“The horror! The horror!”
As always, Urobuchi-sensei reveals his hand quite by bit in the choices of literature he chooses to reference – both as to the kind of writer he is, and to the specifics of the story he’s telling. Heart of Darkness is a story about many things, but among them is certainly the notion of a “good lie”. It’s also something of a musing on reductionism – the notion that everything can be broken down to the interactions of its constituent parts – in the person of its protagonist, Marlow.
As such, the book is an apt symbol to frame an episode where the focus of the story shifts at last to Ginoza (though it was in fact Kougami that was reading it). Ginoza has been much less a factor in the story so far than it appeared might be the case at the beginning of the series. Mostly he’s been a mouthpiece for the system and a foil for both Akane and Kougami, but he’s never contributed much in terms of insight or shown any real value as a detective. Up to this point Gino has been a company man, plain and simple. Now, however, we can see that he’s truly a man caught between unpalatable alternatives, and I suspect the coming episodes will sorely test whether or not there’s a core of strength and decency in him.
The most obvious development in this episode concerning Ginoza is confirmation of something that many of us have suspected for weeks – that Masaoka is in fact Ginoza’s father. There have been ample hints, but now we have at last an acknowledgement of the fact – and it colors both everything that has happened with Gino up to now and what might happen in the last nine episodes. This revelation comes courtesy of another – that Gino’s crime coefficient is on the rise, to the point where the agency is concerned for his future. The police shrink recommends that he speak with his father – “the only one still alive” from his family – but I suspect if he’d done his homework he might have rethought that advice as it relates to Gino managing his stress. To say that he’s carrying a lot of bitterness is an understatement – he blames his father for seemingly everything that’s wrong in his life, including the death of his mother.
There’s some suggestion that Gino’s rising crime coefficient has been a long-term issue, but there’s no doubt he’s under particular stress at the moment as a result of his conversation with the Commissioner. There, he’s been told that Kouzaburou Touma was in fact arrested – and possibly executed – in secret two years earlier. This feels like such a betrayal that even Ginoza is momentarily indignant, but the Commissioner goes on to lecture him as to the glories of the Sibyl system, stating quite memorably that “It’s not important if the system is perfect – it’s important that the people believe it is.” Sibyl is a system built on lies, so this might seem like just another on the pile – but it’s a pretty big one. Not only does she tell Gino all this, but also that Kouzaburou was “asymptomatic” – his crime coefficient never rosé no matter what atrocities he committed, and that roughly 1 in 2 million people share this trait. In order the preserve the illusion it’s necessary to cover up the holes (the ones that have been found and acknowledged, anyway) in Sibyl’s net, so that the people’s belief in the system that has brought “unparalleled peace and happiness to the world can be protected. Gino is now in on the secret, and its incumbent on him to lie about it too – including to the men and women on his team who risk their lives every day executing Sibyl’s wishes.
There’s a definite contrast being drawn here between Ginoza, who with this development is seeing the accelerated breakdown of his stability along with his faith in the system that governs his life, and Akane. She, as Kougami states, is “already a full-fledged detective”. She risks her crime coefficient by undergoing a “memory scoop” – a traumatic process whereby the image she has of Makashima is extracted from his mind. Of course she’s the only living witness who knows what Makashima looks like, but the procedure requires that she relive the moment when Makashima slit Yuki’s throat as she stood by, unable to act. Yet in spite of this her crime coefficient recovers almost immediately – a marked contrast to Gino’s own growing existential crisis. There’s no question that Akane is a brave young woman, and that there’s something very different about her psyche. Different, but perhaps not unique – as the links between she and people like Makashima and Kouzaburou may be more direct that we might think.
All this comes together in the excellent scene where Gino calls Masaoka for a one-to-one talk, where the truth of their relationship is formally acknowledged, though it’s already quite obvious by this time. Gino asks Masaoka how it is that Akane can maintain such a clear hue through such intense trauma, and the older man can only reply that she has a total faith in the sheer rightness of being a detective. A faith he once shared (an admission that brings a fond smile from his son) but “One day I was suddenly given a gun that speaks. And I was told that from then on I just had to shoot people when it told me to.” This shook his core belief in his life’s work and apparently started his downward spiral – as Gino says, “You deserted Sibyl and Sibyl deserted you.” The level of resentment on Gino’s part is truly profound. He resents his father for questioning Sibyl, and for remaining a detective and bringing great travail upon his family rather than simply quitting. He resents Akane for being stronger than he is. And he resents himself for feeling the same self-doubts his father feels, no matter how he tries to deny them. All Masaoka can do is caution his son that when those feelings start, he’d better be damn careful – but one suspects that Gino has already gone too far down that road to return unscathed.
The relationship between Masaoka and Gino is complex indeed, and from the beginning I’ve sensed in Masaoka the most compelling personal story of anyone in the cast. He’s a living bridge to a lost era, a ghost – and a daily reminder to his son of everything that he’s lost in his life. As for the main plot, we have one more revelation that’s sneaked in at the very end of the episode, one shrouded in mystery. The Commissioner seems to be linked directly to Sibyl somehow, and she seems to know more of Makashima than she’s let on – at least, that’s the strong implication in her referring to him as “Shougo-kun”. There are definitely characters to root for and identify with in Psycho-Pass – Kougami, Akane and Masaoka at the very least – but I’m more convinced than ever that even if there are good people, there is no “right side”. Makashima is a psychopath, but he might be the greatest threat to expose Sibyl for the monumental fraud that it is – and that doesn’t seem like an entirely bad thing to me. If Gen’s history as a writer tells us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t be an “everybody wins” solution to all this – if anything it would be a surprise if we get an “anybody wins” one.