Episode 9: “DU: The Hope Named Despair — AMBIVALENCE”

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In this excellent follow-up to last week’s already well-structured episode, the ultimate threat begins to show its face — but even the enemy is unknown, and amorphous, ever-changing. It’s a Complex episode with the darkness of “Jungle Cruise,” one that deals in themes of terrorism, and culminates in a stomach-churning instance of violence, and so the serial arc is thus colored in black and red. It won’t be the slam-bang/static ending of the first season. We’re in for something much more affecting.

We begin with the Major having had enough of the CIS, and the subsequent investigation of the CIS, which is pulling nothing. She goes to work covertly infiltrating their very headquarters, and her attack from the receiving perspective looks like Armageddon coming down on unwitting heads.

A bomb goes off on the second story of a building, just as Section 9 arrives. Togusa instructs the police to attend to the wounded as a top priority. Boma, explosives expert, confirms that it’s indeed a suicide bomb. The pattern of warnings and attacks assumes at least one more detonation — and soon. The Chief had found an email talking about five suicide bombs in Nihama.

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Togusa is outraged. This refugee situation is a powder keg. Batou didn’t even think of the refugees — he peels out, asks Chief to pull records. He seems to understand the psychology of suicide bombers pretty well. Lord knows what else he saw in those old war days.

The Major, her usual baller self, struts toward the CIS building, hacks a door — it opens, no sweat. Hacks the damn building, gives herself a ‘mask array,’ so the little crab robot doesn’t notice her. She runs at a guy and plugs a cord into his neck, and taunts him (to herself — he’s frozen) about relying on android operators. The way she then sits, with the computer, is very cyberpunk hacker girl.

Ishikawa and Boma are still at the scene, and confirm it was the refugees. Looks like C4. Saito, Pazu, Togusa, and Batou all meet on an overpass. Still, it’s night. Togusa laments. “Killing yourself just to make a point — I don’t get it.” Saito reports the intervals of the bombings, that they’ve increased. Perhaps it’s reluctance.

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The Major finds that Gouda had a fat pipeline to Poseidon. I don’t really know what that means. She dives, to some more Ilaria — another session of “I Can’t Be Cool.” Ilaria Graziano is probably my favorite artist on the Ghost in the Shell roster, but this has always been her weakest outing. It works though, especially when set to this kind of scene. One that I can’t imagine formulating music to that isn’t just… synthesizer freakout.

Chroma confronts a vision of Gouda — strap in, kids, this is the Architect scene, but this time it comes straight from the source. What is this Gouda? A simulacrum based on data archives? She learns from mini-Gouda that he was one who worked on the Japanese Miracle, only not as an engineer. Back then, he couldn’t make a name for himself, and compares himself and that situation to post-war Japan on the greater world stage. For more on Japan’s international standing, we refer to “Poker Face,” upcoming.

I’ll come clean — these two went over my head. But the gist is that Gouda has great ambitions, only — not for himself. He needs a hero to interface with the situation he’s creating, one that will in turn effect a chain of events that shall return Japan to its old glory. Indeed, Japan’s history and current (future) political situation are very valuable.

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This is some serious entrapment though — if the confessions of one’s virtual intelligence was admissible in court, Section 9 would get to the headsplosions a lot faster. The Major brings up Patrick Sylvester, who saw in revolutions a reason for being. Gouda once bought into him, but after his accident, he wandered between life and death. Now he’s interested in retuning to a Shangri-la way of life on the backs of outsiders. This state he speaks of, is more like Japan during the Cold War, the Major observes. And who’s this hero? The Individual Eleven? He doesn’t say.

The Major says that he’s set the refugees up at the enemy of the state. They were an easy target. He says that he’s had to guide the people’s thinking. Now that’s a pretty indicting social criticism. Off the theme of mass media from last year, we see how mob mentality is so powerful in nation’s various cultural war-zones. We can be bought — and very easily. And about nothing! The only thing the refugees are doing are affecting taxes. But the myth that their mistreatment will lead to terrorism is out there, and then answered — data manipulation.

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Batou and Togusa follow the lead and end up at the subway, where the police have cornered a little girl with a bomb (Jin-Roh flashbacks). Togusa aims, tells her to put her hands up. The police move in — she’s nervous, but surrendering. Or so it seems. Batou rushes in (how’d he fall behind?) and shoots the girl’s cheek off. He then rips the detonator out of her teeth, and yells at Togusa: There’s a bomb in her stomach!

We hard cut to the Major making a daring escape set to “Torukia,” a great song, very exciting. But off the context of the last scene, its melancholy quality is brought more to focus. We’re in a strange emotional place.

Batou and Togusa watch as the ambulance pulls away. This is a declaration of war from the refugees, Batou says. The Major radios in: You were right. Gouda created the Individual Eleven to cause a refugee uprising, and their goal is to create an autonomous region inside Japan — Dejima.

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It might be directorial signature (I’ve only just started Moribito), it might just be the Stand Alone Complex way, but in echo to the exposition episode at the end of the first season, we will also get another one-on-one with a primary villain, but this time it’s Batou chatting with long-time pal Gouda. We get more of the man’s motives there, but I don’t recall if we ever fully understand where the endgame is. The Shangri-La? How studious of history must we be to comprehensively understand? I don’t mind if it’s ‘a lot,’ but if I don’t need to be, then, naturally…

I think the show might be too fixated on the machinations of his mission, that it doesn’t really detail the why of it. Which is fine, because the machinations are so fascinating. This story becomes one about revolutions, an exploration of heroism and society by way of psychology and technology. But ultimately, Gouda is only our gateway, because the true heart of the matter, and of the season, is what Kuze brings to his master plan.

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