Episode 23: “IN: The Day the Bridge Falls — MARTIAL LAW”

“I can’t have people like you die.”

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During another cabinet meeting, Kayabuki’s favorite part of the day, am I right, she sees the message scrawled on the nuclear bomb in a photo from the scene. As she gasps, Takakura, the white hair, takes the lead on this meeting. But Kayabuki breaks in when she hears some BS. “Are you going to avoid the calls from our neighbors about deterring armed conflict?” But he cuts her off by saying that the American Empire doesn’t want the refugees to become nuclear.

But… she hasn’t heard that. “You’re too pro-China for their tastes. They don’t like you.” Yeah, America probably wouldn’t be fazed by a female in office, unlike you Japan. He says that this may mark the end of the Kayabuki administration. Tall words. But this is interesting, and a note I missed when doing the podcast, lo these many moons ago. A few times we invoke the post-WWII treaty, disallowing aspects of Japanese military, and now outside forces, specifically the US, are trying to keep Dejima from those same aspects. And the Japanese neo-conservative prick is going along with it! Kayabuki is true independence, a woman in office of the future. Which is redundant.

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Gouda’s back at the army tent, and gives the orders to his men: prioritize the retrieval of the plutonium. In the meantime, he’s headed back to the office to work on a way to spin this situation. Meanwhile, the Major and the others are en route to SPring-8, which is a real thing, “Super Photon Ring – 8 GeV,” a synchrotron radiation facility in the Hyogo Prefecture of our actual factual Japan. So I suppose they’re looking to verify the bomb’s contents.

Kayabuki tells Aramaki that she’s got no idea what Takakura has to gain from all this. His general goals to create a military industrial complex just don’t jibe with his current behaviors. Perhaps, he offers, she can hand the decision over to the UN to buy herself some time. And so the UN gets involved, although promising things always have a way of getting ankled. And I really remembered Kayabuki making a point of being a strong politician, which I suppose she does at the end, but Aramaki’s doing a lot of backseat Prime Ministering. If the Umibozu ever sweep through again, you’ve got a future in politics, kid.

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Section 9 is in the van with the goods, leaving town not a dime to their name. But there’s a GSDA checkpoint up ahead — only the first of several obstacles. The Chief checks in with the mission briefing: “Meet up with the UN inspection team, get them the plutonium.” The patriotic music begins to swell as the Major advises the Chief not to let the rookies in on this from here on out. We’re alone. And if we don’t make it, Azuma is the new Togusa. But before the Chief can roger dodger, the radio cuts out.

Something’s going wrong back at the Prime Ministering fields. Takakura takes the podium at a press conference, but not before whispering to his assistant to make the preparations to oust Kayabuki from office. He begins the conference as the photographers’ bulbs weapons-free, the crazy horns blare, and the tanks roll out toward Dejima. And I… am catching my breath to prepare emotionally.

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Dejima is cordoned off. The refugees are chanting into the night sky. “Today we’ll win our independence!” The roadblock on the bridge is overrun. “We demand that the Japanese acknowledge Dejima as an independent country. We can then trade freely…” The reports are coming in all over town, video of Dejima popping up in cafes and bars — a dramatic socioeconomic clash made immediate in accordance with physical proximity. The real made real. “Where is the crime in that?!” And then we cut to Takakura at the conference: Our deadline to invade is two days.

Back at Section 9 — our rock, our stability, the only ones who make sense anymore — Batou observes that it’s begun. The Major declares that they’re now acting of their own initiative. She leaves it up to each attending member: Pazu, Boma, Saito, and Batou, if they’re up for this op. Batou’s confused. Aren’t we just playing cat and mouse with the SDA? What’s the big deal? No, the Major says. We’re going into Dejima. We’ll nab Kuze and hand him and the plutonium over to the inspectors. Hm. But of course, it’s unanimous as we ring around the van. Section 9 stands as one, sans Togusa and Ishikawa and all the Tachikoma.

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The world is watching. In their disembodied, super-douchey Starchild ways.

Speaking of Ishikawa, he’s laid up in the hospital, the bandages on his head morphing his hair into a rad new style, and he gets a call from the Major. She’s dispatching a Tachikoma to his location. Half of the plutonium is with it, and it needs to make it to SPring-8. He’s shocked to hear they’re headed over to Dejima. Where’s Togusa? “He’s with the Chief. Jesus, Ish, he can handle himself.” No he can’t. “I know. Just… I know. Regardless.” He tells her to watch her back. “You too. Watch for us on the news when we hand the plutonium over to the UN team.”

Batou asks the Major a question in hushed tones. “Back when I used your external memories (to tease Gouda on the roof), you have some feelings for Kuze. When you dove his brain, what happened?” She tells him that he reminded her of someone she used to be close to. But it’s ancient history. Way in the past. Saito calls out — we’re just about there.

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The refugees are on the frontline, looking down the SDA on the other side of the bridge. “They’re really gonna attack us with a tank?” No way, not when we have suicide bombs! One of the leader guys, from Kuze’s boat, approaches. “Don’t start it. The world will be watching. We’ll win this without firing a single bullet.”

“So you must be Hideo Kuze.” Kuze is overlooking the Dejima streets, turns to investigate a small, hoarse voice. “And you are?” Someone very familiar steps out of the shadows. Is it… the Chief? Wait a minute — it must be his brother (I say now, never having figured this out on my own).

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They talk in a small café, over tea. “I saw you overseas once,” Aramaki says. You did? “You’ve been using a cyberbrain to spread your message. That’s miraculous, considering the mental strain.” Just as water rolls downhill, the human heart reverts to its basest instincts. After I’d broken free of the virus, the refugees began to link with me. I was taken by their dreams, and became their leader. Filtered out all consciousness except for theirs.

They continue. After the war, Kuze looked for a reason to exist in a system. But the refugees taught him that human beings only exist in the intervention of others. When you have power, whether guns or bombs, you want to display that power. The refugees are no less susceptible to this basic psychology, that which accounts for so much grand evil in the world. This is maybe why the impending war is only stage one, as the revolution Kuze has in mind is still a ways off. This is pointing them in the direction of the superstructure. The network on Earth is its base

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“I don’t really follow all that,” Aramaki says. “Can you really get them to follow you in this way?” He thinks they may be in the process of doing so already. Aramaki tells him that he long ago left Public Security. And tells him that… It’s not too late for him to quit either.

“Torukia” gets me so hype. It starts up and the Major springs over a fence! Section 9 steals a helicopter, and the Major quickly gets to work — she wants to send one last message to Kuze, even though this of course requires diving his brain.

“Gouda,” one of the black suits says, “a helicopter just took off without orders from the garrison.” Heehee, looks like they’re following my script to the letter. And for the refugees, they’ll jam the signal in Dejima, make them stand alones. They’ll quickly lose control…

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The Tachikoma see the blackout during their mail run. They’re able to get the message through the closing portal, and Kuze perks up at the tea-table. “What? They’re coming here. And they’re bringing the plutonium. We’re cut off from the net and the SDA is jamming us?” Jesus, Kuze. This is like the future-equivalent of texting at the dinner table. You were having a whole other conversation?!

He decides, correctly, that they must be trying to isolate the refugees. He’s off for the barricades, where fighting is soon to break out. “Get out of here,” he tells Aramaki the elder or younger. “I can’t have people like you die.” Aramaki disagrees. “It’s you who can’t die. There must be something you can do.” He hopes there is.

How’s that for some quiet before the storm? Before it all comes down, we have an instance of serenity in an extended conversation between two intriguing characters — one of which we’ve never met before. And only in retrospect do we realize that it was all just exposition — explaining confusing things before we’ve seen them is juking the embarrassment of explaining after, or during. Granted, it’s only half the story. For now, we know that Kuze has greater ambitions than Dejima, and we can tell, based on tone if not our own feelings, that we want them to come true. And equally, that they won’t.

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The refugees on the bridge are getting tense. And who wouldn’t be in such a protracted Mexican stand-off? One of them snipes an SDA soldier, and it’s on in the zone because he said so. The SDA however, are cautioned to hold fire — they have nukes, for God’s sake! Smash cut to Gouda’s face photographed (so to speak) in hideous fish-eye reciting what must be his original words: Just as water runs downhill

And now the tanks are coming in, those black spider-tanks from Episode 2 way, way back in sunny days, are trudging their damnedest, but the refugees anticipated this move, and blow the bridge. The whole bridge. Well, a section, but the effect is still the same. And despite my heckles, this is an impressive sequence. As if I could even be impressed after all our time together, Ghost in the Shell and I. You’ve pressed me plenty — I’m a pancake on the wall.

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But here we have a war scene that isn’t necessarily entertaining or confusing — this is something we’ve been dreading. Just like Jiguro’s showdown with the remaining King’s Spears at the end of that episode of Moribito. Though either scene is composed and crafted beautifully, they’re laced with a diminishing sadness.

And they both end before we can fully follow through emotionally. Though when we pick back up, the effect is more preserved in Ghost in the Shell. That was really a disappointing moment in Moribito, just because it was so amazing and so rare a situation. That’s alright though.

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In this episode of Stand Alone Complex, Section 9 once more has to act of its own accordance, and in this instance, is finally free of answering to Japan’s highest power. How limiting that was. These greedy bastards don’t have a couple days to spare? But this answers the sub-conundrum raised in “Re-embody,” those many eras ago.

Back then, they joked that being armed to the teeth and parked outside a hot zone made them essentially terrorists — we note that the line between what they do and what they fight is very thin. And that’s a disturbing thought. Not entirely followed up on, as the concern becomes more about who’s leading them around by the nose, in this season about data manipulation.

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A power as theirs is potentially dangerous. Of course, in their hands — only to the bad guys. But what if the government was the bad guy? That sounds like last season, so instead we ask, what if the target was the next Martin Luther King?

Questioning things, just as we half-assedly questioned the morality of Togusa in “Trial.” We take a second look at authority, and yet… the element of terrorism becomes more concrete. Cyber-hacking? Bad up to a point. Suicide bombs? The worst. The morality on both sides is declining. Soon they shall meet.

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