Steins;Gate 0 #8 – The timeline Okabe has been trapped in until now, with Kurisu dead and a devastating war in the near future, has been called the “darkest timeline”. But, it’s always possible for things to be worse. Like, what if he was still wretched and broken over being unable to save a friend, only that friend was Mayuri, who all his other friends knew and loved? When Daru of all people is angry enough to resort to physical intimidation, things have really gotten bad.
The change that restores Mayuri is seamlessly integrated with the original Steins;Gate. That scene where Kurisu arrives just a little too late to confess her feelings is exactly as it happened in the first story. The added twist of a text delaying her at the door is new. Being able to throw in that kind of connection between two very complicated plots is a moment of amazing authorial deftness.
As in the original, that message that past Okabe sent restores a timeline where Kurisu’s death is not accidentally prevented, SERN does not notice the oddity, and Mayuri is not killed. (And it’s the last one sees of a timeline where Okabe and Kurisu have gotten to know each other. Some fans have been waiting seven years for that kiss!) But it doesn’t answer the question of what knocked time back into that stream to begin with. Kurisu speculates that Amadeus may have been able to complete her theory of time travel. Which gives Leskinen, Reyes, and others in the US access to it, and we’ve already seen hints that Russia has something similar. World War III is definitely on now.
Megalobox #9 – The big fight against Mikio Shirato is finally on, and things revert gracefully to a classic sports story about men proving themselves through the mere act of competition. The glaring hole in Mikio’s AI has been patched, so it’s just one big slugfest until Joe can work a psychological trick or two on it.
And it’s the AI that finally, mysteriously holds Mikio back, thus proving that man will always outdo machine, the human spirit must triumph, etc. When you run out of classic sports angles, there are always classic science fiction tropes to fall back on.
But Mikio has proven something or other to himself and his sister, and that allows him to leave the ring with his dignity and console himself with his fancy car. One more opponent, then, and Joe will finally have his rematch with Yūri. But he might have to do it with Nambu, unless the gambler can pull out some brilliant new strategy to hold the mob off a little longer…
Hakyu Hoshin Engi #19 – And look who else is trying out having a computer read and predict their opponent’s moves! Only the manga this was based on ran from 1996 to 2000, so Hoshin Engi was into machine learning before it was cool. It winds up being just as effective as in Megalobox, though, doesn’t it?
Bunchū’s plan to stop the Sennin meddling with the mundane world now reveals itself to be slightly different than Taikōbō’s. Rather than removing them to a different dimension, he’s going to make extra sure and just kill everyone. And when he starts, the problem of the compressed narrative rears its head again in that we’ve never really gotten to know the first couple of people killed.
It also shows up in another disconnected story fragment popping up after the end credits. A look across the vast ages to come should be good for a little sunsawunda, but when is this conversation happening? Who is that new guy? Did Taikōbō already do this or is this a piece of the denoument showing up early?
Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS! #9 – It’s time for a school-wide cultural festival, an anime tradition where groups of people are forced to set aside their differences to cooperate for a few days in frantically throwing together a fair booth to entertain their fellow students. Always good for some drama, except when it’s Kyōtarō you’re dealing with.
In his case, it leads to a deep examination of the phenomenon of party games and how they’re actually no fun to play, but fun to watch as long as you’re the sort of person who enjoys the discomfort of your alleged friends. Also they turn out to be good for distracting Monsters of the Week, as this time the student council’s latest champion of misery gives up before even attacking.
Moral of the story… uh… embrace being a horrible person, I guess? Don’t let the Cards Against Humanity people know about these dice, okay?
Persona 5 #9 – Ren and Ryūji and another friend convince themselves an ad for a maid service is actually for an escort service in disguise, and concoct a plan to try it out at an address that can’t be traced to any of them, because what’s the worst that could happen? It could turn out to actually be an escort service and the “maid” could turn out to be their homeroom teacher, that’s what.
At least that part provides some coherent narrative. A lot of this episode feels like a random grab bag of “the fans really liked that bit so we need to cram it into the show somewhere.” That business with the green blob offering the team its power recalls Pixie doing the same in Kamoshida’s Palace, so I guess that’s some kind of level-up mechanic in the game? It would be nice if the show could spare a minute to at least try explaining what it means within Persona‘s world.
Other check-ins: Ren is still allowing himself to be experimented on; the interrogator announces she may soon have an appearance in the time most of the story is taking place in; Kogoro Akechi is still wandering around out there somewhere, waiting for whenever he finally gets to introduce himself to The Phantoms. Not spotted: whoever their next target is going to be, unless Ms. Chōno is hiding something.