Psycho-Pass Episode 17

Iron Heart

So, episode 17 may not have been the action-packed awesomeness last episode was but for me it felt like the shortest episode we’ve got so far. And when you spend 20 minutes looking at a screen and end up astonished at how that’s what how your watch registered the 5 minutes you were sure to have passed… well, you know you enjoyed something immensely.

Wrapping up big events is never an easy task for storywriters. After a particularly interesting and events, the simple act of ending such a string of happenings often feels anti-climatic and non-satisfying. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here. Actually, it was far from it. The episode starts with a sense of uneasiness and melancholy in the Division 1 of the PSB. They had “won”, having stopped Makishima’s plan and captured him. But that’s all they did. The riots still happened and Kagari still disappeared (well, to them he did disappear, since we viewers now know very well he has indeed died). As Kougami points out, they didn’t win, their sole win was the lack of a loss, the fact that they managed to “end it in a draw”. I found his philosophy about detective work really interesting, actually: “A detective never wins, because the essence of the job is uncovering the truth about something that has already happened, not prevent it from happening. In that sense, the resolution to any case is never a full win, and the team’s feelings in this episode show that really accurately. I think the atmosphere they intended to set in this episode was successfully passed on to the viewers.

Also of interest is Kougami’s claim that they live in a dangerous society, a very dangerous one indeed. It’s just that everyone chose to turn a blind eye to that because it’s convenient to do so. A society without distrust for others, a society with as small a police force as the MWPSB is… That is obviously not a safe society if someone decides to shake things up for once, like Makishima did. But nobody wanted to see the danger because no one wanted to admit the comfortable society they lived in wasn’t a perfectly built one.

Either way, as those details are handled we get to the most interesting parts of the episode. Kasei (to whom I’ve been referring to as the chief / director), tells them they aren’t allowed to interrogate Makishima and they’re to investigate Kagari’s disappearance instead. In order to purposely mislead the team into mistakenly believing that Kagari used the confusion to run away from the Bureau and regain his freedom, she points to the escape of on of Division 2’s Enforcers in those same circumstances and prepares a false clue in Kagari’s Dominator, disposed of quite far from the Ministry of Welfare. However, the characters are neither too happy with the fact that they won’t be able to even see Makishima, let alone interrogate him, nor too convinced with the prospect of Kagari’s disappearance. Kougami in particular is extremely displeased that he won’t be able to interrogate Makishima, which is only understandable giving his hate for him. As he goes to Ginoza and angrily complains about the orders he had just transmitted, Ginoza simply tries to stay clear of any conflict and tells Kougami to express his displeasure directly to the chief. Of course it would be unthinkable for an Enforcer to do that, and Kougami knows it and points out Ginoza would be the one in trouble if he actually followed his words. Which is why he doesn’t. I think Ginoza was being a bit too obedient and pacifist to my taste, but it’s what I would expect from someone with his personality who is in his position. One of the most important things would totally be not to compromise, which is what he tries and succeeds at here.

But the big revelation comes next. “What is the Sybil system?” was the question floating in everyone’s head after the end of last episode. Here, such little intruding question finally got its answer as we see what happened to Makishima. Having been captured, he wakes up trapped in a room, with the sole company of Kasei, who proceeds to tell him the true nature of the Sybil system. First of all, it’s very interesting to note that the image being passed on to the public isn’t even a lie: Sybil is a supercomputer after all. But it is an organic supercomputer, one consisting of 247 brains,of which  there are 240 “active” at any given moment, while the other 7 are doing some other rather important things as personally leading the Public Safety Bureau as Kasei. In other words, at any moment there are 240 brains working as parallel processors of a super computer that reads the information from the scans and gives its judgement. Those brains once belonged to criminal asymptomatic people, such as Touma and Makishima themselves. Such people’s hues can’t be assessed for the simple reason that those people live with their own moral code, hence it not being possible to measure their pyscho-pass, as it isn’t possible to understand them. Ironically, in order to judge something machines (non-humans) alone couldn’t, they gathered the most inhumane humans.

Speaking of Touma, the Kasei who approaches Makishima is actually Touma, or rather the cyborg body we already knew it was, complemented by Touma’s brain. Hence the “Shougo-kun” at the end of episode 13, I guess, even if I believe Kasei wasn’t always Touma each and every time we saw her. Either way, as Makishima is a criminal asymptomatic, he’s obviously suited to join the Sybil system as yet another full-time ruler. As such, Touma tries to use to his advantage the fact that both of them had cooperated before to convince Makishima to join the system of his own free will, explaining him everything about it and showing him Choe’s video of it. Makishima doesn’t seem so convicned so Touma talks about his own experience, and how it was at first confused but soon realized it was a great thing, a source of amazing intellectual pleasure and some other opinions that easily revealed how he was completely drunk with power, with the prospect of being a god, ruling over the city and with the irony that the very people who, like him, were rejected by the system to live a regular safe life, were also the ones ruling over the accepted ones, being part of Sybil itself. However, Makishima doesn’t want power – he never did and it was completely obvious that he didn’t. He loves humans. In a freaking creepy and somewhat sadistic way but he does. What he wants for society is the re-establishment of self-awareness and free will, so he’d never want to be a cog in the system that takes them away, that is very obvious. But somehow, either due to overestimating himself in his excessively narcissistic view of himself, or simply not having ever gotten even a grasp of what Makishima was trying to change in society, he thinks he will surely be able to convince him, which is given away by his lack of precautions against a possible running attempt, assuming Makishima wouldn’t run away without knowing his location. Now, why would he be so sure about understanding the mindset of someone he had just admitted that couldn’t be understood by the entirety of the Sybil system? Overconfidence in his omnipotence really seems like the most plausible answer. Too bad it gets him this:

Add to that a little more gruesome and less ridiculous attacks and you get the picture of what happened.

Of course it wouldn’t have been a problem if it was just a book to the face. But no, it definitely wasn’t. After claiming that life is an amazing game in which he want’s to remain as a player forever and throwing a book to Kasei/Touma’s face, Makishima completely wrecks the cyborg’s legs and beats it up until he can reach the brain, his intention seeming to be killing Touma and getting away, which he manages just fine. His reaction while in here made me think he actually didn’t have his capture planned out and he really was just careless at the top of the Radio Tower. Though he still could have had this planned out in order to find out more. Either way, he’s now free again and with way more information in his hands, so the next step should be worrying about what actions to take. He has obviously taken the video from Kasei, so he could just show it around but it would do nothing more than cause instability due to the doubt between “real” and “fake”, which would achieve nothing more than what he already had with the Psycho-Hazard caused by the helmet wearers. As such, what is the most plausible to supposed is that he’ll try more of an inside approach, using the MSPSB Division 1 members as his pawns. Not to mention, he actually seems to have already got his plan in motion, with the phone call to Kougami by the end of the episode having quite the impact on him. As Shougo actually said, Kougami really isn’t the kid of persona to side with the Sybil system knowing what it is. This brings up the very interesting possibility of cooperation between these two, which would be a really interesting point, since while I’m certainly not seeing Kougami continuing to abide by the Sybil system, I also don’t see him disregarding his pursuit for Makishima and the fact that, according to Kougami, at the very least, he has to be brought to justice for his crimes.

Now that the synopsis of what happened is out of the way, I’d like to analyze two very interesting aspects this episode touched upon: the human adaptability and building of a comfort zone and the Sybil system itself and its implications in the accuracy of measurements, be it its objectivity or the actual ability to judge.

Starting by the first one, it’s Touma himself who lampshades this by saying he was completely confused when he was stripped of his body and started living as a brain, as well as confused about the whole collective consciousness thing going on in Sybil. However, he was forced to be there. As such, he ended up adapting and building is own opinion on the advantages of his situation. Right now, as of his episode, he saw himself as some kind of god who rules above the Sybil-based society, since he was indeed part of Sybil, rather than looking at himself from the perspective of being simply a brain stuffed in… some kind of glass box who’s completely dependent of a being maintained by a system in which he only has 1/247 of the control in. So tell be about overlooking the bad side of one’s situation. But he does, and he does so to great levels, as one can see by his astounding narcissistic speech.

Actually, this theme of conformism with one’s situation has been explored, directly and indirectly throughout the whole series. Seeing as that’ exactly what’s going on with everyone who quietly lives under the rule of the Sybil system. They’ve conformed to such a live because as long as they live as told, which is actually not all that hard for most people, and the inconvenient of not being able to make their own choices is overshadowed by the simplicity of letting something else decide for them. It’s actually also touched upon by Kougami when explaining to Akane about the people in the mental recovery facilities. Some manage to recover and some get worse and have to be executed, but most simply get used to that life style and make no effort towards recovery because they feel fine living like that.

The recurring nature of this theme in the series makes it seem like it’s a facet of human nature Urobuchi has tried to explore, and it’s a rather pertinent one at that. Humans are very adaptable but also very quick to conform to new situations, even when it might not be the best one when looking at it objectively. That makes self-induced change a hard and rare process, even if obviously not impossible, being a weakness most people bear. I do realize I’m somewhat rambling here, but I thought it was a view worth exploring, for it has been touched upon many times throughout the series.

The second thing I’d like to talk about is actually way more relevant to the plot: the implications of the fact that Sybil is basically made of human brains. For the purpose of achieving a judgement capability and computing power superior to that of regular machines, human brains were used to power Sybil. However, the use of human brains would mean subjectivity in judgement. So, in order to make it as similar to a machine as possible, brains of asymptomatic criminals were used, ensuring the lack of subjectivity through the use of people incapable of empathy towards others. So let’s assume that the Sybil system is indeed purely objective. If a machine would use some kind of criteria, covering as much ground as possible, to judge someone, humans do the same, but the criteria are their own, meaning the functionality of Sybil is based on the concept of human understanding. As it is explained in this episode, people are criminally asymptomatic if they can’t be understood by Sybil, and otherwise, they’re judged by it “normally”, which supposedly means “flawlessly”. But in terms of trying to comprehend something,  not understanding and understanding aren’t the only options. One can clearly not understand something, understand something correctly, or misunderstand. And if everyone who’s part of Sybil has as huge an ego as Touma, that’d actually contribute to the existence of those, which are the false positives that everyone seems to keep denying the possibility of existing – even when admitting the Sybil system isn’t perfect – when it’s pretty much apparent that they do.

If Sybil was indeed a conventional supercomputer, it’s probably act on pre-programmed criteria, judging the people it can evaluated based on those, with the asymptomatic criminals being those who’s mindset wasn0t covered by the programmed criteria. Either way, the organic supercomputer or conventional machine, the Sybil system could never be completely voided of any subjectivity, as even a machine would act objectively based on subjective criteria, as such is the nature of all moral codes. But it being an organic supercomputer does raise the possibility of misunderstandings, for not following a sole set of established criteria and relying on a more complex means of evaluation.

As a last note, I’ll just say that as always, I’m really looking forward to watching and covering the next episode and apologize for not being able to bring you coverage on this one as fast as I had hoped and promised.

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