Not every episode can introduce new mysteries, conflicts, and heartbreaks. Sometimes a slower episode is necessary in a show like Steins;Gate 0 to set up the more powerful moments. While Episode 5 did not feature a large amount of trauma or intrigue, the episode helped push along a few of the story lines and offered some strong character scenes.
The episode picks up right where Episode 4 ended with Moeka entering the lab under Daru’s invitation. The backstory – which does not seem to bother Okabe as much as it should – is that Moeka found out about Daru and his work on a time machine. So Daru decided to hire her to track down Suzuha’s missing girl because he knows she’s good at finding people.
Okabe’s reaction to Moeka and her reason for being in the lab feels off. He continually reasons that Moeka has no reason to kill Mayushi, but does not consider the problem that Moeka still works as a Rounder and tracked down Daru because he is working on a time machine. This is still problematic. And there is absolutely no reason for him to keep this information from either Suzuha or Daru.
Meanwhile, Okabe has been avoiding AI Kurisu because of his conversation with Maho at the end of Episode 3. His avoidance of AI Kurisu is equally confusing, given that he spoke to Kurisu last episode and even apologized for hanging up on her. The only reason for the lack of communication is to push Maho into visiting him to find out what happened.
While the backdrop of Maho’s visit was slightly odd, the visit itself was the highlight of the episode. The professor giving Maho grief was delightful, with Maho desperately attempting to explain the justification for her trip to her laughing boss. This was definitely one of the funnier moments of people talking about Maho’s interest in Okabe.
Yet when Maho arrives in Akihabara, she finds herself alone and worried. The show slowly builds up the tension by amplifying the sounds of footfalls behind Maho and showing various constrained perspectives of people behind or near Maho. You really feel that sense of Maho’s isolation and the fear of wandering streets you don’t know. Though her friendly other professor eventually does pop out of nowhere, the prior tension is never relieved as the neither Maho nor the audience know for sure whether someone else was following her.
And then there is Maho’s scene with Okabe where she confronts him about dodging AI Kurisu’s calls. She recognizes that Okabe must have had a serious connection with Kurisu to be so affected by the AI and offers to remove him from the project. But Okabe declines, emphasizing that while the AI is not actually Kurisu, it is still built on her memories and still possibly worth cherishing.
What makes the Maho/Okabe scene unique is that while Okabe starts the thought, he seems to have not thought it through yet and instead asks for more time to think about it. This reluctance to state a final opinion or perspective helps to humanize Okabe. He does not have all the answers, but he feels like there is something real. One thing Steins;Gate 0 seems to consistently accomplish is to make Okabe seem like a real human instead of just an anime character.
The episode ends with the reveal of the amnesiac Kagari – the girl for whom Suzuha had been searching. It is fairly clear from the second she appears on screen that she is the correct girl and it is to Stein;Gate 0’s credit that they don’t spend a lot of time in conjecture before putting her in front of Mayushi and Suzuha which causes her to pass out. With that mystery solved, the show is free to progress to the next plot point.
While this episode was fairly slow, the development of Maho through her embarrassed interactions with the professor, frightened walk down the streets of Akihabara, and heartfelt moment with Okabe were worth the lack of excitement.
Steins;Gate 0 (Episode 5)
- Professor making Maho embarrassed about her trip to Akihabara
- Tension of a lone Maho wandering the streets of Akihabara feels authentic
- Okabe consistently feels like a real person attempting to think through his feelings
- Choice to hide information about Moeka seems odd
- Okabe suddenly dodging Kurisu's calls doesn't jive with previous episode's developments
- Kagari reveal was slightly obvious