done that he finds himself in Moeka’s room with Moeka telling him that she doesn’t need the IBN 5100 anymore. Okabe goes then to get the IBN 5100 from its original hiding place and asks Daru to use it to hack into SERN’s computer to retrieve the last D-Mail which has to be nullified. Kurisu then adds that the last D-Mail was something like stopping someone from stabbing her and asks Okabe what kind of joke that was from him. But Okabe realizes that erasing the last D-Mail actually really means that Kurisu dies.
The easiest explanation is most of the times the most convincing explanation. There was nothing fancy about Mr. Braun’s backstory and its lack of detail gave it a solid feel with which it was hard to argue as viewer. And that’s the reason why this episode worked better than the ones before that tried too hard with their sentimental issues of “what is Okabe’s love worth?”. This episode showed again that Steins;Gate wasn’t a High-Tech-Sci-Fi-Thriller with time travel elements. And Steins;Gate was certainly not about melodramatic love-issues. Steins;Gate, despite its absurd characterizations and its sci-fi-plot tried to appear mundane.
This episode was pretty straightforward in its structure and the time travels weren’t as complicated and mindbending as before. It really became much more a matter of finding information of what happens in the future and then going back to use them. Like that I barely noticed when the time travels happen and it was a bit strange to see time travels treated that trivial but I guess one could forgive the series for making it seem like that since Okabe did the time travel thing now that often that it’s understandable if it isn’t anything special for him anymore. Another nice thing about the episode was the way it closed off the episode with another good cliffhanger as Okabe remembers how everything started and that Kurisu died in the worldline where she didn’t get the D-Mail.
Okabe: “Kurisu… I think, you ought to know that I’m feeling very depressed right now. And shocked. And I might throw up.”
Kurisu: “Throwing up isn’t an emotion, Okabe…”
Okabe: “You would be surprised how much emotion one can express with throwing up.”
I had only a minor quibble with one line of dialogue and that was the message FB sent to Moeka. It’s message was essentially “Yes, you don’t know how to interact with other persons but look on the bright side: This is what makes you you.” That’s hardly what I would call inspiring… But well, only a minor quibble from my side…
With the revelation of FB as Mr. Braun handled pretty solid and the episode structure being very straightforward this episode clearly felt like a preparation for the finale. And the cliffhanger at the end just shows that it’s seemingly up to Okabe to choose between Kurisu and Mayuri. It’d be a bit cheesy if he would find a way to save both. Another thing that could be bad if used wrong but could also make the finale amazing if used correct would be giving a face to SERN. This corporation is the big villain of this series and I think it’s handled pretty well so far how this ‘villain’ just lurks in the background always pulling the strings to get the dystopia they aim for. But until now this story pretty much concentrated on Okabe searching the world that he longs for (in which Mayuri doesn’t die). It’s a rather personal story of Okabe about destiny and the price one pays for his wishes but in this story SERN is just BGM. The finale probably will make SERN relevant, I think but in which way… that will probably be the important point which will decide how good the finale of this series will be.