Sidonia no Kishi Ep. 9: Obsessed

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All the controversy surround Nagate a couple episodes ago has quickly gone away. With Norio taking an official leave, Nagate has now come into his own as a squad leader. With his skills and Yuhata’s battle strategies, our hero finds himself back in the limelight as the media darling. I guess Sidonia doesn’t really hold grudges. Nevertheless, the ship’s ace pilot has hardly been milking his reestablished popularity for all its worth. Rather, he spends most of his free time interacting with the placenta specimen he had collected from the battle against the Benisuzume. Indeed, the Shizuka-lookalike has called out Nagate’s name, and as a result, Tahiro Numi, one of Sidonia’s research scientists, have brought Nagate to the cell where the placenta specimen is kept. She calls it an experiment; she wants to see if the Gauna product possesses human experiment. Couldn’t she have used an image of Nagate to gauge the placenta specimen’s reaction? Or perhaps even a copy of the protagonist’s voice? It seems rather reckless to drag Nagate into the experiment immediately, but I’ll get to this notion in a bit.

Of course, even if the placenta specimen does react to Nagate’s presence, you can hardly say that their interaction is meaningful. If the Gauna can mimic Shizuka’s appearance, who’s to say it can’t also mimic Shizuka’s behaviorisms? Following that train of thought, who’s to say that the Gauna is not merely adhering to a program it has derived from assimilating Shizuka’s mind and body? In reality, the placenta specimen hardly acts like Shizuka at all. It simply floats around and utters Nagate’s name in a sing-song voice. It is more like an incomplete child than a complex human being, which makes sense anyway. After all, this placenta specimen is relatively young in age. It can’t be more than a few weeks old. Even then, a child typically plays or cries. All the placenta specimen ever does is float in one place. Nevertheless, is there any weight to the idea that a Gauna copy of Shizuka can actually become Shizuka herself? I don’t think so. In fact, I’d say that our situation is no different from a variation of the Chinese Room thought experiment.

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Throughout the episode, the characters hint at the idea that even the Benisuzume seems human. Like I’ve said, however, even if the placenta specimen can talk to Nagate as if it was Shizuka, there’s no way for him to really tell if he’s not just interacting with a very good simulacrum. Nevertheless, our hero can’t help but ask, “What if the Gauna didn’t just take human form, but also perfectly replicated personality and memories? What would be the difference between that placenta and the real human being?” Numi tells him, however, that this specimen is a 100% placenta. More specifically, it is nothing more than “Gauna flesh.” You may wonder what substantive difference this makes, but suppose our level of artificial intelligence improves leaps and bounds in the near future. And suppose a supercomputer is capable of replicating your dead lover’s personality and memories? Would it even make sense to say that the supercomputer is now your lover? Or is it still just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s? Is it still just nothing more than “silicon flesh?”

Still, Nagate comes to visit the placenta specimen as often as he can, and it begins to frighten two of the closest women in his life. Yuhata even asserts that “[t]his can’t go on.” She also believes that “[Nagate] is obsessed with that placenta thing.” You thus have to wonder if this is all a way for Nagate to assuage his guilt. Of course, it isn’t really his fault that Shizuka died. The blame falls squarely on Norio’s shoulders. Even so, human beings are not so simple. We can’t simply absolve ourselves of blame so easily. Last week, we discussed how immortality can prevent rebirth. Of course, Shizuka’s gone, and her death has led to the creation of some bizarre lookalike that is hardly like her in anyway. So her rebirth isn’t the problem here. Rather, the issue is that the idea of Shizuka’s apparent immortality as a placenta specimen is preventing our protagonist from moving on. He is trapped in a relationship that never was. He and Shizuka never even had a chance to become a thing. Nevertheless, he continues to obsess over the idea of her even though both Izana and Yuhata are practically throwing themselves at him.

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Of course, Nagate isn’t entirely at fault here. I must question Numi’s common sense and perhaps even her ethics. Never mind the fact that Nagate and Shizuka used to be close friends, and as such, it is potentially problematic to have the guy interact with a facsimile of someone he almost became intimate with. Numi likely does not know anything about any of that. She might just think Nagate and Shizuka were nothing more than squad members. Even so, it’s safe to assume that squad members have some sort of camaraderie between them, and as result, it might be really painful or dangerous for Nagate to see the placenta specimen. Hell, what sort of research scientist brings any civilian to see something like the placenta specimen without at least doing some sort of psychological screening? Numi’s actions seem reckless and irresponsible. Numi seems rather blase about the whole thing anyway. When she says, “Either way, this is the first time the Gauna have made such a flawless copy of a human being,” she seems almost giddy. None of this seems the least bit disturbing to her.

Stray observations:

— On a related note, the anime introduces Numi to the story by allowing us to gawk at the girl’s bouncing breasts as she is running towards the hero. Not only that, Izana is none too pleased about the size of Numi’s breasts, especially compared to her own flat chest. Her face says it all; she feels as though every young female in Nagate’s life is a threat to her. This is the sort of thing, however, that makes it hard for me to take Sidonia no Kishi seriously. As always, most of the people that Nagate interacts with are girls. I know there are men in this universe, but they tend to play minor roles at best. Norio is the only one who gets a decent amount of screen time, but — guess what? — he’s a villain. As a result, the universe in Sidonia feels small. Granted, the population of the ship is rather low anyway, but when the story blithely ignores one significant gender, it makes the world seem that much more limited in scope. That’s not usually a good thing for a rigorous science fiction narrative.

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— At the start of the episode, we see a flashback where Yure Shinatose, Izana’s grandmother, proposes a plan to boost Sidonia’s population by half a million in just a hundred years. Does this mean that the population in Sidonia right now is around half a million? Also, last week’s episode seemed to suggest that very few people had survived the Fourth Gauna Defense War. How is it feasible to hit half a million people in just a hundred years? Plus, where did they get the required resources to support such a huge population growth? Granted, Yure also proposes that they now rely upon photosynthesis as a way to acquire energy for their bodies, but food resources is not the only concern. How did they bolster the infrastructure in place to provide adequate services? The population must be very young as a result. How do you keep such a young population disciplined and under control when they greatly outnumber the adults? How as child healthcare handled? Social services? Mental care? Day care?

— It turns out that approximately a hundred thousand people will emigrate from the ship to colonize seven planets in a nearby star system. This same star system is in close proximity to a hive cluster, though. Still, these colonists believe that the Gauna won’t attack them. They hypothesize that the Gauna is mainly interested in the Kabizashi spears in Sidonia’s disposal, and as such, the Gauna will leave the colonists alone since they won’t be taking any of the spears with them. What is the basis for this hypothesis though? Has it ever been tested? Would you really put your lives on the line on nothing more than a hypothesis?

Yes, at the end of this week’s episode, Numi observes that the placenta specimen is always looking in one direction. When she tracks the direction of the specimen’s gaze — hey, that’s the title of the episode! — she is astonished to discover that it had been looking towards the location of Sidonia’s Kabizashi spears this entire time. And yes, this certainly lends credence to the colonists’ theory. Nevertheless, the colonists don’t actually know this. They have no clue what Numi has learned. As far as I’m concerned, they’re still just operating off a hypothesis unless there is a crucial detail that the anime hasn’t let us in on.

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— On a related note, assuming that Sidonia’s inhabitants numbers around half a million people as the beginning of the episode has suggested, a hundred thousand people accounts for a very large percentage of the population This will result in a ton of missing manpower. How will Sidonia cope in the short-term? People will instantly receive promotions by necessity, but where will they get the much-needed training to perform their new roles?

— Izana says that all anyone talks ever about is the emigration, but what else is there to talk about? Other than the sporting competition during the festival near the start of the series, what do people in Sidonia even do for fun and recreation? There’s that whole bathysphere thing, but that seems like a privilege for a very select few of Sidonia’s population. Plus, it’s cursed.

— One of Nagate’s colleagues says, “So far we’ve worked under the assumption that the Gauna are incapable of human intelligence,” but why would you assume such a thing? What if their intellect far surpasses our own, but we just can’t communicate with them for whatever reason?

— This isn’t the first time the anime has alluded to it, but everyone seems to treat photosynthesis as if its an intimate act that can be shared between lovers.

— I know Kobayashi wears a mask to conceal the fact that she’s immortal, but why do her bodyguards wear masks as well? Are they immortal too? Or does Kobayashi just like to keep things aesthetically consistent?

— Sidonia’s network security seems rather poor if Norio can have his sister easily hack into the system.

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13 thoughts on “Sidonia no Kishi Ep. 9: Obsessed”

  1. one of the things the anime did not elaborate and only mentions in passing is that the “auxillary briain” is located in the norio family’s basement. The network breached by norio’s sister is essentially their own home network.

  2. Obsessed with a relationship that never was reminds me of a book that I read sometime back that Mexico (as culture) lost its identity because it is still trying to identify with the Aztec culture which couldn’t reach the peak of its civilization due to spanish colonization. I don’t agree with the message of that book but I agree that being obsessed with something that never was just stops you to keep moving forward.

    About the idea of having my beloved one’s psyche copied into a computer is terrifying. Why would I create a copy (or many copies) of her? Somehow, I would feel that I am just acquring a new gadget, something replaceable and it wouldn’t be the real thing. Something would be lost to me in the transition.

    BTW; Yure is immortal, right? Then, are immortals allowed to have family? She’s Izana’s granmother but I don’t think Izana is immortal. So, what would happen next when Izana grows older and dies. Is Yure just going to create another family member from a flask? That doesn’t look like a family to me but probably family as a concept is different in Sidonia’s world when you can create clones of yourself.

    1. About the idea of having my beloved one’s psyche copied into a computer is terrifying. Why would I create a copy (or many copies) of her?

      It becomes a fixation upon the idea of a person rather than who they really are. Cause a person is honestly impermanent. Even the least active and most boring of us will eventually change. There’s no way this quality of a person can be copied over to a computer or a different body. Even if a computer is capable of self reflection — and thus capable of adaptation, change, etc. — part what it is, i.e. a computer, affects how it would self-reflect. If I wake up one day and find myself inhabiting a computer, my personality and memories might be the same, but what I will develop into will be very different from what I would’ve been had I kept my human body. As such, this act of transferring someone’s psyche is, I feel, akin to death of the original person.

      That doesn’t look like a family to me but probably family as a concept is different in Sidonia’s world when you can create clones of yourself.

      Our conception of a family is always changing. For the longest time, people insisted you needed to have kids in order to form a family. Plenty of people nowadays do not have kids. Plenty of families do not have two parents. Some have more, some have less. I don’t think it really matters that Yure is immortal. I still think what she and Izana have is a family because Izana is allowed to go out on her own and live her own life. As such, she’s having new experience and thus forming new memories. She’s not just a copy. Somehow, I feel this qualifies them to be a family in a rather esoteric way.

    2. I don’t really see a distinction when it comes to Izana and Yure as a family either. It’s not as if mortal people don’t continue to have children if their current ones die prematurely. While creating a new clone like Izana is perhaps less personal a means of conception than giving birth directly, it’s really no different so far as the notion of a family is concerned. Izana is still an individual, and even an exact clone of her would grow into a completely different person. Families are no stranger to new members, after all – whether or not all of them age.

      As for the Hoshijiro-placenta, I think it’s obviously foolish for anyone on Sidonia to believe it’s the same person, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a person. It’s clearly intelligent on some level and processes memories and (perhaps) emotion, so referring to it as nothing more than flesh is a little disingenuous. Everyone on Sidonia is flesh of some variety. The question regarding this placenta isn’t really how much like Hoshijiro it is, but how human. Can it learn? Feel emotion? Relate to others? Is its intelligence stunted, or does it just not know anything yet?

      1. I think it’s obviously foolish for anyone on Sidonia to believe it’s the same person, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a person. It’s clearly intelligent on some level

        But is it intelligent enough? From what we see in this week’s episode, it doesn’t seem that way to me. The placenta specimen hardly seems to exhibit any sort of complex thought. Plus, this is why I brought up the Chinese Room thought experiment. The Gauna are capable of mimicking a lot of things. Who’s to say it’s not just mimicking human intelligence? Who’s to say it isn’t just following a script or a program? That doesn’t equal intelligence, and thus, personhood is ruled out.

  3. Why would they even store Ochiai’s aux brain at Norio’s house? Why not keep it at some …neutral place? I don’t get it. Seems too fucking stupid.

  4. “When she says, “Either way, this is the first time the Gauna have made such a flawless copy of a human being,” she seems almost giddy. None of this seems the least bit disturbing to her.”
    Her actions and attitude somewhat reminds me of the widow scientist from Pupa actually.

    There’s just no way that letting him visit the specimen, and so often, is a good idea. There is no logical scientific goal that could warrant such danger, and the only possible outcome is him breaking the thing out or trying to personally come in contact with it even more. It’s a blatantly stupid idea, and Numi is an idiot.

    I mean you could argue it’s to see how the Gauna acts to him, but it’s not worth it in the least.

    “And suppose a supercomputer is capable of replicating your dead lover’s personality and memories? Would it even make sense to say that the supercomputer is now your lover?”
    No, it wouldn’t.
    “Or is it still just a bunch of 1′s and 0′s? Is it still just nothing more than “silicon flesh?”
    Yes, it is, which is my favorite part of the series so far. Aside from the Gauna clearly not “just trying to contact humanity for friendship” (thank God), there’s such a firm stance on this topic and it’s refreshing. While we may not know much about the conscious mind in many aspects (like how if we transfer our brain neuron for neuron into the circuitry of a robot body, would we still be ourselves?), we do know that a copy is not the same as an original, especially when it’s got flailing tentacles.

    “What if their intellect far surpasses our own, but we just can’t communicate with them for whatever reason?”
    Dude, this is a very unnerving possibility…

  5. There’s just no way that letting him visit the specimen, and so often, is a good idea. There is no logical scientific goal that could warrant such danger, and the only possible outcome is him breaking the thing out or trying to personally come in contact with it even more. It’s a blatantly stupid idea, and Numi is an idiot.

    If Numi’s only goal is to study their interactions, it kind of makes sense. She does everything short of just letting him inside that room, setting the expectation for him to break the rules and take the next step himself. Nagate could die, certainly, but he’d serve as a pretty effective experiment. While Kobayashi doesn’t want that, it’s not as though she could fault Numi for the event. On the other hand, escaped Gauna on Sidonia. Still not as stupid as Norio’s “revenge”, though.

    Is it unpredictable and excessively dangerous? Absolutely. But there may at least be some logic at play.

  6. Towards the end with the “final” battle Hoshijiro-placenta writes something on the glass for him to read.

    Is there a translation for this?

    Also when the Benisuzume was defeated what happen to the Hoshijiro-placenta? Did she dissipate as well? He also is walking away with a book in his hand. I can’t make out what it is.

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