Psycho-Pass – 20

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Psycho-Pass is nothing if not a study in contradiction.

I keep hoping that this series will somehow transcend itself and find a kind of profundity in its character development before the end, though admittedly that seems extremely unlikely for many reasons.  Of course character development isn’t really the maint point of Psycho-Pass, but characters are what draw us into a show, so it’s hard not to have a reaction that stems primarily from that aspect.

Predictability is an interesting element of this series, both inside the story itself and in looking at it as an external observer.  Pretty much everything that happens on the character level has been predictable and continues to be, because apart from Makishima and arguably Masaoka (who really isn’t important enough to the overall plot to matter) these are all classic Gen takes on archetypes rather than actual characters.  Kougami’s savant-like ability to be ahead of the story is fairly silly, and Akane’s tortured laborings have repeated themselves in every arc, with only the details changed.  It’s not much to build a conclusion around, yet the fact that this is Gen does add an intriguing unpredictability to the ending.  In that sense P-P is more like Madoka Magica than Fate/Zero in that Gen has nothing restricting him on where characters and events land – he can take them wherever he sees fit.  I would give him a mixed grade on how he acted on that opportunity with Madoka – we’ll see how he does with Psycho-Pass.

Predictability is a fundamental aspect of what the Sibyl system provides, and it’s through Akane that we’ve seen that illustrated most often.  In one sense the entire argument could be framed as a question of predictability vs. uncertainty, presented in very basic form in the comparative nature of Akane’s opportunities in life vs. those of her friends.  Flashing back to her conversation with Kagari was a good choice here, as his blunt rejection of her self-pity over actually having to make a choice about her life is a reminder of just what’s at stake in her response to what Sibyl has shown her.  Akane’s role has always seemed destined to be that of the bridge between two extremes – Makishima’s opacity sanitized for our protection.  She’s the one who can take Sibyl down from the inside, if she so chooses, and it makes little sense to me that Sibyl would gamble its future on her unwillingness to blow the lid of its secrets.

Of course, this being Gen, we can’t discount the possibility that she might end up doing exactly what Sibyl wants, and she certainly has shown real trouble making decisions when the chips were down.  This pattern too has repeated itself over and over – Akane hesitating at the moment of crisis, torn between the two (or more) contradictory possibilities open before her.  Using her cooperation as a bargaining trip for Kougami’s life is a classic Akane response – trying to have it both ways, and avoid having to irrevocably commit herself to a position.  It’s interesting that in her mind’s eye she says she can “understand how Makishima feels now, at least a little” – interesting, but not too surprising.  It’s yet another of Psycho-Pass’ contradictions, and how Akane deals with it will ultimately tell the tale of how this series concludes.

In looking at Makishima’s character, I’m reminded of the 1964 presidential campaign in the United States.  The Republican Barry Goldwater ran an ad saying “In your heart, you know he’s right”.  As a response, the campaign of President Lyndon B. Johnson ran one about Goldwater stating “In your guts you know he’s nuts”.  Setting aside the politics of the thing, it captures the way Makishima is such a provocative character.  He’s easily the most interesting thing about this series – I’m fascinated at the way he makes me doubt myself.  Makishima continually does the wrong things for the right reasons, and while intellectually I detest his methods and the self-justification he provides I invariably, time after time, find myself rooting for him.  There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the world of Psycho-Pass would be better off without Sibyl, no matter what tortured arguments it makes for its own worth.  Sibyl has created a world of cowards, people like Gino (and far worse) with no ability to think for themselves and to fight for a cause.  Makishima has the courage of his convictions, no matter how twisted they may sometimes be – he has firmly held beliefs, thinks large, and is constantly acting to try and change the world in the way he thinks it needs to be changed.  All those things coule be said about most fascist dictators and terrorist masterminds too, of course, and that’s the dilemma of Makishima – that and the fact that unlike a Hitler or bin Laden, Makishima’s world might just be a better place than the one that exists in this mythology, even if the tactics he uses to achieve it are vile and repulsive.

Gen may have bitten off more than he can chew here, as he’s often better at creating an aura of intellectual debate than at actually offering anything of real interest in resolving it.  The legacy of Psycho-Pass – for more than most anime, I think – is going to rest on the ending.  Will it be conventional – Makishima dies, Akane saves Kou, ends up trying to change Sibyl from within?  Or predictable, with Akane going into full Terminator mode and taking down Sibyl herself?  Or will Gen detour from formula and give us something truly radical – Makishima winning the day, perhaps, with a no-holds-barred depiction of the ugliness that would be unleashed if Sibyl were to be toppled unceremoniously?  I won’t deny I’m curious to find out.

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  1. K

    I can see Akane somehow integrating herself within Sibyll, and then, quite literally, changing it from within by manifesting her will to create a "new" Sibyll.

    Something along the lines of Madoka and her becoming the goddess of the universe kind of thing.

    It suits Akane in that she is in the middle of the two extremes, thus making her an ideal candidate. Plus, the shock element to it is befitting of Urobochi's style.

  2. And that, in itself, would make it a somewhat predictable outcome.

    I would be pretty disappointed by that ending, as I'm tired of Akane trying to have it both ways. She needs to be forced to make a hard choice.

  3. s

    I would agree that psycho-pass' characterization hasnt been as good as it should have been (naturally, that seems to be a problem gen has with all his screenplays) but when Akane finally decided to take matters into her own hands, implement all the advice Kogami has given here throughout the series, and made those deductions at the crime scene, all i could think was "20 eps of character build up finally paying off". Even though the characterization for this series has been weak, i feel that Akane's growth into a great detective was handled fairly well this episode.

  4. d

    The potential self-sacrifice of Akane is meaningless because the very world she inhabits is dead and mostly populated by automatons.

    Madoka, for all its flaws, had enough gravity and despair. Despite an ending which should have gone pretty much in different direction, you were willing to go with respite instead.

  5. C

    Makishima reminds me of Kevin Spacey's character in Se7en, John Doe. He does crazy things, but he's got a point. The same as Makishima.

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