We ended last episode with the death of Imakaruzu, and a clearer picture of the Laughing Man himself. This episode begins with Section 9 arriving to arrest Niimi for the Sunflower Society murders, and also for the assassination of Imakaruzu. Seems Mr. Pop the Hatch rolled on him. We have these two story beats, both eventful, and so there had to have been that split in between for an episode break, to create the two on both ends.
Exiting the building, the Chief runs into one assemblyman and former Prime Minister Kanzaki, from a few episodes prior. He thanks Aramaki for the rescue of his daughter, and repays with a tip: there’s someone big pulling the strings. Secretary General Yakushima has a lot of pull with the navy he says, but he’s just thinking out loud.
Batou visits Togusa in the hospital, sans flowers, and the family man asks about the powered exoskeleton. Is the Major okay? Batou says she’s body-swapping. Nothing crazy. He also says that his eyes were hacked, just as Togusa’s had been. He leaves the list with him. I wonder if the emotional beats in this scene are meant as a follow-up to the last episode’s beginning, where Batou is seeing through Togusa’s eyes. After that experience, their partnership must be fortified, for all the crap Batou gives him. But the silence here isn’t really that now they can speak without speaking, and more that Batou is playing quiet hero.
Pazu, in a social faux pais, visits an office for information on the remaining narc squad members — does so while invisible. Wonder if he made any stops before he got down to business. This was after all, his job for the whole episode, and we only saw him visit two places…
Aramaki is badgered by a journalist, who says that his brother has been arrested for drug trafficking. The Chief hasn’t seen his brother since his disappearance during the war. It’s funny, because I never remembered this part in the first season. And when the brother turns up in Deijima to talk with Kuze over tea, I always thought it was the Chief either disguised, or doing the Chroma routine. I don’t know why I thought that, but I’m glad there’s a more sensible explanation now. And that there always was. I wonder how that moment in 2nd Gig will play out, given a more correct interpretation of events.
For now, the Major is getting the new body, though it’s the same model. Her nurse friend, probably the same from “Missing Hearts,” is getting excited: makes her hot to imagine what she can do with it. I was thinking the same thing, nurse friend. Visions of wrangling Jigabachi helicopters and blocking swords with pistols. The nurse asks if the Major really wants her to be her witness. Well, she has a license, so it makes sense. At first I thought the ‘witness’ was like a legal thing, and I suppose it is, but it’s also highly pragmatic and logical — you want someone you trust to supervise the handling of your brain. Especially when this doctor is late…
This is a sexy doctor, given the shot selection, and the Major’s immediate suspicion. In my experience, brain doctors are rarely this sexual, but if you remember, this blue-haired and mildly homosexual doctor is that female marine who killed Imakuruzu. Which means that her tardiness is doubtlessly excused by the male doctor who’s tied up in the closet (wouldn’t be a female doctor, because we’d have seen her).
Batou is worried. He’s been waiting for Aramaki to return to Section 9 to discuss the arm suit. He and Ishikawa track him down. The Chief is in autistic mode, and fumbling around the refugee district. He’s talking with two helpful fellows (who doubtlessly have homeless men tied up in the closet) who explain that the brother was taken away by police. He’s something of a local folk hero, and these two guys have the evidence to prove the police planted drugs on him.
Batou arrives on scene, as Pazu is relaying the remaining three faces of the NSS, agents who must be understandably upset that their friends were slaughtered in one go by the Major — by a 9mm, too! We find that the three members are the only three guest characters in the episode — sexy doctor, two refugee guys — and the latter knock the Chief out. The police are coming to bust him as the doctor is sticking pins in the Major’s brain. She’s shutting down her speech center, taunting. Nobody will come and save you, not your idiot friend who’s fallen asleep — ah, that’s a rebellious look. It’s a close call for the Major.
An even closer one for the Chief, who called out for the Major as he fell to the ground. But Batou was there to save him, and also take the two NSS guys into custody. The Laughing Man appears at the brain center, strolls into the lab. He talks with her, says it’s the third time they’ve met. After stressing that he never referred to himself as the Laughing Man. The Major is none too pleased to have him here, and the Laughing Man even notes that she’s a difficult person to talk to.
He needs her help, and wants to give her his memories, to share the whole story. The song “Flashback Memory Plug,” a reprisal of “Inner Universe,” begins playing, and he says that it’s up to her now. What better way to illustrate this exchanging of power than a perfect comeuppance? The Major stands, to the horror of sexy doctor. Now, if she’s a marine, surprise would register, but she’d have put up a fight. Maybe she’s not, but she’s still someone who had some kind of combat training. Regardless, she gets punked pretty hard, as the Major spin-kicks her through the window. The Major’s friend accidentally spills her coffee on her. Someone needs to make a supercut of all the people the Major has spin-kicked.
The Major visits the Chief in the hospital, and shares the news: Niimi attempted cyberbrain suicide, making his testimony not legally viable. She complements that with the news that his brother is indeed out there. The Chief gets reflective, regrets how he never made time for the ones he loves. Always put work first. The Major asks if he’ll still fight the good fight, and we know the answer, going into the final episodes.
But this ending note feels sort of left field to me, and I realize that it’s only because I have a hard time connecting the dots. With so much discussion of professionalism, episodic storytelling, and longform theory, I can’t see how these intersect. The characters aren’t static, they’re just understated. Across the first season we’ve seen the Chief deny himself a romantic sojourn and lose a war buddy twice, and these have a cumulative effect, even if it isn’t made explicit for me to understand.
Finally, with this reminder that his brother is someone that matters to him, he questions what he’s been doing, which is not an uncommon thing in police stories. But look, Aramaki. The Major is with you now. Perhaps your personal and professional lives aren’t so untangled.
As the second episode of what could be a two-episode arc, the NSS vs. Section 9 proper, it’s interesting to see how paramilitary tactics change given different circumstances. Where before it was full-force, machine-guns and a robot suit, now it’s more about information warfare and infiltration. A three man team, but their slyness isn’t enough — though it came surprisingly close.
This theme of tactics and Section 9 being saved by the metal skin of their teeth will carry forth as they face off against an even greater threat, the Umibozu, during their protracted disbanding. This… is the backlash they’re always talking about avoiding with their investigations. Now I get it.