“How long’s this guy been running around without his frontal lobe?”
Sometimes in anime an episode will end with some last-minute events, and then the next episode will pick up with those same events, but edited differently, composing an implicit ‘previously on.’ I’ve always found this weird, as if there’s two different versions of the same events when certain things are out of order, or chronological scenes are removed. In this episode of Ghost in the Shell, that doesn’t happen, because it was more of a stand-off. If you recall:
Batou taunts him: You’ve exceeded that body’s lifespan. Kuze acknowledges this. Batou’s bared teeth bare further. Even still, you think you can beat me? They fight, and their knife-play quickly comes to boxing. Because of his pain receptors being turned off, Batou says, he can only knock him out with a concussion. We all remember Batou’s fondness for boxing.
However, Kuze gets the better of him, managing to break his leg and stab him with a pole like in Terminator 2, but through the shoulder. Kuze asks if he used to be in the Rangers, and Batou’s awfully curt about it. “You fight well. I probably only won due to slight differences in motivation. There are still things I need to do. Don’t follow me…” So polite. I always liked that line — a rationale for victory that demonstrates modesty while also pitching one’s convictions. Course, Batou isn’t at the moment receptive to such thoughtful diction nor the sentiment expressed therein.
Meanwhile, Saito and the Tachikoma are on the hunt. It’s cool to see Saito with an assault rifle again — especially this one, the fish-shaped gun. He’s ambushed (twice) by Koil, who he finds is a zombie, in essence — a remote control cadaver. The Tachikoma saves him, although does so by shooting Koil while he’s pinned Saito down. “Moron! You nearly shot me!” The Tachikoma says that he needn’t worry: we’re now upgraded with new fire control software and are better sharpshooters than even you, Mr. Saito! That puts him at ease.
The Major and another Tachikoma come to the geofront, and see the other Tachikoma and an arm suit just moving back and forth. Even the Major is taken aback — what the hell are they doing? She sees they’re unmanned, and goes after Batou. While running, her thoughts are frenzied: what was that arm suit doing? The GSDA has no business getting involved here!
She finds Batou in a state of… embarrassment, and pulls the pole from his shoulder — either we’ve got some subtle Fist of the North Star-style censorship going on, or Batou’s got black oil blood. Or I should’ve downloaded the HD version. The Major goes after Kuze, and we also get some of Batou’s thoughts: Be careful. That bastard’s tough. That’s another anime thing. The skipping around of narration perspectives.
The refugees in the harbor are prepping the ship. Kuze wonders, facially, where the hoodie is. Apparently he’s gone. Maybe he left, finally choosing Densetzu over Kuze, but at least doing so non-explosively. Before we can mourn hoodie, the Major arrives and shoots a bunch of people, shouts KUZE! The ship takes off, and Section 9 goes after them. Looks like they’re getting away though, but the Major is able to run along and give Kuze the death-stare. He looks back at her — this is the second time they’ve encountered each other (it would seem).
The Major tells the Tachikoma that they’re headed for Nagasaki. Both parties, I suppose. She finds some origami cranes left behind.
Boma helps Batou up, and they all regroup at his position. Saito reports in, that Koil’s been dead awhile. Pazu explains that the arm suits were probably manned by laborers, all dead. They move out, and we see that the hoodie is watching them.
Kuze informs the captain that they’ll have company soon. The plan is to leave with the other camouflage ships from Dejima, and to slip through the Coast Guard dragnet. They agree that they’ll have trouble if those guys come at them from above, just as they’re planning. Did you see the tilt rotor? They’d best prep the AA cannon, and go off to do so.
Meanwhile, the tilt rotor drops in, and Togusa’s shocked to see that someone took Batou out — his role model, his everything. The Major starts explaining that they’re going after Kuze when the hoodie runs by. She pivots and fires at him, clipping him in the ankle, sending him stumbling into the VTOL. He stares at Ishikawa, who stares back, and detonates, blowing the vehicle up. Ishikawa is thrown clear as it drifts down into the darkness below.
It’s a pretty well done scene (if you’ll excuse Togusa’s reaction in the English dub: “He blew himself up!” Thanks, Crispin), although dramatically, is certainly undermined by Ishikawa surviving, not even a scratch on him. Let’s mourn instead for the two operators, whose distinct lack of plot armor was fatal. But what if Ishikawa had died in that moment? Would there be an outcry from fans? This is indeed a different kind of TV show than the ones we’d be used to in the US — characters are based on ages-old characters and can’t just be killed off. Which is fine, death is overrated, but why then bother with this scene?
Plot, maybe. We had to get Section 9 away from Kuze’s ship, and so, okay… what if a refugee blew them up? That’s cool. Why don’t we take a lot of time to set this scene up in prior episodes? Even better. But you may have set up more than the pay-off can pay off. Being said, you get some good animated acting, facial studies. This is something you don’t always see with Ghost in the Shell, and is much more apparent in the follow-up work, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit — where the characters are less robots, and don’t always have Molly Millions eyes.
Kuze discovers lead in the plutonium case. That’s disappointing. He joins the two lead refugee guys on the deck. They wonder what’s keeping the police guys, and Kuze guesses accurately. This opportunity will allow them to be free, as one of them begins to rejoice. But Kuze tells them not to get optimistic until the plutonium is in the country. Time for a new plan, he thinks on the DL. We’ll split up, even though it’s suicide to enter Dejima by sea.
In the end, Kuze emphasizes, nukes are deterrents. They aren’t meant to be used. What a thought. Even still — not worth it. It’s so important he preaches in the ways of peaceful revolution, because as he narrates, three million refugees are watching his every move in real time. But what this really means… is no backing down.
There hasn’t really been a revolutionary leader in the mold of Kuze since the revelation of social media — the use of Facebook in Egypt comes close. But if you have any friends or family with a recently born child, you know how many iPhone photos of that kid have been taken. By age three, they’ll have more of an online presence than you — and by then they may be starting to manage it themselves. This is what would happen with a modern day MLK — History Channel wouldn’t have to labor to recreate animated 3D reconstructions of the JFK assassination, they could recreate his life with preexisting materials floating out there on the net.
Before the Major makes another sly infiltration of a building (this one requiring an entire false history), Batou and Ishikawa are airlifted out by Hokkaido PD, and the Chief states that now the Coast Guard is their last line of defense. The Major is undercover, sort of, at Sagawa, following up on the Russians. Her cover is as a photographer, the baddest-looking photographer in the world (or is the Major just the least scariest-looking law enforcer?), the one who took over at Uesawa, who’ve we’ve been doing business with for years!, as one security guard stresses to another.
With Pazu and Boma in tow, she finds that Jabrov and Kagazaki were murdered just like Krolden. The deal went down while under CIS control, but there’s no evidence of their Koil-mind control. Everyone’s still dancing to Gouda’s tune. She looks at an origami, thinks about Kuze.
Three days later, Batou is trying to get used to new parts. I do wonder what he considers more embarrassing: needing a new arm because you lost a fight, or because you yourself shot it to hell? Ishikawa will be fine, as it turns out. He must be one spry MF to extricate place that pace. Regardless, Section 9 has taken significant losses, beginning with the dead rookie and decreasing in severity ever since. The Chinese government is unsure how to react to Dejima’s sword-waving. They’re just trying to figure a way to cover their asses for not taking in any refugees in the first place. Kayabuki of course, is pro-China. Never gets easier for the ol’ girl. And speaking of Kayabuki, and the earlier-referenced Moribito, tell me just how Balsa will look when she’s older:
Maybe it’s just the colors. But if so, that Yoko Kayabuki’s got strong genes. And if not, my bad. All you animated-types look the same to me. What? I’m not racist! Some of my best friends are animated-types, and body pillows!
The Major updates an evaluation of Kuze as refugee leader: he’s gotten by thus far on charisma alone, and not the ability to accurately assess situations. He got burned on the plutonium deal, did he not? “Ultimately,” she says, “he’s just a terrorist.” He’s played out Gouda’s script, but he’s no longer under CIS control. This should be her first indication that maybe he’s not ‘just a terrorist,’ but I suppose he hasn’t been able to offer her a different superficial read.
She says that whatever happens next is his move — he’s unpredictable. And also, this particular situation may be the result of a stand alone complex. I’m sorry, Major — I’ve never understood a single instance of your invoking that term. And frankly, I’m beginning to suspect you just made it up, and are trying really hard to get other people to use it.
Meanwhile, Kuze makes his way toward Dejima by sea, but is quickly approached by a Coast Guard patrol. They fire warning shots as Section 9 watches the live feed. Kuze fires back, and then with return fire they hit his fuel tanks. The Major says that this is bad. The media’s gonna get its claws all over this. Just then, nearby Nagasaki goes dark — those blackouts. Kuze gets away from his fiery wreck on a lifeboat, slips into darkness. He gazes upon the coastline, shocked.
The refugees… are helping him? It’s difficult to say, Section 9 says. But if not them, then who? The Major says that either way, what awaits them at the end of this cycle is a quagmire of war with the refugees.
Boy-o. How did we ever get to this point? War with the refugees? Well, this escalation is pretty evenly paced throughout, by Gouda’s steady hand. And in this season, Section 9 has always been a step behind. Investigations are races against the clock, and we’ve just struck midnight.
Or… midnight, maybe the episode after next. That’s when Section 9 heads into Dejima — that’s when the shit gets so real.