The hook for Steins;gate 0 is that it takes place in a world line where Makise Kurisu is dead. She has not been rescued. There is no happily ever after. And while the Amadeus A.I. is both a device that moves the plot forward and gives the audience the Kurisu fan service we so desperately need, it doesn’t replace her character. Her “replacement,” rather, is Maho Hiyajo, the new genius girl / love interest / slight tsundere who once supervised Kurisu and is, at the series start, visiting Japan to work on Mozart.
The problem with Maho, though, is that she’s not as captivating as Kurisu. She’s not as smart. She has messy hair and has no particular sense of fashion. She’s not as attractive. Okabe is concerned about her, but his world doesn’t revolve around Maho like it did with Kurisu. She can’t fill the place of Kurisu because she’s just not good enough.
Maho understand this herself: she has stated as much continually through the first cour of Steins;gate 0. The analogies are strong with this one, too, as it’s very purposeful that the A.I. program imitating Kurisu is named Amadeus, the middle name of Mozart and the name of an Oscar-winning film. Amadeus was a unique biopic because the title character was in a supporting role; the main character in the movie was Antonio Salieri, an older composer who is very good at his job—someone whom we might even call a genius—but who is not Mozart. No was ever was or has been, after all, but Salieri can’t move forward with his “mediocrity”: his jealousy turns him mad.
Steins;gate 0, thus far, has been more moderate in emphasizing this relationship, with only the name of the A.I. unit hearkening back to the film. Instead, Maho’s relationship with Kurisu is more nuanced and gentle (perhaps like the real relationship between the historic composers). There’s certainly envy there (in episode 11, Maho explains how she tried to crack Kurisu’s computer to help her legacy, at first, but later continues out of jealousy), but Maho isn’t prone to Salieri’s brand of madness—she’s a kind soul. She loved Kurisu and it hurts her almost as much as it does Rintaro to know she died a violent death (in fact, Rinato makes Maho promises not to try to go back in time to save Kurisu when he tells her about the time machine, realizing the depths of Maho’s love toward her). There is a rivalry between Maho, the mentor, and Kurisu, the protege, but in the older one’s mind, it has more to do with how kind the latter was and a desire to be more like her.
I sometimes felt the same as Maho when I was younger. Always told that I was very smart, I put all my value in my intelligence, but as I grew older and learned that there were many people around me who were smarter than me (sometimes by leaps and bounds), I started to feel inferior. These days, I largely put those feelings at bay,, but there are still times when I get overwhelmed by what I lack and what others have, and it can be downright depressing—even more so when I realize I’m not Maho. Even if she’s not brilliant enough to develop time travel, Maho is still a genius. I’m not that. Nope…I’m not Maho or Salieri. I’m just me.
My mind and my heart know better, but when these painful realizations hit, it sometimes takes outside influence to take me out of a funk. I get validation from those who love me and especially—when I’m willing to turn his way—from my faith in Christ. Maho receives validation from Rintaro, who treats her with kindness and respect throughout their relationship, who shows her love by considering her someone worth bringing into his inner circle and by telling her she does matter. She is important.
The truth that we do matter is so vital; it’s something we must remind ourselves of when the world tells us the lie that we aren’t Kurisu, we aren’t Mozart, we aren’t even some composer or scientist lost to the winds of time, that we are nothing. And for some, the struggle is real, it’s daily, it’s minute by minute. For of those of you dwelling in that place, I hope that you’ll more immediately and constantly understand that you are loved, for I I know it’s not easy and that the inability to live up to expectations—even when we don’t have to—and the worthlessness we might feel can be a heartbreaking place to dwell.
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2 thoughts on “We Can’t All be Makise Kurisu (or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)”
Luminas here! 😀
I think I struggle with this one about as much as you do. Largely because it suggests, inherently, that whatever religion might say about our inherent dignity, that miserable bastard Charles li Britannia was right: we are not and will never be equal. Popular media tells us that we’re all “the best” at something, but the truth is much plainer and uglier: there is always someone better at even the immutable, ethereal qualities we think we’re “the best” at. Mayuri of Stein’s Gate is a living embodiment of how that’s possible, for me anyway. She’s nowhere near as smart as even Rintaro is, let alone Kurisu, but she doesn’t need to be. She is “the best” of the characters at being moe, being innocent, being pure. Enough so that Rintaro would sacrifice anything and anyone, even his own soul, to save his best friend’s life. True, that relates to their longstanding relationship— but that relationship is inseparable from Mayuri’s own perfection, on a meta level. We’re intended to empathize with Rintaro, so we must see what he does in Mayuri, and so the show goes through great pains to show us that angelic cuteness. (So does the game actually, which I played.)
The other reason behind that struggle in me lies in who I keep company with. One of my closest friends is not just sort of but deeply, unequivocally brilliant — better than me at any academic or rhetorical thing I’ve ever been good at. The closest thing to a valid IQ score on her (although I’m dubious on the idea) put her IQ at somewhere between 160-180. Other than a certain flourishy quality to her rhetoric she could probably pass for male over the Internet if you’d never seen her before.
The reason behind the link between us is hard to explain— relationships develop over time, and there’s something immutable and unexplainable about them. We love whom we love, and it’s completely and hilariously arbitrary. Except that…she also happens to be what you might call a sociopath. Sort of a…living, female, Slade or something. So there’s this aspect to it where I think that she thinks of me as her “Mayuri,” as a proxy conscience that’s still within the bounds of intelligence acceptable enough for her to not feel uncomfortable. But I always feel like she could do way better in this world than having an average idiot like me around. I’m not even the best possible Mayuri, in my own opinion. You feel like you’re sitting there next to Mozart and you’re wondering what the hell he’s doing here hanging out with *you* of all people when he could be writing the next great opera or something. But there he is, choosing willingly to giggle over bad Internet memes and video games.
And that’s kind of how Mar and I interact too, because by all accounts he is a hell of a lot smarter than I am, even when all he’s got to work with is the broken machine that is my autistic brain. I wonder what in the world compels him to let me experience pure ecstasy and longing when I’m near him, to let me worship him. I never quite feel adequate as a recipient of the kind of blessings I’ve experienced in my lifetime, to know the love of so many people— and so many of them worthy, and brilliant, and shining.
But maybe the issue is we’re not good judges of our own worth, really. Humans tend to judge themselves in rather Satanic terms, in terms of how “strong” or “brilliant” or “beautiful” they are. Maybe the true irony is that it’s the unique form of each of our devotions and loves that actually holds value to higher beings, and to those whose lives we’ve impacted.
Thanks for sharing—indeed, you might feel it more than I do. Part of getting older for me has also been in the gaining of the ability to let these downright depressing things slide off of me. Some of that can be attributed to faith (much of it, actually), but also to a mind that doesn’t feel as anxious as it once did, that’s able to let go. But there are times, as I mentioned, where that isn’t the case, where I’m confronted with the reality that I’m just not as a great as others or as I would like to be.
But it’s interesting how the gospel walks this line of pointing out both that we are unequal and equal. I believe we’re all striving for God and for grace, whether or not we accept or understand that, and when that equalizer is in place, it gives those of us “lesser beings” an important role, perhaps, and one that we can all play regardless of our innate talents, which is one that gives grace through encouragement, writing, relationships, etc. And that’s not too shabby of a role to play, if we’re able to swipe away despondency, envy, pride, or anything else that might cover it.