BEWARE: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD
Steins;Gate 0 is off to a fantastic start with its second episode, focusing primarily on Okabe as he continues dealing with the loss of Kurisu. The added characters of the neuroscientist Maho Hiyajo and her professor, Alexis Leskinen provide balance to the show by depicting loss from a different angle.
Picking up where the events of Episode 1 left off, Maho proceeds to announce the creation of an artificial intelligence created based on the memories of another person. When a random audience member claims that memory storage is impossible, Okabe lashes out, shouting that such discourse is the anathema to scientific progress. The professor praises Okabe’s conviction, but chides him for his lack of control.
Okabe’s outburst feels like one of the few remaining remnants of the pre-tragedy Okabe, mirroring his outburst in the first episode of Steins;Gate where he argues that time travel is possible. It is refreshing to see that Kurisu’s death merely muted Okabe’s exuberant personality instead of destroying it.
Later at the after-party, Okabe discusses the artificial intelligence with Maho. When Okabe begins regurgitating theories taught to him by Kurisu, Maho immediately becomes suspicious. Okabe admits to having known Kurisu and the two spend some time reminiscing before Maho breaks down in tears.
The discussion between Maho and Okabe is one of the stronger moments of the episode. While none of Okabe’s friends can remember Kurisu, Maho had been her friend and lab partner in America before Kurisu’s death. When Maho breaks down crying at the memories of Kurisu, she provides a mirror to Okabe’s grief. Yet as with Episode 1, Okabe is actively hiding his grief from those around him, keeping a stoic expression and even offering Maho a tissue. So far one of the biggest strengths of Steins;Gate 0 has been watching Okabe attempting to create a calm facade while inwardly dealing with feelings of heartbreak and remorse.
But Steins;Gate 0 isn’t satisfied taking its feels in the form of reminiscence. Shortly after Maho’s breakdown, the professor learns of Okabe’s friendship with Kurisu and invites him to help them train the artificial intelligence that is based on Kurisu’s memories. This is the moment where Steins;Gate 0 offers us the first look at what is to come: Okabe reconnecting with the memory of the dead Kurisu.
While Okabe’s interactions with the Kurisu AI are brief, Steins;Gate 0 still gives both Okabe and Kurisu AI time for a range of interactions. While their discussions begin polite, Okabe finds himself accidentally calling her Christina when he’s worked up, the name that he used to torment her when they worked together before. But the happy moments of lighthearted banter are broken up by moments of realization that the AI is both the Kurisu Okabe remembers and not. For instance, the real Kurisu believed time travel to be impossible while the AI Kurisu believed that she lacked information. Yet the AI Kurisu still maintains the spunk and haughtiness that Okabe remembers from the original.
Okabe spends a lot of his time reacting to Kurisu’s existence with each reaction being wonderfully detailed. From his shakiness before he talks to her to his shock at seeing her again to the surprise at her slightly different personality, each of Okabe’s reactions complete and give us the sense that he is struggling to make sense of recent events.
Episode 2 of Steins;Gate 0 has started us on the long train of feels that we have come to expect from Steins;Gate. The addition of AI Kurisu as a memory of everything Okabe lost is a great way of continuing to push his character. Their interactions feel natural, yet create a bittersweet sensation of both comfort and loss which cannot exist simultaneously. I am excited to see where the show progresses from here.
- Excellent Voice Acting for Maho and Okabe
- Interactions Between Okabe and AI Kurisu Are Both Heartwarming and Heartbreaking
- Okabe Continues His Reserved Attitude While Displaying Glimpses of the Exuberant Boy He Used to Be
- English Voice Acting on the Professor Still Feels Forced
- Episodes are Paced Oddly with the Episode Ending Anticlimactically