There were two pretty big strikes against this episode of Psycho-Pass. First, the animation quality was absolutely horrendous. And second, it featured no Makishima whatsoever. Yet, in spite of that, I liked it a lot. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that content-wise, it’s the first episode in the last month that felt like the series was totally back in its sweet spot. The last few eps have certainly been flashier, but the characters (apart from Makishima) were pretty much pigeonholed into accessories to the plot – a problem that has plagued the series quite a bit. With this episode we got some of the most interesting and complex character dynamics we’ve seen in the entire run.
As for that quality issue, well, there’s no denying that there were parts of the ep that looked absolutely terrible. I’d actually been blissfully unaware of it until after my viewing of the ep, but there was quite the controversy this week – the director apologized in advance for showing an “unfinished” episode, and for the generally poor quality. In a way I’m glad my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, because disappearing and reappearing wardrobe, absent dominator effects and the ghastly art and animation for the dialogue scene between Kougami and Masaoka had me wondering if I was watching the wrong show. What happened? Who knows, really – most likely the ep simply wasn’t finished at deadline, though I suppose budget problems can’t be ruled out. It’s that much more incentive for folks to buy the Blu-rays, I suppose.
It’s a shame, too, because the ep was really good – focusing like a laser beam on the character conflict that’s been overshadowed by the fireworks the last few weeks. There were many very fine moments, but perhaps my favorite was the conversation between Nobuchika and his father. In effect, these are two men in over their heads – we certainly see that Masaoka isn’t really comfortable with the notion of being a father at this point. It’s even more telling for Gino, who’s basically a man who’s too small for the events enveloping him, plain and simple. Seen through that lens it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for him, though he’s far from admirable. Masaoka’s advice to his son might not have been so bad, really, because it was an acknowledgement of the fact that Gino isn’t capable of the kind of vision and sheer guts it would take to extract lemonade from the lemons he’s been given.
It could hardly be more obvious that Kougami is much more of a son to Masaoka than Gino is (he even calls Masaoka “Pops”), as witness the older man’s gift to the younger in the end. At least Gino has the courage to finally admit to his father that he needs Kougami because he lacks the detective instinct the Enforcer has – but that doesn’t make it any less painful to see that Kougami is so much more the apple of Masaoka’s eye. After the miraculously rebuilt Chief orders Kougami taken off the battle lines altogether, Gino’s attempt to finally exert a little free will goes disastrously wrong. It’s a sad moment, really – Gino was finally trying to do the right thing and it blew up in his face.
No question this is a pretty tense moment, starting with the question of just what Gino would do when confronted. It can certainly be inferred that Sibyl is feeling pretty desperate about things if it was willing to show its hand so openly by having the Chief override Gino’s dominator. We can only speculate what might have happened in that moment had Akane not intervened by using paralyzer mode on Kougami before Gino could act one way or the other, but there seems to be a sort of intentional irony to the fact that Akane was able to pull the trigger under pressure this time – as well as the full-circle route this covers, given that she also shot Kougami with paralyzer way back in the premiere.
Where things go from here is an interesting question. Kougami going rogue was probably always destined to happen, in hindsight, and the dynamic now finds he and Makishima both acting as free agents, and both posing tremendous danger to Sibyl (which clearly still wants Makishima as part of its gestalt consciousness). The difference of course is that Makishima doesn’t see Kougami as the enemy, and Kougami seems obsessed with making up for what he sees as his past mistake by killing Makishima once and for all. It’s at least possible that Akane and Kougami will end up in direct opposition to each other, though I think it’s more likely they’ll end up communicating in his exile (possibly through Masaoka). Ultimately a lot of what happens from here is going to depend on what Makishima does with the information he has at his disposal – information which could seemingly, if made public, bring down the Sibyl system (which, after all, has been his stated goal all along).