Episode 6 of Shangri-la, “Imaginary Battle Lines”, begins with Ishida Karin contacting the Japanese government with a suggestion that Ishida Finance and the government cooperate to defeat Orochi, the company which Karin suspects of operating a duplicate of Medusa. The duplicate system itself is also being referred as the Orochi. The Orochi is drawn to countries with plenty of both market carbon and actual carbon, and Karin wants government cooperation to use Kuwait as bait. It’s in the government’s interests to get rid of something like Orochi which manipulates the carbon market, but they’re worried about causing a diplomatic incident, which is of no concern to Karin.
Ishida Finance and the government are not the only ones worried about Orochi. Nagiko is worried about a manipulating force in the carbon market, believing that another incident like the one with Saudi Arabia in episode 4 could cause a collapse of the market. Nagiko and Kuniko would not know anything about the Orochi yet, or at least Kuniko wouldn’t. It can be hard to tell just how much Nagiko knows about things: I wouldn’t be surprised if she knew that systems such as Medusa or Orochi were possible, although I doubt she knows any of them actually existing.
Meanwhile, Kunihito is being reamed by his apparently civilian supervisor about losing the sample of mimetic ore. Fortunately for him, the stolen sample only uses technology already leaked, which suggests that the technological disparity with other countries is not as great as one may have been lead to believe in the previous episode. It helps that Kunihito seems to have friends in high places within ATLAS, although he has no idea who they may be. Incidentally, Kunihito is informed that he is wanted at the Moon Palace.
Elsewhere in ATLAS, Ryouko notes how Mikuni has taken an interest in Kunihito. When a subordinate brings up the subject of the upcoming operation against Orochi, she feels no qualms about the diplomatic repercussions that will occur since Kuwait is a country which is nostalgic for the long-gone age of oil. Ryouko does seem to sincerely believe in the evils of excess carbon dioxide emissions considering her attitude. At least she’s “nice” enough to have ATLAS send aid to Kuwait after the operation succeeds, although if it fails Ishida Finance will have to take full responsibility. Ryouko also mentions working with Zeus.
Kunihito drops by his parents’ place before heading off to the Moon Palace. While the father is not at home, the mother and the house are surprisingly ordinary. Too bad Kunihito considers it silly the possibility of their parents being close to someone high in the ATLAS hierarchy: we might have gotten some answers as to what’s special about him. And Kuniko might be surprised at how ordinary life in ATLAS is for Kunihito and his parents, although her point about having a stable supply of food and other basic necessities in ATLAS would still stand, not to mention the lack of life-threatening weather.
Afterwards at the Moon Palace, Kunihito’s dagger is temporarily confiscated before meeting Mikuni where he’s given no warning about the mortal danger he could get into. Fortunately for Kunihito, he’s a very honest person by nature so he’s not in real danger. It does annoy Miko that he admits to not finding Mikuni to be particularly cute, and he does get made fun of by the attendants about his ass being kicked by a girl. Truth be said, “cute” would also not be the word that first comes to my mind concerning Mikuni: for me it’s “like a doll”. I wonder if Miko would have had the same reaction if Kunihito revealed the name of the girl who kicked his ass, and I really wonder if Mikuni had killed anyone yet in Miko’s presence or if Miko knows anything about Mikuni’s reaction to lying. We haven’t seen anyone being killed yet since Miko became Mikuni’s attendant …
Sayoko is wondering the same thing, which seems to suggest that no one has been killed yet in Miko’s presence. But the important issue for Sayoko is Kunihito himself and his dagger. She is shocked when it turns out that she cannot access information about Kunihito despite her high level of access. It also turns out that his dagger is virtually identical to Mikuni’s dagger, and she would have gone as far as giving Kunihito back a fake dagger if there was time to make one, although she’s not willing to damage the dagger in any way.
Ryouko is amused at how Sayoko is being stymied in her research and also notes that Hiruko must have learned about Kunihito’s dagger as well. Indeed, Hiruko seems to be severely agitated. It makes me wonder if Hiruko had anything to do with how damaged Kunihito’s dagger is …
After the break, Kuniko talks to Momoko about feeling a sinister presence behind the carbon market, which can basically create and collapse a bubble carbon economy in a country. She is somehow sensing the Orochi and/or Medusa. Nagiko wants to talk to Kuniko over the same issue, where she reveals that Takehiko had infiltrated ATLAS and heard from a spy that the Japanese government was planning to get rid of the Orochi. Kuniko may be naive and impulsive in other matters, but she seems to have an uncanny insight into how the carbon market works as she realizes that the government would be using another country’s economy as bait.
As Nagiko and Kuniko are monitoring the situation, the government and Karin begin their operation. Carbon levels for Kuwait are raised to record levels such that the country goes into bankruptcy. This attracts the attention of the Orochi, which promptly drops carbon levels to extremely low levels, all the while as Kuniko is able to “feel” it happening. Nagiko explains that it was done through a head lease of Kuwaiti oil wells with the unwilling financial support from corporations around the world, where a lot of these financial institutions are going into ruin in the process. And through a leaseback to the Kuwaiti government, the Orochi obtains a ton of capital and withdraws.
Kuniko “feels” the carbon market and senses the gap in the market where the Orochi should be. It is in the country of Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and the government has also been able to narrow it down to the same country. However, there are too many islands and the government and Karin are unable to narrow down the location of the Orochi. In contrast, Kuniko is able to figure out something wrong with Esath Island, where the sea levels have dropped by more than 30 centimeters, which means that the Orochi must be there. This information is circuitously passed on to ATLAS, where they easily realize that the source of information is Metal Age, and Ryouko orders the information to be passed on to America and that aid be sent to Kuwait.
Later that day in the evening, Kuniko hears news of how the Orochi was handled in a way that she must not have expected. Esath Island has been bombed with three fuel-air explosive warheads by the United States Air Force. The Japanese government is quite satisfied with the elimination of the Orochi system, and this will probably end up with the previously hostile government being more favorable towards Ishida Finance. Ryouko has also realized the potential of Kuniko and is happy about how the carbon market should be stable for the time being, unless another system like Orochi appears.
Of course, exactly such a system already exists in the form of Medusa, where Klaris is complaining angrily about Karin using Kuwait as bait for the Orochi. The bankruptcy of Kuwait had also bankrupt Klaris. Karin is annoyed of Klaris’ complaining and disconnects her, which is immediately followed by a connection from Tarsian. Karin airs her suspicion that Tarsian had created the Orochi, which is confirmed by Tarsian, where he reveals that the destruction of Orochi was a lesson for Medusa. It was to teach Medusa that it can be destroyed, although Tarsian remains silent about whether there were any other reasons for the Orochi.
The episode ends with ATLAS sending a special forces unit to infiltrate Duomo at night and retrieve Digma-2, a.k.a. Kuniko. Presumably her role in the operation against the Orochi has just proved her worth to ATLAS, where previously she may have not shown enough promise for whatever they want for her but still kept a watch on just in case.
This episode leaves a lot to think about. I barely understand what was done to draw out the Orochi. But despite so much not looking like someone who has a deep academic interest in economics, Kuniko seems to have an instinctive understanding of how the carbon market works. What’s more, she seems to be able to sense what’s going on in the market right now without even having to jack her brain into anything or using a contraption like the one from the previous episode. And Nagiko and Kuniko seem to be quite aware of Kuniko’s ability, although Kuniko might not have a clue of where it comes from.
The way the sea levels around Esath Island seem to have been affected by the Orochi also hints at how the carbon market might work. I have no idea if the drop is real or virtual, nor do I understand why manipulation of the carbon market by the Orochi would have resulted in a local change of sea level. But it seems that the carbon market is heavily based on actual physical changes in the real world, not just on man-made constructs like currency, although it’s not clear whether the Orochi actually changed the physical world or just manipulated the measurements. The possible influence of Kuniko’s mental state on the physical world might suggest the former.
On a related note, it sounds like Zeus might be the central computer possessed by ATLAS which controls the carbon market and Medusa is a duplicate of Zeus, which would explain why only a system like Medusa could manipulate the market. And the episode yet again mentions the job title of neo-carbonist, and only now am I wondering: who are the old carbonists?
The way that Ryouko keeps on making exotic fashion statements so far and how she complained about the food this episode makes me wonder if she craves new sensations and experiences. Perhaps she’s far older than she looks and is bored with normal sensations, which might explain her constant change of unconventional wardrobe and sensitive taste for food. Of course, it’s far more likely that she’s just a really spoiled lady.
Finally back to Kuniko, her abilities and naivete makes it feel like she was something other than human trying to learn what it is like to live among humans, rather than Kuniko just being an immature girl. Maybe it’s more than just a feeling: who or what is Digma-1? Is it Hiruko? For that matter, Mikuni is even more like other than human, which makes me wonder if there is any significance to Kunihito, the other holder of a symbolic knife, apparently being an ordinary if uptight person.