I’m not sure Urobuchi Gen is capable of writing a series that’s less than interesting, but as the disjointed first episode showed, it takes more than interesting ideas to make an anime work. Fortunately each successive episode has proved better than the last (if he can keep that up for 22 weeks we’d certainly be in for an epic) to the point where I’m pretty firmly hooked now. The series has settled into a nice groove, with the noir vibe clicking and the big ideas beneath the story really beginning to germinate.
I said last week that I found the hunting dogs more interesting than the masters – and that I was pretty confident I was supposed to – and after this weeks ep I’m firmly convinced on both counts. What I think we’re seeing here is Gen espousing theories on several fronts, one of which is the matter of what makes a detective. I think his case – which I agree with – is that you can’t be a good detective if you don’t have a healthy dose of latent criminal intent buried inside you. That a detective needs to understand the criminal mind in order to defeat it is hardly a new idea (that’s a trend so far in P-P, but more on that later) but the Sybil scenario is a clever way of illustrating it.
What Sybil has produced (seemingly) is a generation of law enforcement that’s incapable of enforcing the law because they’re unable to think outside the narrow boxes Sybil has assigned them to. That the enforcers can do so is hardly surprising given their backgrounds, but the detectives like Ginoza need to maintain the façade that they’re the ones pulling the strings, when in fact they’re simply the ones holding the leash. In the case of Akane perhaps she’s the rare exception, because her Sybil scores didn’t pigeon-hole her into being a detective – in fact, they said she was basically suited to anything she wanted to do. Or perhaps suited to nothing – which in Sybil’s eyes makes her a bad detective, but in practical terms possibly a very good one. Time will tell.
As for the drone factory where this week’s episode played out, it was yet another example of a nightmarishly awful application of the technology at the heart of the series. The rare facility that’s “offline” – blocked from access to the ‘net as a security measure – there are no obvious outlets for the stress of the employees, three of whom have died in “accidents” in the last year. So a kind of whipping boy is chosen – a sacrificial lamb among the staff for the others to abuse until their aura gets cloudy enough to get them transferred out before they snap. It’s a stupid and inhumane idea on the face of it, and the criminal at the heart of this ep points out one very obvious flaw – he simply lets off steam by killing someone before his hue gets too cloudy, and appears normal enough to go back to his role as the designated victim.
That this case should have been solved by the enforcers and not the detectives is hardly surprising – they were unanimous in their intuition that murder was occurring, with Masaoka (there are strong hints of a past confrontation with Gino) again the most interesting in explaining it. But it’s Kougami who takes the lead in exposing the crime using a very risky method. It’s tempting to see this a a good cop/bad cop scenario, but it’s really good cop/no cop – whether through lack of imagination or unwillingness to take on the Ministry of Economy, Gizo offers no help whatsoever. What’s interesting to me about this is Ginoza’s speech to Akane – “Wise men learn from history and fools from their mistakes” – and the seemingly obvious implication that Akane’s right in siding with the enforcers, and he’s the stock villain of the piece. But this being Urobuchi Gen, I suspect he’s going to end up showing us that Ginoza is actually in the right about the enforcers, at least in part – and that (as usual) no one is to be trusted.
If I still have a major problem with the piece, it’s that the Sybil scenario is so obviously and deeply flawed that it’s hard to believe it could have become as institutionalized as it has. If Gen is making an effort to show a morally ambiguous situation in this respect it’s not working for me, because it’s very obvious that Sybil doesn’t work and we’re effectively looking at a dystopian system balanced on the head of a pin. That and the fact that this remains very, very familiar material leaves me concerned still about whether even Gen can find enough that’s new to keep the series fresh for two cours. He certainly succeeded this week, and this is a writer who has deep reserves to draw on so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until he gives me a reason not to.