After I mentioned it in my review for SteinsGate 0 episode 4, I just couldn’t get it out of my head, so here goes. To my friend Faris. I know we never met but in my defense, you don’t exist. I still miss you.
I’ve spoken before of the unique experience that Steins;Gate puts you through as a visual novel. It’s an exercise in cruel compromise. At every turn you are asked to sacrifice the very concrete and real happiness and lives of people you care about in exchange for the potential and uncertain welfare of the faceless masses. You can hold onto a certain degree of cold comfort by deluding yourself in the selfishness of love but even in the best-case scenario, whatever passing solace you may find is build on the backs of those you love most and there’s really no compensation for that.
Spoilers for Steins;Gate the anime and the visual novel. Be warned.
As Okabe, being a hero means you have to rob Suzuha of her only chance of getting to know her father and doom her to live out the rest of her life completely isolated of everything and everyone she’s ever known. You have to wrestle Ruka’s excruciatingly hard earned first steps towards self-acceptance and realization, away from him. You have to doom Moeka to a lonely and terrifying world without any hope or purpose. But to me, your biggest sin is the murder of the potential Faris.
At first glance Faris is, well, boring. She’s the cookie cutter fanservice girl. Flirty and sexualized but not overly so, leaning towards cute rather than explicit. She’s a dork able to appreciate your standard otaku’s tastes and hobbies, but sociable and confident. She’s beautiful but prefers nerds to jocks. She’s always playful and smiling. Did approximately 753 different girls flash through your head? Yup, she’s one of them. A filler girl. The manic pixie whatever. A cat girl maid….
I had dismissed her as mostly harmless and a decent foil for my beloved Daru. I figured if she didn’t manage to annoy me throughout my playthrough, I would call it a win and move on. At some point I realized that I was ambling down a path that was leading me towards her character and braced myself for an overload of Nyans and a contrived pantie shots.
If ever I needed to be reminded never to judge a book by its cover, this was it.
After inadvertently butterfly effecting our way to Armageddon, it seems we manage to make a small change in Faris’ life. Namely, we made certain events happen just a day earlier, which meant that Faris’ dad never got on the plane that crashed leaving no survivors.
We knew that Faris is in fact from a very wealthy family, what we didn’t know was that after loosing her mother at a very young age, she had been raised by a very busy but very loving father. A man who would have been gone long before Okabe ever met Faris.
Losing her last parent as a young girl not only shattered Faris’ heart but it also completely changed the course of her life. As the only living heir of a multinational company, she was left with an enormous burden on her shoulders. Stress and responsibilities never meant for a child where heaped upon her as no legal guardian had been officially assigned and those who offered help all clearly had their own motives.
Faris went from a slightly spoiled, carefree little girl with the promise of a life full of opportunities, to a scared and isolated child desperately trying to avoid being taken advantage of, or worse.
Because Faris is neither stupid nor weak, she actually managed somehow. She leveraged her family’s influence and wealth to developing Akihabara into something that felt like home and creating a thriving commercial sector that continues to generate good revenue for her. She proved herself to be capable and chosen to surround herself by those she could trust. She is a force to be reckoned with.
However, no one can go through all that without getting some serious scars, and some wounds never completely heal. Faris has hardened her heart keeping everyone at arm’s length. She seems almost completely unable to have an earnest exchange with anyone let alone form a steady relationship. She’s built a fantasy world for herself, both in her mind and quite literally out of the neighborhood, filling with all the things she enjoys, like a gigantic doll house, to avoid reality at all costs.
Her sanity, her very grasp on the world as a concept she can bear, is predicated on an unstable base of childish delusions. Unlike Okabe, what lies beneath her chunni tendencies isn’t the awkward insecurities of teenage years, it’s a deep pool of grief and regret that threatens to drown her should she give in.
But it’s all good now. Through some incredible twist of cosmic fortune, Faris’ dad never left. She got her family back and in turn her childhood. We get to meet the man this time around, and it’s our privilege. He’s a gentle and rational man, who respects the people around him and is proud of his daughter. He’s left her room to grow into the woman she chooses to be, guiding her as best he can along the way. A truly admirable man and dedicated father, it’s no wonder that Okabe warms up to him almost immediately.
As for Faris. Having such a beneficial influence in her life and freed her from the rigors of having to immediately become an adult. She was allowed to be a capricious child, she could be weak and fragile having the strength of a father to fall back on. And so she became a wonderful young woman.
Fiercely intelligent and unafraid of being herself. She is calmer and wiser, she shows the trademark deep empathy towards others that her father also displays. She is a fully realized young woman who has a soothing and enriching effect on all those around her. And she has spunk. This Faris isn’t broken, stuck in arrested development, a caricature of herself. This is the Faris that was meant to be, and she is exceptional. Easily rivaling Kurisu for both our affections and Okabe.
And we have to destroy her.
We have to knowingly send a good man to his death and take away any chance Faris has to reach her potential. We have to fill her life with pain and fear and solitude. Because we’re a hero you see.
The Faris that could have been, never was and never will be. As I watch the silly girl in the cat maid costume spin inane nonsense and nyan at people, I can’t help but feel a little empty.
It’s sad when someone loses their life but there’s something truly tragic about someone losing themselves. It’s downright devastating when they were never even there…