“Care to find out?”
You been enjoying yourself so far? You like this show?
It’s interesting, isn’t it? I mean, despite some weirdness with the Major’s choice of attire on occasion, it’s really a-anime in many respects. Consistent with the Ghost in the Shell brand, it feels more western than Japanese, this one in particular having that cop show appeal.
Well, they made it this far, which is pretty good. That’s 43 episodes and not a singular incident of eye-widening perviness.
Let’s get into it. No more dallying.
The Major’s on the hunt for Kuze in Taiwan, per where we left off last episode. She speaks with a detective while perusing the photos of Kuze with happy people. Only, the locals in and around here call him “Ro,” which is a Chinese character with double meaning, and also because it’s like “Ronin,” although that’s a Japanese word. It’s also like “Rodent,” or “Robocop,” if you want some English words too.
It’s a hot Taiwanese day. You know the type. Not even Ilaria Graziano’s soothing “Dew” can cloud the sun, given that it’s only the instrumental parts. What a jip. Nonetheless, the detective tells his guest that it’s only recently that the Taiwanese officials became aware of Kuze. He’s recently emerged as the leader of the refugees, and they’ve been smuggling contraband and getting into territorial disputes with yakuza.
Until recently, these were boat people looking for refuge. Now look at the situation. The Major asks if Kuze was the one who set up the C4 smuggling route. The detective thinks it’s likely. And why did Kuze leave here? He had to return to Japan for maintenance on his body. But it looks like the Major is stationed for a while, given complications with international flights following the treaty thingabaloo. Sounds to her like some R&R, some Ronin & Relaxation. The detective says that if she wants more information, she should head to mainland China.
It’s odd. She recounts recent revelations while on a roundabout. The hub cyberbrain in Nagasaki is Kuze’s, but most of the refugees there aren’t cyberized. How could he have linked with them? Interrupting her thoughts however is a little kid, Chai, about to be dealt with by some gangsters. The main enforcer, let’s call him Tzu-Sun, is ready to chop the kid’s arm off with a sword, but the Major intervenes — with some shooting the sword in half and some high heel in the face.
She scares them off, and tells the kid to scram. But he follows her around, despite her warnings. “Finish what you started. They’ll come back on me, and even worse!” The Major’s like what the fuck? Get out of here, kid, did you see what I just did to those gangsters? Imagine what I’ll do to you! I deal with robots on a daily basis — robots, motherfucker, combat cyborgs designed to kill people designed to kill them! That doesn’t even make sense! You are no larger than my leg. I could crush you with two fingers. I could–
But in the midst of this monologue I’m having, he alerts the police, and the Major takes him along, not wanting to be delayed in a foreign country for any longer than necessary. She takes him to an alley — a kill alley — and says, “This is how you repay me for saving your life?” He observes that she’s got a nice prosthetic body. He plans on going full prosthetic, just like Ro. Ro? She perks up. Yeah, what do you want with him? And then she grabs his ear, yells at him: I’m asking the questions here.
I guess that’s good, but damn. As soon as you introduce an annoying little kid, it’s just like… damn it. So this kid Chai was about to be Snowpiercered because he’d ripped those guys off, stolen a lot of cocaine.
He shows her the shipments of animal figures made of cocaine, pressure-molded into shapes like an ostrich. They used to use this method in Mexico — it was Ro’s idea. He wants to pick up where Ro left off here — this is what he wants to do with all that coke. He gets a phone call, and learns that the Xiaojie gangsters found out about this place. They survey the gangsters coming in, and escape through the alley.
This is why the little kid is so irking. You’re giving the Major some physical vulnerability. Look at her running away and stuff! All to protect you, you bastard. But maybe that protection thing will pay off…
She takes him to a hotel, impresses with her ability to rent the penthouse suite. The hotel clerk gives her the briefest of sideways glances when Chai refers to her disrespectfully, and the Major explains that she doesn’t allow her son to call her ‘mother’ in public. Come along now, and Chai follows, saying that it’s just because his mother’s so young.
He watches an ostriches documentary on the hotel room television, making ostriches today’s motif. Apparently in the Ghost in the Shell universe, ostriches are nearly extinct. Pretty soon we’ll have electric animals, and a whole new, depressing commodity. They may be almost extinct, but they survive perhaps on the mother’s instinct to protect the child…
And here’s our protector, coming out basically naked from the bathroom, after a shower scene we were mercifully spared of. She wants Chai to go to the police, and be taken into protective custody. He’s unimpressed with this idea. Why would they bother with a street punk like me? We’re nothing but ostriches that the middle class feed on!
Did Ro tell you this? Chai considers Kuze to be a hero. He’s his hope, and just wants to copy him, beginning with the prosthetic body. But, right, the Major recalls: if he doesn’t have a cybernetic body, how can he sync with them? Shit, lady. You just have to talk to him. She’s surprised. Talk? This is a strange man.
So then she gets into bed with him — still basically naked; topless at the very least. I don’t… Why wouldn’t you just order a cot? Or put him on the floor? Or out the window? He asks her one more question. If you have a full prosthetic body, do you still have sex? She hovers over him, narrows her eyes. Care to find out?
I just… have to pick myself up off the keyboard. Now, now, now, now, now I know she’s probably just joking. But that’s a really weird joke to make, the Major. Pedophilia? In the words of one GOB Bluth: come on.
What a turn for the worse. She begins by not immediately punting his kid into the middle of the street, and then pops her top off and climbs into bed with him!
And offers sex! It doesn’t matter not really what’s done is done!
In a series where the same character twists her body and her muscles explode out in a rippling burst… this is the weirdest moment. I have no idea where to begin deciphering it — I still worship the Major and think she’s the coolest thing since cool came to cool town, so this just blows my mind. What the fuck, Kamiyama? Don’t do this shit! Inserting these kinds of jokes into THIS?
I mean, shit. Have you heard Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s voice? Because you’re making her say this stuff. I know I don’t always listen to Atsuko Tanaka, but she’s also got a pretty killer voice. You have the power to stop this! Stop it!
And it’s funny because… this episode isn’t even bad. In premise, it’s an extrapolated route to establish that Kuze is highly influential, and we get this important characterizing tidbit through a fun foreign-lands adventure. It’s light, it’s not a problem. But kids, goddamn it. Kids.
Chai gets up in the middle of the night to sneak off, and goes through the Major’s things. All the while she’s got a hand on her gun, but he doesn’t take anything.
The next morning, she’s off, taxi to the airport. She can’t shake that kid, though. He had more to him than she expected. And now she understands why Kuze has so much effect. But is this another stand alone complex? Dumb kid. She finds a spa key in her wallet — planted last night. Hm. He’s just a kid looking to be coddled. She takes an impromptu detour.
Chai meets with the goonies, and they plan to do as Ro preached. The Major walks into the spa, where men in towels greet her with wide eyes and tails ducking between legs. She finds a duffel bag of cocaine, and is surprised at herself. Still some emotions like this, huh?
Chai then meets with some Hong Kong cinema-style Chinese elders. He wants to make some kind of deal, or become partners or something. But Tzu-Sun and backup have arrived, and are looking to settle things.
The Major follows up, and gets past the giant guard at the door by grabbing his nose and pulling him into the door, bending it outward. She throws this guy into the room and aims his Uzi. A gun that only Snake Plissken can make cool — given a silencer, scope, and extended stock. She also throws the bag of cocaine, and offers that for the boy, as well as the promise that there’ll be no retaliation against the refugees.
One of the elders observes that the Major is the same race as Ro. He’s a wise elder. She stuffs Chai into one of the duffel bags and goes. The Xiaojie thugs start off after them, but the elder holds them back. I have no doubt she’ll kill all of you.
At the airport, Chai is in the bathroom sink giving himself the splash with the water. The Major tells him to straighten out his act, to round out our paternalistic uplifting the ghetto youth narrative. I mean, this is a Japanese woman talking to a Chinese kid — whatever links the US and Japan have in Ghost in the Shell, the historical link they’ve always had is belligerent racism for those both within and without, and sometimes that means subconscious superiority, hence our own homeboy narratives like The Substitute, in opposition to Lean on Me or The Wire: Season 4.
“Swallow your pride. Build a future for yourself. See you around.” She exits, and we know that surely, Chai’s seen the light. It was a close-call with the gangsters, and he won’t always have a strange woman visiting for just one day to bail him out. But what of Ro?
Surely, this episode was also about deprogramming. For a virus effecting the stand alone complex, you administer a vaccine. For this sort of influence, a more human touch is required. Just… don’t take that touch too far. It’s a good sentiment, and in the technological world of Ghost in the Shell, sometimes we see and examine the human in all this on the opposite side of the mirror, as it ever darkens.
I guess I am growing up now, so maybe my hatred for children is become increasingly less appropriate. Before, it could be excused as disdain for peers in middle school. But now? You stay away from the kids, man, you’re a psycho.