Final Impressions: Babylon

Season aired: Fall 2019

Number of episodes: 12

Genres: Mystery, Psychological

Thoughts: Babylon is a simply-named anime with a lot of twists and turns that honestly made no sense. It’s a strange piece of work that left me intrigued in the beginning and thoroughly disappointed in the end.

Zen Seizaki is a focused and justice serving inspector. Unfortunately for him, what was supposed to be a relatively simple investigation into the illegal activities of a pharmaceutical company soon spirals out of control and morphs into something far bigger and more dangerous. People begin dying around him due to the mysterious whispers of a woman named Ai Magase, while a young politician, Itsuki Kaika, has his own plans to do the impossible: legalize the idea of suicide.

It might sound like an enticing summary, but I cannot stress enough how much of a mess this series ended up. While the first few episodes were considerably solid psychological thriller fare, the potential they showed quickly fizzled out after a hiatus the production team took. This drastically changed both the atmosphere and the entire theme of the story.

Zen Seizaki

In the beginning, Babylon appeared to be a debate on what exactly encompasses human rights, namely whether humans should have the right to choose to end their own lives. Assisted suicide does exist legally for several countries in the world, namely for people with chronic illnesses, but the idea of suicide is largely disapproved and seen as something that must be prevented at all costs regardless of cultural background. This view is shared by the majority of Japanese politicians and their in-world citizens, and most particularly by Zen. However, that debate faded when the antagonist, Ai Magase, is essentially portrayed as a female character that embodies the idea of evil. She goes around taking advantage of her extremely sexy body and voice to whisper sweet words into people’s ears to convince them to commit suicide… for no real reason.

Itsuki Kaika, the politician and the secondary antagonist who introduces the suicide legalization law in the series, doesn’t get any further development either. We also never find out if the two antagonists had any prior connections, why they worked together, or whether Itsuki Kaika was essentially another puppet underneath the hot Ai Magase.

Neither does it get explained as to why Zen Seizaki is the “one”. Ai Magase repeatedly commits acts that hurt Zen on a personal level. But why, out of everyone on the planet Earth she could’ve gone after, did she become obsessed with the idea of him? The show never answers this. The series also never covers why Zen is the only one who seems capable of ignoring her call of temptation, as she’s advertised as this impossible-to-ignore temptress. Is it because he’s married? Certainly, the other male characters who fall to her calls of suicide were all single, but later, we meet politicians who are happily married but still become unable to ignore her. 

Sexy and psychotic Ai Magase

It reads like a bad fanfiction of the Joker and Batman dynamic. One lives to cause chaos, and the other one lives by a strict set of morals and refuses to budge. However, what makes the Joker and Batman dynamic to work in the first place was that Joker often makes very poignant and philosophical points on society. These are points that even Batman can’t deny despite disagreeing with all of Joker’s actions. With all his crazy laughter, bad jokes, and actual mass-murdering, Joker is not a joke of a character — there is depth to what he seeks and points out, depth that hits the audience and Batman hard. It’s that depth that makes him so iconic and dangerous.

Ai Magase, on the other hand, ends up as nothing more but a joke. Her only defining feature is that she’s so incredibly sexy, everyone wants to have sex with her, and willing to do whatever she says in return. The philosophical reasoning she tries to tie Zen up with (good vs evil) ends in the least profound way I have ever seen:

“To end is bad. To continue is good.”

That is the essence of good vs evil. The end.

The other characters aren’t any better. We get introduced to the President of the United States rather randomly in the middle of the series as another protagonist who fights Ai Magase’s influence alongside Zen Seizaki. He’s a roleplaying game otaku who met his hot wife online, and he’s so good at roleplaying that it makes him good with philosophical arguments. That’s also why he’s the President of the United States.

Gamer President of the United States

No, it doesn’t make any sense. Neither does Zen’s move to the United States, which results in him abandoning his wife and young son. He wanted to come to the United States and join the FBI so that he could be issued a gun. Buying a gun in the US is as easy as going to the groceries — in fact, at one point, superstores like Walmart were selling a variety of dangerous guns, far deadlier than the handgun he ultimately wielded. He didn’t need to join the FBI to buy a gun. He could just immigrate with his entire family, get a gun license fairly quickly, and simply buy one. 

This completely nonsensical plot is presented with some very gorgeous cinematography. The animation team really put a lot of thought into telling this story. From the first episode to the last, the scenes and camera work move fluidly and beautifully. It’s unfortunate that this cinematography was wasted on something like Babylon in the end.

The same goes for the voice acting. For all my complaints of Ai Magase’s character, her voice actress, Yukino Satsuki, does an absolutely stupendous job in bringing this character to life. It’s probably why Ai Magase was well-received even after the degradation of the plot. I only wished her character had more color in an otherwise black and white portfolio.

Babylon could’ve covered many important topics. Ai Magase could’ve just been a dark manifestation of the voices people hear inside their heads when they commit suicide. The anime could have examined the emotional and mental distress it inflicts on the people around them. The series could have dived deeper into why Japan invoked this call for the legalization of suicide and then tied it into Japan’s consistently high suicide rate. Alternatively, it could’ve taken suicide out of the equation and focused on humanity’s tendency to hurt themselves or hurt other people with no between. Instead, we get a series about how this woman is the embodiment of evil and that dying overall is a bad idea.

Rating

Plot: 4

Characters: 4

Voice acting: 7

Art/Animation: 7

Soundtrack: 5

Total: 27

Multiplier: 2

FINAL SCORE: 54

 

 

 

 

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