Episode 7 of Shangri-la, “Sadness, Gratitude, and Vengeance”, begins with forces from ATLAS infiltrating Duomo while Kuniko is talking to her friends Tomoka and Yuri, or rather Kuniko and Tomoka listening to Yuri talk about yet another boyfriend. However, their purpose is not to discretely kidnap Kuniko. Instead, the infiltration is done discretely to prevent any resistance from being organized in time. When the time is comes, an armed train rams through the walls of Duomo and covers the area around Kuniko with superior firepower, and the infiltrated forces reveal themselves to openly arrest Kuniko.
Kuniko has a litany of regulatory and legal violations to justify her arrest, although it should be obvious that they’re just an excuse for something else. Given how resisting would result in a lot of collateral damage, Kuniko willingly goes along with the arrest. Surprisingly, her friend Tomoka wants to be taken along with Kuniko, even going as far as slapping a soldier to justify a charge of obstruction of justice when the ATLAS forces initially refuse. Those left behind in Duomo are not so willing to let ATLAS keep Kuniko, and Takehiko seems to have a plan to break her out.
Kuniko is now right back in the detention center she had just left in episode 1. Unlike when she left, however, none of the inmates acknowledge her return and it’s almost like the detention center is empty. The new warden soon shows up to greet Kuniko personally: it’s Ryouko, and she reveals that she just wanted to meet Kuniko. She’s probably planning to do all sorts of perverted stuff with Kuniko for her own amusement … As Kuniko and Tomoka are herded into their cells, Kuniko notices that the inmates she had befriended for two years seem to have had their will beaten out of them, and she also notices some of the cells having been emptied. Things must have really gone bad during the short time Kuniko was gone, and I’m afraid that it would not be correct to assume that the missing inmates are gone because they were freed.
At least Tomoka gets to have a cell next to Kuniko’s, which lets her air her fears about being in the detention center. Tomoka thinks that she shouldn’t have done something, which Kuniko assumes is coming to the detention center with her and tries to reassure Tomoka that things shouldn’t be too bad. But Tomoka was talking about something else that is a surprise to me: she regrets having done something that ended up with Kuniko staying in the detention center for two years. This would explain why Tomoka wanted to come along with Kuniko and the look she had when Kuniko returned in episode 1: Tomoka must feel a lot of guilt about Kuniko going to prison for something she did.
Kuniko tries to reassure Tomoka that it was no big deal: she went to the detention center in Tomoka’s stead by her own will and does not feel any ill will towards Tomoka. However, something is very different from her previous stay, which worries Kuniko.
After the break, Karin is annoyed at Medusa for being preoccupied with Jupiter rather than going after the skyrocketing carbon levels in America. It may be the case that the incident with the Orochi may have been too good a lesson for Medusa. Meanwhile, Kunihito requests that he be allowed to interrogate Kuniko after hearing news of her capture.
In the detention center, most of her fellow inmates seem to be trying to ignore Kuniko. Not all of them ignore her, however. There seems to be a new group of girls that have gotten to the top of the pecking order in the detention center. Kuniko does not recognize the girls, but the leader of the group really seems to hate her as she knocks down Kuniko’s tray of food in the cafeteria and tries to force Kuniko to eat from the floor, which is only interrupted with the intervention of a guard.
Later outside, Tomoka gets to learn the sort of forced labor the girls at the detention center go through. They cut down trees with chainsaws, where supposedly carbon dioxide will be absorbed from the atmosphere as the trees regrow. I’m surprised that they use chainsaws: ATLAS must be pretty confident about prison security, which would somehow prevent the realization of my image of a prison riot with lots of chainsaw-wielding girls. The girl who antagonized Kuniko is also cutting down a tree with a vengeance and a lot of hate, which is extremely dangerous as the tree falls down with practically no effective warning. Although no one is hurt, she does seem to realize that she made a huge mistake, but she really has a problem admitting it.
Using chainsaws is not the only way that trees are cut down. ATLAS also uses explosives to cut down trees. When Tomoka thinks that explosives would only result in more carbon dioxide emissions, Kuniko points out that such emissions are avoided because they use hydrogen-based explosives (chemical explosives, not nuclear explosives). Don’t they know that water vapor is also a greenhouse gas? Or maybe they just don’t care because it’s not accounted for in the carbon control regime.
After Tomoka gets a taste of how forced labor is used in the effort to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, warning sirens blare about incoming rain and deadly hail, which has all the girls scurrying indoors. Just when Kuniko gets back indoor, however, the same antagonistic girl from before pushes her outside and closes the door. Kuniko gives quite an impressive performance as she dodges all of the deadly hail without a scratch amidst a yard that gets all torn up.
Of course, the yard being torn up means that it has to be fixed up, and the inmates of the detention center are the obvious source of labor. As Kuniko and Tomoka shovel dirt back into the holes, Kuniko’s friend Nao approaches them and starts talking discretely. She reveals that the reason why she and all the other girls were ignoring Kuniko was because of the new group of girls suppressing everyone else, and we learn that the name of the girl leading the group is Rena. However, Nao is not discrete enough, and Rena and her fellows soon approach them to beat up on Nao, which has Kuniko stepping in and a fight starting between Kuniko and Rena.
Considering that Kuniko can see bullets approaching and move to block them, Rena really has no chance at all against Kuniko. She should have realized this after seeing how Kuniko managed to avoid getting hit by hail, but she doesn’t and is quickly defeated by Kuniko. During the fight she reveals that she hates trees because the forest swallowed up her hometown. She is also being very antagonistic against Kuniko on orders from the warden, Ryouko, who dangles the opportunity to live in ATLAS as an incentive. This is plenty strong an incentive, since Rena has no where else to go. So as Kuniko delivers the knockout punch, she invites Rena to live in Duomo instead.
Ryouko seems to have enjoyed the show with her showing up during the fight. She is either unhappy with Rena’s performance or just being sadistic as she orders Rena to stay in place with no food nor water for three days. Kuniko can’t stand the injustice, and she really hate how Ryouko dangles an ATLAS rank, the right to live in ATLAS and the level for standard of life, as incentive to control people. So Kuniko offers to take on the punishment in Rena’s stead, which Ryouko accepts. This means standing alone under the hot sun without even a sip of water, with ATLAS staff making sure that none of the inmates discretely slip Kuniko something to drink or eat.
As Rena watches Kuniko being effectively in a much harsher version of solitary confinement, she must be quite angry about Kuniko pushing herself to accept hardship that was supposed to be inflicted on Rena. She may be more angry at herself even if outwardly she’s angry at Kuniko, although she might be trying to make herself feel better by thinking that Kuniko’s sacrifice is just self-gratification and says as much to Tomoka. This is too much for Tomoka and she slaps Rena, and she starts explaining that it’s far more than self-gratification which motivates Kuniko.
It turns out that Tomoka had stabbed someone two years ago. From the sounds of it, the victim was a boyfriend that Tomoka loved dearly, but for the boyfriend it was just playing around and the relationship ended violently. The victim survived just fine, although Tomoka has never heard from him again. Instead of Tomoka ending up in prison, however, Kuniko sacrificed two years of her own life to keep Tomoka out of prison. Two years is a very long time for just self-gratification, and if Tomoka’s story doesn’t completely change Rena’s impression of Kuniko, at least it takes the wind out of her ranting against Kuniko.
All the while Metal Age, led by Takehiko, is tunneling underground in an effort to rescue Kuniko. When Takehiko brought up the shovel earlier in the episode, I was worried that he had the naive idea that a simple tunnel would work, and it seems that my worries are not entirely without basis. Either security at the detention center really sucks, or there is more to the rescue plan than just digging a tunnel. As Momoko applies makeup in the Southern Cross Hotel, Momoko’s remarks indicate that the plan is going well and a whole lot of effort is being devoted to her rescue, which seems to imply that there is indeed much more to the rescue plan.
After the three days are up, Kuniko is completely exhausted after going without any food, water, or sleep (unless Kuniko is one of those people who can sleep while standing). Ryouko is ostensibly impressed and wants to reward Kuniko for her perseverance. Of course, Ryouko being the twisted person she is, the reward also has to be equally twisted, and the reward she offers is Kuniko’s execution. This causes quite a stir among the inmates, but Kuniko herself is too exhausted to respond and just collapses.
I’m not sure if Ryouko’s intention to execute Kuniko is an effort to eliminate a potential threat or part of a twisted scheme where she has no real intention to kill Kuniko. I’m inclined to think that it’s part of a twisted scheme: Ryouko had 18 years to eliminate a potential threat all the while with Kuniko under continuous surveillance, and she doesn’t seem to be the type to wait until a possibility becomes a probability. I have no doubt that the torment that Ryouko put Kuniko through was purely for her own amusement, though.