Episode 10 of Shangri-la, “Sword with the Soul of Words”, begins with a look at Nagiko’s kitchen and a look at a dagger in one of the cabinets. It’s the dagger representing the leadership of Metal Age, which also happens to be virtually identical with the ones possessed by Mikuni and Kunihito except for the different symbol. Looks like Kuniko might be reconsidering taking possession of the dagger and becoming the leader of Metal Age in this episode, unlike when she refused to accept it back in episode 1.
Outside, Takehiko and members of Metal Age are weeding out plants that are growing within Duomo. These plants are precursors to the forest overrunning an urban area, so it’s important that they do not get a foothold. Interestingly, they are growing right in the locations that were hit by the attack back in episode 1, although some still think that the military was responsible for the attack. Seems like a hint on how the forest in Tokyo spreads. The subject of Kuniko also comes up, and while many are willing to respect Kuniko’s wishes not to become the next leader of Metal Age, Takehiko is quite firm in trusting Nagiko that Kuniko should be the new leader.
Meanwhile, Kuniko is at her favorite brooding spot feeling all depressed. At least Tokyo still exists without having been destroyed by a meteorological disaster; maybe the seemingly coincidental changes in weather and attacks by nature in her times of emotional confusion were really just coincidences. She remembers when she had first met Momoko a very long time ago, where she had first approached Momoko and Miko because of confusion about Momoko’s gender but had taken a shine to Momoko and her boomerang. Something to note is that Momoko didn’t wear an earring at this point in time.
At the Moon Palace, Miko has recovered and is back to attending Mikuni. While Miko is concerned about the fight the other day, being sure that Kuniko and Momoko were present, Mikuni is very eager to go outside again. Miko cannot allow it, especially without Sayoko’s permission. As for Sayoko herself, she has still not yet forced out an answer for where Momoko got the earring that matches the one worn by Mikuni. Momoko is still quite lively despite the physical abuse, but this time Sayoko injects Momoko with something, presumably a truth serum.
Out at sea, Kunihito is on the ship we saw at the end of the previous episode, and he is quite seasick to the amusement of the sailors. In Duomo, Takehiko finds Kuniko in her brooding spot and tries to get her spirits up, not that it does any good. And at the Moon Palace, Mikuni convinces the poor innocent Miko into playing hide and seek, and Miko doesn’t think of the earlier eagerness of Mikuni to go outside, otherwise Miko would have realized that Mikuni was trying to be alone so that she could sneak out.
Back to Sayoko, she had indeed injected Momoko with a truth serum and fully expects to get answers. It’s soon obvious that it’s not working as Momoko keeps on giving different female names when asked what her real name is, not to mention consistently answering that she is 28 years old. In fact, Momoko launches her own psychological torment on Sayoko based on what Momoko observed, correctly guessing that Sayoko is a mother and that she leaves her child lonely. This really touches off a nerve with Sayoko, who seems to be genuinely crying and starts choking Momoko in her anger.
I wonder if I’m the only one who thought that Sayoko’s daughter was Mikuni at first? They do have the same hair color and are about the right age, and not being able to even acknowledge being the mother would have been a torment. But Sayoko is crying about her daughter Midori. Despite her twisted personality, Sayoko seems to be like any other mother concerning her child.
Meanwhile, Mikuni is all dressed up for a jaunt outside, only to be stopped by a couple of guards on the way out. She gets rid of them by asking whether they like her, and then asking whether they like Sayoko and think she is beautiful. The guards don’t even have the time to say anything, but we hear them getting crushed anyways. It looks like merely intending not to answer truthfully gets one killed by Mikuni: lying is a definite no-no, but even just not answering doesn’t seem to be an option. And Mikuni is quite aware of how the people around her think and is clever enough to take advantage of it. The poor guards may have been among those that actually liked Mikuni for all we know, given how Mikuni had to ask their opinion about Sayoko.
On the flip side, it’s interesting to see that Mikuni had to ask the guards about something they didn’t want to answer truthfully in order to use her people-crushing ability. I’m not sure if this restriction is real or something that Mikuni just thinks exists, though. For that matter, Mikuni may have asked the question and deliberately didn’t give the guards time to answer as a thinly veiled excuse to kill them. In other words, it may have been instead a way for her to get rid of the guards without what passes for her conscience making her feel guilty.
Unfortunately, Mikuni wasn’t quite clever enough to prepare an appropriate wardrobe for a jaunt under the sun. This soon causes trouble for her, since it is time for the shutters blocking the sun to be opened for the area in ATLAS where Mikuni is currently in. The sun causes extreme pain for Mikuni because of whatever medical condition she is suffering from, although fortunately she is soon found by Moon Palace attendants and Miko. Curiously, Hiruko screams about a voice calling to the Sun, Moon, and Earth while Mikuni is suffering under the sunlight．Hiruko screams about how they should listen to the voice of the heavenly pillars. I wonder if Mikuni sensed what Hiruko was saying. Of course, Ryouko has been keeping tabs on Mikuni and notes that a caged bird should go back into the cage.
Throughout the first half of the episode, care has been taken to show us the daggers carried by Kunihito and dropped by Mikuni in her attempt to sneak out. Care was taken to also show the Metal Age dagger: Kuniko should be taking possession of it in the second half of the episode.
After the break, Karin talks to Karis about the company having learned about the existence of Medusa. The company obviously referring to ATLAS, Karin got the tip from a government minister she deals with. She apparently realizes that this would severely restrict her use of Medusa, which saddens her because it would mean that she would not be able to rake in as much money, which is somehow supposed to be linked to meeting her parents. Unlike Karin, I’m not so sure if her parents actually exist … This is when she learns that Medusa used Apollon to cause a typhoon. It’s also the same time when top command priority to Medusa is returned to Karin, which makes her wonder what is going on, although Klaris doesn’t care about the mystery and is just happy for the chance to get rich again.
Ryouko is also being told by Soichiro about the new typhoon over the Marshall Islands caused by the solar power satellite Apollon, to which she wonders whether it was an attempt to create a shield and notes that it won’t matter. This makes it clear that the typhoon wasn’t something ATLAS was planning and hoping for. Another subordinate, Shogo, reports that progress on the new expansion for ATLAS is late by 22%, to which Ryouko notes that the prime minister is being incompetent. After asking Shion whether her playing warden was fun and getting an affirmative answer, Ryouko tells Shogo to prepare for a press conference.
Meanwhile, Kuniko is in the Southern Cross Hotel, which we saw back in episode 7, and she is reminiscing about Momoko. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but the Southern Cross Hotel must be where Momoko lives and wasn’t just a temporary place she was staying at. Kuniko thinks back to how hard Momoko worked so that Kuniko could have a normal life, and this seems to strengthen her resolve for something, probably her decision to lead Metal Age. Back in ATLAS while lying alone after the session with Sayoko, Momoko expresses her wish for Kuniko to have a normal life.
At the Moon Palace, Sayoko has checked up on Mikuni and while she has been hurt by the sunlight, it looks like Mikuni will be fine. Miko feels guilty about what had happened, but Sayoko seems to genuinely feel as guilty, too. Mikuni mentions that she heard something in her head just before losing consciousness, which Sayoko seems to consider significant in contrast to Miko, who is just wondering what had happened. It was not Hiruko that Mikuni had heard: instead, it was another voice saying “Moon, ascend the heavens and illuminate the darkness”. This has Sayoko exiting the room in a hurry.
Back in Duomo, Kuniko is walking around the streets watching the people. Then she comes across a public television screen broadcasting breaking news, where it is reported that Japan now has a new prime minister, Naruse Ryouko. It seems that Ryouko was unsatisfied with the performance of the previous prime minister concerning the construction of ATLAS and had decided to take matters into her own hands by playing prime minister. While Ryouko assures the public that not only will she complete ATLAS within the next ten years but also the relocation of people to ATLAS, this does not sit well with Kuniko who thinks about what had happened to her friends at the detention center. It doesn’t sit well with Metal Age, either, including Takehiko who seems to have heard things about Ryouko but never knew what she looked like until now.
After having had the press conference and while watching the broadcast, Ryouko gets a report from Soichiro that Digma-1 seems to have heard a voice. Now we know that Digma-1 is Mikuni, which is a bit odd considering that she looks much younger than Digma-2. Upon hearing the news, Ryouko makes sure that Soichiro knows what to do with the Sun and smiles evilly. I would like to know what they were talking about concerning Kuniko.
At the same time outside of Mikuni’s room, Sayoko is frustrated about being notified that Mikuni’s priority will stay unchanged and that she is to remain within the Moon Palace. Sayoko is sure that the voice Mikuni had heard was from ATLAS itself, but despite having thought that this event would have meant Mikuni being able to leave the Moon Palace, it is yet not to be. This has Sayoko earnestly vowing to Mikuni that she will somehow manage to eventually take her to a place where the sun shines.
I had decided that Sayoko was not Mikuni’s mother; now I’m changing my mind again because of her attitude and determination regarding Mikuni. I’m guessing that Sayoko had named her daughter Midori, but was forced to change her official name to incorporate the kanji for country (邦, “kuni”). Even Mikuni finds it odd how Sayoko is acting with her strong determination. While I maintain the belief that there is much more to the twisted main characters than has been shown so far, I didn’t think Sayoko as a side character would be anything more than just a sadomasochistic one-dimensional character; it looks like I’m going to be wrong.
By now, Kuniko has finally returned home where Nagiko is waiting and accepts the position of the leader of Metal Age. For a long time, Kuniko had the feeling that she would have to be the leader some day, but the massacre at the detention center and the capture of Momoko was a tipping point that finally made her accept it. I had thought Ryouko may have regretted her apparent whim concerning the detention center inmates with Kuniko starting to second guess herself, but the complete opposite happened with Kuniko getting rid of any second thoughts.
Before Nagiko hands over the dagger symbolizing the leadership of Metal Age, she asks Kuniko what she would do as the leader. Kuniko replies that she would go to ATLAS and see what it is really like (hopefully it will go better than the attempt in episode 3), which seems to be an answer Nagiko likes. But the moment the dagger touches Kuniko’s hands, it starts resonating and Kuniko hears a voice saying something very similar to what Mikuni heard, except being told to illuminate the Earth instead of the Darkness. At the same time the other daggers also resonate, noticeable to everyone with Mikuni’s pristine dagger but barely a fleeting sensation with Kunihito’s broken down dagger.
As for Ryouko, she is talking with the rest of the Japanese government as the new prime minister about handling Medusa located in the Marshall Islands. When asked whether she plans to send a military force to eliminate Medusa, the rest of the government is told that the Yamato Takeru, an aircraft carrier, has already been placed in position. Having a special forces unit attached to ATLAS makes it convenient for the corporation to place military forces without having the rest of the government know. Except the rest of the government is surprised by how military forces could have been placed near the Marshall Islands without anyone else knowing, so they’re reminded that the Yamato Takeru is a mimetic aircraft carrier.
The episode ends back at the ship with Kunihito on board, which begins phase 2 of the operation to eliminate the Medusa, and the ship deactivates its camouflage as an old battered cargo ship to reveal a sparkling brand new armored aircraft carrier, heading right towards the typhoon caused by the Apollon. Practical application of mimetic ore has progressed a whole lot further than what the small sample from episode 5 would have suggested.
The length of each episode remains the same, but it feels like more and more is happening in each episode. Or maybe I’m just getting wordier, with the background being built up so that more speculations can be made without the answers provided yet by the show itself. And as has been often the case with Shangri-la, a lot of questions are again raised.
For one thing, what is Tarsian playing at? Did he wrest control of Medusa for its own protection? Or is he the secret intelligence source that told Ryouko of Medusa’s existence and is playing both sides in some sort of twisted scheme?
How much does Momoko know about Kuniko and ATLAS? Kuniko’s flashback suggests that Momoko knew nothing when they first met, but it seems like Momoko knows a whole lot more now. Presumably Nagiko must have told Momoko a lot, although I wonder how much. I also wonder if there is something special about Momoko’s academic background. Given how Momoko started from a wooden boomerang and went on to ultra-high-tech whips and boomerangs with liberal access to nanowire, did raising Kuniko motivate Momoko to use an engineering background? Or did something weird happen in the intervening years to give her special abilities, including the ability to see and block bullets? And could this be related to Momoko’s earring?
Where did Nagiko get Kuniko in the first place? Did she break Kuniko out of the possession of ATLAS and managed a sort of compromise to keep her? Or what is more likely the case, is Nagiko in league with ATLAS and wants Kuniko in charge of Metal Age as part of some grand plan? The Metal Age dagger suggests that the resistance organization was in league with ATLAS from the very beginning. Except I don’t think the ATLAS here is the organization headed by Hiruko and Ryouko, but the essence of ATLAS itself.
Which of course brings up another question: What is ATLAS? ATLAS the structure, that is, not ATLAS the organization or corporation. Ostensibly it’s just living space so that Tokyo can be forested, but it’s clearly not just that. Why does it have its own separate voice?