“How can you call yourself one of us?”
Okay, folks. This is it. I swear, each time I revisit this show, there’ll be random intervals of cringing up, struggling to hold back tears. It’s not even close to the saddest piece of media out there, or even the most melancholy anime. But it is so expert at perfectly training its tone. In retrospect, knowing what happens at the end, makes certain upcoming events emotionally gripping.
We end this episode in an unusual way, with a Section 9 death. It’s also our proper introduction to Kuze, who we see is a charismatic leader, and one who’s hardly villainous. We open in northeastern Dejima, at a camouflaged harbor. A group of refugees, who compose Kuze’s most immediate followers, his muscle, gather the guns they smuggled past the Coast Guard security net. A young hoodie is glowing. With these, we can fight a war. A wiser refugee says, “No,” and preaches non-violence. The hoodie is incredulous. Is that one of Kuze’s teachings? This kid has never met him, doesn’t believe.
Down at the CIS HQ, Gouda learns about the refugees’ ability to cut power in Fukuoka, to cause a chain reaction of blackouts. Must be Kuze’s doing. Gouda has these two super-hackers, creepy giants with gross heads, and they’re dispatched to whatever grievous end. Gouda narrates: You got the refugees to abandon suicide bombs and move onto non-violent resistance. He’s unsure how Kuze managed to influence them so. Still, he’s determined — I’ll provide you with my perfect script.
On the tilt rotor, Section 9 has some new digs. The Major catches us up (to last episode), stating that it looks like the refugees declared Dejima an autonomous region. The Chief concurs, saying that Kuze is cleverly leaking the will of the refugees to the media. Togusa mentions that they’re calling him the Che Guevara of the refugees. We see the new guys, Azuma and Yano, though this Yano isn’t the same guy from the earlier episode:
Who are you?
Batou asks if Kuze is really capable of everything they’re thinking. The Major says that they’ll just have to capture him to find out. They see a protesting crowd on the bridge. The tilt-rotor touches down, and the Major splits the team: one half to find out just how well the refugees are armed, and her and Ishikawa to dive the net and find Kuze.
Batou’s team rolls through a police stop, and one of the guards remarks, upon hearing what Section 9 is around for, that it must be nice to pick your own jobs with no strings attached. Batou says it isn’t so great. You gotta haul your own ass out of the fire. Yes indeed. Before the season is over, we’ll see gunfire exchanged between Public Security sections. Meanwhile, the Major decides to hack a refugee’s brain, to gain entry into Kuze’s head.
The other rookie, Proto, a fellow with long white hair, is driving the Chief, who finds no money trail with Poseidon. I don’t even know… what they’re trying to investigate there. And he learns that the Deputy Minister has been hit by a train and killed in Niihama. Don’t know what that’s supposed to mean either.
Batou is still rolling the van through Dejima. He notes that the refugees have been building up the high rise slum for years. He splits the team up once more, taking the rookies. Pazu says they’ll check the opium dens. The job, they say, in case you forgot, which for once I didn’t, is to gauge the militia’s strength by the quantity of their weapons.
A Tachikoma finds a suitable candidate for the Major’s prying eyes, a female police officer. Hm. They look pretty bored, she says, and we jump perspectives to this post. The female officer chats with her co-worker, about her new control system install on her arm. Never upgrade, she says, and is hacked when HQ calls in. She walks outside and links with a homeless man’s cyberbrain, one linked with Kuze. She falls over, and the other cop is just like… these cyborgs are all nuts.
The Major goes diving, finds that Kuze is using ‘zoning’ to only interact with the refugees. The music currently playing sounds like a reprisal of the Godzilla leitmotif, if I’m using either of those terms correctly. Her target is Kuze’s field of vision, so they can determine his exact location.
Chroma finds an impressive memory matrix as her sensorium mask begins to degrade. Her sensorium mask allows her to pass through the net undetected. She hears his voice: I wouldn’t if I were you. Gasp — he can see through my mask? Attack barriers won’t work on me, she says. Not the point — he warns that if she links with his consciousness, it’ll make her miserable. And it happens when she links. Ishikawa asks if she’s okay. She brusquely orders him to follow up — get away!, in essence. He’s tough, she says. He’s on a ship. And… I know him.
Kuze phones in to the boat crew, warns them of an impending raid. He stresses that they should not engage — to hide the weapons, and not throw their lives away. Batou meanwhile is shopping for eyes, during his investigation. The rookies are waiting outside. Azuma is trying to score a joint, and Yano tells him to cut it out. Batou asks this eye-guy just what it is about Kuze. The sheer scope of his ambitions, he answers. The Major drops in with the target location, the camouflaged harbor. Maybe.
Togusa’s surprised. That’s not like you, Major. You’re not sure? The Major says that he saw her… let’s just grab him before he escapes. They go off. And just then, Kuze arrives at the harbor, and the hoodie sees him for the first time. Kuze explains that the deals have been made (we don’t know what deals yet, exactly). They cheer. Now we have a chance! It’s a revolution! The hoodie asks if this is Kuze. “That’s right.”
The hoodie’s whole issue is that before everyone started calling and yapping “Comrade Kuze,” it was Densetzu, who was murdered by the Individual Eleven, the group Kuze happened to be a part of. “How can you call yourself one of us? You caused Densetzu’s death!” The other refugees are champing to step in, defend Kuze, but he needs no help. The hoodie is just trying to figure him out, and can’t. “If you don’t trust me, that’s fine. It’s enough you realize you can’t understand me.” Kuze explains that his role is to guide the people like hoodie here to an ultimate goal, and it must be expressed in actions, not words. If you remain unconvinced, you can back out of your own free will.
Section 9 arrives at the harbor. Three boats, Batou says. What’s going on with the Major? Ishikawa offers an explanation, thinking she was attacked by something while hacking Kuze’s eyes. Whoa, Batou says. Are you okay?
They head out, and there’s no sign of Kuze. The Major finds a transponder on one of the boats, and suddenly they begin taking fire. An ambush? Attackers from above. It’s over pretty quickly, and the Major kneels by a dying refugee, who taunts: You came here to capture Kuze, but he’ll never be caught by the likes of you… he’s a legend!
And meanwhile, the legend is lamenting. Why did they engage? I told them not to! It’s beginning to seem that maybe Kuze is becoming more than Kuze — perhaps the refugees are treating his name like a war banner, and so they imprint their hawkish wants and desires, before so answered by Kuze, onto him, even now when he’s beginning to zag.
Section 9 forms up around the dead body of Yano. Batou is pissed — “Major, what the hell’s going on?” He was never here to begin with, she says softly. He’s securing a deal with the Russian mafia for plutonium. He’s in Etorofu.
The one time the Major screws up, somebody ends up dead. Might be too convenient, might also be a demonstration of how on she has to be at all times. These are always the stakes.
Now, the rookie arc is pretty subtle, even if establishing Yano as the responsible one just before he’s killed might seem cheap. But looking past this, we have three instances of Azuma’s character, his irresponsibility with boring details and even field work, seeing Yano killed, and then his appearance in Solid State Society. He’s clearly moved by Yano’s death, and this is his turn-around moment. In Solid State Society, he’s become a trusted member, even backing up Togusa in the opening scene. It’s a sensible arc, and one that doesn’t draw too much attention.