— Temporal Vortex

Steins;Gate – Fate and Predetermination in Time Traveling

Considering I’ve got my own background of time traveling from Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, Steins;Gate never failed to amaze me on how it constructs and deconstructs each and every building block it presented. But, there is this one thing that makes me feel iffy about Steins;Gate, and it’s the existence of predetermined events ie, Mayuri’s death, regardless of the means, not unless Okarin returns to the beta timeline. This is rather shitty in my opinion because it’s as if all the D-mails were tightly tied in order to invoke Mayuri’s death even though the original cause used to be a gunshot. Also, the dialogue of Okarin to Moeka regarding her fate to die on 8/15 was a blatant statement about predetermination. I’m not quite convinced as to why this is the case even if the show makes references to the Butterfly effect. Isn’t it quite surprising that a mere text could change and cause divergence in the timeline and yet actual change in the decision of the character outside the influence of D-mail won’t change his/her fate?

What now? D-mails have surpassed entropy? No matter how I look at it D-mails are like spam text messages. Since it’s quite obvious that the D-mails were the conditions that triggered Mayuri’s death, I don’t know why the series set it as if it’s the absolute initial conditions, that Mayuri’s death is irreversible not unless it’s those conditions that are changed. Supposedly, there are no absolute initial conditions if we are talking about predetermination so I wonder why they came up with the solution through cancellation of the D-mails instead.

Cancelling the D-mails is also a complicated thing on its own. Just for an easier analogy:

Open MS Paint. Have a blank picture, save it. This is timeline A. Now, draw a spot on it. That’s timeline B. Now erase that spot. While it looks exactly like the first one (timeline A), it’s still timeline C. As proof, exit MS Paint. It will ask if you want to save the changes (even though it looks exactly the same). (from Chrono Compendium)

As easy as it may sound, the timeline where D-mails have been cancelled is still different from the timeline before the mails were sent. Recall that D-mail has its own flaw when it was tried by Daru and more recently by Okarin in an attempt to cancel Moeka’s D-mail. The actual thing which triggered all of the events up until now is the act of believing in what was written in the mail as well the significance of the information relative to the situation it will be applied to. That means, to cancel the mail, the second D-mail must hold greater significance than the earlier.

I may have interpreted things differently (please do object if it’s wrong) but I see D-mails as a “horizontal” travel in the timelines while Kurisu’s can do “vertical” travel. I think it’s quite understandable to assume that predetermination might exist if one chooses to undergo vertical travel since one might simply choose to observe, like what Okarin is doing lately. The thing is, Okarin never simply observed during the first few travels. I still remember that scene where Okarin and Mayuri almost escaped only for Nae to push Mayuri to the rail track. I don’t know what’s the deal about this.

Yes, there’s the Butterfly effect that triggers the death flag for Mayuri but why won’t changes right on that timeline cause any divergence? It’s as if all of the possible scenarios were already written down only to end with Mayuri dying. Just to clarify, I’d like to believe that Okarin is carrying out his free will in trying to save Mayuri many times(which is obvious, see: Bad end with Feyris).  It’s just that the predetermination of Mayuri’s death through various means despite avoiding the Rounders undermines Okarin’s exercise of free will. Did he really had a choice? Or was his decision to save Mayuri already written down in the future history book?

Although the series suggests that the equilibrium of the timeline can only be achieved through Mayuri’s death, and that it can only be thwarted by cancelling the D-mails, I’m not buying it. I think Mayuri’s death could have been easily thwarted simply by knowing all available information and possible escape routes before the Rounders approach the lab. This is why I find it unbelievable that despite escaping the Rounders, she still dies. I’d say that cancelling the D-mails should only have been to related to SERN’s discovery of their time machine, and not Mayuri’s death. It could have been believable up until now if cancelling the D-mails was primarily to shut up SERN but since it is also related to Mayuri’s death, it appears to me that it was forced so it’ll have that despair feeling needed to dramatize Okarin’s situation as well as the dilemma of who to sacrifice between Mayuri and Kurisu.

But then again,

Everything is purely a problem of possibilities, and the world is only stabilized by the viewpoint of the one who observes it.

— which is undoubtedly Okarin… But of course, I’m still quite skeptic up until now about the Reading Steiner since it’s the reason why only Okarin is immune to timeline changes and yet the means as to how he acquired it didn’t have any back story as of yet.


image credits: pixiv users nineo, ぎうにう, huke

  1. Kyokai says: August 19, 20114:40 am

    I think the underlying theory here is the rule that whatever you do, what's determined to happen, will happen. It will only change if the world lines are correctly changed from B to A, meaning whatever paradoxes you would go after, if Mayuri is supposed to die, she will and by any combination of circumstances.

    Sadly, the recent episode reminded us that Okarin might have to choose between Christina/Mayuri because one's death is leading to another survival and vice versa. I can only hope, Okarin figures out the events that make his reading steiner go over the 1 possibility so that it's all a good end. We can hope, in the least.

  2. Anonomyous says: August 19, 20115:59 am

    The game explains it better. The anime script somehow got truncated. In the anime ep 17, Makise referenced something called the "Attractor Field" but was never explained previously (not even by Suzuha) but was explained by Suzuha in the game. I'm cutting and pasting the explaination from somewhere else

    "Attractor Field

    An attractor field (アトラクタフィールド) is a concept describing why certain events in a world line cannot be changed. For example, if someone's death has been pre-determined, then it will happen regardless of what others try to do, even with time travel. These fields essentially warp the world line such that despite all the divergences, the final outcome will still result in the event happening. It can also prevent events from occurring as well; so if someone was pre-determined to die at a future date, they would not be allowed to die before then no matter what. These fields have an effective range of hundreds of years, and are usually triggered or affected by large events. In Steins;Gate, Titor claims that the Alpha World Line's attractor field was heavily affected by events in 1975, 2000, and 2010.

    However, the fields are only known to warp the world line such that the event happens; not what results from the event. From this, it is theoretically possible to change the result of an event without actually changing the event. This could include things like someone taking a bullet and appear to be seemingly dead; one result from this event is that the person is actually dead. Another possible result is that the person took the bullet to a bulletproof vest, and was knocked out cold from the shock.

    Changes at this level, however, will change the divergence in the world line, along with a high possibility of passing into another world line. This is particularly true if the changes involved resulted in people being alive as opposed to being dead.

    The fields also appear to be somehow linked to what people observe; depending on the level of observation, it may not be possible to change specific properties of a pre-determined event. However, this is more likely to apply only to a person attempting to change the world line based on what he or she observed.

    Based on the events in Steins;Gate, world lines appear to only have one attractor field associated with them, despite having multiple divergences. As a result, attractor fields are a likely candidate for uniquely identifying specific world lines"

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