Babylon Episode 7: Everything falls apart

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Kaika reveals his plan

I would definitely call this week’s episode a large improvement over the previous one. Kaika takes the conversation about the suicide law back in an interesting. More importantly, Ai finally makes her big move, and it’s pretty insane. Honestly, I’m just wondering at this point if there’s anything that Zen can do to beat her. Are we just in for a mental torture-fest at this point?

Kaika broadcasts to the world

To be fair to Kaika, I think his performance in this week’s episode is a lot better than we saw before. Playing the heartstrings of the public by putting the spotlight on his son’s heart condition is an admittedly effective move. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it, though. It’s not like his heart will necessarily save his son, since transplants are inherently risky.

The world thinks about death

More importantly, I feel like his argument is more of a commentary on the limitations of current technology. If we reach the point where we can grow transplantable organs or created artificial ones, what happens to the conversation about death? That being said, this development certainly makes me wonder about Inaba. He’s the first victim of this series, and I can see a powerful sedative being useful for Kaika’s goal of suicide.

Zen tries to save Kujin

I really liked watching the tension as Zen’s plan is systematically torn apart by Ai. It’s like we’re finally getting a big reveal about how much of a threat Ai is. My main worry about Kujin’s death is how supernatural his description of Ai makes her seem. As I’ve said before, I would prefer if Ai is grounded in realism, and I’m not seeing how that’s possible when she can force people to kill themselves from whispering in their ear. I’m mostly hoping we don’t see some crazy justification for her powers in the end (like you’d see in a low-grade horror series).

Ai taunts Zen

The final scene of the episode is truly chilling. Up to this point, Ai has felt like a somewhat reasonable villain, but this scene makes her feel a lot more insane. The fact that this entire scene is punctuated with scenes of Zen’s family also makes it seem so much more sinister. I don’t think this bodes well for Zen’s wife.

Ai wants Zen to understand

So, is it really so simple? Does Ai just want Zen to understand her? I’m sure Zen wasn’t paying too much attention to what she was saying on the video, but it sounded to me like she wanted Zen to explain to her why she behaved the way she does. I guess that makes some sense as a version of motivation for her, so it makes me wonder.

Babylon Episode 6: The great debate

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Tsutsui's remains are investigated

Okay, this episode was a rough one. Surprisingly enough, we get to see the big debate over the suicide law, which was admittedly cool. However, the arguments used in that debate felt really flimsy to me, which made it hard to watch. I think this episode shines overall for its portrayal of Nomaru against Kaika, but both sides could have had way better showings in the debate itself.

Also, I’m aware that suicide tends to be a sensitive subject, so this is a preemptive warning. I’m going to be discussing the debate about legalizing suicide from this episode in great detail, so bear that in mind.

Zen calls his wife

To its credit, the episode has a strong start with Zen. His call with his wife is incredibly foreboding, and her insistence that suicide is bad feels like a bad sign for her. This is excellent foreshadowing. In addition to that, Zen’s reformed plan is great. He realizes that he can’t find legal recourse to do what he wants, so he chooses to take illegal action in the form of kidnapping. Given that he’s supposed to represent justice in this series, this suggests a potential fall from grace.

The politicians are introduced

I get that this is television, which is a medium that can’t go into nuance, but these politicians felt like they had paper-thin arguments designed to allow Kaika to smack them down. The economic argument had the most promise, since he cited a numerical loss in GDP, but he doesn’t give great reasons. And to be fair, Kaika’s response comparing suicide to marijuana seemed pretty bad.

The statistic about the Netherlands having a lower incidence than countries where marijuana is prohibited is one that I don’t doubt. But since you’re comparing different countries, you can’t discount the possibility that relaxed laws just slowed the growth of usage, rather than outright reducing it.

Nomaru makes an emotional argument

The guy giving the argument that suicide is bad because it’s against the rules was probably the most hilarious one. I actually agreed with Kaika’s response to that one. The third guy didn’t even have an argument, so I have no comment there. Nomaru actually has a decent point, even if it’s a bit condescending.

Kaika talks about his goals

Honestly, I think Kaika has an interesting point when he says that an open conversation about death might promote better understanding. That’s what drew me to this show in the beginning. However, I’m not a fan of how romanticizes the law. I’m fairly certain that it’s been demonstrated that a large percentage of people who attempt suicide don’t try again. I don’t personally see how legalizing it makes those heated decisions any better.

Nomaru talks about the suicide law's effects

Honestly, the interaction between Nomaru and Kaika in this episode was interesting because it felt so suspicious to me. At one point, it was starting to sound like Nomaru was trying to say that the suicide law couldn’t be debated theoretically, so it needed to be put into practice to see how effective it was. That might have been a solid reversal.

Kaika reveals the kid's identity

To finish things off, Kaika successfully manipulates Nomaru into promoting Kaika’s own son as a candidate in the election. It’s a nice development given the rest of the content in the episode, and I’m curious to see where it goes. I still find it hard to believe that Nomaru wouldn’t have recognized the mother, but I’ve already mentioned that I somewhat suspect that he’s working with Kaika. This show definitely has some crazy twists.

Babylon Episode 5: Hero or villain

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Zen goes to meet a relative of Ai

It’s way too hard to keep track of who is who in this series, but I think the content itself is still great. This week’s episode digs more into Ai’s past as she builds herself up as the main antagonist. She definitely pulls off her creepy personality well. This series certainly handles its tension well, and it’s been a fun mystery so far.

Ai induces anxiety in her classmates

Honestly, Ai is seeming more and more supernatural based on her uncle’s description. I suppose pheromones do exist, but the science around them in humans is kind of sketchy. As I’ve mentioned before, I think that Ai becomes a lot more interesting if her ability is grounded in plausibility, but I think the show can work regardless. It’s more of what I prefer to see, if anything.

Zen muses over Ai's abilities

Listening to Ai’s uncle lust over her wasn’t the greatest experience of all time, but I guess it gets the message across. Ai is clearly meant to be an indomitable force for Zen to face. It does make me curious, though. Why wasn’t Zen affected by her from his interrogation. Was it just because he was never alone with her? Is that why Okuda was the only victim?

Hiasa wonders what Zen thinks about justice

I guess the end of the episode somewhat vindicates Hiasa, but I couldn’t help but feel suspicious when she started asking Zen about justice. I guess she seems a lot more straightforward that Ai was in her interrogation, but it was an unsettling question.

Kaika broadcasts another message

It’s crazy how much this series reminds me of Death Note. Many of the task force investigation scenes seem so similar. The shows also have the common theme of searching for someone who could basically be anyone. In addition to that, Kaika adds that extra layer by being a kind of stand-in on a TV broadcast. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Ai calls Zen

Ai’s conversation with Zen in the end is also pretty interesting, especially the analogy to the standard fantasy story. It seems to somewhat comment on the idea of people who readily accept the laws of the land, which could develop nicely as a theme for the show. On top of that, she kills another one of Zen’s investigators, which makes things difficult.

Babylon Episode 4: Building a case

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Zen searches for Kaika

I guess we need some time to build back up after the crazy ride in the previous episode. This week’s episode ended up being a slower episode comparatively, filled with legal interpretation. To be fair, though, I didn’t think it was particularly boring as a result. It seems to be setting itself up well, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of it.

The hunt begins

Much of the episode is devoted to the manhunt for Kaika Itsuki. I personally think it’s interesting that the characters in the series are treating him as the ultimate mastermind. I guess only Zen and the audience know about Ai. That being said, I do find it suspicious that Kaika never appears on screen in this episode. Perhaps his appearance in the previous episode was the last one he could make.

The prosecutors discuss how to charge Kaika

Huh, so this is what being a lawyer is like. I almost forgot that Zen is actually a prosecutor. This scene somehow feels out of place despite being a clear depiction of the main character doing his job.

Zen meets Hiasa

So, did anyone else immediately suspect that Hiasa was Ai in disguise when she walked into the office? She seems like a legitimate character so far, but the episode still hasn’t dissuaded me of that. After all, Ai is supposed to be a master of disguise. I’d probably be more convinced if Yoshifumi came in and confirmed it, but even that wouldn’t be conclusive. I could totally see a future scene where Yoshifumi declares that this isn’t the real Hiasa, though.

A kid begs for help

I’m curious about how much of the episode seems devoted to showing how unpopular the suicide law is. The series seems to be giving clear indication that the law will ultimately fail. I can only assume that the opposite will happen. I was also under the impression that the suicide law could just be a smokescreen for something else, but that might be too random at this point.

Finding the actions of the suicide victims

I do like this show’s general depiction of police work, though. It’s not super flashy so far, and the investigation makes sense from my perspective. I’m just waiting for everything to go off the rails.

Babylon Episode 3: Cruel temptress

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Zen learns the truth

It was already clear that this series was building up to something, but it blew right past where I expected it to stop. This episode basically starts off with the idea of a city devoted to testing radical ideas, and it ends with something almost supernatural. It makes me feel excited to find out how Zen ends up reacting to it. He even admits in the final scene that his base assumption has already been overturned, so I like the idea of seeing him adjust to a new paradigm.

Nomaru has a bold plan

The overall plan with Shiniki is actually an interesting one. Policy is easy to propose but difficult to project, so the idea of a zone used for testing them out isn’t the craziest thing in the world. Granted, the logistical issue of waiting for years to see an effect poses a bit of a problem, but it’s intriguing in theory.

Zen figures out what Inaba was trying to do

I think the weirdest part of the episode for me was the level of support for Inaba’s idea of speeding up the approval of drugs for clinical use. Maybe it’s just because I’m somewhat invested in this area, but I think that topic should be much more debatable than it’s portrayed to be. To be fair, only one character seems to truly support it, but it’s not like Zen is saying anything to the contrary. Unapproved supplements can be very dangerous, after all.

Zen tries to investigate Ai

The revelation that all of the women we’ve seen so far are the same person is a cool one. It’s one that I already partially suspected, and the reveal itself is a great way to pull her forward as the main antagonist.

Kaika proposes the right to death

The main twist for the episode was a surprising one. I really liked how we find out about the somewhat legitimate nature of Fumio and Inaba’s deaths. The right to die is also an intriguing topic to focus on. From what I’ve seen, the evidence suggests that suicide is something that happens in a whirl of emotions, which means that it would seem to be heavily reliant on timing. The right to death is something that’s important for the terminally ill, but the implications of a broader policy can leave plenty of room for discussion. I’ll be curious to see where the series takes it.

Ai watches the scene

This is also a minor thing to finish things off, but I liked how Ai shifts between her various disguises as Zen is watching her. I honestly hope that this series doesn’t go too heavily into the supernatural to justify her premise. After all, the episode makes a point to say that the pills Zen found were only useful for inducing a peaceful death. I think it’s much more interesting if Ai successfully convinces people like Fumio or Inaba to die, rather than using a drug to force them to do it.

Babylon Episode 2: Hard questions

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Fumio asks Zen for his motivations

I guess things aren’t looking great for Zen now. I’m still not sure how to process the ending of the episode, but at least the third episode is already out. If the next episode truly wraps up this story in some way, then I applaud the effort to release the episodes at once. This is clearly the kind of series that’s hard to keep track of across multiple weeks.

Zen questions Emiko

The main focus of this episode is the interrogation of Emiko Hiramatsu, a woman somehow associated with Ano from the previous episode. The interrogation itself is done in a cool way, cutting between Zen’s investigation and the questions with solid timing. It makes less sense in the beginning, but it starts to fall in place when they get to the ryokan.

Emiko talks about her actions at the ryokan

I also like how the episode sets the tone of the interrogation. It’s not just the visual presentation that’s eerie, but also the way Emiko talks and seems to take pleasure in the whole encounter. I felt a sense of unease pretty much every time she said something.

Ano is watched

I really should have taken notes while I was watching this episode. It’s so hard to keep track of the political parties involved in this entire scandal. From what I’ve gathered so far, the trouble in the investigation comes from the fact that multiple parties seemed to be involved, making it hard to pin things like Fumio’s murder on Nomaru.

Emiko pities Zen

In the end, I still get the strong sense this story is more about the woman than the political candidates, despite Zen’s own obsession with the mayoral election. I’m not sure if Emiko is supposed to be a completely new character or the unidentified woman from the first episode. Given that the episode basically starts focused on her, I feel like she has to be someone we’ve seen before.

Zen must give his report

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make of the final scene in the episode. Nomaru’s appearance makes it seem like Zen has been sold out by his superior, which I think would be an interesting development. I guess we’ll have to find out in the next episode.

Babylon First Impressions (1): Investigations intensify

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The police raid a company

It’s hard to know what to make of this series based on the first episode, but it certainly was a slow burn to a big finish. I’ll probably try to pace out the episodes to avoid the situation I faced with Vinland Saga, so I might have to keep myself in the dark a bit. But bookkeeping aside, I think this series shows promise. I wasn’t sure what to make of a political thriller, but the investigation in this episode seemed like a good start.

Fumio doesn't like reading

I’m not sure if this series is meant to be one evolving mystery or a series of smaller ones. The story, as initially presented, follows Zen Seizaki, a prosecutor in the fictional city of Shiniki, who is investigating a pharmaceutical company. After having recently busted the company for falsely advertising their new drug, Agras, he discovers a mysterious suicide of a doctor named Shin Inaba. He links the suicide to a powerful political candidate named Ryuichirou Nomaru, but soon finds himself involved in something much bigger than he expected.

The music swells

Maybe it was the flood of named characters, but I found myself having some trouble following the flow of events. It might also have something to do with the fact that the episode gets right into the drug bust only to immediately shift gears. In its defense, it puts itself on a more interesting path, but the connection could have been smoother. I do hope that the two stories end up tying together as well.

The investigators search for the mysterious couple

I do appreciate how the events in this episode lead into one another. I got the sense that the story was naturally progressing forward. On the more specific side, these initial investigations make me think that the woman that they can’t identify is much more important than the old man they end up following. The end of the episode only makes that seem more likely.

The city is introduced

As a brief note, I think that this scene in the episode where Shiniki is introduced is probably the weakest part of the episode. The other scenes in the episode seem to logically follow, which makes this random bit of exposition stand out. I feel like there must have been a better way to go about it.

Fumio figures out the political plot

As for the political plot itself, I thought it was decently straightforward. It didn’t feel like it was trying too hard to be relevant to the times, which made it easier to accept. Fumio’s death at the end definitely came out of nowhere, though, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.