Steins;Gate – 21 review
Mayuri: “I would be kind of relieved if, every once in a while, after you put rice pudding mix in the microwave and it rang and you opened the top, you got macaroni gratin.”
So this was the episode that told you how hard Mayuri’s life is and that it doesn’t get better with all that time-travel-stuff going on. But wait, wasn’t there something more urgent to talk about? Like for example that matter with Makise and the last D-Mail? Well, don’t expect that to be solved this week. It’s all about Mayuri and Okabe and how the latter can harden his resolve for the finale.
The episode starts with Okabe stopping the cracking using the IBN 5100 because he has qualms baout endagering Makise. Lying on the roof he just waits and tries to think about alternatives. Mayuri arrives with a bottle of water and tries to cheer him up. Okabe then decides to accompany Mayuri to Comima although he knows that she will die today explaining that each erased D-Mail prolonged her life for one more day. Appearing gloomy and silent Mayuri voices her concern but Okabe avoids answering her questions while secretly trying to think of a way to save Mayuri without changing Worldlines and with this killing Makise. Because of that he then phones Makise to get her help but she wants to hear his reasons for asking her help. Not willing to explain himself Okabe hangs up and accompanies Mayuri back to the lab. In the evening on their way to the lab Okabe and Mayuri talk happily for a while but then a car drives towards them and Okabe realizes that the moment of Mayuri’s death has come. This time he gets Mayuri to safety and tries to kill himself before Mayuri can die hoping to change something with that but in the last moment Mayuri saves Okabe and with that dies driven over by the car.
After that Okabe’s traveling back in time again stopping the cracking again and goes on the roof emo-chilling* away from the problems that plague him. This time Makise comes because Okabe hasn’t followed Mayuri to Comica and asks him what’s up with him. Okabe explains his situation to her in a desperate tone fitting his helplessness. Then Mayuri calls concerned about Okabe and asking him whether she’s a burden to him and Okabe searches Mayuri because he’s concerned about her now because of her tone. When he arrives at Comima Daru tells him that she has already left but remembering something Okabe finds her at that graveyard in front of her grandmother’s grave. There she confesses to dream about her deaths in the other world-lines but how Okabe always saves her in the end. Wanting to talk about more happy things she explains how Okabe’s lab has gotten livelier in the last weeks with all the new lab-members and she also remembers how at the start it was just her and Okabe. She also realizes how her relationship to Okabe has changed and says that she can’t stay the same anymore. But Okabe reveals his presence now and says to her that she’s just fine as she is and they reconcile leaving the graveyard to go back to the lab.
“I don’t want to face the finale without having had at least one existential crisis!”
Now that was a sappy tearjerker…
Not that I’ve cried, mind you, but this episode really challenged to get this emotional reaction from the viewer. And this was largely due to Mayuri. Surprisingly this episode didn’t concentrate on Makise and the question whether her doom is worth Mayuri’s life, instead the episode tried to establish exactly where Okabe and Mayuri stand concerning their relationship. Especially the last third of this episode where Mayuri narrates about her perspective, it really showed what she thought about Okabe and how important he is to her.
But this episode largely works due to the emotional investment one already has put into the series because Mayuri really isn’t that great a character if you think about it. She plays in this part one specific role and even if it’s worked out pretty good as far as that’s possible in the end she’s still just – a damsel-in-distress. Even more than that Mayuri is a sort of prize. It’s sort of like one of these pseudo-philosophical advices that tells you how you’ll only learn to appreciate something by losing it. And it’s just like that here: Okabe knows that he has lost Mayuri and realizes what she means to him.
Makise: “Why do you want my help, Okabe?!”
Okabe: “Do you know what happens to people who ask too many questions?”
Makise: “No – what?”
Okabe: “… Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.”
Well, just throw in a little bit of sci-fi, timetravel and stuff to distract from it but this episode really made it seem like this series is ultimately about bringing Okabe and Mayuri together. Perhaps this is the reason why the series never took its sci-fi-plot serious in the first place. I mean, without hinting at the existence of god, fate or something how could one possibly justify that this small cast of characters gather at one place and are all involved in this giant “time-travel-conspiracy”? This series wants to be more about its characters than its sci-if-tech. The first half seemed to take its geeky sci-fi-discovery-side-of-things far more serious than the second half where the whole thing with Mayuri started to get serious. Before it was about discovering a whole new universe with time-traveling but in the second half it was more about learning what Okabe was surrounded by. And perhaps it was a sort of catharsis for Okabe too with the way he opens up to his environment due to all the things he had to do in the second half. He not only began to understand these characters he also began to understand their importance to him and with that he becomes the hero this series wants him to be.
What may have ruined this episode for some is this total dependence on what has come before. This episode wasn’t about time-traveling, action or excitement. This was just about understanding the role of Mayuri and what kind of character she is. So someone who perhaps didn’t like the series as much as myself for example or who just watches the episode from an analyzing perspective, that person might not feel the emotional impact this episode aimed for. Mayuri isn’t that strong a character as far as her characterization goes. There’s nothing special or interesting about her characterwise that’d justify a rational caused sympathy and admiration for her (rational in the way that there’s a personality that isn’t limited to its relevance for the plot). Mayuri has already a strange vibe going by her being left alone and being “adopted” by Okabe when she had no one else to turn too (overdramatized, I know, but that’s what the series wants you to think). And then there’s of course her boundless loyalty and sympathy for Okabe that makes him far more important than her own person. She just thinks about how she can be helpful to him and that he’s happy and so on. She’s idealized obviously in her characterization and that distracts from understanding her instead of just getting swept away by a mere illusion of an ideal world.
This episode focused more on the emotions of Mayuri and Okabe despite the looming finale on the horizon but if you like this series and If you like the characters of it then you will also like to see how Mayuri and Okabe reflect on their feelings for each other without getting too obvious or just unnerving.