Have you ever heard of the system called chaos theory? If its sounds familiar, you might have first heard about it like I did, through Jurassic Park. Ian Malcolm, the mathematician played by Jeff Goldblum, expresses the idea in the film, with the novel going into far greater detail, using it as a theme and explanation for what occurs on the island. In short, chaos theory posits that chaotic, seemingly random systems are the result of underlying, initial conditions, and thus aren’t random at all—to an extent, they can be predicted. While watching Babylon, the excellent detective anime being aired by Amazon this season, I was reminded of chaos theory, both in how the events of the show are seemingly out of control and how patterns are beginning to emerge.
If you’re not watching Babylon, you really should—it’s an excellent show thus far—but in the meantime, I’ll catch you up. The series takes place in Shiniki, an unusual district within Japan where governance is experimental and highly independent. Within this district, public prosecutor Zen Seizaki is investigating a pharmaceutical case. However, that original investigation soon erupts in a much broader and disturbing one. I won’t go into specifics to avoid significant spoilers except to say that pharmaceuticals are just the beginning—they lead to a much bigger story about corruption, which itself is opening up a bigger case about governance and how we as people act and think.
Seizaki is charged with two duties—he must find and arrest a public figure that is at the center of highly publicized incidents that are occurring, and perhaps more difficult, find a way of actually charging him with a crime. Not only is it challenging for Seizaki to connect this individual with a crime, the very existence of the Shiniki district is making it difficult. The law is different in Shiniki, and the object of Seizaki’s investigation has manipulated those distinctions to the fullest, creating the chaos seen in the series—and the chaos is indeed plentiful. For a show that has little action, at least when it comes to fights and car chases and explosions, so much happens from one episode to the next. The potential criminal and / or his associates tighten their grip each episode, plunging individual lives and then the citizenry of Shiniki into chaos.
But while the perpetrator’s actions lead to disorder, there appears to be great order and design behind the events he instigates. This system adds an intense level of anxiety to the show. We as viewers know that Seizaki is highly intelligent—while committed to justice, he’s not so hard-headed as to avoid being sly in his investigation. Yet, he’s constantly running behind. Returning to Jurassic Park, it’s like Seizaki is a staff member there dealing with each fence failure while simultaneously trying to the critical system failure and repair it; meanwhile, a much slyer and smarter Dennis Nedry not only survives, but has much grander plans that he’s putting into motion besides simply stealing a few embryos.
In chaos theory, if one knows the initial conditions, there’s the potential that the scientist can predict what will occur. However, many variables affect the process, including the length of time in the forecast. In Shiniki, there’s a relatively short amount of time until a critical election, but that’s only by a human standard; by a mathematical one, the time is quite lengthy, and without knowing all the initial variables and what the perpetrator wants to accomplish, Seizaki is left with a system that’s out of control. The worry is that even if his unit is able to capture the face of this chaos, it is already too out of control to be stopped; in fact, it feels almost certainly that way.
And so far, that, above all, has been the magic of Babylon. Seizaki’s charge is too large and too late—he’s seeking the most elementary information when the event is already out of hand, like the UN researching what makes a dictator tick when he’s already almost completed a genocide.
If memory serves, the first Jurassic Park film simply ends with the survivors evacuating Isla Nublar; in the novel, though, the island is fire bombed. Ultimately, that’s even too late, as some dinosaurs are able to escape, with what I think is ultimately inferred as the far-off conclusion in this alternate world: By playing God and resurrecting dinosaurs, the eventual conclusion is the extinction of man by way of their creation. I wonder if some similar ending is in store for Shiniki and the greater Tokyo area in Babylon, or if a less bleak ending is coming with Zen Seizaki, the man of justice, discovering the initial conditions in time and preventing his own dinosaurs from taking over the island (and the world).
Babylon can be streamed via Amazon Prime.