In the eighth episode of Steins;Gate, the lab team conducts two experiments with the PowerWave, and they have very different results. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steins;Gate.
Trigger Warning: For talk of cissexism, misgendering
I’ve said this on video, but the gradual way in which this story is escalating is impressive and entertaining. I actually like that the Future Gadget Lab team has started out so relatively small, and as they approach the concept of altering the past, they ask more and more complicated questions than before. LET’S TALK.
(I’ll call it that just for the sake of identifying it within the review for this specific episode, though I recognize this isn’t their first experiment.)
At the opening of “Chaos Theory Homeostasis I,” prior to the beginning of Experiment 1, there’s an important moment where Okabe gets into the mad scientist character in a way that doesn’t read as silly or foolish to the other characters. Rather, Daru wonders what has happened to his friend. While there are a lot of disturbing transformations across this episode, I didn’t want to ignore this specific one. Okabe is changing, and as he realizes his “power” (if you can even call it that), he perceives himself differently. I wrote about his fear in the last review, and while I still don’t think I’m that off the mark, I do see that there’s another layer to it. He does enjoy the thought that he has some special power, you know? And I worry about how enthusiastically he will pursue these new experiments without thinking about the potential ramifications for them.
So, Experiment #1: Daru sends a message to himself, telling him the winning card moves for his game against Fayris at the club. Seems like a small, slightly consequential choice, right? Then, they can just find out if he won, and if so, bam! Past changed! Except this episode highly suggests that the change to the past can’t be inconsequential. What determines that? Does the butterfly effect have to be large in order for the world line to be altered?
Let’s discuss the experiment they do with Moeka, whose request seemed simple enough, one that they’d be able to track the results for because it involved the change of a cell phone. She just wanted to send a message to herself that said that she shouldn’t buy a new cellphone. Fair enough, right? Of course, the risk here is that this would happen, and Okabe would still be the only person to remember it all. But that was something, right? It was a decent idea that probably wouldn’t have that big of an impact on the present time, and thus, they could test this without ruining everything.
YEAH, THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. And while the world isn’t ruined, this is one of the most dramatic ramifications of one of the PhoneWave experiments. The entire group doesn’t remember Moeka at all because, in this new world line, she had no reason to ever come to the lab. I admit that at first, I worried that she’d been erased from existence entirely, but that still doesn’t mean this is insignificant. It’s HUGE. And it should give them pause, shouldn’t it? If they can alter things this dramatically, perhaps they shouldn’t escalate the experiments?
And then Ruka enters the picture. She had also had her timeline altered, since she had dropped off the watermelon gift before Moeka’s experiment took place. Here, though, she is outside when the lab group discusses what has just occurred, and thus, she figures out what’s going on. She wants in, and she wants to send a D-mail.
I’ve defaulted to she/her pronouns because that appears to be her identity and it motivates her request to alter the past. So, my gut reaction was that Okabe was constantly misgendering her here and in that one scene a few episodes back, but it’s not up to me to decide those sort of things. I’m interested what others thought of this, though, because it felt wrong to me.
What I do feel more comfortable commenting on is the dramatic nature of the third experiment. They don’t just try to change a small detail; they send a message to a pager to influence Ruka’s mother into having a daughter instead of a son. This is a literal life-changing decision, and the ramifications of it are unknowable. If it actually worked, wouldn’t that change the world line in HUGE ways? Ruka would be a different person, would make different decisions their whole life, and there’s no way to track the butterfly effect of a thousand different alterations versus one.
Yet they do it, and Okabe still remains the only person to know all the timelines, and… did it work? I felt uncomfortable with the way the show tried to determine that, as if I was being invited to be as voyeuristic as Okabe. But let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that Ruka did not get what they wanted.
WHY DID OKABE EXPERIENCE A WORLD LINE ALTERATION? What did change after they sent that message to the pager???
THIS SHOW IS GONNA DESTROY ME.
The video for “Chaos Theory Homeostasis I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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