Episode 22 of Shangri-la, “Eternal Bonds”, starts with Mikuni climbing a long flight of stairs while carrying all three daggers, which must be pretty tough for her since from all indications she has been physically inactive her entire life. Meanwhile, Kuniko, Kunihito, and Momoko are riding the elevator from hell directly to the base of the same staircase that Mikuni is climbing. ATLAS staff are not going to let the unauthorized visitors pass, so Kunihito is left behind to keep them preoccupied. But Sayoko shows up to stop Kuniko and Momoko, caring nothing for what happens to the rest of the world as long as Mikuni inherits ATLAS.
Back in Akiba, Karin is watching Medusa make progress with infiltrating the military networks of the United States and Russia. Once Medusa manages to conquer either of them, then a nuclear arsenal could be unleashed which would provoke a retaliatory response. However, the biggest concern for Karin about the potential nuclear holocaust not the possible end of all life on the planet, but the much more personal matter that she won’t be able to meet her parents if it happens. The ten year-old kid has some serious parent issues …
At the control center where Hata and Shougo are monitoring the situation, Shougo brings up the now-defunct Doomsday Clock to talk about how close the current situation is to nuclear annihilation. This prompts Hata to suggest the obvious solution of using Zeus to deal with Medusa, but Shougo reveals that Ryouko had forbidden it, and he thinks that she is more concerned about the inheritance of ATLAS. Changing the subject, Hata points a gun at Shougo’s head and accuses him of helping Sayoko escape.
Hata is pretty sure that Sayoko had inside help, and having excluded Shion, who would not be capable of it, and Leon, who would not do anything that would threaten his little brother, Hata had been led to conclude that it must have been Shougo. He is right, but he is also surprised when Shougo reveals that Sayoko is his elder sister. Shougo overwhelms Hata with the same weapon in glasses trick he saw Sayoko use, and he then proceeds to tell Hata that he learned the truth when his curiosity was piqued by Ryouko suggesting that he sleep with Sayoko.
While Shougo had no particular love for Sayoko, he was sentimental enough to help his sister escape when she was arrested in episode 14. Shougo must have also been harboring some resentment against Ryouko after her disgusting suggestion, but he has been content to not doing anything else so far. But now that Hata knows, and Shougo does not seem to be willing to eliminate him, satisfied with just imprisonment, so I do wonder what Shougo will end up doing now.
Back at the staircase, Momoko confronts Sayoko and lets Kuniko go ahead. Momoko again shows an uncanny insight into Sayoko, with Momoko apparently correctly guessing that Sayoko had a dead daughter who had the same disease as Mikuni, which was why Sayoko did twisted human experiments to develop a drug that could cure Mikuni. Or Momoko has some insider knowledge. So much for the theory that Midori is Mikuni … Momoko seems to have the upper hand, but something seems to happen to Momoko’s eyes, and the scene changes just as Sayoko is running towards Momoko with a scalpel in hand.
As Mikuni climbs the stairs, her foremost thought is to avenge Miko. This is when Kuniko catches up to her, expressing no interest in being the heir or interfering with Mikuni. Kuniko just wants access to Zeus so that she could stop Medusa from destroying the world, and this gives even the normally non-empathetic Mikuni pause. However, Sayoko shows up to stop Kuniko and passionately urges Mikuni to go on while she coughs up blood, so Mikuni forges on. Too bad for the knee-jerk response of Sayoko: if she listened to Kuniko for a moment and put a little thought into it, she could actually have had Kuniko carry Mikuni up the stairs much faster as long as Mikuni promised to sic Zeus on Medusa.
Mikuni finally reaches the top of the stairs where Ryouko is waiting, but before going any further, she asks Ryouko whether the world is really in danger of being destroyed. Deflecting the question, and despite being the one responsible for siccing Titan against Neo-Guild, Ryouko oddly strokes Mikuni’s thirst for vengeance: maybe Mikuni never was the target in the first place. Having Hiruko possess Miko and subsequently destroying Hiruko may have been carefully planned out by Ryouko instead of on just a whim.
Mikuni gives Ryouko the three daggers, which should normally mean Mikuni is now the heir, but there is a problem. Sayoko manages to catch up at this point and demands to know why. Ryouko claims that Mikuni’s association with Sayoko, a fugitive from ATLAS, disqualifies her. Mikuni would have to disassociate from Sayoko to become the heir. Sayoko was the only other person Mikuni has been close to, so it is no surprise Mikuni is unwilling to do so. On the other hand, Sayoko knows very well what she herself wants, and after a heartfelt hug with Mikuni, she jumps off the ledge presumably to her death. I have the feeling things don’t quite end for Sayoko the way she thinks it will …
The thing about possessing all three daggers being the only qualification to become the heir of ATLAS is weird. What was Nagiko and Tarsian thinking when they thought up something like that? Did they expect a deathmatch among the three Digmas, motivated by no particular reason, where the victor would take possession of all the daggers and become the heir? Did they expect the Digmas to steal each others’ daggers? How could any of this make a worthy heir? It probably has something to do with what a Digma is and why Nagiko thinks everything will be fine once a Digma inherits ATLAS. It is also weird how leading an armed uprising against ATLAS or bombing the central shaft of ATLAS doesn’t seem to disqualify Kuniko and Kunihito as heirs, or for that matter, Mikuni’s own assault on corporate ATLAS not being an issue.
Ryouko opens the door at the top of the stairs and is ready to take Mikuni in for the ritual of guidance that would make her the official heir, but Kuniko intervenes at the last moment and jumps inside with Mikuni, using her boomerang to activate a shield that blocks the way in. Mikuni is not going to yield the heirship to Kuniko, but this is just fine with Kuniko. Directly connecting with Zeus and having an image similar to her dreams mentioned in episode 3, Kuniko uses the password Karin learned in episode 15 to order Zeus to stop Medusa.
Unfortunately, Zeus does not accept Kuniko’s command. Ryouko then speaks up, having entered the room, and says she does not accept anyone’s commands. Ryouko then clarifies that Zeus does not accept anyone’s commands. Unsurprisingly to me, but a huge surprise for Kuniko, Ryouko is revealed to be Zeus itself, or at least an interface to the computer. With how Shougo mentioned Ryouko not allowing Zeus to be used for stopping Medusa, even ATLAS staff seems to be ignorant of this, and the only ones who knew were Nagiko and Tarsian. As Ryouko beats up Kuniko with superhuman strength and speed, she explains how the passwords have been neutered ever since she had freed herself from Tarsian’s control. In fact, the only reason that Medusa seemed to successfully hack Zeus in episode 15 was because Ryouko let Medusa in, or rather, it was Zeus that hacked into Medusa.
The actions of Medusa driving the global economy into catastrophe and attempting to cause a nuclear holocaust were actually imperatives planted by Ryouko. The ostensible reason why Ryouko is trying to destroy the world is because she wants to achieve world domination, but the world is too big to dominate. Hence, catastrophically reduce the size of the world to dominate. Even with the rest of the world a lifeless wasteland, ATLAS will still go strong. And it sounds like inhabitants are optional.
Mikuni then includes herself in the conversation, asking Ryouko whether anyone could order her to stop Medusa from destroying the world. Ryouko answers that the heir can command her, so while Ryouko is no longer under the control of Tarsian, it looks like she is still bound to her core programming to serve the heir. However, that does not mean Ryouko won’t manipulate the heir, and she persuades Mikuni that it would mean giving up avenging Miko. In fact, Mikuni actually resolves to destroy the world, having lost the only people that mattered to her and having an outburst of resentment from her lifelong loneliness. And Kuniko fails to persuade Mikuni otherwise.
It’s ironic how Mikuni is being manipulated so easily by the person that is ultimately responsible for Miko’s loss. But not implausible, since almost no one has any idea that it was Ryouko that told the United Nations to attack the Neo-Guild, which resulted in the loss of Miko/Hiruko. Only a couple of ATLAS staff knows anything about Ryouko being the one to set the attack in motion. Funny how that one of them is Shougo, who harbors some resentment against Ryouko. If he were to tell Mikuni after she becomes the heir, it won’t bode well for her plan for world domination. That is, if world domination really is her plan …
As Ryouko takes Mikuni to the forest of guidance for the ritual to become the official heir, Kuniko fully intends to stop her. However, the episode ends with Kunihito showing up to stop Kuniko, having a gun aimed at her. I have little doubt that Ryouko had her staff prepare some leverage against him, probably taking his mother as hostage.
Tensions seemed to get high during the previous episode, but things have gotten really exciting in this one. It looks like we will finally get to learn what it means to be a heir of ATLAS and why Nagiko and Tarsian had done so much towards this goal. I do hope the rest of the episodes tie up various loose ends that I think would be important to the revelations about the Digmas and the conclusion to the entire show.
Why did Tarsian create Medusa in the first place? What is the relationship between Digma-0 and Karin? Who are Karin’s supposed parents? Who is the mother of Digma-1 and Digma-2? We have yet to see any trace of Digma-3’s father: will we ever see him? Will we see Kuniko exercising her own superhuman abilities and kick Ryouko’s ass? What is it with Kuniko’s innate ability to feel the carbon market? Will the apparent influence of Kuniko’s mood on the weather just be part of my imagination? Will John Connor stop Skynet?
Ryouko has also been making tons of enemies through her own actions. This includes Shougo, who could end up being a monkey wrench that collapses her plans for world domination. Is it safe to just assume that Ryouko is exactly as cartoony evil as she appears to be? Or does there deserve to be any thought spared to the theory that everything she did was planned extremely carefully, down to the possible trump card of Shougo telling Mikuni a certain fact and ruining her, as part of some elaborate and bizarre plan of hers to achieve a goal that goes beyond the vision of Nagiko and Tarsian?