PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie

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I am a professed fan of PSYCHO-PASS, but was among those who thought the 2014 sequel couldn’t quite match the greatness of the 2012 original (You can read my reviews of PSYCHO-PASS and PSYCHO-PASS 2 by following the preceding links). I’ve also always had a soft spot for Tsunemori Akane, the ever-conflicted super badass detective and one of seiyu Hanazawa Kana’s most compelling roles.

This 2015 movie (which will have a limited theatrical release in the U.S. later this month) is Akane’s biggest stage to date. Rather than focus on another Japan-based mastermind, the franchise turns its gaze outward to the mainland: the Southeast Union or SEAUn, where the Sybil System has been transplanted on an island utopia called Shamballa Float.

Akane heads there because after armed terrorists from the union launch a failed assault on Tokyo (the film’s action-packed beginning), she learns that they may have been sent by none other than her former enforcer, friend, and romantic interest, Kogami Shinya. Their reunion in a foreign land forms the character crux of the film.

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When Akane arrives at SEAUn and gets a tour of the place outside Shamballa, it’s both her and our first look at the world outside Japan where Sybil doesn’t yet hold full sway. It’s seething with unrest and violence, much of it being meted out by a military police force that rules with an iron fist.

We are forced along with Akane to weigh the pros and cons of Japan and SEAUn as they relate to the implementation of Sybil technology, which is still in its harsh “teething stage” in the latter nation. There’s even more overt segregation, with latent criminals wearing neckbands that will sedate or poison them if their hues cloud too much.

The movie does a good job quickly rendering a very oppresive and unpleasant place where I definitely would never want to live.

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Fueled by her intention to find Kogami and get to the truth of matters ASAP, Akane rides along on a military operation led by Colonel Nicolas Wong, who is also her escort and the first official she met in SEAUn. While initially friendly and accommodating, he has a big problem with Akane running off on her own, to the point he suspects she’s joining the terrorists.

Kogami is pretty surprised to see Akane, considering a war zone is no place for a metropolitan detective and they haven’t seen each other in years, but they don’t have time to reminisce and escape the combat area to Kogami’s base camp.

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Kogami, who calls Akane “Inspector” for old time’s sake, explains himself simply by saying he’s part of SEAUn’s democratization movement. SEAUn’s military dictator Chairman Han may have a bunch of Sybil toys, but he can’t believe the fight is hopeless.

Kogami brings Akane to his movement’s headquarters, where he’s revered almost like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, only without the insanity and disease (though the exotic Angkor Wat-esque buildings definitely look the part). Akane can respect what he’s trying to do, and certainly understands Kogami’s power to draw people into his orbit with his natural charisma (a part of her still likes the guy), she still asks him to turn himself in, a request he declines.

To Akane’s releif, Kogami didn’t send terrorists to Japan. Rather, they were extremist comrades of his who broke off from his movement to do their own thing. But the fact that group got to Japan and were able to get as far as they did in their assault tells both Akane and Kogami that they must’ve had official support on the downlow.

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In the meantime, Kogami impresses upon Akane the importance of getting back to Shamballa Float before she ends up tangled up in more unpleasantness. Her reluctance to leave is overridden when a band of ultra-elite mercenaries with cybernetic prostheses hired by Wong attacks the headquarters. It’s all Kogami can do to get Akane out of there safely, and while he puts up a rather implausible fight, he’s eventually taken prisoner, and later beaten for information.

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Akane is arrested upon her return to Shamballa, and Wong lobbies for her immediate, but Han steps in and allows her to stay, albeit under closer observation. That gives Akane a chance to use some pillbugs Shion gave her to infiltrate Shamballa’s Sybil System, gather data, and even release her attendant Yeo from her latent criminal collar.

However, by the time Shion discovers that military officers like Wong were illegally bypassing cymatic scans that would cloud their hues to a tremendous extent, Wong has Yeo drug Akane’s drink in exchange for the promise of having her little brother’s collar removed. Wong welshes on the deal and shoots Yeo in the head, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s an evil opportunistic bastard.

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When the mercs deliver Kogami to Wong, he arranges for him and Akane to be shot and cover up their deaths in an abortive helicopter escape attempt. I must say, I really didn’t see how Akane and Kogami were going to get out of this one, even if I knew they were.

Ultimately, the choice of killing them out in the open on rooftop rather than a location Wong could fully control proved his undoing, as Akane and Kogami are saved by the cavalry in the form of the Bureau of Public Safety, who kill Wong and either lethally eliminate or take into custody his men.

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All of the mercs save their leader are killed in the attack, and Kogami goes after him, while after having metaphorical cold water splashed on her head by Mika, Akane confronts “Chairman Han”, who is really a cybernetic body double inhabited by the collective brains of Sybil System itself.

Akane has another one of her patented Big Picture Verbal Spars over law and the will of the people with Sybil, ultimately convincing it/them to make Han step down and open both leadership of SEAUn and the choice to implement Sybil up to the people, via democracy.

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Oh yeah, meanwhile, Kogami has an intense but ultimately pointless final battle with the merc leader, who is only still alive so Kogami has someone strong to fight and Gino has to rescue him. After taking care of the merc, Gino lets Kogami go, making him promise not to burden Akane anymore, and also gets a good punch in.

Akane’s mainland adventure thus wrapped up (shame she didn’t get to say a long and decent goodbye to Kogami), she and the other bureau members leave Shamballa and SEAUn in the hands of the new, more populist regime. And there you have it: Inspector Tsunemori Akane was singularly instrumental in changing the course of an entire nation, hopefully for the better.

I watched this because I’m not sure I’d be able to make the theatrical release, and feared it would be dubbed in English. Turns out, more than a quarter of the dialogue is in horrible English anyway (as attempted by the Japanese seiyus) which was extremely irritating. But aside from that, this was a sufficiently fun, exciting flick that moved briskly and gave us some welcome quality time with Akane-san.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 11 (Fin)

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I appreciated that the last episode of Psycho-Pass, possibly ever, featured more Akane kicking ass and taking names – in a metaphorical sense, and less over-the-top than some previous episodes where she was a bit too Bruce Willis-y. Here, she uses her clear coefficient as an effective shield in the face-off with both Togane Sakuya and Kamui, arresting the former and accompanying the latter to Sybil’s core.

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Still, a number of troubling adjectives surfaced while watching this episode; adjectives like ‘neat’, ‘tidy’, ‘convenient’…even ‘hasty’. Nothing you particularly want in an episode of Psycho-Pass…especially a finale. And yet it was probably inevitable, with a ton of material set up and just eleven episodes to resolve it.

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Of course, one could spin those adjectives to something more positive: this was a breathless, efficient finale; not a minute was spared, and no one can say it didn’t Get Things Done. Not too far into the episode, Chief Kasei is lethally eliminated by a Dominator, something that would be utterly unthinkable in the show’s first season.

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Yes, there’s a rather convenient subterranean shortcut from the subway lines where Akane and Kamui were to the bowels of the MWPSB HQ where Sybil lives. But who cares? This is where they were going to end up one way or another. And when Kamui points his Dominator at Sybil itself, Sybil basically surrenders, eliminating a good deal of the brains that make it up in order to clear its coefficient. This is odd, considering I thought they were criminally asymptomatic, but I guess conditions changed that.

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This is very much an Akane/Kamui episode. There’s a fair amount of Togane in it, but after he’s unable to turn Akane black, he kinda just makes ridiculous faces, which makes me wonder why he was such a big deal in the first place. Clearly he didn’t know who he was messing with. And then there’s Mika, who listened to him and obeyed him…she’s not feeling to great about that now, even if she has no love for Akane.

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After Sybil made immediate changes to its composition, Akane has designs to arrest Kamui, but Togane crashes the party to make one last attempt to ‘darken’ Akane, rubbing in the fact that he killed Akane’s frail grandmother. For a second there I thought Akane’s coefficient was going to rise to enforcable levels, but Kamui is there to calm her, and even if he wasn’t, Akane has a firm enough grasp of the law, justice, and society to overcome any personal demons. She’s just awesome that way.

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Togane shoots Kamui (though we don’t see him explode) and vice-versa, with Akane in the middle. A wounded Togane creeps away and eventually bleeds out, with Mika standing over him. All of a sudden, we’re fresh out of bad guys. All the threats kinda just flew by without that much of a struggle.

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When Akane meets up with Ginoza and her other colleagues there’s another moment when we’re not sure if she’s in trouble or not, but her coefficient remains as clear as ever, and Sybil saw fit to reinstate her just a short time after Sakuya’s mom rescinded her inspector status. Another Kasei cyborg replaces the old one, and warns Akane that they’re on a dangerous new road. Akane assures her – them – that even if that road leads to hell, she’ll walk it with them regardless.

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So it’s Akane’s victory: she neutralized Kamui, but also used him to make Sybil evolve. A ‘collective’ psycho-pass is something the system will now consider for implementation henceforth. Existential threats to society have been averted. And Inspector Tsunemori Akane will continue to not-smoke cigarettes and live a happy and virtuous live as one of the people who protect society, rather than the other way ’round.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 10

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On this exciting episode of Rail Wars! Psycho-Pass 2, Kamui ‘gets to work’ on his largest operation yet: diverting several subway trains into an isolated area, giving him hundred of trapped, scared hostages whose psycho-passes he knows will rise due to the stress of the situation. He’s counting on it.

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He has no particular plan to ‘save’ this particular group of five hundred-odd passengers: they are merely a collective tool for him to get closer to Sybil, by overloading the system with a huge amount of Dominator discharges, and thus PP data, exposing a lower-security backup network which his team will hack to locate Sybil’s physical location.

Pretty intricate plan, but let’s not forget, he himself is a collective being, which explains why he’s okay with all the sacrifices. Well, that, and the fact that until the world is freed from Sybil, all of the people under her control are legitimate targets.

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Aoi and Naoto aren’t in this show to help out with the train, so it’s up to Akane to Do Something. Only Chief Kasei has placed her on standby in the wake of her grandma’s kidnapping. Togane, just barely keeping up his charade (or at least thinking he is), gets in her way, but doesn’t block her entirely.

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Togane lets her visit Kasei, who is really his mom. The Chief suggests Akane slake her restlessness by being a good little inspector and kill Kamui. Doing so would get rid of Sybil’s increasingly serious problem, and also would turn Akane into a criminal, at which point Sybil can finally judge her too.

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Interesting how Sybil doesn’t particularly care how Kamui is killed, but very much wants to go by the book where Akane is concerned. Kasei tries to ‘motivate’ Akane by reporting the sad news that her grandma was found beaten to death.

Learning of this certainly shakes Akane to the core, who starts screaming in the thankfully empty office. But after a quick chat with the Kogami in her head (?) she takes a deep breath and springs back into action. She’ll deal with the Kamui threat…her way.

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Akane and Kasei get into a meaty little philosophical debate that was once the norm of this show, during which Akane applies the Omnipotence Paradox to both Kamui and Sybil. Both entities are collective in nature and thus neither can judge the other without being judged itself. But Akane tells Sybil (not just Togane’s mom) that this is a perfect opportunity for it to ‘evolve’ beyond its flawed operation and false facade of perfection.

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Akane makes arguments Sybil can only refute by basically saying stuff on the level of “shut up, you don’t know us!”, but that’s not too surprising since A., it’s Togane’s mom and not all of Sybil addressing her in this instance, and B., Akane is one smart cookie. She drives really slow, though. 70 kph? C’mon, this is the FUTURE, not to mention an emergency operation…put your penny loafer down.

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Akane is so bright, that she basically does all the same work and thinking off-camera that we watched Mika do on-camera, only Akane does it properly and doesn’t settle on the conclusion that Kamui seeks revenge against the Togane Foundation. That’s right: Freckles’ research not only doomed her to spend the rest of her existence looking over her shoulder…it wasn’t even such great police work after all, at least not compared to what we’re used to from A-chan.

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Division 3 fails to carry out the Chief’s orders to blow up the trains Kamui and his people are on (killing the hostages in the process) because they acquired the bombs outside the law, giving them criminal coefficients and allowing Shisui to pick them off from above. Then Kamui releases the hostages, and Akane goes after him, but is blocked by Togane, whom she’s suspected all along. You can’t get one over on ol’ Akane, Son. Well, young Akane…

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And because this is such a popular underground junction, Kamui ends up crossing paths with the two. Here’s one guy trying to expose and destroy Sybil, another whose mom is part of Sybil trying to paint Akane black. Akane always finds herself caught between two very strange men, isn’t she? Well, that may be just one, if Kamui is successful in killing Togane. We only hear the trigger being pulled, so that’s hardly a certainty. In any case, it would certainly be meh ending for Togane.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 09

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So, while it looks like Mika was S.O.L. last week, it turns out the world’s worst mother-son pair isn’t done with her. Kasei (actually Mrs. Togane) tells her the whole truth about Sybil being composed of the criminally asymptomatic, and Mika responds with applause, whether out of genuine admiration and approval or straight up primal fear. 

To drive point home that the Toganes aren’t the most savory sort, we’re treated to a flashback in which Sakuya’s mother provides him with puppies to slaughter.

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I’m sure many of you were waiting patiently for the proof that Akane isn’t actually a boy, and this week the show gives us a rare glimpse at her bod. Not sure why, as the closest she’s ever come to being portrayed as anything resembling a sexual being was when Shion hugged her once, but I often find it easier to think things through after a nice shower, and Akane definitely has things to think through.

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As she does, Dr. Masuzaki is killed, by a Dominator, while in custody. Mika suspects Sakuya had something to do with it, but is being forced to bear many a secret, including the fact that she’s now in league with people who are working to turn Akane’s hue black. Not that there’s anything she can do about it; she was never one to put her life before others, and she fell into their clutches fair and square. Every day she’s not dead is a victory for her.

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This week was also a return to the Psycho-Pass tradition of digging up the most effed-up scum of the earth who have way too much time and money on their hands, and are involved in some kind of bizarre ring involving humans, holos, and zoo animals.

Kamui is at this dinner, along with his host Kuwashima Koichi, a former classmate who transferred just before the plane crash who was later saved from latent criminality by Kamui. The whole night is really just an elaborate way of taking out trash that is no longer needed for their plans.

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Once that’s done, and an entire hall in Chiyoda goes up in flames, the MWPSB arrives right on queue, led by Akane. Kuwashima meets her there, as willingly as Masuzaki did, but he has a gift for her: the ear of her grandmother, the one person I suspected could raise her coefficient. Again, Mika knows Sakuya has something to do with it.

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Just as Mika dug up too much on Sybil to be left alone, so too has Akane with regards to Kamui. Kamui personally doesn’t seem to care one way or another, and actually wants her to “witness the judgment” that’s about to come. But the grandma thing sure makes it look like Kuwashima and Sakuya are in cahoots to mess with Akane, and I daresay they succeeded. Then again, I may be underestimating Akane’s grit.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 08

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We get a double-helping of investigations this week, as Mika conducts her own from the MoE archives while Professor Saiga gets the straight story abotu Kamui Kirito from Dr. Mazusaki. Mika and Saiga learn the same thing by different methods: Kamui wasn’t just the only survivor, but the subject of an unprecedented medical procedure that implanted parts of all 184 of the children who died in the plane crash — including seven of their brains — into Kamui, resulting in a Sybil-proof “compound person.” The Togane Foundation holds all the patents for that procedure.

This collection of body and brain parts is a fascinating concept, and very much akin to Sybil’s own collection of brains. Kamui isn’t just one person anymore, you see; and he’s far more than the sum of those parts.

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Mazusaki takes full opportunity of his wise audience of Saiga (and Akane) and doesn’t hesitate to spill the beans, including his personal reason for believing in and supporting Kamui, who is essentially a Frankenstein’s monster. The reason is, Kamui showed him the way to clear his psycho-pass and saved him from ruin. That, and Kamui isn’t just after revenge, but the total upheaval of society, starting with Sybil’s downfall.

In an interesting scene with Saiga, Togane remarks that Saiga is the opposite of Kamui, in that he darkens rather than clears psycho-passes, which he deems more than a skill, but a talent. Because that talent deprives Saiga of his freedom in a Sybil-controlled society, Togane imagines it must be less than ideal for Saiga to have to depend on someone with an unusually clear psycho-pass — Akane. Saiga turns it around on Togane, who registered the highest crime coefficient of all time, now an enforcer beholden to the MWPSB.

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Mika continues to tap away in her archive alcove, and the more dirt she finds, the more she worries about her own psycho-pass getting clouded (a highly prescient concern). Akane and Togane then get a scene together after a false alarm at her apartment, where Togane tells her she’s a born detective, with all the pros and cons that comes with. It’s a pretty tense scene even though we know Togane won’ do anything (yet), just because we know how obsessed he is.

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What’s truly enlightening about this episode, though, is Mika proving her salt as an investigator, after so many weeks of incompetence. She connects Togane’s mother to Kamui and comes up with the conclusion that Kamui is seeking revenge against the Togane Foundation.

Knowing Togane Sakuya’s history with turning inspectors into enforcers, she also concludes that Akane is his next “experiment” (perhaps his toughest nut to crack yet). His goal is to turn her black, meaning Togane is just like Saiga in being the opposite of Kamui…only Togane turns people black for sport; Saiga does it unintentionally.

She wraps up her report with a recommendation to dismiss or suspend Tsunemori Akane, on the grounds that Togane’s fixation on her, as well as her reckless actions (which have, by the way, cost lives) represent an existential threat to the MWPSB that must be dealt with.

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Little did Mika know hitting “send” wouldn’t be sealing Akane’s fate, but her own.

Kasei summons her and congratulates her on her report, but also regrets to report that Mika stepped in the wrong shit and was led right into a trap designed to stamp out anyone who digs too deep into Sybil’s secrets. Togane sidles up behind her with a gun and restrains her, and addresses the chief as “Mom”. That’s right: Kasei is Togane’s mom, whose body died, but whose brain became a part of Sybil.

The mother lets the son do what he wants with Mika, which for Sakuya means using her as a guinea pig for the future eventuality of revealing the truth about Sybil to the public. Obviously, this is the absolute last thing a perfect citizen like Mika wants, and while I’ve never sympathized with her more than this week, part of me also thought “Well, that’s what you get for trying to get Akane fired behind her back!”

Had Mika gone to Akane instead of Kasei, she wouldn’t be in this predicament. But instead Mika stayed true to her character and fell victim to resentment and vanity. I haven’t said this before, and I still think she’s a tool, but still: Poor Mika!

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 07

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Psycho-Pass 2 follows an uncharacteristically indulgent episode with one that sets aside the guns, drones, explosives, and boats and gets down to the less shouty and visceral but arguably more interesting police work that’s necessary to learn about, find, and catch Kamui Kirito.

After showing us Mika grudgingly cleaning up area stress mess her superior made for her, we delve briefly into Akane’s own mind, where she shoots the breeze with an echo of her mentor Kogami, who reminds her of the basics of detection: being confronted with something impossible either means wrong assumptions…or insanity.

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Both he and Togane bring up the same possibility: the answers are probably closer than they think. I see Akane continues to light cigarettes, but we have yet to see her puff, unlike Shion, who wonders if Saiga is being so calm because he’s found out a way to stop Kamui. But Matsuda said nothing, so he’s got nothing; as long as Sybil continues to deem Inspector Shisui’s psycho-pass as clear, she — and by extension Kamui — can do as they please.

Speaking of psycho-passes…we finally meet a family member of Akanes, her grandma Aoi, whose hospital Akane rushes to when there’s a report of a medical drone malfunction. Aoi is fine, but encourages her as Kogami did in her head earlier, though in a different way. Her granny tells it like it is, and the way it is is that Akane always puts others before herself and understands the value of life; every life — to the point of neglecting or jeopardizing her own.

It makes Akane a tremendous cop, but it wouldn’t normally be the formula for a happy life, or even a clear psycho-pass. But Akane doesn’t  mind living in a crime scene or not having a boyfriend or putting in the work that’s needed.

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Her main frustration in life is probably having to serve under a system as fundamentally corrupt and flawed as Sybil, simply because the alternative is probably worse; the cure is worse than the disease. In this, she’s diametrically opposed to Kamui, who’s willing to do whatever it takes and sacrifice as much life as is needed to bring Sybil down.

Which begs the question: What does Sybil make of all this? Akane confers with “Chief Kasei” to try to divine that. At this point in the case Akane is not in the mood for playing around; she flat out voices her suspicion Sybil is afraid to take action outside of normal operations, lest it reveal their weakness. Sybil is aware Kamui is unique, but because he’s not the kind of ‘unique’ that made, say, Mikishima an excellent candidate to join the Brain Trust.

When Akane tells her there’s no way to bring Kamui in By The Book, Kasei agrees, but she doesn’t want him brought in period. Sybil would prefer if Kamui quietly disappeared, and points out that Akane and Togane had the means to ‘deal with’ Kamui but refrained from doing so. But Akane isn’t killing anyone if she doesn’t have to. She promises Kasei she’ll arrest him lawfully and bring him to proper justice, not the shadowy, loose end-tying justice Kasei intimates.

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Speaking of Togane: As expected, Mika hasn’t shared her knowledge of his intense clandestine surveillance of Akane with anyone, and particularly not Akane, who remains a thorn in her bushy tail. Not that there’s no value in withholding knowledge and until she finds out more, but as she learns Togane was once an enforcer eighteen years ago, and every inspector he touched was declared a latent criminal and executed with Dominators, she may want to say something to someone soon.

Also,  Togane is totally on to her; both her unsettling of his quarters and the spilling of her drink suggests she may be a bit of a klutz.

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I mentioned the presence of nitty-gritty police work in this episode, and there’s plenty to be done. A lot of progress is made in the case, but that progress was unwittingly delayed by, yup, Mika, who simply sat on Hinakawa’s digital report on the pharmacist holo at the scene of Aoyanagi’s death. That holo was another aged-up version of a child who died on a plane crash fifteen years ago.

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Realizing how Hinakawa’s skills can aid in the case, Akane sets him to work aging up the 184 children (of the 201 passengers) who died on that flight. They also learn that the sole survivor of that plane crash was one Kamui Kirito. Boom.

After locating and inviting the doctor who treated Kamui to answer some questions, Akane tells Mika to look into Kamui’s treatment records to corroborate whatever the doc ends up giving them. Naturally, she pawns this work off on Hinakawa, who’s already got an all-nighter ahead of him.

But when Hinakawa hits a confidentiality wall and suggests it could be due to sensitive drug or medical tech patents, Mika recalls the name of one of the leading organizations in that field: the Togane Foundation. Uh-oh.

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The one tasked with talking with Dr. Masuzaki is Professor Saiga, which is, again, a wise choice on Akane’s part, because it affords us an always welcome Epic Old Guy Staredown, but Masuzaki is actually fine with telling Saiga everything, or at least something about Kamui. Heck, the Doc seems almost paternally proud of the kid.

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But just as Akane depends on the talents of Saiga and Hinakawa, Shion and Yayoi, Ginoza and Togane, and yes, even Mika (who’d be relegated making Starbucks runs if were her boss) in order to achieve her goal of bringing Kamui to justice, so too does Kamui rely on others to achieve his goal to bring Sybil down.

That’s made abundantly and shockingly clear, as is the earlier notion that “the answer is closer than we think”, as the aging up of the remaining 185 children reveals that dozens of holo-impostors of people Akane and the others know are already walking among them.

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Psycho-Pass – 08

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The perpetrator of the previous four “human sculptures” had a sick poetic irony about them, like the case of a corrupt politician who had his hippocampus literally shoved up his ass. The newest two pieces both showed up in a park. They’d be sure garner attention there, but the setting is boring and the message is weak. That tells the super-sleuth Kogami (who’s not supposed to be on this case but is anyway) the present perp is someone young, impressionable, and not particularly ravaged by life. He’s not bad, this guy.

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With the killer’s profile in mind, Kogami pays a visit to an art conneusser in a correctional facility where latent criminals wallow in cells but are at least allowed to live, and it doesn’t take long for the name Ouryou to be dropped. Ouryou the father, whose daughter attends the same school as the past two victims. Game Over, Rikako! Makishima all but called it when, in the art room, he questioned her decision to choose victims from her own school, and her response was…impractical, to say the least.

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Essentially, I was right that Rikako was never really thinking about what would happen if she got caught; she just wasn’t wired that way. Instead, for her subjects she drew from a school that she deemed nothing but a vapid Stepford Wife factory, and each girl she “liberated” from that hamster wheel of a life was a favor done to that girl, as far as she was concerned. She realized the world she lived in was fucked, but didn’t realize how easily her plans could fall apart.

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Actually, neither did Makishima, or me, for that matter. Kogami connects the dots and corners Rikako so quickly, it kinda takes her down a couple of notches. Even though I never pegged her for an evil mastermind, I underestimated how vulnerable her absolute devotion to her art made her, as she did. It all ends so quickly. Hearing her work being pilloried by Kogami also lessens her grandeur somewhat. I guess like all her peers at school, I was bewitched by her initially composed veneer.

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Rikako’s sudden but probably inevitable fall means the obviously very fickle Makishima becomes bored with her and shifts his enthusiasm over to Kogami, which is probably super-bad for Kogami, and Akane too. But I guess they’re really only in danger—and risk having him recite Shakespeare as he sics his horrifying robotic dogs on them—if they bore him.

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Psycho-Pass – 07

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Note: This is a review of the first half of the fourth “Extended Edition” episode; for all intents and purposes, the seventh episode of the original run.

Whoa…this show likes to talk! But when the stuff it chooses to talk about is so fascinating, who am I to complain? For most of the episode, we’re spending time either with Rikako or Makishima, chattering away like the awesome evil bastards they are. Their monologues are important keys into what makes them tick, as well as the stifling nature of society under the Cybil system. The likes of Makishima and the criminals whose crimes he facilitates is a direct product of Cybil.

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Why not, let’s toss some necrophilia in here.

Rikako would argue that the serenity Cybil provides is a pox upon the world; a false resolution to the fundamental human question. One must look no further than her own father’s plight: a “double death” of talent and soul by science, technology, and the society that embraced both. Cybil gradually eliminated most of the “bad stress” that led to pain, suffering, and despair, but also eliminated the “good stress” (eustress) that stimulates the immune system and serves as our “will to live”; without it, we become walking corpses and our organs eventually shut down.

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Makishima is enabling these, ahem, unique individuals in part because he believes humanity is fast regressing into a mass of walking corpses. As the other member of Makishima’s conversation remarks, mankind has gotten so good at taking care of itself, all the beneficial effects have come all the way around to become harmful and destructive; decreased life expectancy (not known to the public) is direct proof of it. Makishima’s chat reveals that Cybil has caused much more than segregation and subjugation among those of differing psychological make-ups – it is quite literally killing us all.

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As a member of a free society, I hate Cybil system. A certain arrogance can spawn from the belief of “knowing better” than most of humanity in Psycho-Pass, and it’s very unnerving that a lot of the problems with the world they live in, spewed by depraved villains such as Rikako and Makishima…actually makes a little sense. Still, there is a happy medium between total psychological sterilization and hedonistic chaos…or at least I hope there is. Wait…that’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Alright, enough talk…here’s Beethoven’s Ninth, brilliantly employed during these discussions.

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Poor girl was doomed the moment she decided to talk to Rikako…

Now let’s talk plot: Makishima is providing RIkako with the plasticizing liquid necessary for her sculpture. The cops have discovered two of her works, which combined with the four committed three years ago in the Specimen case, makes six total. The fact that the victims are from the same school give Gino, Akane & Co. a place to snoop around. It’s worth noting that Rikako, as “talented” as she is in her particular gruesome field, isn’t exactly a criminal genius, or she’d pick more random victims.

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She’s either confident of completing her father’s work before she’s caught, or getting caught isn’t even on her mind. Hey, she is staring into another dimension, after all! Finally, Gino takes Kogami off the case altogether, dismissing his cold case reports as “delusional”, and orders Akane to keep an eye on him. Of course, Akane obliges, but takes the opportunity to avail herself of Kogami’s insights, as well as apologize for prying into his past. That’s so Akane: the person closest to ourselves, here in the real world: keen to bridge the light and the dark.

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Psycho-Pass – 05 & 06

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Some of the characters in Psycho-Pass are so clever and perceptive it makes you wonder how a society with such minds allowed itself to come under the heel of something as stifling as Cybil system. After assuring Akane she doesn’t have to check the net for Rousseau’s teachings because they’re in his head, Masaoka gives her the basic rundown of human communication as a positive asset to human development: two hunters are better off working together to bring down bigger prey than going after smaller prey alone.

Yet even as an idea like this can be used to justify the massive networks of communication that have led to civilization growing and prospering as much as it has, that same devotion to increasing cooperation and efficiency has led to things like Cybil and criminal coefficients, and also assumes civilization is the only natural state of humanity, a point on which not all philosophers agree, for a certainty. With advances in communication come complications and unnecessary details Theoreau would have frowned upon.

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In the world of Psycho-Pass, happiness is no longer achieved through free will, but predetermined courses plotted through scientific evaluation. Yet Cybil, it its twisted way, upholds the ideals of enough of the citizenry to avoid rebellion. That “enough-ness” is sustained through the Psycho-Pass System, and thus the only people who seem truly happy or free are the frikkin’ murderers, whose puppet-master we haven’t even formally met. God, I love this show. You can prattle on about it for eons.

This third extended edition episode resolves the ghost avatar case with more solid detective work from Kogami, who determines from the differing vocab that Spooky Boogie’s original owner was also recently murdered, as was a third some time ago, by one Mido Masatake, the only fan of all three whose own avatar dropped off the map at the right time. He detonates a bomb at his last known whereabouts, then hacks the holo-environment of the hotel room where Akane, Kogami, and Masaoka come to nab him.

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That’s when the “luddite” Masaoka breaks out the booze and a lighter, setting off sprinklers to overcome the visual trickery. Kogami claims one of Mido’s arms with his Dominator, and from that point on it’s game over for him, as his “benefactor” turns his beloved avatars against him, and Ginoza, Kagari, and Kunizuka finish him off. While the avatar toilet murders are over in satisfying fashion, there’s still much more to this, something that’s picked up in the second half, the best episode of the show yet.

The two halves are bridged by Akane learning that Kogami was once an Inspector; Ginoza’s partner, no less, who was demoted when his criminal coefficient spiked following a case in which he got in too deep. Now Ginoza’s warnings about Akane sticking to “doing her duty as an inspector” sound a lot less like jealousy and more like wisdom. And yet, it’s thanks to “careful” agents like Ginoza that Cybil is able to endure. The night that doomed Kogami is retold, mostly from inside a car, and involves the gruesome murder of Sasayama—an enforcer under Kogami—by plastification.

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I like how after a couple cases of flat out not being able to “get” Kogami, Akane finally makes some progress, both thanks to a reluctant Ginoza and to Kagari, who the slim Akane is hilariously able to drink under the table. Akane’s friends posit that she and this “subordinate” she speaks of may be a lot more alike, and that seems to be the case when just as she’s learning more about him, Kogami digs into his past and the case that cost him both Sasayama and his freedom.

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Here’s where the show really takes off, in that the past cases, which had had an episodic air to them, are connected both to each other and the past, still-unsolved “Specimen” case, in that all are case of someone with intent to kill being connected to the means to kill by a shadowy middleman. That middleman, of course, is Makishima, whom we’ve seen glimpses of here and there but remains, well, in the shadows, but with a long reach.

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Both the factory case and the avatar case involved sophisticated technical skills beyond those of the culprits implicated. Similarly, the Specimen case involved someone who liked dismembering bodies, but was provided the scientific assistance to impregnate them with resin in order to “freeze in time” the body parts, which he’d exhibit in public places like works of art. An intriguing chicken-and-egg arguent thus comes into play: would these people have still committed their murders if they hadn’t been given the means to do so?

That brings us to the second half’s story, which goes on independently at an isolated girl’s high school as Akane is figuring everything out and Kogami is connecting the dots. There, in an environment engineered to minimize Hue cloudiness in girls at this “susceptible” age, the queen bee Ouryou Rikako (Sakamoto MaayaHells yeah!) creates disturbing drawings that turn out to be studies for her artwork, which consists of dismembering troubled classmates, plasticizing them, and displaying them around town.

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Not surprisingly, Rikako favors the darker Shakespeare works like Titus and Macbeth and seems to be inspired by their brutal but universal human themes. There’s almost no doubt in my mind Rikako believes she is about to free her latest “subject” Yoshika, from a cursed life, helping her to realize her “true beauty”, looking upon her like a sculptor upon a block of marble. That girl in the cafeteria called it; Rikako is totally staring into another dimension. Or, at least, she sees things most others don’t.

I’ll say this for Psycho-Pass’s bad guys; they’ve gotten progressively more chilling! It has also outlined just how dangerous it is to be an inspector who cares about her enforcers and her cases too much. Your criminal coefficient is not only in constant jeopardy, but higher ups like the chief, who wouldn’t mind at all if it’s finally determined criminality is hereditary (Ginoza’s father was a latent criminal). To people like her, that would be yet another step towards perfect social harmony…but where does the witchhunt end? Like the flight of Icarus, I imagine.

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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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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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