Vacation’s over. Put down your pencils. Or pick them up, rather. We start in the net, tangled, that golden space and its myriad inter-gates, great for what fates, do await? They’re still spying on the CIS, hoping to nab that gouddamn Gouda, but it seems he’s just showing off now, because nothing can be traced back to him. The Major decides to dive this new thing, but is called up by the Chief, along with Pazu, Saito, and Batou. Boma’s gonna have to handle things. I think he’s got it.
Before we cut to the meeting currently underway, we linger on that green room. Ishikawa and Boma find a suspicious file: the Individual Eleven. The eleventh essay. To see if this is the file that sets people off, makes them crazy and suicidal, we need to plant it in someone. Togusa, also in attendance, takes aback when Boma volunteers. Shouldn’t we write a vaccine first? Sure, but they can’t, not unless there are known symptoms.
The Chief found Kuze. The man’s up and around, and regenerated. Looks like they finally caught a break, but we’ll Section 9’s bad luck is still with them. We’ll see how this break plays out — spoiler, it ends in about a dozen beheadings.
Boma goes quiet. Togusa asks if he’s okay, and it takes him a while to say… “Yeah.” Boma’s kind of a funny character. He’s like Golgol in Cyber City Oedo 808 — you’d expect him to be the field agent, but he’s actually the hacker guy. Though, this leaves Pazu partner-less, and he’ll need one next episode. Regardless, Boma says that the only thing on this damn file was a poorly written essay. Surely not the work of the brilliant Patrick Sylvester, so acclaimed by murderous psychopaths all around Japan?
Section 9 rolls out, hot after Hideo. If this is the same guy, what caused those people to go crazy could be in his head. For the record, this was kind of confusing. Who people? What are they talking about? And why are they so concerned with acquiring this virus?
Well, the virus could link the crime to Gouda, and they’d be able to clap him in cyber-irons. I assume. And to work on a vaccine, I guess — but for who again? Oh, right, the refugees. I forget sometimes that not only are the refugees being set up by the CIS, but that by this point, Section 9 knows that. Christ, it’s a lot simpler than I thought. Keep pace, asshole.
Saito says that sniping is an option, but to stop a cyborg like that, you’d have to take the head clean off. Looks like close range it is, Batou says, brandishing a knife. “We can just bring the head back.” The Major smiles: “How sadistic.”
Back in the green room, the Chief’s hounding for the update. Nothing doing. If only, Boma says, we could get our mitts on the essays themselves. Maybe a paper copy, the Chief says.
Some scary-looking guys with swords gather at a monument to war dead. Kuze is late, joining them after a Section 9 surveillance interlude. While the rest of these swordsmen wear all black, he’s donned in white. Then, a slow fade to black. I don’t know what the deal with that is, but it’s very effective. Some shit’s going down.
Togusa’s off on a mission to get the Individual Eleven essays, and learns from a crotchety old professor that there were only twenty copies ever printed, as the work was published just before the author’s death. Togusa’s surprised the Chief knows this guy, look at him, and the Chief says that times change, but the more contacts you have, the better. Even still, this guy can’t find the book. He’s never moved it, why… what’s going on here?
The swordsmen, let’s call them the Individual Eleven, for argument’s sake, drive in a van. Trade stories. One of them stabbed a guy, there’s hacking, bombers — it’s that list of terrorist acts the Chief was reading off in an earlier episode. Now they’ve all gathered. One of them mentions that it’s important to cut the lifelines of the refugees, and this guy was on the boat during the plutonium sale that was raided by the Coast Guard. He leaked the bluff that the refugees were making the sale. Bravo, a fellow terrorist says.
They turn to the guy up front, Hideo Kuze, and ask what he did. “I tried to assassinate the Prime Minister.” Well shit. But we haven’t heard about an attempt on her life. Kuze says they probably ignored it, like they ignored everything…
One of these guys killed that rapper, who they say was a key to the refugee youth. This might bring to mind Tupac conspiracy theory, but only in a roundabout way — he’s my go-to for rapper-as-political-presence, with lyrics like “keep a vest on my chest in case the cops are getting restless” relevant to the cutting edge moment — wow this stuff is old, isn’t it? I don’t know what rap stars are like in Japan, but in America, there was certainly a heyday for political rappers that would effect this kind of moment where we understand that a genre of music sometimes dismissed for its misogyny and shallowness… can be empowering.
Boma asks the Chief and Ishikawa if they’ve read the essays. He’s alone in that… he hasn’t — both the Chief and Ishikawa have, save the eleventh. But Ishikawa then finds the thing that causes the virus to manifest. Good thing, because Togusa just struck out at the Laughing Man’s library. You know how Togusa takes failure — he’s liable to shoot someone. But Ishikawa summons him back to HQ.
After the Individual Eleven nominate a leader, who’ll speak atop the building, Kuze asks for a copy of their bible — he’d misplaced his. But this has been happening, you know, and none of them in the van seem to have their copies. Kuze, concerted, actually moves his lips to ask if one among them will hand him their copy.
Togusa takes a detour, continuing the search, and arrives at a stand-still scene. A man is threatening suicide; he’s been infected. Meanwhile, Boma gets attacked while jacked in, and Ishikawa has to punch him in the head and have the Tachikoma shut down his cyberbrain. Then the news feed comes in — Boma’s gonna be sore to learn he missed this one — the Individual Eleven have gathered on the roof, and they cut each other’s heads off!
The Major sees Kuze escape, having elected to keep his head. Over at Togusa’s site, the guy says that there was no book, there was never a damn book, that it was a manufactured ideology! He screams “I am the Individual Eleven!” and slices his throat, splattering Togusa.
This is the effect that Gouda has, ultimately, and so even if he doesn’t physically appear in the episode, his ghost is all over it. An illustration of villainy, of evil — this is mind-control, and the stand alone complex is just as sinister as the Puppet Master’s methods. There’s this added dimension of cultish ideology, such that the marks believe along a set line that exists in the air of culture, making the hack or virus easier to mask.
Again, it’s a gut-punch criticism of the propagandic network, of the spread of ideology across human minds, through whatever channel, be it Internet or news outlet. To package these messages as a virus, and specifically of malicious, manipulative origin — this is where the SF extrapolation lies.
Ow my brain!