A Note From Anime Hajime’s LofZOdyssey: A pillar of the Babylon story centered around the topics of suicide and suicidal thoughts. Per the nature of these themes, the following post may evoke strong emotions. Although the primary purpose of this review is to examine the merits of the Babylon series, how this show chose to frame and talk about suicide cannot be overlooked.
I admit to you now that I will not be recommending Babylon based both on how it was as a show and, more crucially, it’s uninformed, misguided, and, frankly, dangerous depiction of what it means to die by suicide and those at risk of it.
If you wish to read a more objective review of Babylon, I am sorry to say you will not find it here. Therefore, if you choose to stop reading at this point, I understand.
And for those who may need help or if you suspect a person you know might be in danger of hurting themselves, contact:
- The United States – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- The United Kingdom – Samaritans: 116-123
- Canada – Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566
- Japan – TELL Lifeline: 03-5774-0992
Original Run: October 7, 2019 - January 28, 2020
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Based on the Series Created By: Mado Nozaki and
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Babylon. Reader discretion is advised.***
Tokyo has recently carved out a fully independent district called Shiniki, which was designed to be a testing ground for radical new ideas. Marketed as a beacon for societal advancement, the truth behind the city is much shadier.
From the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Zen Seizaki (voiced by Yuuichi Nakamura) begins an investigation of a pharmaceutical company suspected of false advertisement. Quickly, though, Zen uncovers what might be a much larger conspiracy that could influence the upcoming Shinki mayoral elections. However, the further Zen digs, the more dangerous things become, and many of his associates are found dead under mysterious circumstances.
Most terrifyingly of all, Zen comes across a woman named Ai Magase (voiced by Satsuki Yukino). For some reason, Zen can feel a thick aura of evil resonating from Ai, and most who talk about her do so with a great deal of fear.
As Zen goes down this rabbit hole, his sense of justice and what is right is put to the test, with the consequences potentially being deadly.
From a technical standpoint – animation, voice acting, and general presentation – Babylon was fine. I have certainly seen far worse from 2019 if we only consider this one aspect.
I would even go so far as to say that the first two episodes and most of the third set Babylon up to be an interesting political thriller filled with plenty of twists, turns, and betrayal. There seemed to be a genuine mystery afoot.
And then things took a turn.
In quick succession, two random and conflicting details emerged. One of these details ensured that Babylon turned what could have been a serviceable story of gamesmanship and strategy into an odd supernatural tale that was broken and forced. The other detail gave Babylon the dubious distinction of being the only anime I almost turned off out of pure disgust.
I have nothing positive to say about this show. This section was merely a formality. Speaking not as a reviewer, but as a fan of anime, on a personal level, I consider Babylon to be the worst series of 2019.
In the comments below, if someone can explain to me what happened in this show after episode seven, that would be a great help. I might not have turned off this series, but I did stop paying attention. Does that mean there could have been something during the latter half of Babylon that would have made it worth watching?
I suppose it is possible. I also suppose it is equally possible that bigfoot actually exists.
Of the two details I mentioned, the one that made Babylon a broken series was the introduction of Ai Magase. As it so happens, she could have been an outstanding villain. The problem was, she was in the wrong anime. Her existence did not make any sense.
For the first three episodes, Babylon had the look of a grounded narrative with the main antagonist being some organization trying to implement a plot to rig the Shiniki mayoral elections in their favor. Then the conspirators’ chosen candidate turned on them once the win was secured, and the new mayor began instituting policies that went against the original plan. Therefore, Prosecutor Zen Seizaki would need to team up with his former enemies to take on a mutual threat.
Yeah, that was all bull s@#$. Instead, the real villain was this succubus demon lady who had the power to change her appearance and influence anyone to do her will.
But why, though?
And Babylon couldn’t even stick with this.
Part of what made the idea of Ai Magase a compelling one was the fact that she wasn’t the one killing people. Ai would influence a person to take their own life, and therefore, leave her hands technically clean. Her main threat was suggestion and manipulation. I’m not going to lie, that was sort of neat.
So then why the hell did Ai Magase break character out of nowhere and personally hack up one of Zen’s subordinates with an ax?
I ask again; but why, though?
Along with that, during the section of the show I wasn’t paying much attention to, the few times I did snap back to see what was going on, I doubt I could have made sense of anything even if I had given this series my full focus.
Apparently, the President of the United States would stay up late playing online RPGs. Also, there was a segment when the G7 leaders were in this weird fever dream debating the concepts of right and wrong. Plus, somewhere along the way, Zen joined the FBI.
I mean, sure, why the hell not?
A small part of me (a very small part of me) wants to go back and see if these developments made sense if I just sucked it up and sat through this garbage. But following the posting of this review, I will not be giving Babylon any more of my time.
For you see, I have yet to talk about that second detail, the one that made Babylon irredeemable. I am talking about the so-called Suicide Law and the resulting “debate” surrounding it.
Hold on to your hats for this.
The Suicide Law
I have finished with the review. If you want to skip this section and head straight to my Final Thoughts, please feel free to do so. The following is more of a self-decompression for myself because of how infuriating and saddening this series’ depiction of suicide was.
I can already tell this will be ranty, so I apologize in advance.
While you could argue Babylon was the battle between Zen and Ai Magase, the Suicide Law brought up in Shiniki was a central theme that this show took the time to explore and ponder. Again, this made it and the existence of Ai Magase incompatible since they turned each other moot. Nevertheless, since this was a significant aspect of the story, we can’t simply ignore it.
From what I could gather, the Suicide Law allowed the residents of Shiniki to choose to die by suicide if they wished. This law went beyond assisted suicide, mind you. Its intention was to give anyone who wanted to end their life the right to do so for any reason. The existence of this law as a plot device wasn’t what bothered me about it. The thing that did that was the conversation surrounding it.
And I definitely threw up a little as I used the word “conversation.”
Babylon had a terrifyingly ignorant view of why suicide occurs. In episodes six and seven, there was a “debate” on the merits of the Suicide Law, and this was hard to watch because what was said completely missed the point of this immensely important topic.
In the camp against the law, four arguments stuck out to me:
- The economic implications
- The moral implications
- The escalation implications
- The enforcement implications
For that first point, it argued that those who chose suicide were being a financial burden on society and were taking away a source of revenue. It put a monetary value on human life and suggested that a person is only of worth if they are contributing to the economy.
Do I even have to say why this was a problem? How arrogant is it to put a dollar amount to a person’s well being?
The second point stated that if someone decided to take their own life, they were going against the values of society and were no better than a murderer. And since most people consider murder to be wrong, it is, therefore, natural to see suicide as wrong.
Alright, so now we are vilifying the victims.
To the third point, if suicide were legal, everyone would either encourage others to do it or feel empowered to do it themselves. According to this argument, everyone was not choosing suicide for a relaxing Sunday activity because there was no law that said it was okay.
Umm, up yours? I don’t know how else to respond to that.
With the final point, it stated that the law would be impossible to enforce because people would want to step in and prevent someone from following through on suicidal thoughts. Thus, the Suicide Law was simply impractical.
Yeah, and the sky can’t be purple because it’s blue. The same sort of gibberish.
Then there was the argument for the passage of the law, which mostly countered all the against points. Except this is the part that pissed me off the most because it glossed over the complications of what suicidal thoughts are.
I am sorry for the language I am about to not censor, but all that was said in this debate was complete and utter fucking bullshit. Babylon and what was presented on all sides of the Suicide Law kept framing suicide as a simple act people do. That it required as little build-up to execution as a leisurely walk down the street.
And that is flat out wrong.
A physically fit person doesn’t just wake up one day and decide, “I think I’m going to give myself cancer,” just as a mentally fit person doesn’t decide on suicide with a snap of their finger. Cancer, like suicidal thoughts, doesn’t kill in a single day. It is a long, often painful process. But also like cancer, suicidal thoughts can be treated before they become deadly.
Where Babylon failed was treating suicide as though people do it because it is the easy way out. A successful suicide attempt is the result of an illness, not a spur of the moment choice. And like any illness, there are people trained to try to help keep it in check, if not able to actually put someone on the road to recovery.
When you are sick with a cold, you go to a doctor. When your car breaks down, you call a mechanic. No one bats an eye when you do either of those things. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, then the same mindset should be in play.
If you feel like you’re constantly drowning or think there is no point, that is not a weakness. That is a symptom of something much bigger and that might turn fatal if not treated. And believe me, help is never more than a phone call away. Yes, it may not solve the problem right away, but it is a step in the right direction.
Babylon and the Suicide Law was the result of a gross misunderstanding of what it means to be suicidal, and because of that, I found this show to be disgusting.
As a stand-alone series, this was a confusing mess. It was like this story thought it could be in two different places at once, but instead, it just took a giant poop wherever it went.
However as a message, intentional or not, it was stuck in a stigma that needs to be broken.
I never want to come back to this series ever again.
Babylon can be and should be skipped.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Babylon? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.