At the start of the episode, we see Lisa sleeping soundly as Twelve stands on the rooftop and smiles toward the sky. He seems almost content with himself. Elsewhere, however, the real world has consequences: most of the detectives are not only taken off the case, they’re suspended for three months. Shibazaki, on the other hand, is suspended indefinitely. He nevertheless tries to reveal the truth, which is that Sphinx wasn’t responsible for the bomb at the airport. His immediate superior was not ready, however, to entertain such an idea. But of course, this doesn’t really mean anything in practice. I can’t imagine these guys would just sit idly by as Sphinx and Five play their little games. Not only that, it sure as hell looks as though Sphinx needs all the help they can get against Five. It’s not that she’s that much smarter or anything, but the crucial factor here is her willingness to kill. When you’re ready to cross that line, when you’re unbound by the worries of right and wrong, you can do whatever it takes to win.
There are more allusions to Greek mythology as Shibazaki continues to launch his own investigation. Apparently, the group called the Rising Peace Academy had tried to “implement something called the Athena Plan.” We find out later that it was a plan to educate gifted children, but naturally, “details of the project cannot be found anywhere on the public record.” I think it’s safe to say the Athena Plan involved those children at the Institute. Our suspended detective questions a member of said Rising Peace Academy, but naturally, the guy feigns ignorance. I’m curious, though; how is Shibazaki managing to get his foot in the door to even ask any of these questions when he doesn’t have his badge? Without one, he just looks like any other white-collar worker. Well, they wouldn’t have his unkempt hair, that’s for sure. As an aside, he looks like a rock star trying to fit in with the rest of Japanese society. When the official from the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare predictably stonewalls Shibazaki’s attempts to dig into the mystery surrounding the Athena Plan, the detective is forced to use his trump card: extortion. Apparently, the official’s son is a bit of a hooligan. As a result, Shibazaki was able to gather some juicy bits of information.
According to the politician, the Rising Star Academy took gifted children from orphanages around the country. With Hamura’s help, Shibazaki puts in some field work, and goes to the various orphanages to look for any potential leads. In the end, they find themselves looking for Souta Aoki, a former director in the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Shibazaki then enlists Kinoshita’s cyber expertise to locate the guy, but I can understand the young man’s reluctance to get involved. I mean, just look at this picture. People have a family they have to worry about. You can argue that if Shibazaki and company don’t do something, then the whole country is in danger. As a result, everyone’s lives would be threatened anyway, including Kinoshita’s family. Still, it’s hard to think that far ahead when you have immediate concerns to worry about — immediate concerns that involve both your pregnant wife and your young son. Hamura can probably afford to help Shibazaki out from the get-go since he’s younger and thus has less at stake. Plus, he could always work at his parents’ grocer or something, though I wonder if his pride could really accept that. In the end, Kinoshita helps Shibazaki out anyway, and they discover something potentially earth-shaking… Unfortunately, the anime won’t tell us just yet what Shibazaki has learned.
But enough about the adults. At one point, Five sends a bomb to the apartment where Sphinx and Lisa are hiding. Needless to say, the girl could barely escape before the entire place goes up in flames. I’m kind of surprised how the explosion felt so much like an isolated incident. Nobody seems to really talk about it other than the people actually affected by the bomb. You’d think there’d be a media sensation over an apartment blowing up, i.e. “Was this where Sphinx was hiding out the entire time?!” Anyway, Nine blames the incident on Lisa for accepting the package, but let’s assume nobody died from the explosion. Had she not accepted the package, the delivery man would’ve had to keep it on him. Assuming the bomb is not remotely detonated, the delivery man would’ve died. I don’t think Sphinx would’ve wanted that. Plus, the media would quickly pin the death on them. Or maybe he had been told to leave the package there anyway even if nobody answered the door. In that likely scenario, there’s really nothing Lisa could’ve done anyway. In the end, I think Nine just feels the need to direct his anger at someone or something, and Lisa makes an easy scapegoat. After the ordeal at the airport, she now has to face this. It’s really too much for a girl who had been a schoolgirl just a week ago.
With Five in the picture, Nine wants to use “that thing” and thus accelerate “the plan.” I’m sure we’ll find out about these two things soon enough. On the other hand, Twelve begins to have his doubts: “I was thinking… Maybe we should stop this…” Nine feels duty bound because of what he’s been through, but he wonders if Lisa is the reason why Twelve’s resolve is faltering. As a result, he thinks they should no longer involve the girl in their plans. There’s no doubt that Lisa makes them vulnerable; she’s by far the least capable of the three. She can’t hack, she can’t make bombs, she can’t do anything but follow simple directions. And even as a pawn, she’s not that useful anymore, because they’ve seen her face. Lisa was only effective at the airport because Five did not initially suspect that a random schoolgirl would be involved with Sphinx. But now that Five knows everything about Lisa, including what she looks like, what can the girl do now? At the same time, however, abandoning Lisa would just leave her defenseless. It seems like Five would have no problems locating Lisa, and unless Nine and Twelve are there to protect the girl, she would likely die or get tortured. Not only that, the boys really needed her help in the previous episode, so it seems cold and callous to just ditch her like this.
The thing is, Sphinx’s unwillingness to incur a death count, while commendable, can still be explained away as something that ultimately benefits them in the long run. In other words, they’re not being completely selfless when they save people’s lives. Having Lisa around, however, humanizes them. All of a sudden, they have to worry for Lisa’s sake, even when if she’s nothing but a hindrance. After all, look at what the Institute has done to Five. She has absolutely no regard for human life. She’s just toying with the boys, especially Nine, and it doesn’t matter to her if innocent people die in the process. She’s singly focused on playing her game to the point that Clarence has to tell the girl to pull it back a bit. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Isn’t Nine singly focused on accomplishing whatever it is that Sphinx originally set out to accomplish? The way I see it, no matter which side of the coin you’re on, the Institute dehumanizes you. It strips your name away, it isolates you, it mentally abuse you, so on and so forth. Even though Nine doesn’t really want to incur a loss of human life if he doesn’t have to, he was ready to give up on Lisa in the previous episode. He was ready to let her die.
From a pure logical, “tactical” standpoint, there’s no reason to keep Lisa around. Like I’ve said, if anything, she’s a hindrance because she lacks so much knowledge and practical skills. Hell, she can’t even cook. But Lisa has nowhere else to go. She can’t physically survive the streets, and she can’t bear the mental anguish of returning home to her emotionally abusive mother. Oh yeah, that’s not to mention the bullying she had to endure at school. For all intents and purposes, the boys have become her family. Running with a pair of alleged terrorists is hardly any young girl’s dream, but she’s accepted her place amongst them. So if the boys accept this fact that Lisa is dead weight, then they lose sight of the bigger issue: that in order for the Institute not to win out in the long run, they have to prove that despite all the dehumanizing shit that the place had put them through, they’re still capable of caring for others, establishing close bonds with others, etc. It’s sounds trite, but Lisa represents their redemption. Nine may not be convinced of this just quite yet, but I think Twelve already is. Still, Nine’s words manage to reach Lisa, forcing her to run away from her own home for the second time in the series.
Sure enough, when Lisa throws herself back onto the streets, Five immediately captures Lisa. Five then goes on a spiel about how she wants to help Sphinx. Furthermore, if the boys continue to try and do what they intend to do, then there will be no redemption for them. Obviously, Five likes to play games, and her words are not something Lisa can take at face value. Still, I agree with what she says… in a way. Even in this very predicament, Lisa tries to protect the two boys: “I… I don’t care what happens to me. But please, let those two…” In just a short time, she’s come to view them as important people to her; like I’ve said, they’ve become her new family. Naturally, Five devalues Lisa’s humanity: “To have that idiot woman following them around. It must have been annoying for those two.” Five is merely using the same tactics she picked up at the Institute. Remember how in one of Nine’s flashbacks, he had heard a lady say “But for you [kids], the abandoned, love does not exist.” This is in effect what Five is trying to do. She’s trying to make Lisa compliant by making the girl feel isolated, unwanted, and thus vulnerable.
The crucial thing about this scene, however, is the way LIsa continues to genuinely care for the two boys despite the fact that her very life is being threatened. As I’ve said in previous posts, the girl is similar to Sphinx in many ways as a victim of abuse. Bhe’s also unlike them in one very important way: she still has her humanity. She hasn’t been stripped of it by some heartless Institute. She can care for other people as if they’re her family. Predictably enough, Five sends a message to Sphinx with images of Lisa. Nine states the obvious in identifying the very obvious trap Five has laid out for them, but Twelve knows this too. Twelve’s no idiot; he knows Five is using Lisa as bait. His desire to rescue Lisa despite the fact that he’s walking into a trap, however, shows that he’s closer to his redemption than Nine is to his: “I’m going because I have no time…” In other words, if Sphinx doesn’t save Lisa now, they won’t get another chance to redeem themselves. If I’m right about Lisa, the boys will have to take the first step towards their redemption by saving her. The only question is how long it’ll take Nine to realize he needs to help Twelve, ’cause I doubt Twelve can do this alone.
Stray notes & observations:
— This song at the start of the episode is not pleasant to listen to.
— According to Kurahashi, Five is really from the ISA, which is apparently “[t]he US Intelligence Support Activity special ops unit,” and that makes her a spy of some sort. Whatever that means… No doubt they’re working for some American entity, but honestly, I find it very difficult to believe that any FBI agent would have locked Lisa onto a bomb-strapped plane like Clarence had done in the previous episode. Blah blah blah, he thought she was a terrorism. So what? FBI agents have morals, too. FBI agents don’t just doom a child to her death just because there’s a strong presumption that she is a terrorist.
— Oh look, it’s Shibazaki’s actual daughter. As such, Lisa very likely isn’t his daughter, but I guess it’s not completely ruled out. Lisa might have a sister she doesn’t talk to or something, but if this is really the case, it doesn’t make much sense that Lisa would run away and not reach out to her sister. Plus, it would seem cold for Shibazaki to visit one daughter and not the other one.
— Anyway, it’s a bit sad, that this brief father-daughter reunion only takes place because A) Shibazaki being suspended and B) he’s curious about whether or not an ordinary person can turn plutonium into a bomb. The first reason is somewhat understandable; if he’s busy stopping terrorists from destroying the country, then yeah, he’s not going to have time to see his daughter. But still, I’m sure there’s plenty of people he could’ve asked. It needn’t be his daughter. Hell, a quick Google search would tell you that you can very much make a bomb. I’m not surprised his daughter would thus have the following reaction: “Huh? Don’t tell me this is for an investigation?” Even so, according to Shibazaki’s daughter, the primary danger in making a nuclear bomb is exposing yourself to the radiation, which makes sense. It also raises another question: where have the boys been storing that plutonium? And to follow up on that, have they exposed themselves enough to the radioactive element that their lives are already in danger? I don’t know, I just get the feeling that either Nine or Twelve — or perhaps even both — will die at the end of all of this. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s just a feeling from watching them.
— What were those purple sticks Lisa just dumped into the curry…?
— When Five sent a bomb to Sphinx’s apartment, how did she knew where to find them? Before the bomb had gone off, Nine speculated, “They saw her face. They might find this place eventually.” I’m not quite sure I get how seeing Lisa’s face would lead to them finding their apartment so quickly, though.
— Oh, now Clarence thinks Five is going too far: “The American government’s orders state that securing the object is our top priority.” He seems to care only about this “object,” though. There’s just such a wanton disregard for the potential loss of innocent lives. Yeah, Lisa got away from the building in time, but are you telling me she was the only person in the place when the bomb went off? Well, knowing this anime, a news report will conveniently tell us that there were absolutely no casualties or injures from an incident involving an explosion downtown…
— As soon as Clarence leaves, Five begins clutching her head in pain. Is this in reaction to something she saw, or does she naturally get headaches of that sort? The latter isn’t implausible. Who knows what she went through at that Institute? We can assume she went through quite a mental toll before she was unleashed on the real world.
— Cheekily enough, Sphinx’s next base of operation is an arcade: “Well, we can play all the games we want.”
— Sphinx seems to have some fans, especially from people around their age. This isn’t really surprising. As much as we condemn terrorism, since no lives have been lost, it just looks like a bunch of boys striking back against “The Man.” I can see powerless, disenfranchised individuals identifying with Sphinx’s mayhem and perceived anarchism: “Yeah, there have been young people recently who treat them like heroes.” Shibazaki even acknowledges that in a different era, Sphinx wouldn’t be considered terrorists. Young people can’t do anything about their impotent rage and frustration with modern society, but they can live vicariously though Sphinx’s exploits. I know Nine and Twelve have a specific goal they would like to accomplish, but that’s not something outsiders would know about. Either way, Sphinx is lashing out against the powers that be, and that will always have a certain appeal in any age and society.
— How did Five locate Lisa so quickly? Does that means she knows about Sphinx’s new hideout already? Furthermore, where are all of this cameras? From the footage we see, it almost looks like the cameras aren’t fixed. Rather, they’re following Lisa as the girl picks up her speed and starts running. The whole thing puzzles me; it feels like an oversight on the narrative’s part.