Do you want to hear something really interesting? Apparently, Alzheimer’s doesn’t erode memories of music. The studies on the subject are still rather recent so the mechanisms behind it all remain mysterious. As you can imagine this finding has renewed interest in MEAMs or Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories. The moments we associate to music stay anchored in our minds exceptionally well, resisting decay and brain injury. So why can’t I study to music?
Maybe neuroscience isn’t your jam. Maybe you don’t think that random tidbit of awesomeness I just dropped on you is interesting at all. It’s o.k. You can still enjoy this week’s Steins;Gate 0 for the surprising touches of tenderness it lavished on its long-suffering cast.
I knew something was up the second the episode opened on a little Kagari bathed in the light of a dream like summer afternoon. The one of you who read my Stipend;Gate Visual Novel review will perhaps remember that I’m not the biggest fan of Mayuri the character. Mayuri the damsel in the distress trope in the extreme and Mayuri the plot device are both wonderful but Mayuri the character had a tendency to wear on me.
Steins;Gate 0 has been doing a fantastic job at redressing the character for me. By using her sparingly, insisting on her more endearing qualities, like her patience and selflessness, and more importantly by giving her a role beyond needing to be saved, this Mayuri is starting to become interesting in her own right. (It still doesn’t make up for Ruka and Faris but it’s a start).
This said, I still didn’t know how I would feel about this episode. To be frank, I thought it might be better if Kagari and Mayuri never found out about each other…
A calm all grown up Mayuri, leading a surprisingly cute little Kagari down the road, in her ever gentle way melted my reservations just a little. That song… Filling up my leaving room in Mayuri’s slightly hesitant non professional voice without any instrumentals at all was pure earnestness. I started the episode a little disarmed and a little fragile in the best possible way. A perfect little moment in time and it had been shared with me, like a gift.
From there, it was one pleasantly lighthearted moment to another. After hearing present time Mayuri absent-mindedly singing the song from the opening scene, Kagari starts to get a first inkling of recollection and the gang decide to track down the origins of this song in the hopes of discovering something more about her past. A comically circuitous wild goose chase ensues.
We first find out Mayuri learned the from Suzu who is currently getting ready for battle! Battle with her stomach that is. This may be first time we see Suzu being silly and boy was it nice. It seems Suzu learned it from her mom in the future so they all decide to find present day Yuki to see if she knows something. It seems Yuki and Daru are having a little clandestine get together and the adorably cringey scene of having their secret date discovered and crashed had me actually giggling. When’s the last time Steins;Gate made anyone other than Amadeus, giggle?
Apparently Yuki learned it from one of her students who turns out to be Okabe’s chatty and embarrassing mom, who like any good mother is thrilled to casually bring up all of Okabe’s most humiliating past deeds. Moreover, Okabe and Mayuri use to sing it together as kids and yet neither remembers… just sayin…
Ultimately Kagari remembers who her mother is and the emotional release is palpable. Mayuri the hopeless lost girl has always been uninteresting to me. Mayuri the kind and loving mother is a force to contend with and I want to see more.
Side note: I was relieved to see that Okabe is still attending classes and doing rather well it seems.
This episode was a lot like that little song, simple and yet touching. Unpretentious, full of joy and mirth. A little unpolished and yet all the more effective for it.
I know my opinion of the series doesn’t matter. I’ve lost all credibility and pretense of objectivity already. And the series has not been perfect so far, I’ve tried to acknowledge that. However, at the midway mark, instead of capitalizing on the tense techno mystery or the deep nostalgia that have been hallmarks of the show, Steins;Gate 0 chose to give us a lovely slow filler episode which mixes goofy and touching notes together to provide us with an enchanting melody. I can’t be the only one that’s impressed…
I tried to capture a bit of the sense of fun this episode brought but I’m it sure it translates to screencaps