It’s been about a month, but as promised, here’s part 2 of my series on making sense of Steins;Gate. For those of you who haven’t read it, part 1 is here (they’re independent though and there’s no order you have to read them in).
[This post contains heavy spoilers for the Steins;Gate franchise, and I STRONGLY recommend against reading the following if you haven’t finished either the anime or visual novel. It’s an amazing and thought-provoking story and I would hate for anyone to be spoiled.]
Part II: True Ending Explained
As with many visual novels, there are multiple endings to the story of Steins;Gate, with one of them being the “True Ending.” True endings are usually accepted as canon by the writers as well as the audience, and often are what lead to potential sequels (although this is not the case for Steins;Gate 0). I covered many of the timelines that include the alternate endings in my first post, so you can read more about those there. For those of you who only watched the anime, you were only presented with the True Ending, so you don’t have to worry about the next section.
How to Get the True Ending in the VN
The True Ending (“Open the Steins Gate”) in the Steins;Gate visual novel is essentially an extension of the Kurisu Ending (“Paradox Meltdown”), and it’s actually quite difficult and unintuitive to reach. There are six True Ending “flags” that are collected (unknowingly to you) throughout the story by responding to Kurisu in certain ways.
- If you collect 0, you’ll get the Mayuri Ending (“Stardust Sky”)
- If you collect 1-5, you’ll get the Kurisu Ending
- If you collect all 6, you’ll get the True Ending
Here is a list of all the responses to Kurisu you have to select to collect each True Ending flag:
- TEF 1: Chapter 4
- “Did you write it?” -> select “scientist”
- “Scientist??” -> select “bad scientist”
- “Bad Scientist” -> select “do better”
- “Home Alone” -> select “outsider”
- “Ehhh?” -> select “disgrace”
- “Staring at my hand” -> select “why am I still here?”
- TEF 2: Chapter 5
- “Plans” -> select “traveling expenses”
- “Idiot!” -> No reply necessary
- TEF 3: Chapter 7
- “The key [Emoticon]” -> select “I don’t have a key”
- “[Emoticon]” -> select “security”
- “You’re delusional, I know” -> select “reality”
- TEF 4: Chapter 8
- “Explain yourself!” -> No reply necessary
- TEF 5: Chapter 9
- “Contact me, idiot!” -> select “worried”
- TEF 6: Chapter 10
- “Where are you now?” -> select “where you are”
I highly recommend that you follow a guide if you’re trying to get the True Ending, since like I said, it’s not exactly intuitive and one misstep can prevent you from getting there (especially with the first flag). I used a combination of this 100% walkthrough chart and this spoiler-free guide in my first playthrough.
Now, on to the actual plot explanation….
The beginning scene/chapter in Steins;Gate is extremely important to understanding the True Ending, as future Okabe travels back in Suzuha’s time machine to this time. In fact, the last episode of the anime is even called “The Prologue Begins With the End”. I will summarize what happened here, paying special attention to events that are relevant to the True Ending.
On 7/28/2010, Okabe and Mayuri attend a conference at Radio Hall by Dr. Nakabachi about time machines. Before the conference starts, Okabe feels shaking in the building that seems to have originated from the roof. He goes to the roof and sees a strange machine but there’s an officer person there who waves him off to alleviate his concerns. Okabe then finds Mayuri at the vending machines, where he spots her money to buy her a metal Upa. Mayuri claims that this is extremely rare and writes her name on it.
The conference begins, and while Okabe attends, Mayuri loses her metal Upa and spends time looking for it. During the conference, Okabe makes a fool of himself and objects to Dr. Nakabachi before being pulled away by Kurisu, whom he is meeting for the first time. However, Kurisu does not want to talk about the conference, but instead asks Okabe what he wanted to tell her earlier when they bumped into each other. Okabe finds this strange since he’s never met her and leaves. As he’s leaving, he receives a message on his phone from an unknown email, and attached is a video of just white noise.
Okabe then meets up with Mayuri, who is lamenting the loss of her new toy that she can’t find. Then, they hear a man’s blood-curdling scream and Okabe follows the sound to a room that has its door ajar. He then sees Kurisu dead on the floor in a pool of blood. After some time passes, he texts his friend Daru about the incident and inadvertently sends the first ever D-Mail.
The First Trip Back
As I mentioned in the intro, the True Ending begins at the end of Kurisu’s ending in the visual novel and at the end of episode 22 of the anime on 8/21/2010. During the end credits, Daru gets a call from a woman who wants to speak to Okabe. Okabe finds out that this is Suzuha from the Beta attractor field (not the same Suzuha he spent time with earlier in the story) and that the future is still in danger of World War III unless he goes back in time to save Kurisu from being murdered. After some wavering, Okabe accepts Suzuha’s offer and goes back to 7/28/2010.
Now we see the same 7/28/2010 as future Okabe in juxtaposition with the beginning scene. Okabe and Suzuha land on the roof in her time machine, and now we know that this was the “shaking” that past Okabe felt. As future Okabe descends into Radio Hall to try to save Kurisu, past Okabe comes to the roof and now we know that it was Suzuha who acts like an officer to wave him off. Future Okabe then accidentally runs into Kurisu and is at a loss for words since the woman he loves who is gone from his world is now standing in front of him, and he stops himself from telling her anything by muttering. This explains why Kurisu asked past Okabe what he wanted to tell her “earlier”, since she had actually bumped into future Okabe. Her surprise also makes her drop her envelope on the ground.
During the conference, future Okabe goes to the closet where he saw Kurisu die in the past to wait to prevent the murder. When Kurisu arrives, he sees that her envelope is actually her research paper on time machines. Then, Dr. Nakabachi appears and is revealed to be Kurisu’s father. He proceeds to steal Kurisu’s paper and when Kurisu protests, Dr. Nakabachi assaults her verbally and physically. At this point, future Okabe decides that Dr. Nakabachi is Kurisu’s murderer and jumps out to fight him. Future Okabe disarms Dr. Nakabachi’s knife and when Kurisu’s father continues to threaten her with a screwdriver, future Okabe dashes forward to stab Dr. Nakabachi. However, Kurisu pushes her father aside and takes the knife in his place, revealing future Okabe to be her true killer. Dr. Nakabachi flees the bloody scene with Kurisu’s paper and future Okabe screams as Kurisu dies in his arms. This was the same scream that past Okabe heard in the beginning scene.
Video from the Future
Okabe and Suzuha return to 8/21/2010 and Okabe receives a text from an unknown email asking him to turn on the news. The news story shows that Dr. Nakabachi has arrived in Russia to seek asylum, and with him was Kurisu’s paper on time travel. There was a fire in his plane’s luggage compartment but because his envelope set off the metal detector, he was asked to carry it with him in person, preventing its destruction. It turns out that it was due to a metal Upa with Mayuri’s name on it that somehow ended up in the envelope that it did not pass through the metal detector. Suzuha then explains how it was this paper that ignited a worldwide race to build a time machine, and it was this race that triggered World War III in her world. Despite Okabe’s initial protests, Mayuri eventually convinces Okabe to go back again to try to save Kurisu.
At this point, Suzuha asks Okabe to view a video on his phone from a message on 7/28/2010. This is the same video that Okabe saw in the beginning scene, except at that point, it was just white noise. The video now shows Okabe in 2025, and he explains how the present Okabe had to experience Kurisu’s death in order to link himself to the 2025 Okabe. The video gives instructions on how to save the world to enter the Steins Gate world line: destroy the time travel paper and deceive his past self about Kurisu’s death while keeping her alive.
Before we move on to Okabe and Suzuha’s second trip to the past, let’s talk about one of the most confusing parts of the True Ending. Why did the video change from white noise? 2025 Okabe gives an explanation but it’s not the most detailed, so after reading on various theories, here’s my conclusion of the most likely answer.
In the beginning scene, Okabe had no knowledge of himself accidentally killing Kurisu, so there’s no reason that his 2025 self on that world line would send a video D-Mail to 2010 Okabe with instructions on how to save Kurisu. Once Okabe experiences killing Kurisu, the world line shifts to one where that particular 2025 Okabe exists to send him that video D-Mail. But then, why did the past Okabe receive any D-Mail at all in the beginning scene? Instead of white noise, shouldn’t he have just received nothing since he wasn’t on that world line?
The answer, I believe, lies the difference between these two world lines, or rather, the lack thereof. On 7/28/2010, Okabe (not future Okabe who visits) in the beginning scene and his surroundings are identical in both the world line where he eventually comes back and kills Kurisu (let’s call this world line A) and the world line where he does not (and Kurisu is probably killed by time convergence in some other way/by Dr. Nakabachi; let’s call this world line B). The shaking, the object on the roof, the scream, and everything else could have been explained in another way that keeps the two world lines consistent. So in that sense, the two world lines are identical to Okabe until 8/21/2010, when Okabe decides whether or not he’s going to go back to save/kill Kurisu. If he decides to go back, the world line then shifts to world line A. Therefore, when world line A 2025 Okabe sends the video D-Mail to 7/28/2010, he sent it far back enough that it was before the world line diverged, explaining why the video exists even though that Okabe has not yet killed Kurisu. In other words, time did not know which branch would be chosen until 8/21/2010, so before then, the video is unclear until Okabe chooses world line A by killing Kurisu.
The Second Trip Back
Okabe’s second trip back is nearly a complete success. It starts out identical to his first trip, except the first thing he does is to buy the metal Upa from the vending machine so that Mayuri does not get it and subsequently lose it. He confirms this by seeing that Mayuri gets a plastic green Upa instead. He then intentionally bumps into Kurisu again to keep the timeline consistent, except this time he says that he is there to save her life (this presumably has no effect on the time line since Kurisu is equally confused by this as by his muttering earlier). Like before, Kurisu drops her envelope at first, but he then sees her pick up Mayuri’s lost Upa and put it in her envelope; this explains how the Upa was put together with her research paper that Dr. Nakabachi eventually steals.
Future Okabe again goes to the closet to prepare to save Kurisu. After realizing his “lightsaber” has only dried up blood, Okabe comes up with an alternate plan where he allows Dr. Nakabachi to stab him in the ensuing fight. He then scares off Kurisu’s father with the bloody knife and Dr. Nakabachi runs off with the envelope, this time with a regular Upa inside. Before Kurisu can call an ambulance, Okabe knocks her out with a taser and pulls out enough blood from his stomach in order to make Kurisu’s “death scene” believable. As he does this, he screams out in pain, completing the world line’s consistency as the past Okabe hears this blood-curdling scream.
The Steins;Gate Timeline
With that, Okabe and Suzuha travel back to the present and into the Steins Gate world line. At the end of the story, Dr. Nakabachi is found in Russia, this time without his time travel paper as it burned up in the luggage. He is labeled a lunatic and no time machine arms race begins in the world. Kurisu is also found alive and spends some extra time in Japan in order to find the person who saved her life, Okabe Rintarou. They eventually meet and Okabe realizes that he has opened the Steins Gate, where neither Mayuri and Kurisu die, and where Okabe’s adventures in the Alpha attractor field never happened except in Okabe’s Reading Steiner memories.
Extra: A Well-Crafted Story
As I was researching this post, I discovered just how incredible the writing and logic is in this story. There’s an important note about the world line’s consistency between the beginning scene and the True Ending. The story briefly mentioned how important it was that Okabe not disturb the past with his actions as it would create a paradox. To add more detail, if Okabe took any action that prevented the past Okabe from sending that first D-Mail (like talking to himself or preventing him from seeing Kurisu’s death), then he would have never experienced any of his times in the Alpha attractor field. Without any of those experiences, he would not have been in a place to save Kurisu after coming back to the Beta attractor field, which would prevent him from disturbing the past by time traveling. It’s a circular paradox. Time itself might have prevented it, even if it meant killing future Okabe.
However, we can see that the convergence on the events that happened on 7/28/2010 is actually pretty general. Kurisu doesn’t have to die; Okabe just has to see her “dead”. Dr. Nakabachi doesn’t have to start World War III; he just has to run off with Kurisu’s research at that moment, regardless of what happens to it. To add to that, here’s a post by u/imariaprime on Reddit that says it better than I ever can:
The trick with faking Kurisu’s death is that Okabe basically puts cause and effect into a loop. The Beta [attractor field] expects this cause and effect chain:
Kurisu dies -> Father takes the papers -> He invents time machines -> World War 3.
Future Okabe cheats, and changes it to this:
Kurisu “dies” -> Okabe sends the first D-mail -> whole Alpha timeline experiences happen -> Okabe learns about time travel -> Okabe returns to the Beta timeline -> Okabe fails to save Kurisu -> Okabe gets old, figures out how to actually save her -> Okabe goes back to fake Kurisu’s death -> Kurisu “dies”
Instead of Kurisu’s death being the instigator, her fake death becomes both the cause AND effect. The attractor fields are looped on themselves, and the Steins;Gate timeline gets to exist where none of them apply. He literally breaks “fate”.
Steins;Gate is a masterpiece.