Babylon

Babylon

Babylon anime series cover art
Babylon

Overview

Babylon (バビロン) could have been one of the best anime of 2019 if not for the final episode. But, I’ll save the spoilers for later on, so if you’re interested in finding out what went wrong, keep reading.

Honestly, this series had one of the most interesting plot concepts I’ve seen recently. It focuses on the idea of whether or not suicide should be legal, and discusses the pros and cons of each side. But it’s more than just a discussion of ideologies, it’s also a psychological crime thriller.

However, one of the reasons why the suicide question asked in this anime is so difficult to answer is because it groups all forms of suicide together as one. There’s no difference between jumping off a building, running into traffic, shooting yourself, or doctor assisted suicide.

And the reason that makes it a difficult question to answer is because there’s really two distinct groups that don’t go together here. On one hand you have something like a doctor assisted suicide where everything is done “by the book,” and on the other you have the more “impulsive” versions of suicide.

And when I call things like jumping off a building “impulsive” suicides, I don’t mean that those people thought about their actions any less than someone who chose the medical route. It’s simply that there isn’t a specific process they need to go through first.

So when the characters who need to decide whether or not suicide is “good” or “evil” are weighing the options, the fact that all forms of suicide are grouped together presents the biggest issue. It would probably have been easy for them to declare some versions legal while others not, but that’s not the question at hand.

Characters

Zen Seizaki is a police detective living in a special section of Japan which has been designated as a test city for new laws. Basically, the city is independently governed, and any law can be put on the books as long as it wins a popular vote. Other regions of Japan and the rest of the world can then see if the laws work out or not before implementing them as well.

Now, a suicide law being introduced for a vote wouldn’t normally concern a police officer in this city, except for the fact that this law was introduced during and immediately after a mass suicide. Clearly these suicides weren’t a natural occurrence, and so Zen is tasked with determining if these suicides were actually homicides.

Zen Seizaki at his desk from the anime series Babylon
Zen Seizaki at his desk

Hiasa Sekuro is a prosecutor who begins working as Zen’s partner for some reason. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure prosecutor’s don’t go out and solve crimes with detectives. Maybe she’s actually not a prosecutor, but an investigator from the prosecutor’s office? That would make more sense.

What I liked about Hiasa is that even though she’s supposed to be the “legal” side of the detective pair, she doesn’t really act like it. She’s supposed to be keeping Zen in check and making sure he does everything by the book, but she’s typically the first person to look the other way when questionable tactics are required.

Ai Magase is the main villain of the series, which in itself may be a spoiler I guess. I can’t really talk about her without including spoilers though, so let me just say that she’s definitely not the best antagonist of the year, or even of the season — that’s Askeladd from Vinland Saga. However, she’s still interesting in her own right.

The End of Babylon

Obviously I can’t discuss the end of Babylon without spoiling the series, so this section is going to be extremely spoiler heavy. You’ve been warned.

First of all, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I actually liked the shift the second half of this series took towards America and the president. It was a great way to keep the story fresh and introduce new perspectives on the ideology of the suicide law.

However, the very end of the series left a lot to be desired. Zen shooting the president before he has a chance to take his own life was about as good of an ending to the president’s arc as we were going to get, but we were rushed to that point.

There wasn’t really enough setup to make that scene as impactful as it should have been.

Ai Magase from the anime series Babylon
Ai Magase

And then there’s the ending, where Zen comes face to face with Ai on the rooftop, the screen goes black, and we hear a gunshot. My first thought was that Ai dying like that was a bad ending. Then I thought maybe there’s going to be a sequel since we didn’t see her die. But then we got the post-credits ending.

It turns out that Ai is still alive, and it’s implied that Zen shot himself.

Why would Zen do that? He had talked to Ai many times before and never felt the urge to kill himself. Also, with this ending we never actually learned how Ai got people to kill themselves. All we know is that it’s just something people feel when they talk to her.

Basically, the major mystery of the series which we’ve been trying to solve over the past 13 episodes is left without a conclusion. And not only is there no conclusion, but we’re no closer to an answer than when we started.

Conclusion

I won’t rule out the fact that there might be a second season of Babylon at some point. It is based on a novel after all. But I don’t think there will ever be one. It really seems like where the anime left off is where it’s going to stay, regardless of whether or not that was the end of the source material.

And, although I think the ending was done extremely poorly, overall this series is still a 7/10 from me. It would have been an 8 if the final episode wasn’t what it was, but I still enjoyed the ride. And if you’re into psychological series, I think you’ll probably enjoy it as well.

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