At the start of episode 16 of Shangri-la, “Insane Hell”, it turns out that Miko was arrested just because Ryouko wanted Mikuni to be lonely. Hiruko’s vessel has also been weakened during Medusa’s hacking attempt in the previous episode, and Ryouko gets the idea of using Miko as a new vessel, despite the fact that the vessels for Hiruko are supposed to be young girls. Ryouko is also looking forward to Tarsian’s reaction when he learns of this, who I guess is currently under house arrest or something similar.
Meanwhile, Kuniko and Momoko return from ATLAS to Duomo, where everyone welcomes Kuniko back like the celebrity she is. (As for why she seems to be universally treated like a celebrity, I’m attributing it to pheromones.) The first official business for Kuniko as the leader of Metal Age after returning is to exile Nagiko, who leaves without a fuss. Kuniko is letting her emotions get the better of her: she is not even trying to get answers out of Nagiko. Either that, or Kuniko is spinning a scheme that is beyond my ken. Incidentally, Nagiko mentions that Takehiko is missing and speculates that he must have learned a truth.
Kuniko agonizes over whether she made the right decision regarding Nagiko, and Momoko tells her that whatever she does is the right thing to do. So Kuniko does an obviously wrong thing: jumping off the clock tower with Momoko in tow. Of course, they don’t go splat thanks to Momoko’s quick whip action, but Momoko still insists that what Kuniko wants to do is the right thing to do. While this is the sort of thing Momoko would say, it kills me to not know just how much Momoko knows, especially with how Momoko refers Kuniko as a sun that shines.
In the core of ATLAS, Ryouko has Miko sacrificed as a vessel for Hiruko. And despite not being young nor born a female, Hiruko apparently possesses Miko with no problem. Coincidentally or not, Momoko wakes up at this moment in a cold sweat.
On another day, Metal Age and the townsfolk are weeding out the plant invaders from the forest lest Duomo be overrun. Tomoka and Yuri are among them, and they mention that Takehiko called the plant Daedalus. About now is when Furukawa has finally managed to figure out certain secrets about the Daedalus plant, and oddly enough, only now has ATLAS figured them out, too, despite presumably having far superior research facilities and budget.
Daedalus grows into a gigantic full-grown flowering plant in just two months, growing as large as buildings. It had originally dispersed its seeds using oxygen, presumably as a compressed gas, but it has now evolved to use a nitrogen oxide compound to disperse seeds, presumably in an explosive process. These seeds are fired like artillery shells and are responsible for the attacks in episode 1 and episode 14. For very long distances, containing the nitrogen oxide compound in the seeds themselves supposedly helps propel them farther, which is why toxic gas was emitted only during the attack on ATLAS and not during the attack on the relatively nearby Duomo.
Daedalus was originally genetically engineered to prevent forest fires, but now that it is threatening to overrun everything, Kuniko decides to do something about it. On the other hand, Ryouko does not want to do anything about it, mentioning that the Daedalus plants would not attack ATLAS if there were no significant heat sources serving as targets, obviously not caring what happens to the ground. Concerning the ground, Hata mentions that contact has been cut off from a Number 13, which I presume is a spy for ATLAS. I think Number 13 is Takehiko.
After the break, Kunihito has just resigned his commission in the army. Ryouko is told of this, but she doesn’t care. Meanwhile, Miko is so saddened by the disappearance of Miko that she decides to do something for someone else, perhaps for the first time in her life. Of course, it’s not Mikuni who will do the actual work of rescuing Miko, but rather her servants. Given that the choice is death or an ATLAS rank of their choosing, it really isn’t much of a choice for the servants.
Mikuni has her servants storm ATLAS corporate headquarters, but the attempt stalls in its tracks as soon as Ryouko appears, whom Mikuni recognizes. Ryouko spouts some gibberish about everything going her way and even death bowing down to her, illustrating her point by aiming a gun at her own head and pulling the trigger, where the gun jams. Ryouko’s point is obviously that she is favored by the heavens or something, but I suspect that either the firearms are programmed not to go against her or Ryouko has an in-built control of mimetic ore which she used to jam the gun. Maybe Mikuni could have done something if Ryouko lied, but I somehow doubt even her powers would have helped.
Ryouko still takes Mikuni down to the core of ATLAS to see Miko, although after Ryouko had a change in attire. It is basically to gloat about what happened to Miko. We also see what happens when Hiruko takes over an inappropriate vessel, as Miko is still inside and manages to take over the body, however temporarily it might be. Ryouko has had enough fun and is about to end things when Sayoko appears, who takes Hiruko hostage.
It is revealed that Hiruko serves as the human pillar which uses spiritual power to suppress ATLAS quakes, whatever their origins might be (and I suspect “spiritual power” is a metaphor for something more techy). Sayoko wants Mikuni to be the heir, but since Zeus is supposed to decide the heir and the decision doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon, Sayoko leaves ATLAS with Mikuni and Hiruko (Miko included). They leave behind a bemused Ryouko, who has no use for Hiruko and presumably let them go just for her own amusement.
Meanwhile in what is presumably the Cursed Sea of Ikebukuro, Kuniko is leading a band of Metal Age members to burn and cut down Daedalus plants. Their attempts fail miserably as the plants actually fight back with their deadly seed projectiles. Momoko explains that it must be chemical signals that signaled the Daedalus plants to activate defenses after some had been harmed, which is why they were not attacked in a previous visit. It turns out that Momoko knows stuff like this because she had been a botanist at a university before becoming a transsexual. Which university I don’t know, since Ni-choume university is obviously a reference to a certain district in Shinjuku.
Kuniko again returns to Duomo in abject defeat after not only failing in her objective, but also losing a lot of people. To make the mood even worse, deadly rain and hail starts falling from the sky as soon as Kuniko returns. As Momoko watches the deadly rain and hail falling, she realizes that this was what had caused the Daedalus plants to become so aggressive: damage from the rain and hail had triggered the defensive seed dispersals from the fast-growing Daedalus plants. While the explanation is accompanied by a hilarious skit with Kuniko as the unfortunate victim, the cycle has the grim implication that the forest will end up having nothing else alive except for the Daedalus plants.
After the rain stops, Kuniko watches the forest while thinking about the implications of a Daedalus-only forest. This is when she is ambushed by Takehiko, who points a gun at her head and fully intending to shoot, at which point the episode ends.
Will Kuniko have her head blown away in the next episode, whose role will possibly be replaced by Kunihito? I doubt it. If Kuniko fails to break through Takehiko’s muddled thinking (I have the impression that Takehiko’s reasoning is muddled, although enough is unknown that there could as well be perfectly valid reasons for his actions), then Kuniko has her charisma superpower, and even if this fails, she still has her superhuman reflexes. I expect we might even be getting some answers out of Takehiko via Kuniko’s queries.
With Kunihito, Mikuni, Sayoko, Karin, and even Hiruko/Miko having left ATLAS, it’s probably just a matter of time before they all gather together with Kuniko. In fact, the preview for the next episode shows an encounter between Karin and Sayoko, although I can’t imagine why they would be interested in each other. And I bet Kunihito remembers the invitation from Kuniko to join Duomo in episode 2.
As for Naruse Ryouko, she seems to be building huge opposition against herself. She even seems to not care so much about the “Plan” for ATLAS, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her harem started to rebel against her, since they seem to believe in the “Plan”. I can’t believe she would be so clueless as to not realize how forces are arraying against her. Is Ryouko just so arrogant as to believe she really is invincible? That would certainly count as a delusion. Or is she scheming something I can’t even conceive of?
The possession of Miko by Hiruko in this episode, and the fact that the vessels for Hiruko are supposed to be only young girls, has dealt a death blow to my neat little theory from the previous episode that Hiruko is basically a device to send people to an invulnerable, incorporeal existence. And it didn’t even last a single episode. Bummer. Maybe I can soothe myself that it only makes my theory much unlikelier rather than completely demolished. And I’ll still cling to my speculation that the Daedalus plants have been contaminated with intelligent mimetic ore, although the evolution of Daedalus as explained in this episode might just be a poor application of biological evolution we so often see in fiction.