Psycho-Pass – 01 & 02

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Not much time spent on these two…but that’s sure to change.

In Fall 2012, RABUJOI was only reviewing ten shows, but they included the first cours of Zetsuen no Tempest and From the New World, Kamisama Hajimemashita, and Chu2Koi. We were also watching relative duds like K, Jorumungand: Perfect Order, Btooom!, and Girls und Panzer. In hindsight, we would have traded any one of that latter group for Psycho-Pass, without any more hesitation than Kogami Shinya when his Dominator tells him to shoot.

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The boyish Akane’s default hangdog look reminds me of Soul Eater’s Crona.

But it’s never too late to pick up a good show, so that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’m watching the “Extended Edition”, which pairs the 22 original episodes into 11 hourish-long short films and adds in some new content…though its all new to me! After a cryptic prologue, we’re thrust right into the midst of rookie CID Inspector Tsunemori Akane’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad First Day.

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The elaborate yet dingy cyberpunk setting and the very strange futuristic society of this world is all unveiled organically as Akane’s first mission progresses. Blade Runner, Akira, and Minority Report are obvious inspirations for the city of gleaming skyscrapers and dark alleys where the police deliver justice to “latent criminals” who may not have committed any crimes, but are deemed psychologically certain of doing so at some point.

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Akane eventually lets her intuition override the logic of killing the hostage

The entity looking into everyone’s souls and determining the color of their Psycho-Pass is the mysterious “Cybil”, which I presume is some kind of supercomputer designed to try to facilitate the ordering of civilization into the peaceful and law-abiding, and those who aren’t. Some of those who aren’t are Akane’s underlings, called “enforcers”, often likened to hunting dogs who sniff out their ilk to be dealt with either by restraint or termination.

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Is that Neo-Tokyo out there?

As neat as Akane’s futuristic amenities look, all the “progress” in the world has come at steep cost: Cybil has given birth to a new form of prejudice and segregation fully supported by cold logic and science. It even has the air of a system designed to influence the course of human evolution: enough generations of weeding out the psychologically unstable, and you’re sure to become a more stable, perfect society, no?

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That’s the paradox of Psycho-Pass: for all the futuristic glitz on the top, there’s still plenty of rot and suffering below. Despite all the drastic measures taken, that perfect world remains a mirage on the horizon. Enter Akane, our window into this world for most of the hour: experiencing so much for the first time, as we are, totally unprepared for its cruelty despite finishing tops in her class.

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Akane, in fact, is an Inspector purely by choice, something few people in the world have. Many who don’t would say she squandered that choice by enlisting in Public Safety, but as she was the only one to get an A-rank in that discipline, she felt her calling beckon. She may bethe “greenest” character we meet, but despite her initial doubts, it’s clear she’s an immensely talented, capable young woman.

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Karanomori Shion’s relationship with another enforcer, Kunizuka Yayoi, is portrayed wordlessly

The result of her first mission is deemed a fuck-up by many, but she’s eventually redeemed. Turning her Dominator on her own enforcer Kogami Shinya, to save the life of a woman his Dominator was telling him to kill, turns out to be the right move, as her “criminal coefficient” was only temporary. It shows the knack she has for the job in spite of her self-doubt, but also makes you wonder how many “suspects” have been killed who ultimately didn’t deserve it, even by Cybil’s extreme standards.

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GAAAAAH

Akane’s second “case” isn’t nearly as intense, as she and grizzled enforcer Masaoka Tomomi don utterly ridiculous holo-suits as he sniffs out a less homicidal suspect. But while it isn’t as traumatizing (though Akane is regarded as a “mental beauty”), it does highlight to Akane her apparent uselessness in such cases, at least at her level of experience. Masaoka tells her that shes not completely useless, as enforcers like him aren’t allowed outside without being accompanied by an Inspector.

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That makes Akane sound like an idle chaperone—and she may be just that on several calls—but where her true value will show is in the tougher, messier cases, like that first one with the hostage. While enforcers like Kogami Shinya seek and destroy criminals like prey, she’s their to stay their hands when she deems it appropriate. She also seems determined to treat her enforcers less like hunting dogs and more like colleagues.

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So yeah, great start. Superb, in fact. Such an immersive, fucked-up world, but very cool. I reiterate my frustration with having never so much as glanced at an episode, since if I had I’d have surely reviewed it two years ago. But oh, well. Better late than never.

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Koimonogatari – 04

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Kaiki finds a note reading “Stay out of it” on the floor of his hotel room. He flushes it and calls Senjougahara, reporting on his encounter with Ononoki and Gaen’s warning. The conversation evolves to a discussion of whether anyone is aware of Senjougahara’s contact with him, then Senjougahara warns him about visiting Nadeko too much, lest he become “charmed” by her; he considers scaling back his visits. The next day he gives Nadeko an offering of ¥20,000, more string, and a bottle of Sake, which she accepts. When he leaves the shrine he encounters Hanekawa, who is back from overseas to exchange. They share a cab back to the city and meet in her hotel room to exchange information.

In case there was any doubt, this episode makes it abundantly, cymbol-crashingly clear: we’re dealing with noir here. He may not wear a hat or smoke a cig, but Kaiki is every bit the cynical, trench-coated, hardboiled private dick, while Senjougahara is the Damsel in Distress. The overarching mystery to be solved? How to keep her and Araragi alive. In this regard, Nadeko is the mob boss Senjougahara owes, big time, while Gaen represents the commissioner warning him to stop snooping around her town, while Ononoki being her beat cop liason. Finally we have Hanekawa: while she may not carry herself like a femme fatale, we know from her striped hair and troubled past that that’s kinda what she is.

What made this episode and the arc in general so enjoyable is that it pays homage to those historic, timeless archetypes while putting a decidedly Monogatari twist on them. Indeed, it’s twisting them into a cat’s cradle; something of a very precise pattern and structure; every movement fussed over. Kaiki’s call to Senjougahara is sumptuously decorated by the constantly changing colors on Kaiki’s phone, the undulating patterns on the floor and walls, and the dazzling city outside. Dotted with natural gas flares and sporting a giant LCD panel showing Senjougahara performing very familiar movements, things get very Los Angeles 2019…”Kaiki Deishu” even sounds kinda like an anagram of “Rick Deckard”. Will we get the abruptly happy ending the financiers pushed for here as well?

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Kaiki’s shower requires comfort with one’s own body, as it displays it for all to see, as rich people’s showers tend to do.
  • Not sure we’ve mentioned this before, but we love Kaiki’s notebook is full of chibi diagrams. The art style is identical to the Bakemonogatari next episode previews, the Fire Sisters’ first appearance.
  • Kaiki pulls a Catherine Tramell in Hanekawa’s room.
  • We never did find out what was in Nadeko’s closet, while this week we don’t figure out exactly what Hanekawa has to say.
  • A couple more references: Kaiki’s red sports car in the OP is very Magnum P.I., while Tokyo is lit much like Neo-Tokyo in Akira.
  • Another nod to black-and-white of film noir: Tsubasa’s B&W hair.

Mirai Nikki Redial – OVA

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Ridley Scott intended for his cyberpunk/future noir film Blade Runner to have an ambiguous, non cut-and-dry ending, but the original American theatrical release in 1982, the studio insisted on a cheesy voiceover by Harrison Ford at the end, essentially pulling a “perfect happy ending” out of nowhere. The 2007 Final Cut, which we were lucky enough to experience on the big screen, ditched that voiceover and restored the open ending.

Why are we bringing up Blade Runner’s alternate endings? Because for us, this Future Diary OVA was that voiceover ending: tacked-on, cheesy, and unnecessary. We didn’t have a powerful need for a happy ending; the original one was fine. We were fine with Yuno and all of the others involved in the game returning to their normal lives, and the ambiguity of Yuno kinda sorta remembering someone. We were fine with Yukiteru brooding in the void for millennia with only Murmur and his brain for company.

Okay, so maybe we’re being a bit harsh. It’s been over two years since Mirai Nikki wrapped, and for many it was probably a thrill to see all the characters alive and well simply enjoying regular life. There were probably quite a few who relished Yuno picking at the scab in her brain until she finally ended up in the position to get her memories fully restored, enabling her to find Yukkii and reunite with him. And that’s fine. We’re just saying it wasn’t really our thing.

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Rating: 4
 (Fair)

Stray Observation: The strange realm in which Yuno races to the Murmur holding her memories looks a bit like Orphan’s Cradle, the final dungeon in FFXIII…only less pretty.