Steins;Gate 0
Episode 22

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 22 of
Steins;Gate 0 ?

On the surface, “Rinascimento of Projection -Project Amadeus-“ really ought to work better than it does. The animation and direction are competent, the performers are all clearly putting in their best efforts, and the episode even devotes its entire second half to giving Okabe and Amadeus' relationship a proper sendoff. Unfortunately, the end product left me feeling mostly unmoved and uninterested, and that's the last place a viewer ought to be just a week before a series finale. Since the surface-level aspects aren't to blame, we'll have to examine the larger failings of Steins;Gate 0 as a whole in order to explain why this episode fails to come together into the intended cathartic experience.

As has so often been the case with S;G 0, the core problem is one of poor structuring and weak character development, which are fatal flaws to find in a story that was meant to complement a propulsive, character-driven science-fiction thriller. For starters, the episode is hobbled from its opening minutes because of the last episode's insistence on closing out Hououin Kyouma's triumphant return with yet another exploding time-machine. We couldn't just have Okabe just pop back up as Kyouma, since he needs to reckon with the fact that his mission to save Mayuri and Suzuha was once again a failure. At the same time, half the point of S;G0's whole narrative was to get Dark Okabe back to his old mad scientist self, so the show can't completely walk back Okabe's development either. So instead S;G0 just indulges in another angst-fest for Okabe, but only for a minute or two, and then Hououin Kyouma returns once again. This doesn't play nearly as well as before, since we already watched the trio of Okabe, Daru, and Maho go through this routine just a week ago. In the end, this whole detour ends up feeling pointless and deflating. It would have been easy to just save Hououin Kyouma's return for after this final time-machine-explosion, so we could get the emotional impact of the beat without having to play this meandering game of narrative hopscotch for no reason.

What follows is essentially a prolonged brainstorming session, with our trio desperately trying to figure out how they can prevent this particular convergence from happening. Eventually, the group figures out that the nexus of the convergence was born from Russia hacking into Amadeus to get their hands on Amadeus' copies of Makise's memories, so they can monopolize the information needed to control the development of time travel technology. Except Okabe can't time leap back in time far enough to intervene himself, and it wouldn't even do any good to send Daru a D-mail, since even our portly hacker can't stand up to the cyber-warfare capabilities of a global superpower. Amadeus is the one to suggest the only available solution: send the mail to Maho and have her destroy Amadeus' data archives completely, erasing the AI from existence.

This is where the episode dives into its second half, an extended conversation between Okabe and Amadeus as the former prepares to say goodbye to the latter. It's a sweetly directed montage and both Asami Imai and Mamoru Miyano give their all to sell the tragedy of the moment. It just doesn't land, for multiple reasons. The chief problem is that Amadeus' role as both a fully sentient artificial intelligence and a perfect clone of a dead woman's brain has never been fully developed. One would imagine that being an AI would lead this version of Makise to become a very different entity than her flesh-and-blood counterpart, but she's only ever served the purpose of being “Makise Kurisu, Except She Lives In a Phone and Does Computer Stuff”.

What this means, for me at least, is that no matter how hard S;G0 tries, this whole sequence can't help but feel like a pale imitation of the first time Okabe had to let the real Makise go. Amadeus undercuts it further by reminding both Okabe and the audience that destroying her will lead Okabe one step closer to discovering Steins;Gate and getting both Mayuri and the real Makise back. Anyone who's seen the original series knows that this is an absolute certainty, making the killing of Amadeus feel less like saying goodbye to a beloved unique character and more like swapping out a temporary replacement for the real thing.

That might come across as callous, and I do appreciate that S;G 0 has been making an effort to sell Okabe's respect for Amadeus as an entity separate from Makise. The script simply can't support the weight of its own ambitions, which results in a penultimate episode that spends a lot of time and effort putting an overindulgent bow on a storyline that was never all that compelling to begin with. Next week will bring us to Steins;Gate 0's finale (the upcoming OVA notwithstanding), and I can't help but feel relieved that this mostly disappointing detour of a spinoff is finally going to be over.

Rating: C

Steins;Gate 0 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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