An all-nighter at Section 9 is probably easier than you think. The computer screen’s light burns into your eyes, and diving into the net, well… really messes with your perception of time. Ishikawa and Boma are investigating the CIS, and so there’s no messing around. We see that they stayed the entire night, based on the pizza and beer and cigarettes and Boma asleep on the console.
The Major comes in and Ishikawa gets her up to speed. He shows her what Gouda looked like before the accident. Aside from his long face, he’s unremarkable. Not unremarkable though is the Major — she’s looking good this episode (a bit off-model last time. That’s… very important to me). The Chief calls them in for an emergency session, and Ishikawa laments. From an all-nighter to a lunch meeting.
The Chief says that Section 9 has to lay out its policy. It’s about time. Batou and Togusa are getting tired of being jerked around from all angles. The Chief assures them that he doesn’t like it either. “You sure been taking aplenty trips up to the Prime Minister’s office,” Batou says. “Isn’t she trying to control us?” The Chief instead thinks that the CIS is deliberately manipulating data (ok, that clears some things up — when Gouda said “I’m in data manipulation,” I should’ve taken that to mean counter-data manipulation. But now, now it’s reversed).
Then, the Chief goes through the history of the Individual Eleven attacks — a brutal series of killings, from stabbings, drownings, shootings, all important people, including politicians, and even a rap star, all leading up to the attempted assassination of Kayabuki herself. Unlike the Laughing Man case, the police are taking this one seriously, such that there are now barriers to information gathering. But there is one guy who’s been seen at each of the crime scenes, and this intel came from the military.
This guy is an ex-SDA officer who now works at a Taiwanese vegetarian restaurant. The Major splits the team up — one half to arrest this guy, and Ishikawa and Boma are back in the green room. We need the dirt on those CIS bastards.
Batou and Togusa are on the stakeout, in a hot-dog van (hot dogs must be unpopular with the Japanese, lest they’d draw attention). Before Togusa can proclaim that this whole thing is like the Laughing Man case, he takes a bite of some cyborg food and nearly sees it again — disgusting. Batou says it’s 90% gluten, with a dash of micro-machines. Saito comes into the van, reports nothing going down at the restaurant.
The Tachikoma then check-in, and Togusa says that they’re a little shorthanded with just one Tachikoma. Apparently the odd couple journey they took in “Excavation” really improved nothing in his relationship to the machines. They chatter now about their upgrades, reference the satellite, I believe, and then the Major yells at them to shut up, and they scatter. I don’t know what it is, but I enjoy the Tachikoma more and more. Maybe now that I’m older than when I first saw the show, I don’t need it to be the ‘coolest,’ so typical ‘anime’ stuff like adorable robots is just fine in the otherwise gritty cop show.
Ishikawa discusses Patrick Sylvester with the Major. That name is ridiculous. I’m sure it sounds cool and foreign to them, much the way a “Samir Patel,” or “Kim Lee” would to us, but truly… those are two first names. Regardless, another brilliant thing Sylvester talked about was his theory that cyberbrains have a subconscious tendency to instill a collective and degrade individuality. Perhaps that’s a clue to the stand alone complex. Sylvester got a job in the private sector, worked for Poseidon Industrial (recall: Appleseed Ex Machina).
The Chief is on the road, and Kobuta calls him for a reroute. He’d rather meet at that restaurant — nothing too private. Meanwhile, Togusa is exploiting police resources, spying not on Mr. Taiwan but instead the food. He’s so hungry, and this eel meal looks delicious. Batou laughs. That shit ain’t eel. It’s more like shiitake mushrooms — this is akin to Buddhist vegan cooking. Togusa asks why those Buddhist priests would have come up with such elaborate, fake food cooking. Batou explains that they didn’t start out like those priests, and you can’t erase the memories of the taste from the life before. Togusa asks him if he misses it. Of course, Batou says — just because you’re a cyborg, doesn’t mean you don’t crave things.
Gouda is also partaking in the culinary theme for this episode, chowing down on some bar while watching a debate about the refugees. He’s recording it, and zeroes in on one guy who’s lobbying for the economic support of the refugees, lest they resort to desperate measures like suicide bombs. As we learn, this guy is a CIS plant, and so he’s doing what media pundits do when an agenda needs pushing (usually for a bottom line somewhere): maximizing fear. When people are scared, they’ll listen. They’ll also fill their concerns with themselves, and so refugees will get the short end. Not to mention that this bespectacled asshole is also taking advantage of this make-believe narrative that refugee frustration leads to terrorism — a fabrication, and one that Batou felt from the very beginning was far-fetched.
The Chief is asking Kobuta about Gouda, and his old war buddy tells him that most people didn’t remember him, and those that did felt he was unmemorable. He was a much different man back then. Quiet, but always wanted attention. Kobuta notices the Chief hasn’t eaten. It tastes just like the old days, you know. The Chief then learns that the Taiwanese restaurant guy has changed his face. Kinda… critical intel, there, Kob.
The suspect is in the alley, and he’s droning about how this country is too extravagant for refugees but not affluent enough. Then agents from Section 1 appear, trench coats and silencers. They’re silhouetted by a harsh ambient light — given themes of conspiracy and information warfare, this image reads more Area 51 to me than neo-noir. I like it a lot.
The Tachikoma shows up, but can’t fit in the alley, couldn’t save the guy’s life from the Section 1 bullet to the head. I wonder if Section 1 has a superiority complex, being A #1 and all. Batou tells them however that this is the wrong guy — they got played, and so did we.
It’s a good scene to end on, and through it all, it’s a very well-structured episode. It takes place almost entirely at night — that green night — and although things are about to take a much darker turn, the mood is perfectly somber. And somehow electric, even still.
It’s not precisely a Stand Alone episode (nothing is, anymore), but the motif of food allows it some identity. What does it mean? It can be an illusion, or a mirage. For Batou, food is purely sustenance, but in the old days, it used to be more. It used to mean something, truly — but just like Mr. Taiwan and his fakeness, all we have these days are shadows. That’s what it looks like to be on this end of the CIS data manipulation, like a plate of shiitake mushroom made to look like eel.
Section 9 is taking a more active role now, and that’s something we’ve been building to. It’s almost important that a protagonist element do so in their narrative, but the story wasn’t lacking for forward movement before. It’s just that in the early days of an investigation-style plot, there’s a more measured pacing, of parsing out truth and lies. But the team has its target in the crosshairs, and is ready to pull the trigger. But as we see, it’s setback after setback. Push and pull.
Whether directly criticized in “Night Cruise,” or more subtlely here, one of the agents of evil in the world of Ghost in the Shell is the mass media. And it’s consistent — this is how we spread information through a global network, and once we apply the human element to it, bad things can happen. It’s just another tool the CIS can use, and a powerful one at that.