Unexpected gravitas in 009-1
I started watching 009-1 back when it began airing in 2006. Sadly, it took more than a year for its subbing to be completed, and by then I had forgotten all about it. It was only a few months ago where I was able to obtain the complete series.
The first few episodes of the series are pretty slow. Like Golgo 13 and manga that haven’t aged as well as its creators would like, the episodes are standalone and deal with 009-1′s individual missions. Its first five episodes are quite forgettable, actually.
The sixth episode, however, is what starts to turn the tide of the series as it is the first episode that slowly paints Mylene Hoffman’s character in the series. Tasked to chase after his former mentor, she realizes more about espionage and about her own character: she is unwilling to kill him because of her respect for him. In the end he sacrifices himself once again to save her, and it was all because she saw the humanity in the mutant children that he was tasked to steal from. This was also the episode where the gravitas of the series evidences itself.
It continued with the eighth episode, where it was due to her parents’ murder that eventually led her to a life of espionage and shed light on her past. Despite her job, however, her humanity slowly came to the fore in the different episodes after the sixth episode. When she was tasked to eliminate the person who saved her, she was upfront with her hesitancy to eliminate him. However, the mentality that was seen in Shiki‘s episodes was also visible in the eighth episode, especially: because he could not escape death, he prayed to 009-1 to be eliminated by her hands instead of others. He would never escape, now that he was already identified as a traitor, and it was a relief to him to be killed by someone who did not possess malice towards his elimination. It’s something complex that I could not as yet grasp as a singular idea, although it is rooted in psychology – I just can’t name the exact term.
The special episode prepares the viewer for the final arc of 009-1: she discovers more of her humanity because she was properly taken care of by Sam, the person she was tasked to kill. Even though he knew who she was, he still took care of her. At the end, when the other spies were moving in he killed himself to prevent their means of communication from being discovered. It clearly made Mylene distraught, seeing that it was the only moment in the entire series where broke down in tears. She looked for her place, found it temporarily in him only for that to be taken away due to their opposing loyalties, even despite the fact that all he really sought for was peace.
The final arc cements this humanity: as 009-1 was tasked to continue the mission of her mentor in the sixth episode, she discovered what forced her mentor to break down and quit his life of espionage. She helped the children instead of eliminating them, because she saw that all they wanted was to experience life beyond a glass window. She also had to deal with her brother who sought, in contrast with her more moderate ideas, to destroy the world in order to rebuild it. In the end, life goes on for her.
The series as a whole is not a masterpiece; I would even hesitate to categorically say as it being good. I was just however pleased with the latter episodes exploring the titular character more and painting her to be more human. The gravitas was welcome.