Episodes 1-9 – wrap up
Despite the lack of coverage on this series since episode 8, it’s my goal not to let myself get behind in conveying my thoughts on such a wonderful series.
Throughout its first-half episodes, Psycho-Pass has been a slow builder of its world – both setting and characters included. However, despite taking its time to do so, what it showed us was a detailedly though futuristic society, with an interesting balance of advantages and shortcomings, though the later ones are more objectively noticeable, while the former tend to need a little more thought on human’s desire for comfort and the relief of the lack of responsibility pending over one’s head.
From the brutal display of how things can go wrong and how the Sybil system’s judgements of one’s character can lead to further disturbance of behaviour rather than prevent the display of one’s tendencies through the moral conditioning of what’s accepted as right and wrong in a “normal” society to the more regular showcase of how a Public Safety Bureau’s day usually is, we’ve been led, through seemingly unrelated cases, to a non-spoon fed understanding of the setting, the workings of that futuristic society, and what would hypothetically be the reactions of the masses to the evolution of technology.
Good examples of that are the arc of the social network and the one in the only girls school. Regarding the first one, it made me wonder quite a bit about how some people were completely living in the virtual world and of the virtual world. Seeing as now, some people, such as myself, feel way more comfortable in the virtual world, often isolating themselves from reality, imagine to what extent they would go with the range of endless possibilities offered by the virtual reality chatrooms shown in Psycho-Pass. With such an immersion and the possibility of economic revenue, living in the virtual world can become a self-sustainable lifestyle with no need to interruptions. That’s quite fascinating, even if probably not the most healthy possibility to be available, due to how dangerously tempting it seems to me.
Besides the aforementioned theme and questions, this single arc also presents us with one other issue, the one made obvious by the respective episode titles: the possibility of building one other personality and releasing yourself from expectations on following your usual behaviour. Of course along with that comes a new establishment of expectations, a new social prison. The more the popularity of such people (or in this case, of their avatar), the bigger the pressure of maintaining their trade-mark image, something which relates closely to the expectations over people seen as idols in our world. Can you remember a situation in which a band got bashed by fans to no end over changing their musical style? The reason people don’t understand the artists probably want to try something new and enjoy themselves is beyond me, but that happens, and Psycho-Pass does an amazing job of drawing such a parallel. Being forced to keep playing a facade must be an exhausting thing… The fact that the killer was a fan who didn’t want his beloved role models to stray from their roles was yet another pertinent point.
As for the school arc, Ouryou Rikako was quite the interesting character, as her crimes were the product of the twisting of her taste in arts by her sentiment of revolt towards the Sybil system due to what happened to her father. Once again, this is yet another interesting insight over the consequences of the system, this time not the intimidating reality of the system scans, such as the first two arcs, but the forced passivity over the citizens due to their life path being entirely decided by the system, rather than by their will, tastes and ambitions. Apparently, the excess of stress therapy can lead to a condition that reminds me of the Apathy Syndrome in Persona 3. Such is an exteriorization of their full acceptance regarding the passivity the Sybil system forces upon them, choosing the entire path for their lives and judging their minds without regard to circumstances.
Of course the most interesting thing in this arc was the much awaited full debut of the series antagonist, which had been dealt nothing but a few seconds long appearances thus far. Makishima Shougo is the one behind all those cases, previously described in this post as “seemingly unrelated”. His appearance brings another perspective to the table. His crusade is a twisted search for entertainment with a coldness of a psychopath, but it’s also one that focus on understanding the human nature in a era in which situations that call out the two extremes of impulsive actions and rational thinking are rarely ever evoked. For now, he doesn’t step too much into grey area, which is something I’m actually enjoying, as in while he has a definite distraught towardsthe system, that’s far from being the main, let alone the only, reason for his crimes. In that, he’s a true antagonist.
The first reason his bigger involvement on the story is a good development in Psycho-Pass being already explored, there are two more I’d like to mention. The second and most important is definitely the character development for the main characters. That’s another field in which Psycho-Pass had been taking it slowly, but as more was revealed about Kougami’s past as an Inspector who became obsessed with a case in which an Enforcer he was in charge of was brutally murdered, having his readings increase to latent criminal levels and being demoted, the more Akane’s thoughts and concerns regarding him took a specific shape, and their interactions began to be truly interesting to watch. But I’m not referring simply to this duo in this claim. The urgency of the case triggered some more revelations about Ginoza’s personality and his reasons for hating latent criminals, including the Enforcers, and due to his apparently exaggerated lash with Masaoka, I still believe the later to be Ginoza’s father. In summarizing words, the character development is playing out quite well ever since it finally began to take a definite shape.
The third reason couldn’t be a simpler one: the amazing arc we’ve just been delivered. Episodes 10 and 11, which I’ll talk about in detail in just a few lines, seem to be marking the beginning of the serious stuff in Psycho-Pass. Too bad episode 12 will only air on the 11th. Tempest is always taking a break (albeit shorter) in broadcasting, which makes me wonder if that’ll end up becoming a trend. I certainly wouldn’t like it.
Episodes 10 and 11
Episode 10 marks the first time Makishima actually commits a murder by himself, rather than simply providing the means for others to do so. This is of course because, as he mentioned in the end of episode 9, his interest is now focused not on a criminal, but on Kougami. Therefore it’s not a criminal he must test this time.
As such, and with the purpose of driving Kougami into his trap, he kidnaps Yuki, Akane’s friend, sending a message from her cellphone and obviously getting Akane worried about Yuki’s whereabouts. As seemingly predicted by Makashima, Akane asks Kougami for help, and both go looks for her, yet it’s obviously Kougami who gets inside the decrepit building, with Akane staying outside and giving directions, guiding him according to the building’s prints and a locating system. However, as Kougami proceeds inside the building, Makishima interferes with his communication device, sending his own instructions through a digital rendering of Akane’s voice, and blocking her own. It turns out the prints were wrong and the building connected to an ancient subway, one in which Kougami gets on board only to find a very scared Yuki who had no idea of what happened with her.
Of course this was a simple setup by Makishima to isolate Kougami from Akane and test him however he wanted. Which he does. Actually, his twisted knack towards testing people by putting them into extreme situations is what makes him such an interesting character and such a fitting antagonist for this series. The problem we’ve seen all along is how everyone is way too reliant on the Sybil system. How they’ve forgotten (or were forced to forget) their individuality, their conscience, their sense of responsibility and conformed with blindly following the decisions of Sybil, a system that apparently ranks as the supreme authority in this society. As such, the regular human insecurities have no need t exist, neither does the courage to take risks with one’s judgements and course of action. What better way is there to observe such important characteristics is there than forcing them to surface due to the current situation? This is what Maikishima does. His goal is simply to study the human soul, which, according to him, only has value when acting upon its own will.
Him driving Kougami to this situation had no other goal than subject him to such a test. One I would say he passed whit flying colors. Actually, and very ironically, Enforcers are the ones with the most freedom. They don’t need to try and keep their hue as white as possible, as they’ve already been deemed as latent criminals and potential threats to society. They may have to be under supervision of the Inspectors all the time, but in the end, they’re the ones who are free to speak their minds and act according to their instincts. Kouagmi is, in my opinion, the best example of this, which is probably the reason Makishima took an interest in him.
But Kougami wasn’t the only one being tested in the episode. Senguuji, his right hand up until then, was in the same boat. Unknowingly to him, Makishima made the “hunt” a lot fairer. Yes, Kougami was being pursued by scary cyborg dogs and Senguuji himself, who, unlike him, was in the possession of a gun. Yes, he had Yuki with him, slowing him down and even making the huge mistake of grabbing that bag. But it’s not like he couldn’t win. Makishima did prepare a way out he Kougami cleverly figured that out. One of Makishima’s goals was to see if Kougami would abandon Yuki to achieve freedom himself, which is actually suggested by the girl. But Kougami is both kinder and smarter than that as he understands that she was the key to getting out of there and ends up discovering how the batteries for radio they had pick up were hidden in Yuki’s underwear. To be honest, this scene was actually funny. His bluntness and coldness in asking her to undress without telling her exactly what his hunch made me giggle. Perhaps because he doesn’t have the most harmless appearance, she must have definitely found that demand a bit on the scary side. Anyway, funny moments aside, Kougami manages to finally, using the radio, contact Akane and the rest of the team she had called once his signal on the location system started acting strangely.
Speaking of which, we has yet another very interesting moment in the episode involving Akane, Ginoza and Masaoka. Ginoza’s first analysis of the situation once Akane call him saying she had lost contact with Kougami and his signal had disappeared from the building is actually that Kougami has probably tried to run away from the Public Safety Bureau. As his claims about it get surer and bolder, Masaoka starts getting annoyed and gets to the point of hitting him. My hunch that he might be Ginoza’s father (and that’d be a huge death flag hanging over his head), gets more and more supported by each of their interactions, though this really was an unexpected and specially appreciated one. Ginoza really deserved that for such partial judgement and quick drawing of unfounded conclusions. I find his extreme reliance in the system both interesting and annoying, as despite having once been Kougami’s partner he doubts them to such an extent simply and solely due to his crime coefficient. Such a heavy reliance on Sybil will certainly bring him problems one day…
Back to the strange warehouse/basement/whatever it was, I just have to point out how amazing the action scene in which Kougami fights the cyborg dogs, destroying one of them. From how good his strategy was to the awesome choreography of the fight, it surely was an amazing scene. Of course the awesomeness of our badass main lead doesn’t stop there, as episode 11 follows though with his fight for his and Yuki’s survival.
Knowing Urobuchi, this tenth episode’s grim setup and its lightly toned closing scene screamed nothing but tragedy to me. As such, I went into episode 11 expected something heavy. I was n0t disappointed in the slightest, as it delivered what I was expecting in a somewhat unexpected way. But let’s get to that later.
First of all I’d like to mention how precious the intervention of the rest of the main cast proved to be in assisting Kougami, having delivered him a Dominator, which allowed him to defeat both the second dog and Senguuji. However, not knowing that Senguuji was a cyborg was a huge problem for Kougami – a problem that conditioned the following developments of this eleventh episode. There isn’t one living person that can promptly and accurately fire back at the shooter after losing one arm. But Senguuji’s brain is the only remaining part of the body he was born with, as he has replaced everything else by robotic metal parts. As he can’t feel the pain of having a flesh and bone arm torn off, his immediate shot catches Kougami off guard, piercing his abdomen. Kougami falls and manages to run off, later defeating Senguuji through quite the risky yet brilliantly deceptive plan of stuffing himself inside a barrel and rolling down an inclined surface, while using Yuki as a decoy to attract Senguuji up and get him from behind. As a bit of a side note, I can’t help but think the OST during the scene Senguuji was looking for Kougami up to his death worked really, but really well.
One thing that brought a smile to my face, only to make it harder to take in what would happened later, was Yuki’s line saying she almost wanted to become a latent criminal. For humans who know nothing but passiveness and quietness, the thrilling adventure she has just lived through might very justifiably led her to thinking that. It’s just as Senguuji had mentioned to Makishima not too long before his death: that brutal moment in which he saw his friend’s head exploding besides him was the moment he felt more “alive”, which became his reason to pursue the kind of activities he did. Feeling alive is what many characters in this series subconsciously seek, and it’s something Makishima understands the importance of.
But poor Yuki can’t say much more, as Makishima quickly grabs her as a hostage, openly declares his interest in Kougami and leaves the scene. Soon afterwards, Akane and Masaoka finally arrive just to see Kougami in quite a bad shape. As Masaoka prepares to give first aid to Kougami, the later tells Akane about a second person who took Yuki away.
And as Akane pursues Makishima, we finally get to the highlight of the episode. As she reaches him and uses the Dominator to scan him, his crime coefficient turns out to be quite low, and the gun obviously keeps unactivated. Here, what Makishima says to a confused Akane, from teasing her for her inexperience to questioning the Sybil system and to proudly declaring his own intentions and ideal, all of that is important. Important, thought provoking and quite clarifying as well.
First of all, he asks a question that has been in my mind (and I suppose in the mind of many other viewers) for quite a while. We know the Sybil system judges people by calculating their Psycho-pass. But what exactly does such calculation consist in? I couldn’t make out whether that was a rhetorical question or the characters really don’t know the specific answer to that either. Regardless of which of those two options is the correct one, Makishima said with certainty that it doesn’t take people’s will into consideration, hence his Psycho-Pass being on such low levels when he intended to kill a person all along.
So… What he’s asking Akane is what a criminal is. How such a status is decided. According to his explanation, the system figures out how a person’s mind works by “analyzing a bio-organism’s force field read by a cymatic scan”. Yes, quite the vague explanation, but what matters here is that what seemingly weights the most in the measuring on one’s crime coefficient is the thought process. That’s why people who can get into the minds of the criminal, understand how they think, inevitably have a high Psycho-Pass. Regardless of what they do with such skills. Regardless if their “will”.
When he handles Akane the shotgun and threatens to kill Yuki, he just puts on more pressure. The Dominator is locked due to his low crime coefficient. Akane can’t shoot it, which also means the Sybil system deems Makishima to be an exemplary citizen. Yet he’s about to kill someone; he declared that himself. Akane’s mind was probably going through a huge conflict there. She had always relied on the Sybil system for everything. The feelings of indecision and the weight of responsibility were something she had never felt before. Because she didn’t need to. The Sybil system would always decide for her and its decisions would also be perfect so there was no reason to worry. Nothing was on her hands.
But at that moment, everything was on her hands. The life of her friend, and the life of someone her instinct deemed to be a criminal, but the system saw as a normal person with an outstandingly pure mind. Having never experienced the subjectivity of ethics, having always lived by an absolute moral code, that must have been something that confused and scared her to no end. Because shooting him would imply taking a life by her own will. Out of impulse, she does end up trying to shoot Makishima when he slices Yuki’s back. But not only does she probably not know much about shotguns and had never felt heir recoil effect, she also refuses to let go of the Dominator. Which is understandable, seeing as letting go of it at that moment was the same as denying her faith in the system, which is equivalent to denying her entire way of life until then. She holds on to it to the final moments, where it shows Makishima’s crime coefficient as being “0” right before slicing Yuki’s throat.
As for why Makishima’s crime coefficient went down the closer he got to killing Yuki… It’s hard but to speculate about it. After all, we’d have to know exactly what the Sybil system measures to point out a convincing reason. I’m pretty sure it would have to do with some kind of conscience, as he truly believes not to be doing anything wrong. To be honest, I do agree with him regarding the worth of the human soul. It only has value if it acts on its own will. Thus, I understand what he’s trying to do, and forcing people to experience what it’s like to act on their own will sounds like something awesome to me. However, his twisted means are quite the creepy and hateful thing.
With last week’s episode, we are now halfway through Psycho-Pass. With this eleventh episode’s bang in both plot, setting-related revelations, brutal scenes and traumatic developments for the character, I see no reason for this to slow down now. The most intriguing thing at this moment is what will happen to Akane and her Psycho-Pass, specially considering the fact that has also always been quite “white”. Will her hue get clouded? Will her change her views while keeping the same low measurement? Will this simply be a first trigger to a chain of gradual changes? Whatever it is, I’m really looking forward to what more thought provoking ideas and engrossing narrative Psycho-Pass has to offer us from now on. And I’ll certainly be here to talk about it in two weeks.