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