Yesterday we heralded the coming of Kazunda Gouda with little fanfare, but today we “induct” the third (chronologically) of the guest characters, who’s first in our hearts. Hideo Kuze becomes one of the greats, but here, he’s just as villainous as Gouda. Yet, even Kayabuki isn’t a shining pearl, not yet. With this episode, she finally repeals the refugee policy, something five episodes in the making.
And not without consequence — she discovers a death threat with the Individual Eleven logo. The Chief is called in, and the Toad fills him in. There have been nine similar terror events with the refugees, but no links between them. Sort of like the Laughing Man, says Beau Billingslea, in the English dub. Kayabuki doesn’t want this threat to be leaked. So — it’s a bodyguard detail, another job Section 9 is overqualified for. So what could go wrong?
The Major’s given the order to assemble everyone at the Prime Minister’s residence. They’re together at the… green, gather everyone and talk room, and they discuss the greater case. Ideology doesn’t match up, it’s the prior administration that set the policy, we can’t link the cases, this logo — the Major quietly states that this could be another Stand Alone Complex, and a hush falls over the crew. Batou agrees, that it does resemble the Laughing Man case. In more ways than one, where Togusa knows the logo, and is slightly ahead of the game. Our loving proxy, to the end.
Hideo Kuze is introduced in an empty apartment at night. He’s meditating in front of the television, and he’s got narration. The other night loner, Gino, had narration, but it was his episode. This is something different. It’s not very clever shorthand for establishing that this is a main character, but that we also establish it was his death threat, and that he is the prospective assassin, clever isn’t the goal. This is new — this is a villain who we’ll learn to understand. Like Satsuki Kiryuin. And like Satsuki, *spoilers*
that villainy may not always be a factor. For now, Kuze unsheathes his sword, and declares himself a man with a motive. What a strange fella.
To compete with our attention, we then smash over to gouda, who’s at his office, putting newspaper clips into scrapbooks. Managing physical media is better for memory exercises like this. It’s clear by now that this is a man who is something of a mild Luddite — forgoes facial surgery, which would be comprehensive in this future, and now, allows his hands to touch paper. We barely do that now. Two agents tell him about the death threat, and that Section 9 is on it. “Ah, our old friends.” Even still, have someone tail the PM.
Everyone converges on a Buddhist temple, and this is where the season’s plays are born. It’s where Section 9 and Kayabuki meets Kuze, and possibly where Gouda meets Kuze as well, the future revolutionary. If I knew anything about Buddhism, I might be able to wow you with whatever religious connection Kamiyama’s making here. So…
On their way to that temple, Batou asks why the Major isn’t her usual gung-ho self. Well, she says, we’re an anti-crime unit that was rebuilt from the ground, and maybe that rebuilding wasn’t 1:1. Maybe when we came back, there were certain restrictions on behavior tied to the go-ahead of the new administration. A Section 9 controlled by an agenda, as part of a political game… that’s no good. Here we see that Batou does value her opinion, so for all the ‘that’s ridiculous’ he does at her episodes of philosophical wanderings, some of the first season’s penultimate episode has rubbed off.
Meanwhile, Ishikawa, Boma, and Togusa are trying to solve the logo, whose symbols are decoded as “vengeance – infinity – samurai,” which looks like Kamiyama will be hearing from my lawyers, because that was the name of my rock band back in ot-6. Togusa theorizes that the ‘individual eleven,’ could be a reference to something, even a movie, and a quick google search finds that it is, to a collection of essays by Patrick Sylvester.
His “Individual Eleven” essays are ten in number, but there are popular speculations that the eleventh exists, but is locked away. It’s about the May 15 Incident, a real world historical event in Japan, but because Sylvester didn’t consider it a true revolution, it wasn’t included. Regardless, the fans of the book see it as a bible for individualism. Sort of like an Atlas Shrugged, but actually an essay about how to be a dick, and not disguised as a story.
Togusa reports in, says that this is the logo he found at the pilot’s place in the last episode. And didn’t the fine folks at the Chinese embassy in the first episode call themselves the Individual Eleven? I guess this Mr. Sylvester’s fan club’s got some reach.
One in the number is Kuze, who uses all sorts of buzzwords to describe the book, like “brilliant,” and “magnificent.” It’s like he could write for this site instead of me. He particularly likes how the author compared the May 15 event to Noh drama, and we get images of Noh, including a mask that fades onto Kuze’s face. In death, a hero meets a mortal end, but gains immortality.
The Major brings a box to the Prime Minister’s office, something that the terrorists left as a present. The Chief advises she doesn’t look, but Kayabuki says that undo concern for women is what leads to contempt for them — which is true. And she isn’t so much contradicted in that, because anybody would be taken aback by a box full of severed fingers. Not the Major, though.
Ishikawa discusses how the box of fingers factors in, and thereby delivers a brief history of the May 15 Incident. Basically, in 1932, extremist elements in the imperial navy and army launched a coup d’état, and eleven young naval officers successfully assassinated Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. (The original plan was to also kill Charlie Chaplin during his visit, having arrived on May 14). But what Sylvester was more interested in was the aftermath, in which the assassins garnered popular support by the Japanese people by weeping, and this resulted in light sentences. This contributed to the rising militarism that was going on around that time.
So in effect, even though their revolution wasn’t physically successful, it carried through psychologically, and culturally. Their sacrifice was the last piece, and possibly it was more effective. Sympathy is more powerful than fear, in terms of controlling hearts and minds. A box of eleven fingers was sent in to swell that nationalism.
These fingers today aren’t real, PM. They’re probably cut off of robot bodies. Well, thanks. Thanks for the heads-up. I would take my heart medicine, but the message still stands, so I’ll let my heart ache in accord.
Night falls, and Kuze arrives, undercover as a deliveryman. The Prime Minister arrives for her prayers, while the Tachikoma romp about in the nearby woods, chatting about Zen. An invisible Major watches Kayabuki, and even the Chief is on scene, once again. Batou secures the perimeter, but complains — she’s meditating while all this is going down? And there’s no entry into the temple, so she’s alone in there. However, Kayabuki has unofficially authorized the Major to use interceptors in her eyes.
And let’s see what she sees… Oh, a floating sword. Kuze is like “Die!” and raises the sword, but the Major’s already there, shooting the shit out of his body. She then blocks his strike with her gun, and tells him to give up — he’s surrounded. Batou comes in, and he escapes by jumping through the roof. It’s not graceful, but damn if he ain’t a good jumper.
The team gathers inside the temple, and they look up at the hole. He’s a reinforced cyborg. Most likely then, with military ties. The Major posits that perhaps he had no intention of killing Kayabuki, but who knows. And then we see one of the CIS agents walking off-screen, in the background. A lurker.
We might compare this episode to one of the early Laughing Man episodes, in which the interceptors, police conspiracies, death threats, assassins, viruses, and confused identities were all rolled up into one jumbled, ever forward-moving package. It was a rush, and this one is more lax. Less complex, but that’s not a problem. The groundwork is being laid in a more reserved manner, and this allows us to focus on other things, which is good, because we have a better idea of these characters.
This is the season that notably gives episodes to two supporting characters, Pazu and Saito, so when we get there, we’ll have to ask what that metatextual choice means in the greater Individual Eleven thematic whole.
But for now, we only have seeds. This is a story about revolution, and sensibly, it’s not something we sympathize with. Kayabuki might be a dick right now, but she shouldn’t be assassinated. Nor should anyone, really. But for all intensive purposes, Kuze is just as villainous as Gouda. His character arc is the most dynamic of anyone’s in the entire franchise — he’s one of my favorite ‘villains’ in media. So it’s good to begin in this space.
Otherwise, it’s a fairly uneventful episode. What the Major laments about her unit’s current position is accurate. A bored Section 9 makes for a somewhat bored Ghost in the Shell. But patience. This is all setup, and the payoff is fulfilling and extensive.
Amazingly, the “In Popular Culture” section of the May 15 Incident Wikipedia page lists only Ghost in the Shell SAC 2nd Gig. It’s a pretty astounding moment in history, especially for us — Charlie Chaplin came very close to being assassinated by Japanese teenagers. What a world that would’ve been.