Tokyo 24th Ward Dives Into the Ethics of Transhumanism With Its Newest Trolley Dilemma

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Tokyo 24th Ward Episode 11, "Additive Color Mixture," now streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

The battle for the future of Tokyo's 24th ward heats up as Ran's DoRed gang takes the fight to the ward government. The controversial KANAE system still looms large in the ward, but what few people realize is that a digital imprint of Suido Asumi's mind is what runs the entire system. It's not even clear if she is truly dead or not.

This is how Tokyo 24th Ward dives into the tricky field of transhumanism -- a theoretical field in which humanity and machines blur together and the essence of what it means to be truly human is called into question. Now, in Episode 11, Shuta must find answers to these questions for Asumi's sake -- if his friends will help him, that is.

shuta talking to asumi

Shuta Aoi inherited the role of the 24th ward's local superhero, but as of Episode 11, he struggles once again to figure out how he can possibly save everyone when the ward is so divided. Even his own circle of friends is split due to these heated politics, with Akagi Ran leading the rebels to destroy KANAE while Suido Koki wants to reform the ward government from within and preserve the KANAE system.

Shuta, meanwhile, needs a solution to all this, while the unmasked Carneades, Tsuzusagawa, provides him with a new "trolley dilemma" in her hospital room. According to her, Shuta can either use a program to put Asumi to "sleep" in the KANAE system and end her suffering, or he can expose the KANAE system for what it is to the whole world, which would likely lead to the system's destruction. Once again, Shuta must choose between two difficult futures.

For now, Shuta cannot see a third option, and the last time he tried to compromise with one, people died during the GourFes disaster. Now, the stakes are more personal than ever with Asumi's digital ghost in agony -- but before he can decide on a solution, Shuta must figure out what he's actually dealing with here. Asumi's physical body is comatose, while her mind exists in the KANAE system, complete with her memories. It's unclear if this is truly Asumi's soul and mind in digital form or simply an imitation of her that can think for itself.

If the former is true, then she might "die" once again if the KANAE system is destroyed, and if the latter is true, Asumi is already gone, and destroying the KANAE system can be done with a clean conscience. Unfortunately for Shuta, there are no easy answers to this, and he may lack the expertise to make a judgment on that matter. He might hesitate to take any action about the KANAE system, afraid to make a move that would accidentally worsen Asumi's condition or destroy her forever.

shuta talking to mari

The Asumi dilemma weighs heavily on Shuta's mind, and as a classic shonen protagonist, he must use his best judgment and trust his heart on this matter, even if he lacks the expertise to decide what, exactly, Asumi is. Shuta is no A.I. expert, so he consults his heart in Episode 11, and whether he is actually right or wrong, he determines that Asumi really is still alive in this world.

Shuta cannot say that for certain, and the blurred lines of transhumanism make it that much more complicated, but he has to start somewhere, and he's past the point of being indecisive and feeling sorry for himself as the battle for the ward's future rages on. Shuta, as a wannabe hero, must do something, and that starts with having personal convictions about Asumi and his role in the ward.

This bodes well for future episodes of Tokyo 24th Ward, with Shuta the amateur hero finding his resolve and making a stand, even if he might be proven wrong later about Asumi. For the moment, it hardly even matters if Shuta's assessment of Asumi's transhumanist state is correct -- he embodies shonen values of hope, compassion and the power of friendship by choosing to believe that Asumi is still alive, and that should sustain him through the rest of the season.

As for the scientific, ethical and possibly spiritual questions on whether Asumi is truly alive, dead or something else entirely, Shuta can put that off for now. He is here to be Mr. 24, the hero of the people, not a cyberpunk philosopher. That's all his friends need him to be.

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