Okay, so far we have the refined opening, tight as hell, and the moody, left-field second episode. It’s almost logical to follow with this one, a light entry in the tone of a Tachikoma adventure. Although the story might be relatively lightweight in comparison to the first season’s Stand Alones, what with their assassination duets and jungle cruises, we still bear witness to a masterful Section 9 plot, and manage to explore some seedy territory while we’re at it.
Problem is, I suppose, that you can’t really do sex dolls after Innocence. Granted, this episode predates it by a few months, but that one really closed the book on explorations of that man-machine interface if we’re going the disturbing route. And any other route is… closed. Lars and the Real Girl is sort of banal.
But to begin, we start in echo of the first season’s episode 3, with female feet at roof’s edge. Granted, perhaps the jeris were style-biting on the Major, because that is what the Major likes to do. Here she’s dressed up in some sexy MGS4 bug stuff, bouncing rooftop to rooftop like she was in the Matrix — look, I’ve frequently balladeered the badassery of the Major, but if physics can’t hope to apply to her, how’s this cyberterrorist got a snowball’s chance?
Did I mention this was gonna be a heist episode? The Major goes on to outdo Zeta Jones, by just knowing where the laser-sensors are, and skipping around them. She coolly flicks a coin into a security camera, and jumps out the window — another of her favorite pastimes, which sometimes goes hand-in-hand with rooftop meditation.
Next day, she returns to the scene of the crime to eye that broken camera, and listen to this rich arse prattle about a burglar whose left a calling card: “Cash Eye.” He uses a female android. We know better. We also know how silly it sounds, his emphasis of the male pronoun. Sometimes they do that when we don’t know the mysterious character in question is female, like the hacker girl in Revenge. It was immediately obvious, just by the way they were putting the emphasis on ‘he’ and ‘him’ and ‘he’s the best at what he does,’ that it would turn out to be a girl. But before you scream progressive — it’s okay, she’s Asian.
Now, this rich fella, Tadokoro, has moved his great fortune — in cash — to a vault within this very building. Aramaki wants him to go to the police. As quickly becomes a theme, Section 9 doesn’t like being guns for hire. For the Prime Minister, that’s bad enough. For some deformed CIS agent? Actually bad — but this dude? Get outta town.
They take the case regardless, and are told that the next heist is to happen tomorrow night. Again, the Chief says, why not go to the police? You seem highly bent on getting the best of the best of the best for this bullshit. Well, Tadokoro says, something’s scheduled for that night, a gathering of very important people, and they’ll be doing… illicit things. Not illegal, hell, not even illicit, just delicate. At these functions, this is where policies are decided. Then, in the world’s creepiest compliment to a police force, he says he can smell the Major’s white blood from where he’s standing. The Chief’s like, no you can’t, she’s a cyborg. Now I question your aptitude for many things. Guy’s like, whatever I still have a boner.
How did she hide that under her revealing dress?
What a professional. She didn’t grab him and fold him up into the size of a slip of paper and put him in her wallet, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like this job. Maybe that’s the real issue with lighter episodes, and why Section 9 doesn’t like working these kinds of cases — they end in arrests, not ass-kicking. Tadokoro gets his comeuppance, but it’s off-screen. He deserves worse, as he’s cutting into the Major’s vacation time. The Chief actually apologizes, says that there’s a lot that’ll fray her nerves tomorrow. Just… don’t lose your temper. Cooler heads, right?
Cut to, the night of the incident. Politicos and financiers from all around are flooding in, trotting out their sex dolls they hide from their wives. Saito spots the foreign affairs minister. It’s funny — they’re on security detail, but can’t help watching on in disgust. Here comes the Chief and the Major. “Now that’s more like it!” Boma says. She’s in sexy formal wear, but it’s no more salacious than her first season getup. She starts mingling, and Batou’s eyes go wide — one of those bastards just copped a feel! Ishikawa dryly says that they would’ve been better not knowing.
And then Batou and Togusa, also dressed nicely, head in. The Tachikoma are on standby, awaiting the Major’s signal. She might not be dressed the part, which would undermine the present day female manager in the eyes of male subordinates, but she’s still head honcho. Tadokoro makes quick work of the Chief, getting him out of the way so he can have some time alone with the Major. “Would you like a tour of the place?” Of course, she says.
Ishikawa tries to figure out the vault, but he’s hitting some snags. Meanwhile, the Major inches her way closer to that vault. Timing will be key. Tadokoro imagines that the Major will find this an odd hobby, the fetish for these dolls. But there’s a whole culture surrounding them — they’re haute couture, designed by famous creators.
The Chief checks in on the Major as Tadokoro forgets that she isn’t a fucking android. Interesting though that androids in this universe have white blood. You’d think it’d be black, but not after Alien (in which it had pretty thick thematic relevance — Ash was after all trying to kill Ripley by shoving a rolled up magazine down her throat. Ooh, just got chills). The Major says that she turns her skin sensors down whenever she doesn’t want to feel something. This might assume that she doesn’t turn it down when she goes into battle — hardcore quotient rising… Regardless, this comforts the Chief.
Then the Major makes him a grand offer: I’ll turn myself off and you can play with my body. And then she blanks out, and he gets busy. No, no — she knocks him out. But could you imagine? Jesus. Now that I’ve cleared myself of this animated titillation, the Major goes on to pleasure the other watcher by stripping down to that catsuit. It’s like modern cat burglar garb, updated for the future. And actually — it’s looking pretty cool.
The android operators come in to distract the guards at the vault. The Tachikoma loop the video feed before they enter frame. Batou and Togusa knock the guards out with some gas, and the Major meets up with them. They don’t know what kind of double protection is in that vault. Batou warns that she’ll be on her own. Oh, only now? I’m pretty sure this is child’s play.
She runs and jumps into the vault, doing a wild gymnast’s landing. Meanwhile, Aramaki wakes Tadokoro, because it’s almost time for the theft. Too late — Pazu and Boma report that it looks like the thief got by them. The Major opens the vault. Togusa alerts the people at the party, to stay calm, and that their safety is the priority.
From the control room, they watch the Major open the door, and the Chief says he’ll send his men to arrest her. Boma and Pazu turn to go, but Tadokoro says something alarming, that the door will close on her and she’ll be trapped. The only thing that can open it then is his ghost key. And what they’ll find is the meat in a Major sandwich. The doors start to close on her, and Batou is like “Chief………”
They head down to the vault, can’t find her. But she comes in from behind her, dressed up again. How… That Major you saw was just a virtual image created by the Tachikoma. It’s nice when we’re all clued in, huh? And now that Tadokoro has opened his vault, and we’re already here, the Chief says we might as well gather the evidence of money-laundering — that Tadokoro is still managing Yakushima’s assets. In what must be the Chief’s favorite part of the job, he explains the intricacies of how Tadokoro was so caught, as Section 9 verifies that yep, these serial numbers match the ones the tax bureau gave them.
The Tachikoma wonder if these people are those they call… ‘perverts.’ Maybe eccentrics, they posit. Later, the Major is at the beach. Finally vacation? And now Batou comes along, and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, no less. She says it was fun playing cat burglar. Maybe in another life — if she took up a life of crime, who could stop her? She had Batou worried, anyway, as he hands her a drink. The Chief interrupts: come on people! The Major says that maybe she should consider a new line of work.
Whoa. Maybe she does want to be a cat burglar after all. If we look into the future, we see that she becomes disenchanted with Section 9 by the end, but law enforcement is in her DNA. So while it’s ambiguous as to whether or not this iteration of the Major ends up with Section 9, and in fact, the last time we see her, it’s in much the same environment as this. The Section 9 pool with its holographic windows. Wistful, looking out into the infinite beyond. So many possibilities. If Section 9 means going undercover at the perv den, and letting good men die as this season’s eventuality, maybe there’s a better way to do things.
Now, my first question is… why did the Major even have to endure all that sexual harassment? Why did she have to be there outside of playing the Cash Eye thief? Why even have her introduced to Tadokoro? Kamiyama, don’t make me ask these questions. Your episode is consistently asking why this is happening, but you never really give a good answer.
And to the themes of this episode, Japan’s always needed a good PR guy. In a post-war world for barbaric imperialism, and these days and till the end of time, for perviness. Otaku culture, hostess clubs, AKB48/schoolgirls. They say you can buy panties in vending machines over there — and while I’m pretty sure that’s untrue, those speculations don’t arise from thin air.
So what’s being said here? Taking into consideration not only the text and subtext, but the supertext of creators and their external context. Text. Text. Well, this episode represents something of a roundabout close-the-book on the first season. We see that things have long-reaching consequences, that the criminals aren’t done when the case is closed. So with this, we get a glimpse into the seedy underbelly of Neo-Tokyo, and it looks like… the Major.
The old ghosts are hard to get rid. Culture might be augmented with a robot arm, but some things take a while to shed. Like patriarchy. Like the Tachikoma said, this isn’t about perverts, it’s about patriarchs. We don’t see anything sexual here, it’s the closing in of heavy-breathing men all over that curvy female form like a vacuum-sealing bank vault.
The Major doesn’t get trapped in the end. She’s far too badass. But just as she has law enforcement in her DNA, she’s also a stone’s throw from perhaps having that white blood after all, from the jeris, and from these sex dolls. As mentioned (about one zillion times) in the podcast, the Major is an ideal feminist hero, not a perfect one. She exists in transition, even in her body, whether sexy robot in sexy-robot land, or female to genderless, or adult to child.
I know, Ish, I know