Chapter Nine is Moeka Kiryū’s chapter. This is where the game gets really dark.
Spoilers to follow.
When Okabe arrives in this timeline from Luka’s timeline, his objective is to cancel the effects of the D-Mail that Moeka sent to herself, the purpose of which was to convince herself to not buy a new cellphone. Okabe tracks down Moeka’s address and follows it to find a small, shabby apartment building surrounded by police cars. Moeka has apparently committed suicide.
Okabe time leaps to two days before Moeka killed herself. He goes to her apartment to find the door unlocked and Moeka huddled against the wall in a near catatonic state. She refuses to surrender her cell phone, so Okabe physically overwhelms her while abusing her verbally. At one point her shirt falls open, and a bit later he kisses her. Yeah.
The violence is upsetting but understandable, as Okabe has witnessed Moeka shooting Mayuri several times. Her sexualization makes little practical sense, however. Not only is it gross and unnecessary, but Okabe could have restrained her by tying her up; he didn’t need to choke her and then lay on top of her. Or, even if he did, the game didn’t need to drag out this scene for almost an hour.
Anyway, Okabe eventually learns that Moeka’s handler from SERN was “Mister Braun,” the man who owns the television store on the first floor of the building Okabe is renting to house his Future Gadget Lab. Moeka had been driven to despair because her handler had stopped communicating with her. She was extremely lonely and isolated, and he was the only friend and support system she had. When Okabe and Moeka confront the man, he tells them that SERN “erases” anyone who successfully retrieves the computer model Moeka had been searching for, implying that he was ignoring her in order to protect her. He then commits suicide rather than be hunted and killed by SERN agents.
The fun isn’t over yet. Mister Braun’s daughter Nae witnesses his suicide, and it affects her so deeply that she joins SERN and becomes the person who kills and tortures Okabe in the timeline that Suzuha had gone back in time to change.
At the end of the chapter, Okabe is confronted with the deepest tragedy of the game: If he cancels his final D-Mail to save Mayuri, then the timeline will revert to its original state at the very beginning of the game in which Kurisu is murdered. What the game doesn’t make explicit is that the original timeline will be very difficult to navigate, since Kurisu will not go on to invent the technology that allows Okabe to make time leaps. If Kurisu dies, then there will be no way to save Mayuri if she dies as well.
The theme that’s emerging isn’t so much that SERN is evil, as the player knew that already. Instead, what the player is being led to realize is that time travel itself creates nothing but pain. By traveling back in time, Okabe is only hurting himself and other people. He has, by this point in the game, abandoned his silly chuunibyou persona of “Houin Kyouma,” as there is very little room for self-gratifying fantasy in the actual trauma and chaos he is experiencing.
Speaking of chuunibyou, I found a really cool essay on how Okabe deliberately uses his constructed delusions to smooth over awkward social situations and help his friends deal with their own emotional pain:
There are tons of spoilers in this essay, but I think it’s brilliant and 100% correct in its reading of chuunibyou as a social coping mechanism rather than an actual psychological illness.
( Header image from El Psy Congroo on Tumblr )