At some point, excitement hits a point of diminishing returns. Any good narrative needs to know when to take a little break and give the audience a chance to breathe. Or else, little by little, consequences start to loose their impact and you risk making viewers Jared and too exhausted to care.
I have had an uneasy feeling that Steins;Gate 0 was going down that exact path as it seems too restless to just stand still for a moment. Not to mention that the attempts at filler have been by far the weakest part of the series.
So it was with mixed feelings that I watched the first half of episode 11, in which Maho and Okabe visit the hacker in his hideout which turns out to be Daru. After an emotionally tense conversation they decide to reveal everything to the tiny scientist in what should have been a pivotal plot point. We see Maho having to come to grips with the reality that time travel is in fact possible and that Kurisu’s laptop may hold to key to unlocking its mysteries. Shift her perception to understand that she may have an option to save the life of her beloved friend and then immediately squash that unexpected glimmer of hope when the crazy guy she kind of likes tells her any attempt to change the past would be disastrous.
That right there is an entire episode in its own right. Maybe a couple. Not only is it a lot to ask a character to adjust to this brave new world all at once, but the greater implications of Maho having this knowledge are potentially huge. Once again Steins;Gate 0 was throwing a whole lot at us and I couldn’t help but tally up the loose plot strands in my head. So….no one’s gonna discuss the second Reading Steiner. Okie dokie.
I would have debated the wisdom of overstuffing yet another episode but before I could, what seemed to be a heavily arm black ops team burst into Daru’s hideout forcing them all to escape out of a window and parkour their way across the town only to be quickly caught in a back alley. It seems the invaders are after the laptop and have no qualms in using violence to get it. Luckily, just as the bad guys attempt to make off with Kurisu’s data, a second heavily armed group of masked intruders unleashes a hail of bullets into the fray, wounding the would be thieves, destroying the laptop and giving our heroes a chance to escape. In case you’re wondering we are about halfway through the episode.
At this point I was going to call my review: Between a rock and a hard place. The appearance of two seperate, obviously dangerous antagonist groups that seemingly have nothing to do with SERN (who are still a potential threat) was kind of exciting I admit, I thought of focusing the review on that. I would have expounded on the comical subversion of making this little team of out of shape nerds into action stars. Discussed a bit the unbalanced presentation which to me robbed the earlier revelations to Maho of their impact and left me concentrating almost entirely on the attack.
That’s not a bad thing mind you. It’s normal that such spectacular events would push everything else out of your mind. The same thing is happening to the characters after all. But I still had 10 or so minutes to go…
As usual, Steins;Gate 0 is completely immune to my expectations.
The second half had to slow down almost out of necessity. A wounded Okabe and Maho return to Faris’s to tend to their injuries while Daru heads to another hideout. Eventually they will need to tell everyone what happened…or maybe not. After all why risk bringing up more questions that they can’t answer?
The rundown of the episode was a release of tension in every way.
The focus shifted on a numb and hollow Maho, simply trying to piece reality back together. Finding the whole ordeal unsustainable now that the adrenaline was gone. A somewhat clumsy but still cute fanservicy bathroom scene served to loosen the audience and lighten the mood. Everything slowed to a crawl. By the way, do any of you guys do that as well: find that your hands get frozen in a certain position due to stress? It’s only happened once or twice in my life, but I remember a particularly traumatic time where I had to sign a bunch of documents and I found I couldn’t seem to let go of the pen. I had to use my other hand to pry my fingers open. It doesn’t hurt and only lasts about a minute but it’s an eerie little detail that spoke volumes to me as Maho struggled and failed to open her hand in order to show Okabe the small computer shard she had retrieved.
The final episode arc felt like an end and a rebirth. Maho and her team are returning to America and taking Amadeus with them. Everyone said goodbye once again at the airport. Okabe’s line to Kurisu: “how many times have I said goodbye to you” held such a painfully meaningful note and was delivered with such tenderness, that I couldn’t help but smile.
The show also seems to be toying with us again. They’ve hinted at Yuki’s possible involvement with the mysterious assault team last time we saw them as well. She never seems to be around when these incidents happen. This time, the camera blatantly lingered on her bandaged hand while inking, pointing and going: hu HUH! (oh – the girl baddy sustained an injury on her wrists during the shootout in case you missed that). But then, in classic Steins;Gate – why settle for one twist when you can have 17 – fashion, the episode also heavily suggested that it could have been Judy.
DONE WITH THE RECAP NOW I WAX THEORETICAL:
Why did I switch my title to Anti-thesis, and why add the unnecessary hyphen? Well the hyphen is just an eccentricity, I still mean essentially the same thing as antithesis, but I also wanted to draw a parallel to research papers as such scientific thesis are so central to the story of Steins;Gate. Guys, this is as fancy as I get so humor me, will ya?
As for the greater meaning, to me Steins;Gate 0 is doing something both very unusual and somewhat risky. It’s thematically destroying its own foundations by deconstructing most of the basic tropes established by the original series. It’s slowly and subtly going back on everything it’s supposed to be.
Steins;Gate was about accepting who you are in order to become the best possible version of yourself. Steins;Gate 0 is about learning to grow and adapt and change. Steins;Gate celebrated determination, defying the rules of space and time, stubbornly refusing to give up even if it means reshaping reality. Steins;Gate 0 is about learning to let go, to grieve and move on and find balance within reality. Steins;Gate was an epic love story with fated soul mates. Steins;Gate 0 takes the classic romance trope of impossibly separated lovers who nevertheless have an incredibly slim chance of reuniting, and inserts a potential new interest. A GREAT one. Just as suited and perfect as a potential partner as the one we were suppose to root for. Just as deserving and likale. That’s a big no no for the genre. I mean, your viewers are obviously going to riot if you mess with their precious perfect love. How dare you suggest it wasn’t completely unique and irreplaceable.
Steins;Gate was about the limitless potential of technology and human ingenuity. Steins;Gate 0 is about the fragile boundaries of the human spirit and respect for natural order.
Sure, I may be reading into it more than what was intended. I do that – I write a blog about anime… And sure, the quality and success of the execution is up for debate. However, I have to be impressed by a sequel that has the guts to completely upend the very nostalgia everyone accuses it of being reliant on.
I think I got a few great pics, I wish I would have found a spot for them:
17 thoughts on “Steins;Gate 0 Ep 11 – Anti-Thesis”
Hm, you’re right. Zero is thematically quite different.
The repeat injury tease is something I find hard to take seriously. This is neither very suspensful, nor is it fun to speculate. It’s just mildly silly. Doesn’t hurt the show too much, since the emotional weight doesn’t come from suspense and twists anyway.
So what now? Reset? Return? Multi-location story?
I’m not sure but I would write out all of the above at once
Gah! Such a well-written and considered review! Makes me think I should spend more than 45 minutes writing my episodic reviews…
It’s funny you mention the thing about viewers rioting at the idea that someone could replace Kurisu. From the moment I saw Maho it was like “Kurisu who?” I must be very fickle…
Pfft. You two are both trippin. Mayuri is by far the best girl. Okabe doesn’t deserve any of them, tho, really.
Faris is best girl on this blog buddy. Not this Faris but still. I thought I made myself clear!
Having declared both yr girls not best at once, I should have specified that your pick is still decidedly less trippin’ than Matt’s.
Like you mentioned in that one post near the start of the season, Faris is a bit of a tragedy this time around. BUT there’s still time for that to change. I’m holding out hope that her and Ruka both get some real screen time at some point, not just the sexualized comic relief kind.
Ruka is also best girl so is Suzu…
hmmm do you think I should be more exclusive?
No. The minor characters need love, too. Okabe sure isn’t given it to em.
Gosh – you ARE fickle…Good think they had that alternate worldline episode a few weeks ago to remind you!
This review actually really ended up coming together. I’m quite happy with it, but it’s pretty rare.
Since I think you’re re already kickass – I’m a little intimidated to know you can just knock them out like that. Amazing!
You can destroy a laptop without destroying the data on it. I could take the platen on a hard drive, break it up with a hammer and the NSA could still piece together most of the data on it. The only acceptable ways to destroy a hard drive with Top Secret info involve deguasing and then either crushing it to power or incinerating it. Possble plot twist? Or plot hole?
I actually have a hard drive with a .45 caliber slug embedded in it. (I used it for target practice.) Those are pretty tough devices.
well the compitself looked like it was smashed to pretty small bits if I remember but no one ever said the data hadn’t been backed up somewhere. Besides there are at least 3 people in this worldline who already know how to make a time machine and from the reading steiner, someone else who even the audience doesn’t know about…
I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
There’s definitely a lot of passion for this show coming through. And I think you’ve just nailed exactly why I don’t like Steins;Gate 0 even though it isn’t that bad. It’s the usual issue I have with sequels and spin-offs in that it isn’t adding to the original but is doing its own thing, in which case it should just be its own thing rather than trying to connect to previously established characters and settings. I’m wondering how much more I might have liked this show if it had just been a show about frail human characters who had failed at saving someone and were now trying to accept that. If there wasn’t a bloated cast hanging around from a previous series that weren’t strictly speaking needed for this story but have to be there because they exist in the original. How much more would I like it if I didn’t have to see Okabe as this character.
It very much reminds me of the Darker Than Black sequel where they have Hei as a washed up alcoholic and really I never wanted to see Hei in that state. I don’t like seeing Okabe in this state but a new character exploring this idea would probably have been amazing.
Sorry for the overly long comment.
Great comment, Thanks Karandi,
I can see what you mean and in general agree with you but in this case I do believe it builds on the original.
The fact that these characters seem familiar but are not the people we got to know is intricately tied with Steins:Gate’s mythology. Different world lines, different people, different morals and yet there’s still a sense of the inevitable, of variations on a theme. Deconstructing the motifs Steins;Gate was building upon serves to contrast them, make them bolder. To me it’s really part of the same experience, like a delightful after taste. It may still prove me wring mind you…
Here’s hoping it goes well. It certainly has potential and it would be nice to see it build on what it has established so far.
You really did put a lot of heart into this one, as you said. I can feel your passion for the show.
Thank you so much Scott. At one point I really felt it come together which doesn’t happen that often and it made me so happy. I really appreciate you dropping a line….