Episode 24: “C: Sunset in the Lonely City — ANNIHILATION”

SAC_24

In the opening shot, we see legs walking along, and given the unchanging character models of anime, and the snazzy dressers of Section 9, we can tell who is who without faces. We’ve come this far, and hopefully we also care about these people. Aramaki brings Togusa back into the fold, though the Major and Togusa question his readiness.

The Chief takes him to the Prime Minister’s office, to arrange the arrest of Yakushima, get that ball rolling. But that toad from the Minister of Home Affairs calls, and there are some rumblings about Section 9 having had a hand in the Serano kidnapping. He uses the term “international rescue team,” which should bring to mind the real world Section 9, Germany’s hostage rescue team, GSG-9.

A cabinet meeting is assembled to discuss Section 9, and this is very Jin-Roh. Some believe that Section 9 is doing its job, carrying out international rescues with combat efficiency. Now, the Chief didn’t have any jurisdiction when he went to London. Maybe they never act officially, even in the homeland, and this is the opposing concern: they’re a glorified death squad. The public too, is sensitive about them.

Now, this is all just a play by Yakushima, obvious to us, but even if it’s obvious to all parties involved, this is how the machinations of the political system work. The Chief, nevertheless, meets with the Prime Minister, hands him top secret documents about Yakushima. This is the money trail, which I guess is what Ishikawa found as hard evidence after the Serano revelations from last episode.

The Prime Minister promises to deal with Yakushima when the time is right. Not now — not during elections. So this is Yakushima’s final barrier. He’s protected from all angles. But the PM cuts a deal: he needs something from Aramaki in return, and that’s the passing of the Special Forces Restriction bill. As long as you’re alive, he says, you can rebuild your unit.

This is an interesting twist in the storyline, which usually takes several episodes to build something as cataclysmic as this. It will have profound ripples through Section 9, the team that we’ve been taking for granted all season, much like the Tachikoma before they rolled off into the darkness.

The Chief tells Togusa to drive him to the Ministry of Justice. He tells the Major to assemble Section 9 at HQ, and finally… survive no matter what. And just in time, because meanwhile, somewhere off the coast, more arm suits are being mobilized. It’s a submarine, and a sunglasses-clad military fellow, let’s call him Susan, is ordering his troops to go autistic mode once inside the building, kill the smart-tanks, capture the seven primary Section 9 members. These people specialize in information warfare, so brute force is the way.

Togusa tries to lose a tail. All the while, the Chief knows what’s going on. Because he says nothing, Togusa feels completely betrayed as he’s being dragged off. Section 9 is getting prepared for the attack, gathering six generic prosthetic bodies in the command center. The Major wants Pazu and Ishikawa to spread information that’ll help the public with the ousting of Yakushima.

Batou identifies the enemies as Umibozu, with their weird masks. Seems the Special Forces Restriction bill has already passed. Their goal now is to buy time, and shut the place down. The Umibozu infiltrate the building, and find that the smart-tanks were sent to the lab several episodes earlier. Typical intel from top brass, one of them says, to which Susan yells. Field situations can change at any time! He is very professional, knows his enemy, but the Umibozu themselves are not so characterized. They’ll have to do this with sheer power in numbers.

And those field situations do change when the sprinklers activate and disengage the enemy’s invisibility. But the arm suit armor is too powerful, and Section 9 falls back, despite the standard issue big guns. This won’t end well. Turns out the Umibozu is notorious in the underworld, and for some infamous military effort. There’s no official title for the unit, as they don’t exist. Takes a blacks ops to know one.

The umibozu comes from Japanese folklore, and is essentially like Cthulhu, a terrible sea monster and menace to sailors. It’s been referenced in all sorts of anime and media, so it’s incarnation here isn’t too wild. I think it’s fitting, and although the masks aren’t like an oni design, they’re pretty creepy looking. And if you know about a group like the Umibozu, that’s basically folklore. Unless you’re dead.

A bomb goes off at HQ, and it looks like Section 9 killed themselves, a bullet in each of the robot bodies. Susan immediately suspects that this is a camouflaged operation — faked suicides. I wonder also, if they had data on each member, so would know that for example Saito wouldn’t have a completely metal body. But being in the business of information warfare, I guess one of the perks is having a low social media profile.

So as a follow-up to the close of the Tachikoma sub-arc, in which the big blue rolly-pollys were shipped off because they were becoming too individual, and not as written in their manuals, we check-in with a Tachikoma, who’s working at a nursing home, a future nursing home (that’s probably us in there).

The orderlies watch the Tachikoma doing a great job, so well suited to managing old people, and they wonder what this type of robot was originally used for. Oh, if you could only imagine. The Tachikoma stops — sees mention of Section 9 on the news.

Section 9 goes off in three directions to shake the Umibozu. They have a mission, but mostly, their goal at this point is to survive. From here on out, dear reader, Section 9 is disbanded.

The Major and Batou head underground, find a tight corridor. Like Togusa and Batou in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, they debate about who should go first. We might say, ladies first, but only because Batou is bigger, and can block bullets from behind. What if they come from the front? Then it’s all over. As they shimmy along, Batou talks about how he’ll miss Section 9. A lot of memories in that place.

The Major isn’t the best person to have this conversation with. She’s hardly nostalgic. Girl doesn’t even know her original name. She does have that watch, however, which commemorated her final body resizing. Something like a cyborg’s coming-of-age. Batou asks again why she uses female bodies, which maybe is meant to tamp down suspicion that he’s interested in her, or better yet, interested in something we never thought of.

Batou actually gets worked up here, as the Major explains that she changes bodies as circumstance calls for it. She can even change memories if need be. I get why this upsets Batou, though it’s sort of inverse to the original film. He’s obviously attracted to the Major, and although she picks the same body each time, it’s less about her appearance and more her ghost. But she makes her ghost so difficult to define — what is the Major, who is she? If you’re in love with her, truly you’ll be chasing a ghost.

Togusa is being interrogated, growing increasingly frustrated. He used to be an inspector just like you clowns, he laments. I bet he wishes he could go back, when things were simpler. Not really — he loves Section 9, and that’s why he gets so emotionally charged in this time. You’d never expect the good cop to end up where he does in the finale, but here are the seeds, still innocuous for now.

Pazu and Boma are together, naturally, often paired up. They don’t speak much, maybe because of the circumstance. They find a good juncture to split up, and Boma runs off but is captured by invisible Umibozu. Those sneaky bastards. Pazu goes to the Major’s bar, and is ambushed. He leaves the data seeds in his cigarettes, to be picked up by the giant bartender guy.

Ishikawa and Saito are still unaccounted for. To close it out though, Batou picks up some equipment, and decides to turn a new leaf. This is his life. And without the Major, he’s really got nothing to gain or lose.

The end of the show takes the Major and Batou into the emotional center, putting them in an unusual situation where they’re both on the run, and separated from the rest of the team. This allows for some good character bits, which we’ve only got in pieces up until this point.

So to raise the stakes for them, we concoct this sensible defense by Yakushima, an established friend of the JMSDF. He learns of the move against him, and so operates politically. The Prime Minister isn’t confident he can remove Yakushima from office, given the climate, but to improve his party’s image, he’ll pass the bill that’ll compromise Section 9. So the Major and her friends put a lot in, self-sacrifice their final effort.

This might also make an otherwise low-key investigation something exciting, because without this, the Laughing Man might be arrested, and Yakushima… it would feel like an anti-climax. But here, we see where political corruption leads, this violent manifestation and repercussion: when people are greedy on this level, it can end with two Japanese paramilitary groups fighting each other.

For two episodes…

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