Psycho-Pass – 05

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If Minority Report Mated with UN-GO and gave birth to Urobuchi Gen, Psycho-Pass would be pretty close to the result.

Fundamentally, I think Psycho-Pass comes down to this: if you think a sci-fi film noir written by Gen and animated by Production I.G. is likely to be interesting, you’re going to like this series.  I mean, come on – how could that not be interesting?  And indeed, it’s become very interesting indeed – though my experience with Gen has always been that his shows engage me intellectually but rarely connect with me emotionally.  I think the jury is still out on the latter with Psycho-Pass., but after an awkward first episode the show has continued to improve to the point where it’s now fully locked-in as regards the former.

The air around this episode was supreme confidence – a series that had found its narrative stride and knew exactly what it was trying to do.  More and more P-P seems very sure of its characters and as is usually the case with Gen, their roles as mouthpieces for him to have philosophical, ethical and moral debates with himself are are (mostly) becoming clear.  The connection with UN-GO for me is that we have a NoitaminA detective story by a Champagne studio, set in the future which playfully uses technology to play with our perception of reality, and you have one of anime’s most inquisitive minds (Gen here, Shou Aikawa with UN-GO) toying with the ideas of an avant-garde Japanese writer.  With UN-GO it was Ango Sakaguchi and here it’s Terayama Shuji, a poet/filmmaker who was important in the counterculture movement in Japan in the 60’s and whose “Seishōnen no Tame no Eiga Nyūmon” (A Young Person’s Guide to the Cinema) is specifically referred to here.

As with UN-GO and any detective-themed anime, the individual mysteries are likely to vary in quality, but when on its game UN-GO offered some of the best in recent memory and this arc from Psycho-Pass has that same potential.  While the villain of the piece this time was Masatake Mido (Mizushima Takahiro) it’s clear that he was acting as the tool of Makishima Shougo (Sakurai Takahiro), a man about whose motives we know almost nothing, but who appears destined to be a critical figure in the series.  Of Masatake we know much more, about his actual crimes almost everything – he murdered three people (with Makishima’s help) in order to steal their online identities.  We already knew the first two – the third was a 14 year-old boy using the avatar of Melancholia (Tamura Mutsumi).  Masatake’s M.O. seems clear enough – he was clearly a nut job with an innate ability to copy the behavior of the avatars he stole, and a seeming lack of a personal identity in RL that drove him to do so.  Makishima’s motivation in this instance seems to have been pure selfish amusement.

As with everything Gen writes, there’s a lot of social commentary lurking under the surface and in this case, it’s not too far.  Masatake represents the ultimate fanboy in a sense, a classic yandere (maybe Gen has personal experience with such types, who knows).  He obsesses over online celebrities to fill a gap in his existence and becomes so fixated that when he feels they aren’t performing up to his expectations, he kills them because he can do a better job being them – except in his case this isn’t murder, because the avatars are the real people, not the humans behind them.  It’s Kougami who solves the riddle, and he makes reference to Spooky Boogie and the others as idols (the word choice isn’t accidental) and icons, and reasons that it only makes sense that an obsessed fan could do a better job performing the part to the public’s expectations because after all, it’s the image that people want to see – not the real person behind it.

That isn’t the most subtle thing Gen’s written, of course, but it cuts like a jagged blade just the same.  Kougami’s role as the prime catalyst in the story is growing ever more clear with the reveal that he used to be Ginoka’s partner, but was demoted to Enforcer after getting so involved in a case that his crime coefficient skyrocketed.  That helps explain both his skills and his attitude towards Gino, which has never seemed more patronizing than it did this week.  Akane is certainly falling in love with him, and Gino’s personal “rule of thumb” about drawing a line in the sand between detective and enforcer takes on an increasingly personal air.  Gino still hasn’t flashed any evidence that he has what it takes to be a decent detective – he’s aware, at least, of why Kougami is so much better at the job than he is – but doesn’t seem to understand why this poses such a fundamental problem.

Masaoka continues to be my favorite, the grizzled and hard-boiled detective who paints flowers, takes wisdom from Rousseau and spits strong alcohol through fire to foil holographic illusions (ah, the sweet symbolism).  I love the way Gen uses Masaoka as a self-insertion character, a way to get himself on-screen spitballing about the ideas that fascinate him – like the discussion about the ‘net that Masaoka has with Akane.  She (affectionately) calls him “an endangered species” for his analog view of the world, and describes the ‘net as just another tool, like knives or paper.  When Masaoka refers her to Rousseau’s “Discourse on Inequality” she says “Just a sec, I’ll look it up” and he replies “No need – it’s permanently recorded in my brain.”  That may be my favorite exchange of the series for the way it perfectly captures both characters and the viewpoints they’re acting as icons of, and the notion of whether the internet is just another tool is an absolutely fascinating one.  I personally believe that something that allows us to manipulate perception and escape our personal identity the way the ‘net does is by no means a mere tool in the way a stone knife or a screwdriver is – rather than a tool, it’s an aspect of reality itself, and must be viewed as such.  We haven’t seen the last of this discussion in Psycho-Pass, that’s for certain – and in fact, its central role in the story may just be the element that allows Gen to find originality in a setting that’s thematically very well-traveled. 

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  1. J

    Nice write-up…It's true that it looks as if Gen liked looking at his characters as mouthpieces for himself and his debates. And I also love it – you can see through the medium the writer's feelings, and that is always good for a story.

    As for the episode itself, I found it a bit underwhelming, particularly because I expected Shougo to make an appearance by the end, even if brief – or at least let Kougami get a hint that the crime was Shougo's doing. Also, the way Kougami's past was revealed was awfully cliché. If Kougami, or maybe Masaoka, had instead just casually commented this piece of info to Akane, I feel that that would have been better digested; rather than having the whole final scene revolve around this fact. It's a subtle detail indeed, maybe even unimportant, but it's those details that make me love or hate a series. Bad move, Gen, bad move.

    Other than, as for the social aspects of this new technological era…Let the discussion being, mwaha!

    …I feel Masaoka's (or Gen's) points of the internet as an isolating way of life is total BS; utter moot.
    Sure, it's common to see people spend more time than they should in front of the screen than with their RL family and friends. Despite that, I believe that these machines are only one of the many tools that did the same thing to man throughout history. 8-bit Videogames, books, your pet(s), sticks and stones, or even your own imaginary world are prime examples.
    Furthermore, I haven't had a cellphone, nor a home telephone, in two years by now. Because I can perfectly get by using just the internet, I think that is clear proof that these machines connect us one another much more than they separate us. E-mails, facebook, twitter…If used properly, those sites are invaluable tools for our everyday life!

  2. J

    Haha, way to spoil that particular phrase:

    Let the discussion begin!*

  3. B

    Shows like this are usually a slow boil for me but this one is finally starting to get there. I find myself liking it more and more with each passing week. I hope they can keep it up, it's easy to botch something like this down the road.

  4. d

    I'm going to differ in my opinion about Akane. I don't think she is falling in love with him but instead I see it as fascination or better yet, admiration. Why I say this is because she is deemed a genius by society with her scores being extremely high on all categories. Base on those scores she should be able to perform her duty as a detective well but Kougami makes it seem easy as breathing.
    With Gino revealing that Kougami used to be his partner, it makes me wonder if Gino was a hard-ass in the past or did Kougami's demotion to Enforcer had a profound effect on how Gino view his job.
    There was one thing that had me face palm in this episode and that was when Gino commented on who Masatake Mido was talking to. I was like "well, if you hadn't blown him up to pieces you would had a chance to find out genius". It seems like the over reliance on Sibyl is punching holes in their detective work.

  5. A

    Amo este anime <3

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