Episode 21 of Shangri-la, “Loss of a Holy Land”, begins with the attack against Akiba by the aerial fortress Titan from the previous episode. Too bad we don’t actually get to see Titan. Karin had almost regained control of Medusa, but the attack derails her efforts, while Mikuni is determined to continue on to ATLAS, now motivated to avenge the loss of Miko once she inherits ATLAS. The attack was specifically targeted against the Neo-Guild headquarters, and in the aftermath the building collapses, with Karin being saved despite her protests by one of her lackeys.
Unfortunately for the lackey, he has just lost his job. It is not just because of pettiness on the part of Karin over having stopped her attempts to regain control of Medusa (ignoring the small part about him having just saved her life), but also because Karin has lost all confidence. She thinks she has lost any chance at regaining control of Medusa, and it will continue to wreak havoc, not only destroying her personal wealth but also collapsing the global economy. The real blow to her emotional state is that she thinks her loss of wealth means she has lost any chance to have a cozy meal with her parents: no one has yet been able to point out to the ten-year old child to question where her belief in this comes from.
ATLAS staff have not confirmed it, but they do make the reasonable (but wrong) guess that Karin must have died in the attack. They have also sent out people to confirm the survival of Digma-1, and when they find Mikuni and Sayoko, they volunteer to take them back to ATLAS as per the original plan from the previous episode. I would think Mikuni’s survival would be a disappointment for Ryouko, but it does not look like it’s too much of a disappointment.
Karin was discretely watching the interaction between Mikuni and the ATLAS staff nearby, and she belittles Mikuni heading out to take control of ATLAS. With Medusa having gone berserk, she thinks the economy would be in such a bad shape that controlling ATLAS would not be controlling much of anything. It is this dejected Karin that Kuniko finds, and Kuniko is not going to let Karin be a child just when she wants to be one, demanding that Karin take responsibility for what she had done. I would have thought Kuniko knew nothing about Medusa, and even if she did know Karin had controlled something like the Orochi, she would have said at least a word or two condemnatory, but all she does is drag Karin to stop the Medusa.
All the computer systems in Akiba have gone down due to the attack by Titan, so Kuniko takes Karin to the one place where she thinks may still be able to do something about Medusa. As Kuniko takes Karin along by the hand, Momoko watches them walk away and thinks back to how she had used to hold Kuniko’s hand, perhaps feeling a bit sad and a bit proud of how Kuniko has grown all up. And only now does Momoko seem to realize that the fifteen years with Kuniko was more precious than the time at the Tropical Fish.
It is the old men of Akiba that Kuniko suspects might have something to save the day. Karin knows just how otaku they are and isn’t happy about having to talk with them, but it’s not as if there’s really any choice. They are far from serious as usual, but they try to deny having the ability to help out with stopping Medusa. But like true otaku, they have their priorities straight, only revealing having a complete data center in their basement after Kuniko points out how expensive their hobbies would become if the global economy were to collapse.
They had wanted to keep the data center secret because they wanted to rebuild Akiba on their own terms (presumably as a haven even more friendlier to otaku), and in keeping with their otaku nature, they reach the basement through their all-purpose metal box we’ve seen used as a virtual reality chamber and an emergency shelter. On the other hand, Furukawa is sadly yet to be a full-fledged otaku, since he takes the perfectly fine stairs. Karin takes charge of stopping Medusa, and she contacts Klaris and Zhang for their help with hacking Medusa.
Klaris and Zhang have also been trying to hack Medusa, but unfortunately multi-layered firewalls have already been erected so that hacking cannot even be attempted. Karin is again very quick to give up: she might want to take a page from Kuniko who doesn’t. Given that Medusa is protected by a typhoon, the logical step would be to get something to the Marshall Islands through the relatively calm eye of the storm. While Kuniko doesn’t quite come up with this reasoning, I guess the one she does come up with is pretty close: a sea and air assault failed, so try attacking from space.
Back at ATLAS, the staff detects suspicious network activity from Akiba attempting to access the carbon monitoring satellite Ikaros. Out of all the satellites presumably in orbit, Karin and Kuniko had decided to drop Ikaros on top of Medusa: even if Medusa is taken out, this might be a blow to the carbon control regime, but neither Karin nor Kuniko seem to consider the implications. Anyways, with the help of Klaris, Zhang, and the old men of Akiba, Karin successfully hacks into the control systems for Ikaros and manages to drop it on top of Medusa.
With the apparently successful attack on the Marshall Islands, everyone is cheering, although Karin is a little sad about losing something that must have been with her for much of her life. However, the celebrations turn out to be premature as the carbon markets continue to crash, indicating that the Medusa is still intact. Upon hearing the news of the failure, Ryouko has Shion help her get ready to go out, while those in Akiba learn that Medusa had apparently altered the orbital computations done by Zhang and Klaris for dropping Ikaros on the Marshall Islands.
Even worse news come in as Medusa sends them data (apparently it still faithfully reports its activities even if it acts completely under its own will). Medusa is infiltrating military networks around the entire world, and the military otaku among the old men of Akiba concludes that Medusa is after the nuclear arsenal out there. It looks like Medusa wants to cause a nuclear winter that would kill all living things emitting carbon dioxide, which is ironic since this would happen because all the carbon dioxide absorbing plants die.
With the attempt to kill all living things on the planet through a nuclear holocaust, Medusa is now trying to become a more thorough version of Skynet. At least there is a small silver lining: with a nuclear winter, carbon dioxide emissions and the associated global warming would no longer be anything to worry about …
Karin is yet again quite ready to give up, and Kuniko yet again has to think of ideas to save the world. Kuniko has been on a high streak in this episode, coming up with ideas that actually had a reasonable chance of working unlike some of the ill-conceived plans in the past, even if her ideas didn’t quite work out. Kuniko thinks of using Zeus, the supposedly most powerful computer in the world (must have been upgraded continuously since its construction decades ago), against Medusa, but Karin brings up a fatal weakness in the plan: Mikuni already has a huge headstart in inheriting ATLAS.
Mikuni has already been on her way to ATLAS for some time, and once she arrives she would presumably inherit ATLAS soon after. And Mikuni is only preoccupied with thoughts of using ATLAS to avenge the loss of Miko, and she would hardly be the sort to worry about the rest of the world being destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. This is when Kunihito arrives with Momoko, and of course, both Kuniko and Kunihito have no idea about what Karin is talking about concerning AAA ranks or inheriting ATLAS.
Whatever the explanation is, it will have to wait: either Kuniko or Kunihito must gain control of Zeus before Mikuni does. And with the huge head start Mikuni has, they need a way to get to ATLAS in a hurry. Prompted by Momoko, the old men of Akiba do reveal that they have something that can get the job done, but with the end of the world approaching, they still have the presence of mind to remember the truly important things in the life of an otaku: they’ll provide transportation in exchange for a dakimakura of Karin. I have the feeling that it will be something appropriately referential: a vehicle that would do any super sentai show proud or the all-purpose metal box being an appropriate tribute to the TARDIS.
Somewhere in ATLAS, Mikuni must go up a stairs alone, which ends at a door in front of which Ryouko is standing. And the episode ends with Ryouko welcoming Mikuni to the “forest of extension” (連なりの森).
With only a few episodes left for Shangri-la, hopefully we will finally learn what the deal is with inheriting ATLAS, the daggers, and the Digma, something that would explain the baroque arrangement of how the heir would presumably be chosen based upon how one would gather all three daggers. Or for that matter, what ATLAS is actually for and what inheriting it would actually entail. While I doubt Ryouko can do anything that would directly prevent any of the Digmas inheriting ATLAS, since I suspect she has behavioral restrictions hardwired in her brain, I do think that she will try to exploit loopholes to make it as difficult as possible.
It is also funny how everything happened such that all three Digmas would head to ATLAS with the intention of gaining control at the same time, all of them because of Medusa. It does not look at all like this is what Tarsian had in mind when he created Medusa, but this does raise the question again of what he wanted to achieve with Medusa and Karin.