Episode 20 of Shangri-la, “Joint Articulation”, begins two weeks after the successful operation to eradicate Daedalus from Tokyo. The Japanese government now has to face the aftermath, where the problem is not just the economy that is in tatters, but also the activities of Medusa that is making the global economy much worse. Even the possibility of a world war is raised. Their one consolation is that the United Nations is sending bombers to the Marshall Islands. They would love the prime minister to take responsibility and resign, but Ryouko is unconcerned and no one else is willing to replace her.
In today’s Japan, there would be plenty of people willing to jump at the chance to replace a prime minister who had screwed up severely. However, there is obviously not so many in the future, especially given that the position of prime minister by itself appears to be pretty lacking in power with how easily Ryouko got it. And the little hope the Japanese government had with the attack against Medusa in the Marshall Islands is dashed, as a typhoon destroys the attacking force like it did in episode 11.
As for the refugees, they are still in ATLAS, and it sounds like there are no immediate plans to kick them out. They seem to be pretty happy about the situation even if they’re living in tents, since there is no deadly rain or plants to contend with. And now that there is something that the average ATLAS resident like Haruko can actually do, we see them helping out with the refugees. It seems Kunihito played a big part in recruiting such volunteers, although for the moment he is hurriedly looking for Kuniko to the amusement of Tomoka and Yuri.
Kunihito finds Kuniko among the ruins of Tokyo, who had presumably accompanied Momoko to a place from the past now that the forest is gone. While Momoko finds the location for the long gone Tropical Fish in Roppongi and reminisces about the past, Kuniko contemplates the burned and barren Tokyo and wonders where everyone should live from now on. This is how Kunihito finds them, and he tries to drag a protesting Kuniko away for something important. Kuniko does eventually acquiesce, but not before Momoko tries to make it out like the two are lovebirds having a quarrel.
Both Kuniko and Kunihito deny having any feelings for each other, of course. But Kunihito’s blushing does not make the denial terribly convincing. And Kuniko does seem to be protesting too much: in the two weeks since the operation to eradicate Daedalus, she seems to have made it a habit to not fully button her shirt. Kuniko is obviously unconsciously trying to impress someone, overcompensating for her lack of conventional feminine wiles …
Kunihito brings Kuniko high up in ATLAS to show her the remains of Tokyo, but Kuniko only sees the burned down Tokyo at first. It is only when she is touching Kunihito that she notices glowing lines through Tokyo, and they soon figure out that they can see it only when in contact with Kunihito’s dagger. The glowing lines form a six-pointed star figure, and ATLAS is at its center. Inside ATLAS, Nagiko and Tarsian play with the chess board to form the same symbol, and they talk about how they discovered the lines through Tokyo immediately after the Second Great Kantou Earthquake about fifty years ago.
As Nagiko and Tarsian talk, it is revealed that the glowing lines are qi flow lines. Nagiko presumably conceived of the notion of building ATLAS in the center to connect the earth and the heavens to bring prosperity to the world, and Tarsian was crazy enough to support her vision. It was even crazier because of the sacrifices that were required: the inherent vibrations of ATLAS was a serious impediment which was only solved by looking for a supernatural solution, which turned out to require an inordinate number of human sacrifices. Not only were young girls required to become vessels for Hiruko, but a huge number of little children also had to be sacrificed separately. It looks like Takehiko’s little sister never was a vessel for Hiruko, but instead a sacrifice of the latter variety.
Nagiko and Tarsian apparently feel an enormous amount of guilt about what they had done even if they tell themselves otherwise, firmly believing that the sacrifices will all be worth it. Now we know something of the why and how of the construction of ATLAS, although it is still a mystery exactly how ATLAS would be such a great thing that would make all the sacrifices worth it. It also looks like the daggers for the Digmas, or at least their template, may have been found after construction of ATLAS had already progressed quite a bit, so the roles of the daggers and the Digmas themselves remain opaque.
It is quite clear now that the supernatural plays a role in Shangri-la. I would have preferred for it to have stayed within a pure science fiction setting, but the incorporation of the supernatural won’t be a dealbreaker for me. And who knows? Maybe the supernatural will end up being explained in science babble terms. It does seem that I should take the Hiruko birth myth recited in the previous episode a bit more literally, and maybe some understanding of Japanese creation mythology and feng shui could be useful for figuring out what is going on.
The weirdness of the glowing lines does not escape Kuniko and Kunihito, who feel like they have dropped inside a surreal occult setting (and not being so wrong). Kuniko wants to borrow Kunihito’s dagger, but Kunihito quite reasonably points out that she can do her investigations with her own dagger. Of course, there is the minor problem of Kuniko having gave her dagger to Karin in episode 18. Karin’s lackeys then show up to steal Kunihito’s dagger and succeed, proving themselves to be very bad shots: if they wanted to hit Kuniko and Kunihito (unlikely), their aims suck, and if they just wanted to scare them off (much more likely), their poor marksmanship results in a bullet grazing Kunihito.
Now that Karin has the other two daggers, she offers them to Mikuni who can now become the official heir of ATLAS, aiming to reap the financial benefits of being a major sponsor of the heir. Mikuni prepares for her return to ATLAS, to which Ryouko offers no objections. Karin is quite happy about how everything is going her way so that she can gather even more money, presumably still having no idea what she wants to do with the money, obviously having been raised to believe it is a goal in itself and perhaps a necessary condition for meeting her still mysterious parents.
Klaris, who is among the wealthy again (she must hold the record for the highest speed of oscillating between ultra-poverty and ultra-wealthy), then contacts Karin, wondering where Karin is taking advantage of to manipulate the carbon market. Karin has no idea, however, ever since she had turned over top command priority to Medusa itself in episode 15 and Medusa’s subsequent outburst in the previous episode. Klaris is just happy about making money without having to work herself, but even Karin is somewhat troubled by Medusa’s autonomy.
Karin’s world crashes around her when Zhang contacts her to reveal what he had found out about what Medusa was doing. Medusa has been making head leases in Antarctica, with the Japanese carbon treasury having contracts with over 7% of the continent. The problem is that Antarctica is completely worthless in the carbon markets, and Medusa’s actions is just throwing money away into the ether. Considering that Karin must be controlling a huge portion of the world’s wealth through Medusa, this could result in the complete collapse of the carbon markets, not to mention destroying Karin’s wealth and the only reason for living she knows.
Back in ATLAS, Kuniko is roughly patching up Kunihito’s flesh wound, but he receives an unrecoverable mental trauma as Momoko shows up to shower him with kisses to “help” with his healing, which also happens to steal his first kiss. Rest in peace, Kunihito …
Momoko had actually showed up to tell Kuniko that contact has been established with the old men of Akiba. They’re as lively as ever, and even the missing Furukawa shows up. It turns out that he had evacuated to Akiba instead of inside ATLAS with the rest of Metal Age, and he might end up being a worthy successor for the old men of Akiba. The reason for their contact is that Furukawa learned something very important about what is happening in Antarctica and that the person responsible is in Akiba.
The person in question, Karin, is desperately trying to hack into Medusa to get things back under control. So she is understandably not very concerned when Klaris and Zhang tells her the terrible news that the aerial fortress Titan is being sent to handle Medusa, since the typhoon caused by Medusa using Apollon should be able to handle most threats. Except Titan is not being sent to the Marshall Islands: it is being sent to Tokyo. Ryouko had told the United Nations that the core of Medusa is in Akiba, while neglecting to tell anyone in the Japanese government or even her own staff about it.
I don’t know if what she said about the main body of Medusa being in Akiba is accurate, where the Marshall Islands would only be where Medusa affects change in the real world to manipulate the carbon markets. For that matter, I’m not sure if Ryouko really knows if Karin controls Medusa, but she is obviously using this as a pretense to eliminate Mikuni and Hiruko. I get the feeling that such open action against Mikuni and Hiruko, which would also presumably be against the ATLAS plan, will surprise no one but her when her harem is moved to act against her.
In Akiba, Karin is unwilling to evacuate despite the urgings of Klaris and Zhang, still desperately trying to hack into Medusa, with which she could presumably hack into Titan. Not far away, Mikuni is unaware of the incoming Titan and is trying to take Miko/Hiruko along to ATLAS. However, Hiruko is quite aware of what Ryouko intends and is too agitated to be taken anywhere. But when Mikuni and Sayoko leave to head to ATLAS, Miko seems to take over Hiruko and follows them out.
The aerial fortress Titan, which must have been the result of a superconstruction project comparable to ATLAS and flew towards Tokyo with incredible speed (it has got to be hypersonic), reaches the skies of Akiba. Karin apparently succeeds in hacking Medusa in time, while outside Mikuni and Sayoko discover a bright light appearing in the sky. It looks like an attack against Akiba, although we don’t get to see Titan itself, and the light is also noticed by Kuniko, Kunihito, and Kuniko who have been driving to Akiba.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, we see a large area has been destroyed centered around where Mikuni and Sayoko were standing. None of the maids that were to accompany Mikuni to ATLAS had survived, but Mikuni and Sayoko themselves managed to emerge unscathed. This was because Hiruko protected them, presumably being controlled by Miko.
Unfortunately, the effort was so great that Miko/Hiruko disappears in droplets of water, which might be a great blow to the hopes of Sayoko, but is only a great source of sadness for Mikuni for having lost a loved one. Interestingly, just before Miko/Hiruko disappears, the previously permanently covered right eye of Hiruko is revealed, and it is a golden color just like Mikuni’s right eye. Mikuni has just lost Miko, her mother in spirit, but should I dare speculate that she has also just lost her biological mother?
(Despite the mythological Hiruko being male and everyone else saying Hiruko is male, I am still confused about Hiruko’s gender: why should a male deity need young girls as vessels? It doesn’t help that obvious male organs are not clearly shown. Then again, maybe Hiruko is both male and female, which might give some larger significance to transsexuality in the show.)