We get the sense that, although Rintaro’s still grieving, he’s slowly coming to terms with everything and learning to move on. We all have to eventually.
The stages of grief are well-known, consisting of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While the specific order will change from one person to another, the end result is the same for everyone; acceptance. Most people manage to reach that stage eventually, given enough time and new experiences.
Sometimes though, even if we accept the outcome, the negativity lingers and clouds over us, impacting many aspects of our lives, including relationships (both romantic and platonic), health and outlook on life.
This anime season I’ve been watching Steins;Gate 0. Without going into the gritty details, it’s a “pseudo-sequel” to the 2014 anime, Steins;Gate (both the original and 0 are based on visual novels). Suffice to say, there will be spoilers for the original anime and up to episode 8 of Steins;Gate 0.
S;G 0 takes place in the timeline where Rintaro manages to save his friend Mayumi from death, but cannot save his love Kurisu. It is the timeline where Rintaro will eventually send a message to his past self at the end of episode 23, detailing how he can save Kurisu from her death. As a result, we know exactly how S;G 0 will end but the journey getting there is emotionally wrecking me every week.
Zero already starts with such a bleak premise, but it doesn’t quite hit the audience until we see Rintaro in the first episode. There is no longer a joie de vivre, no determination to change fate, there is little emotion, period. He still attends university, but has stayed away from the lab and his friends. He is grieving, dressing up in all black, and as the audience we can’t help but sympathize with his plight.
Things start to pick up when he meets two of Kurisu’s colleagues from the states. Long story short: they developed an A.I. called Amadeus, it has Kurisu’s memories from before she went to Japan and can be conversed with. Rintaro is recruited to talk to Amadeus on an ongoing basis for research, but he gets warned: it is an A.I., not the real Kurisu, who has passed on.
Watching Rintaro talk to Amadeus, who has the voice and appearance of Kurisu, is heartbreaking. While he initially maintains his metaphorical distance with the A.I., he eventually starts to talk to Amadeus as if it really were Kurisu.
I’m sure most people in their grief have wondered: what if. What if you had more time with them? What if you could change the outcome? What if things were different? As someone still learning to accept my own circumstances in life, watching Rintaro engage with an A.I. that has memories based on his former love is heart breaking because I’d do the same, treat it like it’s the real thing. If I could go back and change things, I would, without a second thought.
However, things come to a turn in episode 8, where Rintaro moved to a world line where Kurisu is alive…but Mayumi is dead.
He knows he has to find a way back, but the instant he sees Kurisu, alive and well, he runs in for the hug. There are no tears and Kurisu is a bit shocked, but we know exactly how Rintaro feels. She’s ok. She’s alive. Relief. Joy. Happiness.
Over the course of the episode, he slowly comes to accept that he has to go back to his own world line. As Kurisu realizes that Rintaro is from another world line, she helps him come to terms with it, eventually taking him to Mayumi’s grave, where he starts to find his joie de vivre again. While the general atmosphere around him in previous episodes felt sad and suffocating, that moment at Mayumi’s grave when he reaches toward the sun was uplifting and joyful.
By the episode’s end, as much as he hesitates, Kurisu helps him to travel back (while giving a parting kiss). We get the sense that, although Rintaro’s still grieving, he’s slowly coming to terms with everything and learning to move on. We all have to eventually.
By the series’ end, Rintaro will send a message of hope to his past self, leading his past self to change fate and reach the good ending. Life isn’t that cut and dry. While everyone’s definition of what is “good” and “bad” varies, we each have to slowly make our way there – very few of us ever have things handed on a silver platter. I don’t know where or when the end to my current situation lies; I could give up on my hopes and aspirations and that would be the end of it, but for now I’ll keep moving on. Like Rintaro, I’m coming to terms with everything.
Steins;Gate 0 is set for two cours, meaning it’ll run until the summer anime season ends (September), lasting for 23 episodes. The end will come and the good ending will be achieved. I’m looking forward to that.
Steins;Gate 0 is currently airing on CrunchyRoll. It is currently at episode 10 as of June 13, 2018. El Psy Kongroo.