Episode 25: “C: Smoke of Gunpowder, Hail of Bullets — BARRAGE”


Sunrise over Tokyo. Batou surveys the Major’s safe house. Looks clear — the Umibozu haven’t reached it. He’ll wait until nightfall to make his move. In the penultimate episode, the Umibozu continue their push through Section 9, leading up a final confrontation with Batou and the Major.

The Chief meets with Minister of Justice. By now he’s officially disbanded the team, but emphasizes with this guy that what he wants to protect is his people, not the name. He’s told that he can always do it again, assemble another team of the same caliber. He’s certain it’s impossible, goes so far as to say that they are Section 9, they don’t just compose it as personnel.

Meanwhile, nursing home Tachikoma is worried about Section 9. The battle is going badly, apparently. She talks with an elderly guy, says that the building that was blown up was her home. To remind us that the Tachikoma are classic, she says that you old people are okay, but there’s someone she needs to help. The guy hands something over, and prompts the Tachikoma to rush off.

Saito goes topside, carrying a large case, which must be a sniper rifle. Oh, Saito. But he’s immediately surrounded — laser pointer dots all over. I guess these are thematic capturings. Ishikawa does his due diligence, dispersing his data seed at the pachinko parlor. But just when you suspect that hiding out at the place with your name emblazoned on it is a bad idea, the Umibozu show up. Ishikawa goes straight-up terrorist, blowing up the building after the data’s uploaded. He tries to walk away, obscured by baseball cap, but is captured.

Susan roughs him up, and is told that they found someone. He asks if it’s the female commander? Priority one, no doubt. No, it’s the “Big guy with the eyes.” Well, the other one. I wonder if Boma was disappointed when he joined Section 9. Must’ve thought his appearance was unique beforehand.

Two Tachikoma meet up, find that it was independent thought that brought them here. They quickly recount their working experiences — one is grey, one is construction yellow — and discuss how the others have been dismantled. The one who was reading Flowers for Algernon in “Machines Desirantes” seemed to like being taken apart. This scene chokes me up, the music, the sunset, as they talk about how they were lucky enough to enjoy death.

Batou heads into the safe house, but he’s being watched. The Major’s place, her interior design? It looks like the inside of a Covenant ship from Halo. Batou grabs the watch, which was maybe his entire mission.

For home security, the Major has some sort of force field installed on the windows. This allows Batou to take the soldiers out, pitting him against the arm suit. Let’s see if he fares better — he finds some grenades on the bottom of her underwear drawer. I don’t know, I guess that’s supposed to be funny.

To compound on questionable humor, Batou gets blasted by the giant robot, and the pilot steps out to see he went overboard — decapitation by explosion. Batou’s head rolls out, but starts talking. He appears next to the pilot: “Sorry, I hacked your eyes.” Then he executes him.

The violence inflicted on both sides is sort of point of no return — no way would things return to normal after everything that went down. Ishikawa the bomber, Batou the executioner — not to mention the snipers at the end of this episode. But those stakes, I guess that’s what we need to keep in mind. This has to be about survival.

And Batou isn’t helping this, prompting revenge in another arm suit pilot. Track record on cyborg vs. robot suit is 1-1, but Batou decides this one is too much. The Tachikoma shows up to save the day, and one gets shredded by machine-gun fire, which is the inevitable death of all Tachikoma, as foretold in the opening title sequence, and reiterated again with Jigabachis later.

The other two Tachikoma work together, bouncing around, trying to get the arm suit in position. But they quickly discover that they’ve been disarmed, and are both shot to hell. It’s giving-up time, and they lament their powerlessness. But as the statue of Mary looks upon them, the voice of the Major tells them that it’s not true. Inspired, the Tachikoma sacrifice themselves for Batou, but not before shedding a tear of oil.

Christ. I mean, there’s a lot going on here. This is surely the climax of the Tachikoma arc, the real one, following the somber conclusion earlier, where the Tachikoma discovered their individuality at a terrible price. Now they’re back, and it seems that the Major’s once again been watching the whole time. I think we could’ve nixed the Christian imagery to much the same effect, but maybe this is like directorial signature peer pressure. Oshii does the Christian stuff, right?

And the Tachikoma crying is silly, but after all we understand of them, it’s completely earned. Truly the silliest Tachikoma stunt that Kamiyama will pull happens next season, where we get a repeat of nearly the entire arc, with the same incredibly sad ending. Somehow, it works, and the effect is doubled. I’d say it’s even more affecting the second round. You’re a bad man, Kenji.

The key to take forward is that the Major has come around. In a young body, she appears in the woods outside the safe house, joins Batou over the wreckage. She realizes, only too late, that what they were developing was special. Although it might be standard procedure to cart things off to the lab when they’re defective, maybe that defect made them valuable, not for their operational competence (they never had her back), but because they were individuals. She’d made the call to get rid of them, and is sad. If it weren’t too late, she could’ve figured out if what they had acquired… were ghosts. We may have to wait until 2nd Gig to find out.

She takes Batou back to her place, and we find that the young girl body was just a puppet. She says that her regular form is the only one that suits her. Some things maybe aren’t so mutable. Batou gives her the watch, the only thing keeping the same time as you. The young girl body sits in a chair, and despite that it’s a specific reference to the original film, the Major pushes it over, and it clatters on the floor.

Despite, or maybe because. Perhaps Kamiyama doesn’t care about the Oshii details after all. And to push beyond their relationship at the end of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, there’s some sexy sax playing as Batou and Major get close to avoid roving helicopter lights. And then he puts an arm around her as they exit, we see it just barely in the wide shot. This is less last-minute characterization, and more the airing of that which has existed, but gone unspoken for so long.

The next morning, they attempt to leave the country. But snipers are in position at the airstrip. This is like the classic romantic part of the spy story. They’re so close to getting out — what better point in time to tear everything apart? The Umibozu’s primary target is the Motoko, and it’s a kill order. Which is unfortunate, but it is difficult to imagine the Major submitting to capture. It’s also reflective of the end of the manga — the Major sometimes gets her head blown up.

The red dot appears on the back of her head, and Batou’s eyes go wide -just kidding- and we zoom out, and her head pops. The force of the impact is so strong it sprays these strong streaks of red along the plane’s side, and flips her body over the rail. The scene is actually constructed in a somewhat funny way, though I suppose if we don’t know that everything’s okay, I’d be on edge.

We see her arm in a puddle of blood, which I guess is supposed to mean: no wristwatch, but I would never have figured that out. The usual interpretation for this shot is: dead. And we see how close to things these two were getting, as Batou shouts “Motoko!” rather than “Major!” as Togusa or the Chief had when they needed help. This isn’t about the job, it’s about something else.

Amidst the serial arc, we make time for what feels stand alone, this escapade for Batou and the Major. It’s a slower and more intimate episode, with a lot of blues and purples. Leading into the next episode, it kills the main character, and ends with all the heroes in custody. We’ll see what happens, but this is quite the corner we’ve backed into.

Now, for all the instances in these past 25 recaps I’ve noted my preference for 2nd Gig over the original, there’s something in this episode that recasts the complete reset (or reembody) that the second season does. The Major and Batou clearly mean more to each other than they let on, and with Section 9 disbanded, perhaps they could’ve gone a different path — together.

But as Solid State Society shows us, the Major will always be interested in fighting crime. She doesn’t need the infrastructure of Section 9, nor of the real world, to do so. And not even a clean beheading will keep her from catching the bad guys. That’s some determination.

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