Psycho-Pass – 03 & 04

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The first two episodes focused on Akane’s guilt from incapacitating Kogami. In these next two episodes, Kogami remains on her mind, but they’re not thoughts of remorse, but inner turmoil about how exactly to deal with him. Ever since entering this job she’s been torn between what feels right and what Cybil decrees to be right.

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As an inspector, it’s her duty to realize Cybil’s vision for a harmonious society, but her interactions with the enforcers and Kogami in particular, have her thinking about and questioning things she never has before. Ginoza takes a narrow view of enforcers, dismissing them as the “trash of society” no better than any of the latent criminals they help capture—right in front of them, too.

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Ginoza may hide behind Cybil, but it”s clear there’s something else going on. In both cases featured in these episodes, the enforcers arrive at conclusions for the crimes long before he does. He protests their theories as circumstantial evidence right up to the point they’re proven correct. He can still look down on them because they’re latent criminals, but that doesn’t make him feel any better: if these “pieces of trash” are better investigators than he’ll ever be, what does it say about him?

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Perhaps that’s why he calls Akane a fool for wanting to learn through experience (as opposed to the wise, who learn from history). Perhaps he’s already been down the road of trying to treat the enforcers as colleagues or equals. Kogami may seem to have the calm cool head of a seasoned detective while solving the case of the offline drone factory murders, but when those drones come after him, he turns into a vicious hunting dog, driven by one thing only: the desire to bring his prey down.

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That factory case, by the way, is another example of how frightening and fucked up this world is; a more twisted version of the way corporations micromanage their “human resources”. The factory records its workers’ psychological states continuously and deny them access to the net and outside world. The chief is willing to let one worker be the target of bullying if it keeps the psycho-passes of the rest clear. But that leads to the creation of a monster, whose psycho-pass “clears” after each murder,is treated as an unimportant blip in an otherwise productive and profitable operation. No need to rock the boat, in other words.

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Of course, when the likes of Akane and her enforcer buddies show up, boat-rocking is inevitable. But Masaoka warns Akane later that the only way to truly understand Kogami is to become him, which means discarding her squeaky-clean psycho-pass and life. If she doesn’t leave well enough alone, and simply accept Kogami will always be opaque to her, she could lose everything she’d worked to achieve up to that point. But since she’s questioning the infallibility of Cybil, perhaps the truth is starting to carry more value to her than the status quo, which is, to any observer outside the show, totally wrong.

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The fourth episode aims to enter a world within this messed up world; a virtual online world full of “CommuFields” where personalities don avatars and vie for popularity among the masses. It’s a world full of somewhat trippy but not always entirely compelling or successful imagery, even if the ideas behind them are pretty good. The virtual dreamscapes and whimsical inhabitants of this episode probably wouldn’t impress a Space Dandy fan like Zane, and I for one found a lot of it a bit silly, especially considering the serious overtones.

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The case, in which its deduced by Kogami and Masaoka that the culprits stole a personality’s online identity, while disposing of the body by chopping it into flushable pieces (GROSS) again highlights those two’s investigative chops (and Gino’s lack thereof). It’s also another amplified reflection of real-life culture, as a “real-world meetup” is staged for online members to hang out, only they do it in holo-cosplay to maintain their anonymity. When everyone’s holo-suit is hacked so they all resemble Talisman, it’s a neat trick by the crims.

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The bad guys end up bagging another avatar, “Spooky Boogie” (a name that sounds hilarious coming out of everyone’s mouths) and proceed to disintegrate her body as they maintain her online presence. As the episode ends before the case can be resolved, it’s not clear what this strange group is after, but something tells me the closer Akane gets to them, the more messed up she’s going to get if she doesn’t tread carefully.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 11

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Unlike SAOII, A/Z has no episodes to spare, and so really brought it this week, throwing us into the decisive battle. Even then, it had to cut things short right in the middle, just when things were getting interesting. But despite the fact it left a lot on the table, this episode excelled on its own merits, heightening the peril and tension for the finale.

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The win was truly strong with this one. You had Saazbaum launching the assault on UE HQ, half-destroying the hall where Asseylum made her televised address (which he had blocked), leading to the rather unexpected sight of Eddelrittuo at the wheel of a Humvee, speeding her highness to safety. I also didn’t expect Rayet to have a change of heart and cover them, but I liked the move.

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Inaho continues to suggest totally insane shit with a straight face and calm voice—and Yuki even calls him out for it!—but it doesn’t mean he’s wrong, and Asseylum agrees to be used tactically now that shes been proven ineffective as a means of securing any kind of political solution. Asseylum, who last week said she believes Inaho is kind, still understands that this isn’t the time to be kind.

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The multiple subterranean layers of UE HQ fall like dominoes before Saazbaum’s bunker-buster bombing, and it isn’t long at all before enemy assets are inside messing up the place. As this is pretty much the Terrans’ last stand, the time for half-measures and retreat is over: either Saazbaum will fall, or they will. Saazy himself takes out the Deucelion, but Magbaredge manages to ram it into the castle, enabling access. They’re down, but far from out.

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Sword Art Online II – 11

Sinon's Ass, From Four Different Angles
Sinon’s Ass, From Four Different Angles

Those of you looking for some SAO action this week were surely disappointed, as literally absolutely nothing happened this week. Kirito tells Sinon about his past and his mission and they formulate a new plan, while Asuna gets Kikuoka to spill the beans about Kirito’s whereabouts. But it’s all just talking, and most of it is while Sinon is in a needlessly compromising position. There are also enough shots of her ass to make a decent drinking game.

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Still, I can appreciate the need to have a calm-before-the-storm episode before the mid-season climax, and what is said in Kirito and Sinon’s episode-long discussion is at least interesting to me most of the time, even if the episode on the whole isn’t. For one thing, Kirito realizes that Death Gun can’t actually kill people with a virtual bullet: that’s magic. It’s far more likely there’s a second Death Gun—his accomplice—in the real world, preying on players who live alone and have crappy locks on their doors.

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Sinon is Death Gun’s latest target, and the real-world one is indeed in there, even administering a shot that raises her heart rate, though somehow Kirito is able to calm her down and keep her from logging out, which would have meant certain death. Still, the Death Guns seem to be following a certain code, which means the real world one won’t kill her unless virtual Death Gun shoots her. For that reason, Sinon needs to stay out of Death Gun’s sights, which won’t be easy as he can become transparent.

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The plan is pure simplicity: Kirito will serve as a decoy and draw Death Gun out, and Sinon will snipe him from afar. Easier said than done. Other highlights of their talk was Sinon learning Kirito hasn’t learned how to deal with the lives he took while in SAO, any more than she’s learned how to deal with those she killed in the real world. All he can tell her is that to “keep thinking” about it—at acknowledge that it was done—is the minimum amount of atonement.

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Both of them have yet to learn that atonement need not consist of them hating themselves for the rest of their lives. I can’t say I was enamored of the overdone Sinon fanervice this week, but I like the fact that the responsibility for taking out Death Gun will fall to her, as well as the fact Asuna may yet involve herself in this situation out of love for Kirito. The mission he told Kikuoka he’d carry out may be important, but isn’t worth his life, and Asuna seems poised to see his life isn’t lost needlessly.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 11

That guy with the light stick is one of the lucky ones
That guy with the light stick is one of the lucky ones

As the CCG, a thousand strong, stages a massive raid of Aogiri Tree, who number around half that, Anteiku wisely decides to use the ensuing chaos as cover for their rescue mission. Rather than dump us right into the middle of the biggest battle TG has attempted yet, we get a little bit of the waiting time that precedes it, followed by a pretty impressive (and somewhat terrifying) display of police force.

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Things start out pretty orderly, with lines of CCG and Aogiri exchanging gunfire and hiding behind shields. But the battle keeps from getting stale or boring by keeping things moving and jumping from one matchup to another. Juzo proves his worth and viciousness by eliminating An Aogiri sniper’s nest single-handedly, sacrificing his boss Harude’s prized motorcycle (whom he regards as “the perfect partner” in the omake) in the process.

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Okay, Suzu is nuts and his stitches are a bit gross, but he’s also pretty bad-ass

One notable face-off is between Touka and Amon, who is still so torn up over Mado that his thirst for revenge, along with the extreme present conditions outweighs whatever desire to reconcile with ghouls Ken might’ve instilled in him. He wants Touka dead. Fortunately for her, the S-rated Bin Brothers interrupt the fight, allowing her to escape. Using Kura, the two-handed quinque Mado left him, he dispatches the Bins, but there’s still a lot of bad guys left to slay, so there’s no time for congratulations.

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Doesn’t anyone want my giant satay stick?

Other matchups include Yomo and provisional ally Shuu teaming up against an Aogiri elite, Touka bumping into her brother Ayato yet again, and the climactic meeting of Harude’s right-hand man with the legendary “One-Eyed Owl”, which is shy of the camera but resembles a huge, horrific beast. Harude orders his man to fight the Owl with as few men as possible; no point in too much needless death…right?

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One takeaway from the battle is that the humans could have possibly taken the ghouls by being “wily”, as Mado told Amon when they were first paired up. But Harude isn’t particularly wily; he assumed having double the numbers and rushing in at full power would be enough to deal with Aogiri. Something tells me they rushed in too fast and too recklessly, and while they’ve taken out scores of foot soldier-level ghouls, most of the far more powerful higher-ups remain extant. But if Harude wanted to bomb the mall into the stone age, he could have. But he wanted a true battle, and he gets one.

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For the entire episode, Ken is tied to a chair in a large domed hall in the heart of the mall, and Yamori/Jason is using him as a plaything, subjecting him to the same sickening, brutal torture methods he himself underwent as a prisoner of the humans. It would seem that experience made him stronger and crazier. Ken seems to be getting broken pretty badly both physically and mentally himself, but Banjo and his underlings assure him he’ll be rescued. I’m sure he will be, but the Ken Anteiku will end up won’t be quite the same Ken that was taken from him.

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