Here’s another fairly complex episode, consistent as a complex entry in our DU days. The plot-heavy story requires a lot of moving pieces, and so where we begin is critical. Typically, the case of the week formula for episodic television will impart its cold open with a crime or someone falling over with a heart attack, if it’s a medical drama. For our complex, we see a weapons deal going down on a boat — this will be hugely relevant to the story, and it also makes for a good insertion point. We understand what a deal looks like, and so there’s electricity — something’s bound to go wrong.
And indeed. The seller, who’s voiced by David Wittenburg in the English dub, the actor who does Saito, is betrayed, overtaken by a Coast Guard raid. This was sort of confusing to me, because the sale was being made to the terrorists, and Section 9 will be dispatched to ensure that the weapons — the plutonium — will still be acquired by them. So what was this initial buyer’s whole deal?
Well, we’ll meet up with him again. He is Individual Eleven, and so he’s an unknowing instrument of Gouda. He leaks the plan to ship this plutonium from Uchikon 7 to Shinjuku, and so instigates trouble, while allowing Gouda to take control of the material.
Section 9 argues about the current state of affairs. Batou is still concerned about their relationship to Prime Minister Kayabuki. On this viewing of 2nd Gig, I’m noticing it’s taking a long time for our sympathies to swing her way — it does happen, I trust. The conversation takes a wild turn, ending in a mini-monologue by the Major, who explains that Section 9’s greatest adversity is numbers — an overwhelming material force could overrun them. Nobody in the room is brave enough to whisper: “Umibozu.” To reference the English dub once again, the voice acting in this scene particularly struck me, especially in the argument between the Major and Batou — that’s Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Richard Epcar.
Meanwhile, the Chief is given the order, straight from the top. This is possibly our ‘formal’ introduction to the Chief Cabinet Secretary, the guy with white hair. At the very least, he’s visually framed as evil. Let’s not trust him. For another blank observation, I like how Kayabuki’s office is barren. Nothing on the desk, nothing on the walls. She’s like Duck Philips, or me in college. To look at the various dorms I’ve lived in, you wouldn’t be able to gauge my character.
At the Section 9 rooftop, the tilt-rotor is standing by. The team is suited up, but Batou’s got issues with this. Togusa just tries to make sense of it, but Batou interjects: “Old man. What is this?” The Major tells him that it’s just that someone else has the upper-hand right now. She’s so reasonable, measured. And to test that, Gouda appears. The Major tells Togusa who he is — remember Togusa, from last episode? Our friend Kazunda here is taking the lead on this operation, and so the already pissed off Section 9 members have to defer to his authority.
I always thought his eventual come-uppance was a bit vindictive, but… seems there’s a lot about this season I don’t remember very well.
An SDF troop guarding refugees gives a kid a chocolate bar, and then laughs — they’re like monkeys in a cage. The other guy’s like ‘cut it out. Don’t provoke them.’ Why not? They cross the fence, they’ll be shot or deported. Immigration as social issue in any country comes packaged with the underlying theme of racism — seeing these monkeys in a cage is inherently dehumanizing, and it will take generations to heal the image of the Mexican American. Even in future Japan, the country’s bloody history with its neighboring Asian states would equally beget racist complications.
Gouda starts trouble on the trip down. Togusa starts running his mouth, and the Major silences him with a subtle head-shake. She gives the order to take Tachikoma, and is immediately contradicted by Gouda, who says that, again, they wouldn’t want to upset the refugees. This makes Batou even angrier! Just imagine him as a balloon that keeps inflating. Or a bubblegum bubble, which is essentially what the title Bubblegum Crisis means.
They fly over the sunken city, which is just another indicator that this future world isn’t perfect — but it isn’t a wreck either. Often in the fantastic worlds of science-fiction, it’s one or the other. But Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has an extensive history, with several wars and environmental disasters. That these events resulted in post-apocalyptic scifi imagery is traditional, but palpable in that genre way.
The Major tells Gouda that he may have authority on this mission, but unless he follows their instructions in the field, they can’t guarantee his safety. The first step on this safety journey is tandem jumping from the plane with Batou, the big angry stone giant. “I can’t wait,” he says. He was really hoping to go with the Major, I bet. He says: I’m not really keen on this, and Batou’s like “good,” and jumps.
A bit of comic relief here, with Gouda screaming through the sky, but also the Major’s hair fluttering in the wind. They land, their silhouettes looking cool against the post-apocalyptic mise-en-scen.
They meet with the SDF commanding officer in a tent. He says they’ve been sweating bullets — didn’t know this was plutonium. Section 9 offers to take it off their hands, but the military initially refuses. Gouda takes the guy aside and talks via data link. This guy, with the doing everything possible to piss off Section 9.
So the trucks arrive and they load the plutonium. Section 9 is now dressed to look like civilians, for the escort through streets heavily watched by curious refugees. They give Togusa the creeps. While the Individual Eleven could try to commandeer the vehicle, the Major advises them not to jump at shadows. This should clue us into some incoming catastrophe. The professional Section 9 is riding with a few GSDA soldiers…
And indeed, one of the young soldiers spots a little girl running alongside the truck. “Isn’t that cute, she’s racing with us.” That would be suspicious even to me, but Gouda goads (gasp) him on by telling him there was a little girl in Nagasaki who took a shot at an army patrol. Batou asks why he’s trying to spook them. Gouda counters by asking why Batou joined up with this lady commander. Are you in love with her? Batou says nothing. Gouda says ‘of course not, haha.’ You may not have windows to your soul, but you wear that part of your life on your sleeve.
They’re headed for the overpass, which is strategically disadvantageous. This keys off the Major, who wants a quick background check on Gouda. Togusa meanwhile dishes some history, how the Kanto region has fallen apart after the war. It’s stayed like this because the refugee policy was always up in the air.
Up ahead, a truck had rolled over. Refugees are standing around. The Major takes Saito to check it out. If there are terrorists among them, they’ll just expect the worst. Gouda wants to tag along, and takes at least one GSDA guy — the very same he’d been gouding. The Major tells the people that we need to get by, and they’re like, ‘okay.’ She reports back to Batou that there’s enough room to pass, and if anything happens back here, leave us behind. Some more people come out of the woodwork, and Gouda tells the soldier that one of them has a pistol. This soldier opens fire, and they peel out.
Back on the plane, they find that the people they massacred were indeed just refugees, not a terrorist among them. Saito chides the trigger-happy soldier, who then looks at Gouda — that SOB smiles back.
Then there’s a showdown at the hangar, and Gouda reveals that the plutonium they secured was just a decoy — the real stuff is being shipped by sea as we speak! The Chief is like “You used my team as a decoy?” And Gouda tells everyone to check their egos. Had your team been confronted by refugees so armed, you’d be defeated. Be thankful you played this role. I feel like that’s kind of a non-sequitor, so I’ll just chalk that one up to the dub. Small price to pay — I get what he was saying, and can connect that to what the Major was saying earlier.
The music in this scene is nearly deafening, very dramatic — reflects Batou’s mood, certainly. Not the Major. Her anger is always subdued, making emotional explosions a pretty big deal, leaving her prone to sadism in the manner of standing over an arm suit and pounding it in with multiple sniper rounds.
But she’s just biding her time. She’ll always win out in the end (at least, in this case), but Batou again, wears his emotions. Always one to lose his cool.
The episode is centered around a singular mission, per usual, but the mission is purely tension, not action. This plutonium will figure in later, and its importance now is as that dormant, potential cataclysm. If a weapon of mass destruction fell into the refugees’ hands, that would be quite a reversal of the government’s attempts to control them.
But more pressing now, is Gouda’s betrayal. I don’t know what the hell is plan was — why involve Section 9 when there are at least eight other sections to manipulate, who won’t come back and blow your head off?
Regardless, Section 9 is in a tricky situation right now, and they’ll attempt to wriggle their way out next episode.