One of the more fascinating aspects of Steins;Gate is the distinctiveness and creativity of the time-machine. Most conventional time-machines utilize vehicles which transport passengers to numerous points of time where they perform actions to change the future. Steins;Gate involves no physical logistics but rather messages which travel back in time and elicit a response that abruptly changes the future. And due to the uniqueness of the time-machine, there are some rather unique problems that can occur.
Since the time-machine in Steins;Gate can only send text messages back through time, you can imagine there would be some issues that arise when trying to change the present in the way you want it. For one, text messaging is a form of communication, meaning that there needs to be an initial idea, have it be sent from one to another, and then the resulting response. The first two steps are not problems but what about the third one?
What if the response is different than what was desired by the sender? Suppose the person never reads that message and therefore, never changes. Then that text that was sent to change the past will have no effect, no matter how clear, tempting, or essential. Another would be if the message was taken the opposite way. Imagine getting an unlisted text from some strange unknown number that said to buy something over another, like Moeka’s phone? What if the Moeka in the past brushed off that strange text and went ahead and bought the phone she regretted in the future? Or what if she bought both phone (she does love cell phones after all)? Because the time-machine works only through messages, there is the possibility the response may have different effects than initially perceived. Perhaps that can explain some of the Butterfly Effects discussed in this episode and seen throughout the various time-skips.
Another issue with the nature of the time-machine is the lack of memories retention ailing all the non-awesome characters of the series. Without Okabe, nothing would progress. Only Okabe can remember what happened when the various characters send their messages to the past, meaning the people who want these changes will never realize them. Perhaps if they were offered a chance to D-mail again, they’d reverse their original D-mail and return to life as normal. Such as if Ruka was tired of being harassed by all the men who follow her, she might want to be born a man instead and spend those days as a trap rather than an attractive bishoujo. One advantage to having Okabe retain his memories is that he learns valuable and possibly critical information regarding each character. He is the only one who can put things together, too, and it appears he’s beginning to connect the dots. However, until everyone can retain their memories, it appears all the D-mails and time-skips will be due to disconnected goals and misunderstood consequences.
One further problem with a time-machine relying on text-based messages is the fact that you cannot change messages once they are sent. If a person were physically sent to the past like in traditional time-machines, they could modify their actions to match the response they want for the future. With these texts, once they are sent, then the result will immediately happen without any possibility of change to create the desired or even acceptable future. In the case of Faris’s text, the entire cityscape had completely altered, do to one message. Had Okabe been warped through time, he could have achieved Faris’s goal by communicating the message and then doing his best to keep the rest of the future normal or minimize the effects of Faris’s message. However, once the text is sent, it’s a done-deal with no chance to modify the response. This means there is little room for error when sending a message because once it is sent, there’s no going back.
Did anyone else find it strange when Faris send her text message? They were able to send the message from Faris’s home, which is far away from the time-machine that was prepared by Kurisu. But doesn’t that mean that any text within that radius and always from that radius would also be sent through time? It’s kinda a populated area and I’m sure there are lots of texts going around, so why aren’t they going back in time and creating strange new worlds? Maybe I’m missing something but shouldn’t all texts be sent through time within that radius, at least the ones between when the electricity starts until Okabe feels the effects of time-travel? And even then, if the electricity is still active after that time-skip, then almost any text send during that time would also create parallel universes. I’m sure we’ll learn more as the series continues, but it is something I noticed during the episode.
I can’t help but notice that when Faris is on her cell phone that she holds the receive end up to her real ear instead of her cat ears. That’s not something I’d expect her overly cat-like character to do, especially seeing as she enjoying ‘nyan’-ing and curling her hands into cat paws. Sure, it’d he harder to listen, but it’d be cuter if she tried to listen in with her cat ears rather than her real ears on the cell phone. But then again, people might be easily confused by that, that’d probably be pretty annoying to anyone who doesn’t care for these sorts of things (damn them!), and it would require a lot of animation. But I’m sure Itaru would love that.
The ending to this episode was brilliant and remarkable. The way these past few episodes have ended leaves me with a lingering sense of awe and mystery. I also feel rewarded and a little more aware of what’s going on. It seems each episode ends at some climatic moment when a revelation of sorts is discovered. But this one was the best. Having the ending song (which is wonderful on its own) start at the beginning of scene and gradually build as Okabe realizes he’s a stranger, yet again, in another unfamiliar future really felt outstanding, like you could anticipate the distress and still feel satisfied when you see Okabe frantically searching for a sign, any sign, of recognition in the neighborhood he calls home. It was beyond my expectations. The modest details like these keep making Steins;Gate more entertaining, absorbing, though-provoking and, most of all, enjoyable.