Episode 12 of Shangri-la, “Changes in the Forces of Life”, begins with Kunihito recuperating in an ATLAS hospital after having been rescued in the aftermath of the Yamato Takeru debacle. He is isolated from the other survivors, and of course he wonders where they are, although the doctor smoothly ignores the question and suggests that Kunihito focus on his own recovery. Kunihito would be shocked to learn that Ryouko has just ordered the elimination of the other survivors besides Digma-3 (confirming that Kunihito is indeed Digma-3).
I don’t get it. For one thing, Ryouko seemed to be completely uninterested in any rescue effort for Kunihito and other survivors in the previous episode: I wouldn’t have thought that the handling of survivors other than Kunihito would even come to her attention. The other thing is why. Is it just a whim? Is it to hide something they may have witnessed Kunihito unknowingly do to save their lives? (It wouldn’t have been too out of the ordinary or they would have mentioned it, but Kunihito himself would not know since he was knocked out.) Or is it to cover up the Yamato Takeru debacle?
Despite his sardonic attitude, Soichiro Hata doesn’t seem to take well to Ryouko’s casual disregard for life. We’ve seen a similar reaction from the previous incident in the detention center from both Hata and Leon. While Hata may come off as uncaring about human life in his attitude, this doesn’t actually seem to be the case, and I wonder if there is going to be a surprising turn in the story coming from him. Many viewers probably expect something similar from Leon, but it might be less expected from Hata. This does make me wonder again why Ryouko’s subordinates so unquestioningly follow her orders in the first place. Of course, there’s always the fact that it’s saving their own skins, but there seems to be much more …
Ryouko holds a press conference announcing the suspension of all immigration into ATLAS. This causes a public outrage, of course, and it also spurns on plans by Metal Age to invade ATLAS. Although the Metal Age members are not so encouraged by the sketchy plan proposed by their new leader Kuniko, which basically consists of dropping her into ATLAS from the sky. I’d go as far as saying that it’s as hare-brained as Takehiko’s previous scheme to break out Kuniko from prison (although in retrospect, it may not have been as hare-brained as I thought: they were trying to break Kuniko out of a detention center for teenage girls, not a maximum security prison holding psychopathic and extremely dangerous criminals). It’s left to the resident geek Furukawa to figure out the details.
Meanwhile, Karin is back to form with Medusa back under control, working with Klaris and Zhang to make tons of money. Interestingly, the market carbon rate for the USA is a very low 0.087, an impressive drop from the 5.20 in episode 9, which is an opportunity that has Klaris all excited. After leaving Zhang to take care of the Chinese markets, Karin thinks about going out shopping to chill out. It’s a great breakthrough for Karin to even consider this, all thanks to Kanaria, but Karin is still scared about mingling among a crowd.
Fortunately for Karin, she thinks up a brilliant solution: she dresses up herself in a teddy bear costume in her excursion to Akiba. Well, maybe it isn’t so brilliant: dressing up as a teddy bear actually attracts a lot of attention. At least this is Akihabara with its fill of cosplayers and other odd characters, so it shouldn’t attract too much attention. Incidentally, Karin has stuck in the feather from Kanaria on Pudding’s head as a memento (I had thought it was a leaf in the previous episode, but it does look like a feather, and this actually fits the motif of a canary better.)
Karin is not the only one in Akiba for some shopping. Kuniko and Takehiko drop by the old men of Akiba to finally use some of the funds obtained in episode 4. Kuniko is surprised by how they have already made a figurine commemorating Kuniko becoming the leader of Metal Age, while Takehiko shows himself to be a gun otaku. They’re not in Akiba for any small purchase, though: they’re there to buy weapons and other supplies for a full-scale invasion of ATLAS, and Kuniko wants the supplies to arrive within three days. Interestingly, Kuniko also requests a huge boomerang.
In ATLAS, Sayoko forces her way into the presence of Ryouko. Interestingly, Sayoko and Ryouko seemed to have gone to college together, and even then Ryouko had an entourage of men. Sayoko demands to know why Mikuni has not been selected as the heir despite hearing the voice of ATLAS, but Ryouko humiliates Sayoko by forcing her to ask in a pitiful manner. At least Ryouko does answer Sayoko’s question, where she reveals that there are three potential candidates for the heir. Ryouko refuses to reveal who the other two candidates are, though. If Sayoko were to think things calmly, she might be able to figure out at least one of them from hints shown in episode 6, but she doesn’t seem to be so calm. With an “heir” mentioned before in episode 10, we obviously have a question: The heir to what?
Back in Akiba, Karin has tremendously enjoyed her epic shopping spree. Even if she’s only carrying a couple of shopping bags, she has been buying an impressive portion of the inventory at the shops she has been visiting, with the goods to be sent to ATLAS directly. She enjoys it so much that she gets the idea to just buy Akihabara wholesale, not quite realizing that it’s made up of a lot of shops each with their separate owners. A cosplayer dressed up as a teddy bear might be only a little bit out of the ordinary in Akiba, but a teddy bear asking around where she can buy Akihabara has got to be a lot weirder.
As Karin asks around how to buy Akiba, she is seen by Kuniko and Takehiko who has just finished their own business in the area. Kuniko manages to recognize that it’s the same teddy bear she saw in episode 5 inside the virtual world, and Karin gets into a comical panic as she tries to deny it, running off when Kuniko takes off the bear head hiding Karin’s head. Poor Karin: it seems Kuniko will forever flabbergast her whenever they meet, and the two don’t even really know each other …
Back to serious stuff in ATLAS, Sayoko needs to know more, so she decides to hack into Zeus for answers, using the brain of a hapless bureaucrat to gain access. With a brain-to-computer interface, Sayoko manages to virtually navigate through Zeus at frightening speed, which is not unnoticed by ATLAS staff. Ryouko remains unconcerned despite Sayoko breaking through all the security measures with ease. It’s soon obvious why Ryouko is unconcerned: once Sayoko reaches the most secure area within Zeus, which is represented by an image of ATLAS itself, an image of Ryouko appears and overwhelms Sayoko. Either Ryouko had left a trap beforehand in anticipation of Sayoko’s intrusion, or Ryouko has even better computer skills and was supremely confident she could handle Sayoko (despite the lack of any visible computer interface on Ryouko).
Meanwhile, Mikuni talks to Miko about how she misses Sayoko, who has not been around for some time. This is when an attendant hurriedly summons Miko for an emergency, where it turns out that ATLAS staff are dragging Sayoko away for unspecified acts. Miko does notice a earring being dropped from Sayoko while she is being dragged away, and she is surprised to realize that it’s Momoko’s earring. Soon after, Momoko finds herself free from her restraints, and a piece of candy and her earring left behind with an ATLAS ID card let’s her know that Miko had freed her.
Being a surrogate mother for Mikuni must have done wonders for Miko’s confidence: it’s hard to imagine Miko from the beginning of the show freeing an imprisoned Momoko without panicking, and Miko seems to be much more in control of things. But Miko must realize by now that Momoko’s earring looks just like the one that Mikuni has, so I wonder just what Miko is thinking about concerning this apparent coincidence.
Back in Duomo, planning is well underway for the invasion of ATLAS by Metal Age, which will involve not just the Duomo branch but all branches. One potential issue is whether to divert resources to rescue Momoko, but Kuniko bravely determines to focus on just the invasion itself. They need not have worried: Momoko shows up during the meeting and is reunited by an extremely relieved Kuniko, at which point the episode ends.
With Karin and the old men of Akiba, I found this episode very fun to watch. The old men are amusing as usual, especially with the versatile emoticon sign carried by one of the old men, and it might be only a matter of time before a new magical girl is officially declared (Magical Girl Nina?). Karin in her teddy bear suit on a shopping spree was just hilarious, not to mention her reaction upon encountering “monkey” Kuniko. Hopefully, Karin’s encounter with Kuniko won’t discourage her from going outside again for too long, although Kuniko might show up at her place in person in just a few days. It was also amusing to see Nyorōn Churuya-san still around after so long.
I think I have a handle on what motivates most of the regular characters, but there is one person whose motivation is still very much opaque to me. It is quite clear what Ryouko’s personality is like, but I’m very much mystified by what her motivations are. At first glance she might seem to act mostly on a whim, but it does seem that most of her actions are carefully thought out to fulfill some sort of plan (she might just be so smart that she doesn’t have to give much thought to anything). It’s just that I have no idea what this plan might be or what she hopes to get.
The best guess I can come up with is that she’s trying to save the species with zero regard for the individuals, but even this hardly has any basis to back it up. It’s only flimsily supported by how devoted she is to the “ATLAS plan”, whatever it may be. Except the ultimate goal of ATLAS may not have anything to do with saving the human species, not to mention that Ryouko’s personality does not seem to quite mesh with a desire to save the species. On the other hand, it could be possible that despair about a desperate situation or something else about ATLAS twists personalities …