“Think I’ll pass on that. But I won’t mind losing my life, if… you’re my killer.”
This and the next episode are very unusual — hand-in-hand with this recent experiment theory. We take a closer look at two supporting characters, first Pazu, and then Saito, and the results are fantastic. Yet, they don’t stray too far, despite being slightly more conventional. The issue to visit here, and revisit again next time, is the theme of ambiguity.
We start with a closer look at someone else, nestle this Dividual episode inside the ongoing Individual Eleven developments. The rooftop swordsmen, being filmed by roving newscopters. The guy, Mr. Boat Deal, is shouting to the world, and then we see how Kuze hesitates — but he’s no wanker, and manages to deflect the other guy’s sword-strike, and lop his head off before escaping. The news footage of the beheadings is photographed par excellence — pretty creepy.
Section 9 is watching this, and the main crime lab guy is about to give a presentation. I always thought he was an android, a male version of the operators, and this is the episode why. But before, we get some important philosophizin’: The Major says that key to the CIS plan is the creation of mediators to push that something forward in society, akin to a stand alone complex, and these martyrs are perfect. They are in fact based on events in the Cuban Revolution.
Togusa finds it interesting that Patrick Sylvester named his essay the Individual Eleven, this disguised virus. There are probably people all over who tried to kill themselves. Boma rubs the back of his head. “Guess I had a pretty close call too.”
The virus programs the infected to end his own life. The Chief shakes his head. Lord knows how many copycat will arise now. The Major says that we’ll need a vaccine, but they don’t have the resources. For now, they’ll have to concentrate on the CIS. To do so, they’ll need to focus their efforts on arresting this guy, who we know as Kuze. The crime lab guy says that there’s a term for a person who was affected but behaves outside expected parameters: it’s a spontaneous mutation.
The guy observes that Kuze doesn’t move his mouth when he speaks. The deduction is that he’s not using micro-machines in his face. Togusa’s like “What?” Please be patient. His face. Quite beautiful, isn’t it? “What is this?” Batou growls. “You people are so impatient!” The Major is next to interject, says that Kuze’s face must have been sculpted by an artist. Instead of reacting irritably, the crime lab guy is like, “I knew you’d catch on Major.” What a kiss-ass.
There are two artists of this calibur in this country. Batou and Togusa drive out to meet with one. Togusa wonders why they’re so rare. Batou states that while the Japanese are masterful artists, true to life renderings are typically beyond them, says the untrue to life rendering.
They arrive at the artist’s house, but it’s a crime scene — homicide. Batou phones the Major: he’s dead. Our guy beat us to the punch? Possibly. She sends in Pazu and Saito.
Batou and Togusa head into the house, try to clear the place of pesky policemen. This artist is a material witness in a case. The detective’s like, oh what a shame. It’s open shut, boys — the prints on the murder weapon, the fact they knew each other, and… the security camera footage. But you can’t look at our stuff. Batou threatens him: I’ll strip you of your rank. The detective tells him to shove that strong arm crap! “Hey, can’t we all get along?” Pazu arrives, and the detective’s eyes go wide. “It’s… you!”
Section 9 looks over the security footage. It’s clearly Pazu who’s murdered the face artist. Pazu is dour in the corner. The Major says that the police have to understand that this video isn’t conclusive, but the prints make it complicated. She asks him if he’s got any suspects in mind. Not off-hand. She gives the orders — half a y’all will follow up the swordsman connection, but Pazu, you stay put. Section 9 rolls out, Boma gives Pazu a look before exiting.
Pazu is smoking in the lobby, and Batou approaches him. “If you can’t talk with the Major, I’m always here.” Pazu keeps it in mind, but he’s somewhat cold. See, he’s not afraid of the Major — she told him to stay, but he’s off on his own.
He shows up at a bar, examines the death masks adorning the wall. The bartender says that it’s the manager’s new hobby. The detective comes in. He says he doesn’t think it was Pazu, but this murderer is his exact copy. He’s got some obsession with you. He wants to keep a close eye on him, and came here to give him a head’s up. Professional courtesy, across departmental lines.
The manager then sits next to him. She says that usually it’s a woman next to him each night. “I don’t know who that guy was.” He asks her about this new hobby, the masks. Seems she commissioned a face sculptor. She theorizes that maybe your ghost isn’t in your brain case, it could be in the skin. The lines and wrinkles etched into your face. This face artist she met with used to make faces for soldiers, and he said that the severity of their wounds reflected the severity of their psychological wounds.
Next we have a pretty clever scene, one that plays with our sense of time. In a prior scene, to emphasize that time has passed, assumed following an important moment, we hold on a close-up of Pazu. But here, the cut is normal, and so we think that no time has passed, when the detective stumbles out of a bar. We might even think it’s the same bar, such that when the Pazu lookalike shows up, we rule out the manager with the face sculptors. Must be just another one of those anime things, that everything is connected. But our clue is that the detective is noticeably more drunk, which is why it takes him a while to recognize that it’s the other guy, before being shot to death.
Ishikawa finds Kuze. He’s a full prosthetic, and according to the computer readout, he’s only 5’10” (and his blood type is B, I don’t know how anybody would know that without anything else). I really hate to think that I’d be taller than the Major, but she is pretty short on the show. I’m at least taller than ScarJo, so maybe it’s true.
Kuze’s got no facial neural net, and his skin has a regeneration program. His sculptor catered to military personnel, but the old files are erased, meaning they’ll have to track him down the old fashioned way (which we should take as a clue that we won’t be on the Kuze train for a while again). Boma theorizes that the face sculptor homicide could have no connection to Kuze. “Maybe it’s woman related,” Ishikawa says. Batou then radios the Major, reports that the detective has been shot, and he was last seen with Pazu. It’s clear someone’s trying to frame him.
Pazu looks at a list of the sculptor’s clientele, and spots a name: Kaori Kawashima. “Major, this is turning out to be a very personal matter.” He’s like to do this on his own, and if he causes trouble for the unit, he’s willing to be cut loose. He heads out, and the police try to stop him. Batou and Saito are there to back him up, muscle. Pazu tells Batou that he uploaded the address to his external memory. So if something happens…
It’s true that this is a necessary plot detail, but this scene interacts with the prior one between Pazu and Batou, where Batou offers help, but Pazu kind of brushes him off. Apparently there was something there. This episode is about Pazu the loner, but we see a more vulnerable side (any side at all would’ve sufficed). To frame this stoic reliance on another member with a previous coldness is an arc in itself.
We then see the bar manager — it’s her! She caresses the copy Pazu body, gets naked. The next morning, she throws something in the dumpster — a brain case.
Pazu takes a boat ride, set to some meditative music and pink water, pink sky. The surroundings are very dreamlike. He walks through the courtyard of a seemingly abandoned apartment complex. Batou, hiding in a Tachikoma, watches from a distance.
The woman confronts Pazu as the sun begins to set. She laments — he really has forgotten about her. This murderer’s past is alluded to, that the face artist wasn’t her first victim — she jacked the body of the ‘bar manager,’ and that was her brain case in the trash. Pazu asks why she’s trying to be him. She explains that it was because she could never understand why he left her, and this narration rolls over shots of the decay in the apartment complex. Empty, forgotten places.
When we first met, you told me you never slept with the same woman twice. But when we did sleep together a second time, I fell in love. Soon, she was riddled with hatred. He asks, now that you’ve taken my face, what did you learn? Although she discovered, with his ghost, that he loved her and just wanted to protect her, now that she has the ghost, she doesn’t need the real Pazu.
So she takes off the cloak and reveals the identical Pazu. Batou’s taken aback. She tells him, if he has any love left for her, to die here. And he says, he’ll pass, but wouldn’t mind losing his life if she was his killer. That’s one of my favorite lines from the show, and really becomes the apex of Pazu as romantic loner. It’s almost like he’s fully developed, because ‘only sleeping with the same woman once’ is only ever attributed to him. We couldn’t imagine him saying this now. He’s put a certain life behind him, but like Spike Spiegel, it’ll always come back for you.
So Pazu and Pazu fight with the same type of knife, and Batou follows them. He finds one dead Pazu, stabbed in the eye. “So you did it.” But as we see, the dead Pazu has the injury that the real Pazu sustained at the start.
In the end, Batou checks in with the Major. “You think he would’ve figured it out sooner,” Batou says, getting into the car. The Major’s not so sure. There’s probably plenty of women who would love to see him dead. When first she scouted him, he said he’s the kind of guy who never sleeps with the same woman twice. But the real question… is whether or not the Pazu who survived is the real one.
This is characteristically Stand Alone Complex because of that ambiguity, but also because of the hints of characters. There are no flashbacks, no lengthy monologues from Pazu. But it’s whole, and it’s satisfying. When next we see Pazu, he’s back in the background, but we have a better understanding of who he is.
But is he really Pazu now? Or is he some deranged murderer? Well, it’s unlikely that the woman who killed the face artist could fully replace Pazu in the field duties Section 9 undertakes. I guess that’s all the solace we can take. I feel like the ambiguity works better in the next episode…