Nineteen years ago, members of the religious movement Aum Shinrikyo “released sarin on several lines of the Tokyo subway, killing 13 people….” When I saw our terrorists plant a bomb on a train in this week’s episode, I thus wondered, “Is the anime brave enough to go there?” Invoking 9/11 imagery in the show’s first episode is one thing, since the Japanese public have not actually had to live through such a tragedy. Well, not to that magnitude, anyway. Attacking the Tokyo subway, however, is different. 1995 is a long time ago, but for people my age in Japan, seeing an attack on the Tokyo subway might still be hitting it a little too close to home. So I suppose it should come to no surprise then that the tables have suddenly been turned. Instead of the authorities racing against the clock to defuse Nine and Twelve’s bombs, it is ironically Nine and Twelve who must race against the clock lest they stain their hands with the blood of innocent people. And instead of a Sarin gas attack killing thirteen people and injuring many more, Nine finds it necessary to throw down a gas canister in order to disperse the crowd and thus save their lives. Ironies upon ironies, Nine couldn’t defuse his own bomb in time. In fact, he could barely save a napping woman on a train.
But it’s strange, isn’t it? Our two intrepid terrorists are not — nor do they want to be — serial killers:
Twelve: “At this rate, in a little over an hour, we’ll be mass murderers.”
Nine: “If worst comes to worst, we’ll have to use this to deactivate it.”
This is why the riddles are so easy for Shibazaki to solve; again, the boys don’t actually want to take any innocent life. Still, what if their assumptions about Shibazaki had been incorrect? Nevermind the guy being too dumb to solve their riddles, ’cause we know he’s not. But what if Shibazaki had suddenly fallen ill that day? What if he had gotten into an accident? Hell, even assuming Shibazaki or someone else could solve the riddle, what if the bomb squad had screwed up and failed to defuse the bomb correctly? Sure, you could point to the fact that until Five intervened, Sphinx could’ve just deactivated the bomb remotely with their cellphones, but even then, there’s a small but nevertheless plausible chance that technology can malfunction as technology is often wont to do. If the boys don’t actually want to endanger anyone’s lives, then why even play with something as dangerous as bombs? Isn’t it a little too crazy to assume that — barring any outside influence from another super-intelligent individual much like themselves — everything would go according to plan? Or does this whole scenario nevertheless require a little suspension of disbelief from the audience? The answer perhaps lies somewhere in the middle. Honestly, you’d have to be a little crazy to become a terrorist.
Still, it’s clear now that while Nine and Twelve have been trying to have some fun with the authorities — and humiliate them in the process by leaking the details of the investigation to the public — they are also looking for a special individual like Shibazaki at the same time. And now that they’ve found him, they’re hoping to point the wizened detective in a certain direction. After all, who would take a pair of runaway kids seriously? Even if Nine and Twelve had all the evidence in the world to implicate some very important people in the Japanese government, they know they need someone on their side that the rest of the country can take seriously. That someone is Shibazaki. In any case, the detective has connected the dots, linking the boys’ attacks to four individuals belonging to some organization known as the Rising Peace Academy. In fact, he’s the only person within the department who is willing to even consider the idea that the boys are trying to send a message. The topic of this episode’s riddle is hardly accidental either. Sphinx forces the investigators to dredge up a case where a school had overstepped its boundaries, thereby causing four kids to suffer from a heatstroke. The abuses of power, especially against Japanese youth, appear to be what Nine and Twelve want to bring to light. What they have failed to predict, however, is that while they are hesitant to take innocent lives, the powers that be are not.
The upper ranks told Shibazaki and the rest of the investigative team to stand down. The upper ranks also assured Shibazaki and the rest of the team that another team — a special assault team — would take care of the bomb. That didn’t happen. The bomb was allowed to go off, and if Nine hadn’t intervened, it would’ve killed a bunch of people. And y’know what? The upper ranks have devilishly realized that they can afford to allow such a tragedy to occur. In their mind, so what if the bomb goes off? The public would just blame Sphinx anyway. Sphinx have directly implicated themselves with all those online videos they’ve streamed to the public. People were content to laugh at the authorities so long as none of the attacks had taken any lives, but we came oh-so-close in this week’s episode to actual bloodshed. And had a tragedy actually occurred, it would’ve just rallied the public opinion against the two boys, thereby concealing the motives of the upper ranks even further. Whatever the two boys were hoping to accomplish — whatever message they were hoping to send — would’ve just been lost in the sea of anger and cries for vengeance. The truth is, Nine and Twelve’s stunt in last week’s episode may have gone too far. As a result, we finally meet Five, and the timing couldn’t have been any more apropos.
Shortly after Nine and Twelve had humiliated the authorities, the upper ranks immediately called upon another super-intelligent individual for help. The lady isn’t called Five because it’s a quirky, little name. She’s Five because she used to attend that mysterious institute with the two boys. The upper ranks aren’t dumb; I’m sure they’ve realized by now what they’re up against, and you gotta fight fire with fire. I mean, let’s take stock. Two super-intelligent boys had escaped from a mysterious institute and gone off the radar. Just a while ago, some plutonium was stolen from a nuclear processing facility. And now, incredibly well-thought-out and coordinated attacks are striking key locations in Tokyo and humiliating the authorities all at the same time. It has taken Shibazaki a few episodes to connect the dots, but that’s because he doesn’t have all the details; he knows nothing about a mysterious institute full of super-intelligent children. These upper ranks, however, do have all the details. And after the information “bomb” in last week’s episode, they must have realized by now that if they delay any further, more serious information will be leaked. As a result, they’re willing to risk the lives of the people on the subway today. Nine and Twelve have now entered a very dangerous game, because, unlike themselves, their opponents are willing to become murderers.
‘Cause forget the details of the current investigation. That’s just fun and games for Sphinx. Our two boys, however, are after something bigger. You don’t just point your fingers at several very important people in Japan if you don’t have something juicy to eventually reveal to the entire world. As a result, the upper ranks are done sweating bullets. The boys are now the ones who have to hide in this cat-and-mouse game. What’s interesting, however, is how things have stayed the same even after so many years. I’ve already mentioned how the sarin gas attack of 1995 is related to the gas “attack” in this week’s episode. The only difference is that some form of gas is now saving people’s lives rather than the other way around. There are, however, other interesting coincidences to consider. Once Nine realized who he was up against, we immediately see a flashback where a younger Five had seemingly terrorized him in a game of hide-and-seek. Fast forward to the present, Nine must continue to hide as Five looks for him and Twelve. As for Shibazaki, he already lost his job once investigating people he had been warned not to investigate. Thanks to the boys’ clues, however, he again finds himself in an all too familiar position: “To have to collect evidence against people from the police department again…”
With all these coincidences, the fact that this week’s episode centers around an attack on the Tokyo subway is likely not an accident either. Life seemingly stays on-rails until something comes along and knocks us off our tracks. That being said, not everything has stayed the same for our characters. There’s one variable no one on either side of the fence has accounted for, and that’s Lisa. At the moment, it seems as though Lisa doesn’t really belong anywhere. She doesn’t belong in the real world, nor does she belong with the boys either. Hell, the authorities don’t even know she exists. Meanwhile, Nine and Twelve only keep her around because she has nowhere else to go. When the situation turned dire in this week’s episode, Lisa became invisible to them as well. At some point, however, Lisa’s story will have to tie into the bigger picture. At some point, she will need to become the catalyst that alters the path that these boys are currently on. I mean, just how much longer will she remain a weak, vulnerable character for them to pity? How much longer will she remain useless, cooking up burnt dishes and smoking out the entire apartment (this could’ve alerted outside attention to the boys’ hideout)? I suspect Lisa will derail the currently cyclical nature of the story; it just remains to be seen how she will do so.
— Twelve can’t help but continue empathizing with the girl: “She ran away from home, wandered around, was caught by the police and then puked… It looks like she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. She said she wanted to escape from this world. She said she doesn’t have a place to belong….” Like I’ve suggested in last week’s post, everything Twelve says about Lisa is probably ordeals he and Nine have had to go through. Nine, however, tries to remain practical. He re-iterates over and over that she isn’t one of them. Not only that, if Twelve truly cared for her, then it doesn’t make any sense to take her in: “…nothing but misfortune waiting for someone who gets involved with us.” Does that mean misfortune awaits them as well? Despite the boys’ many victories thus far, it seems as though they realize the authorities will catch up to them sooner or later.
— When Twelve tells Lisa about the various things on their work table, the music makes the scene sound almost whimsical, almost like we’re in a toymaker’s workshop. In a way, Lisa has slipped through the rabbit’s hole. I mean, she wanted so badly to escape from her own world of domestic troubles and schoolyard bullying that she is now standing in the middle of a terrorist’s den. From an overly-attached mother to two boys aiming to reveal Japan’s biggest conspiracy. It’s a bit of a surreal change in circumstances, isn’t it?
— There’s a neat moment where Nine walks forward from the light into the shadows.
— I kind of wish our American FBI operative didn’t feel the need to dress herself in a sailor fuku. I mean, there’s nothing special about the way Nine and Twelve look, so why does Five have to be so… anime-ish in her appearance? Still, her presence in the story is interesting, especially considering the fact that she’s from the US. Is the Japanese government developing super-intelligent individuals just to sell them to other nations? Or is the conspiracy even crazier than we can possibly imagine?
— During another meeting, Kurahashi expresses the need for the team to “increase our efforts to capture the culprits.” I have nothing meaningful to add. I just thought this was a strange thing to say. I mean, it kind of implies they haven’t been exerting 100% of their efforts in trying to capture Nine and Twelve.
— We get more glimpses into what life at the institute was like. According to Twelve, eating itself became just another mundane task. I suppose this isn’t all the surprising. After all, they’re willing to strip you of your name to destroy your identity. They just want you to be a compliant robot. Naturally, a robot doesn’t need to enjoy its food. Still, it makes me wonder if we’ll ever learn Nine and Twelve’s real name before the show comes to an end.
— When Twelve teasingly suggested that Nine was putting a lot of trust in Shibazaki, this almost seemed to offend Nine. Still, this may foreshadow a future partnership between Sphinx and the detective. They don’t see eye-to-eye, but I’m sure both sides have a bigger fish to fry now that the upper ranks have taken the situation seriously.