Episode 14 of Shangri-la, “Transfigured City”, begins back in Duomo, where people are worrying about how well Metal Age’s invasion of ATLAS is going. But presumably some time later, we see the Metal Age members remaining in Duomo being alarmed by attacks similar to what we saw at the end of episode 1. Furukawa is pretty sure that “the people Takehiko contacted” are not responsible for the attacks. I don’t remember Takehiko contacting anyone besides other Metal Age branches: I wonder who they could be?
Meanwhile in ATLAS, Kuniko and Momoko have safely entered the structure and Kuniko begins to solicit status reports from each of the infiltration teams. While initially the teams seemed to be having no problems, things get weird when teams report being in impossible locations like in a jungle. Even Takehiko reports finding his team on an island. It’s obvious that mimetic ore is being used on a huge scale to mimic other environments, and this also becomes obvious to Takehiko as a tree reveals itself to be a robotic weapon that starts attacking his team.
Now that K.D. and his Boomerang are no longer in play and ATLAS itself is in charge of its defense, Ryouko seems to be in a much better mood than in the previous episode. With damage to ATLAS reaching 3%, she orders its immediate restoration, and she is also looking forward to the surprise that Kuniko will go through soon. The military is also having a pathetically easy time tracking the Metal Age infiltration teams thanks to mimetic technology, although Kunihito is unhappy about having to fight against his own countrymen.
Kuniko and Momoko soon get to know what the other teams must be going through as they find themselves in the Egyptian desert with its Pyramids. Kuniko immediately figures out the facade with how the desert sand is solid, and tells the other teams that everything they see is mimetic. Momoko brings up the overused trope that the only way to see through the facade is to see things with the mind’s eye, although Kuniko’s half-hearted attempt doesn’t do anything. No surprise there: Momoko was kidding about it in the first place. Nice way to make fun of a common cliche …
During this short time, the environment has changed to a copy of pre-calamity Tokyo. Other teams also find themselves in Tokyo with Takehiko finding himself near the National Diet Building, and Kuniko suggests that they all gather to reorganize. Kuniko and Momoko soon get busy running as Godzilla appears and starts wrecking buildings, entertaining Kuniko way too much. Someone obviously has far too much time on their hands and are giving Kuniko a silly impression of pre-calamity Tokyo. Kuniko orders all the teams to gather at the National Diet Building, but for some reason Takehiko orders his team to head to the Tokyo Government Office Building, which he could only do because of unreliable radio communications.
Why is Takehiko ignoring Kuniko’s orders when he seemed to be one of the staunchest supporters of Kuniko as the leader of Metal Age? Does he have his own secret mission unknown to Kuniko? Is he secretly trying to meet up with a separate organization that was mentioned in passing at the beginning of the episode? Or does it have to do with the possibility that Metal Age may have been in league with ATLAS since its beginning? It doesn’t seem to be the case that Takehiko is taking his own initiative because Kuniko is being stupid. Then again, I might have misheard the locations, or maybe even Takehiko misheard the location given by Kuniko.
Elsewhere, Ryouko muses that it’s like bugs being attracted to the light. While Shion thinks she is referring to how hopeless Metal Age’s efforts are, Ryouko means something different. She meant it in the sense that reaching their goal will end up destroying them. Ryouko uses this as a chance to ask what Shion knows of what ATLAS is for. Coincidentally, the same topic comes between Kuniko and Momoko as they find themselves wandering in a copy of Tokyo, with Kuniko comparing to how Tokyo is now and how it used to be. I would think that this would not have been a good time for Kuniko and Momoko to be having this conversation …
The Second Great Kantou Earthquake had practically destroyed Tokyo, with 3 quadrillion yen worth of damage and 10 million people dead or missing. This was not long after the carbon control regime had been instituted internationally, so the government could not give a proper emergency response because of its desperate economic state. This was why the ATLAS project was begun, funded by hundreds of billions of yen from a Sergei Tarsiasi, the current top consultant (or advisor might be the better word here) for ATLAS, a.k.a. Tarsian. ATLAS would be a fortress for people to live in that would be immune to natural disasters, and at least in the beginning would have had tremendous popular support.
Shion states his belief that ATLAS has and is saving Japan and expresses his admiration of Ryouko for successfully managing the whole thing. This annoys Ryouko, however, and she angrily states her own point of view that ATLAS was made for Ryouko to play with. Ryouko’s anger seems to arouse Shion, but her next statement that she’s disappointed in Shion talking like her brother and wondering if she should send them back to the ground has Shion begging for forgiveness. This is when Hata arrives to inform Ryouko that Tarsian is summoning her.
Meanwhile, Karin is very happy with the skyrocketing carbon emission levels due to the battle at ATLAS, with Medusa giving its own suggestions on how to work the market. Karin and Klaris are pretty happy with how things are going, but Zhang is wary of Medusa growing beyond their control and suggests shutting down its ego. Zhang only gets exasperated with the responses from Karin and Klaris, though, as they don’t worry at all about Medusa going out of control and are cheerfully preoccupied with taking advantage of the confusion in the carbon market.
After the break, Ryouko and Tarsian are looking at an information screen with the Digmas while repeating their prophecies. “Sun, ascend the heavens and illuminate the Earth.” “Moon, ascend the heavens and illuminate the darkness.” And the complete prophecy for Kunihito as well: “Earth, follow the day and the night, and rule the world.” Tarsian notes how they have all gathered, with Ryouko pointing out that they need only wait for the completion of ATLAS. Tarsian is impressed with how humans could have completed something like ATLAS in just fifty years, and when Ryouko points out that it’s all thanks to Tarsian, he replies that he was only following “her” dream. This doesn’t seem to sit well with Ryouko.
Elsewhere in ATLAS, Sayoko has just woken up in a prison cell, except the door has been jammed open. She obviously escapes, while a subordinate of Ryouko watches. I don’t know who this subordinate is, but at least it is not Hata, who remotely discovers her escape and reports it to Ryouko. Apparently there is a subordinate of Ryouko that has finally started to act against her discretely. Ryouko wants to leave Sayoko alone, believing that Sayoko won’t be able to reach the highest levels by herself, but Tarsian overrules her, pointing out that a potential threat to Hiruko cannot be tolerated. This one scene shows where the true power of ATLAS lies, although Ryouko might have plans to change things. Incidentally, Sayoko is scary with how she keeps a stabbing weapon hidden within her glasses.
Meanwhile, many of the Metal Age infiltration teams have been annihilated, factors being the constantly changing environment and radio interference jamming communications. Kuniko has had enough of the attacks and starts destroying attacking robots left and right, which eventually gets her apart from Momoko and in front of Kunihito, who had ran towards the rampage Kuniko was causing. Kuniko and Kunihito get into a verbal argument with weapons pointed at each other, both blaming the other side for what’s happening. Kuniko wants to protect her people, who have been callously treated by ATLAS and are losing their place to live, while Kunihito wants to protect the people of ATLAS despite his misgivings.
I’m more sympathetic with Kuniko’s position: we’ve seen what has been happening to people on the ground, but we haven’t seen anyone living normally in ATLAS. With the exception of Kunihito’s mother, who for all we know is the only person in ATLAS who has anything resembling a normal life, all for Kunihito’s benefit. The argument between Kuniko and Kunihito reaches a point where there’s nothing more to be said and only weapon attacks are left, except a wall erupts between the two at the same time Tarsian has just moved a chess piece.
In fact, Tarsian and Ryouko seem to be having a chess game despite being in the midst of an uprising. They might be playing chess because they haven’t met for a long time and don’t consider the uprising to be a serious threat, but I think they’re playing an entirely different game with Kuniko, with the environment of ATLAS being influenced by the chess pieces. It would explain how certain moves they play seem to be illegal chess moves, and also how certain changes in ATLAS occuring around Kuniko coincide with certain moves. For that matter, Kuniko finds herself in front of the National Diet Building that had just revealed itself at the same time Tarsian declares checkmate.
While the other infiltration teams are now also being attacked by apparent artillery fire which start a miasma similar to what’s found in the Cursed Sea of Ikebukuro, Kuniko starts to wander around the replica of the National Diet Building. With a woman narrating in the background about the construction of ATLAS and how it would be for a better future, Kuniko takes notice of the pictures of a woman and a man hanged around the walls, where she eventually gets the shock of her lifetime in front of a particular picture with a particular caption. It is a picture of the woman and the man together, and it is labeled “Nagiko Hojo, The First CEO of Atlas Corporation”.
It was pretty obvious that Metal Age and Nagiko must have been closely involved with the inner workings of ATLAS at one point or another, given how Nagiko has the blueprints for ATLAS in her library and how the dagger symbolizing leadership of Metal Age is somehow integral to the plans of ATLAS. But I was totally surprised to learn that Nagiko was actually the founder of ATLAS in the first place. How did Nagiko end up leading a resistance movement against ATLAS?
While the focus may have been on Kuniko while she was wandering around the fake National Diet Building, the narration in the background, which appears to be a stump speech by Nagiko promoting ATLAS from fifty years ago, also seems to reveal some important information:
- ATLAS would be a place to live that would be immune to natural disasters.
- Zeus is a computer that would optimize the construction of ATLAS and manage security.
- Another corporation was founded to gather graphite, which would be used to construct ATLAS.
- Sergei Tarsiasi was a New York investor that provided the funds for ATLAS.
So what happened? My theory is thus: Nagiko Hojo, a previously hugely popular idol that was the model for Magical Gina, conceived of the fantastic idea of ATLAS after the calamity that destroyed Tokyo. Tarsian was not only an incredibly rich investor, but he was also a huge otaku, so Nagiko was able to enlist his help in funding ATLAS. In fact, Tarsian may have once been a close online friend of the three old men of Akiba and might still be in love with Nagiko. At the same time, Metal Age was founded as a corporation to gather the necessary graphite. In the beginning, things were going towards their lofty goals despite some hardships, but eventually Nagiko retired as CEO.
Unfortunately, her successor started to stray drastically from the original ideals, and unable to get things back on track, Nagiko took advantage of Metal Age and turned it into a resistance organization. Tarsian might be happier about how ATLAS is nearing its goals, even if it isn’t as ideal as Nagiko would have wanted it, but he is aware of Ryouko’s deviancy and has prepared Karin and Medusa as insurance against her. As for the forest overrunning Tokyo, I suspect that it’s actually out of control mimetic ore leaked out from ATLAS that have combined with plants, making it much more toxic and fast spreading than any natural forest has a right to be.
This is just a theory of mine: for all we know, things might be going exactly according to how Nagiko and Tarsian envisioned. On the other hand, it could mean that we will get to see Nagiko when she was a popular idol with a huge following of fanboys (maybe Ryouko’s harem was inspired by Nagiko’s fanboys). But I still don’t see where the Digmas or Hiruko fit in all this. Kuniko must be going through a ton of her own theories, although despite how much Nagiko had tried to emotionally prepare her for this moment, she must still be going through an immediate sense of betrayal.
At the very end of the episode after the ending credits and before the preview for the next episode, we see that Sayoko has managed to return to the foot of the Moon Palace, where she collapses. And the preview shows us Kuniko and Momoko meeting Kunihito’s mother: isn’t it a bit too early in Kuniko’s and Kunihito’s relationship for Kuniko to be meeting her potential mother-in-law?