ID: INVADED – 06 – Eternal Rail

What had been a calm encounter with Inami Nahoshi takes a turn when Hondomachi outs her as the Gravedigger mastermind. Nahoshi is calm because her accomplice Kazuta is in the house with all the kitchen knives.

A dust-up ensures, with Matsuoka receiving a flesh wound to the shoulder and Hondomachi stabbing Kazuta to death, much to Nahoshi’s uncharacteristic dismay. These two detectives are just powerful electromagnets for trouble.

Demonstrating that the detectives at the Wellside are always working, five of them spend their time a police officer’s funeral discussing the Walker case. Why does he keep showing up in the id wells of serial killers, and in the same whimsical form? The name of the inventor of the Mizuhanome, Shirakoma Nishio, comes up, which is sure to be important later on.

While this case are already complicated enough, one of them brings up the possibility one of them is a mole working from within. Considering we only have cursory familiarity with these five detectives, the eventual reveal of one of them as Walker wouldn’t be that narratively satisfying, at least not yet.

Using the cognition particles from Kazuta’s urge to kill (which manifested in a dying kiss to Hondomachi), Narihisago is injected from the flying house to a train. On it, Kaeru is (obviously) dead via stabbing. When he follows the very obvious bloody footprints, he discovers the train is a closed loop, ending right back where it begins.

The Wellsiders determine this is the very train Nahoshi’s mother jumped in front of…while Nahoshi was on it. A high school-aged Nahoshi is here to, with a younger Kazuta sitting on the opposite side of the aisle. There was once a time when Nahoshi abhored seeing dead things or people; her mother’s suicide flipped that sensibility.

IRL, Nahoshi reveals all the locations of the barrels containing her victims, but on the id train she didn’t kill Kaeru; Kaeru killed herself. When Narihisago comes to this conclusion, he weeps in her lap. He grows weary of coming upon her corpse over and over again. He wants to save her, but like the train, he’s going in circles. One wonders how long he can keep up the Brilliant Detective act with his sanity intact (such as it is already).

That brings us to Hondomachi, the other protagonist. Matsuoka recommends her to be a second Brilliant Detective utilizing the Mizuhanome. Hondomachi is flattered, but Matsuoka considers it a practical decision, in part to protect him and their colleagues. Hondomachi has killed more than once—by attempting to kill herself and then killing Kazuta. Matsuoka laments he couldn’t keep her out of this business, but she’s too suited for it, and there’s no turning back.

The Wellsiders make a connection between the surveillance devices found in the Perforator’s house match those used in the case involving the “Challenger”, AKA Katsuyama Denshin, the man who killed Narihisago’s daughter. With every subsequent case, ID:INVADED adds another piece to the larger puzzle of John Walker and the root of Narihisago’s fall, just as his possible successor begins her ascent.

ID: INVADED – 05 – Kiss or Kill

Hondomachi may not be a superhero who got her deductive powers from a hole drilled in her head, but that bizarre injury offered her unique perspective into someone like Kazuta Haruka, whom she meets in the street and who kisses her before fleeing.

For her, everything suddenly points to Haruka, a former victim of the Perforator, being the Gravedigger. Their equipment hasn’t been able to detect his killing intent because when he has a sudden urge to kill he reacts with a gesture of love instead—a kiss—and would therefore kill those whom he loves.

Sure enough, cognition particles are found an an Id Well is opened, into which Sakaido is injected. He enters the well in the middle of the sky falling at great speed, but manages to land on a floating island containing a house later identified as belonging to Kazuta.

Once Sakaido’s memory is activated by the sight of a murdere Kaeru, he looks under her carefully-spread pool of blood to find a girl hiding who has shifting features and voices—a composite of the Gravedigger’s victims.

Sakaido also finds shards of a photo also found when Kazuta was a victim, and Hondomachi and Matsuoka are dispatched to meet with those in the picture one by one while Nishimura and a SWAT team head to the site of Kazuta’s house, now a soy sauce brewery.

The composite girl said her boyfriend went out of the house to fight the “monster”, and when Sakaido heads out he quickly learns that monster is John Walker, who kills the “boyfriend”, dodges Sakaido’s attacks, and flies off with that trademark tip of his hat.

As Hondomachi diligently interviews the “cutest” of the people in the photo, Inami Nahoshi, Nishimura and his team discover vats that could contain victims, but are blown up in the brewery—it was all a trap. Meanwhile Hondomachi is unafraid to pry as far as she can with questions relating to Inami’s love life. Inami also seems all too happy to clean her head wound when it suddenly starts bleeding.

By the time Matsuoka gets word of the trap, Hondomachi has Inami cornered, revealing her to be a sadist using Kazuta’s scrambled romantic and murderous urges to her advantage by having him commit the murders for her. Hondomachi moves to arrest Inami and demands to know where Kazuta is; meanwhile, he’s lurking nearby with a knife.

It’s interesting to see how both Hondomachi and Sakaido have been elevated in their deductive ability by their respective marks (the former, her head wound; the latter, his crime) In the Id Well, Sakaido is the Brilliant Detective, as well as a Mission Impossible-style action hero.  But in the real world, the ace detective is without doubt the recently wounded but no-less-relentless Hondomachi.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 06 – One Big Weapons Project

Now that Asuna has revealed herself, Kikuoka must answer some questions for her. It turns out he wasn’t lying when he said Kirito was receiving treatment he couldn’t receive anywhere else. They have him in a full-spec STL that is gradually rebuilding his damaged brain, though they still don’t know if he’ll ever wake up.

However, Kikuoka didn’t bring Kirito to Rath HQ out of the kindness of his heart. As an SDF official, he has always sought new ways to fight wars ever since the NerveGear came out. When fully copying the souls of fully-formed real-world adults failed (none will ever accept they are copies), they had to use the copies of infant souls, and raise them in a controlled virtual environment where they’d accept their existence—bottom-up AI.

While that in and of itself was a major achievement, it caused problems for Kikuoka vis-a-vis his ultimate goal: to develop a new weapon for the defense of Japan. The AIs followed the law—the Taboo Index—precisely and without exception. The Underworld was a utopia with no crime…until Alice crossed that border as a result of her dealings with Kirito, whom they placed into the world after wiping his memory.

In effect, Kirito was the chaotic element they needed in order to “teach” their homegrown bottom-up AIs to break the law; even to murder. Alice, or A.L.I.C.E. (a rather tortured acronym I will not repeat), was the first product of introducing Kirito to the project: the first AI to dissent and resist the Taboo Index (even if it was accidental).

That, Kikuoka hopes, is the first step towards building an army of artificial fluctlights capable of killing an enemy, which will mean no longer having to sacrifice real-world soldiers in conflicts—a huge strategic advantage that could elevate real-world Japan to the highest echelons of global power.

Of course, this opens up a tremendous ethical and philosophical can of worms; one so large Kikuoka himself isn’t interested in pondering it beyond the limited scope of what is essentially a weapon R&D project. But having experienced about as much virtual life as Kirito, Asuna is not okay with exploiting souls that are the cognitive equal to real-world humans as, well, cannon fodder. Perhaps they’re not real humans, but they’re close enough for it to be wrong.

Nevertheless, in the imperfect human world, two or more wrongs often make a right, and while Kikuoka is definitely putting out some serious supervillain vibes with his secret base and yukata, his intentions to eliminate the human cost of war are noble. But he execution has yielded the creation of a new race of beings that aren’t necessarily his to do with as he pleases.

Project Alicization is, in a way, one massive crime against virtual humanity. While she loved Kayaba too much to kill him, Koujirou Rinko is still aware of the role she played in his crimes.  But when she confesses that role to Asuna, Asuna is forgiving, because she doesn’t feel she’s in any position to forgive.

Asuna and Kirito, like Rinko and Kayaba, have also committed crimes in their various virtual dealings. But all they can do is accept that and move forward, learning the lessons that had to be learned. And right now those lessons are telling Asuna that Kikuoka is doing is wrong, even if it is saving Kirigaya Kazuto.

I imagine at some point Asuna is going to plug into one of those unused STLs, to reunite with Kirito and, if he ends up remembering her, confer with him on how they should deal with Kikuoka and his monstrously advanced experiment.

Even assuming Kikuoka had free reign to do as he pleased, there are so many complex variables in his system that something unexpected is sure to arise. If and when it all blows up in his face, he’ll need people like Asuna and Kirito to clean up his mess.