I have never been a big fan of New Year’s episodes. They all tend to be the same. With very few exceptions they are usually not very funny (Gabriel DropOut was hilarious) and surprisingly not all that touching (Gugure-San ended on a truly heartwarming holiday ep). They’re generally just an excuse to draw characters in pretty kimonos and not much else. I quickly figured I was finally getting that somewhat average filler episode I’ve been waiting for Steins;Gate 0 to pull out so I could catch my breath.
Episode 6 started out fairly promisingly in that regard. The whole gang plus Mayuri’s nice friend and Chie from Persona 4 were set to go help out at Ruka’s family shrine. Somehow Maho ended up there as well. Little Nae got to wear an adorable kimono!
After the exciting conclusion of episode 5, and actually episode 4 and…I just realized that Steins;Gate only ends in cliffhangers… It’s working, I spend my weeks anxiously awaiting the next episode but it’s a little mean…
As I was saying, the episode was gearing up to be an occasionally unfortunate but generally harmless fluff. We got to see characters in traditional mito garb, carefree and just enjoying each other’s company in a lighthearted context. For once, the audience didn’t have to overthink anything or worry about anyone….
As is common in a lot of holiday shows, the notion of family was celebrated at every chance. It was sweet, I wanted to say not that useful to the overarching narrative, but with this show, it probably establishes relationships that will come into play later. In any case, we got to see Mr. Braun being the infinitely proud papa that he’s always been and Nae as the perfect precious little daughter. (Nae is another fantastic character…) Say what you will about Braun but he’s always been a good dad. It’s precisely those qualities that made t so easy for him to manipulate Moeka or for Nae to go down the road she did. Seeing those two together again was heartwarming.
Of course you have our two temporarily displaced families as well. I have always had a soft spot for Daru and seeing his relationship with Suzuha evolve makes me just happy. They work well together. Leave it to perverted and socially inept Daru to raise (mostly by himself) such a strong, independent and capable young woman as Suzu. He may not know how to talk to women but he clearly respects them. That’s the big difference between a creep and a lovable deviant.
Then you have Kagari and Mayuri. To me, Mayushii has always been almost a personification of fragility. She seems like she could crumble to nothingness at any moment. That frailty was an important counterpoint to all the big personalities around her and made her an emotional core for the story but as an individual she always filled me with worry and, I hate to say it, pity. But Mayuri as a mother works on such a primordial level that it’s now difficult to imagine her any other way.
A child would tether her to existence, fill that void she’s been carrying around but at the same time, all that softness and self sacrificing would finally become a strength. Mayuri and Kagari together were some of the strongest moments of the episode. I honestly hope we get a chance to see then grow closer throughout the series. Leave it to a Shiina girl to show us where the heart is.
Maho may be a rather isolated girl in general, but her lab is clearly her adopted family. Professors Leskinen and Reyes even mercilessly tease her and butt into her love life as would real parents. A few moments foreshadowed that there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to the Americans, but for now, the good times are still rolling. Everyone is giggles and smiles.
Ruka has always had a wonderful family. We haven’t heard any mention of his sister mind you, but he’s so much more adjusted and confident now. Do you guys realize it’s episode 6 and we haven’t seen him even close to the verge of tears yet.
Of course all the members of the lab are essentially one big family. Just a bunch of wayward souls . A little lost, a little goofy, pretty dorky, that found each other and stuck together through their mutual lack of cool.
That’s what a family is. A group of people that will tease you and embarrass you to no end, and you can be yourself around them because they love you in the simplest way possible. Just because you’re you, nothing more and nothing less. As I said, holiday episodes are not my favorites but I do like this message. It was nice to see everyone else get it as well.
Not quite everyone thought. Okabe remains out of place. He simply doesn’t belong there, not anymore. He’s lost too much of himself along the way to be a part of that particular family. And just for a minute, Steins;Gate cruelly reminded us that this is Hououin Kyoma’s place, not Okabe’s.
At the very beginning of the episode, Mayuri remarks that the saddest thing in the world is forgetting those you love, not losing them… As everyone is pushing him to forget Kurisu, as Amadeus doesn’t remember him, as once again Okabe finds himself completely abandoned in his memories, that’ starting to ring very true.
But things are looking up, the tension has eased and everyone is settling. A promise of a better tomorrow dawns brightly!
And then, the nightmare starts all over again!
C’mon now Steins;Gate…what are you doing to me. I was going to write this nice little post about families and hope and nurture or whatever. I was going to call you a filler episode, maybe throw something in about narrative pacing and the importance of not constantly upping the stakes. Maybe theorize a bit about what would come next.
But NOOOOOOO. You don’t care about MY plans. FINE! The calm before the storm came to an abrupt end as a gutwrentchingly familiar scene came literally crashing in. With masked intruders pointing assault rifles at our happy family and the credits starting to roll, I couldn’t help but realize that there’s no pone microwave (name subject to change) in that lab.
Come back next week to find out if I can survive holding my breath for 7 days!
Here are a few more images for you: