Episode 14: “SA: Automated Capitalism — ¥€$”

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We’re no strangers to VTOLs drifting over moody metropolises as the opening image to entries in Ghost in the Shell, but this one is better than the average, with the odd-looking plane and the pink-orange city. At the airport, a Chinese woman gets off, and monologues about how the city is haunted by the specter of capitalism. Later, the Major and Saito pull up in a waste disposal truck to a Chinese restaurant, while Batou and Togusa standby in the back. A Tachikoma closes down a road, and the scene is set, but Batou isn’t shaken. He’s downright cocky about it.

The Tachikoma have also removed the spark plugs on all suspicious-looking vehicles, and so we know that when Section 9 drops in, there’s nothing to be done. No escape, no fighting back. So then we take a look at these prospective fight-backers, and they’re a bunch of thugs surveying gynoids. The authorities were tipped off that this gang was going to rob a financial institution, and somehow this falls to Section 9, even though intel suggests that a shotgun is their deadliest weapon.

The Major does her best garbageman routine, and Batou and Togusa arrive to flank and shoot the shotgun out of the hidden guy’s hands. Was that guy crouched behind the bar the whole time? If so, that’s pretty prepared. But this is Section 9 he’s dealing with.

The police show up to arrest them, but in polite refutation to the shotgun-as-deadliest-weapon, a guy morphs into a terrific android to shake Togusa and punch the Major through a window, into some garbage. Batou punches the thing’s head off, and it sprays white blood everywhere. What a great image, this Pioneer-model android with retractable robot parts, weaponized physiology and the touch of Cronenberg that makes for the most extreme pulp end of the aesthetic’s spectrum. It’s actually reminiscent of a creature from Dead Space, but applied here to cyberpunk and an urban city setting. It’s the human body twisted by dangerous technology, a familiar visual made alien in an instant.

In a debriefing, the Major is dressed rather barely, and the Chief asks if she’s trying to attract her attention. The Major says that there was no police report of an android in the restaurant, but it wasn’t a big deal, to which Batou scoffs: you don’t say? Following the raid, there was another report, hopefully comprehensive this time, that the gang had hired an assassin to take out a corporate extortionist-type who collects gold. Kanemoto Yokose is a recluse, despite a TV appearance that family-man Togusa once saw. He becomes the acting resident expert on the target.

Section 9 is disptached to intercept the assassin, this Chinese woman whose codenamed “Fem.” Despite their need to get Yokose into protective custody, he’s elusive — Ishikawa can’t find him. The Major is surprised, because he never fails. Try luring him out by getting to his lawyers with a bogus law suit. Already did. Guy’s a ghost. All they know is where he lives, so it looks like a good day for a little b&e.

In another expensive-looking insertion, the tilt-rotor drops off a big truck, and the Major tells a Tachikoma to cloak and follow behind. It gives some glib response to confirm orders, and the Major is taken aback. Togusa comes up with the identity of the assassin, this Fem, a combat cyborg who’s part of the south seas mafia and wanted by Interpol. The thugs at the restaurant were only a decoy for the investigators. Fem is the real deal, as we see in the scene where she loads her arm with coins — it looks like she’s packing an MP5K under her skin, another retractable weaponized body part. It’s invisible until needed.

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Batou, on the Yokose mansion grounds, takes a moment to admire some sports cars. He’s certainly got an affinity for machines, and in case we didn’t know, this is one last reminder before next episode. Well, the penultimate reminder. He’s quickly chased off by some cheesy-looking robot dogs, the cap on this episode’s visual showcase, which had before given us some great stuff. These robot dogs are black and orange and are are supposed to look more like dogs than robots, but given Ghost in the Shell‘s technology, and Yokose’s fortune, these robots shouldn’t look like this in-between.

The Major is greeted by the maid, shows her ID from the previous infiltration. Cost effective. Togusa finds that two people have been killed already. The assassin is probably inside the building. What’s surprising here is that before that suspicion, the assassin hadn’t had a scene to establish her lethality. Usually in these sequences, with the killer upstairs, the creators effect suspense and tension by characterizing the villain. But this episode ends much like the prior, with a quick arrest.

The Major hacks into a computer and is attacked by the maid, of all robot things, which also creepily demonstrates its hidden weaponry. This is a moment right out of the early pages of the manga (the maid-machine interface), and the Major quickly dispatches it with her 9mm, but is upset that the Tachikoma didn’t have her back. It doesn’t like to think of itself as ‘just a shield.’

Another maid attacks Fem and gets kicked, then blown apart while on the floor. This arm-gun works more like a shotgun, spraying coins with explosive force. Might sound silly in concept, but in execution, that maid robot got wrecked. Meanwhile, the mansion’s first line of defense is also being handled, as Batou gets the dogs under control by hacking their eyes and making him appear as Yokose.

Fem’s monologue about capitalism continues, but this time aloud, allowing time for the Major to ambush. Fem doesn’t get the kill, and in fact gets her gun-arm broken — disarmed, a better man than I might say. During this violent arrest, the Major criticizes her on the monologue, which is something so many action heroes do. Not that it would’ve made a difference anyway, because behind the curtain, Yokose is a corpse of about three months. He had an automated moneymaking system so nobody knew he was dead.

All the gold will likely go to the state, as the man has no heirs. Doesn’t seem fair, the Major says, but the Tachikoma counters that it’s unfair for one person to hoard all this fortune. Such is the way of the world, and even if Fem didn’t agree with it, that’s how we’ve moved into this kind of future. Perhaps we’ve lost ourselves to this future, entirely replaceable by machines, but for now, as we’ll see, the Major still has the upper-hand.

She talks with Ishikawa about the developing Tachikomas. She wants to maybe install a program that makes them more receptive to orders, but the fact of the matter is, these robots don’t seem to understand the concept of labor. It’s possible they’ve become too self-aware, and their personalities are overriding system parameters.

In a call-back to an earlier episode, Togusa’s wife has made some good money off the Meditech stock she bought. Togusa’s impressed — apparently, this is how all good housewives spend their time. But, strict constructionist feminists rejoice, because after breadwinner and the housewife leave the room and shut the lights, the computer comes back on to bathe the sleeping baby in light, and do the investing itself — an automated moneymaking system.

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